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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Farewell for Now Post 

I'm off to Europe for a week and a half, so I won't be posting (like you'll notice a difference). Anyway, here's a good post by Matt Y. on Tapped:
LEARNING TO LOSE. If I may add yet another reason to think the "no compromise" stance on Social Security is the right one, I think looking at the nuclear option fallout demonstrates once again that the Democratic Party needs to learn how to lose. Not how to lose elections (they're pretty good at that), but how to lose congressional votes. They need to come to grips with the fact that even though the whole party felt cheated by the 2000 election result, they really and truly lost the 2002 and 2004 elections. The Republicans have majorities everyone. If their party, united, really and truly wants to rewrite the rules of the Senate, stack the judiciary with nutballs, eliminate Social Security, invade Iran, or do whatever else it is they can come up with, well, then, it's going to happen.

The only genuine remedy Democrats have to this stuff is to try and win the elections in 2006 and 2008. They can't really do anything to force the Republicans not to do it. The only people who can block a maximalist agenda are Republicans, either those who adopt a posture of moderation out of principle, or those who do so out of electoral cowardice. Given the underlying power dynamics, giving the Republicans half a loaf today in no sense prevents them from asking for the other half tomorrow. It would be different if the Democrats controlled even one center of power and were genuinely in a position to block action and enforce the terms of deals, but they don't. All that compromises do is shift the policy status quo to the right, thus shifting what counts as a "moderate" position for vulnerable Republicans to take.

Think back to the 2001 tax cut. Moderate Republicans were unhappy with its size. So moderate Democrats joined with them to slightly pare it down and then vote the thing through Congress. Ostensibly, the Republican moderates thus got all the tax-cutting they wanted. But did that stop them from voting for tax cuts the next time around? No. It just led them to slightly pare down the size of the next cuts. Then Bush proposed a third round of tax cuts. And the moderate Republicans pared it down slightly once again. If they partially privatize Social Security in this Congress, the GOP hardliners will just push for more privatization in the next Congress.

The only way to really stop the tax-cutting binge, the only way to really save the judiciary, the only way to really save Social Security, the only way to really do anything is to win some elections. If you win elections you get power and then you can make deals. Until then, it's just a question of how much you lose on any given day and how you lose it.

Viewed in that light, compromises are counterproductive. They give vulnerable Republicans the cover they need to vote for measures of questionable popularity, and they make it harder to run against vulnerable members in '06 or '08. If the Republicans propose something that's worth supporting on the merits it would be wrong, of course, to opportunistically oppose it. But until they do (and I'm not holding my breath) the only thing to do is to vote "no," say why you're voting "no," and prepare to win some elections. The pressure needs to be on the moderate and vulnerable Republicans. Either they face down their own leadership in the caucus room, or else they face the music from the voters back home when they cave to the hard-right agenda.
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Abstinence Only 

I know it's a point we bring up often here, but I was watching 60 Minutes last Sunday and was reminded what a bad President George Bush is and what a bad job the Republicans are doing at running this country. There was a report on good old abstinence-only education - and it's terrible. The federal government is spending upwards of $100 million a year to fund programs that lie to kids. There is no other way of phrasing it. They lie about the effectiveness of condoms and birth control. They lie about the correlation between sex and depression. Furthermore, they are overtly religious.

The report focused on one such program - Silver Ring Thing - and oh shit is it weird. Basically, they somehow get kids to attend rock-concert like church services about sex. The kids then get an opportunity to put on a ring, and promise that they will not have sex (again, in some cases) until they are married. A minister talks about what Jesus would like us to do - and apparently, according to the Bush administration, this is OK as long as some non-religious programming is offered as well. (60 Minutes didn't show us the alternative - my guess is the production values weren't quite as good.)

You should read the 60 Minutes report, but the story on the web doesn't fully capture how fucking weird the Silver Ring Thing event was. At one point, a group of people on stage start screaming "SEX... IS... GREAT!" Later, the head cult leader/minister said something along the lines of "and one day, I want you take this ring off, and give it to your husband or wife, and tell them you've waited for them, and then tell them LET'S GET IT ON!" Then, I shit you not, porn-like music started playing.

