Tuesday, February 27, 2007

On the Gray Lady and the Tramp

Okay, so what is (oddly enough) worse than watching the White House press corps kiss the collective Bush administration ass for six years at a stretch?

Seeing Mary-Kate Olsen get a byline in the New York Times.

That's okay, really. Seriously, it's fine. Honestly. I'll just be over here, running my fingers through the still-burning embers of my journalism degree, weeping softly and trying to replace one pain with another.

Monday, February 26, 2007

On the evils of capitalism

Okay, so just a note to any advertisers considering any kind of unorthodox advertising or marketing campaign in Boston: Take your business elsewhere.
A clue in a Dr Pepper promotion suggested a coin that might be worth as much as $1 million was buried in the 347-year-old Granary Burying Ground, the final resting place of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and other historic figures.

After contestants showed up at the cemetery gates early Tuesday, the city closed it, concerned that it would be damaged by treasure hunters.

"It absolutely is disrespectful," Boston Parks Commissioner Toni Pollak told The Boston Globe. "It's an affront to the people who are buried there, our nation's ancestors."

British candy and soft drink maker Cadbury Schweppes PLC, which makes Dr Pepper, canceled the Boston portion of the 23-city coin hunt promotion on Thursday, acknowledging it had hidden the coin in the downtown graveyard that is visited by thousands of tourists a year. There hadn't been complaints from any other city.


Parks officials said the city might seek compensation for the police used to protect the site.

Now, I completely understand fears of grave desecration. I've stepped in gum in an Austrian cemetary, and it came from one of a group of chunky, matching-neon-yellow-t-shirt-wearing, be-fanny-packed American tourists. People have no respect, and it sucks, and it ruins it for the rest of us.

But the phrase "There hadn't been complaints from any other city" call to mind the Great Mooninite Invasion of 2007. Just a hint, Boston city government: If you're flipping your shit over an ad campaign, and New York City is sitting back filing its collective nails, maybe you're investing a little more energy into your wig-out-ittude than is absolutely necessary. Sit back, take a breather, pop a Fanta, and then put that "defending Beantown from the evil advertisers" money toward making a nice park for the kids. Or give flowers to Paul Revere, or something. It's all going to be okay.

On taking the unpopular stance

Okay, so I'm a passionate progressive liberal, proud to be one, and supportive of others like me. But never let it be said that I can't appreciate a Republican when he stands up on his hind legs and does the right thing. I'd like to both tip my hat and raise a glass of nonalcoholic sparkling cider to Wyoming state representative Dan Zwonitzer, who argued passionately against a bill that would ban recognition of legal same-sex unions in Wyoming:
Thank you Mr. Speaker and Members of the Committee.

I am not going to speak of specifics regarding this bill, but rather talk about history and philosophy in regards to this issue.

It is an exciting time to be in the legislature while this issue is being debated. I believe this is the Civil Rights struggle of my generation.

Being a student of history, as many of you are, and going back through history, most of history has been driven by the struggle of man against government to endow him with more rights, privileges and liberties to be bestowed upon him.

In all of my high school courses, we only made it through history to World War 2. It wasn’t until college that I really learned of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. My American History professor was black, and we spent a week discussing civil rights. I watched video after video where people stood on the sidelines and yelled and threw things at black students walking into schools, I’ve read editorials and reports by both sides of the issue, and I would think, how could society feel this way, only 40 years ago.

Under a democracy the civil rights struggle continues today, where we have one segment of our society trying to restrict rights and privelges from another segment of our society. My parents raised me to know that this is wrong.

It is wrong for one segment of society to restrict rights and freedoms from another segment of society. I believe many of you have had this conversation with your children.

And children have listened, my generation, the twenty-somethings, and those younger than I understand this message of tolerance. And in 20 years, when they take the reigns of this government and all governments, society will see this issue overturned, and people will wonder why it took so long.

My kids and grandkids will ask me, why did it take so long? And I can say, hey, I was there, I discussed these issues, and I stood up for basic rights for all people.

I echo Representative Childers concerns, that testifying against this bill may cost me my seat. I have two of my precinct committee persons behind me today who are in favor of this bill, as I stand here opposed, and I understand that I may very well lose my election. It cost 4 moderate Republican Senators in Kansas their election last year for standing up on this same issue. But I tell myself that there are some issues that are greater than me, and I believe this is one of them. And if standing up for equal rights costs me my seat so be it. I will let history be my judge, and I can go back to my constituents and say I stood up for basic rights. I will tell my children that when this debate went on, I stood up for basic rights for people.

I can debate the specifics of this bill back and forth as everyone in this room can, but I won’t because the overall theme is fairness, and you know it. I hope you will all let history be your judge with this vote. You all know in your hearts where this issue is going, that it will come to pass in the next 30 years. For that, I ask you to vote no today on the bill. Thank you.

The bill never made it out of committee.

