Friday, February 10, 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Newsweek has a great piece on the domestic wiretapping controversy, but it attacks it from a different angle than you don't normally see in the press.

Michael Hirsh sums it up this way:

The legal controversy over the NSA surveillance program has obscured an intelligence issue that is at least as important to the nation’s future: sheer competence. Do we have any idea what we’re doing? One reason the NSA is listening in on so many domestic conversations fruitlessly—few of the thousands of tips panned out, according to The Washington Post—is that the agency barely has a clue as to who, or what, it is supposed to be monitoring.

As much as it irks me that the President arbitrarily decided to bypass established law, there is no question we need to gather intelligence on potential terrorists. The right-wing insists on framing the debate in a false light, terrorist-hunters versus terrorist-sympathizers, so the issue of how best to gather this intelligence isn't even part of the public side of the debate.

Once again, politics trumps everything else.

On Jimmy Carter

I talked to Uncle Jim on the phone yesterday and he suggested I discuss the theatrics of Jimmy Carter at Coretta Scott King's funeral. My band doesn't normally take requests, but I figured I'd throw my two cents in the ring, if only to incite Uncle Jim's reliably colorful commentary.

Unlike a lot of people out there, I'm not offended by the politicizing at King's funeral. Carter and the others were playing to the house, which cheered loudly in approval. In life, King was a political activist so it seems wholly appropriate to me that her funeral would be used to make a political statement. If you think about it, the attendance of four living presidents at the funeral of a beloved civil rights icon is a political statement in and of itself.

As for Jimmy Carter himself, it's really hard to be outraged by anything he does. He's known more for Habitat for Humanity now than his political activism. He was a crappy president whose term ended over twenty five years ago. He has no prominent place in the Democratic party, nor is there a liberal faction devoted to Carterism, quite a contrast from the Republicans, many of whom still worship Reagan and his policies.

In other words, Jimmy Carter is a joke. Does it really matter what he says if no one is listening?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Michael Moore Hates America

I watched a movie called Michael Moore Hates America last night, “a documentary that tells the truth about a great nation,” as the tagline says.  I was curious to see if it was a right-wing hatchet job or if it was a decent piece of work, and I’m happy to report that it’s the latter.

Michael Wilson, the guy who made it, does not hate America.  His movie doesn’t even really hate Michael Moore.  It discusses his tricky editing and his ego, but doesn’t address any of his ideas.  Wilson talks to some of the people who appeared in Bowling For Columbine or Fahrenheit 9/11 who didn’t like their portrayal, but the movie is really about ethics in documentary-making, not politics.

Since that’s it’s only real weakness, I have to say I thought it was a good movie.  Michael Wilson is likeable to the point of being smarmy.  His take on America is positive and, in parts, even heartwarming, like the scene of the guys playing street hockey on Pennsylvania Avenue right in front of the White House.  How awesome is this country that you can play street hockey on Pennsylvania Avenue?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tell About the Rabbits, George

I work with this guy…let’s just call him Lenny…that I really really really don’t like.  First, some cheap shots:  

The dude is almost seven foot tall, probably at least 300 pounds, but he’s not intimidating.  He’s intimidated.  He says he never played basketball.  He doesn’t drive.  (One time I asked him why and he says he falls asleep.  I wanted to ask what innocent motorist he killed in the process of learning this inconvenient fact, but didn’t really want to know.)  

Lenny has all the social skills of the class nerd.  One time he came to a company Christmas party, hovered around for five minutes, and when no one talked to him, he disappeared.  Back then, I kinda liked him, even felt sorry for him.  Now I scorn him.

A co-worker told me about another party Lenny went to.  Somehow this one involved a hot tub.  Now hot tubbing with Lenny is one of those things that is in the brochure but not on your itinerary when you go on vacation.  You don’t really want to do it, but it’s available if you want.  I guess Lenny forgot his bathing suit and so he had to strip down to his underwear, which according to the reports were of the bikini variety.  The witnesses, of course, are now scarred for life.  

