Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Daily Disappointment

I just don't understand The Daily Advertiser sometimes.

For those of you in different zip codes, The Daily Advertiser is the newspaper of my home base here in Lafayette, Louisiana. Despite writing for The Advocate, I always pick up The Advertiser. I don't know why. I guess I like its format, or maybe it's just lifelong habit. I also have friends that work there.

I have so many horror stories about mistakes, inconsistencies and just plain bad judgment over the years that I should open yet another new blog just to list them (I've related a few throughout recent Advertiser-related posts at timshel).

Where to start? A few years ago, the Advertiser ran a vehement apology for the content of a particular page in the previous day's issue. Ever the investigative (not to mention the pack-rat) type, I took out that day's paper. On the page was a full-page ad for a female sexual cream. It promised "Better and Longer-Lasting Orgasms!" Oh dear!! Somebody call the sex police! The kids might actually find out where they came from!

The precedent had been established around 1997. That year, the paper decided that, bowing to reader pressure, they would no longer run Doonesbury on the comics page. They said that the strip was too politically provocative in content, and therefore more appropriate for the editorials page. Of course, they didn't address the elephant in the room (or the page)--that Mallard Fillmore, the poorly-drawn strip higlighting a conservative-reporter duck and the most stereotypically stupid liberals in the world, was allowed to remain on the comics page. Ah, sweet double standard. They finally put both strips together on the editorial page after another round of letters from readers sick of the hypocrisy.

The latest kink in this frayed hose of hypersensitivity is The Advertiser's refusal to run Saturday's Doonesbury strip. They called it offensive, and instead ran a "classic" strip. But was it offensive? Read it for yourself:

Doonesbury 10/30/04 Posted by Hello

Even if that is offensive (and it very well might be to those who know nothing of Cheney's remark or those who can understand Doonesbury yet have never heard a curse word), it's not that far off from the salacious imagery offered by the new strip it did run, Saturday's Mallard Fillmore:

Mallard Fillmore 10/30/04 Posted by Hello

"Fat, Hairy Men in Women's Clothing," eh? Hmm...that's not offensive to the sensibilities of the average American! Why, that's more than words--that's a mental picture! Ewww...thanks a lot, Bruce!

Until The Daily Advertiser stops being so squeamish about what they run, and until they clean up obvious errors, I will continue to scratch my head and ask, "Why even bother?"

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Jenna's and Barbara's Bush show

A rare chance to see the Bushies acting stupid

It tickles Barbara in all the right ways when you press "play" Posted by Hello

This link is beyond words, really:

Step right up and let the sideshow begin!

SEE! Dubya say, "Our top priority is safe!"
OBSERVE! Dubya say something about Dr. Phil to big laughs ($50 to the first person who can tell me what the hell he's saying)
WATCH! Dubya kiss his mom in a bizarre Oedipal manifestation!
VIEW! Laura's Xanax kick in mid-sentence!
WITNESS! George explain that he puts "more tax money in your pocket to spend here"--while standing in a jelly-bean store!
HEAR! George's call to "leave no reporter behind!"
FEEL! George's kinship with his canine, Barney: "We bark together, pick fleas..."
FISH! As Oil Boy fumbles with his pole!
GET! Inside Bush's mind as he rehearses "I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message"
SWOON! As Bush asks, "Does that make it clear that I'm the guy going forward?"
LAUGH! With Bush as he calls himself "not a lawyer!"
CRINGE! As Dubya says "Osh Kosh, by gosh!"

(Well, not much more; but this is enough, trust me)

This video ends with a sweet plea by Barbara (staring off-camera) to "pass this on to five other people that would like to see our dad in some unscripted moments." Hell, I say let's pass this on to the whole nation!

I think my sister said it best: "Are you sure this is on Bush's site?"

Friday, October 29, 2004

A post-election nonalysis

This is the next Vermilion column, written in a single setting under immense time pressure, and timed badly to appear the day after the election. Be gentle...

Yesterday, we held what was perhaps the most important and critical election of our lives. We stand at a turning point in history, and the repercussions of this election will be felt for decades to come all over the world. I hope we did the right thing.

But because I’m writing this at exactly midnight on Oct. 30, I can’t comment on what a debacle this election surely turned out to be, nor can I write about the rampant election fraud that has voters boiling. So I’ll just revert to that old standby, The List of Irritating People:

1) People who take pride in not taking a stand. Nothing unnerves me more than people who say they have no opinion. I’m not saying that everyone must have an opinion on everything; for instance, I couldn’t care less what dress Ashlee Simpson wears to the Made-Up Music Awards. But if you’re going to address a hot-button issue in an editorial or other forum, say what you really feel. I can’t be the only one who found this paper’s declaration in 2002 that “The Vermilion takes no stand on the Vermilion-Advertiser debate” to be totally absurd. Yeah right! If something inspires, bugs you or threatens your very existence, then say so! Who knows, someone else might love you for speaking out. Save neutrality for the news and family reunions.

2) People who just HAVE to get where they’re going. Does a day go by when some idiot in an SUV doesn’t careen between lanes as if the very balance of humanity rested on their getting to the stockholder’s meeting in time? Listen, Top Gun, studies show that the average hurried driver gets where they’re going only 83 SECONDS faster than those who drive more carefully. If where you’re going is really worth the risk of driving dangerously, than maybe we should all go! Or perhaps you’re worried about getting to your children. Let the little brats wait a few more minutes! It might be the best lesson you’ve ever given them in how the world works. Also, hang up the phone, turn down the radio and use your turn signals. And fix that damn muffler! Some of us like our lungs.

3) People who rush into lifelong commitments. This is a huge problem in Louisiana. Who decided that we must instill a sense of failure into anyone who isn’t married with a kid, home and hunting rifle by the time they’re 23? If any of you reading this are feeling the pressure to drop out of college in order to make money and satisfy your “parrain” by marrying the first guy you ever kissed, don’t, okay? Live life a little bit! Get an education. Travel. Meet people who haven’t lived their entire lives in Peauxdunk Parish. Who knows, you might find that the life your parents wrote for you 20 years ago just doesn’t do it for you anymore.

4) People who don’t respect other people’s opinions. No one ever changed a mind or earned the high ground by ridiculing someone’s core values. Sure, people often hold what can only be called extreme views; but the key to getting along and pondering other views is to debate the stance factually, without personal attacks. Discourse these days is so full of hatred, and that’s sad—especially when satire and comedy are so much more fun. All name-calling does is start pointless conflict. There’re many better ways to start fights!

5) Newspaper editors. The worst kind of Nazis, editors are real fond of taking the polished thoughts of their writers and butchering any content they think makes them look bad. Editors can kiss

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Putting "race" in the race

Compassionate conservatism! Oh wait... Posted by Hello

Take a look at what fouled up my mailbox today! Before I even got around to reading the text, I knew immediately that this was a Republican attack ad. Review the checklist: picture of brown guy...check...with ragged clothes, a JanSport backpack and a gallon-jug of water...check...sitting in weeds...check...with a bunch of brave white anti-terror warriors surrounding the dark of night, if you know what I mean...check! Defying my relatively weak stomach, I dared to open this enlightening mailer:

The fourth guy looks particularly menacing Posted by Hello

Just who exactly is this ad supposed to target? Are people really so STUPID as to think that Mexicans are in any way, shape or form even remotely related to the terrorists? Man, who would be so dumb as to assume one group of people deserved to be attacked because of what another group did? Oops...maybe that's better left unanswered...

I'm particularly amused by the increasing use of scary terms: terrorists...drug traffickers...immigrants...welfare...illegal aliens...oh my! Right there in 48-point font for maximum fear value. Between this ad and the editorial two posts down, talking-point-obsessed Republicans are making this Halloween very scary indeed!

The voter misguide Posted by Hello

The back page is the best! It offers a highly informative voter guide. Before I read this, I had no idea that "Giving secret American intelligence reports to terror suspects" was a plank in the Kerry platform. So is "allowing our children to view violent, sexually explicit music and videos." Wow! Man, Dan Rather sure kept that chestnut a secret from us...