Rep. Zwonitzer reports that he has gotten some negative feedback, but that almost all of it has come from the "deep red" portions of Wyoming outside of his district. I hope that his fears of losing the next election will prove unfounded; not only do we need more people - conservative, liberal, whoever - like him in our legislatures, I hate to think of anyone being punished for doing what even many Democratic legislators are failing to do of late: standing up and defending the rights of a persecuted group when it's a particularly unpopular tack.

Feel free to shoot the man an e-mail and let him know what an incredible and (sadly) unusual thing he's done. As soon as I know how to contribute to his re-election campaign, that's where I'm sending my pennies.

Friday, February 23, 2007

On Britney Spears: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so you're an innocent, defenseless toddler. You're being raised by a series of nannies and by two young, stupid, unproductive, societally noncontributive, Cheeto-scarfing parents. And the responsible one is Kevin Federline.

Poor, poor Sean Preston and Jayden James.

Please, Britney, go back to rehab. If it helps any, you'll get this nice, shiny, Not-Even-Random Ten, because if anybody deserves 30 days of therapeutic attention, it's you - and if anybody deserves a court-appointed guardian, it's your poor kids.

The Ten:

1. Jimmy Buffett, "Why Don't We Get Drunk"
2. Aerosmith, "Crazy"
3. Kahr, "Naked"
4. Alana Davis, "Crazy"
5. Dixie Chicks, "Voice Inside My Head"
6. Leann Rimes, "Crazy"
7. Kay Starr, "I Love Paris"
8. Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"
9. Shirley Bassey, "The Party's Over"
10. Britney Spears, "(You Drive Me) Crazy"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

On a simple and heartfelt request

Okay, so I'm going to go a little bit meta here, just for a minute, and address a problem I've been tracking in comments for a couple of months. I think my feelings on the subject can best be summed up thusly:

Don't be a douche, y'all.

I'll expound. Some amount of good-natured back-and-forth is to be expected on a political blog. Sometimes, ill-natured back-and-forth can be expected; politics, after all, tends to be polarizing, and people tend to be passionate about their polarized political viewpoints. And that's not a bad thing. Passionate debate is what keeps things interesting around here.

Immature and imbecilic slap-fighting, however, is not interesting in the least. It is, in fact, very, very, very very veryvery boring. And when a reasoned debate devolves into "Well, my facts are right, and yours are completely wrong" and "No, my facts are right, and yours are wrong, and you're a poop-head for believing such wrong facts," and further devolves into, "Well, you're just a stupid LIEberal!" and "Well, you're a Repukelican and you smell bad!" and "HAHAHA you can't spell!" and "You never answered my question you must be stupid LOL!!!11!!!one!" it gets so very boring so very quickly that I can't even stand it a little bit.

So please, please try to keep it civil. And if you absolutely can't keep it civil, at least try to keep it vaguely intelligent. You know who I'm talking about - and if you think I'm not talking about you, think again, because you're probably exactly who I'm talking about.

For the two-years-and-change that I've had this blog going, I've never once banned a commenter, because I'm all about the free flow of ideas (even - nay, especially - the ones I disagree with). And I still don't intend to ban anyone for expressing ideas with which I disagree or ideas that make me uncomfortable or angry. I will, however, overcome my distaste for banning if commenters persist in making me bored. Please don't let it come to that. Let's all be grownups.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On les bon temps

Okay, so Ash Wednesday is tomorrow (and I'll be giving up booze for Lent, so everyone brace), which makes today Mardis Gras. I personally will be celebrating this with the traditional overindulgence in food, alcohol, and general merriment that precedes the 40-day Festival of Nada that is Lent, and down in New Orleans, folks are doing the same, even if the post-Katrina celebrations don't quite match the pre-Katrina ones.

Back when I was living in Atlanta and writing about clothes, I interviewed a woman who made her living creating fantastic masks and accessories for Mardi Gras, Halloween, and all of the multitudinous holidays that require costumes and glorious excess in New Orleans. Rosemary Kimble escaped to Atlanta before Katrina hit, but her studio and much of her work were damaged by the storm. At the time, she had plans to return to New Orleans for Carnival - her livelihood, after all, depended on revelers buying her work, and Atlanta doesn't have a huge market for peacock-feather masks and fairy wings - but she wasn't sure what she'd do after that. She loved New Orleans, and it was her home, but she didn't feel safe there. She didn't trust the levees, didn't trust FEMA to do what it had promised to do, just didn't feel welcome in a town that was more open to drunk frat boys on Bourbon Street than it was to native New Orleanians trying to start over.

Rosemary has returned to New Orleans for Carnival this year, and anyone hanging around Jackson Square Friday night might have seen her marshalling her Krewe du Faye parade. But the future remains up in the air as the real New Orleans - the non-touristy areas, the areas where people live and work and try to rebuild their homes and their lives - tries to rebuild, forgotten by the people and agencies and administrations that promised to help.

