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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Adventures in Bookland

If you're as resourceful as you are cheap, like me, you too can buy yourself a gaggle of books like this for less than $30 bucks. Granted, I got lucky by heading over to Books Unlimited's moving sale, where I snagged all those hardcovers for $4 a bag. (I bought 2 bags.)

I got the Louis Lamour and Zane Grey novels for fifty cents a piece at a thrift store. The dude behind me in line asked, "Why are you buying all those? You giving all those to a school or something?" I smiled and said, "Because they're cheap." The cashier offered her opinion. "He's going to sell them on Ebay. These young ones, they're smarter than us. They buy this stuff and get rich selling it on the internet."

She has a point, but my reasoning still stands. It was because they were cheap! Fifty cents a piece? The cost of a can of Pepsi? I couldn't pass that up. Someday maybe I'll read them, and if not, I'll sell them on the internet for a profit. These young ones, they're smart.

Some of the other books I got, though, I'm actually interested in reading right away. I've been trying to read Misquoting Jesus as well as a biography of Houdini called The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini, and while both have proven useful in putting me to sleep, neither has captured my undivided attention.

But Anonymous Rex, a private eye novel about a dinosaur private eye might. And if not, the book about the West Memphis Three should. Grendel by John Gardner might also give me something to chew on too.

More Politics - Bias Evident

Bill Kristol confirms something I've long suspected: The Republican leadership is more concerned with winning in the November elections than they are with winning the war in Iraq. Shepherd Smith rightly calls that horrifying, disgusting, repulsive.

Tammy Duckworth, a Democratic congressional candidate from Illinois, agrees. She says:
Instead of a plan or a strategy, we get shallow slogans like "Mission Accomplished" and "Stay the Course." Those slogans are calculated to win an election. But they won't help us accomplish our mission in Iraq.
Oh, did I mention, Duckworth is a disabled vet of the Iraq War? She lost her legs after her Black Hawk was shot down in a rocket attack.
"Well, I didn't cut and run, Mr. President. Like so many others, I proudly fought and sacrificed," Duckworth said. "My helicopter was shot down long after you proclaimed 'mission accomplished."
You can add Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to my list of reasons not to vote Republican. In response to Foley's flirtatious IMs with teenage Congressional pages, not only has Foley resigned in disgrace, but an investigation has been launched to preserve the page system.

Speaker Dennis Hastert was quoted as saying:
"We want to make sure that all our pages are safe and the page system is safe," Hastert said.
Safe from predatory hypocrites, no doubt.

In war news, Baghdad is locked down. Literally. On one hand, this means that the "we're going to fight them over there, so we don't fight them over here" strategy is working. The Green Zone is like a magnet for terrorists. It's almost like George Bush heard a voice that said, "If you build it, they will come."

On the other hand, though, I can't imagine millions of Iraqis holding up their purple fingers and saying, "Thank you, America! Thank you for making our backyards into your War on Terror battleground."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Preach on, Brother!

This Andrew Sullivan post resonated with me.

The best part:
My criticisms are on the basis of principles - limited government, secular politics, free speech, individual freedom, and competent, accountable war-making. The cynicism of the current Republican leadership and its acolytes on all these fronts is something I find repellent. Hence my passion. If it's too much, you're welcome to read someone else. But I have to write what I believe - or not write at all.

Random Friday Ten

Along with the Cat, Corey at American Idle, Dale, Chel, Giz, me, and others, here's my Random Friday Ten.

This is what you do: set your media player to random, list the ten songs it plays. It's so simple, and yet so fun.

1) Snowblind - System of a Down (Black Sabbath cover)
2) Searching With My Good Eye Closed - Soundgarden
3) Another Life - Rollins Band
4) Mama Tried - Merle Haggard
5) Down in a Hole - Alice in Chains
6) Becoming - Pantera
7) Death Blooms - Mudvayne
8) Bullet With a Name - Nonpoint (YES!!!)
9) Pocket Full of Fatcaps -Downset
10) Money - Pink Floyd

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Reasons Not to Vote Republican In November

1) Tom Delay
2) Duke Cunningham
3) Bob Ney
4) Jack Abramoff
5) Grover Norquist
6) Ralph Reed
7) George Allen
9) Harry Whittington
10) Claude Allen
11) Dick Armitage

And then the usual suspects:
Dick Cheney
Alberto Gonzalez
Donald Rumsfeld

And the man himself, George W. Bush

What more do you need?