As a voter, I appreciate the reminder that John Kerry is a Massachusetts Senator. And how could I have made up my mind without knowing that George W. Bush's and David Vitter's conservative records are common-sense agendas for America? Man, I'm sure glad this brought me up to speed on the issues! If there's one thing you can trust in this increasingly prepackaged and uncivil political climate, it's the neutrally phrased and thorough authority of a nonpartisan voter guide. This one comes from the Ronald Reagan Republican Center, so I know it can be trusted because Reagan was, uh, a nice guy or something. What character!

Happy hominid found in Flores

Bush's selfless brain donor Posted by Hello

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The partial skeleton of what appears to be a 3-foot-tall, adult female was uncovered during an archaeological excavation on the island of Flores in the Indonesian archipelago, Australian and Indonesian scientists write in the Nature article. All signs indicate that the little female was in normal health and her diminutive size was not the result of a birth defect -- and that similarly small hominids inhabited the same area and used surprisingly advanced stone tools, outside experts said Wednesday....

"The find is startling," Lahr and Foley continue, using words rarely found in sober scientific journals. "It is of a pygmy-sized, small-brained (creature), which lived as recently as 18,000 years ago, and which was found on the island of Flores together with stone tools, dwarf elephants and Komodo dragons. Discoveries don't get better than that."...

In their essay, Lahr and Foley conclude: "It is breathtaking to think that such a different species of (hominids) existed so recently. ... For most of its 160,000-year history, Homo sapiens seems to have shared the planet with other bipedal and cultural beings -- our global dominance may be far more recent than we thought."

Soooo...we didn't know as much as the theory of evolution as we thought? I guess that makes it all wrong, then! And that, in turn, makes the Bible exactly right. Man, this Republican logic sure is easy on the brain cells. Perfect for a small head...

Now HERE'S a shocker

Daily Advertiser endorses Bush for president

(With Republican talking points bloodied for your convenience)

Issue: His firm conviction and unwavering stand is needed in these tense times.

We Suggest: It is crucial that he continue to guide America.

It is our belief that George W. Bush should be re-elected on Nov. 2. Many factors have influenced our decision. Chief among them is our firm conviction that Bush, better than Sen. John Kerry, possesses the firm conviction and unyielding stance that is necessary to defeat or neutralize global terrorism. In returning him to the White House, America will send a signal that our resolve has not wavered and that we are united in our determination to track down and destroy those who would threaten our nation and do harm to our people.

[Here's something fun to do: Google that last sentence and see what you get! Hilarious.]

We believe also that the war in Iraq must culminate in a total liberation of the Iraqi people and the establishment of a democratic nation that will help to stabilize the volatile Middle East. We submit that the desired results in Iraq depend on staying the course set by President Bush, and on his continued leadership in pursuing that course.

We need also the continued leadership of President Bush in protecting our homeland. He has given us a unified Department of Homeland Security, unifying over 22 agencies and offices to expand the level of protection against terrorism. He has improved the government's ability to guard our borders, protect our infrastructure, and patrol our skies. He has reorganized the FBI into an agency focused on preventing domestic terrorism.

While the belief that he is best qualified to make our nation safe from terrorism is our primary reason for endorsing the president's campaign for re-election, there are many other reasons for supporting his candidacy.

We believe that the president has laid the groundwork for strong economic progress. The recession Bush inherited was among the shortest in history. He moved quickly and effectively to strengthen the economy and create jobs. Because of his leadership, taxpayer money was returned to the families, entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors who earned it.

His agenda for a second term includes more bold steps in education reform; the building of a skilled workforce, and establishing a fair and simpler tax system. He is committed to promoting research and development in both the public and private sectors and opening markets for American goods around the globe.

He has a workable plan for meeting our energy needs and lessening our energy dependence.

In the area of health care, Bush's strategy involves attacking the root causes of rising costs. His opponent would shift the costs to taxpayers or force Americans into restrictive government-controlled programs.

Contrary to the claims of opponents, the environment has improved during the Bush administration. We have cleaner air, more pure water, and of great importance to our area, the net loss of wetlands has been reversed.

Our decision to endorse the president's re-election campaign was also determined by examining the basic values of the two major candidates. George Bush, we believe, shares the core values of our area. With changes looming in the U.S. Supreme Court, those values could be at risk. Bush, with a commitment to appointment of justices who will strictly interpret the Constitution, will be able to protect and preserve them.

George Bush has an agenda for America. It is supported by viable plans and programs to keep America strong, safe from terrorism, and economically healthy. It is designed to make it easier for all of us to have a personal stake in the American dream and a share in the nation's economic prosperity. He is committed to strengthening our communities, standing by our families and protecting our values.

The first term of his presidency has been marked by immense challenges. He has met them head-on, never wavering, standing firm and resolute against problems and threats. We need his strength of character and unyielding resolve in the years to come. We urge our readers to vote for his re-election on Nov. 2.

Man...after reading that, I need to LIE down...

Sunday, October 24, 2004

It's the Bush Economic Crapbook!

Oh Deere! Posted by Hello

This week I bring you the most immense caption contest ever...not one, not two, not three, but FOUR awesomely hilarious pictures for your commentating pleasure! Where does one find such a cornucopia of candid Bush moments? Why, from the big man himself! In what has to be the most ironically macabre election memento of the year, has assembled a collection of campaign pictures they call--no joke--The Jobs & Economy Photo Album! With pictures like these, who needs a Kerry campaign?

--"This reminds me of when I used to pretend to fly jets! Wheeee!"
--"Ah'm gonna take America in a new direction!"
--Introducing the new Sit-N-Spin...Bush sits, Rove spins
--"My daddy won in '88 because Mike Dukakis took a stupid picture just like this!"
--Bush tries to win the black vote by pimpin' his ride
--While Bush stayed the course, the woman secretly fingered the remote control
--When it came to taking dignified photos, Bush was green
--Bush takes away yet ANOTHER job from a real American
--"I sure love them Grand Theft Auto games!"
--"Well here we are, Makeout Motel, Room 69!"
--"Mr. Bush, you're a natural at this carny business!"
--Bush enjoyed his vacation to the rain forest
--Bush tests out the latest in troop transport that he won't bother to send the troops
--Bush takes one last spin at the wheel, heading to Lame-Duck Land
--"For the last time, George, won't you stop for directions?!!"

Economic Crapbook #2

"I'll take center square to block!" Posted by Hello

--The biggest square of all was at the podium
--Bush really knew how to Press His Luck
--In this game of Tic-Tac-Toe, Bush was the only "X"
--Faces, flags and the fool
--Bush...taking the reality out of TV
--Whoa! Pictures CAN lie!
--Bush: your man for wars, funerals, distressed people and smirks
--These colors won't run if they're in black and white!
--Bush displays the many diverse faces of his budget cuts
--Lots of important cardboard minorities stand behind my campaign

Economic Crapbook #3

Bush trains for his new job Posted by Hello

--"So this is that thing called 'paper'?"
--"Bush, you're at the end of the line!"
--"Awww! You're getting better at writing your ABCs!"
--"It's called 'work,' Mr. Bush. You oughta try it sometime."
--Bush always had a brick wall between him and regular folk
--"Heh, heh, heh...drawers!"
--As Nov. 2 neared, Bush expanded his definition of "white" people
--Bush's workmate spreads her hands to illustrate Bush's upcoming share of the black vote
--Bush's call to "lay off" concerns of unemployment didn't go over well
--"Better off? Four years ago, we were investment bankers!"
--"So...looking forward to India?"

Economic Crapbook #4

In one ear, out the other Posted by Hello

--"Responsibility...R-E-S-P-O-N-S-E...uh, A-B...what do you mean, I'm eliminated?"
--"Give me four more years, and I'll put corporate responsibility behind me!"
--Bush didn't do well on the guess-the-background part of "Whose Line is it Anyway?"
--Corporate responsibility, much like its backdrop, fades around Bush
--Responsibility was a very heavy burden on Bush's shoulder
--The devil sitting on his other shoulder whispered, "Blame the FBI!"
--Bush's social-studies-fair project took last place
--That debate preparation sure was a bitch
--Bush's nightmare also featured the words "President Kerry"

Friday, October 22, 2004

Election 2004: Go to the John

With this entry, my latest column, I hereby unveil my latest online project, More Than Words. Quite simply, it's every column I've done for The Vermilion since I took over the liberal-columnist post in June 2002. It's about 76 percent done, so watch your step. This latest entry marks my 80th column; I certainly never thought I'd still be writing for the presidential election, but here I am! I hope you enjoy the new archive (it's the law). If you do, please feel free to spread the word to your friends, family and any world-famous media connections you might have (cough)...Anyway, here's my column on why you should vote for John Kerry. It's something you should really consider.