On a similar note, new Pandagonian Roxanne brings us a video from a ridiculously precocious ten-year-old blogger named Kalypso who lives in the city proper and documented the first Mardi Gras after Katrina as well as her own family's struggle to rebuild.

Her father also expressed his frustrations on his own blog.

The whole point of Mardi Gras is that it's supposed to be a period of unrestrained revelry in preparation for a period of self-deprivation, but I think there's no harm in taking a few minutes out of our heavy partying schedule to remember that, seventeen months later, there are still people desperately in need of help - and to recognize that New Orleans is home to lots of people who deserve a home, and not just some city that deserves to be abandoned because fixing it is too hard.

Monday, February 19, 2007

On serving those who serve

Okay, so I know I've been taken to task for ignoring all of the great news that's coming out of Iraq, and gosh-golly-gee, I fully intend to get on that right away, but there are a couple of other things I wanted to get to first:
Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These are the parts of Walter Reed the public doesn't get to see. President Bush's photo ops all take place in shiny, modern Ward 57. During his last visit, Bush said, "We owe them all we can give them. Not only for when they're in harm's way, but when they come home to help them adjust if they have wounds, or help them adjust after their time in service."

We're doing a great job.

Building 18, the building that the politicians never visit, is where most of the psych patients are sent because, apparently, nothing says "peace of mind" like cockroaches, rats, black mold, and traffic noise, and nothing says "we heart our troops" like dumping them, drugged, disoriented, and frequently suffering from brain injuries, to find their way around the 113-acre campus without help. Because the horrors of getting blown up in Iraq weren't traumatic enough.

And this is yet another direct result of Bush's stupid, poorly planned, poorly conceived war. Walter Reed - and VA hospitals across the country - is overburdened, underfunded, and taxed by a constant influx of serious injuries from a war that was supposed to be a cakewalk. It was supposed to last a matter of weeks, shock and awe, candy and flowers. Now the hospitals don't know what to do with the 23,000 troops it has to take care of - 96 percent of whom were injured after "Mission Accomplished."

And what's worse, Bush proposes to balance the budget on the backs of our troops by further cutting health care in 2009 and 2010. That means that as the number of injured veterans - soldiers and Marines coming home from the Iraq war - rises five percent a year, the VA will have nearly $40 billion less to care for them each of the next two years.

It's a fine and patriotic thing to wave flags and slap yellow "I support our troops" ribbons on the backs of our Tahoes, but it's another thing entirely to actually have to care for those troops or even look at them when they come back home all busted up:
Perks and stardom do not come to every amputee. Sgt. David Thomas, a gunner with the Tennessee National Guard, spent his first three months at Walter Reed with no decent clothes; medics in Samarra had cut off his uniform. Heavily drugged, missing one leg and suffering from traumatic brain injury, David, 42, was finally told by a physical therapist to go to the Red Cross office, where he was given a T-shirt and sweat pants. He was awarded a Purple Heart but had no underwear.

David tangled with Walter Reed's image machine when he wanted to attend a ceremony for a fellow amputee, a Mexican national who was being granted U.S. citizenship by President Bush. A case worker quizzed him about what he would wear. It was summer, so David said shorts. The case manager said the media would be there and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row.

" 'Are you telling me that I can't go to the ceremony 'cause I'm an amputee?' " David recalled asking. "She said, 'No, I'm saying you need to wear pants.' "

David told the case worker, "I'm not ashamed of what I did, and y'all shouldn't be neither." When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it.

We tuck them away in squalor, lose track of them, forget about them entirely - and then we screw them out of their disability benefits:
A pale scar creates a deep furrow connecting Van Antwerp’s eyebrows. Doctors replaced bone with titanium after he fractured his skull. Bare-chested as he trimmed, Van Antwerp has a deep, laddered line from beneath his sternum to at least the top of his sweatpants. A blast ruptured his spleen and ripped out his colon. Pushing up his left pant leg as he told his battle story, Van Antwerp showed where three ligaments tore away from his knee, and then pointed out the scar from his broken tibia.

Above his heart, the ranks and last names of two dead friends are etched in ink. But he calls a friend to ask their first names. Short-term memory loss arrived for Van Antwerp in the same attack that killed his buddies.

In Bayji, Iraq, a suicide bomber drove a vehicle beside the truck Van Antwerp drove for the 101st Airborne Division and set off an improvised explosive device, killing Pfc. Alex Gaunky and Spc. Vernon Widner on Nov. 17, 2005. Van Antwerp said he believes in one of the Army’s oft-repeated mottoes: “No soldier left behind.”

He will always carry his friends with him.

Yet when it was time for the Army to take care of him, one of its wounded warriors, Van Antwerp gave up before he even began. Rather than fight for a higher disability rating, he quietly signed for 20 percent — and no medical benefits — saying he knew he couldn’t do better. He inherited his father’s stubbornness, he said, and refused to ask anyone to pull strings based on his dad’s rank. Then his first medical board counselor, the person who would help him make his way through the medical evaluation board system, left. The second, he said, “wasn’t on the ball.”

