Marriage is love.
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)


Liberals are patriots, too!

At the end of my flying trip to Galesburg this past Thursday and Friday, I was pleased to encounter another one of my undergraduate professors/mentors, besides the one whose retirement I went to honor. We stood in the bright sunshine outside the building where he was administering a final exam for one of his wife's classes and chatted for a good 15-20 minutes. (She was out of town at a conference, and Knox operates on the honor system: by rule, professors are not generally allowed to remain in the room when an exam is under way.)

Something he said has been rattling around inside my head all weekend. (As one of my choir directors at Knox put it, good tenors have resonance where other people have brains.) I don't happen to recall his exact wording, but the gist of it was that, atypically for a leftist, he considered himself patriotic. How well has the VRWC done its work, that it is somehow considered extraordinary for patriotism to be associated with or characteristic of those of us on the left?

As I replied to him at the time, I believe in the principles on which this country was founded, and in the system of government that the Framers established to promote and protect those principles. That's what "patriotism" means to me. ShrubCo would have us believe that patriotism means nothing more than blind allegiance to whatever régime happens to be in power at the time (or at least as long as it's Republican in nature: they didn't seem to think this way when Clinton was president). They would have us believe that questioning our government or its leaders is not only unpatriotic, it's all but treasonous. That is not patriotism: that is, to use the mot juste, Bushit.

As a citizen of this nation, it is not only my right to question and to criticize my government and its leaders, it is at least at some times my patriotic duty. My allegiance is never given to a government or to an official, or even to a flag. Rather, it is "to the Republic for which [the flag] stands," and to the Constitution that our soldiers and our leaders swear solemn oaths to "preserve, protect, and defend." To their everlasting shame, at least a few of our soldiers in the War on Terra have forgotten where their true allegiance lies, as has virtually every member of the Bush régime.

I have a tremendous respect for the flag of this nation. I tend to fly it on holidays, and particularly on Memorial Day (though weather prevented me this year), Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans' Day. I salute it appropriately as it passes, or during the national anthem (which I sing lustily, though usually in a harmony part) when at sporting events or other occasions when it is played.

The Goopers would have us make an idol out of our flag, but I cannot walk that road with them. Not only is idolatry prohibited by the tenets of my faith, but raising a piece of cloth to the pinnacle of honor in our national pantheon is a serious misapprehension of what is truly important. Our flag deserves respect, not so much in its own right, but because of the principles that it stands for. Ergo, though it pains me to have to see it or to imagine it, I would rather it be legal to burn the American flag than to gouge out yet another gash in the underpinnings of the First Amendment that codifies several of the noblest, costliest to achieve, and most valuable freedoms that our flag represents. Better that the symbol should be disrespected (for we cannot truly desecrate it) than the important reality that it signifies.

The Right would have us believe that all leftists and liberals hate the military, want to do away with it, and neither respect nor support our troops. Again, I cry Bushit. I don't believe everything my government tells me. Neither am I willing to assume that simply because someone wears an American uniform, s/he is simon-pure as the driven snow and could never, ever be guilty of war crimes, nor that anytime the United States decides to use military force it is justified in doing so, or that it will always act benevolently and in accordance with international laws and treaties. All of those things, regrettably, are self-evidently not the case.

But that it is occasionally misused is not an argument (or at least not a very sound one) for doing away with the military altogether. We absolutely need armed forces of some kind, simply in order to protect our borders and our interests beyond those borders. But because we must provide for the common defense does not mean we can or should give carte blanche to the military-industrial complex to do whatever it will, no matter the cost to our Treasury and our citizens. We spend far too much money on national defense, and as far as I'm concerned the patriots are the ones who are shouting that fact on the housetops, not the chickenhawks in the lobbies and the cloakrooms trying to secure sweetheart deals for contractors in their districts and never mind the red ink that results.

I believe that our troops have no business being in Iraq, and I'm not 100% certain they should be in Afghanistan, either. I don't think it's unpatriotic of me to say that, or to hope that they can come home very soon. But, goddamnit, as long as our troops are there in harm's way, they are entitled to the very best that America has to offer them. They should not lack for equipment, supplies, hot food and hot showers, and any of the creature comforts of home that we can possibly provide them with, consistent with their safety in a war zone. Anybody that is willing to put his or her body and/or life on the line in the uniform of this country should be paid, and paid handsomely, for as long as they remain in the service. No member of our armed forces should have to worry about paying his family's bills, or getting food stamps to put food on her family's table. Any commander-in-chief who wantonly or recklessly commits our troops to combat or hazardous situations without proper planning and preparation, or on specious grounds (as Commander Codpiece has done, by the way) should be impeached--and then hanged, drawn, and quartered in front of the White House as an object lesson for every person who ever sits in the Oval Office thereafter.

It would be extremely difficult for me not to respect our men and women in uniform, and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make down to the present day. I can say with about 95% certainty that at least one branch of my family has been on these shores since before there ever was a United States of America, about a generation after the Mayflower arrived. An awful lot of my relatives have given an awful lot of blood, toil, tears, and sweat to creating, expanding, preserving, protecting, and defending this nation--beginning with the Revolutionary War and continuing at least as far as the Vietnam War (in which my father served, though his duty post was in South Korea). Criticizing the missions given to our troops is neither treasonous nor unpatriotic, and it certainly does not preclude insisting loudly and long that even though they may be on a bootless errand, our troops should have the equipment and the training they need, or that they should be adequately paid, fed, clothed, and housed, as should their families and the widows and orphans they leave behind if, God forbid, they should fail to come back.

In short, patriotism is a hell of a lot more than getting a lump in one's throat at the Vietnam War Memorial, or when looking at the pictures of marble tombstones in neat white rows stretching to the horizon behind an ever-shrinking group of aging veterans at successive celebrations of the D-Day landings. Being a patriot is not easy, and it's not a part-time job, either. It means making a loud, obnoxious nuisance of myself in an effort to run those miserable miscreants of ShrubCo out of the offices to which they were never entitled and which they hold by chicanery and crookery (if I may coin a new word). It means stading four-square for the noble principles on which our government and our nation were founded, and on bringing confusion (if not ruin) to the enemies of those principles, even if those enemies happen to be sitting temporarily in the seat of power. It means getting my arse out to vote in every election for which I'm eligible. It means paying my taxes. It means serving on jury duty if I'm called. It means writing or calling my elected officials and giving them a piece of my mind when I think they're screwing up. It means standing at the parade and screaming that Emperor Chimpy has no clothes. It means being forever vigilant to see that neither ShrubCo nor anyone else is able to sneak an initiative in by the back way to chip away at the Constitution I revere, even if they drape themselves in the flag to do it.

I am a liberal. And I'm goddamn proud to be an American patriot. The two are not incompatible, I promise: no matter how often or how loudly the Goopers tell you differently.


Liberal bias? We ain't got no liberal bias!

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) is reporting a study of interviewees on National Public Radio which finds that "the radio service relies on the same elite and influential sources that dominate mainstream commercial news, and falls short of reflecting the diversity of the American public." The study "recorded every on-air source quoted in June 2003 on four National Public Radio news shows: All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition Saturday and Week-end [sic] Edition Sunday." All told, the study looked at 2,334 quoted sources from more than 800 stories, classifying them by occupation, gender, nationality, and partisan affiliation.

The good news? The public is featured more often on public radio (31 percent of sources in this study, up from 17 percent in a similar study from 1993), and the network and its sources are more diverse than previously, though still not representative of the nation as a whole.

The bad news? Women are still dramatically under-represented (only 21 percent of sources overall, only 15 percent of expert sources, and only 18 percent of political sources). NPR has done better in terms of putting women on the air as hosts and commentators, though there are a couple I wouldn't mind seeing disappear (Cokie Roberts and Barbara Bradley Hagerty) irrespective of the gender of their replacements.

The fulminations of the Limboob and the talking heads at Faux News notwithstanding, "little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR, and FAIR's latest study gives it no support." Looking at specifically partisan sources, Republicans were quoted more often than Democrats by a 3:2 margin. The study notes that this is perhaps not surprising when the Goopers control both Congress and the White House, but the 1993 survey, when Clinton was president, showed a similar, but smaller edge for the Goopers (57% to 42%). When it came to representatives of the think tanks, FAIR found that right-of-center organizations "outnumbered those to the left of center by more than four to one: 62 appearances to 15."

The NPR Ombudsman has some concerns about the FAIR study, especially that it was conducted a month after ShrubCo pulled the "Mission Accomplished" fiasco when "[t]here was a certain mood of triumphalism in the Bush administration [sic] and the presence of high-profile Republicans dominated the news." I would actually class that fact as another indictment of NPR. If the goal of NPR is, according to statements from its presidents in 1993 and now, "to be a public radio station" that should air "the alternative points of view" and "to serve the entire democracy, the entire country," then it would seem to me tat it would be precisely at a time when "high-profile Republicans dominated the news" that NPR should be seeking out some of those "alternative points of view" and not simply parroting ShrubCo's triumphalist talking points.

