Friday, November 29, 2002

I'm much too old for this

However, I still love to make mix CDs for people and, I think, making a good one is darn fun. I made over a dozen for my girlfriend before we really even got serious. Do you care? Probably not. Does this derail the serious discussion usually presented here? Probably (but if Julia over at Sisyphus Shrugged can jump into a debate about whether or not Harry Potter books are a series of pro-eugenics tracts, I think I'm allowed). Plus, I need a break.

Anyway, the Nitpicker would like to go on record right now with the following: My mix CD can kick your mix CD's ass.

I know. That's a bold challenge to toss into any group, but dropping it in front of a bunch of opinionated, tech-savvy blogocrats is like tossing a poodle into the pit with the dogs of Amores Perros. I defend the statement by listing the tracks of just one of the CDs I made for my girlfriend:

1. White Blood Cells, "Fell In Love With a Girl"

2. Death Cab for Cutie, "Song for Kelly Huckaby"

3. Coldplay, "Don't Panic"

4. Rainer Maria, "I Love You Too"

5. Frente, "Not Given Lightly"

6. K.D. Lang, "So In Love"

7. The Church, "Under the Milky Way"

8. Pedro the Lion, "Bad Diary Days"

9. Cake, "Stickshifts and Safetybelts"

10. Tesla, "Love Song" (I know, I know)

11. Pixies, "La La Love You"

12. John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, "Instant Karma!"

13. Robert Earl Keen, "Lonely Feeling"

14. Semisonic, "Secret Smile"

15. Pete Droge, "Beautiful Girl"

16. Tripping Daisy, "Human Contact"

17. Jim Carroll, "People Who Have Died" (I don't know)

18. Nick Drake, "Fly"

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Al fights back

And he fights well, too. Via "Mighty" Joe Conason.

"If people who make their living criticizing anybody and everybody want to add me to their list, that’s all right. Hell, they’ve got to make a living." Biting, funny and dead on the money. Go, Al, go!

And, since the link on Salon is buried in the Premium section, don't forget to read Joe's New York Observer column here. Trust me, you'll come for the Conason, but stay for McCain's (further) Limbaugh-bashing.

Kelly's latest trash

Could there be a fouler, more dishonest, more obtuse writer walking the face of this planet than Michael Kelly? There are only two options when considering a man like this: he’s either incredibly stupid or a liar.

Actually, the third option, and probably the one that rings more true to me than the others, is that both previous options are true.

Let’s look at today’s horribly trashy column piece-by-piece, in which he serves us garbage disposal leavings and calls it Thanksgiving turkey.

Paragraph 1: He uses the word “important” eight times, driving home his point not, of course, that he was dealing with an important issue – how America should deal with a foreign leader who acts like a sleepy pit bull – but to show you how “important” he was apparently supposed to feel while talking to this unnamed person. He says the person to whom he was speaking was trying to tell him that the Clinton Administration’s policies were “deep and subtle and clever,” while Kelly sat there and tried to look smart in a “Kissingerian,” and “Lippmannesque” fashion. Here, he’s throwing meat to the right-wingers, saying, in effect, “Ooooh, those Clinton people thought they were so smart. We showed them.”

As Walter Lippmann himself put it, “Brains, you know, are suspect in the Republican party.”

Paragraph 2: Here Kelly takes a shot at his “betters,” suggesting, when he says that he had probably been mistaken for Tom Friedman or Bob Woodward, that the White House cozied up to those writers. He’s trying to kill two birds with one stone here, also suggesting that these journalists aren’t to be read because they’re biased. He closes the graph with a self-effacing bit about how he’s not as attractive as Bob Woodward. He should have pointed out how he’s not as bright as Tom Friedman, but we’ll call this a stylistic, editorial difference and let it go.

Paragraph 3: Describes a film noir, “straight to video” scene in which Kelly mentions that the Clinton’s darn Iraq plan didn’t seem to be working very well. Points out that he’s not very sure what was going on in Iraq at the time.

Paragraph 4: Here Kelly is supposedly making some point about how the person was stupid because the Clinton Administration actually felt that it ought to follow the UN policy of using sanctions and not just start bombing indiscriminately.

Paragraph 5: Idiocy.