Get Out!

What should America do now in Iraq? Let's ask the Iraqis:
A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.

In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to State Department polling results obtained by The Washington Post.
Reminds me of that old Eddie Murphy joke about the haunted house. It's also why I think we need to elect our first black president.

Blame Clinton, to be sung to the tune of South Park's Blame Canada

Uncle Jim sent me this to me on e-mail, and I include it here as an example of the right wing's attempts to throw the blame for 9-11 on Clinton's shoulders, especially in the wake of his interview with Foxnews hatchet-man Chris Wallace:
Bill Clinton's outburst on Fox News was something of a public service, launching a debate about the antiterror policies of his administration. This is important because every George W. Bush policy that arouses the ire of Democrats--the Patriot Act, extraordinary rendition, detention without trial, pre-emptive war [not to mention torture, warrantless wiretapping, and various other un-American activities...ed.]--is a departure from his predecessor. Where policies overlap--air attacks on infrastructure, secret presidential orders to kill terrorists, intelligence sharing with allies, freezing bank accounts, using police to arrest terror suspects--there is little friction. The question, then, is whether America should return to Mr. Clinton's policies or soldier on with Mr. Bush's.

It is vital that this debate be honest, but so far this has not been the case. Both Mr. Clinton's outrage at Chris Wallace's questioning and the ABC docudrama "The Path to 9/11" are attempts to polarize the nation's memory. While this divisiveness may be good for Mr. Clinton's reputation, it is ultimately unhealthy for the country. What we need, instead, is a cold-eyed look at what works against terrorists and what does not. The policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations ought to be put to the same iron test.

With that in mind, let us examine Mr. Clinton's war on terror. Some 38 days after he was sworn in, al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center.
[Actually, Omar Abdel-Rahman, the mastermind of the first WTC attacks, was the leader of an organization called Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, and Ramzi Yousef claimed membership in the "Liberation Army, Fifth Battalion." Al Qaeda no doubt celebrated the attacks, but that's a far cry from actually carrying them out. -ed.] He did not visit the twin towers that year, even though four days after the attack he was just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, talking about job training. He made no attempt to rally the public against terrorism. His only public speech on the bombing was a few paragraphs inserted into a radio address mostly devoted an economic stimulus package. Those stray paragraphs were limited to reassuring the public and thanking the rescuers, the kinds of things governors say after hurricanes. He did not even vow to bring the bombers to justice. Instead, he turned the first terrorist attack on American soil over to the FBI.

In his Fox interview, Mr. Clinton said "no one knew that al Qaeda existed" in October 1993, during the tragic events in Somalia. But his national security adviser, Tony Lake, told me that he first learned of bin Laden "sometime in 1993," when he was thought of as a terror financier. U.S. Army Capt. James Francis Yacone, a black hawk squadron commander in Somalia, later testified that radio intercepts of enemy mortar crews firing at Americans were in Arabic, not Somali, suggesting the work of bin Laden's agents (who spoke Arabic)
[or other Arabic speaking people -ed.], not warlord Farah Aideed's men (who did not). CIA and DIA reports also placed al Qaeda operatives in Somalia at the time.

By the end of Mr. Clinton's first year, al Qaeda had apparently attacked twice. The attacks would continue for every one of the Clinton years.

• In 1994, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who would later plan the 9/11 attacks) launched "Operation Bojinka" to down 11 U.S. planes simultaneously over the Pacific. A sharp-eyed Filipina police officer foiled the plot. The sole American response: increased law-enforcement cooperation with the Philippines.

• In 1995, al Qaeda detonated a 220-pound car bomb outside the Office of Program Manager in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing five Americans and wounding 60 more. The FBI was sent in.

• In 1996, al Qaeda bombed the barracks of American pilots patrolling the "no-fly zones" over Iraq, killing 19. Again, the FBI responded.

• In 1997, al Qaeda consolidated its position in Afghanistan and bin Laden repeatedly declared war on the U.S. In February, bin Laden told an Arab TV network: "If someone can kill an American soldier, it is better than wasting time on other matters." No response from the Clinton administration.