Said cult leader/minister of the Silver Ring Thing also had this to say:
[If] my own daughter, my 16-year-old daughter, tells me she’s going to be sexually active... I would not tell her to use a condom.
Awesome.

But surely this is just a program that gets some federal funds but that happens to have some over-zealous folks working on the ground, right?
Claude Allen is President Bush’s domestic policy advisor and point man on abstinence-only education.

"The message is very important, not just for the Bush administration, but for the country. Parents are concerned about what’s happening to their kids," says Allen. "Young people in this country are contracting sexually transmitted diseases at an alarming rate. And therefore it is a high priority for the Administration as well for American families."

"What’s wrong with telling kids, 'You should be abstinent, abstain from sex. But if you are going to be sexually active, use a condom?'" asks Bradley.

"If I were to say to that same group of teenagers, you know what, don’t drink and drive, but if you do drink and drive, make sure you wear your seatbelt," says Allen. "In the case of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, the only 100 percent prevention message is to abstain."
Really? Because that's the stupidest fucking comparison I've ever heard in my life. In fact, what telling kids to abstain from sex but to use protection if they do have sex is EXACTLY like is telling them not to drink but that if they do drink not to drive. And I'd bet there are some people who think that's wrong as well - and they are all crazy fucking lunatics who have no business teaching children anything.

Per the 60 Minutes report, a teacher in one federally-funded, abstinence-only programs is required to report condom rates as a failure rate - not a success rate. And if a student asks how to use a condom? The teacher is not permitted to tell them. Again, awesome.

I know this is an immature, obscenity-filled post, but I can't emphasize enough how embarrassed and ashamed my Republican friends should be about the fact that this garbage is being fed to American kids with tax dollars. I can't emphasize enough how embarrassed and ashamed I am that Bill Clinton allowed the Republican Congress to fund such programs. I can't emphasize enough how depressing it is that the government is funding overtly religious, cult-like gatherings.


ADDENDUM: I've been a bit hard on Silver Ring Thing, so I should give them a chance to respond. If anyone has any questions about SRT (as I believe the kids are calling it), the Q&A section of their web site is here.

And I did have some questions. For example, how are they able to talk about sex without getting too graphic for the kiddies?
[W]e are careful not to speak in "graphic" terms for three reasons, (a) the age differences in the room, (b) this is basically a parent's role, (c) this kind of information is better explained one-on-one and not in a group setting. We focus instead on the emotional, mental, and relational results of engaging in pre-marital sex.
OK - I agree with that. As a teenager, if I want to know the basics about sex, I'll turn to the folks at Silver Ring Thing. But if I want to know the logistics of exactly how a penis enters a vagina, what sort of thrusting is appropriate, what positions are most favorable, etc. - I'll turn to my parents in a one-on-one setting. Makes sense to me. And if I want to know how to put on a condom, I'll just turn to Satan.

Moving on, how does SRT keep the kids interested?
Humor and technology are the two main vehicles used for communicating the message. Humor is used to get everyone comfortable about being there and talking about sex. Humor is also used to make a point. comedy skits explore the ways teens relate to each other and the careless way they make decisions about their lives and their sexuality. The kids may be laughing but they get the message that there has to be a better way.
Oh, God bless you "comedy skits." Nothing spells funny like a bunch of evangelical Christians doing skits about the careless way teens make decisions about their sexuality. Although, in fairness, this would most likely be funnier than 90% of the garbage Saturday Night Live is subjecting us to these days.

Make sure to click on the Silver Ring Thing site - so you can answer any questions you have on your own.
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Good News 

I don't know much about the filibuster deal the Senate just reached - but I do know that the folks at The Corner are pissed whereas Daily Kos seems to think that while the Dems gave up something it's clear Frist lost. It also looks like Dems will have the right to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee, which I think is important. Even if we just delayed the fight - I think that's good. I was reading somewhere the general consensus in the early 1980s was that after a bitter fight over elevating Rehnquist to Chief Justice, the Senate just wasn't ready for another bitter fight and confirmed Scalia easily. That didn't work out so well for Democrats.

