Monday, April 30, 2007

Corzine and Snow: Back on the job

Tony Snow is back at work after surgery for cancer. Best of luck to the guy. He now says he's going to take this opportunity to educate the public about living with cancer. Maybe he could quit that icky White House job and become a spokesman for a cancer organization? C'mon Tony, use your powers for good!

Jon Corzine has left the hospital and apologized for not wearing a seat belt. It's okay, dude. We forgive you. Just consider yourself lucky to be alive.

George Tenet and other people I don't feel sorry for

Le Sweetie and I listened to George Tenet as he tried to explain himself last night on 60 Minutes. He was angry, he was strident, he was disillusioned and felt betrayed by Bushco.

One can only imagine his silent rage as George Bush hung the Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck. How ever did he resist take that medal and whack the Preznit over the head with it?

Moreover how did the interviewer, Scott Pelley, manage to sit through Tenet's blustering without rolling his eyes? Read the transcript and you will wonder the same thing.

Tenet can't explain explain why the CIA never told the FBI about two of the 9/11 hijackers. He can't offer a credible excuse for why he didn't go straight to the president when he knew a terrorist attack was imminent. He can, however, come up with a new, politically correct term for torture: "enhanced interrogation techniques."

No wonder his former colleagues are pissed. Tenet joins Colin "I'm soooo ashamed about that UN presentation" Powell and Lawrence "I took part in a hoax" Wilkerson among those who avoided speaking out when it could've really counted. These insiders and purported public servants kept quiet until they had resigned or had books to promote. All these years those nicey-nice, milquetoast, centrist Dems were slammed for their lack of political courage. But the Tenets, Wilkersons, and Powells were the true gutless wonders. They were the ones with power and influence which they refused to use. Thousands of Americans and Iraqis have paid the price for their inaction.

Update: Tenet's on Larry King, getting tangled in his words as he talks about torture--I mean, enhanced interrogation techniques.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I'm not surprised by these things anymore.

Bush's AIDS czar has resigned after disclosing that he used an escort service.

Ho hum. Yaawwwwwn. A GOP scandal. Booorrrrring. You've seen one, you've seen 'em all.

On Thursday, Tobias told ABC News he had several times called the "Pamela Martin and Associates" escort service "to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage."

Tobias, who is married, said there had been "no sex," and that recently he had been using another service "with Central Americans" to provide massages.

The feds have accused the escort service in question of being a call girl operation. Admit it. You're surprised by this, right?

Tobias' private cell number was among thousands of numbers listed in the telephone records provided to ABC News by Jeane Palfrey, the woman dubbed the "D.C. Madam," who is facing the federal charges.

In an interview to be broadcast on "20/20" next Friday, Palfrey says she intends to call Tobias and a number of her other prominent D.C. clients to testify at her trial.

"I'm sure as heck not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, four to eight years, because I'm shy about bringing in the deputy secretary of whatever," Palfrey told ABC News.

Oh goody.

(Via Badtux and Brilliant at Breakfast.)

Prog blog time!

Yes, it's a long-overdue prog blog. Are Electric Light Orchestra truly prog? Uh...they somehow ended up on Supernatural Fairy Tales with their cover of "Roll Over Beethoven." Here's ELO performing "Telephone Line."

PS: If you like ELO, check out their parent band, The Move. Omnibus, their '60s singles collection, is a good starting point, followed by Shazam and the newly remastered version of their final album, Message from the Country.

The toon that won't go away

There's a commercial on Boomerang, the old-school toon channel, for another season of Pokemon. "New trainers! New Pokemon!" Say WHAT? When was the last time anyone bought Pokemon cards? 1996? And this show is STILL on the air? Man, it has managed to outlive even those lousy "Dragonball" series. They're probably still cranking out "Pokemon" because it's unbelievably easy to produce: Ash and his friends visit a town named after a color. They want to earn a badge. Team Rocket tries to ruin their plans. They throw a lot of balls and sick some Pokemon on Team Rocket. Team Rocket loses. Ash and company win. The end.

At least I hope they've really, really, finally pulled the plug on "Ed, Edd, and Eddy."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fox News embarasses itself

How is this possible, you ask? Well, it's pretty easy when you can't tell the difference between parody and real news.

(Via Dave Neiwert.)

Dem debate recap!

Of course, they just HAD to pre-empt Countdown with Keith Olbermann for the great Dem Q&A session last night. Before then, I had completely forgotten that so many people were running for president! And everyone came out a winner. Yes, each candidate, whether first- or second- or third-tier, deserves some sort form of recognition for his or her performance that night.

Most calculating candidate: La Hill. Man, she knows how to say all the right things in front of the cameras. Except one. Nobody's heard her say, "My vote for the war was a mistake." And nobody's heard her say, "Here's how we can exit Iraq."

Most atypical performance by a blabbermouth: Joe Biden. Yes, the politician who has single-handedly contributed the most to global warming with his hot air managed to keep his bloviating in check that night...more or less.

Most disappointing: John Edwards. C'mon, where's that inner fire? He could've been more forceful when talking about what he would've done if he were president on 9/11. When Brian Williams asked him who his moral leader was, there was a nice, long pause...that went on way too long before he mentioned God, his wife, and his dad. Uh, John? You have a mother, too, don't you?

Best responses to every. single. question. PERIOD. Barack Obama. Especially regarding the war.

Most ernest performance by a dark horse candidate: Dennis Kucinich. He carries a copy of the Constitution, guys! How many politicians still do that? And why can't any of his fellow Democratic candidates sign on to Dennis's "Impeach Cheney" campaign?

Biggest WHUH? Mike Gravel from Alaska. This guy's running and nobody heard about it until now. He's out of practice politically and it shows. What's he doing there, anyway?

Biggest block of wood: Bill Richardson. He's still right about genocide and Darfur, though.

Most obvious long-shot candidate: Chris Dodd. I'm sure he's a decent guy, but he's somewhere between Kucinich and Gravel on the list of most likely 2008 nominees.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rudy's turn to get spanked

Another reason why GOPers should drop the "Democrats R teh EVIL!!1!!!1!" crap.

The Catwoman of 2007?

Yes, this year, Hollywood has found yet another beloved character to mutate into something unrecognizable. And so, this August, they're bringing us a live action film version of Underdog. Instead of humble, lovable Shoeshine Boy, we have a lovable hound who gets superpowers in a lab accident. Instead of "Never fear, Underdog is here," we have "One Nature, Under Dog." Oh yeah, and Sweet Polly Purebread is a cocker spaniel, not a reporter. No, of course the idea has nothing to do with the cartoon. Yes, I loved the cartoon. Yes, I'll be looking forward to seeing other movies this summer.

Coming soon: the live-action Tennessee Tuxedo, starring a lovable penguin and walrus in a zoo. C'mon, you know some genius thinks this is a good idea.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dwanollah's public service for teenage girls

Duran Duran-loving Dwanollah has written the ideal primer for today's girls: Twenty Things Every Girl Can Learn from Britney Spears. Yes, it seems the pop star-turned-trainwreck has a lot of lessons to teach those teenage girls who are now, no doubt, kicking themselves for buying her records back in 2000. ("I thought she was the prettiest pop princess ever. I was eight years old. Someone please KILL ME NOW!")

She’s not just America’s Sweet Pop Princess... or even America’s Former Sweet Pop Princess. Rather, she’s a shining, golden example to us all about what people, especially teenaged girls, need to learn as they grow to adulthood. Spend a little time looking at Britney’s life and choices, and suddenly, a whole lot of things become clearer, and pivotal life lessons – especially for young women – become more obvious. Like, smack-you-upside-the-head obvious.

Thought-provoking and recommended. Seriously.

About time!

Via Atrios, we find Harry Reid's spokesman responding to Darth Cheney's latest outburst:

Vice President Cheney should be the last person to lecture anyone on how leaders should make decisions.

Leaders should make decisions based on facts and reality, two words that seem to be foreign to the Vice President.