• In 1998, al Qaeda simultaneously bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224, including 12 U.S. diplomats. Mr. Clinton ordered cruise-missile strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan in response. Here Mr. Clinton's critics are wrong: The president was right to retaliate when America was attacked, irrespective of the Monica Lewinsky case.

Still, "Operation Infinite Reach" was weakened by Clintonian compromise. The State Department feared that Pakistan might spot the American missiles in its air space and misinterpret it as an Indian attack. So Mr. Clinton told Gen. Joe Ralston, vice chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, to notify Pakistan's army minutes before the Tomahawks passed over Pakistan. Given Pakistan's links to jihadis at the time, it is not surprising that bin Laden was tipped off, fleeing some 45 minutes before the missiles arrived.

• In 1999, the Clinton administration disrupted al Qaeda's Millennium plots, a series of bombings stretching from Amman to Los Angeles. This shining success was mostly the work of Richard Clarke, a NSC senior director who forced agencies to work together. But the Millennium approach was shortlived. Over Mr. Clarke's objections, policy reverted to the status quo.

• In January 2000, al Qaeda tried and failed to attack the U.S.S. The Sullivans off Yemen. (Their boat sank before they could reach their target.) But in October 2000, an al Qaeda bomb ripped a hole in the hull of the U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 sailors and wounding another 39. When Mr. Clarke presented a plan to launch a massive cruise missile strike on al Qaeda and Taliban facilities in Afghanistan, the Clinton cabinet voted against it. After the meeting, a State Department counterterrorism official, Michael Sheehan, sought out Mr. Clarke. Both told me that they were stunned. Mr. Sheehan asked Mr. Cla rke: "What's it going to take to get them to hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon?"

There is much more to Mr. Clinton's record -- how Predator drones, which spotted bin Laden three times in 1999 and 2000, were grounded by bureaucratic infighting; how a petty dispute with an Arizona senator stopped the CIA from hiring more Arabic translators. While it is easy to look back in hindsight and blame Bill Clinton, the full scale and nature of the terrorist threat was not widely appreciated until 9/11. Still: Bill Clinton did not fully grasp that he was at war. Nor did he intuit that war requires overcoming bureaucratic objections and a democracy's natural reluctance to use force. That is a hard lesson. But it is better to learn it from studying the Clinton years than reliving them.

Mr. Miniter, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, is author of "Disinformation: 22 Media Myths that Undermine the War on Terror"
(Regnery, 2005).
Regnery, you might recall, is the publishing house known for publishing the swiftboat book about John Kerry, not exactly a group of straight shooters, in other words.

But leave it to Giuliani to talk some sense in the heat of the Clinton-didn't-do-enough-to-stop-Osama debate.
"The idea of trying to cast blame on President Clinton is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don't think he deserves it," Giuliani said in response to a question after an appearance with fellow Republican Charlie Crist, who is running for governor. "I don't think President Bush deserves it. The people who deserve blame for Sept. 11, I think we should remind ourselves, are the terrorists — the Islamic fanatics — who came here and killed us and want to come here again and do it."
What? It wasn't the Democrats??? That's not what my radio tells me...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Redneck

The other night when I was driving home from work I heard a song on the radio. It was unbelievably heavy, much heavier than what they usually play on the radio. I was shocked, I tell you! Shocked and a little exhilarated because we all know I love the heaviness.

At first I thought it may have been Lamb of God, admittedly a band that's an acquired taste, but then I thought it might be one of the local bands KBPI is trying to break. I saw a few of their videos and they seem to be of the Lamb of God school of metal, lots of screaming, blast beats, and fast percussive riffs. (And yet, the really bad ones still think in Limp Bizkit terms.)

But alas, my first impulse was the right one. It was Lamb of God's new song Redneck, and after snatching it off iTunes, let me tell you, it's a crusher. (I recommend watching the video. It's actually pretty funny.)

Have a listen here, and if it ain't your bag, remember what I said about an acquired taste. Me personally, I like Chris Adler's drumming. Not only does he lay down a beat that will snap your neck, but he creates this awesome backbeat by practically running on the kick drums.