His cat pisses on his clothes and he doesn’t even realize that he reeks.  And let me tell you, cat piss is one of the world’s worst odors.  The only thing that’s worse is probably rotting meat or shit. Lenny’s sweat comes close, but after being assaulted by the cat piss your olfactory glands are too damaged to sense it.

He gives himself his own haircuts and he always misses a spot.  Allegedly he’s some kind of computer guru, but I wouldn’t trust him with a calculator.

He even thought the DaVinci Code was good.

I can go on, but what’s the point?  Suffice it to say that this is the type of guy you don't want to hang around with.  If you counted him among your friends, you would be apt to re-evaluate your station in life.  

But he’s not my friend, he’s my co-worker, and my largest complaints are not about his hygiene or social graces, such as they are.  

This guy just sucks at what he does!  Granted, my job is not difficult.  It’s stressful, but it’s very process oriented, almost mechanical.  I work for the phone company for Christ’s sake.  It’s not brain surgery.

So you would think that any reasonably competent person would be able to do it, provided of course they know a minimum amount of telecom.  

You would think.  

But not Lenny.  He’s slow, he’s lazy, he’s petty.  He’s absolutely useless.

Stealing from the Daily Kos

I've quoted this DarkSyde person before, but a post over at Daily Kos caught my eye. He/She/It pretty much touches on what I said yesterday in one of my comments to my beloved Uncle. Jimbo, this one's for you, man.

We are a nation conceived in crises, forged under the looming threat of imminent destruction, by Constitutional Craftsmen who put their heads on the chopping block for a piece of paper. Since our fiery red, white, and blue birth, we have been recast many times in that same unforgiving furnace of burning hostility and unending global warfare; Redcoats; Napoleon; the Blue and the Gray; Mustard Gas; Kamikaze; Duck & Cover; Chosen Reservoir; JFK; My Lai; Apocalypse Now; Oklahoma City; Mutual Assured Destruction.

It's scary stuff, made all the more frightening because it really happened. But we survived and freedom spread.

In the Revolutionary War the world's greatest superpower landed large forces on American shores and marched into battle against a poorly trained collection of farmers and tradesmiths armed with muskets. After being beaten, at great cost to ourselves in both blood and treasure, the same nation did it again in the War of 1812; this time they succeeded in capturing Washington, DC., and burned much of it to the ground. Yet freedom spread.

In World War One, German forces attacked allied lines with poison gas killing thousands, some soldiers and civilians died quickly, some took years to succumb. But freedom spread.

In World War Two, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan, attacked the free world and communist states alike. In the Pacific, Pearl Harbor was decimated, and hundreds of suicide bombers in explosive laden planes gleefully smashed their human guided missiles into military and civilian targets for years. In Europe, the death camps opened, millions of Jews and other minorities were turned into slave labor to run the gas chambers and ovens, or to manufacture the weapons of war; and they were arguably lucky ones. That conflicted ended with the US and our allies victorious. And freedom spread.

Thus began the Cold War. The USSR and the US building ever more sophisticated methods of incinerating one another. Within just a few decades, each side could utterly destroy their opponent and much of the civilized world with the push of a button. But we prevailed, and freedom spread.

In that bloody light of conflicts past and won, as a son of parents who grew up in a Depression and the ensuing World War, and as a child of the Cold War, let me make this crystal clear: If you think you're going to scare me or my nation into reversing two hundred years of history, becoming a Police State, and subjecting ourselves to a tyrannical Overlord in the form of the President of the United States, then you damn well better come up with a significantly greater threat than that posed by a handful of religious maniacs armed with explosive belts and boxcutters.

Yeah, that's what I meant.

Monday, February 06, 2006

This Ain't Plastic Surgery, Baby

So the face transplant lady. What's her deal?

You couldn't make a story like this up.

She's depressed. She ODs, passes out, bam, cold on the floor. Her dog, who apparently doesn't love her, eats her face.

She doesn't realize this until she awakens and tries to smoke a cigarette. She goes to the mirror and realizes for the first time, "Holy shit, my face is gone!"

