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Saturday, January 22, 2005

You love 'em, you...well, you probably mostly just hate 'em

The Beast magazine has released its list of the 50 Most Loathsome People in America. Some of our favorites:

Alan Colmes

An angry conservative’s wet dream: an effete liberal dive artist. As a professional doormat, Colmes’ only tasks are to serve as a comforting aggregate of Republican stereotypes about Democrats and a target for the seething derision of his psychotic guests. Stands idly by while voracious green-blooded co-host utilizes Gestapo tactics against centrist Democrats.

Smoking Gun: His cringe-inducing new book reads like a crappy internet parody ("I'm proud to be a liberal. In my spare time I hug trees. I'd rather hug a tree than embrace a tax cut… Ever try to hug a tax rebate check? Bark burn is so much more pleasant than paper cuts.")

Punishment: Suffocated under a naked, sweaty Rush Limbaugh.

Tom Delay

The worst Congressman alive. Being the most corrupt member of the House is a hell of an achievement. Delay is so brazen even lobbyists have expressed reservations. Compares the pathetic, castrated EPA to the Gestapo. A self-obsessed misanthrope in the guise of a Christian.

Smoking Gun: According to Danny Yatom, former head of Israel’s feared Mossad: "The Likud is nothing compared to this guy."

Punishment: Outed by Barney Frank.

Nicole Ritchie

Wasting space in our minds. Not being pretty, talented or interesting, yet expecting people beyond her family to pay attention to her. Further indoctrinating teenage girls with the poisonous idea that if they just act like obnoxious, spoiled bitches they will somehow never have to work.

Smoking Gun: Made 27 on Maxim’s Hot 100 for standing next to national disgrace Paris Hilton for a year.

Punishment: 10-page pictorial in Stuff sans airbrushing, and no Oxycontin for a whole week.

I don't know how Ann Coulter only made it up to 50 (irrelevance?), but I thought Donald Rumsfeld's punishment particularly apt: Abu Ghraib.


How To Detect Liars

Interesting site that details techniques used by security professionals to detect if someone is lying:

• Physical expression will be limited and stiff, with few arm and hand movements. Hand, arm and leg movement are toward their own body the liar takes up less space.

• Timing and duration of emotional gestures and emotions are off a normal pace. The display of emotion is delayed, stays longer it would naturally, then stops suddenly

• Hands touching their face, throat & mouth. Touching or scratching the nose or behind their ear. Not likely to touch his chest/heart with an open hand.

• Last name is DeLay

Okay fine I added that last one. But some people might find the information helpful in dealing with the next four years, if the simple fact that their mouths are open isn't proof enough for you.


Fun With Inauguration Speeches

From the Rude Pundit:

Hey, gang, let's take a couple of segments of Bush's speech and replace the word "freedom" with the word "cock," and then it'll all be perfectly clear what the next four years will be about. To wit:

"The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of cock in all the world . . . Cock, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities . . . Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of cock ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of cock comes to every mind and every soul."

Sorry, no photo with this post, tempting though it was. I do devote a modicum of effort to keep the site from becoming NC-17.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Isaac Mizrahi Presents the Adventures of Sandee the Supermodel

"This is what happens when you don't let gays marry -- they start designing out of spite." - Jon Stewart


Report from the Front: A Coronation Protest Moment

Just left the “big protest” at Malcolm X Park. Most underwhelming event ever. More or less 2000 LaRouche disciples turned Greens bitching about the two party system. If this is the opposition, maybe we need to rethink the whole “Rove is a genius” thing. - Wonkette


Tin Foil Hat Department

According to the London Times, former CIA executive director AB "Buzzy" Krongard says that the fact that we haven't captured Bin Laden is a good thing:
“You can make the argument that we’re better off with him (at large),” Krongard said. “Because if something happens to Bin Laden, you might find a lot of people vying for his position and demonstrating how macho they are by unleashing a stream of terror.”
Okay, this statement is frightening enough on the surface coming as it does from someone who, up until six weeks ago was the CIA's third most senior officer, an agency entrusted with the responsibility of actually finding the man responsible for 3,000 American deaths. But it may be more than lazy ex post facto justification for incompetence, oversight and gross abdication of responsibility.