“The Army is trying to give you the lowest amount of money possible,” he said. “A lot of people are appealing, but I’ll be going to [the Department of Veterans Affairs]. I want to go home.”

A 30 percent disability rating would have gotten him a disability retirement check based on time in service, rank, and rating. Less than 30 percent means that he goes home with a one-time check and the thanks of the Army for his sacrifices.

So there you have it. There's the news out of Iraq. There's "supporting our troops." There's what they give to us, and what we give back to them. There's the flag-waving, patriotic glory of fighting for our freedoms in the Global War on Terra. There's what this guy has to look forward to if, God forbid, he should be injured.

But don't worry. If that makes you sacrifice your peace of mind, I'll hunt down some happyganda to make it all better.

Donate to the Wounded Warrior Project.

On a new look

Okay, so everyone has been wondering what's up since Britney got skinny, filed for divorce, got chunky again, started hanging out with Paris Hilton, started flashing her girly bits to the press, got dumped by Paris Hilton, passed out in bars, traded clothes with strippers, and has since ducked in and back out of rehab and then shaved her head and got tattoos.

Some might characterize this as exhaustion, nervous breakdown, or even rebellion against the management team that has been controlling her life since she was a kid. I think the answer is much simpler.

She's tired of people wondering whether the drapes match the carpet.

Friday, February 16, 2007

On the NCAA Rules Committee: This Is Your Soundtrack

Football: Now with 25 percent more football!

Okay, so courtesy of Doug, the NCAA has wisely rid itself of those stupid-ass new rules designed to shorten games not by reducing the number of freaking commercials, because God forbid we should lose precious advertising revenue, but by reducing the amount of time actually spent playing the game. And that's about as vehemently self-righteous as I'm going to get, because I'm actually giving them ups for this clever move; enjoy a thorough breakdown of the proposed new rules and a really disturbing picture of some European cyclists at Every Day Should Be Saturday.

Anyway, that's why this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten goes out to the NCAA Rules Committee for actually doing something that makes the game more enjoyable. I'll gladly extend the honor to any institution that does the same by, say, making season tickets available to the public without requiring a certain donation level first, eh, UGA?

The Ten:

1. Mr. Scruff, "Get a Move On"
2. 311, "Freeze Time"
3. Queen, "Don't Stop Me Now"
4. Arlington Priest, "Time Marches On"
5. Q-Tip, "Breathe and Stop"
6. Psychadelic Furs, "I'll Stop the World"
7. Enya, "Only Time"
8. Howie Day, "Slow Down"
9. Big Audio Dynamite, "Rush"
10. Coldplay, "Clocks"

Thursday, February 15, 2007

On the probable suspected IEDs from the Iranian government someone

Okay, so the big question ever since Bush's sabre-rattling speech outlining his "plan," if you will, for Iraq has been if/when the US is going to invade Iran, and whether it's an "if" or a "when" that we're really dealing with. You'd think that, with troops currently very involved in Iraq and a previous war still unfinished in Afghanistan, we'd be reluctant to go for the trifecta, but you can't always count on logic in these situations.

What can you count on? A blinding desire to drop the bomb on the next person to look at Bush sideways. A review of what we're dealing with:

December 4, 2006: Bush meets with Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iran, and applauds him for his "strong position against the murder of innocent life."

February 2, 2007: A planned White House briefing on Iran is repeatedly delayed because, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says, it was “overstated” and not “focused on the facts" and the intelligence community had insisted on repeated "scrubbing."

February 11, 2007: US military officials say that armor-piercing explosives provided to Iraqi militias associated with Muqtada al Sadr and Abdul-Aziz "Strong Position Against the Murder of Innocent Life" al-Hakim had been sanctioned by the "highest levels" of the Iranian government (Ahmadinejad denies it categorically).

February 12, 2007: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace indicates that, while it's clear that Iranian materials were involved, there is no evidence showing that top Iranian officials had any knowledge of it.

February 14, 2007: Bush is certain that the weapons can be connected to the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, "a vital part of the Iranian government."

February 15, 2007: Now that they think about it, the White House thinks that an "anonymous intelligence briefer" might have gone "a little too far" in assertions and that the highest levels of the Iranian government were behind the weapons.

February 15, 2007 (later): Defense Secretary Robert Gates points out that the Iranian IEDs weren't actually all that big of a deal to begin with.

February 16, 2007 (projected): Tony Snow briefs the White House press corps: "Um, look! It's a unicorn!"

"Oh, sorry, I guess it was just a regular horse."

(Couldn't have done it without Talking Points Memo, Think Progress, or Political Animal.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

On being a dick for a day

Okay, so tomorrow (for all you guys who never pay attention to these things and always get caught short) is Valentine's Day, on which I will be, once again, single. And honestly? Not crying too hard about that, because I need another white teddy bear (or tiger, or monkey, or bunny) holding a satin heart that says "Be My Valentine" like I need a month in Gitmo. Getting chocolate for free is never a bad thing, though, as long as it isn't cheap crap...