And her dog's over there licking his lips.

Then she becomes a candidate for the first face transplant ever. Lucky her. Six months later some chick kills herself. And just as it seems that a self-sustaining market in faces is developing in the suicide demographic, this lady, this depressive suicide-attempt with no face, get dibs on the dead girl's face.

The surgery is a success. She ain't pretty, but she does have a face.

And the first thing she does? Light up.

After seven months with no face, I guess you really do need a cigarette. Never mind that your body may reject your new face at any time or that you can barely move your lips.

You have a face. You're famous. You can smoke. Life is good.

25th Hour

So I was watching the 25th Hour the other day. It's a good flick, one of Spike Lee's best. I'm a big fan of Spike. The man has style. Not all of his movies are good, but this one is.

Anyway, there's a great monologue that's almost poetic in the way it dissects modern American life, and in the context of the movie, responsbility for one's own actions. Here's the audio, and in case you feel like reading along, here's the transcript:

Fuck me? Fuck you! Fuck you and this whole city and everyone in it.
Fuck the panhandlers, grubbing for money, and smiling at me behind my back.
Fuck squeegee men dirtying up the clean windshield of my car. Get a fucking job!
Fuck the Sikhs and the Pakistanis bombing down the avenues in decrepit cabs, curry steaming out their pores and stinking up my day. Terrorists in fucking training. Slow the fuck down!
Fuck the Chelsea boys with their waxed chests and pumped up biceps. Going down on each other in my parks and on my piers, jingling their dicks on my Channel 35.
Fuck the Korean grocers with their pyramids of overpriced fruit and their tulips and roses wrapped in plastic. Ten years in the country, still no speaky English?
Fuck the Russians in Brighton Beach. Mobster thugs sitting in cafés, sipping tea in little glasses, sugar cubes between their teeth. Wheelin' and dealin' and schemin'. Go back where you fucking came from!
Fuck the black-hatted Chassidim, strolling up and down 47th street in their dirty gabardine with their dandruff. Selling South African apartheid diamonds!
Fuck the Wall Street brokers. Self-styled masters of the universe. Michael Douglas, Gordon Gecko wannabe mother fuckers, figuring out new ways to rob hard working people blind. Send those Enron assholes to jail for fucking life! You think Bush and Cheney didn't know about that shit? Give me a fucking break! Tyco! Imclone! Adelphia! Worldcom!
Fuck the Puerto Ricans. 20 to a car, swelling up the welfare rolls, worst fuckin' parade in the city. And don't even get me started on the Dom-in-i-cans, because they make the Puerto Ricans look good.
Fuck the Bensonhurst Italians with their pomaded hair, their nylon warm-up suits, and their St. Anthony medallions. Swinging their, Jason Giambi, Louisville slugger, baseball bats, trying to audition for the Sopranos.
Fuck the Upper East Side wives with their Hermés scarves and their fifty-dollar Balducci artichokes. Overfed faces getting pulled and lifted and stretched, all taut and shiny. You're not fooling anybody, sweetheart!
Fuck the uptown brothers. They never pass the ball, they don't want to play defense, they take fives steps on every lay-up to the hoop. And then they want to turn around and blame everything on the white man. Slavery ended one hundred and thirty seven years ago. Move the fuck on!
Fuck the corrupt cops with their anus violating plungers and their 41 shots, standing behind a blue wall of silence. You betray our trust!
Fuck the priests who put their hands down some innocent child's pants. Fuck the church that protects them, delivering us into evil. And while you're at it, fuck JC! He got off easy! A day on the cross, a weekend in hell, and all the hallelujahs of the legioned angels for eternity! Try seven years in fuckin Otisville, Jay!
Fuck Osama Bin Laden, Alqueda, and backward-ass, cave-dwelling, fundamentalist assholes everywhere. On the names of innocent thousands murdered, I pray you spend the rest of eternity with your seventy-two whores roasting in a jet-fueled fire in hell. You towel headed camel jockeys can kiss my royal, Irish ass!
Fuck Jacob Elinski, whining malcontent.
Fuck Francis Xavier Slaughtery, my best friend, judging me while he stares at my girlfriend's ass.
Fuck Naturel Rivera. I gave her my trust and she stabbed me in the back. Sold me up the river. Fucking bitch.
Fuck my father with his endless grief, standing behind that bar. Sipping on club soda, selling whiskey to firemen and cheering the Bronx Bombers.
Fuck this whole city and everyone in it. From the row houses of Astoria to the penthouses on Park Avenue. From the projects in the Bronx to the lofts in Soho. From the tenements in Alphabet City to the brownstones in Park slope to the split levels in Staten Island. Let an earthquake crumble it. Let the fires rage. Let it burn to fuckin ash then let the waters rise and submerge this whole, rat-infested place.
Monty: No. No, fuck you, Montgomery Brogan. You had it all and then you threw it away, you dumb fuck!