Prior to coming to the CIA, Krongard was Vice Chairman of Banker’s Trust-AB Brown, one of the companies who had large "put" options in place on United Airlines stock prior to 9/11 -- such that they stood to profit heftily if the stock tanked. (Although it has only occurred as a footnote in the mainstream media, there is abundent documentation that the unusually large numbers of such "puts" indicate specific foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks.)

Let's recap. The guy whose former company acted in response to forewarning of the 9/11 attacks (and we all know from Dick Cheney's cozy relationship with Halliburton how "former" never really means "former") and stood to profit from that information doesn't want Bin Laden to be caught. Right. Nothing suspicious there.

I say we get O'Reilly on the horn and get him crackin' on this one, pronto, 'cos it's just this kind of hard-hitting, investigative thing he excels at. Bill? Are you there? Bill?

(Thanks to BooMan 23 at Kos for putting the pieces together. You can read more here.)


Courtney Love Off Drugs...and onto Cream Pies


I normally wouldn't take pot shots at a woman with a weight problem -- but c'mon. It's Courtney Love.


See, Mom...all these were wrong...

Imogen Cunningham, "The Unmade Bed"

Making your bed can be hazardous to your health. No, really. British scientists say that by leaving it unmade, you allow heat and air to circulate, thus banishing the 1.5 million dust mites that could be lurking there, aggravating asthma and other allergies.

I feel vindicated for a lifetime of sloth.


Insanely Narcissistic Time Killer of the Day

Blogshares is a fantasy stock market for weblogs. Players get to invest a fictional $500, and blogs are valued by incoming links. My blog is currently valued at $3,302.29, although the notion that someone would pay that amount of money for it is probably where the "fantasy' comes in.

But I had to start looking at what other blogs are valued at, because I'm just that kind of girl:

Eschaton (Atrios) $1,050,445.52
Alicublog $36,624.71
Wolcott $141,399.43
Instapundit $1,878,525.63
Roger Ailes $108,852.69
Rude Pundit $116,459.6
feministe $75,459.42

I shouldn't care, but being hyper-competitive despite my better instincts, I do. I take much pride in the fact that fat capitalists have valued my stock at $61.19 per share, up from $1.98 on January 3.

Okay, maybe not fat capitalists. Maybe nerds with pocket protectors and way too much time on their hands. But still.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

When Wingnuts Explode Part Deux

Fox News anchor Brigitte Quinn got more than she bargained for when she invited Vanity Fair contributing editor Judy Bacharach on to comment on the inauguration festivities. While Bacharach was obviously brought on to talk about the party perfect, knee-jerk Bush apologist Quinn suffered something of a meltdown when Bacharach strayed from her talking points:

BACHARACH: We have soldiers who are incapable of protecting themselves in their Humvees in Iraq. They have to use bits of scrap metal in order to make their Humvees secure. Their Humvees are sitting ducks for bombs. And we have a President who is using 40 million dollars to have a party.

QUINN: Judy, what would you suggest for the innaguration? How would you do it?

BACHARACH: How about a modest party? Just like FDR. I'm sure you'll agree he's a pretty good President, with a fine sense of what's appropriate and what's not, and during a time of war ten parties are not appropriate when your own soldiers are sitting ducks in very very bad vehicles.

QUINN; Don't you think that the President has given his proper respect to our troops? I mean as far as I can tell, the festivities opened with a military gala, ending with a prayer service. There does certainly seem to have been an tremendous effort over the last couple of days and more than that to honor our troops.

BACHARACH: Well gee that prayer service should sure keep them safe and warm in their flimsy vehicles in Iraq.

Click here to view the whole meltdown, courtesy of Oliver Hilarious.


Bush Appointed Judge Dismisses Gitmo Detainees Case, Scoffs at Supreme Court

Wingnuts rejoice

A fine payback for King George II on the event of his coronation.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has handed down a decision that neatly repays his benefactor, George W. Bush, who appointed him to the bench. Pissing on last year's Supreme Court decision that said detainees had the right to challenge their detention, Leon upheld the Administration's assertion that the detainees have no constitutional rights.

"In the final analysis, the petitioners are asking this court to do something no federal court has done before: evaluate the legality of the executive's capture and detention of non-resident aliens, outside the United States, during a time of armed conflict,'' he said.