In other news, the Reds released Danny Graves. Good. But he got what he deserved so I won't pile it on. Thanks for your years of service to the Reds, Danny. You were awesome in 1999 - what a great year that was. Good luck in your future endeavors.
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Friday, May 20, 2005

Irony 

Throwing out your firm's records retention policy.
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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Arrested Development 

Renewed for next season!
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Star Wars Posts and Comments 

Ok, Guth was pretty close to the line on that post in terms of not putting a Spoiler Warning. And, apparently there are more spoilers in the comment(s), so don't read those either if you haven't seen the movie.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith 

Just saw it. I warn you that at this time after watching Attack of the Clones, I thought it was good. Then on closer inspection it turned out to be mediocre, at best. Having said that, this movie was awesome - very, very good - maybe the best in the series except Empire - certainly better than any of the other prequels and Jedi.

I really thought that the stuff about it being dark and violent was just hype - but I have to admit that seeing crippled, burned, limbless Anakin was somewhat disturbing. It's not often you see a major character in a movie mutilated in front of you.

I'm sure I'll have more to say on this topic shortly.
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Nice job, asshole 

Kellen Winslow out for the year.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"So, here's the pitch..." 

This is a joke, right?
Just Legal: Prolific producer Jerry Bruckheimer joins the WB with this drama about a teen prodigy attorney (Million Dollar Baby's Jay Baruchel) with a cantankerous mentor (Miami Vice's Don Johnson).
Sadly, No!: it's really a show that will be on The WB next year. I yearn for the days of Homeboys from Outer Space (which, to be fair, was a UPN show, but what's the difference?).
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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bruce Springsteen--Rosemont Theater 5/11/05 

Had great seats to the Springsteen solo show last night. Here's the set list, and here are my thoughts:

The show began and ended on harmonium, the final song being a prayer (Roy Orbison's "Dream"**), a fitting end to the show. This was my first Springsteen solo show, having seen him with the E Street Band on two previous occasions: Hartford, May, 2000 and Chicago in the tour for The Rising. Having seen the two E Street Band shows, the solo show is somewhat hard to wrap my head around, mainly because the energy levels of two types of shows are so different. An E Street Band show is a three-hour whirlwind that leaves your knees weak and your head spinning. The solo acoustic show is obviously more subdued, but also more cerebral--or at least, less emotional.

In any event, on to specifics.

The second song was "Reason to Believe," but he sang it through some sort of harmonica voicebox. Joe Bream of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune described it thusly:
[It sounded] like Tom Waits channeling Howlin' Wolf to a Muddy Waters beat and ultimately coming off as indecipherable as Bob Dylan.
I'd say it sounded more like Tom Waits with his a rubber band around his testicles, but he probably couldn't write that in the Star-Tribune. I actually think it sounded a lot like Waits' "Going Out West." However, while I applaud Springsteen's desire to experiment and do something different, I don't think this song quite worked this way. It was interesting to watch and listen to, though.

Highlights of the show were, in order of the setlist:
Long Time Coming

The River (beautifully rendered on Piano)

Maria's Bed (probably the best performance of the night--the Boss got around to moving a bit, and while it was no more than taking a step forward and a step back during alternating chords, it still brought the energy level up to near-E Street Band levels*)

Paradise (first half of the song was on electric piano, the second half on regular piano. When he made the transition I thought it was a gimmick--actually, I thought of Nigel Tufnel playing three guitars with a violin and his foot--it turned out it worked beautifully. The electric piano half was wonderful and the piano had a great, higher pitch to it, and the second half, on the regular piano, was much more ominous-sounding, as the character searched for "peace in your eyes/But they were as empty as paradise.")