Anyway, if you were paying attention this time last year, you may remember my campaign for Be A Dick Day:
My problem (and it's not just my problem) with Valentine's Day is that it perpetuates the myth that people only have to be thoughtful and romantic one day a year. Guys make reservations (or fail to) at swanky restaurants and buy (or forget to) chocolates and sparkly things, girls buy cuddly pink stuffed animals and red boxer shorts with hearts on them and then give them to guys, and the next day, she's not bothering to shave her legs and he's laughing hysterically because he thinks a "Dutch oven" is an appropriate sign of affection for a 25-year-old. What's the point of a 24-hour romance-a-palooza if you're going to be a crappy partner the other 21,855 hours of the year?

My proposal - and one seconded by Holly and Mary and Georgia and just about any other woman you ask, if she'll be honest - is to scotch the entire Valentines experience and replace it with Be A Dick Day. You heard me. Every February 14th from now on should be celebrated with some of the lousiest, most obnoxious, most relationship-negative behavior imaginable. Men? This is where the aforementioned Dutch oven comes into play. Ladies? If you've got a stack of DVDs starring men far hotter than he is, today's the day to watch them. Table manners, and pants, should go right out the window. On the off chance that you do go out for a meal, both of you need to forget your wallet.

The tradeoff, though, involves not Being A Dick the other 364 days. That means Being Considerate. She doesn't like to touch the icky food on the plate? You load the dishwasher. He loaded the dishwasher for you? You unload it. Buy her underwear based on what she'd wear rather than what you'd like to see. Rent a movie that he's been wanting to watch - and then don't talk through it. If you know she's worried about her weight, take her to a restaurant that offers healthy menu options. If you know he's worried about his hairline, find him a nickname that doesn't include the word "Baldy-bear."

Now, hopefully, you've copied that post to your desktop for review every morning to remind you of the crucial differences between Being Considerate and Being A Dick. And if you've been doing that, you've likely been trying your best to Be Considerate for the past year. And if you've been doing that, tomorrow is your big day. Single as I am, I've tried my best to Be Considerate to my friends, coworkers, and loved ones, and so I have no intention of giving any heed to etiquette, diplomacy, romance, or basic consideration whatsoever tomorrow - I've earned it. If you've been Being A Dick to everyone else all year, though, you might want to stick with the traditional candy and flowers.

And anyone still interested in the traditional V-Day route will probably want reminding that I like alstroemeria, I prefer dark chocolate, and that both can be Delta DASHed out to Birmingham for maximum freshness.

February 14, 2007: Be A Dick Day. Mark your calendar.

Monday, February 12, 2007

On things that never really hit home

Okay, so Bush was recently asked, in an interview with Jim Lehrer, about the sacrifices Americans were being asked to make on the homefront. His response (my emphasis):
BUSH: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we’ve got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.

And there you have it. Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice because we feel kind of sad every time we watch the news. We're "somewhat down." We sacrifice peace of mind. And that's without mentioning all of the shopping that we're expected to do to bolster the nation's economy.

In World War II, the war effort was a nationwide thing. The War Production Board actually influenced fashion in the 1940s - vests and cuffed pants went out of style for men, and the shorter, narrower pencil skirt was created for women, to conserve fabric for uniforms and other necessities. Nylon was needed for the war, so women took to wearing leg makeup and drawing seams up the backs of their legs to imitate the appearance of stockings. Gasoline, coffee, sugar, and meat were all rationed. Posters urged Americans at home to buy war bonds, conserve food and fuel and scrap metal, and even avoid vacation days and sick days from work. Women moved into the industrialized workplace to cover the jobs left by men going to war. Baseball was put on hold.

Now, we shop. We feel sad when we watch the news. We drive our SUVs. We sit safely behind our computers with a lapful of Cheetos writing heroic prose about our president and blindly praising the war effort. We don't go to war ourselves - some people are good for war, but our efforts are much more valuable as pro-war propagandists safe at home - and the most important thiing of all is that the war never touches our lives. If our lifestyles change in the slightest, the terrorists have won.

Conserve. Buy war bonds. Save gas. "Materials wasted means lives wasted." "Our men out there need our help." Somehow, "Gas up your Hummer or Hitler has won" never made it into the pantheon of World War II-era Americana. But Americans today seem to be making a concerted effort to remain as removed from and unaffected by the current war as they possibly can.

And that's what makes it so easy to conceive of a war without an end. That's why an open-ended commitment in Iraq, with no timeline, no real objective, no consequences for unmet goals, is still acceptable to nearly a third of Americans - because none of that touches us. Yes, some families - too many families - lose loved ones, and too many soldier and Marines come home with wounds you can see and wounds you can't, but the rest of us remain untouched. Our lives are no different while we're at war than they were before the war started. We blame the media for exposing us to the unpleasant realities of war instead of running constant feel-good propaganda. Because if we're inconvenienced by anything more than "being down" when we watch the news, the terrorists have won.