This despite last year's Supreme Court decision, summarized here in the WaPo:
The court said detainees, whether American citizens or not, retain their rights, at least to a legal hearing, even if they are held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Guantanamo Bay is under U.S. control and thus appropriately within the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, the high court ruled.

The president's constitutional powers, even when supported by Congress in wartime, do not include the authority to close the doors to an independent review of the legality of locking people up, the justices said.

"We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in Hamdi et al v. Rumsfeld.
As Barbara Olshansky, a lawyer with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, noted: "I didn't think it was going to be quite as sweeping as this nor quite as dismissive of the Supreme Court's decisions."

And Eugene Fidel, president of the National Institute for Military Justice, said that Leon's decision interprets the Supreme Court to mean "you can come in the courthouse door, but you don't have any rights once you're inside."

He challenged Leon's interpretation.  "It's clear these detainees enjoy some substantive rights, besides entering the courthouse and dropping some papers on the clerk's desk."

BTW, you have to go outside the US for anyone to consider this front page news today. I found it on the BBC news.  The NYT and WaPo have it buried behind all the innauguration wingnut revelry.

Coincidence that this decision came down when almost nobody would pay any attention to it? We think not.

Update: An excellent follow-up post by DC Pol Sci, who says that open warfare in the courts is likely as a result of this decision. A highly recommended read.


Innauguration or Rapture

Does the spectre of Republicans rejoicing at expensive innauguration festivities get you down?

Well, remember that today is Black Thursday, and in honor of the coronation of King George II many are protesting by refusing to contribute to the economy today -- don't work, don't spend, don't participate in the GDP in any way.

Do as your own conscience demands.


Did you say integrity?

From the effervescent TBogg:

There was once a time when someone who failed so spectacularly in their job would have offered up a public apology and slunk off to a think tank where they could keep up the pretense of thinking with the other Not-Ready-for-Public-Consumption Players. But no. Condoleeza now gets the opportunity to continue to fail upward and, in an amazing feat of physics, drag us down with her. And because she has the full weight of George the Conqueror (who has an army and he's not afraid to use it) behind her, countries that know better will actually have to listen to her, nod knowingly, and pretend that she is good at what she does, making her the Pia Zadora of the State Department.

We should be embarrassed, We should hide our heads in shame that we are so unserious about our place in the world. But when the world is already laughing at our headliner, who's really going to pay attention to the lounge act?


Bad News for George on the Event of his Coronation

It's a sad day for America when even drug dealers are giving up on the rapidly deflating dollar in favor of euros.

Loyalty to good customers is a fleeting thing, I guess.

(Via Phoenix Woman at Mercury Rising)


Wednesday, January 19, 2005


As if to underscore its true allegiance to waging war for corporate profit, the US now wants to give US business a bigger chunk of the Iraqi war booty by privatizing the Iraqi National Oil Company.

One has only to read any section of Daniel Yergin's excellent book The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, chronicling the history of oil, to see how the Arab world has always viewed oil as a national heritage, something worth fighting and dying for, to know how wrong-headed this current policy is destined to be.

The prospects for any semblance of a peaceful election in Iraq look dim. It is hard to imagine that any Iraqi looking at the Abu Ghraib scandals would welcome US soldiers as "liberators." Iraq has become a virtual lightening rod for fundamentalist terrorism (as Descrates points out in his excellent diary on Unintended Consequences), and the companies charged with "rebuilding" Iraq are so mired in scandal, corruption and mismanagement that the country has devolved into a cesspool of anti-American rage (for a brief rundown, see here). And now this?

The Iraqi Finance Minister, Adil Abdel Mahdi, is a virtual marionette of the Bush Administration, is extremely enthusiatic about his job of selling out the interests of the Iraqi people in favor of US big business. According to IPS News:
"So I think this is very promising to the American investors and to American enterprises, certainly to oil companies," Abdel Mahdi said at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Tuesday.

Abdel Hadi, formerly a member of the exile Iraqi opposition, said the interim government will also reconsider deals signed between French and Russians oil firms and the regime of former President Saddam Hussein. It is still not clear whether those contracts will be cancelled altogether or just reduced.