The Rising

Further on up the Road (this song has more power and more energy solo than with the full band, and while I've heard an acoustic guitar played harder, I don't think I've ever heard one played as loud as on this song)

I'm on Fire (on electric banjo--Springsteen whistled a lot on this song, and, well, that didn't work so well, but the rest was great)

Land of Hope and Dreams (a standard rendition until he broke a guitar string, forcing him to sing one of the choruses a cappela, which was definitely a treat)

Dreams (began on harmonium, ended with him standing, singing along to our clapping a beat--a wonderful prayer to keep on dreaming to end the night).

Ok, so, admittedly a lot of highlights. What can I say? Also, overall, the Boss's vocals were better than I've ever heard them--great range, great power, and, not to be overlooked, wonderfully set mic levels and soundboard mixing, with the vocals cutting through the instrumentation when appropriate, and hanging back when appropriate. Also, his voice had a sort of resonance to it I've rarely heard past--it came out of the speakers and didn't stop at your head but rattles around your whole body a bit.

And, lastly, as always, Springsteen talked to the audience in between songs, but there weren't any of the 20-minute ramblings found in some of his E Street Band shows--these were more simple, more plaintive and more interesting than those stories.

*I say this with a stauch record of heterosexuality to back me up (well, Guth, maybe not that one time at camp....)

**Correction: While the set list on Bruce Springsteen's website calls the last song "Dream (Roy Orbison)", the song is actually called "Dream Baby Dream" by Suicide
"THANK THE LORD FOR HAPPY ACCIDENTS"
5/11, Chicago: The Windy City had quite a few heads swirling after last night's show at the Rosemont Theatre. Springsteen delivered an intense set to another great crowd, and they were rewarded with a four-song encore that really energized the place. After the main set ended--and it had its own share of highlights for sure--Springsteen walked back out on stage with a banjo strapped around him. Pickin' on Springtseen? Far from it. In what appears to be the first time Bruce has played the instrument on stage (and there seems to be a lot of that going on this tour!) Springsteen delivered a "sinister" and "twisted" rendition of his mid-80s hit "I'm on Fire." And if a banjo's steely strings had 'em happy and excited, why not try something new on "Land of Hope and Dreams"...like no strings! In a tight spot after busting a few of his guitar strings mid-song ("Well, now we're screwed!"), Springsteen kept the song going, unstrapped his guitar and handed it off to his tech. Singing without instumentation seemed to really grip this crowd, who rose to their feet, clapping along. (No admonitions here!) A new guitar was delivered soon enough for the last chorus, and Springsteen finished the song by saying, "Thank the Lord for happy accidents!" After a well received "Promised Land," Bruce thanked the crowd for being so attentive, shook hands at the front of the stage and said, "One more for Chicago." Back at the pump organ and without any introduction, he began playing a song called "Dream Baby Dream." Many in the crowd were scratching their heads...is it a new Bruce song? An old Bruce song? A Springsteen/Orbison hybrid? The crowd was certainly into the dreamlike quality of the performance, with its lyrical mantra and droning foundation. Springsteen's voice was unique, too, having a bit of that early 80s quality, lonely and distant. One fan described it as "'Follow That Dream' meets David Lynch's Blue Velvet." A synthesizer could be heard underneath it all, and as Bruce got up from the organ the music kept going. Springsteen grabbed the mic and shuffled to the front of the stage, singing the repetitive lyrics, and scuffling along the front of the stage area. As he walked off for the night the music continued for another minute or so, allowing everyone the chance to shake off the goosbumps and say, "What WAS THAT?" We think we have the answer--there's a song by that name that sounds very similar to that description from the band Suicide who came out of New York City's Lower East Side in the 1970s. If we're right, it's a pretty unbelievable reach as far as Springsteen covers go. Hey, we wanted Bruce to dig deep for songs! Keep digging, Maestro! Next: Devils and Dust rambles into the Washington, DC area with a stop in Fairfax, Virginia at the Patriot Center. Fugazi cover, anyone?
Ah, the self-correcting blogosphere. Of course, it didn't self-correct, I corrected it. Nevertheless...
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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hypocrisy 

