GOP zombies embark on yet another letter-writing campaign
I got a kick out of this letter to the editor in the Globe yesterday, about how the doom-n-gloom liberal media is to blame for the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, because they're not reporting all the great things that are going on over there. I have issues with the Globe publishing propaganda, too. Like this letter to the editor. It does nothing but reiterate a stale, transparent and intellectually dishonest line peddled by the administration.
This is, after all, an administration that still will not allow the press to photograph the coffins of soldiers returning from Iraq. This is the administration that officially "embedded" giddy journalists with troops to ensure more sympathetic reorting. This war received nothing but positive press for the first phase of it (up until Mr. Bush's little fairytopia appearance to announce the end of combat). The press was pretend-critical through the shock-n-awe phase. They treated it like a sports event.
Reporting the bloodshed is the absolute least they can do to bring home to complacent Americans the cost of war.
The funny thing about the latest GOP meme is how doggedly Cheney had to hammer it home before his "troops" picked up on it and started their diligent little letter writing campaigns. I mean, the old coot's been crowing about it for weeks now.
But can a fraudulent email petition campaign threatening boycotts by "Christian" groups and mandating positive press coverage of all administration initiatives be far behind?
I have a much better idea. We could simply limit a family's car allotment, much as China has limited its citizens' baby allotment: one per family. With everyone wailing “but it’s not fair!” I suppose that would be the fairest solution. Because, as many people are arguing in chat rooms across the state, it’s the parents’ fault for providing their kids with racy wheels in the first place. Either limit the number of cars per family, or the number of kids, and voila! Problem solved!
I have heard almost no one arguing that their kids need the car to get to work, by the way. Glittery princess Ayla in her sparkling SUV would not have been able to drive herself to her “Idol” audition if the driving age was seventeen and a half, gasp!
Online Lawyer Source reports:
Auto accidents and teens statistics show that auto accident fatalities are the leading cause of death for young people in America. Teenagers comprise less than seven percent of the total population but are involved in fourteen percent of all auto accidents. Auto accident and teens statistics also show that teenagers are four times more likely to be killed in an auto accident than are people older than twenty five.Frankly, the “but it’s not fair!” argument doesn’t cut it. I’ve heard that one for years from my tweeny nieces, and it has ceased utterly to resonate with me. And, not to sound harsh, but it’s not about what’s convenient for spoiled teenagers or their overindulgent parents. I’m worried about the other drivers and pedestrians who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when these bratz, speeding down the road listening to Radio Disney while yacking into their cell phones, mow ‘em down.
on the bushocracy front
The American ambassador has told Shiite officials that President Bush does not want the Iraqi prime minister to remain the country's leader in the next government, senior Shiite politicians said Tuesday....Mr. Bush has obviously misplaced his magic bag of fairy dust. Or he's been snorting it again.
The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, told the head of the main Shiite political bloc at a meeting on Saturday to pass on a "personal message from President Bush" to the interim prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said Redha Jowad Taki, a Shiite member of Parliament who was at the meeting.
Mr. Khalilzad said Mr. Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr. Jaafari as the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear and direct message" from the Americans on a specific candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said....
In Washington, the State Department said it would not comment on diplomatic conversations, but Adam Ereli, the deputy spokesman, reiterated American support for "a government of national unity with strong leadership that can unify all Iraqis."
the American Christian victim complex
Andrew Sullivan says a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has uncovered a new political constituency: “Christians for torture”: “If you combine those Christians who think torture is either never or only rarely acceptable, you have 42 percent of Catholics and 49 percent of white Protestants. The comparable statistic of those who are decribed as ‘secular,’ which I presume means agnostic or atheist, is 57 percent opposition. In other words, if you are an American Christian, you are more likely to support torture than if you are an atheist or agnostic.”If you happened to read Nora Ghallagher's nauseating opinion piece in the LA Times last week, you'd think Christians were a poor, persecuted minority in this country. For those of us who grew up in the Church, today's self-proclaimed "Christians" have earned the scorn many feel for them, because they have taken, twisted and abused the Gospel, so that it is a shame for articulate, curious, compassionate people of conscience to associate themselves with the religion they were born into and the churches they were raised in.
More and more we hear victimizing "Christians" crying victimization themselves. It's not only hypocritical in the extreme, it is obscenely un-Christian of them. When the National Catholic Reporter can report that according to a Pew poll a solid majority of American Catholics and White Protestants are pro-torture, it is little wonder that people of intelligence and conscience wish to distance themselves from what the hypocrites are passing off as "Christianity".