This is the same guy who said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and that we would be greeted as liberators. And it's the same guy who continues to assert that Saddam Hussein had links to al Qaeda long after our own intelligence agency conclusively refuted this notion. To suggest he lacks credibility would be an understatement.

The Vice President's and others' attacks on those who disagree with their failed policies are signs of desperation. They are lashing out because they know the days are numbered for their failed strategy and that the American people and a bipartisan majority are determined to force this Administration to change course in Iraq.

See, guys? Standing up to Bush's cast of idiots works. It wins you respect. People like Democrats with spines. Keep this up.

A child star with a brain! WOW!

Danica McKellar (of Wonder Years fame) chose to branch out in college, majoring in math at UCLA. While she was there, she helped her professor write a paper that was published in an academic journal. As a result, she and her co-authors had a mathematical theorum named after them.

Now, she's written a book for middle-school girls, titled Math Doesn't Suck. It'll be published in August, right before the new school year. It's very cool to see a well-known actress encourage young girls to learn and love mathematics. Go Danica!

Shoe blogging

I went shoe shopping yesterday. This is always so much fun. Except not really. First, I've got wide feet with high arches. For some weird reason, most shoe stores sell only medium width. Luckily for me, there are a couple of decent shoe stores--Nine West and Easy Spirit--that sell in wide. There used to be Parade of Shoes, but that store ceased to exist, having been assimilated by Payless of Borg.

I hate high heels. I never wear them. I tried when I was about seventeen. Ow ow OW! My poor toes! That's enough of heels for me. And I've seen too many women wobbling as they try to keep their balance wearing what look like nails attached to leather. (Whoops! Did I insult your precious Manolos? Sorry.)

Anyway, the shoe du jour is the Croc. I confess I've made a point of avoiding Crocs as much as I can. For one thing, they're the most unfortunate-looking shoes since Uggs. For a long time, they've been on my list of fashionable footwear that I won't touch with a ten-foot pole. However, I'm starting to reconsider. For one thing, they are supposed to be ridiculously comfortable. Comfortable is good. Hint to shoemakers--If your shoes are comfortable, people will want to buy them. That's why I love Easy Spirit. Speaking of which, I settled on a nice pair of Easy Spirit closed-toe sandals, which are sooooo comfortable. I now feel ready for summer.

The stupidest article I've ever read

I've read some crazy, nonsensical, and just plain rock-stupid commentary on the Virginia Tech tragedy. This, however, tops them all. I can just imagine what was going through the minds of the Sunday Times' editors when they chose to publish this tripe. "Let's see--the news media has spilled lots and lots of ink on this story. They've examined American gun laws. They've interviewed his professors and classmates. They've discussed his mental state. They've aired his demented video. They've even promised to stop airing the demented video. We need a new angle here, people. We've heard his classmates and ex-professors. We need a new angle. Say--let's frame this as a gender issue! He was a man in a feminized culture! Yeah! That's new!"

Ahem. Let's try to manage the difficult task of reading this thing without spewing one's beverage all over the keyboard, shall we? The author is Sarah Baxter, and the article is titled "American Psycho."

Just before 5am on Monday, April 16, Cho Seung-hui got out of bed and walked to his computer. Perhaps he fiddled with his rambling 1,800-word self-portrait of a killer as the insults and grievances that he had been nursing for years coursed through his head.

High on his list were his classmates from Westfield high school, who jeered at him to “go back to China” without bothering to check his nationality.

In other words, Ms. Baxter, racism played a major role in his alienation, right? Doesn't sound like feminization of anything to me.

Then there were the college girls who reported him to the police for stalking and got him carted off to mental hospital after he sent them shy love messages full of yearning.

Oops, guess I spoke too soon.

Let's go back to the details of these stalking charges, shall we?

Police first investigated Cho in November 2005 after a student complained about him calling her and contacting her in person, university police Chief Wendell Flinchum said....

Cho was sent to the university's Office of Judicial Affairs, which handled the complaint, the outcome of which is confidential, university officials said.

"The student declined to press charges and referred to Cho's contact with her as annoying," Flinchum said of the November investigation.

Police investigated him again the next month when a female student complained about instant messages Cho sent her, Flinchum said.

"Again, no threat was made against that student. However, she made a complaint to the Virginia Tech Police Department and asked that Cho have no further contact with her," the chief said.

After police spoke to Cho, they received a call from a student concerned that he might be suicidal.

Officers spoke to Cho "at length" then asked him to see a counselor. He agreed to be evaluated by Access Services, an independent mental health facility in Blacksburg, the chief said.

"A temporary detention order was obtained and Cho was taken to a mental health facility" on December 13, 2005, he said.

A student asking to be identified only as Andy said he was the one who told police that Cho was suicidal. Police "took [Cho] away to the counseling center for a night or two," said the student, who used to room with Cho.

In other words, Sarah Baxter has no way of knowing what Cho said or did to creep out those girls. The fact is, they were creeped out enough to report him, which suggests that these notes weren't just expressions of puppy love.

But you know these uppity young women today. A nice man holds the door open for them and they snarl. A man smiles and they complain of sexual harassment. They don't understand a man's intentions.

But somehow, not only has Sarah Baxter guessed what Cho wrote, but she also has gained insight to his thought processes. Not since Bill Frist started offering diagnosis-by-TV has someone attempted such in-depth diagnosis based only on what she read in the paper and saw on TV.

The dead girl was Emily Hilscher, 19. Perhaps there was something about her that reminded Cho of another girl he had fancied — the one he had sneaked into the women’s dorm to see but, as a roommate recalled, “When he looked into her eyes, he saw promiscuity”.

Was Ryan Clark, 22, her boyfriend? Cho didn’t know but he shot him anyway. Deprived of sex himself, he regarded those who were getting it with malevolence. “All your debaucheries weren’t enough . . . to fulfil your hedonistic needs,” he had ranted on his pre- prepared “martyrdom” video.

For Sarah Baxter, Cho is stunted manhood personified, a 23-year-old adult rebelling against his own inevitable maturity. So, Sarah, you're going to get to your point...when?

WHOOPS! Guess I should be careful what I wish for. Yes, Ms. Baxter has turned to the poster girl for narcissistic personality disorder to help her write her article.

Camille Paglia, professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and author of Sexual Personae, believes Cho is emblematic of the crisis of masculinity in America. “Women have difficulty understanding the mix of male sexual aggression with egotism and the ecstasy of self-immolation,” she says....

Pretending it's still the 1990s and she's actually got something worthwhile to say, Paglia goes on to spout about the sorry state of American campuses, with young people having impersonal sex while preparing for boring, empty lives as young professionals.

Cho is a classic example of “someone who felt he was a loser in the cruel social rat race”, Paglia says. The pervasive hook-up culture at college, where girls are prepared to sleep with boys they barely know or fancy, can be a source of seething resentment and alienation for those who are left out.

“Young women now seem to want to behave like men and have sex without commitment. The signals they are giving are very confusing, and rage and humiliation build up in boys who are spurned again and again.”

Ahem. Let's hear Cho Seung-Hui's family speak, shall we?

Soon after arriving in America [Cho] was diagnosed with autism. “He was very quiet and only followed his mother and father around but never showed any feelings or emotions,” his great-aunt said. His parents were too poor and busy trying to scrape a new life together to get specialist help for Cho.

In other words, this guy had a history of abnormal and antisocial behavior. He was like this when he was still a child. He may have had a chemical imbalance in the brain or a personality disorder. All of these things predate his college years. Cram it, Camille.

Meanwhile, another shrink interviewed comments on the misogynist mindset of psycho-killers and jihadists and Francis Fukuyama offers his commentary. None of them really dwell on gender of "feminized" culture. And Sarah Baxter fails to take note of the female professor who tried to get help for Cho. Wonder why?

One professor, Nikki Giovanni, known as the “princess of black poetry”, was the first to raise the alarm about Cho’s writing. It did not feature hardcore violence; but it was weird. “It wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to rip your heart out’,” she said. “It’s that, ‘Your bra is torn and I’m looking at your flesh’.” When female students said they were scared of him, she wanted him out of her class.