Election 2004: Go to the John

“Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps…” –Not who you think

While compiling columns for my new online archive (forgive the plug: I noticed that I haven’t talked enough about the Nov. 2 election. After months of fair and balanced consideration, I’ve decided to endorse John Kerry for president.

Before I explain why, though, let’s weigh in on the more localized races. Because U.S. Senator John Breaux is retiring, we must select his successor. Chris John is that man; a moderate Democrat, John has the clout and experience that stands out in a talented field. Plus, he has the added benefit of not being David Vitter.

While the District 7 Representative race is as split as a pro-life liberal, Donald Cravins stands out. While he calls himself a conservative Democrat, his progressive stances on issues such as outsourcing, health care, education and women’s issues betray that description. His biggest opposition, Charles Boustany, has been making speeches about how he isn’t in the pocket of the Republicans, which shows just how much he’s in the pocket of the Republicans.

But back to Kerry. In the past, I’ve been accused of pushing the view that Kerry is the best candidate simply because he’s not Bush. Which is a good reason, really. Nader voters, I hear you; the two-party system has serious flaws that need to be addressed so that we don’t constantly get Britney Spears vs. Hilary Duff. I don’t even really blame Nader for Gore’s loss in 2000; the Supreme Court had much more to do with that robbery. With this election, however, the stakes are far too high to make this brand of statement.

How about this for a statement in 2004? “While Kerry is not our first choice, he is a better choice than the other guy who has a chance to win. Let’s unite for Kerry this time for the immediate good, and then strive toward change when things improve.”

Still, I understand that people want reasons to vote FOR Kerry. That can be satisfied by reading his platform at Kerry has qualities with which virtually anyone can identify.

If you are the worker type, know that Kerry intends to crack down on corporations that want to lay you off and send your job to another hemisphere. He has the support of the AFL-CIO, as well as the International Association of Fire Fighters, International Brotherhood of Police Officers, National Education Association, United Farm Workers and more than 100 other organizations representing diverse professions.

If religion’s your bag, then Kerry is your only choice. Yes, that’s what I said! A Kerry vote will preserve your denomination by getting the government out of it. If you are tired of seeing your sincere beliefs exploited to justify terrible acts, then vote for the man secure enough in his beliefs to not have to enforce them.

Finally, don’t forget that thing going on in Iraq. Kerry’s plan gradually reduces our involvement there and includes regaining the trust of the world’s leaders so that we can plan an exit strategy. He understands firsthand the tragedy of war, and sees the need for soldiers and veterans to get the benefits they deserve.

At least one well-known group does not endorse Kerry. They worry about his ability to conduct the war on terror: “Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps…Because of this we desire [Bush] to be elected…who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom.” Considering al-Qaida’s current clout in the world, I’d take those words to heart.

For the best course for this state, this nation and the world, vote straight John (and Don) this Tuesday.

Say it loud: "I'm dumb and I'm proud!"

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of playing a spirited game of softball with some of my fellow students and professors in the English graduate department. While waiting for my turn to bat one inning, I noticed that the same early-90s model Toyota king-cab (with large American flags hanging from the windows) kept driving up and down the street. The backs of our cars were facing the street, and several us have Kerry bumper stickers. I noticed the driver kept screaming something, but it was illegible. Finally, as I waited to bat, he slowed down enough to deliver his insightful message:


(After that, we didn't see him pass by again. I guess street ideologues have lots of territory to cover.)

One of my professors, a man I've never really known to offer political comments, said to me, "Well, now I see where John Kerry's going to find the next bunch of recruits to go to Iraq." Isn't it the truth?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Are Nader voters up to something?

The following tasty bite comes from the latest addition to the Teammate blogroll, Advice for Lefty. Odd Todd 88, who is apparently about to get married, is a fan of mine; I've also become a fan of his. In his latest entry, he illustrates perfectly the problem with people who vote for Ralph Nader in 2004.

I voted for Nader in 2000. I don't regret it for a second. The 2000 Nader vote did exactly what it was designed to do: to throw a monkey wrench into the comatose Democratic Party's gut. It woke up the Left.

Here I think I should interject my own Nader story. Throughout most of 2000, I was ready to vote for Nader. Three things, however, changed my vote to Al Gore:

1) I met some Nader voters. Nice people be sure, but as time wore on their genuine interest in the issues melted into an active campaign to ruin Gore. I even heard several say they'd much rather have Bush in office than Gore! Screw that.

2) I realized that the fix was in. Nader was never going to win. He wasn't even going to put up Perot-level numbers. I saw well ahead of time that Nader's campaign became more and more about Nader himself instead of what he purported to stand for.

3) I began hearing about the Republican Party funding Nader's campaign. It turns out that, beginning around October 2000, the GOP began pouring money into the Nader camp, even paying for TV ads. Just this year, Nader found himself about 2,000 signatures shy of ballot qualification in Michigan. The state GOP stepped in and got them for him in no time. What does this say about the man? He's a divider, not a uniter. His most fervent rivals know it. Why can't his fans? Back to Odd Todd:

A vote for Nader said to the Dems: "Hey! If you're going to ignore our issues (no war for aggression, war on drugs, corporate crime, etc.), we're not going to vote for you or the Republicans!"

It was dubious enough to say this in 2000, and is fucking DANGEROUS to say in 2004! Todd knows this, but unfortunately some people still don't.

When I voted for Nader four years ago, I knew full well that he wasn't going to be elected. I was more passionate about scolding the Democrats than getting Nader into office.

I'm sorry, but for all of the good Ralph Nader has done for all of us in his career as a consumer advocate, he sure is making this election harder than it needs to be. I seriously don't think, at this point, that the Democrats lack any motivation whatsoever. I'm just going to say it straight up: if you vote for Nader in this crucial election, then you are absolutely spineless. Why? Because you are refusing to take a stand where the stand really counts. If you can't decide that saving this country is preferable to making a self-defeating statement, then your priorities are severely skewed.

To use a sports analogy, you don't send in your untested backup quarterback when you're five points behind with five seconds left on the clock. You wait until you're in a game with a comfortable lead before you risk that chance. Otherwise, who knows what could happen? So, Naderites, don't give up your dream of political reform; it's our dream too, believe it or not. But some things take stages, and right now we have to relearn how to crawl before we can walk. I, for one, am not willing to put up with four more years of Bush just so we can make statements. That's just as reckless as the mentality of the man we're all trying to beat. Let's all work together so that no one has to point fingers anymore. If there's anything I despise, it's internal conflict.

Monday, October 18, 2004

What's in this man's head?

"All I need now's a balloon" Posted by Hello

From the photo album of the apparently defunct Manning Report

--Bush prepares to blow another debate
--What, me worry lines?
--I still don't feel nothin'...need to exhale...
--A textbook case of double-talkers' cramp
--Bush after his meeting with the religious right
--Look! It's a glazed duh-nut!
--Dubya did a really lousy Bill Clinton impersonation
--"I sure hope this never gets on the Internets"
--Weapons of mass contortion
--Restoring honor and dignity to the White House since 2001
--"Momma said never to talk with your mouth open"
--Uh...need some wood? (I know, I know...but it's funny, dammit!)

Taking unpaid leave

Being that I have several school-related projects in tow this week, as well as a new online project I'll be unveiling soon, I'm not sure how often I'll be posting here. I'll try to tack on another caption contest at some point, as well as more excerpts from "It's My America Too" (that book is just KILLING me with laughter!)

So until then, enjoy my back catalog. Or better yet, go outside! Get some fresh air. Ride a bike. Play some basketball. Spend some time with someone you love (or just have sex, either way is fine with me). Sleep is fun too. But don't forget to be inside by dinnertime or no more TV tonight!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Light (headed) reading

But It's Not My Hair Posted by Hello

While cruising the library yesterday, I found this fantastic little book on the new-release shelf. Before I picked this up, I had never heard of Ben Ferguson. offers 55 secondhand copies of this book, a bit odd considering it just came out in August. Either it's so good everyone who reads it is just dying to pass it on to someone else, or...hmmm....possibly it might suck...maybe? Well, I always say, decide for yourself. So I will go through it and decide for you if this book sucks horribly or merely just sucks.

