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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Swiss Family Robinson Goes Frank Lloyd Wright

Designed by Vancouver architect Tom Chud, this ultimate tree house comes with a double bed, a counter, table, bench seats and storage lockers. It's made of laminated wood coated in fiberglass and finished like a "fine yacht," suspended by four attachment points at the top and bottom and accesed via a circular stairway and a short suspension bridge.

If you were wondering what to get me for my birthday -- well, not this. The poodles are big fans of modern architecture, but a lifetime in single-story homes has left them a bit stair challenged. And that suspension bridge is nothing short of an invitation to disaster.

(Thanks to

Sorry for the light posting today, it's a travel day. But I'll be back at it tomorrow!


Those Wacky Royals

"Nothing is quite so wretchedly corrupt as an aristocracy which has lost its power but kept its wealth and which still has endless leisure to devote to nothing but banal enjoyments. All its great thoughts and passionate energy are things of the past, and nothing but a host of petty, gnawing vices now cling to it like worms to a corpse."
  --  Alexis de Tocqueville


Friday, January 14, 2005

Mr. Bush, You're No FDR

When a GOP full court press ran Tom Daschel out of office and the job of Senate minority leader fell to the anti-choice Harry Reid (D-NV), I was less than thrilled. But one of ex-boxer Reid's first announcement was the creation of a Carville-style quick response team he dubbed a "war room." Their first high-profile effort: a response to the new GOP sponsored ads attempting to dismantle social security featuring FDR.

Within 24 hours after the ads first showed on Fox and CNN, Reid's team located one of FDR's grandsons and released this letter from him addressed to "Progress for America," the firm running the ads:
It has come to my attention that your organization has begun running an advertising campaign to promote President George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security and cut benefits.  The advertisements that are currently being aired feature President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his signing of the original Social Security legislation.  I find the use of my grandfather's image and legacy in your campaign to be highly inappropriate.   

For seventy years, Social Security has been the bedrock of retirement security for millions of Americans thanks to the efforts of President Roosevelt.  My grandfather would surely oppose the ideas now being promoted by this administration and your organization.  Not only that, but to compare the courage it took to provide a guaranteed insurance program for our seniors and the disabled to the courage it will take to dismantle the most successful social program in history is simply unconscionable.  We should be working to protect and promote Social Security, not cutting benefits for our seniors.

On behalf of my family, I would ask that you cease using my grandfather's image in your advertising campaign.  


James Roosevelt Jr.
I have to give it up to Reid on this one -- good job with the gloves off.


Latest Internet Craze: Lomo

It all started in 1991 when a group of students vacationing in Prague discovered the wonderfully weird and cheap Lomo Kompakt Automat camera. The pictures are quite odd, out of focus, and due to the qualities of the Lomo lens and development techniques like cross-processing, wildly colorful. The craze spread like wildfire, and when the Russian manufacturers announced they'd stop making the camera, Lomographers stepped in to guarantee a market.

The BBC produced a series of shorts about lomography that you can view here. And you can check out more of the quirky snaps here.


Quotes of the Day

"America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." -  Alexis de Tocqueville

"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear." -  Bertrand Russell


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Guest Octogenarian Blogger: My Uncle Dee


I have been reading some of your blogs and if I had the energy I would start one of my own on Bush's program of "No Child Left Behind." It has been a failure from the word go and the newly appointed Secretary of Education [Margaret Spellings] was the chief architect of the program in Texas.  We are discovering daily that many schools are cheating on the tests because their financing is affected greatly by the test results.  One of the biggest scandals in Texas came about because of cheating in Houston schools when the past Secretary of Education [Roderick Paige] was superintendent there.  There are many on going investigations still in progress and teachers who want to report it cannot get immunity from retaliation from their principals if they report the school. Some day I will  investigate the demise of the New York State's attempt to use a state mandated test for a requirement for graduation.  Time for sleep for an old man.  Love to all. 

- Dee

(My Uncle Harold Douglas Murphy is a retired Professor of Counseling who specialized in research and testing at Texas A&M University - Commerce, so he knows what he is talking about. He is also quite feisty. It is a family trait.)


Fox News Thinks Roemer Would Be Nifty DNC Chair

According to Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron, the DNC is "made up largely of liberal activists," and he gives the inside track for Chairmanship to Howard Dean, "who emerged as a champion of the angry liberal left."

