Thursday, June 29, 2006

Louisiana country nudity

Ho / Reuters (That's not nice, Reuters!)

I don't really have anything to say about Britney Spears; her new (ahem) tribute cover; her recent embarrassing comments about being "country;" her old embarrassing comments about just trusting the president; her babymaking prowess; her apparent hatred for child-safety seats; how she suddenly looks good again; how she never appears on actual album covers anymore; or K-Fed. But she's a public figure and the current darling of Louisiana, so covering Britney is virtually required of me as a blogger. So, there you go!

Honestly, I'm just trying to fulfill a post quota here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Vote Hillary in '06!

Today I'd liek two point you to a knew blag: Hillary for President!

Never in all my too years of bloging have Eye seen such a loocid and awesome sight. In fact, this blog could very well be the offecal arm of the Dee-N-Cee itself! Check it out to read Hillary's platforum, how she would de-feet the NEOCON'S in the Whitte House and how much better the cuntry wood be if we elected Hillary to run the Erth.

The blog is updayed dayly, or sumtimes wekkly if no Hillary things are happyning. It's arthur reglarly rights to Hillary so its like an n-side connecticution. Indeed, the arthur has to remane nonnamus cuz their obviously a high persin in the Hillary ontourage. That last word was Franch, for those of you who prefer that talk to the Freedom langwitch. Eatch post has a link to read it in french, since progresses like to speek that tong.

HFP has urned high prays among bloogers, witch can be scene on it's sidebore. Each commeant cums with a link so you can sea the full quota. You can even voat in a pole to pick Hillary's vise precedent! The name's are spelt good enuff. The righter of HFP prefers Bill to bee V-Pee.

As left-T's, itss very importunt that we visit this blog everyday and elect Hillary For President. She will make sure that we in the Librul Party are free to do Dimocrack things liek smoke poot, worship Muslam, raze taxis, give well fare to Michael More and make French the national language like we all want.

So go two Hillary For President RITE NOW and let's awl tipe commas to xpress our solitarity!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Five-fifteen foolishness

Let's pretend for a moment that the minimum wage really shouldn't be increased. Imagine that there's actually some truth to the fatuous argument that the minimum wage deserves to be low so that the prices of goods don't go up. In this hypothetical fantasy, the prices of a national conglomerate's products teeter precariously on whether or not some dockworker in Peoria gets a 50-cent hourly raise.

Assuming that principle is true, why don't we just not pay anyone anything? That way, stuff would be super-duper cheap! At least as cheap as a jab at Dubya's intelligence. Such cost-cutting would allow corporations to save money and thus be able to hire more workers, so that they could work for nothing as well! Who could resist such a logical extension? It's flawless.

But goods made by equally underpaid workers smacks of communism! And aren't most of the things we purchase already made for 10 cents a day by three-year-olds in Sweatshopistan? Kinda pulls the rug from underneath that one, doesn't it?

Seriously. Who can argue that the minimum wage should stay where it is, especially after all this time? I'll tell you this: it isn't anybody trying to make it on such a dismal wage.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Monday Morning Musing

One of the Republican justifications for Bush support is that "He has not allowed a terrorist attack on America since 9/11."

Oh really? So now the barometer for a successful presidency is having no more than two major national landmarks utterly destroyed? Such a high bar to clear! While we're at it, why don't we offer Andrea Yates the "Mother of the Year" award for not drowning any of her children since 2001? Of course we won't, because the damage has been done and there isn't a thing you can do that won't make it worse.

The only thing worse than pessimism is barrel-scraping optimism. Keeping a positive attitude is one thing; being absurdly delusional is another. You wouldn't tell your depressed friend, "Hey, at least you aren't dying of that fatal disease that just killed your mom." Nor would you tell Aaron Spelling's widow, "Look on the bright side: you're single now! I hear that Ramsey guy is available." It's disrespectful to those for whom the losses are still fresh. And it's exactly the same with, "He has not allowed a terrorist attack on America since 9/11."

I, for one, am not letting our leaders off that easily. And neither should anyone else, especially since such misguidedly positive thinking has allowed Bush to get away with so much other terrible behavior since then.

To steal a catchphrase from the GOP playbook, "Where's the outrage?"

A Sunday comic

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Blogging makes you skinny

In November 2002, I appeared on a local public-access show to debate politics with three conservatives (one of whom was playing a liberal for balance). For those of you who are used to recent photos of me, I'm the one on the far left. I filled in for an absent panel member guest on VERY short notice, and the prep notes he gave me beforehand were entitled "Nicaraguan economy" just to scare the hell out of me.

The guy all the way to the right was the head of the College Republicans. At one point I flubbed whatever point I was making and said something like, "Well, I don't always follow what I'm saying." To which the College Republican muttered, "I know, I read your column." He said it so softly that I didn't even hear it until I watched the tape.