First off, who is Ben Ferguson? He is a radio commentator (the host of the imaginatively titled The Ben Ferguson Show) and, at 23, is the youngest syndicated talk-radio voice in the nation. "If I'd been born eight months earlier, I'd have been a Jimmy Carter baby, and I'd really have hated that. Instead, I was born on August 28, 1981, seven months and eight days after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president." He is also, as his book flap puts it, "The voice of America's youth." And a humble one at that. Indeed, the book flap alone is a treasure trove of fun stuff:

Ben Ferguson is a conservative who is also an independent thinker unafraid to take contrary positions. In It's My America Too, the twenty-two-year-old media star [?!!] shoots from the hip and from the lip on numerous topics.

Ferguson's message is clear. He is not on a campaign to reform liberals and turn them into right-wing Republicans. He is presenting his views on American society and challenging those who do not agree with him to an open debate. Some will not agree with his political and religious views.

Gee, THAT sure makes your book stand out! Maybe that's why Publishers Weekly had this to say about Ben the Boy Wonder:

A light polemic, Ferguson's book is not closely argued; the writing is unsophisticated and the ideas are simplistic.

Awww, that's not nice! If nothing else, Fergie has the most unusual acknowledgments I've yet read. From page three (yes, he has four pages of acknowledgments alone!):

To my best girl friends: Jennifer, you are an amazing woman; to Caroline H., Molly R., Molly M., Katie B., Neely L., Kristen W., Michael A., [Michael?] Rachael T., Anna B., Emily L., and Elizabeth S. Thank you for all being examples of what a solid woman is.

That's a lot of solid women for one radio pimp. And just think, not one of these solid women bothered to tell Benny never to end a sentence with a preposition. Especially if you're going to write a book.

In subsequent chapters, we learn a little about Ferguson. Actually, quite a lot, because he really likes to talk about himself. And boy, does he have a lot to brag about!

I am lucky enough to have been raised in a quiet community in Memphis, Tennessee...For me, there's nothing more fun than going on TV and debating someone like Janeane Garofalo who thinks she's some big expert on world affairs and politics. Last I checked she was only an actress and a comedian [talk about casting stones!]...They have no background in foreign relations...

Don't you love when recent college graduates act like they know more than the average person just because they learned stuff in the classroom? How self-righteous of them! How arrogant! (I graduated in 2002.) But Ferguson is clearly nothing if not his own man, and he does things his own way and in his own style:

The second reason I am writing this book is to show people that being a conservative does not mean you are rich, old, and wear a sweater-vest.

Nope, indeed it means you can look any way you want, even if it pisses off the base! Hell, this guy's right about not worrying about taking on Republicans. Any guy who looks this much like John Hinckley definitely needs guts to be a Republican:

One worships Reagan, the other shot him Posted by Hello

He also asserts that, unlike some other Republican radio hosts, he did not get his break in radio from having a dad with a radio station. Far from it, in fact! What makes this dude special enough to have broken into radio at the tender young age of 13 is a quality rarely seen among people our age:

I got my own show because I have a perspective on my generation that is unusual among the media, and I can seriously debate on the big issues of our times. This is because I have learned to inform myself about what's going on in the world. I love newspapers, and I love history.

But enough about me! Back to Ben Ferguson, because he's the one with the book and the goddamn radio show. As for the book, I can honestly say I haven't yet gotten around to reading most of it. But then again, that never stops me in English class, so here's a quick overview of selected chapters, which should tell you all you need to know.

Why people still brag about this in 2004 is beyond my reasoning. Or reasoning, period.

Chapter 7: Gun Control Means Hitting Your Target: "The twelve victims who died that day were victims of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, not victims of guns." When notified of the difference, all of the bullet-ridden victims came back from the dead.

You just KNOW where this is headed...

Chapter 13: Why I'm a Virgin: I'm proud to be a virgin. I'm glad I'm a virgin. I don't even mind talking about it. [Apparently.] So maybe you wonder: Why am I a virgin? It's actually very simple. [Because you look exactly like John Hinckley?] I am a virgin because I choose to wait until I get married. [Oh.] ...I think abstinence is cool, or it should be, anyway...That's why I say to people: "Look, I'm a virgin. If you're not, great, but I am, and I'm proud of it just like you're proud of hooking up with twelve people."

Chapter 14: Give Kids the Vote: Here, Fergie is actually encouraging the lowering of the voting age to 16. BAD IDEA. Hell, in 1971 the rationale for changing the age was, "if they can be drafted, why can't they vote?" Which made sense, of course. But with a lowered voting age, the Bush administration would be all like, "Well, they can vote, why can't they be drafted? Duh!" And I'd be like, "Oh, no they di'int!"

PART IV: HEROES AND ANTIHEROES is where that well-worn line about Ferguson being unafraid to buck Republicans comes into play:

Chapter 22: Donald Rumsfeld, a Hero for Our Times
Chapter 23: Dubya, My Kind of Redneck

All right, all right, he really does buck the party line in at least two places:

Chapter 19: Newt Gingrich, Role Model--Not!
Chapter 21: What Republicans Can Learn from Bill Clinton

If you aren't just absolutely stoked to read this book by now, then there's nothing I can do for you, pilgrim. You're just too sane to be consoled.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Stem cells: nerves of steel

For the Oct. 20 Vermilion:

Quadriplegic actor Christopher Reeve, paralyzed since a horse-racing accident in May 1995, died Oct. 10 of complications relating to his condition. We have lost one of the finest and most underrated talents of our time, one who showed us that the impossible can become the possible.

The totality of Reeve’s injury hit home for me just days after it happened, when my driver’s education class watched a training video in which he starred. Chris gave us a friendly intro, hopped into a convertible and offered driving tips. Our teacher stopped the tape several times because our paralysis chatter was overriding the lesson. It felt surreal watching the man give us tips on how to drive, knowing that he could no longer grip the wheel.

In the ensuing nine years, Reeve spoke out, wrote two outstanding books and worked tirelessly for his newfound cause. He became a high-profile example for those recovering from catastrophic illnesses. Always an activist, one of Reeve’s most personal political issues later in life involved stem-cell research, a field that offered his greatest hope for walking once again.

Reeve’s death marks the second high-profile death this year (after Ronald Reagan) from maladies related to causes that stem cells promise to treat. What are stem cells? They are the cells that determine the growth and development of human tissue. Once fashioned into a “line” (an infinitely reproducing cluster of cells), stem cells can theoretically be used to regenerate a severed spinal cord or an eroded brain stem. Current studies are underway to determine stem cells’ role in curing such maladies as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, as well as paralysis.

Depending on whom you ask, stem-cell research is either mankind’s best hope or a one-way express rocket to Hell. The stem-cell extraction process, to most people, goes like this: scientists grow fetuses in a secret lab at UC-Berkeley, assisted by a harem of hippie sluts. Babies are then extracted feet-first from the womb and positioned to allow for maximum wailing while a doctor takes a large kitchen knife and slices the fetus like an orange. After exchanging high fives, the doctors slip the remains into a meat grinder. And voila!

Um, no. It’s true that the most effective stem-cell lines are derived from freshly fertilized human embryos; however, only embryos donated explicitly for this purpose are ever used. No actual babies (or fetuses) are ever in danger. Moreover, some stem cells can also originate from live people and even umbilical cords. Still, the Bush administration is no fan of such research, claiming that it violates godly standards. But if Superman and the Gipper dying so close together isn’t a divine sign, then what is?

Not that the theological aspect of it matters anyway. If U.S. law allowed religions to dictate medical practices, then we wouldn’t have hospitals (or, in some cases, doctors). Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, are against blood transfusions because they believe that blood is part of one’s soul. Yet blood banks continue to pulse unabated, as does the door-knocking of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. When scientific advances that could save lives are on the line, doesn’t it make sense to support life?