Pretty potent stuff!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Flash Fiction Friday

justacoolcat had this cool thing on his blog and I decided to try it myself. Here's my entry:

Night falls over the Land of OZ.

There are ten thousand stories in the Emerald City, this is one. The other nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine are more interesting, but Monty Brogan only knows this one, his life.

His life, such as it is, is spent on D block, in Kentsworth Federal Prison, upstate New York. It’s called the Emerald City because the walls are painted the soothing green of construction equipment but the name is new.

Some new guy came in for a two stretch and after a months he said to someone, “Man, this place reminds me of Oz. You know, that TV show.”

And someone else said, “Shit, bitch, this ain’t Oz, motherfucker. This here is the Emerald City.”

The name stuck.

Monty hated it. Monty hated everything.

Most of the time, he sat in his cell, staring at the pictures he had taped to the walls, thinking about his life, thinking about nothing. His girlfriend on the outside, Naturelle, now had two children with some Puerto Rican cab driver from Brooklyn. His best friend Jake, a teacher, was dead, a suicide after being accused of sexual improprieties with a student. Another old friend, Frank Slaughtery, the man who had caused that rightward tilt to Monty’s nose, now ran his own investment banking firm and had a networth well over fifty mil.

Monty’s father was five miles away, sleeping soundly in some motel room in Kentsworth proper. He was a good old man, gentle, kind.

And Monty, he was reformed. His seven year bit for dealing coke was over tomorrow morning at seven AM and all of his criminal tendencies had been sweated out of him. They had leaked into the walls of the Emerald City, been absorbed by the thousands of other inmates. Now, Monty just wanted to go home. He wanted to pet his dog Doyle, wanted to hug his father, feel the sunlight on his face unfiltered by razorwire.

He was through with the Russians. He was through with their coke.

Tomorrow he would be a new man.


Can anyone guess which movie this was inspired by?

The Old Bait and Switch

In an October 3rd debate with Al Gore during the 2000 Presidential campaign, the following exchange occurred between (then) Governor George W. Bush and moderator, Jim Lehrer:

LEHRER: New question.

How would you go about, as president, deciding when it was in the national interest to use U.S. force? Generally.

BUSH: Well, if it's in our vital national interests. And that means whether or not our territory -- our territory is threatened, our people could be harmed, whether or not our alliances -- our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force.

Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear, whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be.

Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to win, whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped.

And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy.

I would take the use of force very seriously. I would be guarded in my approach. I don't think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very careful when we commit our troops.

The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation-building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.

Hmm, that's interesting, considering his actions in Iraq.

For one, it wasn't really in our nation's vital interests to invade Iraq. Oh it was in our interests, all right, but the "vital" part is debatable.

Secondly, was the mission in Iraq clear? Not really. First it was to decapitate the Baathist leadership, then it was the rooting out of terrorists, then it was to bring democracy to the middle east, then it was to train the Iraqi security apparatus, and now it's to prevent civil war. The mission in Iraq has been a lot of things, but "clear" hasn't been one of them.