France and Russia both opposed the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the Arab country and companies from those nations were initially banned by the U.S. occupation administration, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), from helping to "rebuild" Iraq.

Washington later said non-U.S. firms could work there, after the world's rich nations agreed to forgive part of Iraq's debt, a decision that opened the door to Baghdad signing on to a loan programme designed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The CPA has already shown where its heart really lies when it paid out billions in Iraqi oil profits to pay off US contractors like Halliburton and Bechtel. "This money belongs to the Iraqi people - it is not a slush fund," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).

'Cos when they say it's not about the money -- it's always about the money.


Maybe this explains the last election

If, as quantum mechanics says, observing the world tends to change it, how is it that we can agree on anything at all? Why doesn't each person leave a slightly different version of the world for the next person to find?  
Because, say the researchers, certain special states of a system are promoted above others by a quantum form of natural selection, which they call quantum darwinism....If it wasn't for quantum darwinism, the researchers suggest, the world would be very unpredictable: different people might see very different versions of it.




A look ahead to the innauguration day "rock festivities" with Hillary Duff, Jojo, Boxcar and others from TBogg:  
Here is what Boxkar has to say about itself on their own website: "Their songs have an appeal and realness of a Matchbox Twenty with a swagger of an Aerosmith." Wanting to have the "appeal and realness" of Matchbox Twenty is like wanting to be funny like Bob Saget.
I think you get the idea.


The English Look on the Bright Side

Brit Rob Horsey comes up with 10 Reasons to Like George Bush. Number 1: He is a uniter, not a divider. He said so. Twice. And it is true. Dubya has done more to unite Europe than anyone since the fall of Rome. Given time, he might manage the same in the Arab world too.

(From ak13)


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Patti Smith Poetry from 1979 (mp3)

After asking if anyone in the audience wants their money back 'cos Keith Richards didn't show, Patti reads the poem For Jim Morrison & Bumblebee. From a 1979 performance that also includes Terry Southern, William Buroughs, Philip Glass, John Cage and Laurie Anderson.

It's just a small part of the amazing UbuWeb project, a repository for visual, concrete and sound poetry as well as interviews and other audio works. They openly flaunt copyright laws to preserve and disseminate the works of great 20th century artists, and it's all operated on a volunteer basis. Especially impressive is their collection of recordings from the downtown New York punk rock/street scene of the late 70s.

So if you're just tired of fighting the power and need a quick dose of inspiration, stop by UbuWeb and listen to e.e. cummings read a poem. Just to balance out all that ugly noise coming at you from the rest of the world.


President of Harvard is a Complete F**king Asshole

Female engineer N2 weighs in on the current controversy:

I am practically speechless, and for me, that takes some doing!! First, I had an attack of hysterics and emitted a few maidenly vapors, and then I got MAD. (And recovered my voice.)

The termites are beginning to peep out of the woodwork, emboldened no doubt by the encouraging new social and political trend toward the deification of the privileged white male (has anyone out there read "The Handmaid's Tale"?????), allowing this kind of bullshit to pass as a serious and "vitally important" debate in the hallowed and ivy-covered walls of academe.

Let us examine the problem under consideration: the "persistent underrepresentation of women in university departments of mathematics, engineering and physical sciences". Could it be that this is explained by:

1) That pesky time issue thing. Our hero points out that "top positions on university math and engineering faculties require extraordinary commitments of time and energy, with many professors working 80-hour weeks in the same punishing schedules pursued by top lawyers, bankers and business executives. Few married women with children are willing to accept such sacrifices". Oh yeah, women traditionally just fall apart in the face of the expectation that they be able to work a challenging job, be an adequate wife and mother, take the lion's share of responsibility for domestic responsibilities, and generally pack a 30-hour schedule into a 24-hour day. Their poor little minds just go into overload and they can't handle it!! And, golly gee whillikers, to expect them to solve EQUATIONS and stuff on top of it all is JUST TOO MUCH!!!


2) "Men are taller than women, that comes from the biology, and Larry's view was that perhaps the dispersion in test scores could also come from the biology." (citing research showing that more high school boys than girls tend to score at very high and very low levels on standardized math tests (what happened to all those much-touted studies showing that in the beginning, girls consistently do as well or better, but tend to succumb to secondary education's tendency to relegate them to the back seat, so they fall along the wayside?)) No doubt the next riveting topic for discussion will be how the boys at the low end are obviously gay, or how about a return to the ever-popular theory that African-Americans have diminished intellectual capacity due to biology?