These "Christians" should be ashamed. The fact that they are so relentlessly focused on their own imagined victimization while advocating the very real victimization of others deserves all the scorn people of conscience whose religion they've hijacked can muster. That may sound un-Christian, but, truth is, it's the lesser of sins in this case.
home again, home again, jiggity jig
We flew Jet Blue, and I have to say I was well-pleased with the flight, the crew, the service, everything. I fly a few times a year, usually with whoever's got the lowest fare, and some of these airlines have nothing--and I mean nothing--and the flight attendants are assholes to boot. It's like you're in the army.
The thing that cracked me up the last time I flew down to Florida on an airline that shall remain nameless: when they came around with drinks, if you asked for a coke, they didn't give you the whole can. Not when they could get four of their thimble-sized cups out of one. I mean, that's pathetic. You start feeling sorry for the airlines when they can't even afford a can of pop per customer. And charging for earphones? I still think that's petty. And then charging you again for the movie (Jet Blue charges five bucks for their "premium channels" but you can watch several others at no charge), and then the movie is something like, The Shaggy D.A. or Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. You know what I'm sayin'? If I'm gonna pay five bucks I want Stud Farm, Swim Meat or Screw 2.
Not Jet Blue. You get CNN live. You get Comedy Central and Bravo and a bunch of other channels for free, so there's plenty of entertainment on hand should you need it. The planes are nice. Even the new terminal at Logan was lovely. The automated ticket thingy was fast and easy. The whole thing was a breeze.
So anyway, I was on the plane on the way back from Miami, watching something on my seatback TV, when Bush's extraordinary press conference popped up on my neighbor's. Extraordinary, because he so seldom has them. He had just ten solo press conferences in his first term (compared to 33 for Clinton and 60 for Bush, Sr.). So I started watching it on my neighbor's TV, without the sound, of course. You should try it. His erratic gestures, the hunching and shrugging and chopping the air. The facial expressions that go from exultation to scorn to bathos in the space of mere seconds. It's like he's been studying his emoticon chart, because, honestly, he's about as subtle as an emoticon.
I have also noticed, watching him, that the emotion, when it crosses his face, is almost an afterthought, like he says something, and then remembers all the sudden, "oh, I'm supposed to look [insert emotion here] now!" The expression always trails the phrase, always seems to come a split-second too late.
What was also interesting was the commentary on the screen. You know how, during the speech, the news network flashes little summaries on the bottom of the screen, presumably so that if you've just tuned in you'll be able to follow (but obviously it's obsessive editorializing--I think they should start including a laugh-track, too). So, I think it was CNN my neighbor was watching, but it might have been MSNBC or Fox, and a couple of the "talking points" were pretty funny. My favorites: "Bush: Iraqis have decided not to go into civil war," and "Bush: Iraqis had a chance to fall apart and they didn't."
Then you've got Cheney going on one of his charm offensives, saying really it's all the press's fault, because they're not reporting the good stuff that's going on over there. If it bleeds it leads, baby. Dick Cheney should know that better than almost anyone.
It's true, the press cheered you guys on when you started this thing, but that's because war is great for newspapers and networks. Almost as good for them as it is for Halliburton and Lockheed Martin. But it's also in the press's interest once you get going to report on your fuck-ups. That's news, bitches. Now you've got Cheney & Co. whining that the press isn't propagandizing their war to their satisfaction.
Well, cry me a river.
It's always someone else's fault for these guys, isn't it? And someone else's responsibility. There's a good piece by David Martin in today's Globe about that.
the plot thickens
According to the doorman, the neighbor woman was not alone in her condo when she fell to her death. He'd heard that her sister, and perhaps a "gentleman caller" was there, and what he'd heard was that the woman's sister (who wasn't right in the head) was chasing her around the condo with a kitchen knife. She ran out on the balcony, cried for help, and then tried to climb over to the neighboring balcony to escape her. But, as we know, she didn't quite make it.
He said, she fell "a good ten floors" before clipping a fifth floor balcony with her head. He said it like she might have survived if not for that bit. Like, it was a perfect back-flip, until she hit her head on the diving board. He said there was a lot of gore to clean up last weekend.
Went to Villa Vizcaya, sometimes called the Hearst Castle of the East, with Pokey this morning, and the big QOTD was: OK, was James Deering, co-founder of Deering Harvester Company, and later VP of International Harvester, gay, or what? Mind you, we didn't show up with this burning question. But after you've looked around the place, well, it just seems odd, the whole idea of it, not to mention its execution. Sort of like if Liberace had been a Chicago Industrialist.