Another highlight: a caller asked us what we thought of illegal immigration (yes, it DID exist in 2002, apparently). After the other three guys spoke their peace (war?), I said, "I would worry less about who's in the hospital and more about the fact that a lot of people can't afford to even go to the hospital." Then I launched into some anecdote about my recent back surgery, proving something or other. I don't remember; I had to turn off the tape because it rivals getting my knee injured by my brother at age 14 for all-time home-video embarrassment.

To date, this is the only occasion that I've appeared on TV to discuss politics. I might have appeared more often, except that the host (seen above, with me) announced that this was the final episode of the show. Bill Maher's show used the same excuse when I tried to get booked on there. Go figure.

In the three-and-a-half years since then, I've laid off the chicken fingers and the windy anecdotes. So if any of you TV types are looking for a talking head, I'm available. Mainly because I miss those chicken fingers. Mmmmmm.

I'm quite media-genic, as this picture clearly doesn't show. And I promise to talk like one of them there city boys. Also, I'm not Dan Rather, which seems to be the number-one requirement for being on TV these days. Have your people call my people and we'll do lunch.

Offer void where prohibited, like at Fox News.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rule the day

Rule #25: Heartland Attack

Abandon the idea that there is a "heartland" in the United States. Just because New England and California have unique tastes doesn't mean that everything in between is somehow united in blandness and old-fashioned behavior. Last I checked, the "heartland" can be just as vibrant and diverse as any other place; they're just more ashamed of it, apparently.

And anyway, what is the heartland? Everyone who doesn't live on a beach seems to consider themselves part of it, and that's a lot of Americans to pigeonhole. But even if you do buy the idea that the heartland is a haven for good ol' middle-of-the-road plain folks, that doesn't mean it should be our barometer of taste. Yes, corn tastes good. But dammit, we're a melting pot, not a casserole!

Every time I hear a fellow heartlander saying that "our values" and "our culture" are under attack, another part of me dies inside. I don't recall being invited to the meeting where the entire population of middle America got together and decided how I wanted to live. These vocal Moral Minorities don't speak for me, my standard of living or my personal choices (and, more likely than not, I don't speak for them). Hell, they don't even speak for the heaviest clusters of the U.S. population! Why mass media, pop culture and politics continue to cater to these people is beyond me. At least Mark Twain and Will Rogers tried to teach us something.

Rule #25b: Escape from New York

New York City is overdone. Yeah, I know it's one of the world's largest and most important urban centers, and that I just called for politics and media to quit pandering to some ghostly idea of Middle America. But if NYC gets any more supersaturated in the national consciousness, it's going to become the Wal-Mart of U.S. culture. And Wal-Mart is very Middle American, which frightens me.

But I suppose it's no accident that so many people live in New York, being that many are refugees from the "heartland," and go on to make movies and TV shows about New York--filmed on location in Los Angeles! Man, is anything real anymore?

Rule #26: Us versus Us versus Them

Disagreeing with the Bush administration does not automatically make someone a fan of al-Qaida. Numerous editorial cartoons, blogs and pundits have been framing the recent string of news (Zarqawi's death, Rove's acquittal, Bush's "rising" poll numbers) as cause for GOP celebration, because it's proof that liberals are losing in their war to destroy America. The comment threads on these blogs consist of right-wingers giggling over how much they have it made--not as Americans, but as enabled conservatives. And then the topic inevitably shifts to how they can defeat the common enemy. Terrorists? Nope: the American left.

Over the past few years, I've been called un-American, anti-troop, reactionary, pro-terrorist, a criminal coddler, a raving lunatic, misguided, sheltered, bitter and brain-dead. Then they tell me to go back to whatever country I didn't come from. Many of these epithets come from otherwise startlingly sane people, some of whom are considered pillars of the community. My question to them is this: Do you really believe that swill? I want to believe that you don't, but I'm honestly not sure.

Whatever happened to simply having different viewpoints? What about the past five years has made it completely impossible to offer a dissenting opinion on how to protect America without being branded as sympathetic to the terrorists?

Oh, I forgot. 9/11! (Applause.)

Rule #27: A Rudimentary Rule

Rude people suck. Period. May others be rude to them.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Rock with a capital W

GOP 'Top 50'? More like 'Top 30 plus wishful thinking'!

John J. Miller at National Review has compiled a list of the top 50 conservative rock songs, fancifully titled, "Rockin' the Right."

My first thought upon reading this list was, "Did they really find 50?" Considering Miller's bizarre criteria, however, I guess I shouldn't be too shocked:

What makes a great conservative rock song? The lyrics must convey a conservative idea or sentiment, such as skepticism of government or support for traditional values. And, to be sure, it must be a great rock song. We’re biased in favor of songs that are already popular, but have tossed in a few little-known gems. In several cases, the musicians are outspoken liberals.

So, basically, conservativism can be defined as a distrust of authority, a love for a mean guitar lick and appreciation for the message put forth by liberals! Who knew?