I - unlike my co-blogger- don't usually post long posts from other blogs on here, but Kos has posted something that I think is important, and awesome. As Kos says, there is a recruiting crisis in this country - for some crazy reason, young men and women don't want to join the army. Recruiters are resorting to questionable tactics and even threats - click on the link for the details. But this is the part I love:
Before Bush's War, there was no need for such tactics. War supporting politicians could lend a hand by urging people to join up, but they won't. Can't have a call for sacrifice.
Religious Right preachers could use their pulpits to urge their flocks to fight their "just war", but they won't. No parent wants their preacher telling them to send their kid to the grave.

The 101st Fighting Keyboardists could urge their readers to enlist, and then follow suit themselves. But they won't. The un-American cowards make a mockery of our anthem's "home of the brave" line as they hide behind tough talk.

TV blowhards could use their cable channel platform to urge their listeners to head to the nearest recruitment office and put their words in action, but they won't. "Supporting the troops" means nothing more than empty words...

Nearly one in five recruiters have been investigated in the past year alone for recruitment improprieties. All because no one wants to fight Bush's senseless war. And those who still defend it against all reason are the last to put either their words into tangible action, or urge their followers to do so.

There is a recruiting crisis in this country. Our troops in the Gulf need reinforcements. Yet those who claim to support them the most refuse to lend a hand. Such cowardice has no place in this country. I think we all know who the "surrender monkeys" really are.
I am not saying that supporters of the war are hypocrites because they won't enlist themselves. I am saying that people like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Jonah Goldberg, Jerry Falwell, etc. etc. are hypocrites when they refuse to use the platforms at their disposal to aide the recruiting effort. But they never will. Their livelihood depends on creating daily outrage - and the enemy is always the liberals, the Democrats, the mainstream media.

Sean Hannity has to make his listeners feel as if, somehow, the mere act of listening to his show is an act of subversion - if he actually asked them to make a real sacrifice, they would become uncomfortable and stop listening - and his show isn't really designed to change anything, it's designed to make people comfortable. It's much easier to call Ted Kennedy a traitor than it is to ask people to actually sacrifice something. These people don't even think we should pay fucking taxes to fight this war.
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Monday, May 09, 2005

FDR Was a Commie Bastard Who Trusted Commie Jews 


Neo meets paleo in channeling the Birchers, with the President and his whole propoganda machine shitting on everything holy, talking about the Yalta sellout. Truman should have had the Enola Gay fly over the Sea of Japan and hit Vladivostok, right?

Luckily, we have Digby to keep us sane, finishing a great post with the following:
After a little more than four years in office, the administration has managed to almost completely destroy this country's hard won credibility and it appears that Junior and his neocon cronies will not rest until it is completely gone. And pathetically, they are now reduced to using old chestnuts from the National Review of half a century ago to do it. Even though we actually won the cold war, apparently it's more important that William F Buckley be perceived as having been right.

The most astonishing thing about this is that it appears this actually is the product of 40 years of heavily subsidized college Republican bull sessions and right wing think tank white papers. Tired, warmed-over fifty year old McCarthyite crapola. I thought liberals were the ones who didn't have any new ideas.
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Saturday, May 07, 2005

WWII 

This being the 60th anniversary of V-E day, I'd like to point you to two interesting posts by Steve G. concerning WWII. I'll be in Belgium the first week in June and I should be able to get to the Ardennes and, more specifically, Bastogne, which I'm very much looking forward to seeing.
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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Big Daddy Dan Harvie Wilkinson 

Ok, which University of Chicago Law School 2004 graduate wrote this fucking opinion?
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Blog Will Now Cover Paula-tics 

After watching the ABC News Primetime special "Fallen Idol", I am now convinced that Paula Abdul sleeping with an American Idol contestant is the most important news story of our time. That contestant, Corey Clark, has written a heartbreaking song about the incident called "Paula-tics." In light of this, I will now focus the discussion of this blog on Paula-tics, rather than politics, which are stupid and boring and involve too many dead people for my taste.