Paragraph 6: Says that Clinton only wanted to impress columnists, not make the world a safer place.

Paragraph 7: This is one of the dumbest paragraphs I’ve read all year. Let’s lay it all out for you:

“Liberals, in the Democratic Party and in their media and academic institutional bases, persist in seeing the accruing foreign policy triumphs of the Bush administration as accidents of history occurring within an aberration of history. This could not be more wrong. The accidents, and the larger aberration, belonged to the years this administration has led us out of, the long years of suspension of disbelief that constituted Clinton foreign policy in practice.”

First, what “media base” is he talking about? The Washington Post? Could that be it? If liberals have a “media base” left in this entire country, it’s the equivalent of the cold shacks Luke Skywalker defended on the ice planet in The Empire Strikes Back. There is simply too much evidence that the “liberal media” doesn’t exist to go into here, but check out everything Bob Somerby has written for the past three years and try to tell me how liberal the media is.

Second, what foreign policy triumphs? The man who, one paragraph before, said that reality is “defined by the consequences of policies” is now trying to say that simply bending the world to your will is a “triumph.” And Bush didn’t even do that. Bush wanted to charge in, all “damn the torpedoes” and “you’re with us or against us.” It took Democrats and world opinion to get him to think that violating international law might not be the best step.

Third, Clinton foreign policy achieved the following:

- restored democratically elected Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide to power

- helped to promote peace in the Middle East by helping Israel and Jordan achieve a historic peace agreement

- persuaded Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazahkstan to give up nuclear weapons that were left behind when the Soviet Union collapsed

- got North Korea to sign off on not building a nuclear program (that Bush knee-capped by letting them off the hook for inspections)

- led the international effort to ensure the indefinite and unconditional extension of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, thus helping to stop the spread of nuclear weapons around the world

- maintained strong sanctions against Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Sudan for their continued support of state sponsored terrorism

- undertook diplomatic and military action to help stop the suffering in Bosnia and lead the effort to broker a comprehensive peace treaty

- signed the North American Free Trade

- signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the largest trade agreement in history

- reached a landmark agreement with Japan, which will open its automobile market to billions of dollars worth of American cars and parts

- developed a national export strategy aimed at eliminating export controls on billions of dollars of United States exports

Paragraph 8: More idiocy – Clinton all polls, no action.

Paragraph 9: Another paragraph that needs much discussion. Kelly acts like Clinton did nothing to combat Hussein’s numerous violations of treaty. Mr. Peabody, let’s set the Wayback Machine to 1998, the year of “Mr. Kelly’s Important Meeting” (sounds like a chapter in the Wind in the Willows, doesn’t it?). Clinton signs off on Operation Desert Fox and is accused of using it to cover up his impeachment scandal. This man had been dealing with this Republican B.S. for eight years by this time. (Eight years? Read this.) He was called partisan at every turn. He couldn’t get the support of Republicans to save his life.

Rep. Gerald Solomon (R.-NY) said, it was “obvious that they're (the Clinton White House) doing everything they can to postpone the vote on this impeachment in order to try to get whatever kind of leverage they can, and the American people ought to be as outraged as I am about it." Imagine a Democrat saying that today.

Kelly even tries to say that bin Laden saw in Clinton’s policies our soft underbelly and, therefore, decided that he could attack. The exact opposite is true here, Mike. Clinton couldn’t get the support required to attack a friggin’ hot dog with relish. Bush has the political power he has because of September 11th. Period. If the same event had happened on Clinton’s watch, even the obstructionist pricks who make up the Republican Party would have had to understand that politicking isn’t the point, but is a tool to get your point across. That, or they would have been gone (as most of those impeachment time wasters are). Clinton would have responded in probably much the same manner as Bush and wouldn’t have needed to have been yelled at for months before bringing the UN onboard.

Paragraph 10: Kelly thanks God that we didn’t walk away from the Middle East after September 11th. He’s right. Bush had walked away before then and only turned back when the attack occurred.