In any case, stem-cell researchers have a long trial ahead of them. Any obstacles that lie ahead should involve medical applications, not the religious right. Nothing would have thrilled me more than to see Christopher Reeve and Ronald Reagan chatting on a morning jog. But whether or not stem-cell research could have saved them in time, the fact remains that the potential remains out there for the next generation of the afflicted. You might even say it’s our mission to tap this amazing resource.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Houston, we have a problem

UL Lafayette physics instructor has exothermic reaction

From the 1999-2000 UL yearbook Posted by Hello
(Written by my good friend Cheramie Richard)

The Advertiser reports, however vaguely:

An associate professor of physics, Louis Houston, was being questioned by the University Police on Wednesday afternoon. A bomb dog from Fort Polk was brought in to check for explosives, although police described the move as a precaution rather than a response to a specific threat. Police allowed students to return to the hall when the search was complete.

University Police were called to Broussard Hall, the site of physics classes, sometime after 9 a.m. Julie Dronet, a university spokeswoman, said students reported that a physics instructor was exhibiting "erratic and strange" behavior.

The Manning Report guy (I think his name is Jonathan) and phizz have offered some rumors on the previous post commentary. They might hold weight, because they attend the same school as I do (or at least have connections to that school). We'll know more as the reporting comes out. I just heard about it tonight; I don't have classes on Wednesday so I stayed home and slept most of the day. Over six-and-a-half years at UL, I have developed an uncanny tendency to miss all of the crazy events that happen there. It's a good thing, to be sure, but at the same time I'm still one of those people that likes to witness things.

I can't say I know Louis Houston, though I often pass by him on campus. His office door has a poster of Xena and her sidekick on it, with a funny caption along the lines of "Fight the Power." By all accounts he is a likeable guy with a great rapport with his students. Whenever I see him he's walking and chatting with one of his students. To a casual observer, he looks more like a student than a longtime instructor. Not only does he teach physics, but he's also well-known in the Lafayette club scene as a first-rate guitarist. He's even cut a CD.

I hope that this incident is more like the Martin Lawrence exhaustion incident than a deliberately malicious situation. I'll have more on this as it develops.

UPDATE at 10:00 a.m.: according to The Advocate, Houston did the following in his class Wednesday:

--Began shouting obscenities early in the hour
--Wrote "9/11=Now" on the board and threatened the class if they didn't stay seated
--Slapped a student (some sources say on the arm) and said he was God

Depending on the account, he also reportedly locked himself in his office and said he had a bomb. At the same time, another report says that an EMT taking the class managed to calm Houston
down enough for him to finish the class session. Only after the class did anyone report the incident to the University Police. Evidently, there is still much to learn.

Update at 1:02 a.m.: Yahoo! We're famous!! (Thanks to Zac for the link)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Drive to caption central

From The Manning Report, the best site in the world

A new kind of K-Car Posted by Hello

Read the interesting story behind this car at

--The President has been totally redesigned for 2005
--Introducing the new Kerry Continental
--This car is more economical in terms of lives per gallon
--Its battery will really jump-start the economy
--Unlike the Bushmobile, this car can change directions!
--Appeals to soccer moms and hippies alike
--This Ford's always focused
--A little slow on pickup, but pulls through when it counts
--Even if you wanted another one at first, this car sticks to you
--Tears through Bushes without a scratch!
--A real Road Warrior for our times
--John Kerry can pimp any ride!

A Sunday sermon

Good Sunday, my flock at Not Righteth About Anything of Lafayette Parish. This week we've got a killer sermon for you, so let's all get on our knees...oh wait, that's after the service. Never mind. Sit in the pews and buckle up, because this ride's about to roll! Here are the latest dispatches from Fundie Land, courtesy of Grab your passport and let's travel!

What follows is the message that heads the thread. Not content with claiming that a vote for Kerry is a vote for terrorism, the religious right also warns that it's also a vote for SATAN!

In my opinion, those of us who are genuine Christians must let our faith help us decide who to vote for. The democratic party [sic] has given away nearly every issue that once held my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents as democrats [sic] for as far back as any can remember. The democrats [sic] now stand against anything and everything related to being a Christian. Let me summarize what a Christian has to give away in order to vote against Bush and for Kerry...

1. They have to give away the issue of abortion- that's about 5,000 innocent lives per day. Kerry will abort them at 40 weeks if he can get away with it.

2. They have to give away anything related to protecting God's definition of marriage. (What?!!) Kerry will sign ANYTHING that will make him look open minded and progressive. (Oh no! Not that!! Must be one of those famous right-wing non-insults.)

3. You have to give away strategic defense issues. If Kerry had his way, most weapons systems we use today would not be available. He would have had a nuclear freeze. (AAH!!) He is anti-war, period. I don't care what he says. (Well, I kind of like the fact that he's not a hawk like Bush.)

4. You have to give away authority to send troops as a last resort. That will be a decision left to the UN. (Um, sure, why not?)

5. You have to give up morality in general. I was reading an ESPN the magazine [sic] article the other day where he used the "f" word out of the blue, for no apparent reason. He is the OPPPOSITE of the kind of role model we want for our kids. (As opposed to Dick Cheney? Or his warmongering and bloodthirsty running mate?)

6. You have to give up on tax cuts. Kerry WILL ROLL BACK the tax cuts (GOOD!) and that will just be the beginning. Don't believe the hype, folks.

And last but certainly not least, I beg you, if you actually claim Christ, consider what Kerry stands for and what President Bush stands for, then ask yourself which man stands for anything even NEAR what the Bible tells us is important. (Amen, brother. Who knew this person was a Kerry voter?)

Stop listening to the pundits. Stop listening to the liberals on CNN, CBS, ABC, and NBC. Listen to (me! Er, I mean,) your heart and look your kids in the eye and vote for the man that is right for the job. (And you're voting for BUSH?)

Please consider this also: why would the hatred be so strong against this President? The answer is that the forces of evil hate him and want him gone. I'm not saying that all of you are evil or that every person who votes for Kerry is evil. (Um, yeah, that is what you're saying!) I'm just saying that the deception is very strong and difficult to resist. Personally, I can see past the partisan lies and see that he is the man who should be our President. (Great! Oh, you mean Bush.)

After all these years, I'm still waiting for a volunteer from the religious right (Carl P, perhaps?) to explain to me just exactly what tenets of Christianity can be found in George W. Bush. As far as I can tell, Bush openly advocates killing (his wars, constant use of the death penalty), ignores the needs of the poorest of our citizens (cutting social programs, cutting taxes for the top percentiles while doing nothing about high payroll taxes) his apparent hatred for peace (too many examples to count) and his obnoxiously public displays of faith (a major violation of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:5-6). Will one of you theocrats PLEASE explain that for all time?

But if spirituality lacks in the Bush administration, religious dogma is plentiful. Count on the Bushies to exercise control of the masses through fear, intimidation and the peril of non-conformity. And don't forget the manipulation of revered manuscripts and documents to justify the unjustifiable. In short, all of the worst traits of religion. I do see that. That's definitely there.

Our next entry explains indisputably why the ultimate paragon of peace, Jesus, would be all for our little global conquest:

I don't have to make up what Jesus would say about war- it is written in black and white in Romans. I have posted that passage in another answer in this thread. I'll tell you. God has given the responsibility of protection and law to our government.

You see? God has blessed our government! It can do no wrong! Except, of course, for welfare.

At this point I must ask all of you who are in the process of consuming food, drink or medicine to put it down before you read the next sentence; this will save you from spewing it all over your computer as well as avert a potential choking hazard:

If the President and those in authority have said that they believe war is necessary, that is their call.

Yeah, just like the way you guys worshipped Bill Clinton, right? When God told him to bomb Kosovo, you guys said that he was just diverting attention from Monica Lewinsky's semen-stained dress. Why didn't you trust God then? Did you really want to look at Clinton's semen that badly? On second thought, don't answer that...

I'm not saying it's wrong to question them on it. Please do- they need accountability. However, the lies and hatred about the war that are spewed by many have no place in my opinion.

In other words, feel free to express your opinion, as long as it is MINE. But let's give these commentators the credit they deserve; whether or not they were consistent with Clinton and Bush, they certainly seem to be on the right track with Bush and Kerry as agents of God:

I'll submit to the authority that God has put into place. If Kerry gets elected, it will be because God has placed him here. I will pay my higher taxes and I will respect him as my President. I may not agree with what he stands for or what he does, but he'll be my President.