As for the subject of the song, it's vague enough to be open to any number of interpretations. But based on the band's political persuasion, I think it's about Uncle Jim's golden boy Georgie.
So goddamn easy to write this
You make it spill on the page
So drunk on yourself, self-righteous
A laughing stock on your own fucking stage
Oh but I ain't going to call names
Or throw stones in a house of glass

Short Cuts

Holy shit, Blogger is working! Quick...post something before it goes back down.

TO is a drama queen.

In politics, the more you pay attention, it seems the less you know. William Arkin deconstructs some of the spin about the NIE story.

7-Eleven drops Venezuelan Citgo gas in favor of their own brand. Don't worry. The same quality employees will take the same fifteen minutes to ring up your coffee and donuts.

The Crocodile Hunter's death will not be broadcast on TV. In the coming months, look for it on Youtube instead.

Here's a name you've probably never heard: Momcilo Krajisnik. The UN tribunal still sorting through the Bosnian war found him guilty of
"murder, extermination, deportation, persecution and forced transfer of non-Serb civilians, but said it had not been proved that he intended to commit genocide."
Of course, he didn't commit genocide! Just murder, deportation, persecution, and forced transfer of non-Serb civilians!

And now...heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work I go.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Disclaimer

This blogging thing, it's tricky, man.

It can get you in trouble. I'm not talking police helicopters and twenty-five-to-life kind of trouble, but one minute you're mouthing off and next thing you know, someone's feelings are hurt.

You think because it's your blog, you can say what you want to. My blog has no real plan or method. It's just shooting words from the hip, sometimes about the news, or a movie I saw, or some record I'm digging, but other times I write about what's going on in my life, things I have reflected on, or things I don't like, even things that make me mad.

It's all part of the Process. The Process of Writing, which I happen to be particularly fond of, so should I be damned for speaking a piece of mind?

And if I do write something that makes someone back up and say, "Now waita minute, man," what can I do then? Erase the words? Apologize for my thoughts?

Though thoughts running through my head are one thing, and thoughts broadcast on the internet is another, I can't take back what I said with any sincerity, and I'm certainly not going to erase words already put to the page. That's history and history must be preserved.

But perhaps the best way really is the least candid. Perhaps instead of going pedal to the metal for it, laying it all out, I should remind myself to bite my tongue. Blood in my mouth is better than blood on the ground.

Monday, September 25, 2006

An Exercise in Screenwriting

Seeing as I bogged myself down with indecision on my Poets Row project, I decided to try something else for a bit, just for fun. So I hastily put together a little scene in screenplay format. The basic idea was to try something different, to flex my writing muscles. As for the content of this little scene, picture Goodfellas meets Deadwood. (It's a western that borrows liberally from Scorsese's famous Copacabana shot...and the main character is named after my Uncle Henry.) Enjoy...or not.


FADE IN:

INT. SOAPY SMITH’S SALOON – NIGHT

Camera tracks through the front door into a bustling den of Old West sin.

TITLE IN: DENVER, 18--

The PIANO PLAYER plays a raucous tune, as filthy COWBOYS and hardbitten MINERS pack the bar, drinking whiskey and beer out of steins. As the camera tracks into another part of the room, we see WHORES tending to GAMBLERS crowded around faro and craps tables.

We pause briefly to watch a trophy WHORE blow on the dice of a dapper GAMBLER with a pencil thin mustache and well-oiled hair. He tosses the dice across the table, and everyone bursts into CHEERS. Winners all around.

One GAMBLER wearing a floppy hat snatches his winnings, squares up the bills, and turns heel, tucking the cash in his breast pocket.

Camera follows him as he walks away from the gaming tables and up the stairs.


On the first landing, a COWBOY and WHORE are engaged in a flirty negotiation. The GAMBLER passes them with a smirk on his face and continues up the next flight of stairs.


At the top of the steps, a menacing GUNMAN is sitting in a chair, holding watch with a rifle in his lap and a six-gun on his hip. He stands up as the GAMBLER approaches.


The GAMBLER holds out his folding money, which the GUNMAN takes and counts.


GUNMAN

Third door on the left. Fifteen minutes.

The GAMBLER nods and we follow him down the hall. Before we get to the third door on the left, though, another door bursts open and a screaming crying WHORE runs out trailing her clothes, followed by a filthy COWBOY wearing nothing but his boots.


The GAMBLER moves out of the way, and the camera follows the WHORE as she runs behind the protection of the GUNMAN.