Finally, this is what you get from Mr. Kelly: lies, distortions and ignorance. This Thanksgiving, I’m going to be thankful that I live in a country where, for now, until I'm "disappeared" by Poindexter and Ashcroft, I can do my small part to fight Kelly and his bullshit friends.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Kicking ass and naming names

The ever-impressive Mr. Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review has returned (after a blessedly brief hiatus) and delivers this excellent essay on what the New York Times calls "Alpha Girls," but people schooled in the 1980s would call "Heathers." These aren't the girls who wouldn't date you in high school and picked on you for having acne, though. The Review "outs" the queen bees of the media set and shows how they pick on class nerd Al Gore.

Pray for us.

Also, as far as I know Matt Drudge (who, remember, The Atlantic Monthly says the blogosphere is above) was the first to dig up this embarrassing golden oldie penned by then-Senator, now-Commandant of the Thought Police, John Ashcroft.

(By the way, I would have been writing copiously today, but I've been busily writing letters to all of these no-show columnists -- who are just now saying, "Wow! There's some really crappy stuff in that Homeland Security Bill!" -- pointing out that they're a day late and a dollar short. It's just frickin' pitiful, people. These are the same bastards who whined about a non-issue election, but won't cover the issues until the legislative bus has already passed them by. I know I'm tilting at windmills even attempting to knock sense into these late-comers, but, with the medication I've been taking to fight off this gnawing post-election depression, I'd be tilting anyway, if you know what I mean. [Note to the Kansas Army National Guard: That was a joke, people. Perhaps I should point out again that these views are my own and no way reflect the position of the KSARNG, the Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld or the little devil that sits on Richard Perle's shoulder.])

Also, if you think "Total Information Awareness" is the worst of the Homeland Security debacle, read just one of Dwight Meredith's recent postings on how legislators just let Eli Lilly off the hook.

Another kindred spirit

David L. Englin, a military officer stationed in Washington, D.C., would like you to know that his views are his own and in no way reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Defense.

I would like you to know that he's damn smart and deserves your attention. And unlike the rest of us who are, in the words of the current Atlantic Monthly, "above Matt Drudge but below journalism," he seems to be making some actual money from those views of his. He should. He's a much better writer than me and far more adept at editing curse words from his prose. Power to the people!

Friday, November 22, 2002

Krugman sticks his lance in another windmill

Oh my do I love Paul Krugman. Why is it that we can't get anyone to pay attention to him? Read his column today and tell me why we couldn't convince voters two years ago that this was a fight of "the people vs. the powerful?"

Oh wait. We did. Just not in the right states...

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Don't swear on it, read it!

I just wish that some of these people who believe they are doing God's work by forcing people to take a "so help me God" oath when joining Americorps would actually read the Bible sometime. I have served in two branches of the military and currently work in the federal government, but, each time I have to take the oath, I finish it not with "so help me God," but with "I do so affirm." Why? Am I an atheist? A rabble-rouser? No. It's because I actually take the Bible seriously.

"But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King." - Matthew 5:34-35

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

James Coburn, The Magnificent Seven and Tom Daschle

James Coburn died yesterday. In 1999, he won an Oscar for Affliction, an excellent movie in which he played an excellent role, but I will always remember him as “Britt,” the languid, knife-throwing drifter he played in The Magnificent Seven.

As I thought about the loss of Mr. Coburn this morning on my way to work, I couldn’t help rolling the movie around in my head once again. It was based on Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai and the basic plot goes like this: A band of hired guns comes to a town to help its people rid themselves of a gang who’s been terrorizing them. Initially, they lose. The townspeople fail them and the seven are rounded up by the bandits, tossed on the back of the wagon and taken to the edge of the town where their guns are returned. They are told that, if they return, they will be killed.

Here it is, then, the scene for which I will always remember James Coburn. Throughout the movie, he’s been the strong silent type. He seems more than a little shifty and strikes you as a smartass. Then he starts to put his guns back on, heading toward the town. He knows he’s outnumbered. He knows that some of the others may choose to flee rather than back him up. The others do follow him, though.

To make a long story short, they return to the town and kill off the bad guys. Along the way, they even inspire the townspeople to stand up for themselves. It’s trite. It’s silly. It’s a great movie. Anyone who says different can meet me out on the playground after school.

The lesson here for Democrats is this: you have a chance now not only to fight, but to be heroic. Only their return to the fray against great odds makes the gunslingers heroes. That and the fact that their cause is just.

