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Saturday, March 24, 2007

When the President Does it, it's Not Partisan

George Bush is a gangster.

His statement from Friday:
“By choosing to make a political statement and passing a bill they know will never become law, the Democrats in Congress have only delayed the delivery of the vital funds and resources our troops need,” Bush said. “The clock is running. The Secretary of Defense has warned that if Congress does not approve the emergency funding for our troops by April 15, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions — and so will their families.”
In other words, Fuck you, pay me.

Oh, you had a fire? Fuck you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning huh? Fuck you, pay me.

Someone should tell Bush that, constitutionally, Congress has the "power of the purse" and it's their, um, perogative how they will use it. Surely the man who sang "My Perogative" as he fired some US Attorneys should understand the concept of "perogative."

Or does he?

Reliable Sources

So I'm sitting here, watching a CNN story about how home prices have gone down and foreclosures have gone up, and it occurred to me. I'm being told this information by someone (the anchor) who is in no danger of ever foreclosing on her home.

Yes, being on TV can be quite lucrative.

A few weeks ago, Miles O'Brien (Soledad's co-anchor...and no relation) was doing a story about an airplane. Lucky for him, the airplane just happened to be the same make and model of his plane. I'll paraphrase: "As you can see in this picture --which incidentally is a picture of my plane-- blah blah blah."

Now if you can afford your own plane, you're not well-to-do. You're fucking wealthy.

So tell me, Miles, how can working families just barely over the poverty line protect themselves from predatory lenders again?

I Hope Kevin Drum is Right....Even Though I Know He's Wrong

I hope Kevin Drum is right about this:
Both of these trends (tax cuts and culture war politics) are only going to get worse for the GOP. As entitlement benefits grow, taxes are going to have to go up. Everyone knows there's no way around this, and insisting otherwise will increasingly mark you as a fringe crackpot. Likewise, as culture war issues slowly become the province of a dwindling band of senior citizens and dead-end homophobes, arguing about gays in the military will seem about as relevant as attacking the tin trust.

The GOP isn't dead, and Democratic victories in future years are hardly assured. But there's not much question that Republicans are going to have to find a new schtick. The combination of Grover Norquist and James Dobson had its day, but that day is fading fast. If they want to stay relevant, they're going to need some new ideas.
Like I said, I hope he's right...but I don't think he is.

The tax cut brigade won't give up as long as there's a tax code.

As for the culture wars, I don't think those will end any time soon either. The issues might change, but the culture will remain a battleground. If it's not the "culture of life" being shoved down our throat or gay-hating, it will be something else, maybe even something close to the heart of liberals, like explicit rock lyrics or violent video games. (Remember the PMRC? I'm sure you remember all the times Hillary Clinton decried Grand Theft Auto as proof of the decline of Western Civilization.)

But like I said, I hope Drum is right.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Random Friday Ten - Exhausted Edition

Seems I've been missing this the last couple of weeks. Fridays have been weird for me on this schedule. I have to force myself to sleep all day so I can stay up all night. It ain't pretty.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Here's the ten:
1) Clutch - Wicker
2) Hatebreed - Last Breath
3) Corrosion of Conformity - Mine are the Eyes of God
4) Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe
5) Alice in Chains - Queen of the Rodeo
6) Pantera - Planet Caravan
7) Talking Heads - Burning Down the House
8) Life of Agony - River Runs Red
9) the deftones - Kimdracula
10) Alice in Chains - Nutshell

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Comparative Metal: One

The metal version we all know and love, from the 1989 Grammys.

And then the classical version by Apocalyptica.
Metal Rulez!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Roots Bloody Roots

It's crazy how much Sepultura has influenced my consciousness over the past ten years. Not just their music, but their aesthetic.

They need to get the old band back together.

Among the Sausage Party

This video is kind of funny. Do you notice anything about the fans?

No girls.

Bill Kristol's Insignificant Blunder

Man, if you were to listen to Bill Kristol, you'd think the Iraq War is being fought against congressional Democrats, not Iraqi insurgents. In his latest 8-paragraph column for the Weekly Standard, Kristol devotes the first three to an analysis of the "surge," and the remaining five to trashing the Dems.