So - anyone have any thoughts on Paula Abdul?
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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

God Bless the Onion 

Not sure it's as funny as it once was, but this week's What Do You Think? is about women in the military. One of the men offers this opinion:

“Women are too docile to serve in front-line combat. Their place is back at the prison, sadistically torturing detainees.”

Click on the link, because those are always funnier when you see the picture.
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Thoughts on Judicial Nominations 

First thought: Danny Graves sucks.

Second thoughts: I posted the comment below on this conservative blog that Andrew Sullivan linked to. I thought I'd post it here as well, since there has been a dearth in posting lately and since I know everyone is dying to hear my thoughts on this issue.

The Post:

My response to this analysis has always been: who cares? It’s true, conservative minorities (both Democrats and Republicans) in the 1950s and 60s did not filibuster judicial nominations - they were too busy filibustering civil rights legislation. The point is, there’s not that much that a minority in Congress can do. You have to pick your battles. Conservatives in the 50s and 60s realized that it was very important to their constituents to live in a segregated society - and this was the battle they were willing to fight. Democrats in Congress today have had no choice but to allow large chunks of the Bush agenda to become law - No Child Left Behind, tax cuts, drug benefits, a war, Bankruptcy Bill and more. They have focused their resources on the issue of judges. It is very important to the Democrats’ constituents that they live in a world where the government cannot force women to give birth, where the federal government can fight discrimination and protect the environment, where the New Deal remains Constitutional and where a child-like literal reading of the Constitution is not the means by which important judicial decisions are made.

Obviously, I don’t agree at all with the conservative viewpoint in the 50s and 60s, but nobody can deny that racism was extremely important to the minority in Congress and their constituents - so important, that they were willing to shut down the Senate to prevent civil rights legislation from being passed. Well, the Democrats are just as passionate about protecting the integrity of the judiciary. (We also have the advantage of being correct on this issue, unlike the Senate minorities of the 50s and 60s.) We are willing to shut down the Senate to stop Bush from nominating very conservative judges. If the Republicans want to take away the filibuster on this issue, Democrats can and should shut the entire Senate down.

I’m taking these statistics at face value and assuming that they’re not misleading in any way (although that’s possible). These statistics could just as easily be used as evidence that Republican Presidents nominate more radical and unacceptable judges - something that is too subjective for statistics to capture.

The bottom line is, minorities in the Senate only have the ability to use their limited powers - especially the filibuster - on certain issues. Just because no minority has found judicial nominations important enough to filibuster in the past doesn’t mean that doing so unconstitutional.
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How to Talk About Social Security 

Listen to Bob Somerby--he has the aura of wisdom about him:
HOW TO CUT THE CRAP: Yes, this is the semantic dispute which actually makes a big difference. And yes, a semantic war is coming. Morton Kondracke peddled the piffle on Special Report just last night:
KONDRAKE (5/2/05): [Senator Leahy] talks about benefit cuts, and in fact, they are reductions of increases.
There are no "benefit cuts" in Bush’s plan. By contrast, Bush has proposed "increases." Moments later, a certain shrink reinforced Mort’s misleading claim:
KRAUTHAMMER: [Democrats] say the Republicans want a cut, as you had in the headlines. Disingenuous, but nonetheless, "want to cut your benefits."
Would Bush’s plan "cut" SS benefits? Or would everyone get an "increase?" This semantic dispute really counts. And Dems have to know how to play it.