That's the sort of journalism that those of us who have been NPR listeners for decades had come to expect. Regrettably, it seems to be harder and harder to find--as is anything remotely resembling "fair and balanced" coverage in anything except name. NPR is really going to have to work its arse off to get me to renew my membership this fall.



Es geht immer weiter III

Reuters is reporting that an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City early Sunday (local time) killed a "high-profile" Hamas commander and two other Hamas members. The attack was apparently in revenge for a May 11 attack in which six Israeli soldiers were killed by a mine during a raid into the city. According to Palestinian medics cited in the story, seven civilians (including one woman and two children) were injured in the strike as well as the Hamas members.


Es geht immer weiter II

Or, as the French say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

In a dKos diary I stumbled across the following, "revisionist" version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, courtesy of Mark Twain. Although Twain wrote it in 1900, I'm sorry to say that it appears equally relevant more than a century later.

Battle Hymn of the Republic
(Brought Down to Date)

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps --
His night is marching on.

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!"

We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;*
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom –- and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich -–
Our god is marching on.

* NOTE: In Manila the Government has placed a certain industry under the protection of our flag. (M.T.)


Es geht immer weiter

Quoting an article in today's edition of The Arizona Republic, Agence France Presse is reporting that Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who died in Afghanistan in April was almost certainly "killed by 'friendly fire,'" according to a Republican congressman from Arizona quoted in the newspaper.

The cynical part of me wonders whether this will impact some of the attempts to portray Tillman as one of the heroes of the War on Terra. It's just not as heroic to get killed by fire from one's own lines, although it kills just as effectively as enemy fire.

God be good to him all the same.



Off the reservation

I'm heading out of town for a retirement reception in honor of one of my theatre professors, so this is about all the blogging I'm going to get to today. Tomorrow's blogging forecast is light. In the meantime, please visit my fellow members of The Liberal Coalition for some excellent blogging. I can also highly recommend any of the other members of Musing's Muses, all of whom are linked at left.

See y'all on Friday or thereabouts.



It gets even better (or worse)

Remember what I said yesterday about how convenient the planned press conference that took place this morning was for ShrubCo? Seems I may have been even more prophetic than I thought. Via Ezra comes this disgustingly interesting tidbit:

Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration's efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month.

That's it. Impeach the bastards NOW! The whole miserable, rotten lot of them! It's the only way we're ever going to be able to take the government's word for anything ever again.


What Jesse said. In spades.

When it comes to the mess that the Goopers are pleased to call the Medicare bill that's somehow supposed to save our senior citizens from having to go bankrupt or eat cat food in order to pay for their prescriptions, I can't improve on this:

So, you put your hand in the pot, come out with a card, hope it works when and where you need it to for the entire year, hope that it covers the drugs you need it to, and hope that it offers enough of a discount to actually be meaningful. If you find that card, you just hope and pray that it stays the same from year to year or that you don't require any new medications that the card doesn't cover, otherwise you have to stick with the card you don't want until the next year, when you can start the search all over again.

This just sounds great.



Here we go again

Just in time for the holidays, of course, and it wouldn't surprise me if the Lying Disaster Monkey's disastrous poll numbers of late had something to do with it, too: U.S. to Announce New Terror-Related Threat. Continue exercising vague caution, though. Reuters says that the gubmint has no intention of raising the FearCon level (you can check it in the sidebar at the left).


Are the rose-colored glasses surgically implanted?

This is rapidly descending to the level of a temper-tantrum, with the Bush régime behaving toward its critics for all the world like a child sticking its fingers in its ears and chanting "La, la, la, la, I can't hear you!" every time another bit of bad news comes out of Iraq, or every time someone poses an even mildly interrogatory question about how well they really think their latest plan is going to work:

The Bush administration sought on Tuesday to project a unified, optimistic view of its plan to hand over power to an interim government in Iraq, even as President Bush faced criticism over a strategy many find lacking in crucial details.

The Bush strategery is not only lacking in crucial details, it appears on its face to lack any kind of a credible connection with reality as most of us understand that term. Not only did the preznit's pack of lies speech last night offer about the 463d rationale for starting the war in the first place, it contained remarkably little in the way of new anything--policies, rhetoric, details on who might be taking over what limited sovereignty we're planning to grant Iraq on June 30. You know, the trivial little bits of information that nobody really needs to pay much attention to. The important bits they've got all worked out already: a new ambassador, a new flag, a new Oil Ministry (oh, wait: nope!)...

Or, as I remarked to my mom last night as we were sipping wine and watching the news (the only way I can watch the news these days), "Same old bullshit, different day." Maybe I should have said "Same old Bushit..."


The Pentagon doth protest too much, methinks

And the bleeding, both literal and metaphorical, continues unabated. As Mustang Bobby ably demonstrated in a blogaround of reaction to the Lying Disaster Monkey's pack of lies speech about Iraq last night, by and large the world remains convinced that ShrubCo have their collective heads up their arses, and couldn't figure out a plausible or viable exit strategy if their lives depended on it. The unfortunate bit in all that is that the lives of countless thousands of American servicemen and -women do depend on the White House's ability to put together some kind of strategy to get Iraq back on the right track. Worse yet, those with their lives and bodies on the line may well have to wait until President Kerry takes office to see that happen.

Meanwhile, it would appear that the second cosmetic change in the U.S. military has resulted from the Abu Ghraib scandals. Yesterday's victim was Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the overall commander of the military police unit at Abu Ghraib. She was disciplined for "serious deficiencies" in handling her troops and was removed from command of the 800th Military Police Brigade on Monday.

Today's victim appears to be Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. military officer in Iraq at the moment. Reuters quotes an unnamed official thusly:

This has absolutely nothing to do with Abu Ghraib. The secretary [of defense] is very mindful that the perception [that this is a punishment] might arise. But it simply is not the case.

Yeah, right. Until it is. Sanchez is supposedly being looked at to head up the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which would involve a promotion to full general. It's still hard not to see this move, made just a week after Sanchez' devastating testimony before Congress, as an attempt to shift the focus on Iraqi torture allegations away from someone who is known to be critical of the way the military handled them--and also to get him out of the loop by moving him away from the center of the action.

It's a pity we aren't going to see any heads rolling at the Pentagon or the White House over this mess. At least until November.


Treachery, thy name is Sonny

Via Tarek at The Liquid List, I learn that the Goopers' hubris (along with their paranoia) is climbing to new heights. (Or should that be "descending to new lows"?)

According to a news brief in The Washington Post, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue (now there's a name to inspire trust: not!) has pre-emptively declared a state of emergency in coastal Georgia until June 20. This declaration, in turn, prompted the city fathers of Brunswick, Ga., to pass a new law giving the police the authority to halt protests during the G-8 summit to be held nearby on Sea Island June 8-10. Apparently Emperor C+ Augustus doesn't wish to be made to look any more of an idiot before the leaders of the industrialized world than he does every time he opens his mouth in public.

Can we say "unlawful prior restraint," boys and girls? I knew you could! Let's hope the ACLU and somebody with standing can find a competent federal judge who agrees before the Goopers undermine the First Amendment any more than they already have, the miserable bastards!



And now for something completely different

It's the RaspenisTM! Via It's In There (an apt blog name for a post on this topic, come to think of it, though I'm sure that was not the owner's intent!) comes this story about Russia's first-ever museum of erotica. Among its chief exhibits is to be the allegedly foot-long dong of Grigori Rasputin.

Me, I want to know why someone would have saved that in the first place. (Eeeuw!) And second, how in hell did they manage to keep it from decaying and/or being confiscated since Rasputin's assassination in 1916?

Anyway, apparently Russia doesn't have to feel like a second-class citizen next to the U.S. anymore. We've got Napoleon's schlong stashed somewhere, according to the Ananova article, and it's apparently nowhere near as impressive as the Raspenis!



Big Brother wants YOU to vote Republican!

Steven Bates over at Yellow Doggerel Democrat has an interesting (and disquieting) post up about how BushCo may be using data-mining techniques to identify potential GOP voters and target them for direct mail, phone calls, and the like. Go have a look.

Also, on a personal note, I may or may not be doing much blogging today. The National Weather Service has just posted the fourth or fifth tornado watch for my area in the last three days, effective until 10 p.m. Central time. If the weather gets bad, I'll go offline. So if I don't see you before then, enjoy the rest of the weekend.