Miller's selection process, augmented by reader input, centers largely on face-value interpretation of titles and selective quoting of lyrics. But that isn't to suggest that several of the songs are misplaced. Disclaimer: I like virtually every song on this list that I've heard, even the right-wing ones, and mean nothing against fans thereof. For purposes of this discussion, I'm going strictly on political content. With that in mind, here are the songs that make perfect sense:

Won’t Get Fooled Again--The Who
Though the lyrics ("Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss") could be interpreted as a pro-Green anthem just as easily as a Republican one, this song belongs on this list for its title alone. After all, George W. Bush is known to utter variations of this song's title when garbling simple proverbs.

Wouldn't It Be Nice--The Beach Boys
A classic ode to every Christian kid's yearning to wait until marriage to hold hands, written by a totally neurotic anti-Semite who married a Jew and then considered sleeping with her sister. Still, in spite of these weaknesses, Brian Wilson may be the least Republican Beach Boy. And I still like him.

20th Century Man--The Kinks
If a song mentions welfare, it must be Republican. Also, note the nostalgic factor for living in past centuries.

The Trees--Rush
A song about cutting down trees, by a band named Rush. A shoo-in. Another Rush song making the list is Red Barchetta, a defiant song about driving a gas-guzzling speedster. Man, I used to like Rush!

Bodies--The Sex Pistols
Does this mean the GOP is embracing a band who performed "Anarchy in the UK"? Well, the song does mention abortion, so it's Republican by default.

Stay Together for the Kids--Blink 182
Celebrated for what has to be the single worst piece of advice ever uttered to contentious parents. Everything I expect from the "family values" crowd.

Presents the flip-side of the divorce equation, that a kid's pain over parental separation would be worse than any future loose screws they'll incur over time because the parents stayed in a hellish relationship.

Small Town--John Mellencamp
I'll give Miller this one, even if he does omit Mellencamp's teeth-clenching delivery and the telling lyric, "My job is so small town / Provides little opportunity."

Wake Up Little Susie--Everly Brothers
A nod to the days when staying out too late with your girlfriend was seen as a bad thing. Ah, the good old days! Gee, I wish I was there (and square) right now!

Two Sisters--The Kinks
Because singlehood is hellish and unworthy of a human being.

A Hannity-worthy racial rant from the shlockiest Christian-rock band. Definitely a ripe choice.

Sweet Home Alabama--Lynyrd Skynyrd
A catchy, upbeat song with a very ugly subtext? That's about as Republican as it gets!

Finally, what is a list of conservative songs without a trimester's worth of pro-baby balladry?

You Can't Be Too Strong--Graham Parker
Makes the list for the radically Republican message that abortions hurt. And here I thought they were good, clean fun.

Brick--Ben Folds Five
Miller notes that this song concerns abortion. Still, being that the song is relatively subtle about the issue, I can't totally vouch for its having sprung from a Republican mind. A truly GOP song about abortion would have lyrics like, "Abortion is gross and evil / Don't stab your kid's brain / Had to be a slut, didn't you? / You deserve all your pain."

Abortion--Kid Rock
Now that's what I'm talking about!

Naturally, some songs need no explanation for GOP cred:

Sympathy for the Devil--The Rolling Stones
Neighborhood Bully--Bob Dylan
Don't Tread on Me--Metallica
I Fought the Law--The Crickets
Get Over It--The Eagles
Capitalism--Oingo Boingo
Janie's Got a Gun--Aerosmith
You Can't Always Get What You Want--Rolling Stones
The Night They Drive Old Dixie Down--The Band
I Can't Drive 55--Sammy Hagar
Property Line--The Marshall Tucker Band
Everybody's a Victim--The Proclaimers
Taxman, Mr. Thief--Cheap Trick
Government Cheese--The Rainmakers
Why Don't You Get a Job?--The Offspring

And now, presenting the inclusions on Miller's list that make about as much sense as Reaganomics:

Taxman--The Beatles
One of two songs on this list with "Taxman" in the title (the other one being mentioned above), this is an interesting choice, considering how the tax burden has shifted under the Bush administration. "Taxman" is a textbook example of how skewed guidelines serve to make the song Republican: because, obviously, liberals want to tax everything on God's green Earth. Anyway, weren't the Beatles (or most of them) not about this kind of stuff?

Damn. Is my favorite U2 song really on here? Of course, because any song about religion has to be Republican, because liberals don't believe in God. Listen, John: the song is by Bono, and even you concede that the song isn't necessarily conservative. Huh?

Revolution--The Beatles
Is this about the Nike ad? Because it certainly isn't about the severely butchered lyric Miller cites: “You say you want a revolution / Well you know / We all want to change the world . . . Don’t you know you can count me out?” He left out the part about destruction and giving money to bigots. In any case, John Lennon's call to not be like Chairman Mao is not exactly a ringing endorsement of conservatism.

My City Was Gone--The Pretenders
Miller perversely inteprets gentrification and urban sprawl as GOP bugaboos, when in fact most Republicans consider that sort of thing good old Capitalism.