Thirdly, it's been widely known that the military has had equipment problems. Everyone harps on the body armor issue, which is important, but what about little things like batteries for the comm equipment and lubricant for their weapons? (Evan Wright documents some of these snafus in Generation Kill.)

And finally, there is no exit strategy, unless of course the statement "When the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down" can be called a strategy. In fact, Bush is now trying to squelch all talk of an exit strategy as "defeatism." (Not sure if that's a real word, but it's sounds Bushian.)

So it seems that Candidate Bush's promises went unfulfilled once he became President Bush. This, my friends, is called the old bait and switch.

Why Are Republicans Still Loyal to George W. Bush?

I know a lot of Republicans. None of them are part of the GOP establishment. They are regular people, with jobs, bills, and (whether I like to admit it or not) principles. And some of them, many of them actually, still support this Republican president and the Republicans in Congress.

I find this mystifying. I've railed long and hard against Republicans on this blog, perhaps sometimes unfairly, but in many cases, deservedly so. The Republican party has been betraying it's principles for a while now, and while the Democrats have been doing the same thing, the GOP is, after all, the party that controls all three branches of government. If we must suffer hypocrites, I prefer they be powerless, like the Dems, rather than all-powerful, like the Repugs.

I've said it before, but it must be hard to be a Republican these days, a principled Republican, that is, one drawn to the party because of its ideas rather than its imagery. It's easy to declare yourself a Republican and then fall behind everything they say or do. Rush and Hannity does that, but then again, it's their job. They are paid to repeat right-wing talking points and if they suddenly developed principles, or an independent voice, they would have to find a new line of work.

But for average everyday republicans are different. Little-R republicans are normal citizens with a conservative bent who registered Republican on their voter-registration cards but have never bought a thousand dollar hotdog at a fundraiser. These guys already earn their livelihood elsewhere, most likely a non-political job, so they don't have an economic incentive to stick to every talking point passed down from the Party elders. They can afford to have principles. They can afford to disagree with their leaders.

And yet, why is it that so many don't?

For instance, if you're a Republican who supports limited government, how can you conceivably still support George W. Bush, who in his two administrations has reigned over a dramatic expansion of government bureaucracy and power? The Department of Homeland Security, the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, domestic spying, unlimited executive war-making powers, and out-of-control budget deficits. That's five "Big Government" examples right there, just off the top of my head.

How many more examples do small-R republicans need to jettison this crazy idea that George W Bush is a small-government conservative in the mold of Reagan? Recall it was Reagan who said, "Government isn't the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." The people of the Gulf Coast found that one out the hard way...

And if you're a small-R republican concerned about national security, it doesn't get much better. It was the Republicans who were more concerned with Monica Lewinsky than Osama Bin Laden during Clinton's term, before 9-11, before Tora Bora. When Bush came to office, his primary concern until September 10th had been his faith-based iniative, and once his priorities were exposed to be heinously out of whack the next day, he suddenly became this John Wayne/Charlie Bronson/Steve McQueen super-hero figure who (from now on, that is) was going to protect America from terrorism.

And yet, Bush's foreign policy has been a mixed bag, at best. Diplomatic relations with our allies have been strained by the cowboy arrogance of Bush and his diplomatic appointees. Korea and Iran, the two other points on Bush's self-declared "Axis of Evil," are closer to obtaining nukes than they ever were and are defiantly daring the United States and the international community to do something about it.

Iraq is a Pyrric victory. Saddam Hussein is gone, but Iraqis are worse off than they were before the invasion, with their country's infrastructure in tatters (including their precious oil industry), their security threatened on a daily basis by terrorist attacks, and the constant threat of ethnic civil war hanging over them like a black cloud. If they recover in a decade, it will be a miracle.

How is it that the man who presided over the biggest lapse in national security in our nation's history (9-11) can position himself as some kind of national security guru, the benevolent protector of all things American? Is it the transformative power of Jesus? Or is it a forgetful and naive public convinced by jingoistic slogans and parade ground theatrics? Bush's "war president" image plays great on TV, but like most everything else on TV, it's a carefully crafted illusion. If you remember, foreign policy-savvy President Bush was poorly informed Candidate Bush prior to his first election in 2000. (See my previous post for more on Candidate Bush.)