It's early days for crying havoc

Orcinus has laid out a number of disturbing facts in an excellent post at his site entitled "Jingoes and the fascist impulse" that I can highly recommend. I can't argue with his facts, but I think the conclusion he reaches is a little over the top. The conditions we face in contemporary America are indeed serious and will bear close watch by those of us who are committed to the preservation of our liberties and the fundamental structure of our government.

However, there are a number of distinguishing factors between late-Weimar Germany and the United States in the present day that suggest to me a similar course of events is unlikely. They include the following:

  1. The Weimar Republic was a new experiment. Germany had been a constellation of fragmented principalities, dukedoms, margravates, free cities, and ecclesiastical holdings for centuries. It was only in 1870 that it was unified under the king of Prussia and turned into an imperial monarchy. There was no real democratic tradition in the country. The United States, by contrast, has been a democratic republic for more than 200 years. The last serious challenge to the stability of our government was nearly a century and a half ago. (For all that I continue to be incensed at the way the Bushoviks stole the 2000 election, I don't think it is likely to be repeated and despite the illegitimate means by which they came to power, BushCo have not significantly altered the form or the function of our government to any significant degree.)
  2. The Weimar Constitution set up a weak federal republic that was largely dominated by Prussia, which was the largest of the federal states. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, it set up a strong presidency. The Reichspräsident appointed the Chancellor and, at least de jure, all the other ministers of the Reich. Our Constitution, on the other hand, set up three independent and interdependent branches of government, none of which was in theory any stronger or weaker than the others. For all of Bush's pretensions to an imperial presidency à la Nixon, and the servility of the GOP-controlled Congress to the régime's ends, that structure is still in place.
  3. As I noted in a comment on Orcinus' post, Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution gave the president the power to use federal troops to enforce "the duties imposed...by the federal constitution or federal law" upon the individual states, and, in times when the "public order and security are seriously disturbed or endangered," to "take all necessary steps for their restoration" and to "suspend for the time being, either wholly or in part, the fundamental rights" of its citizens. The U.S. president may suspend habeas corpus, but no more. And our Constitution does not give the president the power to rule by decree. Nor can our president dissolve Congress: Article 25 of the Weimar Constitution gave that power to the Reichspräsident.
  4. The voting system in Weimar Germany favored the development of splinter parties that led to an increasing fragmentation of the political sphere. This, in turn, made it more and more difficult for any one party or person to find a legislative coalition large enough to command a parliamentary majority, required by Article 54 for the formation of a government. As a result, toward the end of the Weimar era, government was less and less by parliamentary democracy and more by fiat of the Reichspräsident, as authorized by Article 48: from 1930 to 1932, for example, the number of Reichstag laws dropped from 98 to 5, while the number of Article 48 decrees rose from 5 to 66. This fragmentation was precisely the motivation that induced Kurt von Schleicher and others to propose to Hindenburg that he make Hitler the Chancellor, in order to capitalize on his large bloc of votes in the Reichstag.
  5. There does not appear (at least to these eyes) to be a political party in a similar situation to the place occupied by the Nazis in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

There is also, I believe, a mitigating factor in the apparent resurgence of a moderate faction in the Republican Party as exemplified by the fissures in the GOP's public face of late between Bushovik hacks like Speaker Hastert and more independently minded politicians such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain. If, as seems increasingly likely, the Bushovik wing goes down to defeat in November, this moderate wing of the party may well succeed in regaining control of what was once the party of Lincoln, and pull it back from the abyss to which the wingnut/neocon cabal has driven it.




(Try to imagine me saying the above in Jon Stewart's inimitable fashion.)

The 2004 election campaign, which is already bound to go into the record books on several accounts, has just gotten a tad bit ....stranger. According to Reuters 20 minutes ago, the Kerry campaign is considering the possibility of delaying the candidate's formal acceptance of the Democratic nomination for president for the five weeks that intervene between the end of the Democratic convention and the Republicans' presumptive renomination coronation of Shrub.

The rationale behind the decision, apparently, is a wrinkle in the campaign financing regulations. Once a candidate accepts the nomination for president, s/he can only spend the federal matching funds. Prior to that time, however, a candidate can spend as much as s/he can legally raise. The Kerry people, consequently, are apparently a little anxious about letting the Goopers have a free hand with as much cash as they can grab, plus whatever BushCampaignCo still has in the coffers by that point, while our man is limited to what he can get from the government.

Looked at from one perspective, it does make a certain amount of sense. You don't want to either hand your opponent an edge, especially as the race gets tighter and heads into the home stretch, and neither do you want to have to spend any of the general election money to fight off primary money from your opponent.

Looked at in another way, however, it's silly. How on earth does a candidate go to his party's convention, get nominated, come out and make a huge speech....and still not accept the nomination? That's the first problem.

Then there's the fact that the Bushoviks have been spending money like miners in town on payday for the last quarter, something on the order of four times as much as the Kerry campaign, but with no perceptible positive results. Kerry hasn't gotten a lot of bounce, but neither has he slipped significantly in the polls--unlike the guy who's spending all that money he so laboriously hoovered up when he should have been running the country whose government he stole. Plus, according to the Washington Post today, Kerry raised twice as much as Bush did in April, for the second consecutive month. Granted, once Kerry accepts the nomination he can't do more fundraising for his own campaign, but that doesn't mean the 527s and the party can't help him out, and their relative funding numbers suggest that either Commander Codpiece isn't trying very hard or people are finally taking a long, hard look at him and deciding they don't much like his chances.

So go ahead, and have Kerry accept the nomination in the usual manner at the tail end of the convention. When your opponent is committing public hara-kiri, you don't need to waste any time or effort in taking him out of the race. Just stand back and watch him do it for you.


Try. Please!

I'm not tempted to write a song about George W.Bush. I couldn't figure out what sort of song I would write. That's the problem: I don't want to satirise George Bush and his puppeteers, I want to vaporise them.

Thus spake Tom Lehrer, "arguably the most famous living satirical songwriter," in a March 1, 2003, interview printed in the Sydney Morning Herald. I can understand the sentiments, but I really wish he'd try. Lehrer does satire like nobody else, and Emperor Chimpy just begs to be taken down a peg or three on a regular basis. Eric Idle's FCC Song does contain a nice line ("And fuck you very much, dear Mr. Bush/For heroically sitting on your tush."), but I want more.

So please, Mr. Lehrer, do try to make up a Bush song. Pretty please?



Holy bankroll, Batman!

Talk about shooting your wad early! According to Reuters, the Lying Disaster Monkey has reportedly spent close to $130 million of his campaign war-chest, and it isn't even June yet.

The BushCo campaign (or should that be the BushCampaignCo?) made it a point to mention that Emperor Chimpy still has some $70 million on hand and "more money coming in," but, still. If you blow $130 million and your numbers are still falling, I've got to think that's probably not a harbinger of good news down the line. Plus, BushCo decided earlier that it wanted to postpone the nominating convention coronation until September, the better to capitalize on play politics with the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. Since he won't get any federal matching funds until after he's nominated and the general election begins, that means that C+ Augustus is going to have to make his last $70 million, plus whatever he can still rake in from donors that (a) will still give to him even though his campaign is swirling the toilet bowl, and (b) haven't already maxed out for the primaries, last from now until September. Given that his campaign is going to incur some legal expenses in getting on the ballot in a number of states thanks to the lateness of the convention coronation, I suspect he's going to have a hard time paying for many more massive ad buys.

Consequently, I predict we're going to start seeing a lot more p(R)esidential visits that just coincidentally happen to be in battleground states and that feature remarks sounding an awful lot like a campaign speech, but paid for by Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Taxpayer. I'm also guardedly optimistic that we're finally going to see some significant movement in the polling numbers. For all the flipping great wodges of cash that BushCo have been throwing at John Kerry, the best they've been able to accomplish is to keep the race more or less a statistical dead heat. Kerry hasn't gained much, and Bush has only slipped a few points below Kerry's totals. That, I suspect, is about to start changing.

And that, in turn, makes me feel a little better about the eventual outcome of this race. It is simply imperative for the future of this nation, and this world, that George W. Bush is sent packing back to his "ranch" in Texas this autumn. It's starting to look like we've got a good shot at making that happen. I think I'll start shopping for the good champagne now.


Un peu de poésie

There's a discussion going on at dKos about whether Kerry's new slogan ("Let America be America Again," which is drawn from a Langston Hughes poem) sucks or not. As I was preparing a comment on that diary, I was prompted to hunt up "On the Pulse of Morning," which was Maya Angelou's inaugural poem for Bill Clinton in 1993, because I wanted to quote a few lines from it. Here's what I picked:

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.


Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.


Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
I am yours--your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

And as I noted at the end of my dKos comment, that poem can still move me to tears. It's a welcome relief, albeit a far too temporary one, from all the doom and gloom and malaise in the news these days. Methinks when I get home tonight I'm going to dig out my tape of the Clinton inauguration so I can listen to Angelou recite her own work again. Enjoy. Savor. Relish.