Cameron has a history of showing deep concern for the Democratic Party, which he demonstrated during the last election by completely fabricating a story about John Kerry, for which he was neither investigated nor, obviously, fired. Cameron warns that nominating Dean could hurt the party:
[I]nsiders say Dean probably has an edge for chairman. But Democratic officials tell FOX News that should Dean become chairman, some conservative Democrats, particularly in the South, will bolt the party -- losses that a minority can ill afford.
According to Media Matters, Cameron has praise for none of the candidates save Tim Roemer, "a pro-life moderate who many Democrats say might better court centrist swing voters."

And why does Cameron feel the need to weigh in on the head of the DNC? Well, it seems to stem from a concern that those angry liberal Democrats are adopting a "stonewall strategy" on Social Security piratization. Not because they think Bush's plan would be bad for the country; no, that would be giving them credit for some sort of moral barometer. Rather, the Democrats are just being belligerent for the pure mean spirited hell of it: "Hoping to re-energize a party demoralized by John Kerry's defeat, Democrats plan confrontation."

Sounds like Roger Ailes and Co. are campaigning to help Bush get a little more traction on piratization from the Dems by shilling for a more conservative chair. Typical wingnut scare campaign: Terror!!! Fear!!! THE SOUTH MAY BOLT!!!"

So Fox thinks Roemer would make a great DNC chair. I could just pretend that I didn't have an opinion on the subject until now and say "well that does it for me," but I already thought it was a crap idea.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Separated at Birth

Montgomery Burns and Homeland Security nominee Michael Chertoff

According to the ACLU: "He has been a vocal champion of the Bush administration’s pervasive belief that the executive branch should be free of many of the checks and balances that keep it from abusing its immense power over our lives and liberty."



Let's Have a Hand For -- Lindsey Graham?

If there was one Senator who seemed extremely disturbed by the testimony of Alberto "The Electrode" Gonzales this past week in his Attorney General confirmation hearings, it was (choke) Lindsey Graham.

You have to realize how painful it is for me to give it up to the Republican Senator from South Carolina, who made a name for himself as one of the House prosecutors during Bill Clinton's impeachment through shameless grandstanding and by sticking his face in front of every camera that was switched on, and was in large part responsible for bringing the wheels of government to a grinding halt while the Republicans indulged themselves and the country in a televised orgy of Clintonian humiliation.

Memories live long in the blogosphere.

But now there is much more at stake, and those agoraphobic C-SPAN addicts amongst us who witnessed the confirmation hearings were forced to watch and wonder as one Democratic Senator after another weenied out before the cameras. Part of the problem is probably due to the fact that they feel the Gonzales battle is already lost, so why fight it. Which is both shortsighted and amoral. But I think is was also due in part to the fact that lacking any true Party vision they are hoping for salvation in the form of an ethnic demographic shift, and consequently no Democrat wanted to tango with the 1,000 lb. gorilla in the room -- the fact that Gonzales is Hispanic, and they fear alienating the Hispanic vote.

Also shortsighted and amoral.

The flip side of the coin was Lindsey Graham, whose opposition to human rights violations committed against suspected terrorists is not new. On December 13, 2003, after a tour of the Guantanamo Bay facilities, Graham sent a letter to Rumsfeld saying it was time to release the detainees or bring them to trial.

He also pushed through legislation giving higher rank to military lawyers, who were largely responsible for pursuing investigations into Guantanamo Bay abuses, so that they would be on an equal footing with civilian lawyers who were fighting tooth and nail against them.

Graham opened his questioning of Gonzales with this:
I think we've dramatically undermined the war effort by getting on the slippery slope in terms of playing cute with the law, because it's come back to bite us. Abu Ghraib has hurt us in many ways. I travel throughout the world like the rest of the members of the Senate, and I can tell you it is a club that our enemies use, and we need to take that club out of their hand. Guantanamo Bay, the way it's been run has hurt the war effort. So if we're going to win this war, Judge Gonzales, we need friends and we need to recapture the moral high ground.
No Democrat delivered such a stinging indictment. Graham also serves as a reserve judge in the Air Force, and it was interesting to note that he went on to say that "My problem is that the DOJ memo was out there for two years, and the only people I can find that spoke against it were professional military lawyers who were worried about our own troops. " This while Biden was sucking up to Gonzales, calling him "Buddy" and saying "I love you."