Giovanni reported her concerns to Lucinda Roy, a British professor of literature who was then head of the department. She was so disturbed by Cho that she contacted the university police and went on to give him individual lessons — after devising a code word which, if ever used, would be a signal to her assistant to call security.

“You seem so lonely,” she told him. “Do you have any friends?”

“I am lonely,” Cho replied. “I don’t have any friends.”

In all of Baxter and Paglia's flailing attempts at analysis, both of them keep missing the point over and over and over again. This wasn't a gang member, a jihadist, a neo-Nazi, or a member of any organized movement. This was a lone killer. He was isolated, he was mentally ill, he was antisocial, and he had been that way for years. Earth to Sarah! Earth to Camille! Misogyny, racism, and American culture can't affect a person's brain chemistry. The facts don't line up with the shoddy collection of "points" you're trying to make. Maybe you need to read the news more carefully.

(Hat tip to Deb, who suffered through this thing before I did.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Freaky Fridays and other things

ScottEVill notes that late Friday is always the time Bush picks to unleash unfortunate news, circumvent Congress, or generally behave like the slimeball he is. What's coming up for next Friday? Scott has an idea.

Sister Nancy is horrified to discover cosmetics for men. Nancy, hon, menfolk have been doing that for years. Michael Jackson had eyeliner tattooed on his face back in the 1980s. Where were you when this freakazoid was trying to perfect the art of self-emasculation? You wonder why men aren't manly men anymore? It goes back to Michael Jackson. Come to think of it, who championed the Jackson 5 back when Michael was still black? Diana Ross, Berry Gordy, and Motown. Who did Jackson do his best to resemble? Diana Ross. There's a conspiracy here, and it's got something to do with Miss Ross and Motown. I'm sure that girly-voice himself, Smokey Robinson, also has something to do with it. Remind me to tell you about my other theory, involving Barney the Dinosaur, Jerry Falwell, Scandinavian Flags, and the Nobel Prizes.

Awwwww, poochies! Wookit the cute poochies!

Via Blue Gal, I've stumbled onto another one of those fun online quizzes. And according to this one...

What Classic Actress Are You?

Lucille Ball. Although she is best known for her work on television, she was a veteran in the movie business being in near 40 films and on the radio before "I Love Lucy" aired. From television fame and syndication, everyone knows her face and watches her in the grand-daddy of situation comedies, and in my opinion, the greatest.

Inventive, Perfectionist, Charismatic, Quirky, Lithe

You are a goofball. But you are much more than a clown, you are a friend to all; warm, funny, and caring. People take comfort being in your presence and you always end up making even the most melancholy person leave with a smile on his/her face. Always putting other people ahead of your own needs, you are a very hard worker. You truly have a gift, giving joy to everyone around you. Don't ever lose that.
Take this quiz!

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Some Earth Day thoughts

I know today is Earth Day. I never do anything spectacular for Earth Day. Why? Well, I already try to pitch in where I can to help the environment. I take public transportation. I try not to leave too many lights on. I recycle my newspapers and magazines and tin cans and plastic containers. I even sometimes buy shower gel and soap from the Body Shop. I just do it because it seems like the right thing to do. Besides, I kinda like the idea of all that newspaper ending up back on the newstands somewhere.

Going green is cool. Promoting green policies is cool. But I have a problem with just one day out of the year being set aside for it. For the same reason, I've got a problem with Women's and Black History Months. We don't even have an Earth Month or an Earth Week. Just an Earth Day. That sounds pretty screwy to me.

It's Independence Day!

Well, Greek Independence Day. Actually, Greek Independence Day was last Sunday, but due to circumstances beyond anyone's control (i.e., that nor'easter), there were no festivities and no parade. Now, the neighborhood is awash in blue and white, and Fifth Avenue had a big, fun parade, complete with a marching band playing "Louie Louie." Of course, NYC has been rewarded for its week of wet weather with a cloudless, sunny weekend. Le Sweetie and I hung out in Central Park, drank Gatorades, and had fun. Neither of us has Greek ancestry, but it was a great day no matter where your ancestors came from. Life was good.

Happy Independence Day to Greeks everywhere!

"Wunnerful, wunnerful!"

Here it is. Something more frightening than a twenty-four hour slasher-movie marathon. Ladies and gents, it's Lawrence Welk as a hippie.

Think that's trippin'? Who thought the Velvet Underground would be creating the ideal champagne music?

Somewhere, Nico and Sterling Morrison are spinning in their graves.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Admit it. You like this song.

It's the Carpenters at their melodramatic, soul-baring best, performing "Superstar." RIP Karen.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Alberto Gonzales, professional boob

Before Gonzo's testimony, Le Sweetie and I imagined him practicing his answers in advance with his family, trying to keep his stories straight. Yet it wasn't enough to save his testimony or his reputation. One can only imagine why...

Gonzo kidlet: "Daddy, why do you have to keep saying, 'I don't know' and 'I don't remember'?"

Gonzo: "Because this is a very important hearing. Now you're going to pretend you're Senator Schumer."

Gonzo kidlet: "Yo! I'm tawkin' ta you, Alberto!"

Gonzo: "Sweetie, Senator Schumer doesn't talk like that."

Gonzo kidlet: "You said he was from Brooklyn, Daddy."

Gonzo (sighing): "Okay, pretend you're Senator Leahy instead."

Gonzo kidlet: "Go fuck yourself, Gonzales!"

Gonzo (gasps): "WHERE did you learn to talk like that?"

Gonzo kidlet: "Senators say 'fuck' all the time!"

Gonzo: "Not senators. Only vice presidents like Uncle Dick, honey."

Gonzo kidlet: "Ooooh. Uncle Dick's not coming over, is he? He's scary."

Gonzo: "No, he is not. Now, pretend you're a senator and ask me a question."

Gonzo kidlet: "Why were those attorneys fired?"

Gonzo: "I don't know."

Gonzo kidlet: "Did anyone talk to you about the attorneys being fired?"

Gonzo: "I don't remember."

Gonzo kidlet: "Daddy, aren't you supposed to tell the truth? Isn't it illegal to lie to Congress? My teacher says it's perjury to lie and that's why Uncle Scooter is in jail."

Gonzo: "It isn't perjury. It's a hearing, not a trial, and there won't be any lying. It's something different. Sometimes, you can tell only part of the truth. And that's not lying."

Gonzo kidlet: *shakes head*

Gonzo: "Like, if someone talks to me about the attorneys, that is one thing. They may be talking about if the attorneys did a good job, or if they're nice to Uncle George and Uncle Karl. They may ask who the attorneys voted for last year. But that's not the same thing as asking about attorneys getting fired."

Gonzo kidlet: "Daddy, Mommy says we're moving to Mexico soon. Is that true?"

Gonzo: *looks stunned* "W-well...*stammers some more*...that's where Grandma and Grandpa Gonzales came from. Mexico! And if we go to Mexico, we'll meet a lot of family members we haven't seen in a long time. Won't that be nice? And it'll be warm in Mexico and they'll have nice food, and..."

Gonzo kidlet: "Mexico isn't in U.S. jurisdiction. Is that why we're moving?"

Gonzo: "Jurisdiction. Where did you hear that big word?"

Gonzo kidlet: "Mommy says we are going to stay there until a statue of limitations runs out."

Gonzo: "That's statute, honey. Statute. Wow. You've learned a lot of new words today., where do I begin?"

Gonzo kidlet: "Daddy, Spongebob is on. Can I go watch?"

Why do rightie pundits have to talk so stoopid?

Michael Medved used to be fun, back when he was co-writing those Golden Turkey Award titles and cataloguing all things bad and cinematic. Then he went all bonkers and became a wingnut and started talking about gay subtext in kiddie movies. And now? With the Virginia Tech tragedy, he has has added his name to the ever-growing list of right-wingers making pathetically stupid statements. Quick, someone 'splain to Mikey that Cho Seung-Hui was not a terrorist. A sick, disturbed murderer, yes, but not a terrorist. Just like a cartoon penguin is not a deviant gay homosexual, a socially isolated psycho-killer is not the same thing as a terrorist.