Right Here, Right Now--Jesus Jones
Could be Republican, considering that the song is about the end of Communism and that its lead singer shares the name of the honorary head of the GOP. But the song could just as easily be about the end of Reaganomics, the Gulf War and the recession.

Cult of Personality--Living Colour
Every time I listen to Living Colour, I ask myself why more bands can't pull off social activism so smoothly. Was I this wrong about them? I doubt it; even though the song name-checks JFK, Mussolini, Stalin and Gandhi, it could just as easily as refer to today's leaders.

Kicks--Paul Revere and the Raiders
Because only conservatives Just Say No to drugs.

Rock the Casbah--The Clash
Miller doesn't even make an argument for this being a conservative song, aside from its popularity among British troops. That says more about Miller's ignorance of foreign political climates than it does about the song's ideology.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner--Iron Maiden
Does any type of song fit conservatism less than a metal ballad based on literature?

Keep Your Hands to Yourself--Georgia Satellites
Miller praises the lyrical delivery of this song. I like it too, though I fail to see how the vocalist's snide citation of his lover's words is in any way a celebration of what she said.

Godzilla-Blue Oyster Cult
A song about the horrors of human invention, such as nukes? Makes me wonder if conservatives are seeing the increasing destruction of the Earth as a good thing.

Who'll Stop the Rain--Creedence Clearwater Revival
An anti-Vietnam ballad with a tinge of progressive powerlessness. Yeah, this really belongs here!

Stand By Your Man--Tammy Wynette
An ironic choice indeed, considering that Hillary Clinton stood by her man while most prominent GOP politicians are divorced several times over. But I suppose the "be a good wife" subtext cancels that out.

There, I've simplified the list! Now Miller has plenty of slots to fill with Lawrence Welk, Ted Nugent and that crappy band who did "Bush Was Right."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The GOP cares about clean air?!!

WASHINGTON - President Bush signed legislation Thursday that will cost broadcasters dearly when raunchy programming exceeds “the bounds of decency.”

Raunchy programming that stays within the bounds of decency, however, is perfectly acceptable.

Seriously, though, whose bounds of decency are we talking about here? Bush's? If that's the case, then which of his standards are we going with: the pseudo-Christian moral posturing he pretends to be about, or the hypocritical, kill-em-and-let-God-sort-em-out, screw-the-poor moral bounds that he's actually about? Jeez, anybody got a flowchart?

At a signing ceremony for the new law increasing by tenfold the maximum fine for indecency, Bush said that it will force industry figures to “take seriously their duty to keep the public airwaves free of obscene, profane and indecent material.”

The duty of industry figures isn't to keep the airwaves clean; their duty is to make a profit! Such tough clean-air regulations serve only to undermine unfettered capitalistic innovation. Well, it works for corporate polluters, right?

Accompanying the president at the ceremony was a crowd of lawmakers who worked to pass the bill in Congress.

Because they didn't have anything better to do that day, like debate critical anti-terrorism or economic legislation that would affect real Americans.

For raunchy talk or a racy show of skin, the Federal Communications Commission can now fine a broadcaster up to $325,000 per incident.

The fines collected from these infractions will be put into a special fund earmarked to promote violence on television. Because bloodshed is fine, as long as we don't hear the victim curse in the process or see the bullet actually hit their nipple.

Approval of the bill culminates a two-year effort to get tough on sexually explicit material and offensive language on radio and television following Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.”

As I recall, the FCC took less than 24 hours to investigate Nipplegate, while 9/11 sat around unchecked for about two years. Maybe if Mohammed Atta had flashed the pilots or something...

The FCC recently denied a petition of reconsideration from CBS Corp.-owned stations facing $550,000 in fines over the Jackson incident, in which she briefly revealed a breast during a halftime concert.

CBS should've been fined for airing such a dumb medley of songs in the first place. The breast was a superfluous sight in that Medusa of a show.

The agency recently handed down its biggest fine, $3.3 million, against more than 100 CBS affiliates that aired an episode of the series “Without a Trace” that simulated an orgy scene. That fine is now under review.

You know what's sad about this? If the orgy participants had just spilled blood instead of other bodily fluids, then there would be no fine. Indeed, that would be a celebration of every Murrikan's right to bear arms!

The FCC has received increasing complaints about lewd material over the airwaves, and has responded with fines jumping from $440,000 in 2003 to almost $8 million in 2004.

That's more than an 18-fold increase! Clearly, the FCC is serious about catering to their constituents, the decency-craving American public. Or at least, the fractional contingent of those who regularly complain to the FCC that Ricki's Lake is a little too wet for their taste.

If that's the case, then maybe we need to mobilize a group of people to consistently petition the FCC with such letters as, "I just watched the latest episode of [favorite show]. I thought the show was great, and had no complaints." Maybe if we send enough of those, the FCC will realize that maybe the highly vocal Decency Freaks don't speak for all of us.

I doubt that would work, though. If being in school taught me anything, it's that administrators want any excuse to make standards more stringent. It gives them something to do to take their minds off the emptiness of their purpose-driven lives.