The Democrats could learn a thing or two from Graham's "frame."

Don't get me wrong -- Graham is no knight in shining armor. But he should be praised for having the courage of his convictions on this one, and his stance is all the more...(choke)...impressive...(did I just say that?)... because he stands nothing to gain and everything to lose in bucking his own party.

And shame should rain down like hellfire on the head of any Democrat afraid to do the same.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Dayton to Oppose Gonzales Nomination

Well we hope it's true: Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN), last seen taking the stage to loudly oppose Barbara Boxer's support of the Congressional Black Caucas in the Ohio electoral confirmation, has said that he will probably vote against the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for attorney general:
I'm extremely troubled by his record based on what I've read so far. I'm strongly inclined to vote against his confirmation, but I'm not going to make a final determination until the record is complete.
Dayton went on to say he was disturbed about Gonzales' opinion that Geneva Convention protections for POWs did not extend to suspected terrorists
What causes me greatest trouble so far is his role in condoning and providing a legal framework for the United States to renounce the Geneva Convention, and its proper treatment of prisoners...

For the United States to be in the position of not upholding those principles and practices is not only immoral but also puts our own troops and citizens at risk...

It sets the standard that we want to be applied to our own citizens and troops in those situations. We don't have any ground to object if we're not following those practices ourselves....
It's a pretty gutsy move for Dayton, because he's vulnerable in 2006, and his Republican co-senator -- Norm Coleman -- has already said he will support Gonzales.

But it's good news for dispirited Gonzales opponents, who were forced to watch and wonder as one Senator after another at the confirmation hearings weenied out before the cameras with the notable exception of Lindsay Graham, who has steadily opposed the efforts of BushCo. to plant the roots of a totalitarian state in Guantanamo Bay.


Quote of the Day

I was a high class muscleman for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street...War is a racket, it alway has been.  - General Smedley Butler, the only two-time Medal of Honor winner in US history 

(thanks to my cousin Larry, who may be the only liberal left in Middle Tennessee)


I Posed for This

Not really. I've never actually met R. Crumb. At least not that I remember.


Mel Gibson Triggers Red State Flip-Out

I was driving through Tennessee on the opening weekend of The Passion of the Christ (aka The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre). There were people lined up four deep around the block for Saturday matinees; Churches were giving away tickets to non-believers if they saw it with one of the faithful; Sunday signs said "Go See the Passion, then Come Here and We'll Explain it For You," leading me to dub the film "The Star Wars of the South."

Imagine the horror of the faithful when their own personal Obi Wan Kenobi, Mel Gibson, appeared on the radio show of loyal Bush apparatchik Sean Hannity following the People's Choice Awards. Gibson said he thinks "a lot of what" President Bush "does is good," but he has been "having my doubts of late. It's all to do with these weapons [of mass destruction] that we can't seem to find, and why did we go over there [to Iraq]."

Hannity, a graduate of the Armstrong Williams school of journalism ethics, quickly cut him off and changed the subject. Alas, it was too late, and the damage was done. Favorite blogger sport du jour: visiting right-wing web sites, watching wingnuts explode.


Give it Up for the GOP

You have to give Rove credit. He has done a lot with what he has to work with. Sexual priggishness, vengeance and racism are very difficult to build a values argument upon, but they've managed to create the illusion that they have "moral clarity" by garbing their narrow vision in religious and patriotic terms -- and because we have failed to stand up for our universal values of liberty, justice and equality. They win by default. - digby


And You Thought Crime Didn't Pay

Onward & upward: not satisfied with merely overseeing a completely compromised election and promising to deliver the state of Ohio to George Bush, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has announced he is now running for governor. Toward that end, he has sent out a fund-raising letter, saying "corporate and personal checks are welcome." Trouble is, corporate donations are illegal in Ohio. But how would Blackwell be expected to know something like that? Oh, maybe because he's the friggin' state official in charge of elections?