Patriotism, supporting our troops, loving America, has to become more significant than slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on your Tahoe and heading off to Wal-Mart to feed the economy. Our men and women in the Middle East cannot and must not be the only ones making any sacrifices so that we can live peaceful, undisturbed lives at home. Don't Humvees and personnel carriers in Iraq use just as much fuel as Jeeps did in World War II? Aren't our troops tooling around Baghdad with insufficient armor on their bodies and their trucks? Aren't injuried soldiers and Marines coming home to shoddy aftercare and poor medical benefits?

Just remember: While we, as a nation, are entirely capable of doing something to help, making some real sacrifice to change all that, it's vastly more important that our comfortable, easy lives remain unruffled - or else the terrorists have won.

Friday, February 09, 2007

On good news

Okay, so a friend of mine sent this to me with a comment about the media ignoring good news coming out of Iraq. Now, she and I don't always (or, okay, usually. Oh, hell, ever) agree on matters of politics, but we do agree that this is something that could do to be spread around.

The story is sad, but the picture is sweet, and it's a good representation of the good we were supposed to be doing when we invaded in the first place.

God bless 'em all.

On Friday Random Ten

Okay, so two things:

1. Once and for all, pickle, what is "butticide"?

2. This is pretty cool:

(Thanks, Ampersand.)

And the Ten:

1. Kay Starr, "All By Myself"
2. Banx De France, "Sex In A Machine"
3. D'Angelo, "Brown Sugar"
4. Jump, Little Children, "Made It Fine"
5. Gabin, "Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap"
6. The Farm, "Groovy Train"
7. Dixie Chicks, "Everybody Knows"
8. Bing Crosby, "Would You Like to Swing on a Star"
9. Tchaikovsky, "Pas d'action - Adagio" (from The Sleeping Beauty)
10. Frank Sinatra, "I've Got a Crush On You"

Taken all together, they mean... I don't even know. Your Ten, your existentialist interpretation of my Ten, your suggested definition for "butticide," all go in comments.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

On something slightly more serious than losing your wallet

Okay, so Fightin' Joe Lieberman has recently suggested that American citizens be assessed a war tax to offset the cost of the war which he helped start without our freaking permission and which he continues to champion despite the fact that seventy freaking percent of Americans are against it.

If the government is so strapped for cash in this time of war, they might want to try tracking down the 363 tons of American currency they shipped to Iraq in 2004 and promptly lost:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said on Tuesday.


Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

In all, a total of $8.8 billion (that's billion, with a b) is unaccounted for after being given to the Iraqis.

But that's not important now. What's important right now is... well... something else, anyway.
Republicans argued that Bremer and the CPA staff did the best they could under the circumstances and accused Democrats of trying to score political points over the increasingly unpopular Iraq war.

"We are in a war against terrorists, to have a blame meeting isn't, in my opinion, constructive," said Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican.

But what does $8.8 billion mean in real dollars?

- It could restore Bush's proposed funding cuts for Homeland Security 17 times.
- It could restore Bush's proposed cut in preventive health services to prevent obesity and other chronic conditions 88 times.
- It could buy 36,800 lawyers for Bush to defend himself against legal challenges from Gitmo detainees who have been wrongful held.
- It could restore 11 percent of Bush's proposed Medicare and Medicaid cuts over the next five years.
- It could restore Bush's proposed funding cuts to the Children's Health Insurance Program 39 times, his proposed cuts to Head Start 88 times, his proposed cuts to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program 22 times, or his proposed cut in funding for housing for low-income seniors 51 times.

So while a "blame meeting" might not be the most constructive activity in the world, a meeting to discover where the hell 726,000 pounds of American currency might have buggered off to could be, in fact, rather productive indeed.

Ladies and gentlemen, your United States government.

On a fitting tribute

Okay, so there's a movement afoot in the Georgia General Assembly to honor former governor Zell Miller for all of his hard work and lunacy with a monument on the grounds of the Capitol.

Might I suggest:

(H/T No More Mister Nice Blog.)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

On Journalism 1102 and the Nancy Pelosi Affair

Okay, so I mentioned yesterday that Dan Froomkin's rules for the press ought to be the very baseline of responsible journalism within the profession, and reality has been kind enough to provide us with a case study.
Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.

Anyone who's read the Washington Times lately knows that Nancy Pelosi has demanded that the Air Force provide her and her entourage with a plane to jaunt around on personal errands, a privilege that no other House Speaker has even enjoyed.

Anyone who's been watching CNN knows the same.

Anyone who reads the Washington Post might get a different story:
Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the speaker, who is next in line for the presidency after the vice president, has been given use of a government plane for security reasons. Hastert (R-Ill.), who had flown commercially before the attacks, was the first to have use of a plane. But the one he traveled in was too small to make it to California without refueling.