And our causes are just. We only need to remember that. We are correct about the environment. We are correct about tax breaks going mostly to the rich and being far too costly. We are correct about the minimum wage. We were correct in making the case that the UN should support us in Iraq before we take action (as they did). We really do fight for the people, dammit. We just need to show them that. Republicans are wrong on these and other issues and, when the issues are broken down to voters one by one, they will see it. They will join us. I believe it.

The only thing is that we have to get our Democratic “hired guns,” our senators and congressmen, to be courageous. They have to believe in the cause and fight because it’s right. They can’t worry about whether Democrats should swing left or right. They should pick fights they believe in. Don’t worry about the party as much as you worry about issues. Don’t strategize. Believe. Fight for each seat individually. Republicans forced to fight individual issues – instead of just spout “I’m behind the president” nonsense – will lose. My congressman (who is a “blue dog,” I admit), Dennis Moore (D-KS) beat his opponent Adam Taff (R-Out of work) in a very conservative area by making him say what his rhetoric meant, by showing voters the hollow center of Taff’s speech while Taff was offering them rich, creamy nougat. If a Democrat can win here, a Democrat can win anywhere.

So I ask the following of Senator Daschle and to Congresswoman Pelosi: Remember James Coburn. Remember him returning to the fight. Remember what his character told Chico (Horst Buchholz, playing a farm kid who dreams of gunfighting glory) when the kid told him he was crazy for returning to the village. Look in a mirror, put on a Coburn squint and repeat after me: “Nobody throws me my own guns and says run. Nobody.”

Thursday, November 14, 2002

How this all works

Today, thousands of unemployed workers sent their thanks to George W. Bush for his handling of the economy. "Before, I was really pissed that I lost my job and couldn't afford to pay for my son's braces," said Fred Carlson, a recently laid off Sprint employee, "but once the president explained that, by making less money I'm not making as much less money as I would've if I were making more money, I felt a lot better about it. Thank you, Mr. President."

Sound stupid? Well, there's a reason his daddy called it "voodoo economics."

Also, I don't know about you, but I'm getting myself a tinfoil hat.

Also, a heartfelt, honest-to-goodness (tinfoil) "hats off" to Dubya and Colin Powell for taking on people whose hearts seemed to truly be "full of hate."

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Republicans took Ken Lay's advice

Documents were made public Tuesday that showed that, in April of last year, Ken Lay sent a memo to his buddy, Dick Cheney, which suggested how Republicans should position themselves against Democrats. Republican politicians (and their toadies) listened.

Ken Lay said to link the Democrats to “regulation” and “government ownership.” Less than two months later, David Horowitz wrote the following: "To repeat the obvious: this is what caused the crisis originally: government regulations discouraged energy production, creating shortages. Government price controls made energy consumption cheap, encouraging demand. The result: crisis.

"As if the destructive proposal for price controls were not enough, California Democrats are also proposing state ownership of the means of transmission. Were Democrats asleep during the collapse of the Soviet empire? Apparently."

Unfortunately, he left out Enron's price gouging, but when a party contributor with deep pockets gives orders, toadies can only croak what they're told to croak.

Tom Delay sat up on his hind legs and barked at the sound of his master's voice, too, saying, one month after the memo that "we will also need to streamline government regulations, diversify energy sources, increase domestic supply, promote technology and research, among other things.” Which sounds eerily similar to the paragraph from Lay’s memo to his buddy, “Dick,” in which he suggests Republicans position themselves as the party of “abundan[ce], efficiency, new economy, innovation, open markets…”

Ken Lay spoke and the Republicans listened. God help us all.

Also, a big kudos to the Democratic senators in charge of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee who only now made this memo public. I would hate for a direct connection to Enron to have reflected badly on Republicans during an election.

Compounding the problem

Reason Daschle should give up the majority leader position #50: The Homeland Security Department is going to be created, with very few concessions by the White House.

Sure, I know that Bush waited until after the election to come to a compromise with the Democrats. Of course he would. He ran all over the country (on the taxpayer's dime, remember) saying that Democrats don't give a damn about the protection of the country and he needed the Senate to be filled with Republicans. He got to say that because Democrats wouldn't pass the bill that created the Department of Homeland Security -- ostensibly due to their desire to protect workers rights.