Monday, January 10, 2005

Now We'll Get Some Straight Answers

This just in: Tell-all book from Ari Fleisher, former White House Press Secretary under GWB, expected soon. From Wonkette:

[W]e learned that Ari Fleischer's book on his years behind the lectern is showing up in bookstores in March. The release seems to be very closely guarded. Only Lying Liar and Ha! Ha! Watch Me Lie! magazines have been granted access to the galleys. Everyone else in the media is being left in the cold until the actual publication date, much like they were routinely left holding the warm bag of poop during Ari's tenure. At the White House this was considered a wonderful thing by Mr. Fleischer's former employer. In the media world though, it reminds us that they didn't let reviewers see Gigli or Ishtar until they were in theaters, either.


So What Do You Expect For $240,000?

Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 by the Department of Education, ostensibly because of all the influence peddled in the African American community. But his book Beyond Blame is currently listed on Amazon with a rank of 771,477, and copies are selling for a paltry 65 cents. Even more pathetic, there are only two customer reviews, and they both sound like they were written by him:

Williams describes a "bad" young black man in Washington DC, who asked for help, and Armstrong wrote him insightful letters, giving ideal advice that, if followed, would "save" the young man and his posterity. I now greatly admire Williams and hope he can communicate his beliefs to many more "Brads" who need this help, who will change their lives for the better.

I have one word for whoever is doing cost/benefit analyses: Google.

(via tbogg)


Opening of the 109th Congress

"We're looking for candour, old buddy. I love you, but you're not very candid so far." - leading Democrat Joe Biden as he mercilessly hammers Alberto "The Electrode" Gonzales during Senate confirmation hearings. (cartoon: David Low)

From The Guardian UK:

Biden's gentle prodding will no more protect him from rightwing accusations of being unpatriotic than John Kerry's vote for the war prevented Republicans from portraying him as weak on defence. The fact that the left did not make use of the lash does not stop the right from resorting to the backlash.

Indeed, even the relatively mild inquisition Gonzales underwent was enough for Republican senator John Cornyn to brand the hearing as "unnecessarily partisan, even cruel" and claim that "only in Washington would a good man get raked over the coals only for doing his job".

The problem here is not that Gonzales will go on to be confirmed - given their slender numbers in Congress, this is not something the Democrats can do much about. It is that with each failure to promote its principles and values, the liberal left ends up on the defensive, ceding the ideological foundations it needs to build any substantial comeback. As a result the national conversation ends up taking place almost entirely on the right's terms.

Even the English think we're weenies. How pathetic.


George W. Bush: Feminist Hero?

I would like to weigh in on what I have noticed lately is a disturbing trend amongst conservative gasbags to slam feminists for their lack of attention to the plight of the women in the Middle East. The implication being that American feminists are giving a pass to those cultures meting out indignities to women because it doesn't jibe with their criticism of the Administration's Middle East policies. To wit, Andrew Sullivan comments on an article written in the Wall Street Journal about Arab men who prefer rotund women, and are thus force-feeding them into to obesity:

Kudos for Daniel Pipes and the WSJ for bringing attention to this problem. Where, one wonders, are Western feminists?

Yes, Daniel Pipes and Sullivan are probably tossing in slumberless nights worrying about the poor women of the Middle East. And the Administration is quite proud of all it has done in the name of women in Afghanistan. Even Jerry Fallwell jumped in recently to give BushCo. credit for securing for Afghani women the right to vote. And the folks at Little Green Footballs? They live for this shit.

Most recently, Max Boot writes in the LA Times:

I don't recall a single Hollywood feminist expressing gratitude to the U.S. military or its commander in chief for the liberation of Afghan women. No doubt Streisand, Sarandon & Co. were too busy inveighing against the horrors perpetrated by John Ashcroft.

Well, fellas, here's a little history lesson for you. In the two minutes that Bush and his henchmen took to justify the carpet bombing of the poorest country in the world, they were quick to point out the terrible lives led by women under the Taliban, mostly to neutralize left-wing criticism of the plan. We feminists in the west already knew about this because back in 1997, the Feminist Majority's Eleanor Smeal launched the International Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban’s abuse of women. Back as far as 1998 shrill, bra-less harridans like Susan Sarandon, Rosie Perez, Calista Flockhart, Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet were participating in events to support RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.

So, after satisfying American blood lust with untold Afghani civilian deaths, once BushCo. had the chance to show just how much they really did care about the women of the country -- that's exactly what they did. When sending out invitations to the post-war reconstruction conference in Bonn, the Administration made sure it handed out invitations to members of the Northern Alliance who, according to US State Department's own intelligence, had systematically raped and killed Hazzara women in Kabul in March 1995. And how many women did they invite to the conference? Um, that would be...none.