I knew I was in trouble when I saw the headline:
Surge's Success Going Unnoticed
Weekly Standard: Progress In Iraq Should Be Media's Focus, Not Insignificant Blunders
Wait....an insignificant blunder? Hmmm, I never thought a blunder could be insignificant. An Oops, maybe. A blunder, though, is a big deal. (The wiki seems to agree with me: "A blunder is a spectacularly bad decision or action, a mistake or error with detrimental consequences to the party that makes it. It is typically attributable to faulty perception: the result of not reading signs, or misinterpreting available information.")

But hey, that's just Kristol's headline. What about the story?

Kristol says:
Obviously, it's too early to say anything more definitive than that there are real signs of progress in Baghdad.
That's wonderful, Bill! Real signs of progress! So what are they?

I'll quote the same Weekly Standard writer that Kristol does next:
This "rolling surge" focuses forces on a handful of neighborhoods in Baghdad, and attempts to expand security out from those neighborhoods. . . . A big advantage of a "rolling surge" is that the population and the enemy sense the continuous pressure of ever-increasing forces. Iraqis have not seen such a prolonged and continuous planned increase of U.S. forces before....The continued, increasing presence of U.S. forces appears to be having an important psychological, as well as practical, effect on the enemy and the people of Iraq. . . . [Meanwhile] in Ramadi, in the belt south of Baghdad stretching from Yusifiyah to Salman Pak, and northeast in Diyala Province, . . . U.S. and Iraqi forces have deprived al Qaeda of the initiative.
Apparently you have to be a seer to see these signs, because I don't see shit there.

The continued, increasing presence of U.S. forces appears to be having an important psychological, as well as practical, effect??? How?

I'm sorry, but four years in our progress should be a little more than some immeasurable "psychological effect."

And how would Kristol explain this report?

Last week a general said of Shorja Market, a market that had been bombed last month, killing 137: "It feels like walking around in Istanbul. I invite you to go and look for yourselves!"

So these reporters did on Saturday.
The next day, Sunday, a man tossed a hand grenade into a group of waiting workmen at Shorja market. One man was killed, another wounded. The suspect escaped. We considered ourselves lucky we weren't there.

Then on Monday, someone left a bomb behind the preacher's podium in a small mosque situated among shops at the same market and set it off after the prayers, killing eight and injuring 32. It's as if the culprits want to destroy any signs of normality and stop any claims of success.

And for us, it’s becoming even more difficult to go out and document the signs of progress and normality the U.S. military say are out there.
It seems that kind of thing is going to have a "psychological effect," too, and not in a good way.

I know, Bill, I know. You really wanted this Iraq thing to work, but closing your eyes and wishing for it won't help the cause, buddy.

Take some time off, Bill. Go on vacation. You know, relax, sit by the pool, drink a few cocktails. Maybe take the wife and kids out for a day of shopping at Shopra Market. You could use the break.

Oh, and one more thing, Bill. You're right about the pork in the appropriations bill. That $24 billion for spinach farmers isn't needed. The Democrats really shouldn't be doing that kind of thing.

But they wouldn't have to if your Republicans loved the Constitution as much as they love their pork.

The Sticker on my Blog's Bumper

Dionne on Iraq

E. J. Dionne has a great column in the Washington Post reflecting on the anniversary of the Iraq War. He writes:
The country's determination to defeat terrorism has not slackened. Most Americans still believe the war in Afghanistan was a proper response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and wonder why it was left unfinished so the ideologues could go off in pursuit of Utopia on the Euphrates. The men and women who wear the nation's uniform have never been so popular.

But those who spent the past four years hyping threats, underestimating costs, ignoring rational warnings, painting unrealistic futures and savaging their opponents have been discredited. This awakening is the first step toward rebuilding our country's influence and power.
I agree with every word of that.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Daily Mindblower

Try and wrap your mind around this:
Scientists such as de Waal argue the research suggests that, much as people believe in the originality of their thoughts, a lot of human cognition probably takes place at an automatic level, guided by inborn tendencies.
That's huge.

Who is This?

Let's play a game. Who is this?

A) 2006 Car Salesman of the Year, shortly after receiving the award at the convention banquet?

B) Mayor of Modesto, California at the groundbreaking ceremony of a new runway at Harry Sham Field?

C) Disgraced former CEO arriving at his trial for 42 counts of insider trading?

D) Warner Bros studio executives celebrating the box office take of their hit film, 300?

300

So I've seen 300 twice now (thanks to my free movie card...one of the perks of the job) and I can tell you that all the pontificating about the political implications is as unfounded as it is silly.