COWBOY

Now I was just kidding. I didn’t mean--

Before he takes another step, the GUNMAN shoots him with the rifle. The COWBOY falls, blood spurting out of a nasty wound in his head. The WHORE screams again at the site of the corpse.


Camera swings back to the GAMBLER, now splattered with blood, who stumbles backward, bouncing off the wall, horrified. He runs down the hall, just to get away.


Another door pops open and out peaks the head of HENRY BETZ, the star of the picture, an ex-military officer now traveling the west as a hired gun. He’s in Denver for a few days partaking of its baser pleasures.


INT. BEDROOM


HENRY ducks back into the room and closes the door behind him. The WHORE in the bed, holding the sheet up to her naked breast stares at him slackjawed.


Henry starts gathering up his clothes.


HENRY

Sorry, lady. I know I paid for another hour, but I think it’s time I get.

WHORE

What happened?

HENRY

I don’t know and I don’t wanna know. All I know is I’m leaving.

He puts on his boots and gives the WHORE a weak kiss on the cheek.


HENRY

Thanks. You were great.

INT. HALL


Henry emerges from his room to a mob scene in the hall, as onlookers surround the dead body. SOAPY SMITH scolds the GUNMAN for causing a scene, as other men pick up the dead man and carry him down the stairs.


His exit blocked, Henry goes the other way only to find a dead end, and the GAMBLER, huddled in the corner, near pissing himself.


HENRY

Ain’t getting out that way.

The GAMBLER wipes blood from his face, but doesn’t say anything.


HENRY

Don’t look like there’s a backdoor neither.

He tries the window and it opens easily. He looks down, a two-story jump.


HENRY

Whew. That’s quite a fall. You wanna go first?

Terrified, the GAMBLER just shakes his head.


HENRY

Suit yourself.

Henry nods politely to the GAMBLER, then hops out of the window.


EXT. ALLEY


Henry lands with a thud, but quickly gets up and dusts himself off. He puts on his shirt, and snaps into his suspenders, then starts walking towards the street, tucking everything in.


EXT. STREET


He emerges on the street and pats his head, looking up at the hat that’s not there. He left it in the whore’s room.


HENRY

Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeit.

He considers going back up for it, but then Soapy Smith and his thugs come out the front door with the corpse. They load it onto a waiting flat bed carriage and send it off into the night.


Henry stuffs his hands in his pockets and walks the other way.

I Don't Give a.....

Lil Jon gives new meaning to tearing up the club. For some reason, this video cracks me up every time I see it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On the Broncos

It's a good day for a receiver when you catch three receptions, score two touchdowns, and rack up a hundred thirty yards on the charts. Two out of three times you touch the ball, you scored. Your average yardage hovers around forty.

That day was had by Javon Walker.

It took a while for the offense to start clicking, but once it did, watch out. The defense remained, as 9News says, stout, which is good because they're my starting D on my fantasy football team.

Next week is a bye, so that means I'll have to start Miami. God help me.

On the News

At work tonight, while watching the Broncos hand the Patriots a hard-bitten loss, I also had a chance to read the transcript of Clinton's interview with Fox hack Chris Wallace. Think Progress has some video, although not the whole thing.

I think I'd punch Wallace as soon as he held up that little finger and said, "Let me...let me...May I please finish the question, sir?"

Bam, right in the kisser. Then I'd stand, towering over him, fist cocked like Muhamed Ali in the Liston fight, and say, "Not with that setup, bub." Bill Clinton handled it like a gentleman, of course, but that's why he was President and the only office I'll hold is the one from which I'm pecking out these words.

I've had enough of journalists and their posings. Whether it's Chris Wallace, trying to blame tersely worded "gotcha" questions on his viewers, or Anderson Cooper with his handheld, intense, working-hard-to-get-you-the-news stand-ups.

Just shut it off. You need TV news about as much as you need a washing machine in your car. Read the news, like they used to do in the olden days. Hear the words spoken through your inner voice, instead of the voice of some drama queen on TV. *

It's a subtle difference, uninfluenced by theme music or commercial breaks, and one I highly recommend as a safe alternative to the dredgery of cable news.




(* These comments don't apply to Lara Logan. In Lara I trust...and other words that end in ust.)