Either we've found the most consistent Christian wingnut ever, or the most braindead one. Probably both. I get the feeling that, if this person decides to stay home on election day, they'll feel it's because God wants them to be apathetic. And if a gas main happens to explode from neglect while they're at home, then obviously God wanted them to die. Must be nice never to have to think for yourself...

And speaking of thinking...if the Christian Right is good at one thing, it's thinking through the complicated issues. And quickly at that! Take note of this stand-alone comment, appearing halfway through the thread (and right in the thick of a heated debate):

By the way, I think this debate has been settled.

I find that this is how most Christian debates in which I've been involved end--with the holy-roller suddenly declaring victory and citing the Bible as the reason. At the very least, it gets them off your case if you start making sense.

He does happen to be the only God. He's also the only one who has ever made that claim. Jesus Christ is the only man who actually claimed to be one with God. [Aside from Sun Myung Moon, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson, every Baptist and Pentecostal minister alive and everyone who claims to be saved.] What do most world religions say about Christ? They say he was a prophet, a good man, or a teacher. What's the problem with this? It's impossible for him to merely be a good man when he claimed to be one with God. [Indeed, most men who claim to be God are not good people at all.] He even claimed to BE God. Then He gave His life for the world in order that we might be saved. No other "deity" has EVER even come close. [To YOU, anyway.] No other has ever even claimed to be the only god. None. Why? Because all other gods are spawned from satan [sic] himself and he needs them all to believe the lie that there are many gods. [All together now: How conveeeeeenient!] Yes, those who never trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior will go to hell. It's a fact that is written throughout the Scripture.

Jesus! Is this an Internet thread or a Chick tract?

I have included the section about paying taxes to let you know that I realize the Bible commands me to pay taxes if the government tells me to.

I swear, it's hard to tell if these people worship God or the Bible. Wouldn't Bible worship be considered idolatry? At least that what the BIBLE says...

Please consider this also: why would the hatred be so strong against this President? [See the rest of the this blog.] The answer is that the forces of evil hate him and want him gone. [Oh. I thought it was because Bush is an inarticulate, selfish, warmongering, elitist, smug and irrational prick. But it's just because I'm evil. My bad.] I'm not saying that all of you are evil or that every person who votes for Kerry is evil. I'm just saying that the deception is very strong and difficult to resist. [So Bush is really a swell guy in spite of his words, deeds, beliefs and actions?] Personally, I can see past the partisan lies and see that he is the man who should be our President. In addition the election of Kerry and his ilk is an affront to all people who believe the Bible is the Word of God. [So a vote for Kerry is not evil, yet it is heretical? Talk about a flip-flop!] There is a diabolical attempt the preachers in this country from teaching from the Bible from the pulpit of the nations churches. [Um, what?] Pending legislation in Congress is designed to muzzle the pastors, preachers, rabbis et cetera from preaching the Word of God. [I believe they're referring to to H.R. 666, the God Sucks Act of 2004. Is there no end to the heretical antics of this, uh, Republican Congress?] This country must be taken back from the insurrectionists intent upon dismantling our freedom in this country. [The country must be seized in the name of freedom? Now THAT's witty!]




He's George W. Bush, and he approves this message.

Before we part this morning, let us join in one final prayer: "O deity, if there is one, please be benevolent in your blessings to our nation and all the nations in the world. And while we aware that you interfere not in the affairs of the world, such as NFL games, we please ask you to exert divine will over those who need you the most. Those would be the people who claim to know your ways most yet follow them the least, the religious right. Please bestow upon them the good judgment that so eludes them in astonishing capacity. We know, we know, the Big Bang was easier, but can you at least give it a shot? Please? I swear we'll pray to you more often! Knock some goddamn sense into them before they kill us all in your name so that they can go to heaven and spend the rest of eternity on their knees praying in hard pews. Thank you. Amen. Play ball."

Now where's that damn collection plate?

Saturday, October 09, 2004

I rather like Dan

For my latest Vermilion column, to be published in the Oct. 13 issue, I take on one of the editors. Yes, that's stupid. But, then again, so is her editorial, censored here for lack of scanner space:

The garbage ad was a nice touch Posted by Hello

What makes this anti-Dan Rather editorial so disgusting is that it comes from the features editor, Jennifer Knight, a person who has been with the Vermilion for (maybe) eight or nine months, tops. To read her editorial is to read either the words of a hardened veteran reporter (like Rather!) or those of an insecure college student who feels the need to puff up her stature by tearing down the standard-bearers of her profession. Whatever. I'm sure she's nice.

[Edit 4/4/07: A week later, the Verm ran a correction, saying this article was not the work of Jennifer Knight, but of Jennifer Reinert, who was a higher editor at the time. Which doesn't alter the point much.]

I rather like Dan

People in the press write a lot about themselves. Pick up any journalistic trade magazine and you’ll see what I mean. Journalists are seen by the public (often justifiably so) as a cocky and self-important lot. Of course, this is a profession staffed largely with former nerds with huge vocabularies, who have the potential to inflict damage with what they write. I should know, because that’s me! Reporting requires a special type of person, and ambushing people to get their deepest beliefs and rushing to meet deadlines is good work for a Type-A, hard-driven personality (That’s not me).

Journalism, then, often becomes an ego-driven industry. Much like hip-hop. And just like rappers, journalists who screw up get hammered. Not only does the mistake-maker get the facts wrong, but it becomes front-page news! For days! Justified or not, it’s almost sickening how much satisfaction journalists get from exposing one of their own. It gives them a feeling of intellectual superiority, as well as a chance to harp on why they themselves are above suspicion.

It’s one thing to demand a virtuoso performance on the stage of public communication; it’s another to try to bump that person off the stage while they’re still trying to perform. Take last week’s Vermilion staff editorial. Entitled “Hit the road, Dan,” the editorial took Dan Rather and CBS News to task for its recent fudging of facts regarding Bush-related documents. Faced with evidence that memos featured on CBS proving Bush’s skittish military service were phonies, Rather apologized.

Last week’s editorial compared Rather’s case to that of Jayson Blair, the recently disgraced New York Times journalist who made up articles. I find it surprising that a journalism student would make such a silly comparison; if her professor accused her of making up quotes, when in fact she recalled the information correctly but it turned out to be wrong, there’s no question she’d explode. Wouldn’t anyone?

It’s dangerous business for a “junior journalism student” to give hell to Dan Rather over incorrect information. This assumes, of course, that this journalism undergraduate is never herself going to make a mistake in her career. Rather has been employed by CBS News since 1962. In that time, he has been known for only two major gaffes: this one and a confrontation he had with George H.W. Bush in 1988, in which they—get this—both screamed at each other! That’s two mistakes in 42 years. Not bad! I myself passed that two-mistake threshold sometime during my tenure at my middle-school newspaper. Besides, let’s face it: any Vermilion staffer who points fingers for mistakes is calling the kettle black, okay?

Such criticism is valid only when it is not accompanied by blatant partisanship. Why, for example, did the writer not refer to the case of Fox News reporter Carl Cameron, who completely made up the John Kerry manicure quotes after the first Presidential debate? Where is her outrage over that?

And witness Cameron’s network, the “fair and balanced” Fixed News, sorry, Fox News. Any outlet that makes a policy of sending e-mails to its anchors to inject pro-Bush statements in its news deserves criticism. Not the kind of self-serving criticism currently enveloping Rather, but the constructive kind that actually helps the profession and the flow in information in general.

One quote from the editorial is telling: “Most people don’t know this, but journalists have a code of ethics.” Yes, it seems that most people these days aren’t aware that journalism has any ethics. It might help the integrity of this great profession if journalists showed a little restraint and forgiveness when one of their own shows the occasional misjudgment. Now that would be ethical.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Finally! A reminder of 9/11!

The following pictures came courtesy of my friend who is really into tearful e-mail forwards and religious-right politics. In my infinite wisdom I irretrievably erased the text of the message, which contained the names and location of the people who did this up. Believe it not, I think it's a nice and necessary (not to mention artistic) gesture. Only one thing ruins it, and I might be giving it away by noting that the truck's drivers got to meet Darryl Worley:

Philosophical questions:
--If you can read these names, are you too close?
--If someone were to crash into this truck, could they be arrested for sedition?
--Is anyone going to create one of these for the dead/injured soldiers and civilians in Iraq? Or will that be too small for a mere 18-wheeler?