There's a bright side to all this, however. At least Medved doesn't hate the victims, like so many of his fellow righties do.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

McCain's Disease: The basic symptoms

In 1994, the American Psychiatric Association published the fourth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Good little book editor that I am, I remember when at least two psychology books I was working on had to get a big do-over because of DSM-IV. Boy, was that fun. Especially changing the index.

Hopefully, when the APA gets around to the DSM-V, some new mental disorders will be added. I'd like to suggest one for consideration: McCain's Disease. Now, I admit that I have no formal training in psychology or psychiatry. Heck, I don't even have a graduate degree. Nonetheless, we live in a country where it's ridiculously easy to set up shop as a therapist. Just ask those two chicks who wrote The Courage to Heal. Besides, as Bill Frist has proven, it's very easy to make a conclusive diagnosis just by watching someone on a TV screen. Therefore, I suggest that the APA consider McCain's Disease to be a legitimate psychological disorder.

For a proper diagnosis, at least five of the following diagnostic criteria must be present:

1. An extreme craving for attention, approval, and acceptance, even by enemies or adversaries.

2. Constantly shifting opinions or viewpoints, to the point where the sufferer has trouble keeping his stories straight.

3. Sudden loyalty and overtures of friendship toward people who might have wronged or mistreated the sufferer in the past.

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4. A distorted sense of reality. The patient will make statements that clearly are not true; however, the patient will believe that they are true.

5. A deteriorating sense of self. The patient will initially have a confident affect but quickly loses any semblance of an individual identity.

6. Impaired decision making. The patient will simply repeat what others have said, offering no new insight or analysis.

7. Impaired judgment. The patient may, for example, make inappropriate jokes or offer halfhearted excuses for really stupid blunders.

8. Lack of attention to external details. The patient will say the wrong thing at the worst possible time and behave inappropriately, as if he does not know what's going on around him.

Current treatment for McCain's Disease is at the experimental stages. Thus far, it consists of large numbers of people yelling, "You have no idea what you're talking about!" and asking "What color is the sky in your world?" This treatment has had little success. Short of an election loss or similar reality check, there is no cure for McCain's disease. Hopefully, the APA can begin to address this very public but seldom studied psychological disorder.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cool, amazing music have I heard

Once upon a time, Mark Pickerel was the drummer for the Screaming Trees. He bailed out of the band some time circa 1990. Today, he's a solo singer-songwriter who writes and plays amazing countrified country-rock. He just released his solo debut, Snake on the Radio, on Bloodshot Records, the best record label most people haven't heard of.

Mr. Pickerel's homepage is here, and his MySpace page is here.

Holly Ramos is a singer/songwriter who opened for Jesse Malin last night at the Mercury Lounge. I have to say, I liked Ms. Ramos and her solo-acoustic-guitar spot more than Mr. Malin's epic-rock set. The fact that she's got one lovely singing voice has a lot to do with it. Her album, Racehorse, is not out yet, alas. She does have a Web site, however. It has all the details on her music and forthcoming live dates. Like Mr. Pickerel, Ms. Ramos has a MySpace page.

Two great performers who make great music. Just doing my part to get the word out 'bout them.

Virginia Tech: One unanswered question

The details about Cho Seung-Hui are still coming out. You can argue all you want about gun laws and privacy laws and how to handle troubled students. Here's a question that sticks in my head: Where were this guy's parents? Were they ever notified that their son was a stalker who needed mental help? How did they react when a campus police officer said their son was "mentally ill and in need of hospitalization, and presents an imminent danger to self or others"? What--if anything--did they do to help him? I can only imagine the grief and horror they must feel right now. I don't care who or what Ismail Ax is. I just suspect that there's a missing piece to this puzzle that nobody has bothered to pick up yet.

You know, I was afraid this would happen

On the plus side, the right-wing talking point about "personal freedom" has been revealed as the empty rhetoric it truly is. On the minus side...well, women who need a medical procedure to save their lives are going to be up the fucking creek.

George Bush's new, conservative Supreme Court delivered a victory to anti-abortion activists yesterday when it upheld the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Act, which outlaws a specific, relatively rare procedure usually carried out on pregnant women reaching the end of the second trimester.

The issue has been mired in controversy for years, with anti-abortion activists arguing that the operation, which involves crushing the foetus's head, is unspeakably barbaric while their opponents say it can, in certain circumstances, be the least traumatic way of ending a pregnancy and causing least damage to the health of the mother.

Six courts have ruled that the 2003 federal law banning the procedure was unconstitutional because it did not provide an exception to protect the life and health of the mother. It seems likely that the Supreme Court would have made a similar ruling until last year, when Sandra Day O'Connor retired and was replaced by Samuel Alito, a hardline conservative. That change shifted the balance on the Court to a 5-4 majority generally hostile towards abortion laws. Before Justice Alito's appointment, John Roberts, a conservative, replaced the late William Rehnquist as Chief Justice.

You hear that? If a woman's life is endangered, she STILL won't be able to have this very rare procedure. Which means women will die. Once again, Bushco (and the Bush supporters, AND the Bush voters) have blood on their hands. Just fucking wonderful.

Can we PLEASE elect a Democrat next time around, who'll appoint some sane, non-conservative judges? Please?

Who said government was inefficient?

I mailed my taxes to the IRS and Albany only last week, and already the checks cleared the bank. Nice to see my payments were processed quickly.

Glad that's over with for one year.

Monday, April 16, 2007


So, I was walking home today. There's a burger/souvlaki stand where I used to pop in for lunch on occasion. It has been shut down by the NYC Department of Health. I used to eat there. I don't even want to THINK about why it was shut down. Otherwise, I'd lose my appetite.

Folk blogging!

Following Blue Gal's tribute to Judy Collins, I'm posting this clip of Brit-folk legends Steeleye Span, fronted by the extraordinary Maddy Prior.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nice to see some people are creative

Warning: This post is not, I repeat, NOT for the squeamish.

I've written before about the unmistakable slashy subtext of the Bush administration. Don't pretend you haven't noticed it. It's so blatantly obvious that there's even a site, Current Affairs filled, this is not a joke...slash fan fiction featuring British, American, and Australian politicians.

What can I say? There's slash fiction for everything else. It was just a matter of time before some people thought of combining slashfic and political commentary. And I guess some people got tired of Photoshopping Republicans' faces onto Brokeback Mountain movie posters.

Now, they are mining current events for fictional inspiration:

In light of the recent discussions about the U.S. attorneys that were recently fired, has anyone else been inspired by the idea that they served "at the pleasure of the president"?

Or, given Jon Stewart's comments on the Daily Show tonight, is it just too obvious of a joke?

It's too obvious. Really, seriously it is. There have to be other topics to write about.

In the meantime, I'm going to be in the corner, reading some nice Minesweeper fan fiction.

New helpful online resources! And other fun news!

Via Bring It On, I've discovered a cool new online resource courtesy of WaPo. The Congress Votes Database compiles how our senators and congresscritters have voted on every issue since 1991.

Meanwhile, our attorney general, the Great Gonzo insists he has nothing to hide. He also says he's sorry about the honest mistakes that were made. Yeah, sure, dude. We believe ya.

Jeez, can ANYONE in the Bush administration, past or present, stay out of trouble? If it's not Gonzo, it's Paul Wolfowitz, now head of the world bank, who helped his girlfriend get a promotion. From Reuters:

Staff and development activists accuse Wolfowitz of breaking bank rules by helping to arrange a high-paying promotion for his girlfriend and bank employee Shaha Riza.

They argue the moral authority of the poverty-fighting institution has been left in tatters, especially its authority to make countries who receive aid accountable for the money, an issue that has been a priority for Wolfowitz, who has made combating corruption a top priority.

The former No. 2 official at the Pentagon has apologized for his handling of the Riza issue, saying he was advised by a World Bank ethics panel to assign her to a job outside the bank to avoid a conflict of interest.