“The problem we have is that the maximum penalty that the FCC can impose under current law is just $32,500 per violation,” Bush said. “And for some broadcasters, this amount is meaningless. It’s relatively painless for them when they violate decency standards.”

I agree. This is America, and it's not fair that the moneyed elite should be allowed to buy themselves out of trouble. Who knows, this ruling might even set a precedent against corporate criminals, crooked politicians, drug-addicted radio blowhards and treasonous White House advisors.

Ha ha...just kidding! Here's to voluntary regulations!

The bill does not apply to cable or satellite broadcasts, and does not try to define what is indecent.

How can such a draconian bill have no defining standards? Well, not to worry--the right-wing Decency Police should fill in the gaps quite nicely.

The FCC says indecent material is that which contains sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the level of obscenity.

I guess that means a turd is fine if it's depicted in a church toilet, or if a married couple is heard saying, "Oh, darn! Darn! Darn!" in the dark? Why, that isn't confusing or abritrary in the least!

The legislation, while facing little resistance in Congress, had detractors warning of problems in defining what is indecent and of the erosion of First Amendment rights.

However, it is well-known that these so-called "detractors" easily fall into the category of indecency, which is why they're never interviewed for articles such as these. Not that the press really needs any regulatory help in that area.

Under FCC rules and federal law, radio and over-the-air television stations may not air obscene material at any time, and may not air indecent material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. when children are more likely to be in the audience.

Yes, we do it for the children. We do lots of things for the children, because apparently parents don't do things for the children anymore. Now that I'm 26, the government is being more strict of a parent than my actual parents ever were at any point in my childhood? Somehow, I find something amiss with that. Granted, 1980s shows weren't nearly as raunchy as the ones on now, and boundaries continue to disintegrate at a breakneck pace.

This trend makes me yearn for the golden days when television was completely safe--you know, when Milton Berle dressed in drag, comedians performed in inoffensive blackface and the Flintstones smoked Winstons. At least back then, parents had the good sensibilities to put their hands over their kids' eyes whenever someone uttered the word "pregnant." Back then it was all about rugged individualism, and there was none of this fancy-pants gubmint interference!

Wow, I almost sound like a Republican. You know, the old kind who believed in minimal government, a strong individual dynamic and all that character-building stuff.

“Unfortunately, in recent years, broadcast programming has too often pushed the bounds of decency,” Bush said. “The language is becoming coarser during the times when it’s more likely children will be watching television. It’s a bad trend, a bad sign.”

Does this mean that all future Bush speeches (and FOX News) will instantly disappear from the airwaves? Because those are two forms of expression I find incredibly indecent and obscene.

I'm seriously tired of the GOP worrying about such issues when there're so many more pertinent things to handle. It's as if their goal is to have the most well-behaved, God-fearing and virgin-eared population ever to be pummeled by terrorism and economic collapse.

Pardon me, but fuck you. Before you try to shape the airwaves into your own personal Jerry Falwell infomercial, why don't you try working on what some of the voters elected you to do, like keeping our country safe, figuring out ways to control the spiraling deficit, reducing poverty and repairing relations with the rest of the world? By the time you've proved your mettle in that respect, I'll probably be too old to see my TV screen anyway.

Any word of a fine in that legislation for misplaced priorities?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pick-up lines throughout history

In the Beginning
Adam to Eve: "You think THAT'S a serpent..."
Noah: "I've got an ark that'll make you flood!"

Ancient Egypt
"Let me guess...your name is Sandy?"
"The Great Pyramid, the Sahara, the Nile, me...get the picture?"
"You must be the eighth wonder of the world!"

Roman Empire
"If I could change the alphabet, I would put 'V' and 'I' together."
"Your palace looks like it could use a sturdy column."
"You could set any chariot on fire!"

Ye Dark Ages
"The plague is devouring me alive! Won't you?"
"Ignorance is bliss and so art thee."
"Got a light?"

Puritan Lust
"My heart burns like a witch for you."
"I've got the 'thanks' ready, if you'll do the 'giving.'"
"Lucky church pew..."

The Civil War
"United we stand, divided we fall...catch my drift?"
"Oh, fiddle-de-de, Scarlett...I insist..."
(Southern belles only) "Won't you be my love slave?"

20th Century Foxes
Prohibition--"Can I buy you a...uh...ginger ale?"

The Great Depression--"Unlike the stock market, I never crash at my peak."

World War II--"Baby, you're The Bomb!"

Cold War--"My heart beats red like a Communist for you."

1950s--"You Betty my Archie!"

Vietnam--"You just got drafted for my army, baby."

Civil Rights/Age of Aquarius--"Free love at last! Thank God almighty, free love at last!" (Comeback: "Keep having a dream, dude.")

Disco Era--"There's nothing leisurely about this suit..."

1980s--"Well, Run my DMC!"

1990s--"You CAN touch this!"

It Takes 2000
2000--"I'll make you dot com!"
"My name is Chad--and yes, I'm hung."
"Don't be blue! I'll put you in a red state of desire."