It is reported that "male colleagues didn't say much afterwards and later said they felt his comments were being blown out of context. Female colleagues were on the whole surprised by his comments." Surprise, surprise!!

Let me offer a wee theory. It just MIGHT be that there are so few women represented in the fields of math, science, and engineering at the highest levels of business and in academic departments because ADVANCEMENT IS CONTROLLED BY MEN SUCH AS OL' LARRY AND ALL THOSE BAFFLED COLLEAGUES OF HIS WHO ARE AMAZED THAT OFFENSE COULD BE TAKEN TO SUCH A CONDESCENDING THEORY!!! But, of course, I am but a plucky woman who somehow managed to beat the curse of biology and fate and SUCCEED in both mathematics AND engineering. And to think that all this time, I never realized what a freak of nature I was!!

Scary, isn't it?



Brazil to Microsoft: Sod Off

Faced with the prospect of being held hostage to expensive software extortion or watching the information age pass them by, Brazil has become a champion of the open software movement, subsidizing the purchase of 1 million computers for lower income citizens that run Linux.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, world's richest man Bill Gates is alarmed at this new digital socialism, and he's lobbying heavily for a sit down with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the former union leader turned Brazilian President (and the new darling of the global left) at the World Economics Forum next week.

It's a strategy switch for Microsoft, who last year sued Sergio Amadeu, head of Brazil's national technology institute, for saying that Microsoft was like a drug pusher who gives free samples to get consumers hooked. The suit was dropped when Amadeu pointed out he was only repeating what he read in economic textbooks.

Amadeu is not high on the meeting. "Brazil wouldn't gain anything from this, but Microsoft would gain a lot," he noted.

There is good reason for Gates et. al. to be concerned about the Brazilian government's williness to stand up to US corporate extortion; in the late 90s, they threatened to break patents on anti-AIDS drugs unless multinational companies cut prices. The strategy worked.

And jazz-star-turned-Minister of Culture Gil Gilberto last year gave his blessing to Lawrence Lessig and the EFF's plan for an all-free downloadable online music archive by agreeing to put several of his own songs under the new Creative Commons license, free for anyone to download and mix with.

Now it looks like the revolution is spreading; Spainish social workers are carrying around versions of Linux for distribution to schools, municipal offices and city-funded ISPs.

We can't imagine where this insane bout of progressive and visionary governmental public service started, but we're trusting Bill will do everything in his power to put a stop to it.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Let's Hear the One About the "Impending Crisis" Again

"On the day the trust fund is exhausted, Social Security revenue will cover about eighty percent of the cost of benefits. Right now -- today -- if you look at the U.S. government outside of Social Security, revenue covers only about sixty-eight percent of total government spending. So on the day the trust fund is exhausted, forty-seven years from now, Social Security will be in better financial shape than the rest of the U.S. government is today. - Economist Paul Krugman, in this month's issue of Rolling Stone


Illegal to Show Landmark MLK Civil Rights Documentary

The seminal 1987 documentary series Eyes on the Prize, which ran on PBS and covered the American Civil Rights Movement and the landmark struggles of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others for civil rights in the US, can no longer be shown on television or released on DVD.

"I would call upon everyone who has access to 'Eyes on the Prize' to openly violate any and all laws regarding its showing," says civil rights leader Lawrence Guyot, who led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and today is a program manager for the D.C. Department of Human Services.

Like most documentaries which need to keep the costs of production down in order to get made, the original licenses negotiated for video, music and photographs were for a limited term, and due in large part to media consolidation over the past decade, the costs of renewal of those rights have skyrocketed.  It demostrates the legal battlelines that are emerging between the likes of Disney, Time/Warner and News Corp., which seek to exert ever more monopolistic control over copyrighted material, and those who feel that greater availabililty is in the public interest.  

"Eyes on the Prize is one of the most effective documentaries ever put together that dealt with civic engagement.  This is analogous to stopping the circulation of all the books about Martin Luther King, stopping the circulation of all the books about Malcolm X, stopping the circulation of books about the founding of America," says Guyot.