You may ask how I knew this. I learned about it at the time when western feminist Gloria Steinem appeared on the Larry King Show, upbraiding the Administration for its hypocrisy and urging them to include women in the reconstruction. (It was probably just before the segment where Pipes, Sullivan, Boot, Falwell et. al. were on bleeding for the women of Afghanistan, but alas I must've turned it off by that point.)

And who went so far as to travel to Europe to press for RAWA to be included in the talks? Well, that would be Americans in the Green Party. In the end, women were only allowed at the Bonn conference as observers. Not as participants. Only as observers.

So please, spare me the grave concern for the suffering of women you only bring up in the first place so you can take a cheap shot at someone else, someone whose efforts you know nothing about because you haven't taken the time to investigate. If you haven't heard about feminist efforts to support the women of the Middle East it's only because you haven't looked. It's not the kind of sexy story that's going to be breaking headline news, certainly nothing as glam as the breakup of Brad and Jen. But you're talking out of your ass, and while that's nothing new, it doesn't sound particularly comfortable, either.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Winner: 2004 Feminista Anti-Award

Yes, yours truly wins the 2004 Feminista Anti-Award for Best Middle Class Punk Rock Slummer. I would like to dedicate this award to the late Susan Sontag, for her inspirational cocktail of high and low culture that made it okay for a middle class princess such as myself to die her hair aubergine, steal cheap black eyeliner from Long's Drugs and profess to love every last word of Le Bateau Ivre when I actually don't speak a word of French.


Quote of the Day

"All of these people who fought this war to, among other reasons, demonstrate the invincibility of American power have managed to clearly demonstrate its limits. Odd, that." - Atrios


It's All in the Family

By now everyone in America who hasn't been high for the past two days must have heard about conservative African American pundit Armstrong Williams taking taxpayer money from BushCo. to push the "No Child Left Behind" agenda (you know, the one where they reduce a school's funding if the kids don't perform well on standardized tests, effectively forcing schools to increase their success ratios by kicking poor students out and shuffling them into GED programs? Yeah, that's the one.)

Well, it looks like Williams is not the first to profiteer from the NCLB legislation. Seems Bush's brother Neil runs a company called Ignite! that markets software to schools that helps prepare kids to take standardized tests so his Big Brother won't slash their budgets. Their website declares that they are happy to make their software "customized to state and local priorities." Florida Democrats found this particularly troubling, since Florida's test -- the FCAT -- is the pet project of Other Brother Jeb. "We think there's an appearance of impropriety here," said a Democratic spokesperson.

Forget, if you can, for a moment that teaching kids to parrot back a bunch of mindless propaganda hardly qualifies as "education," and focus on the fact that in this glorified shake-down scam, Neil Bush was asking $30 per child -- or $60 million per year -- from the State of Florida alone. It's corrupt and unconscionable and exactly what we've come to expect from Neil, who is sort of the "Fredo" of the Bush family. But his face always seems to reflect the true nature of the clan --  from his coke snorting third-world hooker tourism to his S&L bankrupting, his general all-around amorality is not only everywhere aparent but also consistently tied to that of his brothers.

(thanks to pamindurum on DKos)


Bitchfest in the Blogosphere

If you've looking for highly partisan, inflamed and extremely insightful coverage of the Armstrong Williams story (see above post for more details), I recommend reading Steve Gilliard and his "Fall of Sambo" series. Just for kicks, you can then turn the channel to the National Review and watch wingnut Jonah Goldberg label Gilliard a racist for calling Armstrong an "Uncle Tom" (he didn't), then flip back and hear Gilliard say that that "if Goldberg was as smart as an intern, he would have figured out from the language that I was black."

BTW, I was informed by my friend Peter (who will be guest-posting here one day soon) that I assumed too much in a previous post when I thought everyone would know who Jonah Goldberg's mother, Lucianne was. Lucianne Goldberg was the woman who coached Linda Tripp into setting up Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinski scandal, and who is also famous for saying something so disgusting about Chelsea Clinton that I won't even repeat it. But if you want to hear someone else say it, you can do so here.

Many thanks to Peter for the constructive feedback -- he also indicated that my old format was difficult to read, so I changed to a new one. Hope this one is easier on the eyes!

We live to please.