Yep! The whole point of these murals is to question the patriotism of those who refuse to let our leaders use these names to justify their global conquest.

The doves are a nice touch, though... guess irony didn't die that day after all.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Double-decker caption contest

Two pics for the price of one this week!

THIS America! Posted by Hello

--George W. Bush makes a point
--Wow! Red, white and blue really does clash with yellow!
--Dubya points out his new "Fifty Points of Light" plan
--If you're going to burn the flag, wrap yourself in it first!
--"Um...uh...wait, I know this!...Uh, um, Guatemala?"
--"Dick Cheney, COME ON DOWN!"
--Bush: one middle finger away from peace
--"Which way is the wind blowing? That's where I stand"
--"Let the EEEE-eagle Soarrrrrr!"
--"Dammit! When you said bars, I thought you meant..."
--"Gee, this ice-cream cone sure is hard to chew"
--Bush got used to answering the IQ question swiftly and quietly
--Dubya discloses how many military funerals he has attended...and adds one
--Is that finger lying? Only Laura knows for sure...
--Bush shows his famous "dual-pleasure" position for Halliburton lobbyists
--"I hereby rechristen this flag 'The Stars and Wars'"
--Introducing the first un-American Flag
--"And to the Republicans for which it stands..."
--Duty, honor, out of three isn't bad

A free bonus caption pic!

Did he really need the Secret Service? Posted by Hello

--Ironically, the safest plane on the world boarded the most dangerous man in the world
--"I admire your service, troop...what's it like?"
--Little did Bush know that the in-flight movie was "Fahrenheit 9/11"
--Bush shows off his newest (commercial) flight suit
--"No, I won't get you more peanuts!"
--"Can I get a small bottle of gin?" "Sir, I'M the passenger!"
--Bush finally fulfills his air time with the military
--"This seat's taken"..."Taken"...."Can't sit here!"
--"Pleased to defeat you, Mr. President!"
--The Khakis defeat Iraqis for Captain Tacky
--"I got a box with your name on it!"
--Aboard Air Head One

Friday, October 01, 2004

Such master debating

Thursday night's debate was by far the most enlightening 90 minutes of the 2004 presidential campaign. More than the conventions, more than the Swift Boat fiasco, more than the candidates' respective military services, more than positioning on the War on Iraq, last night's sparring match brought out the true colors of both John Kerry and George W. Bush.

Take away the issues for a moment and examine the respective personalities of the candidates. Under the pressure of a huge national audience, uncertain of the upcoming questions and well aware of the sensitivity of anything they say, Kerry exuded confidence and thorough knowledge while Bush stammered and repeated rehearsed statements. In a reversal of the perceived norm, Kerry radiated personality while Bush seemed nervous, flat and detached. And just as critics derided Al Gore for his sighs in 2000, so too will they lambaste Bush for his smirks and winces each time Kerry spoke (though Bush's critics, as if it even needs to be said, are not the same people as Gore's).

Plug in the issues, and the partisan divide gets even more pronounced. Bush, who benefited from moderator Jim Lehrer's softball questions while Kerry bore the burden of the issues, nevertheless managed to come off as ill-prepared as a college student making a long presentation without preparation (I would know about this). But if you're reading this, at my joint, at this point in time, then you've already heard, read and seen that to death. No need to beat a dead horse on what a reckless, inarticulate, defensive, simple, smug, uncaring rat-bastard Bush is, as fun as that can be. So let's get to the paraphrased highlights!

Bush quickly showed his ability to answer tough questions, even if the question he was answering was entirely in his head.

LEHRER: Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2nd would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?

BUSH: No, I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe I'm going to win, because the American people know I know how to lead. I've shown the American people I know how to lead.

Kerry fared better at answering the question at hand. Then again, so are most intelligent people without major secrets to hide:

KERRY: I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are. But we also have to be smart, Jim. And smart means not diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and taking if off to Iraq where the 9/11 Commission confirms there was no connection to 9/11 itself and Saddam Hussein, and where the reason for going to war was weapons of mass destruction, not the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Kerry went for the throat from the outset, leaving Bush with no choice but to defend the indefensible:

LEHRER: "Colossal misjudgments." What colossal misjudgments, in your opinion, has President Bush made in these areas?

KERRY: First of all, he made the misjudgment of saying to America that he was going to build a true alliance, that he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and go through the inspections...He also promised America that he would go to war as a last resort...And we pushed our allies aside...And Iraq is not even the center of the focus of the war on terror... The president moved the troops, so he's got 10 times the number of troops in Iraq than he has in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden is.

Bush immediately rebutted Kerry's claims by countering...uh..."I know you are, but what am I?"

BUSH: My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at and declared in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat...He also said in December of 2003 that anyone who doubts that the world is safer without Saddam Hussein does not have the judgment to be president...I agree with him. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein...I was hoping diplomacy would work. I understand the serious consequences of committing our troops into harm's way. So I went to the United Nations. I didn't need anybody to tell me to go to the United Nations. I decided to go there myself.

DEE-fense! (clap clap) DEE-fense! (clap clap) DEE-fense! (clap clap) Keep him on the defense, Senator Kerry! Because if Bush is weak on anything, it’s DEE-fense.

By invoking the name of Osama bin Laden, Kerry forced Bush to acknowledge the real enemy, one which he had all but deleted from the national consciousness. This led to an amusing exchange, in which both candidates attempted to appeal to the religious right by applying that well-worn commandment, Know Thine Enemy:

KERRY: Does that mean that Saddam Hussein was 10 times more important than Osama bin Laden -- than, excuse me, Saddam Hussein more important than Osama bin Laden?

BUSH: Of course we're after Saddam Hussein -- I mean bin Laden.

That religious right thing was a joke, by the way. But the quotes aren't. What the transcript misses is that Bush was clearly trying avoid the mention of bin Laden's name, as he had successfully over the past two years. Or he was genuinely confused over the difference between bin Laden and Hussein. Either way, you know?

Bush accused Kerry of calling the war on Iraq "the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place." FIVE TIMES! Kerry also repeated a mantra throughout the night regarding the Iraq War, albeit one with more merit (and not five times):

KERRY: Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. al Qaeda attacked us. And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains. With the American military forces nearby and in the field, we didn't use the best trained troops in the world to go kill the world's number one criminal and terrorist. They outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, who only a week earlier had been on the other side fighting against us, neither of whom trusted each other. That's the enemy that attacked us. That's the enemy that was allowed to walk out of those mountains. That's the enemy that is now in 60 countries, with stronger recruits.

Kerry certainly didn't mince any words about the wrong-headedness of the War in Iraq: The terrorism czar, who has worked for every president since Ronald Reagan, said, "Invading Iraq in response to 9/11 would be like Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor."

Bush responded to Kerry's allegations of unnecessary cowboy warfare by reminding us that FOUR nations, not three, originally joined us in the Coalition of the Willing (patent pending):

BUSH: Well, actually, he forgot Poland. And now there's 30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops. And I honor their sacrifices. And I don't appreciate it when candidate for president denigrates the contributions of these brave soldiers. You cannot lead the world if you do not honor the contributions of those who are with us. He called them coerced and the bribed. That's not how you bring people together. Our coalition is strong. It will remain strong, so long as I'm the president.

Bush attributed the problems in Iraq with--this is not a joke, I swear--WINNING TOO FAST!

BUSH: No, what I said was that, because we achieved such a rapid victory, more of the Saddam loyalists were around. I mean, we thought we'd whip more of them going in. But because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning the operation, we moved rapidly, and a lot of the Baathists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared. I thought they would stay and fight, but they didn't.


BUSH: And now we're fighting them now.

That's right! They didn't stay and fight, but now we're fighting them now. What did they do, leave, go to Piggly Wiggly and come back tanned, rested and ready? Thank God this man is in office, right? In any event, Bush acknowledged that the transition in Iraq is a process not devoid of growing pains:

BUSH: It is hard work. It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It's hard work to go from a place where people get their hands cut off, or executed, to a place where people are free.