According to the Washington Post, the only option for teachers and librarians who are trying to replace worn out VHS copies of Eyes on the Prize is bidding on eBay, where rare copies are selling for as much as $1,500.

A few high-profile token lefties do not a "liberal media" make. The truth is that there is an inherent conservative bias to the profit-driven Lords of Hollywoods and their constant push for the destruction of any limitation to the consolidation of their power, and this is a classic example of how the public suffers in the wake of it.


When Will Democrats Give a Hang About Labor?

With all the flap over Bernard Kerik and Alberto Gonzales, George Bush is probably palpably relieved that his nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns, breezed through his Senate Agriculture Committee hearings with a few paltry nods in the direction of Mad Cow Disease.

Not to be dismissive of Mad Cow Disease (because I expect it to go full throttle one of these days), but largely overlooked in the Committee hearing was Johanns completely shitty record when it comes to labor. Anyone who has seen Barbara Kopple's Oscar winning documentary American Dream knows how hard it's been for labor unions to hold themselves together and maintain any kind of decent wage for their members in the meat processing industry. And Johanns, as governor, has certainly done his best to give a leg up to union busters.

One of the most successful tactics that the meat packing industry has utilized in dismantling the power of unions has been slashing wages, and then when workers go on strike, hiring illegal immigrants to replace them at a fraction of the cost. They like it even better because illegal immigrants don't file a lot of complaints about dangerous conditions in an industry known for its horrible history of worker safety.

Unions themselves have long been aware that rather than blame illegal aliens themselves in an orgy of jingoism, or resort to ridiculous O'Reilly-esque solutions like building a fence around the United States, the best way to protect their membership from unfair competition for jobs is for the government to monitor companies who hire illegal aliens and make those companies comply with the laws of the land which still, at this moment in time, prohibit such practices..

So during 1998 and 1999, the INS launched a campaign known as Operation Vanguard in which they went through Nebraska meatpacking plant personnel files and forced companies into compliance. It was a hugely successful program -- or would have been, except that Governor Johanns (who has accepted hefty campaign contributions from big agribusiness in the past) stepped in on behalf of his contributors and got the DOJ to kill the program.

As has been noted on several lefty blogs lately, organized labor is getting short shrift in the Democratic Party, and it's time for that to end. As unions grow weaker and weaker, the power of corporations grow stronger and stronger and the ever increasing salary gap between labor and management is nothing short of a criminal unholy embarrassment. And the blue collar worker who is getting completely screwed over in the equation is left with no party that looks out for his (or her) overriding interest, economic security -- mostly because in recent years the support for labor has been an exceedingly un-glamourous cause.

And I will argue 'till I'm blue in the face that this is the key to re-taking the South; it is a progressive way to seize command of an issue (immigration reform) that has extremely strong popular support (upwards of 80%), by tying it to an oft-neglected but extremely righteous issue (propping up organized labor). And when push comes to shove I maintain that the average Southerner cares a lot more about the practical matter of being displaced from his job than he does about a few theoretical lesbian feminist atheists he is likely to never cross paths with.

The Democrats have the opportunity to show the Republicans up for the hypocrites they are on this one, and on an issue that promises to be the mother of all wedge issues. It's already threatening to tear the GOP apart, 'cos Tancredo (R-CO) just won't let it alone. So why not use this opportunity to make a little noise and give the subject a nudge prior to Johann's confirmation? It would demonstrate that the Democrats are worthy of working people's support, as well as give GWB a good swift kick right when he needs one. 'Cos the Kerik nomination made him look like a fool, his slow response to Tsunami relief made him look like a callous fool, and Iraq is a giant pustule on his forehead that just grows bigger every day.


Sunday, January 16, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen, Introducing N2!

Hello, loyal readers and other similarly-progressive travelers on the Information Superhighway who had the good sense to visit this site (shameless plug for Jane's most excellent blog entries which usually appear here). My name is N2, and I have known and admired Jane for... well, I can't say how long or she would do mean things to me. (But -- trust me, it's been a long time.)