And yet, now the Democrats are willing to approve a bill that tosses less than a crumb to workers: "Unions would have the right to object within a month of (work rule) changes, and federal labor mediators could review the changes over an additional 30 days. But the administration, in the end, could impose the modifications even if the mediators recommend otherwise." This is the compromise for which they were holding out? For this little piece of lint they took up needle and thread and personally sewed on Bush's political coattails?

Now Democrats are giving in, getting nothing and looking even weaker than before. If they would at least fight this during the lame duck session, they could still walk away with their principles intact. Instead, they'll bend over, let Bush do what he will with them and make the whole thing look like it was just a stupid, stupid political ploy in the first place. And Bush gets to look like the "uniter" he said he would be.

Postscript - And now they're giving Bush his judges. May I suggest to the Democrats in the Senate that, if they're going to act like punks they do it well? I suggest they listen to the This American Life episode in which Larry Distasi reads from ex con Stephen Donaldson's pamphlet, "Hooking Up: Protective Pairing For Punks." They'll learn how to "hook up" with a stronger man -- a "daddy" or "jocker" -- who'll provide them protection in return for other favors. Vote trading, for example.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Shame on you, shame on me

An excellent essay by Teresa Nielsen Hayden can be found here. It will make you feel sad, castigated and, hopefully, ready for the next fight. Bravo, Teresa.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002


As I look over the pitiful results of the 2002 election, I'm asking everyone to tell me (e-mail above) what Democrat deserves to be elected president in 2004 and why. I'll post the best answers and reponses to those answers here.

Think of it as a primary of one. If you can't convince me -- a Democrat who's desperately looking for a true Democrat for whom to vote -- how the hell are you going to convince anyone else? Perhaps we could use the exercise as a way to think through our choices and, also, as a kind of unofficial media kit for the election.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Please don't shake hands with Senator Barkley

Yes, Jesse Ventura has given the White House a couple months to shove through all the legislation they can get through. He's nominated an independent to the seat formerly held by Paul Wellstone, which effectively puts Republicans in charge of the Senate at least until the end of the year (and, perhaps, further, depending on tomorrow's vote).

Now, this is a bitter pill to swallow, but we Democrats can't bitch about this too much. Jeffords did pretty much the same thing to the Republicans and robbed them of their management of the Senate. So, if we say this is illegitimate, then we'd have to say that Daschle's entire reign (so far) was illegitimate. On the other hand, Republicans who've been bitching about Daschle being in charge illegitimately will now say that their rightful ownership has been restored. Blah, blah, blah... It still happened pretty much the same way you all lost it, so wouldn't that make this equally illegitimate considering there are no rules against either switching party affiliation or installing a third party candidate in a formerly Democratic seat?

My main problem is that this is just a tantrum by Jesse Ventura. He's acting like a child here. Couldn't he at least have picked a guy who wouldn't say he might "caucus with (himself) in a bathroom"?

Someone please send that man some antibacterial cream.

Scooter, you can fly my wing anytime

Again, let me drop the military cred on you before I bitch about this: I've served in the Navy, in the Army Reserve (in Bosnia and Guatemala) and am currently in the Army National Guard. I've got nothing against the military (well, nothing major), but I'm horrified to read this. (I ought to point out here also that this site is solely my opinion and does not necessarily represent the opinions of any other members of the military services or anyone living or dead except myself. OK, one dead guy, but I ain't namin' names.)

It seems that in his "No Child Left Behind Act," Bush buried a law allowing recruiters to get contact information on every high schooler in the nation -- or that school would face losing federal funds. Now I wonder: If they pass their stinking voucher laws, will private schools be required to do the same to be allowed to accept vouchers? Some part of me doubts it. Oh yeah, it's my fucking brain!

Does anyone else remember how tight-lipped Air Force pilots were during the bombing of Afghanistan? Oh sure, they'd come on TV and brag about how they'd rocked the Taliban's world, but they wouldn't give their full names, in order to protect their families. I understand that, but it seems kind of ridiculous that pilots can go all secret squirrel on us, but high schoolers who want to keep their names away from the military risk killing the science program.