A former Bush cabinet member fighting corruption is kind of like an arsonist becoming a volunteer firefighter, no?

Here's more in the "personal responsibility--whuzzat?" department: Wolfowitz's lady friend, Shaha Riza, says she's a victim. Why? Because she was forced to accept a promotion and a transfer. Uh huh. And who forced her to become romantically involved with Wolfie-kins? Really, at what point does a position with Team Dubya start to look seriously unappealing on one's resume? Blanton's and Ashton's weighs in.

Le Sweetie directs your truly to this list of the cheesiest commercial songs of all time. There are some very scary commercials there. Very scary.

Okay, this is just unconscionable. Now the FDA wants to downgrade CHOCOLATE? This is the last straw! The government's gutted the Constitution, Walter Reed, and the environment, and now they're targeting chocolate. Enough is enough!

Spring? What spring?

There is a nasty, nasty nor'easter outside that has already cost me an umbrella. I am getting quite fed up with this 40-degree weather. I feel quite silly wearing my winter coat IN APRIL. I want it to be SPRING, for God's sake. Yeah, I know...April showers bring May flowers...blah blah blah blah. You know what? After this month of crappy weather, there had better be a LOT of flowers come next month.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

News from Toon-Land!

It turns out that the last-ever episode of Ed, Edd, and Eddy will air on April 27. I'm quite stunned at the news. It seemed that this series would never end. Meanwhile, cool shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo have long since fallen by the wayside. Sense that doesn't make. Anyway, I'd love to see Brak get a new series, but who knows if that'll happen. I think they'll move Metalocalypse to 2 PM before that happens.

Maybe they'll also can The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, which started out funny and is now just gross.

Meanwhile, I'm going to check out that Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie at some point. I'm more excited about this than I ever was about Serentiy. I know that sounds weird, but it's true.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The up side of global warming and other really nice things

Via Ang we find the global-warming answer to OTB. Question: if we all drown under waves of melted icecaps, who's going to collect the winnings?

Mahablog weighs in on the Duke case, the Kathy Sierra case, and the Don Imus case in one fell swoop, and does so eloquently.

Let me go off on a tangent here: I believe that in rape and sexual abuse cases, the names of the accused and the accuser should be withheld from the public. It's not just the Duke case, which was clearly full of holes from the start. I'm reminded of the Tawana Brawley fiasco, since I grew up just 30 miles north of Brawley's hometown. I remember when Al Sharpton and his cohorts, C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox, libeled a state prosecutor, accusing him of raping the girl. Of course, as a grand jury found, the rape never happened. The prosecutor sued Sharpton et al. for libel and won (he is now an assistant state attorney general). This man spent years trying to live down being called a rapist. He did not deserve this. I'm starting to think that rape cases could proceed more fairly and smoothly if the names of the accused were withheld, and I wonder if I'm the only one who feels this way.

Awwwwwwww, is Brian Williams mad about bloggers? Perhaps Vinny in the efficiency apartment up in the Bronx could do a better job than you. What do you think, Brian?

Governor Jon Corzine was injured in a car accident yesterday, and now Quaker Dave discovers that he wasn't wearing a seat belt. Dave has a message for the governor.

Dear Mr. Corzine: I voted for you. I support you. You haven't been perfect, but you have a very tough job here, getting the mess that is New Jersey on the road to being straightened out. So do us all a favor. As soon as you're well enough, get a crew together and do a PSA reminding people about how important it is to wear their seatbelts. Tell them what a knucklehead you were for not wearing yours. And then pay your fine.

And get well soon.

Meanwhile, it seems that the New Jersey governor's office is jinxed.

Well, the Beatles have wrapped up some royalty dispute. Come on, are we EVER going to have the Beatles catalog on iTunes? If they're not going to lower prices for Beatles CDs, the least they could do is make those songs available online. How long have these EMI/Apple talks been going, anyway? I'm going to start a running bet for which will be available first: Chinese Democracy or the Beatles online. (Hat tip to Avedon Carol for the Beatles item.)

Sorry Kos. You're wrong.

As a DailyKos regular, I'm quite dismayed at Kos's dismissive dismissive comments about Kathy Sierra. The feminist section of the blogosphere has already weighed in here. I'll just add that, much as I respect what Kos has done as a blogger and activist, he's plain wrong.

Kos has the sort of thick skin that comes from years of military duty, political activisim, and years of blogging. Is he sexist? Look, everyone is sexist in one way or another. Kos has no perspective when he says, "Look, I get hate mail all the time and I don't freak out! You just have to roll with the punches!" He is a political blogger. Kathy Sierra is a tech blogger. He spent three years in the Army and no doubt spent a lot of that time learning to use assorted firearms. Kathy Sierra is a former game developer. He is desensitized to hostility and hate mail. Kathy Sierra isn't.

I've been following the Kathy Sierra story, waiting for the details to unfold. She does not deserve death threats. She does not deserve to live in fear of her life. I poked around her blog and could find nothing that would inspire rage or death threats. There was nothing inflammatory. Her blog is far far removed from the stew of roiling emotions that you find in the political blogosphere. (Did I just mix a metaphor there? Oh well.)

I firmly believe that Kos's inappropriate, unsympathetic response is due to a lack of perspective. Instead of asking, "What's the big deal?" I think the more appropriate questions would be: "Suppose this happens to one of us? How can bloggers stick up for each other? How do we convey the message that death threats and hate mail and posting personal information are unacceptable? How do we confront this without letting it frighten us away from the blogosphere?"

Led Zeppelin the Roller Coaster!

Start planning your vacations NOW, people. The Hard Rock Cafe's opening its own amusement park in Myrtle Beach! I've already let Le Sweetie know that THIS is going to be our next vacation destination.

It's even going to have Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin theme park rides. Below is a preliminary drawing of the soon-to-be-built Led Zeppelin roller coaster.

Trouble is, Le Sweetie only likes roller coasters when he's not actually riding them. So I'll be taking this Zeppelin Stairway-to-Heaven coaster by myself. Maybe this new Hard Rock Park will have some tamer rides.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

One of my favorite authors, ever since I read Player Piano for a ninth-grade book report and the teacher asked me if I thought the book was too difficult.

When I think about my own death, I don't console myself with the idea that my descendants and my books and all that will live on. Anybody with any sense knows that the whole solar system will go up like a celluloid collar by-and-by. I honestly believe, though, that we are wrong to think that moments go away, never to be seen again. This moment and every moment lasts forever.

From "Reflections on My Own Death," originally published in Rotarian Magazine (1972); republished in Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons (1976).

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.

Prog blog time!

As it turns out, I'm not the only prog blogger on the internets. anonyMoses has managed to unearth some prog vids by Yes, ELP, Fripp, and Dead Can Dance. Yes, thanks to YouTube, all kinds of weird, obscure prog vids are popping up on the internets. First up, the Moody Blues doing "Nights in White Satin." (Is it me, or do about three-fifths of the band look kind of bored in this clip?)

Next up: the original Soft Machine lineup with Kevin Ayers:

And finally, one of my most favorite artists doing one of my most favorite songs based on one of my most favorite books. It's Kate Bush singing "Wuthering Heights."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Carnival time!

The latest Carnival of the Liberals is up, hosted by Little Miss Know It All. They picked one of my posts for inclusion, so I am way happy about that. I checked out the posts by my fellow carnival acts, and I found some simple wisdom in this post on immigration. I'm looking forward to reading the other posts as well.

How Don Imus jumped the shark

I'm rather surprised that it took a snarky "nappy-haired ho" crack to finally land Mr. Imus in hot water. Countless media outlets have repeated all of his bigoted remarks about people of assorted religions, races, and sexual orientations. The bottom line is this: Don Imus makes his living by insulting people. My younger brother listens to Imus regularly and assures me, the non-Imus follower, that it is part of his schtick.