Yesterday, the House sergeant-at-arms issued a statement saying that the leadership is awaiting word from the Air Force on the rules for using the plane. It is unclear, for example, who can travel with Pelosi and whether she can return home from a political event on the taxpayer-funded plane.

Pelosi's office requested the guidelines, triggering a story in the Washington Times in which sources questioned whether she was asking for more than the former speaker received.

Now, considering that former Speaker Dennis Hastert used his own Air Force-provided plane like a rented Volvo for visits home just about every weekend, and considering that it was the House Sergeant at Arms who suggested that a plane might be available in the first place, and considering that it's actually the Air Force that suggested Pelosi might be safer in a plane large enough to travel all the way to California without stopping to refuel, you'd thiink that this might be less of a story.

But that would assume that the journalists in question (and with Lou Dobbs, of course, the word is used guardedly) are interested in checking facts, demanding proof, and double-checking the proof. Much easier to just believe that Comrade Nancy Pelosi wants to take 42 of her closest friends on a shopping trip with an Air Force chauffeur. The truth just doesn't make for eye-grabbing headlines.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On Journalism 1101

Okay, so I’m not the biggest fan of the news media and haven’t been for quite some time. I can’t watch press gaggles for the lack of pertinent followup questions and the obedient – nay, enthusiastic – consumption of government crap. They push the idea that dissent is treason, that to call Tony Snow or even Dubya himself on a load of what is obviously pure bovine excrement is somehow un-American, that the truth will endanger our troops far more than everything the administration is currently doing to them. Not to mention the constant and inexplicable fellating of such figures as Joe Lieberman and John McCain as the Next Big Ones among statesmen and the advancement of patently false rumors like “Hillary’s campaign leaks that Barack Obama is a Muslim! OOGABOOGA!

That’s why it was downright pleasant to see Dan Froomkin (and thanks to Glenn Greenwald for the nudge) actually put down in writing what the press can do to – What is it called again? What are we looking for? Do their job. Froomkin puts down in writing all the ways the press can do their job and honor their responsibility to act as more than government mouthpieces with helmet-hair.

The whole thing is really worth a read, but here are a few of my favorite highlights:
How the press can prevent another Iraq

Ooh, good start.
Don’t assume anything administration officials tell you is true. In fact, you are probably better off assuming anything they tell you is a lie.

February 1, 2007:
WSJ: Was there a moment in the war when you said we have to make a major change in the way we’re doing things in Iraq?
GWB: Yes, there was.
WSJ: When was that?
GWB: September/October.
October 25, 2006:
QUESTION: Are we winning?
BUSH: Absolutely we’re winning. … We’re winning and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done. And the crucial battle, right now, is Iraq.
Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it should be make the headlines. The absence of supporting evidence for their assertion -- or a preponderance of evidence that contradicts the assertion -- may be more newsworthy than the assertion itself.

January 25, 2007:
In an interview, Pelosi also said she was puzzled by what she considered the president's minimalist explanation for his confidence in the new surge of 21,500 U.S. troops that he has presented as the crux of a new "way forward" for U.S. forces in Iraq.

"He's tried this two times — it's failed twice," the California Democrat said. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.' "

Asked if the president had elaborated, she added that he simply said, " 'I told them that they had to.' That was the end of it. That's the way it is."
Demand to know what happens if the war (or tactical strike) doesn’t go as planned?

February 4, 2007:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And in fact, your resolution lays out benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. But critics of it say there are no consequences spelled out if they don’t meet these goals. There’s no teeth.

MCCAIN: Well, the consequences are obvious. I mean, if they’re not meeting those benchmarks, then obviously the new strategy isn’t succeeding. And I can’t tell you what the other options are, because there are no good options to this. If there was a good option to what we’re doing, to sending more young Americans in harm’s way, I’d tell you. They’re all bad options, in my view, if this one isn’t supported and succeeds
Demand to know what happens if it does? What happens after “victory”?

Keep an eye on how advocates of war frame the arguments. Don’t buy into those frames unless you think they’re fair.

Keep a particular eye out for the no-lose construction. For example: If we can’t find evidence of WMD, that proves Saddam is hiding them.

January 29, 2007:
MR. SNOW: ... But, more importantly, you've got ask yourself, what do you really want. If you want American forces out of Iraq, probably the best way to do that is to support the President and support the combatant commanders in doing what they say they need. We have seen already, in the wake of the President's announcing a new way forward, a shift in the way people are behaving in Iraq. We have seen -- apparently some terror groups are making their ways out of Baghdad. … It is important to realize that withdrawal from Iraq without success means that the President would be handing his successor failure. And failure could have dire consequences.
Give voice to the skeptics; don’t marginalize and mock them.

Listen to and quote the people who got it right last time: The intelligence officials, state department officials, war-college instructors and many others who predicted the problem we are now facing, but who were largely ignored.