Speaking of hubris...

Agence France Presse is reporting that the United States has circulated a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council to give our "peacekeeping troops another one-year exemption from prosecution by the world court at The Hague." The story goes on to state that the proposed resolution "is likely to face misgivings after revelations that US [sic] troops abused prisoners in Iraq."

Gee, you think?

Human Rights Watch has said that it would have a "strong statement" about the proposed resolution sometime today. My guess is that it's going to be along the same lines as the likely votes of everyone on the Security Council except possibly Great Britain, to wit, "no fucking way!"


Take cover now, Mr. Speaker!

Is Dennis Hastert a complete tool, or what? (Truth in advertising: He represents my district. I still don't like him.)

I know he's been having a rough year and all, what with scandal after scandal dogging his good buddy the Lying Disaster Monkey, that whole quagmire thing going on in Iraq, and then there was that third thing: something about terra, wasn't it? Still, it does not behoove a man whose bum knees were good enough to wrestle in college but bad enough to keep him out of Vietnam to lecture a decorated veteran who endured years of captivity and torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese about either patriotism or the sacrifices made by those who wear the uniform of this country.

That didn't stop Denny, however. In a pissing match between the House and Senate over $50 billion in new tax cuts (what else?) yesterday, Hastert got up on his high horse after Sen. John McCain had the temerity to suggest that if we are indeed at war (as most of the members of McCain's party regularly and stridently proclaim that we are), now is hardly the time to be pushing for tax cuts.

Hastert's reply suggests to me that he is either absolutely and completely out of touch with reality, or his levels of frustration are so high that his brain is short-circuiting. I'm hoping it's the latter, although if it's the former, then maybe we'll have some chance of unseating him this fall. After pretending (and again, I'm hoping he was pretending) that he'd never heard of McCain before and didn't know he was a Republican, Hastert had this to say (from the AP story linked to in the previous paragraph):

If you want to see sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda. There's the sacrifice in this country. We're trying to make sure that they have the ability to fight this war, that they have the wherewithal to be able to do it. And at the same time, we have to react to keep this country strong not only militarily but economically. We want to be able to have the flexibility to do it. That's my reply to John McCain.

Earth to Denny!

First off, if we're trying to make sure that our armed forces "have the ability to fight this war" and have the "wherewithal to be able to do it," it is counter-intuitive at best to be proposing tax cuts. The Pentagon keeps asking for more and more money to cover its expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of which (of course) was in the federal budget, and none of which happens to be in the Treasury, either. When expenses go up, one does not normally cut revenue--which, I believe, was exactly the point that Sen. McCain was trying to make, for all the good it did him.

And speaking of McCain, if I recall correctly he is still carrying shrapnel from Vietnam in his own body. I'm sure he hasn't forgotten, much though he might like to, the horrors of his years at the Hanoi Hilton. The chickenhawk Hastert might benefit from a little stroll through the rehabilitation wards at Walter Reed or Bethesda, but I don't think McCain needs any kind of a refresher course to understand thoroughly the kinds of sacrifices our soldiers make in the service of their country.

McCain subsequently ripped Hastert a new one:

The speaker is correct in that nothing we are called upon to do comes close to matching the heroism of our troops. All we're called upon to do is not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility.

Through a spokesman, Hastert later conceded that he valued McCain's military service, but disagrees with him on tax policy. Didn't have the guts to say it yourself, eh, Denny? Meanwhile, let me recommend that you not stand under any trees or on a platform in some open area that makes you the tallest object in the vicinity. Hubris of the sort you displayed with your remarks yesterday used to warrant a lightning bolt or two from the top of Olympus.



You know, maybe they shouldn't have kids after all...

This is your kid. This is your kid after BushCo's "abstinence-only" sex ed classes.

I remember a young woman of my acquaintance from my undergraduate years (yes, back in the Paleolithic Age). At the time she was naïve and had been raised in a very religious family, so she was worried that she might get pregnant if her then-boyfriend accidentally happened to touch her bare back with his hand. Given that I got my bachelor's at a highly selective liberal arts college, you may well imagine the levity with which this statement was greeted when she made it at dinner one evening.

Until tonight, that was pretty much my benchmark for being completely clueless about the wonders of human reproduction. From now on, however, I think the story I've linked to above is going to take its place. Please God it never gets supplanted in turn, because I have a hard time imagining how anyone could possibly be any dumber than not knowing one had to have intercourse (or at least the next best thing to it) if one wanted to have a child.

I suppose, if one had been raised by wolves or apes in the wild on some deserted island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and had never been exposed to anything like modern media culture, such ignorance might be excusable. But in Lübeck? As far as I'm concerned, anybody that dumb shouldn't be allowed to reproduce in the first place, for the future safety of the human race.


Wilkommen, bienvenue!

I'm welcoming two new members of Musing's Muses, also known as my blogroll (see the sidebar at left, natch!). They are Iron Blog and Left OverAnger (which is the blog of Iron Blogger Green, R. G. "Robin" Pratt).

Iron Blog, as you might suspect, is a blogosphere adaptation of the cult classic cooking show, Iron Chef, and follows much the same rules and format, apart from being all about blogging and not cooking. They're in the midst of their second battle right now, and it's a hot one: Battle Gay Marriage. The comments are flying thick and fast, and the Iron Blogger Democrat today posted a simply brilliant first rebuttal to his Challenger. Go have a look, you'll see I'm not lying!

In fact, watching and commenting on the Iron Blog battle has gotten me in the mood to lay out my own position on the subject again, so look for that in a future posting here. I may wait until the weekend, however, when the battle is over at Iron Blog. Wouldn't want to be accused of prejudicing the contest!



And the Mouse Network takes a slapshot to the mouth! Although the question of whether there will be NHL play at all next year remains open, since the current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' association expires in September, it's been reported that ABC has lost its broadcast deal with the NHL. Saturday hockey and the last four games of the Stanley Cup finals will instead be seen on NBC, which hasn't had regular hockey broadcasts since 1975, though it did show the All Star Game for a couple of years in the early '90s.

The one fly in my hockey ointment each year has been the necessity of watching some games on ABC. I quit watching them, except for hockey games and Monday Night Football when I was still following the Denver Broncos, after they canceled Sports Night in 2000 (when I was already pissed at them for giving the axe to Nothing Sacred three years previously), given that both shows were, in my estimation, some of the best television I'd seen in years.

Now, assuming there's an NHL season next year, and given that everybody I still knew and liked from the old Broncos days is gone, it looks like I can completely cross ABC off my network television viewing lineup. I know ESPN is a Disney network, too, but if I want to watch hockey (and, increasingly, to my dismay, tennis--which I don't think ESPN does all that well), I have no choice. And that assumes, further, that ESPN isn't going to cut back its hockey coverage even further next year than it has already done, where I can barely get a couple of games a week during the regular season.

All the more reason, it seems, to get out of my current apartment and into a better one, or into a house. Then I could get a satellite dish or at least a place that's wired properly so I could order the Center Ice package from my digital cable provider. Anybody got a couple hundred grand they can spare and want to send my way? I'd really appreciate it!



Put down the coffee before reading on

A wee Bush joke, courtesy of DJWinfo:

Q. How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to replace a lightbulb?

A. Seven:

  1. One to deny that a lightbulb needs to be replaced;
  2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who has questions about the lightbulb;
  3. One to blame Clinton for the need of a new lightbulb;
  4. One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of lightbulbs;
  5. One to get together with Vice President Cheney and figure out how to pay Halliburton Industries one million dollars for a lightbulb;
  6. One to arrange a photo-op session showing Bush changing the lightbulb while dressed in a flight suit, standing in front of a 'Mission Accomplished' banner;
  7. And, finally, one to explain to Bush the difference between screwing a lightbulb and screwing the country.

Regrettably, I suspect that last one would take more than the attention of a single person to accomplish.


The Jesus Landing Pad: Oy!

This just in: BushCoTM is apparently coordinating with "apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios," according to an article by Rick Perlstein in this morning's The Village Voice. And the wingnut fringe is predictably pissed off that they've been caught getting a handjob from the Bush White House:

"Everything that you're discussing is information you're not supposed to have," barked Pentecostal minister Robert G. Upton when asked about the off-the-record briefing his delegation received on March 25. Details of that meeting appear in a confidential memo signed by Upton and obtained by the Voice.