Why is he in trouble now? Here is my theory: People are tired of the Don Imuses of the world. That's why they're calling Imus on his ugly remarks and deciding that Ann Coulter has overstayed her welcome. After a while, nastiness for the sake of nastiness stops being edgy and provocative. Instead, it becomes offensive and tiresome. It's not that Imus and Coulter have become any more or less offensive and nasty than they were before. It's that the American public finally said, "Enough already!"

After all, Amercans have been told for years that bigotry or mean-spiritedness is somehow edgy, revolutionary, or cool. Thus, Axl Rose could get away with freely admitting he was a misogynist homophobe, and Eminem could be dubbed a hip-hop visionary. Criticizing them made you an uptight fussbudget who didn't understand great ah-tists.

Gangsta/thug culture could thrive, because it was supposed to be an accurate reflection of black life, and the conventional wisdom was that there was something condescending or creepily racist about denouncing it. Never mind all the hip hop artists who have actually managed to sell lots of records without once using the words "ho" or "pimp." Never mind the R&B performers who also grew up poor but somehow managed to avoid demeaning women or bragging about gun violence. (Somehow, I don't remember Barry White ever singing, "I'm gonna fuck you up yo' ass, bitch.")

The right-wing bloviators were supposed to be "performance artists" and "entertainers," even though they weren't that entertaining and they weren't that funny. And, of course, they finally managed to overreach, costing GOP candidates their re-elections and publicly embarassing presidential candidates. That is why their fellow reality-challenged righties are starting to keep their distance.

At some point, the American people decided they'd had enough. There's only so many unjustified insults they can listen to. There's only so much meanness they'll allow to pollute public discourse. Given the sad state of this country, I believe that the American people are desperate for solutions and hope, not more of the same anger and negativity that seems to have no rational basis.

Not only that, but many of these professional assholes seem to have--how do I put this?--serious problems. Mental health problems. Substance abuse problems. Attitude problems. The tirades of a Mel Gibson or a Michael Richards are being recognized as the repulsive outbursts they are. Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, meanwhile, are never going to totally live down their legal troubles. And what of Mr. Imus? Ellis Henican confirms that the real Don Imus is, in fact, a total blowhard who can't take a joke.

Long story short: the bullies, sociopaths, narcissists, hypocrites, malcontents, and drug addicts have driven the debate for too long. And this is something that transcends ideology.

Believer in free speech that I am, I don't want Imus to lose his job. For one thing, another network would just hire him for more money. No, I think a more fitting fate for the Limbaughs and Imuses of our country is to spend the rest of their professional lives desperately trying to live down their missteps and public embarassments, as listeners decide they're simply not worth the effort and move on. I'd prefer falling ratings and a squirm-inducing slide into irrelevance. It's a much more deserving punishment than a simple pink slip. The most appropriate response to a bully is to tell him or her: "You know, you're really not all that."

Speaking of wasting taxpayers' money...

Via my buddy Badtux comes the story of yet another stupid waste of government resources. Yes, there's an actual Florida town where six-year-old girls are arrested for throwing temper tantrums.

Arrested. For temper tantrums.

For Badtux, this another example of grownups who can't handle kids.

I have absolutely no respect for adults who cannot handle a six year old child without calling the cops. None. This is a complete and utter failure in training. A child seeking attention has been rewarded for misbehavior with a *lot* of attention, and thus will misbehave more in the future. This is the dumbest, stupidest, most ignorant thing I've ever heard of....

For me, it's more than that. It's an obscene waste of everyone's time. Not as obscene as Al D'Amato and his missus getting free healthcare, but still pretty ludicrous.

It is not law enforcement's job to provide discipline in kindergarten. It's the job of the principal, the teachers, and the teaching aides. Anyone going into the field of education should realize that their students will misbehave, will call each other names, and may even throw the odd temper tantrum. This is a fact of life in an elementary school classroom.

My mother and brother are both teachers. My mother teaches at the high school level and my brother teaches middle school. They deal with hormone-addled horrors on a day-to-day basis. Kids who may be spoiled by their parents. Kids who get lousy grades and don't go to summer school because they threaten to run away and the parents relent. Neither of them would think of calling the cops just because some kid started acting up in class.

Back at my high school, a girl brought a gun to class and threatened the teacher. THEN, and only then, were the police called in. Then, and only then, was it justified. If you've got a Columbine situation in the making, then yes, you'd better dial 911 pronto. Otherwise, it is the SCHOOL'S responsibility to discipline the children and nobody else's.

The original article by Bob Herbert notes that the misbehaving little girl was African-American, and apparently this is not the first time a little black kid has been arrested for a minor incident.

If I were the school superintendant, I would be very curious about why the teachers could not handle a six-year-old child. I would also ask the principal why the teachers were so inept at disciplining children. After all, the cops even admitted that this wasn't the first tot they'd placed in handcuffs. If I were a parent paying taxes to support the schools, I'd be furious. I'd also be asking questions. Is this a problem in the class, the entire school, or the school district? The parents, the school board, and/or the superintendant should step in to ensure that the school has teachers who know how to work with children.

Badtux sees this as yet another example of how our society responds to violence with more violence. I think it's also another example of what happens when American citizens stop giving a crap about the educational system. Schools don't have qualified teachers and don't have good administrators. The result is an environment where kids can't learn or thrive.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

THIS reaction is not surprising

Remember yesterday's article on socialism for rich Long Islanders? Turns out there are a lot of Long Islanders who are NOT rich and are NOT happy about this. Newsday follows up with more.

"It's outrageous," said Harold Berkowitz, 83, a retired insurance salesman in Plainview. "It's a legal way to steal from my pocket. "

He was among dozens of furious Long Island residents who contacted Newsday yesterday by phone and e-mail.

Nassau Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said she was unaware of the practice of giving benefits to members of the county's Board of Assessors, Assessment Review Commission and Civil Service Commission. She planned to review it.

"Such a costly benefit should not be used, in my estimation, as a perk for those serving on various boards," Jacobs said.

Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman urged the legislature to review its policy on how long a person must work in the county before being entitled to lifetime benefits, which he estimates cost taxpayers $500,000 per employee. Currently, an employee needs five years in the state system to be eligible for lifetime health benefits. Only one of the five years has to be in Nassau. He recommended the policy be changed in 2003, but said no action has been taken.

"It is unconscionable that taxpayers may be paying for lifetime health benefits for individuals who have worked for as a little as one year for Nassau County," he said.

Sounds like this practice of giving part-time board members free health care for life has been something of a well-kept secret. Or maybe people weren't paying attention. Either way, Jacobs et al. should really jump right on this because it's a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money.

It's telling that one of the people keeping mum about this matter is Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi--Elliott Spitzer's rival for last year's Dem nomination for governor. In retrospect, I'm glad Suozzi's campaign fizzled out--as it inevitably would.

Maybe the state government could weigh in on this. Governor Spitzer, you there?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hey Rudy! Speaking of in health care...

Today's Newsday has a cover story on part-time community board members on Long Island who get free health benefits, paid for by taxpayers.

Now, what do you call this? Say it with me: Socialized medicine.

The full story, in all its obscene detail, is here.

Katuria D'Amato, wife of former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, gets free family health insurance as a member of the part-time Hempstead Zoning Board of Appeals.

Patrick E. Byrne Jr., an anti-tax activist from Lake Grove, gets his benefits as vice chairman of the board of Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp.

And Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick, a partner in his own Manhattan law firm, gets his health benefits fully funded by serving as chairman of the board of the Water Authority of Great Neck North.

All across Long Island, at least 100 members of various appointed boards are given health insurance - usually at no cost to them - even though they work just part time, in some cases only a few hours a month. Many also are eligible for lifetime health insurance once they turn 55 and are considered vested - sometimes after serving only a five-year term.

Offering fully paid health benefits to part-time board members is a little-known practice average taxpayers and even some government officials aren't aware of. Less apparent is that in some cases these part-time political appointees receive benefits for the rest of their lives.

Note that one of these guys, Patrick E. Byrne, is an anti-tax activist. Living off the taxpayers' money. And there's Katuria D'Amato, who's married to one of the most loathsome figures in New York politics. Speaking of which...