Deering, who never married, had Villa Vizcaya, an Italian Renaissance-style estate overlooking Biscayne Bay, built over a period of just two years, from 1914 to 1916. His favorite epoch in interior decor seemed to be Rococo (Pokey' too--he kept making me say "rococo," with the rolled "r" over and over again, he liked the sound of it so much), and our lovely tour guide kept emphasizing how feminine Rococo furniture was. But while there was never any suggestion that Mr. Deering was himself Rococo or feminine, he apparently suffered from B-12 definciency before it was known as such, and was anemic. Marie Antoinette was mentioned several times (I hesitate only slightly to say "repeatedly") as an inspiration to Mr. Deering.
Pokey and I were giving each other looks, as each room we came to on the guided tour was more Rococolicious than the one that preceded it. But what I found interesting was that all but a couple of the classical male nude statues in the house and on the grounds had their bits covered with a fig leaf. On the Ringling estate in Sarasota this was most assuredly not the case. Ringling let it all hang out. And Ringling wasn't gay. So, hmm. People are funny, aren't they?
Aside from the Rococoliciousness of it all, there were four pieces in the house that may have been clues as to Deering's orientation. Again, not that it's that important, but if cowboys can be gay why not captains of industry, too? So first and foremost in the j'accuse! department: a portrait of him by John Singer Sargent. While Sargent's sexuality isn't known, it is well-known he painted women in their clothes and men out of them. In the portrait Deering is clothed. But still. I consider it Exhibit A.
There were also at least two notable exceptions to the fig-leaf rule: two small bronze replicas of classical male nudes that definitely raised an eyebrow or two, but were glossed over with a brush of the tour guide's hand, a contemptuous chortle, and an "oh, those old things?":
Hmm? Naked satyrs prancing around in the Jungle Room? Or how about this very suggestively posed young Greek muscle hunk here in the atrium?
But the clincher for me was the tapestry in the Renaissance Room:
The Central scene of the tapestry depicts a man wrestling with a lion, and the lion is very clearly sporting a hard-on, as you can see from the detail in the lower right of the picture above. Could it be that Mr. Deerling was actually a Gay Beastialist Chicago Industrialist? We may never know for sure, but the possibility cannot be excluded.
Pokey considers it an open and closed case. I mean, isn't it "queer" that Deering was this big-wig industrialist but was spending all his time traipsing across Europe buying kitschy fire-sale antiques? That he was so obsessed with window treatments? You literally cannot speak of Vizcaya without using the word "exquisite". Which itself is enough to convict.
Not that it matters.
the scene of the stupicide
Well, here it is. This is the "well" between the balcony where I'm staying and the next door neighbor's. This is where, last weekend, the neighbor lady, who was sauced, fell 17 floors to her death. I know it seems a little sensationalistic, but I had to get a snapshot.
But while I was out there on the balcony, I had one of those Roman Polanski moments, like from The Tenant. "I am not Simone Schull!" Like that.
So, needless to say, I came in pretty quicklike.
Fence or Farce or Fence and farce?
"Nearly 70% of Americans who responded to a study — supported by WeNeedAFence.com — believe that a secure physical barrier combined with a sensible worker program is the most humane solution to our current dilemma. The House has already passed a bill that mandates 700 miles of border fencing. We at WeNeedAFence have proposed a border security system consisting of six parallel physical barriers, plus a patrol road with effective detection devices. It is based on the highly effective Israeli fences in the West Bank and in Gaza. At 40 yards wide at minimum, such a system cannot easily be climbed over, tunneled under, cut through or rammed through without triggering devices that will alert mobile agents in time to thwart the attempted intrusion. We also propose up to 200 legal crossing points and patrol stations so that trade, commerce, tourism and legal immigration are not affected."
First of all, illegals are everywhere for a reason. They're taking the jobs Americans think they're too good for. If there weren't a market for cheap, black market labor, there wouldn't be so many illegal immigrants around.
Second, if the US would cultivate meaningful relations with Mexico, and Central and South America, instead of viewing anyone south of the border as akin to terrorists, like those at WeNeedAFence.com do, we might be able to work out a meaningful solution.
I have a relative in Southern California, and while she is sensible and moderate about most things, she is outspoken in her detestation of Mexicans. Her reaction to even the mention of them is immediate and visceral. That's the kind of sentiment WeNeedAFence is building on.
A giant "fence"--I don't know why we don't call it a wall, since the edifice described above is sructurally more like the one that divided Berlin than the one between my yard and my neighbor's--nor does it resemble a fence psychologically, but we live in increasingly Orwellian times, so I guess we can call it a fence--A giant fence may be a stop-gap in Gaza, because of terrorism there, but it is not a solution along our border with Mexico. It is a statement. Of Mexicophobia, for one thing. Or Latinophobia. Or something. They're brown-skinned and poor and dirty and brutish! And they're right on the other side of our border! And some of them are seeping through, contaminating our nation!