Having said that, and with massive respect to Paul Krugman—the massive respect he has massively earned—we don’t think his Monday column used the most effective construction. The New York Times adopts his construction in today’s editorial:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (5/3/05): Mr. Bush says these cuts would enable the system to continue paying benefits at the current level to the 30 percent of recipients who now make less than $20,000. But fully two-thirds of retirees rely on Social Security for more than half of their income. Moreover, the Bush plan gives the false impression that the wealthiest beneficiaries would bear the most pain. That's not the case. The wealthier one is, the lower the percentage of retirement income coming from Social Security, so even a big cut has little impact. By 2075, an average worker's benefit cut would equal 10 percent of pre-retirement income; a millionaire's reduction would be only 1 percent.
That may be true, but it’s tortured, and hard to follow—and therefore, it’s easy to argue against. "Replacement rate" is the construction Dems should use to explain how Bush’s proposal really works. Here’s what the Times editorial should have said:
REVISED EDITORIAL: Mr. Bush says these cuts would enable the system to continue paying benefits at the current level to the 30 percent of recipients who now make less than $20,000. But even if that turns out to be true, all other groups will have their benefits cut—by substantial amounts. At present, for example, a worker at the upper end of the middle class may get as much as 42 percent of his income replaced by his Social Security check. But this would change under Bush’s plan. By the year 2061, such a worker would only get 22 percent of his income replaced. By 2075, this worker is down to 12 percent. Simply put, this would change the face of middle-class retirement.
For the record, an average-income worker goes from 36 percent replacement now to 26 percent in 2075. Would Kondracke and Krauthammer describe these changes as "increases?" Whatever you call it, these are the data that help people see how the Bush plan actually works. (We have taken all our numbers from Times reports in the past week.)

"Replacement rate" is the way to go in showing what this proposal does. When the hacks say that everyone gets an "increase," this is the simple way to counter. Everything else just breeds confusion. Dems need to get on this plan.
Now go forth and use "Replacement Rate," please.
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Ah, Media Criticism (it's been a while, no?) 

I think my WH correspondent friend still reads this site, and I think she won't like this. But, Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News makes a good point:
Yes, it was the annual White House Correspondent's Association dinner, and unless you just returned this morning from a trek in Kathmandu, you've surely seen the video of "Desperate Housewife"-turned-comedienne Laura Bush -- over and over and over. The only "break has been the endless blather about a "runaway bride" who has breathlessly captivated the entire nation by doing something -- just a tad more spectacularly -- that thousands of Americans, including your blogger, have done before her: Backed out of a wedding.

The two stories kept looping together, overlapping and back and forth, so by the time we left for work we thought that Laura was W's "runaway bride," or something like that. It wasn't even just the video: This morning, print pundits analyzed the First Lady's monologue with the kind of detail once reserved for the State of the Union.

As our former Newsday colleague William Douglas wrote for Knight-Ridder Newspapers:

The first lady's surprise skit brought down the house and illustrates her shifting role in the president's second term -- from a so-called traditional first lady whose primary duties were ceremonial, to a more active and visible partner with a meaningful portfolio. . . .


Oh, you cynical journalists! Nevermind that Laura Bush's monologue was a FAKE NEWS STORY, as real as that yellow-cake uranium in Niger. Her jokes were written by a professional joke writer, Landon Parvin, and would have gotten just as much laughs, and would have been just as authentic, if delivered instead by Jay Leno.

In fact, Laura Bush has never seen "Desperate Housewives," although the joke guaranteed non-stop play on ABC, which has become the 24/7 "Desperate Housewives" network, airing even more FAKE STORIES about the show to the point I swear Charlie Gibson thinks Wisteria Lane is a real address he can pinpoint on a Google map.

It's not. And Laura Bush telling a scripted joke isn't news anymore than is a troubled woman walking out on a wedding and panicking. There's one striking thing we didn't see on all the First Lady video overkill, and that was any of the guffawing journalists -- that pack of predators -- bolting from their fancy tables to cover a big breaking news story.

Because there was one. Oh, yeah. Didn't you hear? The president lied to the American people. He started a war on false pretenses, and more than 1,500 Americans -- and an untold number of Iraqis -- died.

Well, OK, you sort of knew that already, didn't you? But there wasn't a smoking gun...until now. The Times of London got hold of the secret memo from Tony Blair's pre-war deliberations that show that in the summer of 2002 -- months before the Colin Powell charade at the UN -- that Bush had decided to invade Iraq...he just hadn't decided why. The story broke right around the time that Laura Bush was telling a joke about her husband jerking off a horse.