2001--"Your pink slip is showing...and I like it!"
"Make like a jet and penetrate my towers."
"United we stand. Hey?"

2002--"Sharks aren't the only warm-blooded creatures looking for a bite in these waters, if you catch my drift..."
"I'm a love sniper and I've got YOU in my crosshairs!"
"Bush is in these days. Yow!"

2003--"Nice Iraq!"
"Care to accomplish my mission?"
"Today's color-alert level is passion purple!"

2004--"You could be my personal halftime show."
"Well, Passion my Christ!"
"My boat is very swift, and that's the truth."

2005--"Blow me away, Katrina."
"Dubya may hate black people, but you'll never go back!"
"I-I-I-I-I...I'm hooked on a FEMA!"

2006--"Are you legal? Let me cross your border!"
"Hi! My name is not K-Fed."
"I'm Dick. Can I shoot you in the face?"

A modest appeal

Say something good today. It doesn't have to be about me, or even said here. Just do it somewhere, because it just might completely redefine someone's day.

That is all. Now go play outside.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Caption Central

"Keep him lying" edition

(Above: the official poster of the VWRP Web ring)

--Bush fit in perfectly among the Zeros
--So he really does have his head in the clouds!
--Add a little snow, and this could be a snapshot of Bush in 1972
--Does one really need a helmet when there's nothing to protect?
--Are losers the target audience here?
--Um...planes can't fly with only one wing
--Bush sure goes to extremes to avoid military funerals
--Houston air just keeps getting cruddier
--This is the part of the dream where Laura wakes him up
--Just another humble servant of the people
--It's the ho in the ozone layer!
--The closest Bush ever got to air combat
--Funny...I thought the "Victory" was in 2003?
--Speaking of losers...
--Here's Bush, walking all over the people
--It's the Jolly Anti-Green Giant!
--I can't figure out if this is truly a GOP creation or a parody
--So the Republicans have declared war on America, then?
--"Fe Fi Fo Fum! Where the hell are the weapons of mass destruction?"

Still on a rule kick

Rule #21: Jingo Jargon

Don't say, "You're in America. Speak English!" It's stupid and more than a little ironic for anyone who understands American history. If we're that saturated with national pride, then we need to declare independence from the language of our former oppressors!

I say we create a brand-new language for use exclusively within U.S. borders. We could call it, "American." How's that for a no-brainer? Best of all, we wouldn't have to work too hard to create this new language. All we really have to do is come up with jargon for good old American capitalism and euphemisms to soften the unpleasant effects of our foreign policy. Then we steal words from other languages, conceive 150 synonyms for "revenge" and add a host of obnoxious accents. Only then will our bastardized dialect be ready for forcing on the rest of the world. Picture the glorious future: "Speak American! Remember, if not for Mr. Bush's preemptive doctrine, we'd all be speaking English and eating pizza."

On second thought...never mind. We're pretty much there already.

Rule #22: Base Behavior

Stop talking about "the base," and how George W. Bush is alienating "the base" every time he attempts something that isn't completely insane. The president has only one base: the people of the United States of America. Anything less than that is pandering.

It's very telling how often Republicans (be they letter writers or seasoned columnists) talk about the importance of "pushing the conservative agenda" or "putting Republicans in office," as opposed to "doing what is right for America" or "putting decent people in office." It's almost as if having the GOP in control is the opposite of a good idea. Hey, you guys dug that hole; I'm just the one spraining my ankle in it.

Even more telling is how groups such as the religious right constantly warn Bush that they'll abandon him (and effectively destroy him) if he doesn't bend to their will. Such posturing doesn't exactly warm your heart with Christian compassion, does it? The Democrats may stand for very little these days, but at least they're sincere about it.

Rule #23: Parental Guidance Suggested

Parents really have to do their job. Recently, a 16-year-old honor student was sent home by U.S. officials after she trekked to the Middle East to meet up with a 25-year-old man she met on MySpace. Apparently, she had gotten a passport under the false pretenses that she was visiting Canada with her friends, and then jetted to Jordan instead. Just like we all did at her age.

What did her father have to say about this incident? "She's a good girl. Never had a problem with her." Riiiiiight! She's a teenage white girl from Detroit, which alone should require her to have four full-time parents. Or, at the very least, two part-time parents.

According to the mother, the girl has never had a boyfriend. I doubt that's true; what boy wouldn't jump at the chance to date a girl whose parents are this apathetic? In any case, the girl's mother described her as having "never given me a day's trouble." Which is only fair, as the mother obviously never gave her daughter a day of trouble (or of anything else).

Hell, even the girl's lie should have raised a red flag: "I need a passport so I can cross unsupervised into Canada!" It's as if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had asked their parents to buy them guns to mow down kids in the park instead of at school. You question it either way, right? Even the 25-year-old guy must have scratched his head and thought, "Whoa, she actually tried to come over? How creepy is that?"