A new and meaningful examination of our relationship with the region would be a better approach than a wall, and might lead to an actual solution that could profit all parties involved.
my semi-regular bullshit round-up
Bullshit factor: 8.2/10
This one's been bugging me ever since I saw that face-transplant lady on TV. A Golden Retriever chewed half her face off while she slept? She wakes up and doesn't notice anything amiss until she goes to light a fag and realizes she doesn't have any lips? I mean, what was she smoking? No matter. The woman clearly does not deserve a face.
Bullshit factor: 8.9/10
This whole "Operation Swarmer" should've been named "Operation Bullshit". On the news they showed pictures of troops assaulting a vast empty field (this is right up there with the Apollo "moon landing"--in fact, it might as well be the Apollo Moon Landing) while some bullshit general or other told reporters that what we were seeing was the Iraqis taking the initiative. 50 Black Hawks, Apaches and Chinooks. 1,450 Iraqi and U.S. troops. 41 arrests. "Operation Bullshit" is sure to cost taxpayers in the billions, but I'll get back to you on that.
Bullshit factor: 9.2/10
Senator Russ Feingold and his bullshit sissy censure ploy. If you're gonna make an ass out of yourself anyway, why not move to impeach?
Bullshit factor: 9.8/10
Pussy factor 10/10
fate of Wacko Jacko's abusement park in the balance!
Does Neverland not look like the most depressing "amusement park" on the planet? It's kind of like, if you've ever been to Graceland, how small it is, and how cheap and tacky. Neverland is actually just enough of an amusement park to lure the more desperate kiddies. It's obvious. Just like Graceland could only look opulent to a poor boy born in a two-room house in someplace like East Tupelo, Mississippi, Neverland could only look fun to some poor kid from the ghetto whose folks can't afford Disneyland. I mean, all you need is a chintzy little choo-choo train, a cheap-ass carousel, and a rusty, beat-up old ferris wheel on loan from the Yalobusha County Fair, and you're set.
Krugman on McCain
It's time for some straight talk about John McCain. He isn't a moderate. He's much less of a maverick than you'd think. And he isn't the straight talker he claims to be.
Mr. McCain's reputation as a moderate may be based on his former opposition to the Bush tax cuts. In 2001 he declared, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us."
But now — at a time of huge budget deficits and an expensive war, when the case against tax cuts for the rich is even stronger — Mr. McCain is happy to shower benefits on the most fortunate. He recently voted to extend tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, an action that will worsen the budget deficit while mainly benefiting people with very high incomes.
When it comes to foreign policy, Mr. McCain was never moderate. During the 2000 campaign he called for a policy of "rogue state rollback," anticipating the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive war unveiled two years later. Mr. McCain called for a systematic effort to overthrow nasty regimes even if they posed no imminent threat to the United States; he singled out Iraq, Libya and North Korea. Mr. McCain's aggressive views on foreign policy, and his expressed willingness, almost eagerness, to commit U.S. ground forces overseas, explain why he, not George W. Bush, was the favored candidate of neoconservative pundits such as William Kristol of The Weekly Standard.
Would Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, have found some pretext for invading Iraq? We'll never know. But Mr. McCain still thinks the war was a good idea, and he rejects any attempt to extricate ourselves from the quagmire. "If success requires an increase in American troop levels in 2006," he wrote last year, "then we must increase our numbers there." He didn't explain where the overstretched U.S. military is supposed to find these troops.
When it comes to social issues, Mr. McCain, who once called Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance," met with Mr. Falwell late last year. Perhaps as a result, he is now taking positions friendly to the religious right. Most notably, Mr. McCain's spokesperson says that he would have signed South Dakota's extremist new anti-abortion law.
The spokesperson went on to say that the senator would have taken "the appropriate steps under state law" to ensure that cases of rape and incest were excluded. But that attempt at qualification makes no sense: the South Dakota law has produced national shockwaves precisely because it prohibits abortions even for victims of rape or incest.
The bottom line is that Mr. McCain isn't a moderate; he's a man of the hard right. How far right? A statistical analysis of Mr. McCain's recent voting record, available at www.voteview.com, ranks him as the Senate's third most conservative member.
What about Mr. McCain's reputation as a maverick? This comes from the fact that every now and then he seems to declare his independence from the Bush administration, as he did in pushing through his anti-torture bill.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Guantánamo. President Bush, when signing the bill, appended a statement that in effect said that he was free to disregard the law whenever he chose. Mr. McCain protested, but there are apparently no hard feelings: at the recent Southern Republican Leadership Conference he effusively praised Mr. Bush.