Red meat for a cynical press corps, no? If, as Shaw insisted, "'Gotcha' journalism is the order of the day," then surely this was the ultimate 'gotcha' story -- the leader of the free world, caught in a bald-faced, and deadly, lie.

That's why we've been anxiously waiting for the American press to pick up and banner the news. And yet we're still waiting. The Washington Post...nothing, really. The New York Times obtusely backed into it on Page A9, next to an ad for Mohan's Custom Tailors, with a headline -- "For Blair, Iraq Issue Just Won't Go Away" -- that seems to barely hide the newspaper of record's apparent contempt for the issue.

And it's being played exclusively as "a Tony Blair story," as if Britain were some kind of bizarro world and the PM's dealings were with some anti-matter George W. Bush, not the real one, that guy over there guffawing in a tuxedo.

We don't get it. Maybe the Bush-and-Blair-lied story needed a cute name that plays off "Desperate Housewives" or some Julia Roberts movie. If only they could have called the scandal "Mystic Memo," or "Sleeping With the Contrived Enemy." Actually, some of her movies are too perfect a fit -- "Conspiracy Theory," or "Dying Young."
Every year, we're treating to this bullshit kabuki about WH correspondent's dinner, as if whether or not the President and his family are self-deprecating enough to satisfy Chris "Codpiece" Matthews matters one iota. Not only do we have the Bush/Blair memo, but does anyone seem to care that, as of last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted that, over the past year, we've made absolutely NO PROGRESS against the Iraq insurgency? And that, once again, the army didn't meet its recruitment goal for enlisted men in April even though normal recruitment standards are flying out the window?

No, it's true, the fact that some guy wrote some jokes for Laura Bush is a bigger news story. I apologize for this post.
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Monday, May 02, 2005

Miscellaneous, Etc. 

A few quick hits:

  1. My "ELIne" newsletter came into my electronic mailbox today, with a link to a month-old NYTimes article on New Haven and its renaissance. It's a fairly interesting article, even if it tells a familiar tale (new downtown housing for empty-nesters and yuppies). Although, it what's maybe a twist on the story, restaurants and theater preceded the housing boom, not the other way around. The line at the end of this paragraph caught my eye, though:
    Hank and Sharon Putsch (pronounced like Dutch) recently sold their house on the river in Old Saybrook. ''It was beautiful but kind of boring,'' Mrs. Putsch said. ''We really need the energy of the city.'' They are both artists and arts administrators ''in our 60's and 70's,'' she said. ''We couldn't afford New York so we came to New Haven.'' They bought a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath town house at Audubon Court on Audubon Street for $290,000, ''reduced from $350,000 because it had been occupied previously by two Yale football players,'' she said.
    All-righty-then. Also, I learned that Adulis serves Eritrean cuisine, not Ethiopian--good to know, because I'm pretty sure your average Eritrean would get pissed if you called him or her Ethiopian by mistake.
  2. I rarely link to crazy right-wingers, but if you're dying for fix of some USDA Prime Wingnuttery, undiluted by any impurities, check out this World O'Crap post. At least s.z. over there turns it from "fucked-up" to "fucked-up but funny" with her commentary.
  3. A few weeks ago I posted about my buddy's band, The Franklin Kite. But, I screwed up the link. It's franklinkite.com, no "www." Here is the right link.
  4. Got to see my girlfriend's play this weekend in New York. It's called Boozy: The Life, Death and Subsequent Vilification of Le Corbusier and, More Importantly, Robert Moses. It was quite good--crazy and funny. And, it will explain how a plan for world domination by FDR and Goebbels was thwarted by Fiorello LaGuardia's gimpish pageboy. Go see it. It will be of special interest to those of you who are (a) civil engineers, (b) city planners or (c) have lived a decent amount of time in New York City. I fall into none of those categories and still liked it, though, and you probably will, too.

That's about it for now.

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