Republican Katuria D'Amato named her husband - now a prominent lobbyist who once was paid $500,000 for making a single phone call - as a dependent on the health insurance she receives as a member of the Hempstead zoning board. The board meets two or three times a month, and she receives a $38,000 salary. Alfonse D'Amato is also insured separately, his spokeswoman said. Both D'Amatos declined to comment.

All of the people receiving these perks are well-to-do, and some got their jobs as political favors. There are a few board members who give lip service to performing public service. Perhaps they could prove their committment by giving up these benefits. Other part-timers don't get health benefits, so why should these wealthy Long Islanders?

Meanwhile, back on the Island of Misfit Republicans...

It seems that Tom DeLay (or, rather, one of his stand-ins) is suddenly interested in blogospheric civility. So much so that they're opening a discussion about it. In the meantime, a poll on Tommy Boy's blog finds that 78 percent of those surveyed think Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria will increase terrorism. Whatta surprise. Meanwhile, Team DeLay is awfully quiet on the subject of Nick Lampson. Wonder why that is.

Oh yeah, and DeLay's book, I Retreated, Then Surrendered, is #2,600 on Amazon's list.

Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, thinks Gonzales should step down.

``I think the country, in fact, would be much better served to have a new team at the Justice Department, across the board,'' Gingrich said. ``I cannot imagine how he is going to be effective for the rest of this administration.... They're going to be involved in endless hearings.''

Nevertheless, Gingrich did praise Gonzales' fluency in English: "It's nice to see he doesn't speak the language of the ghetto." (Okay, I made that up.)

I remember that a year or two ago, Bill O'Reilly was seriously talking about retiring. Maybe he should do it. Day after day, he keeps finding new ways to embarass himself. I thought he'd jumped the shark when he appeared on Colbert. As it turns out, Bill-O was merely practicing with mechanical sharks. Now he has managed to make Geraldo Rivera look sympathetic. Geraldo. Rivera. Please tell me Faux News has a good retirement program. There has to be an incentive program to get O'Reilly to go away. Otherwise he'll do something really stupid--like run for political office. Once he does that, he'll become the four-car pile up of right-wing pundits. He'll be too painful and horrifying to watch.

Another day, another round of pandering

Figures Rudy is against universal health care. He's really trying to position himself as Mr. Free-Market Conservative here. It's kind of sad.

“I don’t like mandates,” Giuliani says. “I don’t like mandating health care. I don’t like it because it erodes what makes health care work in this country — the free market, the profit motive...."

I know this guy never cared to listen to anyone's advice when he was mayor, but someone should explain to him why free markets and health care don't mix so well. Things like HMOs and Big Pharma and all that. I'll go out on a limb and offer my own opinion here: People's health care is just too important to leave in the hands of the free market. The free market can't handle it and this blathering about free markets is why health care in this country is in a state of crisis.

"A mandate takes choice away from people. We’ve got to let people make choices. We’ve got to let them take the risk–do they want to be covered? Do they want health insurance? Because ultimately, if they don’t, well, then, they may not be taken care of. I suppose that’s difficult.” He lets the idea sink in, though it seems to bother his audience not at all. “The minute you start mandating, you always end up with more expensive government programs.”

Uh, Rudy? What choices do you mean? When a person accepts a job, that person accepts one or more health plans offered by his/her employer. The employee has a very limited say in his/her health plan. And God forbid if it's an HMO.

The other option (for independent contractors or people whose jobs don't offer insurance) is a private insurance plan. Those are very expensive. Not everyone can afford this. If a person doesn't get insurance through his/her spouse, there is going to be a serious problem. The person will have to pray he/she doesn't get sick or doesn't have an accident.

So, Rudy...what are these health care choices you're talking about? It goes without saying that everyone wants health insurance. It's just that there are lots of people who would love to have it and can't get it.

Americans, as of now, HAVE no real health care choices. That's all there is to it. And it's nice to know at least one GOP hopeful has nothing but empty rhetoric to offer the American public. Sigh...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Britpop blogging

It's the Soft Boys, circa 1980, performing "Only the Stones Remain." By the way, Robyn Hitchcock put on a great show at South by Southwest this year.

Oh dear. Dear oh dear oh dear.

Found on a New York City subway while going home:

Nonetheless, the point is valid. Some things shouldn't be done in a New York minute--like proofreading ads for typos.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Theocracy is boring (aka my Blog Against Theocracy post)

(Note: For more details about Blog Against Theocracy, click here.)

Theocracy. The very term makes me shudder. Life in a world where religion is law would be incredibly boring. Not just oppressive or brutal or misogynist or unpleasant. Boring.

Then again, maybe I'm basing this on my own churchgoing experiences as a kid. Like most kids, I went to church because my parents said so. They weren't religious, but they wanted my brother and me to be exposed to spiritual life. As long as we were tucked away in Sunday School, we had fun. I don't remember learning much in Sunday School. But I do remember coloring in Bible coloring books. And I remember singing fun religious songs, with such lyrics of spiritual devotion as...

Give me wax on my board, keep me surfing for the Lord
Give me wax on my board, I pray
Give me wax on my board, keep me surfing for the Lord
Keep me surfing 'til the break of day

(Yes, that's a real lyric.)

But the church services themselves? They bored me to tears. They were so boring I'd spend the whole hour following the church program, counting the minutes until the whole thing was over. The service would have the same somber hymns followed by the same somber prayers that we recited week after week. These same somber prayers would be followed by more somber hymns and a (usually) somber sermon. I know we would also say the Lord's Prayer and sing the Doxology. We did that every week. And we closed out with one final hymn.

Why did church have to be so cheerless and soporific? Maybe being Episcopalian had something to do with it. Eddie Izzard has pointed out that the Church of England (from which the Episcopalian Church derives) has really dreary services, despite the country's rich history and achievements. Meanwhile, Izzard notes that African-American church services are the exact opposite, despite African-Americans' sad history. Anyhow, unlike many African-American churches, my church didn't even have much of a choir. Our choir soloists made Sanjaya Malakar look like Placido Domingo.

At some point when I was 14 or 15, my mom finally realized that her kids weren't getting anything out of listening to boring sermons and singing boring songs. So we didn't have to go anymore. It didn't mean the end of my churchgoing life. Since then, I've gone to Quaker meetings and a couple of Unitarian services. But I have had to face facts: I don't enjoy sitting in a place of religious worship for long periods of time. I don't get anything out of it. In fact, I'm flat-out bored by it. Maybe someday, I'll be able to sit in silence for an hour in a Quaker meeting. Someday. Maybe I'll go back to a Unitarian church one day, since every religious quiz I've taken shows that my beliefs are most in line with Unitarian Universalism.

But I have to be honest: the most fun I've had in that Quaker meeting house was volunteering at their homeless shelter. It's a nice, clean, well-kept place. It's perfectly safe. The shelter guests are polite and grateful. The other volunteers are cool people. And I feel like I'm doing something useful. I've come to the conclusion--strange as it may sound to some--that prayer isn't enough. It's what you do when you're not praying that really matters.

Why do I think a theocracy would be a dreary, joyless, tedious experience? Because...uh...well, there's a lot of real world evidence for this. Case in point: you never see any of those Iranian mullahs smiling, do you?

If you look at how theocracies are run, you notice that good works are not high on the list of priorities. Theocrats generally do not spread God's will by opening shelters for needy families. They do not collect clothes to give to poor people. They don't run soup kitchens or teach songs to kids. They don't publish religious story books. They don't do anything constructive or fun. No, theocrats spend a lot of time banning things and punishing people.

You can't fly a kite or buy a record with a woman on the cover. You can't go dancing or swim. You aren't encouraged to mingle with your fellow human beings. In short, your life is likely to be devoid of fun, joy, and all the other things that are supposed to be conducive to a good spiritual life.