And I'm sorry to say that this is typical of Mr. McCain. Every once in a while he makes headlines by apparently defying Mr. Bush, but he always returns to the fold, even if the abuses he railed against continue unabated.
So here's what you need to know about John McCain.
He isn't a straight talker. His flip-flopping on tax cuts, his call to send troops we don't have to Iraq and his endorsement of the South Dakota anti-abortion legislation even while claiming that he would find a way around that legislation's central provision show that he's a politician as slippery and evasive as, well, George W. Bush.
He isn't a moderate. Mr. McCain's policy positions and Senate votes don't just place him at the right end of America's political spectrum; they place him in the right wing of the Republican Party.
And he isn't a maverick, at least not when it counts. When the cameras are rolling, Mr. McCain can sometimes be seen striking a brave pose of opposition to the White House. But when it matters, when the Bush administration's ability to do whatever it wants is at stake, Mr. McCain always toes the party line.
It's worth recalling that during the 2000 election campaign George W. Bush was widely portrayed by the news media both as a moderate and as a straight-shooter. As Mr. Bush has said, "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."
McCain suffers from Stockholm Syndrome
For a while there I thought McCain was a pretty good bet, but he's definitely got a screw loose, poor sod.
Second place in the straw poll, by the way, was Massachusetts' own Mitt Romney. He was a distant second to Frist, with 14% to Frist's 37%, but still. Is Frist-Romney really the Republican dream ticket? You thought Bush-Cheney was bad? You ain't seen nothin' yet.
The Cowardice of Congress
Bill Frist responded later, saying that the GOP was behind the President, "who is out there fighting Al Qaeda," as if Superprez himself was out there freedom fighting for each and every one of us. People, he's been to Afghanistan once, on the first of this month, four and a half years after US troops invaded the country. I remember one much ballyhooed occasion Bush visited Iraq: Thanksgiving '03. He teleconferenced with troops there last year.
Impeach the bitch, already.
The 2006 New England Spring Flower Show
The next thing you see if you bumble along to the left a little ways, in the Ikebana section, is what I heard some referring to as "the ikebana monster" and "ikebana explosion":
Awe-inspiring ikebana. Something to be feared. I think it looks a bit like the tornado that whisked Dorothy off to Oz, myself. All it lacked was the old bitch on the bicycle with Toto in the basket, cackling "and your little dog, too!"
And there was plenty more where that came from in the ample ikebana exhibition. Unfortunately, I was distracted by another, potentially more thrilling display. This one dedicated to post-apocalyptic night-gardening on the Cape:
If you walked down the debris-strewn path you came out on the other end in the land of the mutant orchids:
After that there was a wine-tasting booth, which made the whole journey worthwhile!
on the Ports flap
Well, gee, I wonder why Americans would have a negative opinion of Islam, after--what?--two months of riots over some Dutch cartoons. It went on and on and on and on until it really seemed to have nothing to do with those cartoons at all. In a recent forum on the cartoon riots in Holland a Muslim participant, Tariq Ramadan, warned: "If we don't tackle it as it should be tackled this very simple cartoons issue could have, in the long run, a more damaging impact than September 11."
My question is: what is there to tackle? These cartoons were not the work of Nations in concert against Islam. They were the work of a handful of cartoonists and a newspaper editor with a chip on his shoulder.
But the riots were drummed up by Islamist extremists with an agenda and intent to provoke. And it's tiresome. And people are right to be wary and weary of this faction of Islam. Don't blame American xenophobes for this reaction, blame Islamist extremists. There is no resolution for them, except the universal rule of Islam.
As for the Ports, Bush has always done his best for his patrons. He is not President of the United States, he is President of The Haves-and Have-Mores Glee Club Cheerleading Squad. His allegiance is to the Saudi Royal Family more than to the State of which he is head. In other words, the interests of this President and these United States are not the same.
James Carroll's "Bush, Lies, and Videotapes"
Carroll's always eloquent, eminently civilized editorials in the Globe are a godsend. What struck me as particularly trenchant in this one was the following thought: "a narrative that unfolds across the terrain of an inner life requires an inner life, and Bush shows no sign of having one." Which I have long thought myself. This isn't your average Bush-bashing jibe, because while Carroll is openly critical of Bush, and as an editorialist he has every right and reason to be, and while he is often outraged by Bush, again with good reason, he's not one for mere potshots. This is a thoughtful piece, and the fundamental flaw it points out deserves serious attention.