For the libertarians in the GOP, it must be disheartening to see the erosion of civil liberties under the Bush regime. Things like the right to privacy can't be taken for granted under the spotlight of the NSA's domestic spying operation and the Patriot Act. And now it seems that simply being suspected of terrorist ties can erase all of your Constitutional rights, even if you are an American citizen.

Fiscal conservatives don't fare much better. Like the poor, they, too, are being betrayed by Bush's incessant spending and tax-cutting. Billions in surpluses have, over the last five years, turned into billions in deficits and Bush will be long gone when the bill comes due. (Remember this guy has signed every single piece of legislation that has come across his desk, no matter how big or small, good idea or bad.)

And what about the "law and order" republicans, who don't seem to mind that the President's political machine is where old shysters and crooks go to die? Let's see, the former GOP House leader is under indictment, so is the VP's top adviser. Vote-whore Duke Cunningham and super-lobbyist/admitted felon Jack Abramoff are already going to jail. The President, in his infinite wisdom, admitted to breaking the 1978 FISA law, but justifies it by claiming the law doesn't apply to him. What more does it take to convince their "law and order" loyalists that the Republicans in Washington today have a blatant disregard for following the letter of the law?

I suppose the only groups being served by President Bush's unique brand on conservativism are the Religious Right and the free-market faithful. Both groups are what we would politely call "faith-based," in the sense that they both believe in a benevolent supernatural force. The Christians call theirs God and the free-marketers call theirs "The Invisible Hand." These beliefs, on their own, are no more dangerous than belief in the Easter Bunny or UFO abductions, but when they are taken seriously and without question, bad things happen.

For the free-marketers, they seemingly like Bush's business friendly tone. They are quick to remind us that Bush is the first president with an MBA and they twitter with glee at all the CEO comparisions. But I hope that some of them are learning that a "free market" is not always free, and no-bid contracts, cronyism, and rampant fraud do not a free market make. Don't be fooled, Adam Smith fans. Bush is not a free-market guy. He's fine with farm subsidies and industry hand-outs, and he has no problem perpetuating the black market in narcotics by continuing to wage the war on drugs. (Speaking of black's a scary concept. If Roe V. Wade ever gets overturned, black market abortions will make a comeback...with a vengeance.)

As for the Christians, who knows what they are thinking? As a rule, they are comfortable with contradictions; it's an important aspect of their faith. (Just ask a Christian to explain how the concept of the Trinity somehow remains monotheistic.) You will see very sincere Christians in the "right-to-life" crowd vehemently oppose abortion, and yet they strongly support the death penalty. President Bush is their most glaring example of this comfortable contradiction. He effectively banned embryonic stem cell research out of "respect for life" and yet, as governor of Texas, he executed hundreds of real live multi-celled people who had actually experienced the phenomenon of birth. (They were guilty of crimes, though, so I guess that makes it alright.) A "culture of life" indeed.

Many of these Christians don't regard the Constitution as the highest law of the land, anyway. To them, that law is the Bible, and so when Bush promises to deliver federal money to churches despite the Non-Establishment clause in the Constitution, they cheer, because that's what Jesus would do. Never mind that it violates the spirit of the Bill of Rights. It practically channels the Holy Spirit!

These crackpots think that the United States government has an obligation (not yet enumerated in the Constitution) to protect the "traditional family." This means things like demonizing homosexuality and making sure kids aren't exposed to nudity or harsh language. They'll bitch and moan to keep the IRS out of their churches, but they see no problem with the FCC policing what goes into your living room through your TV. Like I said, consistency is not their forte.

And who are these right-wing Christians anyway? To hear them tell it, they're the majority of Americans. 90% of the American people, they like to say, believe in God, which I'll grant, but that doesn't neccesarily mean that they believe in "Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior." In fact, I'd venture to say that, as a segment of society as a whole, the religious right is actually quite small and any claim on the "majority" is absolutely false.