Unfortunately, Jane is trapped today in the second circle of any enlightened, free-thinking Liberal's Hell: Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (not "International", mind you -- INTERCONTINENTAL. I can't wait for the grand opening of the "W Interplanetary Space Station". Oh, wait -- isn't that Washington DC? But I digress...) Anyhow, Jane's predicament (having her flight cancelled and being forced to spend the night in Bushville) has brought on such a state of distress and shock that she has allowed me to temporarily invade her Blog-Space with some comments.

Just about everything in the news sets me off on a frothing rant these days,
but I have chosen three issues which I have been thinking about lately to
address here, so here goes.



The Monster in the Closet

The recent trial (and sentencing today) of Army Spc Charles Graner for his outrageous actions at Abu Ghraib Prison have highlighted an auxiliary problem associated with this whole Iraq nightmare. While I am gratified, and truth be told, slightly surprised that he was actually held somewhat accountable for his appalling behavior (can this mean that reason may be slowly returning to the American mindset?), the fact that so many instances of disgraceful acts have come to light and destroyed the United States' reputation irrevocably makes the political issue of "was it a group of rogue soldiers or did orders come from the top?" almost moot.

Of course, all involved must be discovered and held accountable, and I categorically reject any argument that ANY participant should be excused for lack of training or for confusing torture with a "frat-house prank". A child of five would intinctively know that such behaviors were wrong and bad, and if we are shipping over boatloads of ADULT individuals who are incapable of recognizing moral truths, then God help us all. And the whole "it was just a bunch of harmless fun" excuse is particularly galling. If indeed this kind of activity is what passes for amusement at frat parties these days, that is a social problem in and of itself, but some important points are conveniently being glossed over: I sincerely doubt that the fun-loving college students engaged in any such rituals have loaded guns pointed at them by a group of foreigners who do not speak their language, and anyone who VOLUNTARILY attends a party with such "festivities" by definition is aware that he is free to go at any time and that it is highly unlikely (but, granted, not impossible) that things will not get so out of control that he may not survive the experience. Furthermore, he is reasonably certain that the "party" is of finite duration and then he can presumably resume his life with only memories of whatever thrill he supposedly received.

These prisoners of war had no such understandings. In fact, they had no reason to believe that they would ever emerge from the nightmare in which they found themselves -- and that is why it is clearly abuse and torture. It is
ludicrous to insult the intelligence of the world by suggesting otherwise. And it has forever tarnished America's ability to impose a moral obligation where injustice by others is exposed. How can we ever be taken seriously again if we want to intervene in others' activities which we deem unacceptable, when we have shown ourselves to be just as ugly or more so?

And this brings me to the point I actually intended to make here: if "average" Americans can become so easily and quickly and completely and unapologetically morally bereft -- what kind of population will be returning to US when (and IF) this mess ever gets straightened out? Do we really want tens of thousands of people with this mentality rejoining the ranks of OUR society? Think about it. Once a man hits his wife or girlfriend once, it is easier to do so the second time, third time, fourth time, tenth time. Once one has raped or killed or robbed or done *anything* which crosses those imaginary lines which hold us back and allow us to live in a civilized society, the moral compass is permanently reset.

Are we prepared to deal with the re-integration of a whole generation of people who have apparently wandered over the lines?



The Imminent Coronation of King George II

I am not one of those people who gets all sniffy and self-righteous and tries to guilt the "haves" into giving up their spoils for some "greater good" -- although I do have a strong personal belief that it is the right thing to do to help where one can. But after all, in a capitalist society, the whole point is that one should be entitled to reap the rewards of hard work. Why else would we put in such long hours and expend the effort required to succeed if we got no tangible benefit from the exertion?

Consequently, although I do sympathize with the sentiment expressed by those who are demanding that the world would be better served if the $40+ million earmarked for the upcoming Inauguration Extravaganza could be re-routed to, say, tsunami relief efforts or other worthwhile causes, and even though I believe that these people's hearts are definitely in the right place, I do think (as much as it pains me to say it, feeling as I do about the results of the recent election) that the Shrub (apparently having successfully hoodwinked a bare majority of misguided voters) has the right to celebrate his success. I honestly
do not begrudge him his moment of triumph.

That being said -- does it have to be such a LAVISH display of conspicuous consumption in the face of so much economic uncertainty among all the peons who can't afford to participate but are relegated to the sidelines to observe all the fiddling while all around us burns? Does ANY occasion warrant a $40 million party? Isn't it just a tad over-the-top under the circumstances?