Too bad, so sad, Mr. Upton. In this formerly great country of ours we have a Constitution that says our government is not allowed to base its policy decisions on any religious document (let alone the lunatic fulminations of groups that either deliberately twist or completely misunderstand whole swathes of the Bible). We also have mechanisms in place that allow ordinary citizens to keep tabs on what their government is doing, because we've learned through experience (and this whole mess proves just how vitally important those mechanisms are) that when those in power get to work in the darkness of back rooms and closed meetings, Very Bad Things tend to happen.

Go read the rest of Perlstein's article. A word to the wise: it is truly a chilling tale. You might want to fortify yourself with a bit of the grape and/or your favorite religious or spiritual aids beforehand.


Kiss my arse, John Derbyshire!

In a vile screed masquerading as a "thought experiment" at National Review Online (must be trying something new over there, as thought has rarely been one of their distinguishing characteristics), John Derbyshire asserts that he and his fellow wingnuts are "mildly and tolerantly homophobic" and that the rest of the world (and particularly us queer folk) should "get used to it."

Well, he's partly right. He's homophobic for damn sure. And truer words were never spoken than when he described the rest of his logorrheic posting as "random fugitive thoughts, with no particular coherence." But his homophobia is neither mild nor tolerant, and certainly neither tolerable nor anything that anyone should get used to in a hurry.

The truly vile stuff comes in at the end, when he announces his personal bet that "homosexuality will disappear before homophobia does -- possibly quite soon, in a generation or so." He arrives at this groundless conclusion by rejecting the usual wingnut premise that homosexuality is a "lifestyle choice" and announcing that "current research on homosexuality, if I have understood it correctly, suggests that the homosexual orientation is indeed mostly congenital..." (Kee-rect, and welcome to the 21st century, Mr. Derbyshire; about time you joined the real world!)

From that starting (and for him, startling) premise, he proposes the following:

Supposing this is true, let us conduct a wee thought experiment — admittedly a fanciful one. A young woman in the late stages of pregnancy, or carrying a small infant, shows up at her doctor's office. "Doctor," she asks, "is there some kind of test you can do to tell me if my child is likely to become a homosexual adult?" The doctor says yes, there is. "And," the woman continues, "suppose the test is positive — would that be something we can fix? I mean, is there some sort of medical, or genetic, or biochemical intervention we can do at this stage, to prevent that happening?" The doctor says yes, there is. "How much does the test cost? And supposing it's positive, how much does the fix cost?" The doctor says $50, and $500. The woman takes out her checkbook.

Of course this is not happening anywhere in the U.S.A. right now. If my understanding of the state of current research is correct, however, it might very well be happening on a daily basis ten years from now.

If this really comes to pass, the results will be curious and interesting. They will not necessarily bring an end to homosexuality right away. No test, and no $500 fix, is likely to be 100 percent effective. Also, there must be some few borderline cases who "turn," or get "turned" quite late in life. For sure, though, if such a thing becomes reality, there will suddenly be a vast reduction in the numbers of homosexuals. From the current proportion — from 1 to 4 percent — of the population, we might, in a couple of generations, see a drop to, perhaps, 0.01 percent.

That would be a radically different situation. It would also be a very miserable one for homosexuals, as they became an aging, fading cohort, with practically no younger people of their inclination to socialize with. The situation would also be self-reinforcing: As more and more parents took the test and got the fix, the loneliness facing homosexuals would become so dire that no person of conscience could think of raising a person who might become homosexual. The fix might even be applicable later in life, with adult homosexuals "converting" en masse.

In which case, there would be someone, somewhere, who was the last homosexual. What a situation! Think what a playwright or a novelist could do with it!

I knew it was too good to last. Get a wingnut to admit one inconvenient fact that he's ignored for years, and he reacts by clinging all the more strongly to the rest of his errors. Pity those poor homos, they're just so lonely and despised, how could anyone want to live like that? Yada, yada, yada.

But let's have a thought experiment of our own with Mr. Derbyshire's, shall we? Let's substitute the word "conservative" for "homosexual" wherever it appears. See how much he likes this abominable idea then. And as a commenter on Jesse's post on the same article noted, if you substitute "Jew" for "homosexual" in Derbyshire's piece, you have what amounts to Mein Kampf. What amazes me is that Derbyshire could find someone to publish such hateful words in this day and age.


Tony Randall Dead at 84

There are few details, but Reuters has just announced the death of Tony Randall, perhaps best known for his role as Felix Unger on television's The Odd Couple. He had heart surgery late last year, and apparently had suffered from pneumonia afterward, but no other details are presently available. God be good to him.

(Hat tip to andante at Collective Sigh for the heads-up.)

UPDATE: And another hat-tip to Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof for correcting Mr. Randall's age. Reuters said 83, but the AP (and the Internet Movie Database) said 84.


Queen Camilla or King William V?

Agence France Presse is repeating (linked story is in German) a story originally reported on the Bayrischen Rundfunk (Bavarian Radio) that HRH Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his longtime mistress Camilla Parker-Bowles, intend to get married before the end of the year. The royal expert and author Norbert Loh told the broadcaster on Tuesday that "the wedding will take place at the end of September in a small church in Scotland," the same church, according to his information, in which the Princess Royal, Charles' sister Anne, married for the second time after her divorce. (My translation from the German original.)

I've looked at the BBC, The Times, The Scotsman, The Guardian, and even The Daily Mirror, and I can't find a single British source to confirm this report. Take it, therefore, with a grain or two of salt. I'm an amateur royal-watcher, for instance, and I've never heard of Norbert Loh.

If the report were true, it would provide a very interesting counterpart to the strained process by which Her Majesty's father, the late King George VI, came to the throne in 1936 after his elder brother Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry the twice-divorced love of his life, Wallis Warfield Simpson. Mrs. Simpson was American, and twice a divorcée. The fact that Mrs. Parker-Bowles is British, and has only been divorced once, coupled with the passage of nearly 70 years, may mean that Prince Charles will accede normally in the course of time, and Britain will see Mrs. Parker-Bowles crowned Queen Consort.

On the other hand, the monarch in Britain is also Head of the Church of England, and the CoE is still set against divorce and remarriage. Since Prince Charles' first wife has since died, God be good to her, the fact that his second wife was previously divorced may not prove an insurmountable obstacle to his accession to the throne. Or it may still prove prickly enough that, rather than provoke a nasty fight that can't but hurt his already battered public image, Prince Charles might decide to step aside in favor of the Heir Presumptive, HRH Prince William of Wales.

There might be other reasons for taking such a step. Prince Charles is not a spring chicken at 56, and the Queen herself is the picture of health at 78. Her mother, the late Queen Mother (God be good to her), lived to see her 100th birthday. It is universally believed unlikely that Her Majesty will step down, barring any sort of unfortunate health problems, so it is possible we will see a parallel to the last "Prince in Waiting," Edward VII (1841-1910). King Edward was 59 when he acceded to the throne in 1901 on the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, after the longest reign to date for a British monarch, 64 years.

Prince Charles' popularity has sunk in recent years, stung by his bitter divorce from the late Princess of Wales, revelations of his affair with Mrs. Parker-Bowles, acerbic comments he has made on divers subjects. That of his son and heir presumptive, HRH Prince William, on the other hand, is sky-high. I predict the next few years will produce a spate of articles, news reports, books, and the like, speculating on these and other themes, if the report of Prince Charles' impending marriage to Mrs. Parker-Bowles proves to be true.



I'd have paid to hear this commencement address

Does Jon Stewart rule the universe yet? For my money, he should! Go and read the transcript of the commencement address he gave this year at his alma mater, William and Mary. There are good lines throughout, including his final joke--and you'll want to stop eating and/or drinking before you read the full address. But as far as I'm concerned, this is the best bit of the whole thing:

Because when you're in college it's very clear what you have to do to succeed. And I imagine here everybody knows exactly the number of credits they needed to graduate, where they had to buckle down, which introductory psychology class would pad out the schedule. You knew what you had to do to get to this college and to graduate from it. But the unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life, is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective. The paths are infinite and the results uncertain. And it can be maddening to those that go here, especially here, because your strength has always been achievement. So if there's any real advice I can give you it's this.

College is something you complete. Life is something you experience. So don't worry about your grade, or the results or success. Success is defined in myriad ways, and you will find it, and people will no longer be grading you, but it will come from your own internal sense of decency which I imagine, after going through the program here, is quite strong...although I'm sure downloading illegal files...but, nah, that's a different story.

Love what you do. Get good at it. Competence is a rare commodity in this day and age. And let the chips fall where they may.

Or, as an epigram that I've used as a .sig line on e-mail in the past puts it, "School is mostly true/false. Life is mostly essay questions."


Eric Idle rules!

Via Sid of Sid's Fishbowl (formerly Aristotle of Kirghiz Light: don't ask, I haven't a clue), came a link to this absolutely hilarious new song from Monty Python's very own Eric Idle. Be forewarned: This song is NOT work-safe most places, and it is guaranteed to piss off any Republicans who may hear it. I would also advise to finish eating and drinking before downloading and playing this song, unless you really want to get a new computer. You have been warned. Now enjoy it!