February 3, 2007:
In a letter to the Sunday Times newspaper, the three former officers urged President Bush to open talks, “without preconditions,” with the Iranian government in a bid to find a diplomatic solution.

The signatories were retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, a senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington, D.C.; retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, former head of U.S. Central Command; and Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan, former director of the Center for Defense Information.

The officers said an attack “would have disastrous consequences for security in the region, coalition forces in Iraq and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions.”

“The current crisis must be resolved through diplomacy,” they said.
Historically, the real motives for wars have often not been the public motives. Try to report on the motivations of the key advocates for war.

Don’t assume that the administration is being forthright about its motives.

I think it’s excellent. I think this is the sort of thing you e-mail to members of the White House press corps who are all to enthusiastic to swallow obvious lies, or to Fox News anchors who… say things on the air. To Chris Matthews. To Tucker Carlson. To Bill Kristol. To Joe Klein. It’s the sort of thing you print out and frame and mail to all of your reporter friends and maybe even to your local paper if their accuracy and journalistic integrity isn’t what it should be.

And if you’re a reporter, particularly one in Washington, it’s the sort of thing you should print out and staple gun to your own forehead. Or get it scarred onto the inside of your wrist like Lindsey Lohan. Or stick it onto the back of the guy who sits in front of you in the newsroom. Because you people are starting to suck, and I don’t like it. Stop sucking.

Friday, February 02, 2007

On the Mooninite sympathizers: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so of course the entire country is atwitter about the inevitable invasion of the Mooninites. The signs are all there; it's just a matter of time. But I, for one, welcome our Mooninite overlords, and that's why this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to Ignignokt and Err, whom I'm sure will be merciful to their loyalists when the invasion comes.

It's also, incidentally, a Not-Even-Random Ten that's guaranteed to get me on government terror watchlists, if I'm not already.

The Ten:

1. Coldplay, "Sparks"
2. Pet Shop Boys, "Left to My Own Devices"
3. Basement Jaxx, "Red Alert"
4. P.O.D., "Boom"
5. Saliva, "Click Click Boom"
6. Public Enemy, "Louder Than a Bomb"
7. Tom Jones, "Sexbomb"
8. Outkast, "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)"
9. Nickel Creek, "House of Tom Bombadil"
10. Lo Fidelity Allstars, "Will I Get Out of Jail"

Your Ten go in comments.

On the Mooninite invasion

Okay, so Boston was rocked Wednesday by nearly 40 suspicious devices made of lights and circuitry that were "consistent with an improvised explosive device." Specifically, and IED that looked like this:

After a $750,000 anti-terror effort consisting of several attempts at detonating them and/or shooting them with water cannons to deactivate them, the objects were declared "hoax devices" by city government officials. The perpetrators of the hoax were quickly exposed: two freelance artists supposedly working for Turner Broadcasting in a guerilla marketing campaign to promote the show Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Although TBS claims that this was an innocent event, and although the devices appeared in nine other citites (including New York) without the slightest stir, and although the devices themselves turned out to be nothing more than great big Lite Brites with magnets on them, I think we all know what's really going on here.

It's a Mooninite dry run.

After all, just look at the video threat left later by the terrorists in question:

It's obvious that we're at risk for a far greater threat than anyone realizes. After all, two actual fake pipe bombs were also found that day, and the individual thought responsible for them hasn't even been charged. But the two heartless criminals responsible for the Mooninite "hoax" are being charged with placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct, and Mayor Thomas Menino has suggested prison sentences of two to five years for each of them. Why Guantanamo Bay wasn't mentioned, I don't know.

But this underscores the responsibility of each and every American citizen to smother this Mooninite scourge in its cradle. I have no doubt that President Bush is massing a committee to seek out the Mooninite homeland, wherever it is, and bomb it back to the stone age.

Mooninite delenda est.

Update: The Mooninite sympathizers respond.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On another great loss

Okay, so Molly Ivins died yesterday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

I don't even know what to say, except that she was one of the no-shit-takingest women ever to put pen to paper and that the world is a less awesome place for her loss.

I have this vision of her sitting up in heaven with Ann Richards, talking politics, bemoaning the state of affairs down on earth and starting stuff that St. Peter and the gang will have to clean up later. The 2008 presidential campaign certainly won't be the same without her.

A commenter at Pandagon brought up this Ivins classic:
So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.

Nothin’ But Good Times Ahead, pp. 254-5.

Possibly too long for a grave marker; just long enough to clip and carry around in your wallet. We have a big responsibility now; one person can't possibly fill her shoes, and it'll take the entire world working together to uphold her legacy of telling it like it is, afflicting the comfortable, barbecuing sacred cows, and being completely unashamed of it all. The world is less one awesomely uppity woman, and it'll take ten - at least - to make up the difference.

And now, I'll just add mine to the chorus:

Aw, shit.