Most likely, many of these fundamentalists are regular church-goers, which allows a certain suspectibility to groupthink and indoctrination. It's no coincidence that Jim Jones launched his cult of death in a church or the religious schools in the Middle East spit out suicide bombers like Pez candies. Churches, either explicitly or implicitly, encourage conformity and faith, but discourage dissent and doubt. Unfortunately, the intellect relies on all of the above.

Perhaps it's safe to say that most of the rank and file in the fundamentalist religious right today has read more of the "Left Behind" series than the Bible, and when they want religious insight, instead of cracking the Good Book, they'll pick up some Norman Vincent Peale or Dr. James Dobson puke bucket and start drinking. It's the comic book-ization of religion, where Jesus becomes an action hero and faith some kind of super-power, but it's not religion. It's a pop culture niche, and we should stop pretending that it's anything but. These strange beliefs simply do not represent the majority of Americans.

And by extension, neither does the Bush White House or the GOP establishment. They have betrayed the "small government" conservatives, duped the national security hawks, marginalized the fiscally responsible, ignored the civil libertarians, and abandoned the commitment to law and order. But they have pandered to big business and the nutbags in the religious right.

So my question is, unless you're a billionaire or a regular church goer, why are Republicans still loyal to George W. Bush?

Useless as a Hubcap on a Tractor

Some spirited debate on the blog the last week. I kind of wanted to give politics a break for a while to blog about other stuff. I put up the first chapter of my mystery novel in progress and then I've been working on a music appreciation piece that could easily be a class in the undergraduate program at Rock University. It's working title, Comparative Sabbath.

Of course, like Silvio from the Sopranos says (or was it Michael from the Godfather), just when you think you're out, they pull you back in.

Today's latest: The illegal warrantless NSA-eavesdropping that President Bush insists is being limited to suspected terrorists and is a neccesary component of national security turns out to be...well, not so much.

The first graph has it all:
"Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use."

Yes, that's right, after intruding on the rights of thousands of Americans (not a few dozen, not hundreds, but thousands) with illegal wiretaps, "nearly all of them" (not "most" or "some" but "nearly all of them") resulted in absolutely nothing.

Neccesary? It's as useless as a hubcap on a tractor and about as neccesary.

Here's a choice nugget:
The Bush administration had incentive and capabilities for a new kind of espionage, but 23 years of law and White House policy stood in the way.

I think that sentence is funny. So is this one: "James Pearce had the incentive and the capability of stealing millions of dollars, but the law and his own morality stood in the way." I mean, why let a pesky thing like the law stand in the way of your own interests?

Here's another one:
A more fundamental problem, according to a high-ranking former official with firsthand knowledge, is that "the number of identifiable terrorist entities is decreasing."

Not sure what to think of that one. What does that mean? Does that mean the War on Terror is working and we're making a dent into these terrorist organizations? Or does that mean that our invasive "damn the law" techniques are driving them further underground? The former is good...the latter is what is commonly called "shooting yourself in the foot."

And is eavesdropping on phone calls a great way to track terrorists in the first place? Let's ask a former NSA analyist. Russell, anything to add?
"These people don't want to be on the phone too long," said Russell Tice, a former NSA analyst..."

Well, maybe not. Gee, Russ, now you tell us.

Another expert, James W. Pennebaker from the University of Texas, had this to say:
"Frankly, we'll probably be wrong 99 percent of the time," he said, "but 1 percent is far better than 1 in 100 million times if you were just guessing at random. And this is where the culture has to make some decisions."

What is there to debate, Mr. Pennebaker? Infringing civil liberties for a technique that works only 1% of the time is, to be kind, idiotic. It's the epitome of stupidity, the pinnacle of moronic thinking.

The eavesdropping does not work. Period. It creates more problems than it solves. It infringes on the rights of the innocent and does very little to capture the guilty. It's illegal, useless, and unneccesary. And that's all I have to say about that...for now.