It's the end of the world as we know it

And I feel fine.

I saw no signs of fire and brimstone on the eastern horizon as I went in to work today. No fiery handwriting has appeared on any walls in my vicinity. As it was cloudy here this morning I can't swear to it, but the sun appeared to be shining as brightly as it usually does this time of the year in these parts. There seemed to be the usual number of stars visible in the night sky last night. The water tasted the same as it always has.

In other words, if this is what the Apocalypse looks like, bring it on!

As of this morning, it became legal in the state of Massachusetts for two men or two women to marry, and despite dire predictions from the wingnut crowd that same-gender marriages would spell an end to Western civilization, the world seems to be spinning as placidly on its axis as it was yesterday. Now, since Massachusetts has a three-day waiting period between the application for a marriage license and the issuance of the license there won't be any actual marriages (other than those of the seven couples who were parties to the original lawsuit that resulted in the Supreme Judicial Court's decision that made same-gender marriages legal in the state) until Thursday or thereabouts. So it could be, I suppose, that we're in limbo: the real apocalyptic axe won't fall until someone actually says "I now pronounce you husband and husband" or whatever.

Personally, I doubt it. Western civilization did not rise, nor will it fall, on the institution of marriage as most opponents of same-gender marriage would define it. Even as recently as the 19th century, the idea of marrying for love and not for property, wealth, or social status, was considered irresponsible. The Catholic Church didn't even define marriage as a sacrament until 1215, by which time what we're pleased to call Western civilization was more or less fully formed, at least in the germinal stages. And marriage as the Fourth Lateran Council defined it when it made it one of the seven sacraments of the Church didn't look anything like what most marriages do now. (They couldn't be performed in a church, for example.)

Fulminations from the likes of Fred Phelps, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson notwithstanding, my belief is that God is surely smiling today, and will bless the unions of these men and these women if they are sincere in their love for one another. May it be so, and may it continue!



Clear as mud

Agence France Presse, quoting The Times (subscription required to view more than the headline, alas), is reporting that the British and the Americans have some sort of an agreement in place to speed the withdrawal of their troops from Iraq "as soon as possible." The report is also being "flashed" (rather appropriate terminology, I must say, considering his methods) by that eejit in the fedora.

Apparently, these plans are being drawn up with the concurrence of both Tony Blair and Emperor C+ Augustus. It's also being alleged that Blair has prevailed on Bush to drop the "restricted sovereignty" plan for Iraq, so that the CPA will have some kind of actual sovereign entity to whom to hand the keys on June 30. A senior British official is said to have told The Times that an important "gear change" was taking place. "We are not about to cut and run," the source said. "But the aim is to have a strategy which enables the Iraqis to take control as quickly as possible and allows us to leave as soon as possible." Predictably, this news did not sit well with members of the Iraqi Governing Council, whose spokesman insisted there would be no rapid withdrawal and neither would there be calls for such from the IGC.

I'm at a loss over what to make of this. Regrettably, it seems like a sound decision. I say "regrettably" because I believe it is our moral duty, if not our legal obligation, to put Iraq back the way we found it before we came charging in and breaking things on all sides. That we never should have been there in the first place is, as far as I'm concerned, self-evident. Nonetheless, we broke it, so we bought it.

However, thanks to the same batch of boobs that brought us Return of Iraq War without bothering to pay attention to the planners, their intelligence staffs, international law, and in at least some cases, the generals they'd ordered to run the show, it is a virtual certainty that the United States will be as unable to win the peace in Iraq as it was to "win" the "war" we fought there. And that was before the Abu Ghraib pictures started flashing around the world. The only people that seem to want us in Iraq right now are Commander Codpiece and his merry band, and the stooges they planted in Iraq to guarantee that we'd get the oil they wanted. We have zero chance of winning the heats and minds of the average Iraqi citizen.

Viewed from that perspective, it makes considerable sense to get the hell out, as quickly as can be managed. Another unfortunate reality is that there is more than one perspective on the question.

One of the oft-repeated goals of the Bush régime in going to war on Iraq was to end its support for terrorism. That there does not appear to be any evidence that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was supporting terrorism is another, largely moot, problem. The fact is that while there may be no organized state support for terrorism in Iraq these days, it is indisputably a breeding ground for terrorists, thanks in large part to the ham-handed stupidity of Emperor Chimpy and his posse. If we pull our forces out of Iraq we will remove an irritant, to be sure. But if Iraq, as seems likely, spirals downward into chaos and poverty, the lingering resentment of its citizens will more than make up for the absence of our soldiers in the country when it comes to motivation for terrorist recruitment.

Truly, we seem to be sailing a course between Scylla and Charibdis on this one, and that means there's going to be nastiness and death no matter what choice we make. It's things like this that make me glad I'm only a low-level educational administrator-cum-graduate student. If this mess is keeping me up at night worrying, imagine what it must do for some of those responsible for policies and lives. (Or at least those who actually pay attention to what they're doing when it comes to the lives of our soldiers and sailors, and the policies in service of which they send them into harm's way. Pity the Lying Disaster Monkey doesn't fall into that category, isn't it?)


Give it up, Colin

You're welcome to the party, Colin, but you're one of the last to arrive and things are pretty much winding down here. Nice that you could finally make it, though.

What am I talking about? Colin Powell has finally admitted he was wrong about the "moble biological weapons laboratories" that constituted "the most dramatic" element of his speech last February before the U.N. Security Council in the run-up to the Iraq war.

I'm not really sure what the point of Powell's declaration was. Virtually everyone else in the world--and in the United States--already knew his claims were as full of shit as God is of mercy, and that within days of his having made them. That Big Dick Cheney was trying to flog that dead horse back to life as recently as January is yet another piece of telling evidence in favor of the proposition that the Bush régime is fundamentally clueless about reality, but since (a) Big Dick did try to flog that horse, and (b) BushCoTM doesn't seem to put much stock in anything Mr. Powell says anyway, unless he's lying through his teeth and spouting useful talking points for there side, I don't think Powell's owning up to the truth is going to help much in changing the course of U.S. policy.

Neither, I'm afraid, is this admission of culpability likely to do much to salvage what few shreds of dignity and credibility Powell has left to his name. I lost most of my respect for the man when he blocked President Clinton's attempt to overturn the ban on gays in the military. He seemed quite oblivious at the time to the irony of his telling the president that the military would not support the presence in the ranks of openly gay men and lesbian women, considering the fact that had President Truman not bucked his JCS chairman in 1948 to integrate the armed forces, Powell would never have been in a position to torpedo Clinton's plans in the first place.

What little respect I still could muster went by the board when Powell stuck by the Bush régime even after it publicly humiliated him and undercut his policies on several occasions within Bush's first year or so in power. And the last few micromoles vanished into thin air when Powell made that speech to the Security Council on February 5, 2003. He was lying, and I knew it, and I suspect that he knew it as well--and he did it anyway. Admitting that he was wrong now isn't going to atone for having made such ridiculous claims in the first place, so I doubt that could have been Powell's motive.

The only other possibility that springs readily to mind is that Powell is hoping to salvage his political career. But I think we may safely conclude that his days as one of the leading lights in the next generation of Republican leadership are long over by now. He's not exactly a spring chicken, and his actions as a member of the Bush régime have not exactly redounded to his credit. Once upon a time, Colin Powell might have been this nation's first black president. This admission of error, though welcome, will not suffice to make that happen.


Is nothing sacred?

The Chicago Tribune today had another college sports scandal on its front page. Regrettably, that's anything but unusual these days--and when it's not college sports, its the professionals.

What was odd, however, was the sport in question. It wasn't football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, golf, track, or any of the "usual" suspects. It was chess. That's right, knight-to-king's-bishop-three, black vs. white, the game of kings--and geeks--everywhere.

This was the lede of the story (subscription may be required):

He earns appearance fees of up to $1,000 a day and plays chess for prize money around the world. He even has an agent.

Dmitry Schneider, who will be one of hundreds of players competing this month at the Chicago Open chess tournament, is also a sophomore on the University of Texas at Dallas' top-ranked chess team.

To many, he's not just another chess player on the college team, he's a ringer.

In the usually staid world of college chess, concerns of creeping professionalism among top chess programs have unleashed a series of attacks and counterattacks among teams.

The emergence of corporate money, big scholarships and the recruitment of top players from around the world--with nicknames like "The Polish Magician" or "The Frenchman"--have ushered college chess into a new era.