It's every 16-year-old girl's right to dream about that special someone in a land far away, and to want to pursue that dream. It's also every parents' job to keep that sort of insanity from actually happening.

(Note: This rule does not apply to those annoyingly overprotective parents who use the term "PG-rated" to describe something naughty and who shelter their kids into becoming 30-year-old prepubescents who actually exercise viewer discretion. Those parents are already doing their job; unfortunately, that job is prison warden.)

Rule #24: Die Hard, Vengeance

When engaging in a war supposedly about ending a tyrannical reign of death and destruction, Americans should at least pretend to keep their bloodlust in check.

Top terrorist dog Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is credited for decapitating American Nick Berg, was recently killed in an air raid. Immediately afterward, Berg's father said that he mourned the terrorist's death just as much as he would anyone else--his point being that he wants the carnage to cease. But conservative pundits promptly jumped on him, labeling him as unfeeling, unpatriotic, vengeful and similar projectional sewage. I suppose that's why "nationalism" and "irrationalism" rhyme.

Here's a friendly reminder for the "Have You Forgotten?" crowd: part of what galvanized the war effort was that we were sick of seeing foreigners celebrating in the streets when America was attacked. So why are we condemning Americans for not doing the same thing?

When I was getting bruised in fights as a kid, my teachers always said that anger solves no problems and only perpetuates the cycle of violence. At what point on the road to D.C. did that change? I want to say down south someplace.

Rules archive

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pictures of dead bad guys attract readers

So Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead. Don't believe the news? Look at him! True, he looks like he just went five seconds with the 1988 version of Mike Tyson; but dead is dead and we won't quibble.

And while the death of the Iraqi equivalent of Osama bin Laden (sorry, that wasn't Saddam) is cause for celebration for the non-terrorist faction of the world, the endless waving of the death photo by the western world speaks perhaps too truthfully about how we want to view this war. Specifically, it allows us to believe that only the bad guys are the ones so severely affected by battle.

Which is, of course, what a lot of Americans desperately want to believe. And that's understandable; after all, who wouldn't derive some sweet satisfaction from seeing a true heel get what he deserves? That pained face will definitely not sit well with his virgins! For many, the fact that the corpse is even recognizable suggests that he got off easily.

On the other hand, what American wants to consider that huge numbers of their country's soldiers--husbands, wives, sons and daughters--went the same way, if not worse? No one does, which is part of the reason why so many Americans are sadly detached from the realities of what's going on.

Critics of the Iraq-related media consistently cite softball coverage that underrepresents the real costs of war in terms of human life. They argue that greater exposure to the war's more graphic elements would shock people back into reality. I certainly agree with this, though I would take exception to those who argue that this photo is proof of such a thing.

Indeed, when the media exclusively displays dead pictures of enemies, it only serves to further dehumanize war. The American populace becomes desensitized when the only bloody photos that ever receive big airplay are the ones showing terrorist cadavers. While I'm not calling for equally macabre photos of American soldiers, I do think that a little editorial balance (a la Vietnam) would more accurately portray what a violent disaster this war has been for every side involved.

Domestic detachment aside, what other ramifications will the photo have for perception of the war effort? Probably not what most of us have in mind. While the photo could be seen in its own context as proof of a genuine success in Iraq, in the long run it might actually backfire.

The endless parading of such a picture understandably perplexes those who try to wrap their brains around America's self-proclaimed status as a "culture of life." Like, for example, the Iraqis for whom we supposedly fight to liberate. Even for the majority of Iraqis who won't miss this jerk, the showcasing of such carnage has to seem, well, unseemly. As it is, the pic overshadows the actual report, which doesn't bode well for our perceived priorities. Death, even when concerning a wretched excuse for a human being, is always a delicate affair. Celebrate too little, and you're accused of being unpatriotic. Celebrate too much, and you risk further emboldening your enemies. My advice to both the media and the White House would be to tread lightly in both respects. We won a battle, but the war and peace are still wildly unsecured. If we are truly vested in liberation and stability, then we should apply the appropriate restraint that is required of such a serious undertaking. A tall order, yes, but one that must be done on America's part to improve relations with the world.

I certainly won't miss al-Zarqawi. But I do miss a true sense of perspective.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Take 'Lapdogs' for a walk

Responsible journalism involves examining all sides of an issue. While this tends to be easy when covering the crime beat (lawbreaker vs. law) or a high-profile divorce settlement (Simpson vs. Lachey), more complicated issues find reporters scaling a daunting dodecahedron of truth. This is known in journalistic parlance as "very consuming work." Ideally, an investigative journalist should sniff out the real stories behind the veneer offered by those with interests to protect. Journalists were long ago tagged "watchdogs" for this reason. In recent years, however, these watchdogs have been virtually put to sleep by their inbred cousins: lapdogs.