And it is telling that the National Stepford Wife was trotted out this week to tweet and twitter about how it is really okay and in good taste and of incredible historical importance -- they only release HER when their backsides are getting uncomfortably close to the fire and they go on the defensive. Maybe there is a twinge of conscience in there somewhere after all. ...Nah. The Coronation is still on.


Hell Freezes Over

The Shrub inexplicably and highly uncharacteristically popped out in a public forum this week and sort of (for him) admitted that he has indeed been something of a deranged arrogant petulant misguided jackass in the past. (Well, okay, that's MY interpretation of what he said; I think *his* actual characterization of some of his previous inane pronouncements was some sort of vague "misgivings" about "unintended consequences" of his "tough talk". What, pray tell, is "unintended" about incendiary words which accomplish EXACTLY what you intended them to?)

Why do I feel that he is trying to throw us an inconsequential and meaningless bone in an attempt to lull us into thinking heis mellowing -- just in time to ram through some of the most destructive fiscal and social legislative plans that have ever been conceived?

The sad part is, it will probably work like a charm.



Enjoy Some Eye Candy While I'm In Hell

Okay so I had a crap day, driving for 4 1/2 hours at 25 mph with white knuckles over black ice to the airport in Portland only to sit on the tarmak for 2 hours while cheapo Continental Airlines found some non-union crew to de-ice the plane, only to get into Houston too late to catch a connecting flight to my mom's in Tulsa, and right as we're about to land they tell me "Welcome to George Bush Intercontinental Airport." George Bush? It used to be just plain "Intercontinental Airport." When did they change the name? Like, 15 minutes beforehand, just to fuck with me?

So after I nearly take a swing at this guy who says that they aren't responsible for delays due to weather, and I have to haul the pilot off the plane & make him explain to the officious bastard that lack of adequate equipment is not in anybody's definition of force majeure they put us up in this Holiday Inn with no luggage so I have to turn the heat up to like 90 degrees 'cos I'm sure not gonna sleep in my clothes and then wear them tomorrow.

George Bush Airport. I know it's not all about me, but sometimes I think that guy must stay up nights just looking for ways to screw with me, 'cos he really couldn't do a better job if he tried.

Your guest blogger for today will be Nancy, who went to Mills with me and is much smarter than me. I will be flying in the morning and will hopefully get over my paranoid rage at our fearless fuhrer long enough to pull together something coherent by tomorrow night.

(BTW, the above is from a pretty cool collection of Soviet posters, from the Tsarist period to 1998. This is for anyone who would like to dismiss me as a Communist -- you're wrong, but have a ball. Thanks to, a site by this wacky Belgian chick that always has great weird stuff.)


Who's Watching the Watchmen?

In Japan, the average CEO makes ten times what the average worker does. In the US, that multiple is 500 times, according to a recent survey by Towers Perrin. This while unions are being hamstrung and both wages and working conditions are going down the shitter. That's up considerably from 1980, when the average CEO was making only 40 times as much as the average worker.

So how, exactly, is this situation perpetuated? Well, the problem seems to lie with inadequate oversight by boards of directors -- this according to corporate reform expert Ira Millstein, who says "I don't know how you can set a cap on pay -- you can't legislate this one."

Suggestion to Mr. Millstein -- maybe you should be pimping the recommendation of the SEC, who believe that there is a horrible conflict of interest at work in any public company when the CEO is also the Chairman of the Board? Their recommendation, after analyzing the corporate fraud scandals of the late 90's, was that the jobs should be separate (and in Europe, they usually are). As long as the body setting the pay of the CEO is also headed by the same guy, they feel there is no inherent system of checks and balances to empower the board to act in the interests of the stockholders. And I'd love to hear a good argument why it's in the stockholders interests for American CEOs to be making 50 times that of their Japanese counterparts.

Of course, as everyone noted at the time, there isn't a snowball's chance in hell of the SEC's recommendation actually being adopted. You certainly can't say corporate America hasn't gotten its money's worth out of GWB...

(Much thanks to Phoenix Woman and her excellent new blog, Mercury Rising. I highly recommend checking her out, she's got lots of good news and analysis.)