College chess scholarships. Who knew? And now agents and appearance fees for grandmasters and such. Must we commercialize absolutely everything? I would never have picked chess as a money sport--and it seems to me that anybody who would be attracted to the "sport" for the money would probably not be as good a player as someone who enjoyed it for its intellectual challenges. On the other hand, while I've never been a ranked player and haven't really played in years, I do enjoy the game. If I could get paid for playing, it would be worth brushing up on my tactics... I wonder if the University of Chicago (which, according to the Tribune story, is complaining about Mr. Schneider's being on the Dallas team) could use another player?



NTodd's favorite Martian

Riffing off of my post yesterday (which was riffing off of a Washington Times piece that Josh Marshall at TPM was riffing off of....), NTodd at Dohiyi Mir beat me to the punch and produced a delicious graphical representation. Go have a look and give him some love in his new location.


He's melting....maybe

Someone or something has finally managed to dump a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West Wing. Maybe.

The Financial Times published a report yesterday that cites a new Zogby poll due out tomorrow which shows that "public support" for Chimpy's handling of the Iraq war "has plunged to only 36 per cent and his approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his p[R]esidency" at 42 percent.

Other tidbits of glad tidings from the FT piece include that an ARG poll (N.B.: Should be taken with a grain of salt.) in Ohio shows Kerry leading Bush by 50 percent to 43 percent. Fifty-four percent of the more than 1,000 likely voters surveyed in the Zogby poll this week "said they thought the country was heading in the wrong direction." John Mueller, a political scientist at The Ohio State University, compared the present situation to the "substantial decline of support" for the Vietnam War that was observed in late 1967 and early 1968.

Mueller went even further with that comparison and issued a prediction. Just as public support for Vietnam never reached or surpassed 50% after 1968, he said, "it is hard to imagine much of a recovery now. As American casualties continue to come in, the support will continue to erode."

I would hope, myself, that the erosion of support for BushCo and its disastrously failed policies would continue simply because those policies lacked anything resembling merit, and not only if American casualties continue. We shouldn't have to lose any more of our soldiers, sailors, Marines, or aircrew just to ensure that Bush and his Band of Boobs are evicted from the White House in something under 200 days. He should never have been there in the first place, and it would appear the American people are finally waking up to that unpleasant reality. Crescat illa sententia!



Friday butt blogging

Or, "Why I should have listened to me mum about wearin' drawers!"

Hat tip to Andante for the laugh. (And a second hat tip to Mustang Bobby, in the comments, for the New and Improved title. Can't promise it's going to be a regular feature, however.)


So that's how he did it!

Now we know how we could have "ignored so many warnings, so much expert advice, so many facts staring us in the face." Josh Marshall has a damning excerpt (taken from Tuesday's Washington Times, which is in itself rather surprising) from Bill Sammon's new book Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry and the Bush Haters:

"I get the newspapers — the New York Times, The Washington Times, The Washington Post and USA Today — those are the four papers delivered," [Bush] said. "I can scan a front page, and if there is a particular story of interest, I'll skim it."

The president prides himself on his ability to detect bias in ostensibly objective news stories.

"My antennae are finely attuned," he said. "I can figure out what so-called 'news' pieces are going to be full of opinion, as opposed to news. So I'm keenly aware of what's in the papers, kind of the issue du jour. But I'm also aware of the facts."

Those facts are extracted from news stories each day and presented to the president by a half-dozen aides, Mr. Card among them.

"Since I'm the first one to see him in the morning, I usually give him a quick overview and get a little reaction from him," Mr. Card explained. "Frequently, I find that his reaction kind of reflects Laura Bush's take."

Indeed, the president often cites articles that Mrs. Bush flags for greater scrutiny, even when he has not personally slogged through those stories. Mrs. Bush routinely delves more deeply into the news pages than her husband, who prefers other sections.

"He does not dwell on the newspaper, but he reads the sports page every day," Mr. Card said with a chuckle.


Mr. Bush thinks that immersing himself in voluminous, mostly liberal-leaning news coverage might cloud his thinking and even hinder his efforts to remain an optimistic leader.

"I like to have a clear outlook," he said. "It can be a frustrating experience to pay attention to somebody's false opinion or somebody's characterization, which simply isn't true.

I'm having a hard time deciding which of the many possibilities is the most wickedly ironic line in this portrait of an intellectual dilettante. The "antennae" thing is too easy. But we could start with his thinking that "the newspapers" are limited to four, and that either The Washington Times or USA Today is in fact a newspaper. Or we could go with the preznit's pride in being able to detect "librul" bias. Or his claim to be aware of "the facts."

But I think I'm going to go with Josh's take on this one. The winning quote in the George W. Bush is a Great Ironist competition has to be the following:

Mr. Bush thinks that immersing himself in voluminous, mostly liberal-leaning news coverage might cloud his thinking and even hinder his efforts to remain an optimistic leader.

"I like to have a clear outlook," he said. "It can be a frustrating experience to pay attention to somebody's false opinion or somebody's characterization, which simply isn't true."

By George, I do believe George has a point there. (And welcome to the world the rest of the world lives in vis-à-vis your régime, Señor Arbusto.)

But in order for "voluminous, mostly liberal-leaning news coverage" to cloud Emperor Chimpy's thinking and "hinder his efforts to remain an optimistic leader," he would have to, you know, be exposed to voluminous, mostly liberal-leaning news coverage. That's hardly likely, given (a) the newspapers he says he receives each day, (b) the fact that he hardly reads more than the sports section in each of them, and (c) the fact that he gets most of his "news" and "facts" via careful pre-selection and screening from the cadre of ideologues with which he has surrounded himself (or by which he has been bought and paid for, if you prefer).

And let's not forget that whole "efforts to remain an optimistic leader" spiel. Maybe it's just me, but isn't the most important characteristic of a leader her leadership, not her optimism? Generally speaking, I suppose one would want a leader to keep a positive outlook, but suppressing information and unpleasant facts because it might hinder one's ability to remain blindly optimistic in the face of the myriad disasters that one's "leadership" had produced does not, shall we say, strike me as one of the hallmarks of a great leader. A great failure, certainly. A dirty great fuck-up, absolutely. The worst president in history, quite possibly.

But no one will ever dare to say any of those words to Emperor C+ Augustus. They wouldn't want to cloud his thinking with anything so clearly irrelevant as the facts of the matter.



An interesting philosophical quandary

The Rude Pundit (Warning: linked post is rated NC-17!) asks a puzzling question:

The problem is this: what happens when a spin machine meets an unspinnable story?

I think this is the modern-day equivalent of the old Irresistible Force/Immovable Object Celebrity DeathMatch. That, or the collision of an electron and a positron. You get a lot of chaos, and boatloads of destructive energy, and maybe even some radioactivity. Please God everything I've just described stays within the realm of metaphor!

But do go read the rest of the linked post.


Doesn't know his own stupidity

Via TBogg comes this aptly named "bleat" from Lileks:

The West doesn’t have the power to change Islam; it only has the power to destroy it. We have a lot of nukes. We could kill everyone. We could just take out a few troublesome nations, kill millions, and irradiate Mecca so that the Fifth Pillar is invalidated. The hajj would be impossible. Every pilgrim a martyr. I don’t think we’ll do either; God help us if we do, but inasmuch as we have the capability, it’s an option. But it would be a crime greater than the crime that provoked such an act, and in the end that would stay our hand.

I'll give Lileks a snap for knowing that the hajj is the Fifth Pillar of Islam, a duty that is incumbent on all pious Muslims who are able to make the trip to visit Mecca at least once during their lifetime. But he loses three snaps for that boldfaced last sentence, which is awfully reminiscent of the kind of B.S. that Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement was slinging around the Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago. (Link is to a PDF file; I've been unable to locate an authoritative transcript in HTML; the bit I'm referring to starts on page 22.)

During oral arguments in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld Clement, speaking on behalf of BushCo, told us that when we're in a war we have to "...trust the executive to make the kind of quintessential military judgments that are involved in things like that" (p. 23) and that we shouldn't allow any finicky micromanagement of piddling trifles like human rights or the laws of war to interfere with the Executive Branch's conduct of affairs. Seems to me that Lileks is saying much the same thing: just trust those good folks over in the White House. They never lie or make mistakes, everything we've just learned about Iraq (and everything that BushCo already knew about Iraq and what was happening there even as one of its flunkies was telling the Supreme Court that we would never allow such a thing to happen on our watch) to the contrary notwithstanding.



Help a researcher out

A postdoctoral researcher in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina is studying "the evaluation of weblog (blog) authors' political orientation. This study is part of a larger effort to develop computer programs for detecting political sentiment. Your effort is needed to help quantify how well these programs work. The purpose of the study is to develop a set of weblogs whose political leanings are known, so that we can then evaluate the performance of automatic sentiment detection methods. We will use what we learn from the evaluation in order to refine the performance of information retrieval systems such as web search engines."