Is George Bush really Xerxes or Leonidas? Are the Persians stand ins for the terrorists and the Spartans representative of the brave Americans, holding the Gates of Fire for freedom and democracy?

You want a definitive answer? NO.

300, believe it or not, is really about the Spartans and the Persians. And more than that, it's a Frank Miller story.

I'm a huge fan of Frank Miller's art and his writing style, but if I were to be truly honest with myself, Frank Miller has certain problems with building characters. They're never boring, of course, but they're never really genuine either. Somewhere along the line, his characters almost always hit a false note.

Important distinction: Genuine is different than "realistic." I just watched Hellboy the other night and there's no way Hellboy can be called a "realistic" character, but he is genuine. Frank Miller's characters, on the other hand, are little more than male fantasies.

Marv from Sin City apparently has a soft spot for vulnerable women, but then says about hit men: "No matter what you do to them, you don't feel bad." Hmmm, a part-time sociopath, huh? Well, if it works in the comics...

That idea fits into a nice moral box, (protect women, destroy hit men) but it betrays an ignorance of basic human psychology. Rarely do sociopaths feel empathy, even for hookers with hearts of gold, and rarely do moral men not suffer some guilt when they do horrible things, even for a good cause.

Leonidas of 300 also suffers from similar contradictions in his character. No doubt you've seen the commercial where Gerard Butler as Leonidas yells such emotionally charged phrases as "Spartans! Prepare for glory!" or "This...is...SPARTA!"

And yet at other times in the movie, he's portrayed as a highly disciplined stoic who shows no emotion. When his men celebrate their victories on the battlefield, Leonidas broods in silence at the periphery. As he prepares to leave his wife behind on the march to war, the emotional goodbyes are suppressed as a show of Spartan strength. This reserved quality in Leonidas isn't just some subtley woven into the story; it actually becomes a plot point.

And though both sides of Leonidas's personality are interesting, they are also contradictory, just like Marv. They exist only in the world of entertainment, in comic books and movies. A hardcore criminal would not be like Marv, and a Spartan warrior would not be like Miller's Leonidas. But that's how a nerdy artist would imagine them to be.

So if you're going to see 300 expecting some kind of commentary on current events, you won't find it. If you're looking for history, you won't find that either. If you're looking for realism, you went to the wrong movie.

But if you're looking for a highly stylized comic book vision of the battle for Thermopolae, 300 will deliver.

Liveblogging my Love For Soledad O'Brien

Yummy. Soledad...orange is your color, girl. Not feeling the shoes though. They might look good on a witch or a school marm, but on you? Not so much.

Ooh, say "Bong hits for Jesus" again. Sounds so sexy coming from you. That crooked little smile makes my knees weak.

Yeah, I want to know why New York City isn't plowing their streets either! What the hell, man? My baby doesn't need to be walking in those shoes through a bunch of snow and ice.

Stay with you while you cut to commercial? Don't worry...I'm not going anywhere.

Oh, I love this commercial. The one where the super-business traveler chick can't find her Blackberry because her co-workers stole it. I love how the guys give each other that look like "Yeeeaaaah, bitch. Then the Blackberry starts ringing... Cracks me up.

I agree with you, sweetheart, on that Mercedes car that looks like a fish. It's definitely NOT attractive, as you say. Glad to see you have the taste in cars that you lack in footwear.

Dude, Kyra Phillips is in Baghdad? Oooh, she's hotter in her foreign correspondent outfit than she is in her anchor clothes. So...who's holding up the afternoon anchor chair now? Arwa Damon?

Sorry, Sol, but I'm not listening to Bill Schnieder talk about the war in Iraq. I'm thinking about running my fingers through your hair, kissing your forehead, and listening to you purr.

Woah...according to new polls, 91% of Democrats and 24% of Republicans oppose the war. 91%?? That's not just a majority view, that's almost consensus!

So about that dog food recall? I'm glad I didn't switch my dogs to soft food like I was considering.

Jesus, another bomb in Iraq, 20 people dead in Kirkuk. A story like that brings up all kinds of irrational thoughts. The first and most significant one is, "I'm glad my brother's tour ended back in 04." To think...things were better in Iraq back then.

Alright, enough news dammit. CNN's American Morning needs something to lighten it up, maybe a song and dance number. Do you know the words to "Putting on the Ritz," Soledad? Cuz I've seen this story already and I'd rather watch you dance.