Yes, any society where HANDS are executed certainly has a long way to go. As does any nation that practices the barbaric custom of execution. Hey, wait a minute...!

Bush, for one, expressed awe at Kerry's ability to say amazing things:

BUSH: My opponent just said something amazing. He said Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq as an excuse to spread hatred for America. Osama bin Laden isn't going to determine how we defend ourselves. Osama bin Laden doesn't get to decide. The American people decide.

Of course, Bush (who fancies himself the voice of the entire American people) brilliantly defended his actions with an impenetrable counter-argument:

BUSH: I decided the right action was in Iraq. My opponent calls it a mistake. It wasn't a mistake. (...he said while clicking his red ruby slippers...)

But what would a war be without its bread and butter, the troops? Both candidates acknowledged major troop dangers and supply shortfalls:

KERRY: I've met kids in Ohio, parents in Wisconsin places, Iowa, where they're going out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art body gear to send to their kids. Some of them got them for a birthday present. I think that's wrong. Humvees -- 10,000 out of 12,000 Humvees that are over there aren't armored. And you go visit some of those kids in the hospitals today who were maimed because they don't have the armament.

BUSH: My message to our troops is, "Thank you for what you're doing. We're standing with you strong. We'll give you all the equipment you need. And we'll get you home as soon as the mission's done, because this is a vital mission."

If Bush's words aren't the most ambiguous and least reassuring message ever spoken to U.S. troops, know what? I can't even finish that sentence!

But have no fear, brave soldiers! No matter how this election turns out, rest assured that the next president will address your concerns, because they both possess the firsthand knowledge of war that comes only from personal experience:

KERRY: This president just -- I don't know if he sees what's really happened on there. But it's getting worse by the day. More soldiers killed in June than before. More in July than June. More in August than July. More in September than in August. And now we see beheadings. And we got weapons of mass destruction crossing the border every single day, and they're blowing people up. And we don't have enough troops there...

BUSH: And it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I get the casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it is. But it's necessary work.

Bush talked about his empathy for the sacrifices of soldiers in Iraq, citing his interaction with Missy Johnson, a war widow from Charlotte, N.C.

BUSH: I told her after we prayed and teared up and laughed some that I thought her husband's sacrifice was noble and worthy. Because I understand the stakes of this war on terror. I understand that we must find al Qaeda wherever they hide.

Of course, this does not quite explain why I have been to more military funerals than Bush has ever deigned to attend. He understands the stakes, maybe, but not the costs. Kerry, on the other hand, does:

KERRY: I understand what the president is talking about, because I know what it means to lose people in combat. And the question, is it worth the cost, reminds me of my own thinking when I came back from fighting in that war. And it reminds me that it is vital for us not to confuse the war, ever, with the warriors. That happened before. And that's one of the reasons why I believe I can get this job done, because I am determined for those soldiers and for those families, for those kids who put their lives on the line. That is noble. That's the most noble thing that anybody can do. And I want to make sure the outcome honors that nobility.

Additionally, Kerry reaffirmed his commitment to military strength by vowing to extend troop divisions and expand benefits (also, he said "backdoor draft"):

KERRY: Also believe that it is -- one of the reasons we can't do it is we're overextended. Ask the people in the armed forces today. We've got Guards and Reserves who are doing double duties. We've got a backdoor draft taking place in America today: people with stop-loss programs where they're told you can't get out of the military; nine out of our 10 active duty divisions committed to Iraq one way or the other, either going, coming or preparing. So this is the way the president has overextended the United States.

Bush also took the time to discuss another ongoing time of trial for American families, further helping his image as a non-insulated man of the people:

BUSH: I appreciate the fact that his daughters have been so kind to my daughters in what has been a pretty hard experience for, I guess, young girls, seeing their dads out there campaigning.

Won't ANYONE think of the children?!! I mean, some are discovering the futile tragedy of losing a father...because he's out CAMPAIGNING! What could possibly be rougher than that?

Of course, the candidates talked about other countries besides Iraq. But not too much. They bickered a lot about North Korea and China, and then got on the subject (despite Bush’s efforts) on nuclear material in Russia. Bush disavowed his self-professed good buddy Russian President Vladimir Putin and his rollbacks on liberty in the name of security (cough):

BUSH: No, I don't think it's OK, and said so publicly. I think that there needs to be checks and balances in a democracy, and made that very clear that by consolidating power in the central government, he's sending a signal to the Western world and United States that perhaps he doesn't believe in checks and balances, and I told him that.

Remember back when Bush said he "looked into Putin's eyes and saw into his soul?" Wasn't that funny?

On the political front, Kerry did very well for himself, looking relaxed and knowledgeable while coming across as a man with an actual personality. In one stunning victory, Kerry took the "Head of State" route and turned his most negative connotations into positives:

On voting against the $87 billion Iraq bill: Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?

On being an outspoken Vietnam anti-war hero: I believe that when you know something's going wrong, you make it right. That's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that's what I did with that vote. And I'm going to lead those troops to victory.

On being a flip-flopper: But let me talk about something that the president just sort of finished up with. Maybe someone would call it a character trait, maybe somebody wouldn't. But this issue of certainty. It's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong. It's another to be certain and be right, or to be certain and be moving in the right direction, or be certain about a principle and then learn new facts and take those new facts and put them to use in order to change and get your policy right. What I worry about with the president is that he's not acknowledging what's on the ground, he's not acknowledging the realities of North Korea, he's not acknowledging the truth of the science of stem-cell research or of global warming and other issues. And certainty sometimes can get you in trouble.

As for Bush, he reinforced his image as a rambling, incoherent, defensive, arrogant know-nothing who smirks under pressure. Well, at least he’s consistent.

Watching Kerry absolutely cream Bush in every rhetorical and real sense, combined with C-SPAN's post-debate phone calls and Jon Stewart's hilarious analysis, had me pumped in a way I hadn't been pumped since 2000—the 2000 football season, that is, when the New Orleans Saints finally won its first playoff game. That year, they shockingly eliminated the defending-champion St. Louis Rams. After last night, a Democratic parallel seems all but inevitable (knock on serious wood).

So, naturally, the next-day declarations appalled me. Experts rate debate a draw? What could possibly lead any sane and honest American to assume that both candidates lent equal merit to the debate? As the CBS article explains, the case for a tie is quite strong:

"It’s a positive outcome for Kerry."

"'I don't view this as a tie,' he continued. 'I view this as a superb dual presentation that presented the American people with a clear choice...'"

"all agreed Kerry scored points by standing toe-to-toe with Mr. Bush on foreign policy and national security. "

"Kerry’s over the bar and he’s in the game."

"According to Ornstein and other experts, Kerry came off looking presidential."

Of course, the article did have high praise for Bush as well, being that he tied with Kerry and all:

"Although visibly perturbed by Kerry’s attacks, Mr. Bush was ardent in arguing that the war in Iraq was worth fighting and that he was the best man to lead us in that fight. "

"And if many Americans deem the debate a tie, there is a sense that Mr. Bush gains by not losing. "

"Going into tonight, President Bush won if he didn’t lose."

Bush won if he didn't lose. That seems to be the prevailing sentiment on the conservative blogs I've seen today. Their usual Kerry criticism came with an extra helping of Bush praise...faint praise. Talk about damning...

"He also stumbled in speech more than Kerry" --IMAO

"I think it was a draw... which means Kerry won says [since?] this was supposed to be Bush's strong point." --IMAO

"Watching Bush trying to articulate his positions is an often painful experience. During last night's debate, it was clear that Bush was having an 'off' night. He looked tired and irate." --antiprotester

"Bush can't talk. Plain and simple. He seriously needs to take speech and phonetics classes. Kerry has obviously taken several. He's calm and poised. Bush sounds and acts nervous...In my Republican view, Bush blew this one. If he doesn't do something in the second debate, he's gonna struggle the rest of the way to Nov 2." --Masked Truth Peddler of Spreading Understanding

"First off, let me say that I was really hoping for a Bush home run last night and it didn't happen...Kerry turned in a strong performance. He sounded like a debater and politician at times...He definitely looked like a presidential candidate." --Right Makes Right!

"So...nobody lost, which means Bush wins." --Right Makes Right!

And if Bush wins, especially after Thursday night, everybody loses.