Basically, anyone who's force-fed religious dogma is going to be bored and resentful. If you talk to anyone who's sincere and happy with his or her faith, you can see that religion is like comfort food to them. For a theocrat, religion becomes chopped liver. It's supposed to be good for you, but who'd want to eat it?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

It's settled: The GOP is one big cartoon

There's the Idiot-in-Charge, who's been compared to Alfred E. Neuman by La Hill and assorted fictional simians by just about everyone else. There's Cheney, whose demeanor and hunting antics suggest a dyspeptic Elmer Fudd. And now Mitt Romney, is talking about his adventures hunting "varmints" as he tries to win the gun lobby's support.

Varmints? Uh, right. Mitt, pretending to be Yosemite Sam isn't gonna work.

His comments in New Hampshire this week that he had been a hunter "pretty much all my life" drew scorn from critics after his staff said Wednesday that he had been on only two hunting trips - on his cousins' ranch in Idaho as a 15-year-old, and last year, when as a 58-year-old he hunted quail in Georgia with supporters of the Republican Governors Association.

"Ah'm the hootenist, tootenist, shootenist gun-totin' gunslinger in the NRA. Okay, ya idgit galoot from Massy-choosits, let's see you with a gun! An' yuh better be quicker on th' draw than that idgit Cheney."

More 2008 candidates!

I know, I know. The 2008 campaign is getting predictable. Among the GOP candidates, there are enough flip flops to fill a beach. On the Democratic side, you have La Hill and Obama trying to out-fundraise each other. Already, everyone knows what to expect. Maybe they should just hold the elections in January 2008 and be done with it.

In case you fear your options are limited, here are some other candidates to consider. Yes, in every political campaign, there are a few lesser-known parties, wacky outsiders, and general no-names whom nobody hears about until you see their names in the voting booth.

Well, already we've got an election that looks to be very different from elections past, so why not level the playing field? Here are some candidates running for president and other assorted elected offices.

From Vermont, home of Howard Dean and America's first socialist senator comes Cris Ericson of the National Marijuana Party. I'm not sure what the lady's running for--is it Congress or governor? However, her slogan--"FREEDOM TO CONTROL YOUR OWN BODY & YOUR OWN MIND"--will appeal to the libertarian crowd.

"Average Joe" Schriner is running for president. "We should make war on social injustice and poverty," he says. He's pro-environment and pro-farm workers. He's anti-abortion and believes in a stronger social safety net for parents. He would create a Department of Peace if elected president. He has written a book called Back Road to the White House, which is advertised on his site.

Steve Adams is another presidential candidate. His slogan is, "18th century name; 21st century values." Wait a minute--aren't there already a lot of people with the surname of Adams running around in the 21st century?

And from the Vampire, Witches, and Pagan Party comes Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey:

On a stormy rainy night on April 2nd, 1964 in Elizabeth, in the state best known as the Crossroads of the American Revolution, a fierce warrior and fighter was born.

In 2006, while America was under attack by terrorists, criminals, and ruled by politicians who care more about their own political party and major campaign contributors. An American warrior for the people came forth, just like other New Jersians did in past-times of our country's great need, to help the innocent, the wrongly persecuted, those of different faiths, beliefs, lifestyles, dreams, and ambitions.

This American is defying the establishment, and will not coward down to the Christian Right Wingers, nor to the Muslim extremist....

This American vows to instill fear into those who brutally attacked our great nation on 9-11, as well as criminals who prey upon the weak, the innocent, the elderly and children, by Impaling them for their unlawful actions....

To some, The Impaler is immortal. The Impaler is not just a warrior, a Sanguinary Satanic Vampyre, a Hecate Witch, a lover, but is above all - a "Real American."

In 2008, there could be only one for President of America.

May it be - Jonathon "The Impaler"

"Heeeeeeeere we are!/Born to be kings!/We're the princes of the universe..."

Man, I wanna see this guy in a presidential debate.

"Come on, Methos. What makes you think we'll find a k'immie at the Republican national convention?"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On Sanjaya and other pressing world matters

Anyone who thinks Sanjaya Malakar can't sing should listen to Paula Abdul's old songs. I remember Paula's pop music career. She couldn't carry a tune in a bucket with wheels. Without all those elaborately choreographed videos of hers, she would've had no career. In fact, there are plenty of people with no vocal ability who somehow managed to get record contracts. Britney Spears. Jessica and Ashlee Simpson. Nick Lachey. What makes Sanjaya any different? Easy: he's not relying on prerecorded tracks and he's not lip syncing. Really, Paula, Simon, and Randy are part of that very music industry juggernaut that has been passing over worthy artists in favor of the above-named no-talents. It's hilarious that they're so puzzled about this guy. Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast is rooting for Sanjaya. After reading her post, hopefully you will root for him, too.

On an unrelated note, there's only one thing more shocking about Keith Richards' "joke" about snorting his dad's remains: namely, that anyone could understand what was coming out of his mouth. ("My farragarrrr ar snooohrrwar arrshes." "Huh? Whuh? What's he saying now?")

Courtesy of Blue Gal, it seems I'm not the only one suffering scandal fatigue. Someone should've created a sign saying, "January 2009, hurry up and come!"

Via Pete Blackwell, we find the American news media continuing to insult readers' intelligence. And I agree, putting Annie Leibowitz on the cover of Newsweek makes no sense. Sanjaya Malakar is a more newsworthy cover subject. (JOKE, people! That was a joke!)

Does this guy WANT to lose?

Following McCain's fact-finding trip to Iraq (snorfle) comes news that he's hired a brand-new finance co-chair, Fred Malek. A finance chair needs to know how to count, and clearly, McCain's new hire knows how to do that. How do I know this? Because he used to count Jews for Richard Nixon, that's how. And counting Jews was one of Malek's more innocuous activities.

The insidious effects of McCain's Disease

Among other things, the sufferer begins to see and hear things that he wants to see and hear. When actual events don't fit his fantasy, he simply pretends that they are not there and did not happen.

Case in point: The disease's namesake and his latest attempt to put a positive spin on Situation FUBAR. This time he's weighing in on the Iraqi shopping experience. A bunch of Iraqis, naturally, think he's nuts. Jolly Roger sums everything up.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Another conservative jumps ship

By now, it's clear Bush's GOP base is shrinking faster than an ice cube in a pot of boiling water. Turning up the stove temperature is Victor Gold, a former speechwriter and GOP insider. He once wrote a book called Libberwocky: What Liberals Say and What They Really Mean. He has co-written books with Daddy Bush and Lynne Cheney. I bet he even managed to keep food down while working with the latter. He's the kind of person the wingnutosphere would be proud to include among their own...if he didn't just write a book that dissed Dear Leader.

Anyway, the book in question is called Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy Rollers and the Neocons Destroyed the GOP. Folks, this is what a really disillusioned Republican looks like.

For all the Rove-built facade of his being a "strong" chief executive, George W. Bush has been, by comparison to even hapless Jimmy Carter, the weakest, most out of touch president in modern times. Think Dan Quayle in cowboy boots.


Like Brent Scowcroft, another friend of Daddy, Gold is a traditional conservative. Which means he believes in foreign restraint. Which also means that he really, really hates what Bush and Cheney have done and thinks it's a betrayal of all the GOP once stood for. And like so many right wingers, he says he was hoodwinked by Cheney.

For Gold, Cheney brings to mind the adage of Swiss writer Madame de Stael, who wrote, "Men do not change, they unmask themselves." Cheney has a deep streak of paranoia and megalomania, Gold suggests -- but he says he did not see it at first.

"He was hiding who he really was," Gold says. "He was waiting for an opportunity."

At the risk of sounding really uncharitable, I have a suggestion for Mr. Gold. Maybe he could retract that silly Libberwocky book of his. After all, it's just another example of right-wing projection. You know, the sort of nonsense that's contributed to the poisoning of public discourse. If he's really come around to reality, surely he'd want to distance himself from it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

And now for something completely different

While the Bushbots are trying to rap and carrying on imaginary conversations with Martians, Alanis Morrisette has a new song. It is a cover of "My Humps."

Yes. You read that correctly. Alanis Morrisette is singing "My Humps."

This is the video.