Anyone looking to document the dilution of the media could do so with a simple video comparison of the 1992 and 2004 town-hall debates. Watching Bill Clinton, Ross Perot and George H.W. Bush bicker with one another is a startling contrast to the heavily policed 2004 script-fest between John Kerry and George W. Bush. The latter debate achieved the seemingly impossible task of making the elder Bush look like an extemporaneous fighter. This is significant because, in his time, Bush pere was considered the ultimate lapdog. However, today’s lapdogs are to be found not behind the White House press lectern, but in front of it.

If the sole purpose of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush was to persuade Americans that the press has been favorable (and even fawning) to the 43rd president, then no more would be required of author Eric Boehlert than to publish the volume's cover with one page inside reading, "Turn on your television and see for yourself." The phenomenon is not new to anyone who has paid even casual attention over the past five years, nor is it necessarily denied by supporters of the administration. Indeed, those aligned with the right would have you believe that playing softball with this president is as American as, well, baseball.

Instead, Lapdogs earns its niche in the political canon by offering mountains of evidence supporting its thesis, pushing the compliant-media phenomenon from the realm of liberal conjecture to quantifiable fact. Lapdogs so effectively destroys the myth of a “liberal media” that its readers might feel guilty even mentioning the book to their conservative friends, knowing the rhetorical beat-down it will cause.

Boehlert singles out the Bush era for two peculiar trends: a White House uniquely desperate to control the flow of information and a press corps more than willing to unquestionably rehash such platitudes. And while all presidential administrations have attempted to manipulate the truth to various degrees, the latter trend is one unseen in American media history. To what can it be attributed?

Boehlert charges that insider journalists are prone to something called Lapdog Syndrome, an affliction arising from fear of retribution from both their subjects and the publishers of their stories. Much of Lapdogs examines how this unspoken fear has tainted news coverage of what should have been the richest stories in decades. The allegations don’t change from chapter to chapter; only the events and dates change. In addition to the expected analyses of the Iraq War and the 2004 election, the book offers near-instant analysis on the major headliners of 2005-06: Terri Schiavo, John Roberts, Cindy Sheehan, Hurricane Katrina and even the Dick Cheney shooting incident. Clinton-era scandals are added for a dash of contrast, igniting a perverse yearning for the days when the media couldn’t snoop enough.

Though Boehlert lambastes the mainstream media (tagged here as the MSM, a term ironically favored by right-wing bloggers) for its timidity and laziness, he indicts certain right-wing pundits for the opposite reason. In "The Press Haters," the author tracks pundits such as Michelle Malkin, who repeatedly reacts to unflattering news by attacking both the sources and motivations of said sources. "For them," Boehlert says of Malkin and her brethren, "the MSM represent the enemy, the only real interesting point of attack" (p. 98, emphasis his).

Because of this imagined “bias,” Boehlert says, a rightward trend is taking place in both the White House press room and the network boardroom. This takeover, under the guise of “balance,” is detailed across several chapters. "The War Over PBS" shows how public television, like its commercial counterparts, has been pressured to "prove" that it isn’t liberally biased by drastically overcompensating with right-wing programming. "'This is Scripted'" derives its title from an actual press conference prior to the Iraq War, in which Bush read from a list of journalists approved to ask questions. He then made the titular remark, which held deeper truth than the nature of his jest suggested.

Such thorough evidence makes Lapdogs a compelling and galvanizing read. Boehlert’s evidence will invigorate anyone wishing for the return of truly aggressive media and will reinforce the suspicions of Americans who already presume that all is not kosher with the press.

In the end, the only audience likely to be surprised by the arguments set forth in Lapdogs is the MSM itself—at least the elements that still feel as if they are offering tough coverage of the Bush administration. Their reactions will certainly be worth reporting.

Caption Central

"Nero of the Peace" edition

--An Iraqi taunts Bush by surrounding him with his greatest fears: protest signs, homosexual kissing, peace and words
--"I want YOU for U.S. Army. Oh shit, never mind! Well, I'm sure there's some army where you live."
--Here's Abdul, taking the phrase "kiss our ass" too literally
--"No, no, Georgie...I want YOU!"
--A grateful Iraqi citizen celebrates the end of mandatory leader worship
--"Psst, Bush...just because your ideas are stuck in 1955 doesn't mean you have to wait by the clock tower!"
--From "Holy Roman Empire" to "Hero of the Peace," Eurasia enters its fifth century of unparalleled sarcasm
--Al-Jazeera's version of Entertainment Tonight was really disappointing
--Wanna bet that the Arabic writing doesn't really say, "Hero of the peace?"
--This is as close to Bush's ear as an Iraqi is likely to get
--BLONDE JOKE: Bush stops in for a refill
--Quite the pair...a turtleneck and a neckhead
--The head recruiter for al-Qaida thanks Bush for another great year
--"Ah, Mr. Bush...I show you 'man-date!'"
--Something clearly is lost in translation here
--An Iraqi provokes Americans by showing affection rather than by making war
--That's kind of a screwy definition of peace, don't you think?
--"Dammit! You told me I was kissing a PIG!"
--How it all started: "Saddam has helpings of hash dish rations. Pass it on!"