It has all the hallmarks of a legitimate study; you can do it all on your own computer, as and when it's convenient for you. You can rate as many or as few as you like.

If you're so inclined, stop by and read the consent form. You'll be helping a scholar, and maybe contributing to the improvement of search engines and other means we in the 'sphere rely upon for much information.

And a tip of the hat to NTodd for bringing the study to my attention.


Fight! Fight!

It appears that there is little joy inside the Beltway these days. When the Speaker of the House excoriates a White House controlled by his own party, in front of that same party's congressional caucus, and said caucus "burst[s] into applause," I think it's fair to conclude that the bloom is off the rose.

So what's got Denny's dander up, and that of his fellow members of the Gooper caucus? They're unhappy about how BushCo are treating them, of course--just like nearly everyone else in this country--or the world.

In a delicious bit of irony (and one that I hope will not be lost on a few moderate Republican and independent voters), one of the legislators present at the meeting said that "Hastert was frustrated and disappointed that he had not been dealt with openly and fairly and given accurate information." All I can say in reply to that is, "Welcome to our world, Denny."

What I can't say is that I feel much of the Goopers' pain. We on the other side of the political fence have been frustrated by and disappointed in this régime's lies, obfuscations, half-truths, and fudged figures since, oh, the election recount in 2000. That doesn't even include the numerous violations of the Constitution, the U.S. Code, half a dozen or more treaties, the laws of war, and the Geneva Conventions. Having the Bushovik White House lie to you on a transportation bill pales in comparison, although I suppose one could argue that it shouldn't ought to happen to members of the same party as the preznit. On the other hand, given the apparent willingness of BushCo to smear decorated veterans in order to make Commander Codpiece look good by comparison, to lie, cheat, steal, and perhaps even kill in order to obtain or retain power, it doesn't take a very smart bear to figure out that they're not likely to quibble about deceiving their own party faithful, either.

This quote was very revealing, on a number of different levels:

Behind the scenes, the White House is making it clear that it is less concerned about grumbling among members of Congress than with winning hearts and minds beyond the Beltway. It believes that by this measure, the president’s support is solid.

First, it confirms what I was just saying about the lengths to which BushCo are willing to go in order to hold on to the reins of power. But more importantly, it makes me wonder whether Unka Karl has managed to get into the Limboob's secret Oxy stash. Any political strategist that could possibly use the phrase "winning hearts and minds" this month has lost all touch with reality. And that goes double for any political strategist that thinks Emperor Chimpy is successful at that game--whether the stage is domestic or foreign. His approval rating in the last Gallup poll was down to 44%, for crying out loud! Does that look like "solid" support? Not to me it doesn't.

(Thanks to Jesse for bringing this to my attention. I'm sure if I were one of Denny's Denizens I'd hear about it in his constituent brag-sheet, but I get enough junk mail from Hastert as it is.)



Only one of these issues matters

Commenting on Don Bartlett's piece in yesterday's Washington Post, Aristotle over at Kirghiz Light (a new blog you should definitely have a look at; it's going on my blogroll momentarily) had this to say:

Dan, you ignorant slut... What Clinton did or didn't do with Monica Lewinsky in the anteroom of the Oval Office was completely irrelevant to his performance as President. An army of lawyers and trolls, subsidized by big right-wing money, kept the issue alive. On a sane planet, he would not have been forced to confront the issue at every turn. Instead, he could have focused on issues that mattered. You know, like stopping Osama Bin Laden.

Bush's performance in Iraq, by contrast, has everything to do with his job performance, and he should be talking about it on the campaign trail. American's [sic] should hear what he has to say about his Administration's incompetence and dishonesty on a titanic scale: "the most disastrous military adventure since the Gulf of Tonkin (if not the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia), the biggest federal deficit in history, the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover, the worst military atrocity story since My Lai, etc. etc."

Oh, and if George W. Bush is getting blowjobs in the Oval Office, he has every right to keep that to himself, thank you very much.

Although I'd prefer not to have to think of Emperor C+ Augustus engaging in any form of sexual intercourse--ever--Aristotle has a point. If the Lying Disaster Monkey can find somebody to give him hummers in the Oval, 'tain't none of our business. On the other hand, it would be deliciously ironic to see him get the same treatment as Clinton did, if only on the same trivial charge (to say nothing of the infinitely more serious ones that the world has left at BushCo's door).



Sickening. Just sickening

Via Mustang Bobby comes this utterly depressing read (Warning: Linked story contains NC-17-rated picture), the latest set of revelations of just how wide and deep is the rot gnawing away at the foundations of this once-great nation, courtesy of Emperor Chimpy and his Band of Boobs. It's getting harder and harder to take any pride in being a citizen of this nation, the Land of the Putatively Free and the Home of the Too-Infrequently Brave. In fact, it's getting to the point where I'm considering investigating the possibility of acquiring dual citizenship somewhere, so when I have to travel abroad, I can do so on a less-tainted passport than my American one.

A few of the highlowlights of Sy Hersh's story:

  • Prisoners at Abu Ghraib have been enduring abuse and torture in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the laws of any civilized nation at least since 12 December, 2003.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross and other human-rights groups have "repeatedly complained during the past year" about the way American forces (and contractors, presumably) have treated prisoners in Iraq, "with little success."
  • The Army command became aware of the abuse when it was provided with a computer disk containing graphic photographs on 13 January.
  • Central Command annouced the opening of an investigation into the abuse on 16 January, which is when Ronald Dumsfeld says he found out about the allegations, and shortly thereafter told Chimpy about them.
  • A secret investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison was ordered on 19 January by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the officer in charge of American forces in Iraq.
  • Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba began his investigation two weeks later, and reported his findings on 26 February, at which point, according to Senate testimony last week by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon personnel had become aware of and discussed the photographs.
  • According to Hersh, sources inside the Pentagon, and both retired and active-duty military officers stated that the system had not worked, Rumsfeld's allegations to the contrary notwithstanding.
  • An unnamed Pentagon source told Hersh that "many senior generals believe" that Rumsfeld's office (if not Rumsfeld himself), Gen. Sanchez, and Gen. John Abizaid at CentCom headquarters in Florida had "done their best to keep the issue quiet" when it began to leak out in the early part of this year.
  • The same Pentagon official noted that "secrecy and wishful thinking" were "defining characteristics of Rumsfeld's Pentagon" and shaped the response to the reports of torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. "They always want to delay the release of bad news--in the hope that something good will break," the source added.
  • Nor was the abuse scandal the only such issue on which Dumsfeld stalled in hopes of better days. Supposedly, a year ago the responsible military planners found that orders they had recommended, calling up additional units from the Reserves for service in Iraq, "languished for thirty or forty days" in Dumsfeld's office.
  • The Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general is also conducting an investigation into the abuses at Abu Grhaib, "which extend[s] to the death of a prisoner."
  • Last September, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commands the Gitmo task force, recommended "that Army prisons be geared, first and foremost, to interrogations and the gathering of information needed for the war effort. 'Detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation...'" Gen. Sanchez agreed, and formally put a military intelligence unit in charge of Abu Ghraib on 19 November. Sanchez' action was criticized by Gen. Taguba, who noted that putting military intelligence, rather than the military police, in charge of prison operations was "not doctrinally sound due to the different missions and agenda assigned to each of these respective specialties."
  • Military intelligence personnel wore unmarked uniforms or civilian clothes while on duty, making it difficult for duty soldiers "to know who was doing what to whom, and who had the authority to give orders."
  • The Army's provost marshal, Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder, carried out a study of military prisons (still classified), which "identified a conflict between military policing and military intelligence dating back to the Afghan war," but apparently missed the abuses going on at Abu Ghraib. On the other hand, thanks to an overhaul of the Army's command structure, Ryder was essentially asked to investigate himself, since the new structure put him in command of all MP units.

Shorter version: We're in the shit. It's deep, and getting deeper every minute. The tide is rising and the wind is up. And both Dumsfeld and Emperor Chimpy knew about the abuses long before 60 Minutes II aired the first photos on 29 April of this year. They did nothing, except perhaps to press the Pentagon to ask CBS to hold off on breaking the story.

What to do? Well, if I were magically to get the power to make decisions that were binding on the United States government, I'd fire Bush, Cheney, Dumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Myers, Abizaid, and Sanchez, for starters. Then I'd turn them all over to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for trial as war criminals. At the same time, I'd launch an independent investigation into the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the mess. Anyone else identified by that investigation as bearing responsibility for torturing or abusing prisoners under U.S. control would similarly be fired and remanded for war-crimes trials.

I'm not holding my breath waiting to hear those words out of Emperor Chimpy's mouth, however. Nor Ronald Dumsfeld's. The more fools, they.


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