Yeah, I'm a pig and I'm going to hell, but dammit, if loving Soledad O'Brien is wrong, I don't wanna be right!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Where the Buffalo Roam

The Buffalo has been reintroduced to the Colorado plains to much fanfare. The University of Colorado's mascot is a Buffalo and up on Lookout Mountain, we have Buffalo Bill's corpse encased in concrete (so Wyoming won't steal it in the night), but until now there were no buffalo. Er, bison.

Of course, you can't really say they're being released into the "wild," as the Rocky Mountain Arsenal is little more than a massive fenced in Superfund site. I've gone on their wildlife tour before. Let's just say there's not much wildlife. We're talking about a "short-grass prairie" here, which is a bit of a misnomer because a "short-grass" prairie is more often called a steppe. There's not many trees. The flora is mostly grasses and semi-arid brush, the fauna mostly rodents and birds, small uninteresting creatures adapted to the harsh conditions and scarce food supply.

The buffalos should flourish, though, and it's not unthinkable that this baker's dozen may someday become a herd. The sad thing is that they won't have much room to roam. The Arsenal is pretty big, about 12,000 acres, but it's fenced in and mostly surrounded by an ever encroaching urban density. It would great if it remained a refuge forever, a kind of open air zoo, but we'll see if that happens.

Interestingly enough, on the same day as wild buffalo are introduced to the Colorado plains, there's a story about a domesticated buffalo going wild on the outskirts of a Colorado city. Owner Mike DeBell had a couple of bison he was fattening up for his dinner table and one of them, perhaps sensing its fate, bolted from its enclosure and started barreling through the streets of Lakewood. Police killed it instead of tranquilizing it, and it's unclear whether Mike DeBell was now going to eat it or if its carcass is going to become property of the state.

A parting thought: The Indians used to raise buffalo for food too, but their idea of "ranching" was a bit different than ours. They let the buffalo roam, and then they picked them off one by one, sometimes in great hunts. One might say that these hunts helped drive the buffalo to extinction. But then one must consider that the Indians maintained that tradition for thousands of years until...well, you know what happened.

More on Fox

Further anecdotal evidence of the rightward slant of Fox News, this from a dude who worked with Fox reporters in Iraq:
On more than one occasion, I worked with Fox News producers and reporters. Once, in Herat, I saw one of the Foxholes approached by a couple of soldiers. One of the soldiers said he was glad they could finally talk to a "conservative" reporter. The reporter laughed and said, "Someone's got to balance out the liberals." But, later, I ran into that same reporter in Bagram. He wanted an interview with some soldiers and, when I grabbed one at random to ask if he wanted to talk to Fox News, the soldier--an Army captain--said he didn't, because, as a Democrat, he wasn't a fan of the network's politics. The reporter, shaken up, said that was ridiculous. The network had no politics, but only told the truth. "Whatever," said the captain and walked off. The reporter, after a few beats narrowed his eyes at the soldier's back and quietly hissed, motherfucker.
Ha! So this Fox reporter admits his network has a conservative bias to "balance out the liberals" one minute, then the next says his network has no politics. Since these are two mutually exclusive concepts (you obviously can't slant right if you have "no" politics), only one of them can be true.

Unless Fox News has a secret identity like a super hero. To the world at large, they're "Fair and Balanced Network," but when the Bush Administration needs some help from the media, they turn into "Conservative News Man!"

I wish the Conservapedia was still around. I want to know what they say about Fox News.

The Wiki contains this little nugget, from one of the conservative pundits I revile the most, Jonah Goldberg:
Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Republican and conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg admitted his belief that Fox News was biased: "Look, I think liberals have reasonable gripes with Fox News. It does lean to the right, primarily in its opinion programming but also in its story selection (which is fine by me) and elsewhere. But it's worth remembering that Fox is less a bastion of ideological conservatism and more a populist, tabloidy network."
Goldberg sure has that last part right. I don't trust Fox News because of their oft-denied conservative bias. But I don't watch Fox News because it's tabloidy.

You know, conservatives like to paint CBSNews as a liberal network thanks to Dan Rather and memogate, but at least CBS has a solid journalistic tradition. They can look back and point to Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

And what does Fox News have as the progenitors of their grand journalistic tradition? Maury Povich and A Current Affair.