Monday, July 30, 2007

How can I fall? They just won't give me reasons

I had a very weird dream last night. Somebody help me interpret this:

My brother and sister came to visit me in Springfield. We decided to go to the new World Trade Center (which, for some reason, is in Springfield) and run all the way to the top to see the view, which we're told was now the highest in the world.

And we do it. We run. Every single step and turn. And I'm very proud of my siblings because my brother is an older, bigger ex-high-school-tackle and my sister is a teenager with asthma. After a while, they even pass me up and I'm left seriously winded. Then I see why they were so quick to bolt: Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are wearing orange jumpsuits and are chasing us! I turn it up too, only to have the room eventually start spinning. Gravity starts kicking in, and only randomly placed couch pillows (?!!) help cushion my slamming against walls and landings.

Finally, I catch up to my brother at the 132nd story, which I believe to be the top. For some reason, though, a quirk in the design means I have to actually slide down the last (very steep) banister to get to the door. So I grab all the pillows I collected on the way up (the way Mario picks up coins, I guess), throw them down and do this weird kind of rappel. I feel the slide and the (back-first) fall into the pillows. At last, we are here! My brother says how proud he is that I made it, and is ready to open the door that leads to the outside. "Watch out for the change in air pressure," I say, exasperated. "It'll probably suck us out!"

He opens the door. Not bad, actually...a cool breeze and an interesting view of the metropolis meet us (which, again, looks nothing like Springfield). "Looks just like the sweeping view of New York City you see in all the movies," I thought. Except that I can't see much; I have to squint as if the sun is piercing my eyes...and yet, it's dusk. Next thing I know, I'm in a bungee harness, which lets me bounce several feet in the air. This feels fun, except that I'm at the top of a tall building and I don't want to plunge over the guardrail! A father with a toddler nearby share a giggle over me. "Make it stop!" I say to my siblings, who make it stop. I get out of it, only to notice that we aren't actually at the top. What the hell?

"This is the halfway point," my brother explains. "You have to take an elevator to get the rest of the way." So, like a moron, I look down. That's when I notice we're swaying several feet to each side, which I seem to be feeling much harder than any of the several people on the observatory. And not a simple sway due to the tall building; it's a carnival-ride-esque swinging. Yikes! At my insistence, we hightail it to the elevator.

The elevator is huge. The woman running the elevator - who looks oddly like a flight attendant - congratulates us for making it this far on foot. The whole time, my sister's cracking jokes and I'm staring at the digital floor readout: 231, 232, 233...At some point, my brother also tackles me to the ground. Just because he's always done that sort of thing.

We eventually get to the top, though I don't remember the view being much different. It was a lot colder, though. The dream then shifted into my parents cleaning out and renovating our camp in Butte La Rose (which, in real life, we sold to our cousins a few months ago).

This follows a dream from the night before where I'm riding my bike to the public library - which appears exactly the same in every dream I've had about it for years - and dismount it inside on the top floor (?), which for some reason has a giant drop all around the bookshelves, almost like a moat, with no guardrails. I'm walking with my bike on one of these perilous ledges when a slew of kids clamoring for Harry Potter books throws me off-balance and causes me drop my bike to where only my feet are keeping it from falling. Finally, I let it go. And then I fall too. And wake up with a jolt.

What the hell was that all about?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Word of the Weekend

(kntkst) n.
1. The part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.
2. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.

Usage: Though this hit by Sheldon Brown against Reggie Bush was enough to warrant an entire article in Sports Illustrated, it must be remembered in its proper context as a rallying point that lifted the Saints to a 27-24 playoff victory over the Eagles.

(Source: Free Online Dictionary by Farlex)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Can I review 'Sicko' in 339 words? Yes I can

Sicko is Michael Moore's best film ever. I dare you to watch it and not freak out. It had none of Moore's signature in-your-face shots of cornered corporate giants. In fact, it has a polished, motion-picture feel to it. Except that it's very real. Cuba and France come off very well, while the United States comes off terrible. Which isn't as Stalinesque as it sounds.

Like with Fahrenheit 9/11, there was little in this film that I didn't already know. But to see it on screen really hammers it home. Moore's stance is that the United States deserves a health care system that's at least as good as Cuba's (which exports a huge proportion of doctors around the world and has socialized health care) and Canada's (which one single mom in Detroit crosses the border to use, by using a local friend as a reference).

Moore's ace in the hole is that he employs actual pharmaceutical representatives to tell of their deeds. When one woman speaks of being rough on the phone only because she doesn't want to repeat the experience of bonding with an overjoyed couple she ultimately had to reject, it's a very powerful moment.

As for all those arguments you have against national health care? Sicko takes care of them. Every last one.

Much has been made of Moore's trip to Cuba with the 9/11 rescue workers who have been denied vital coverage by their insurance companies. What's often forgotten is that Moore's crew originally set out for Guantanamo Bay, U.S. soil, to receive the free health care provided to terrorist suspects. The Coast Guard, who intercepted the boat, apparently thought this was fine and sent them on their way. It was only after Gitmo pushed them away with sirens did they wind up in Cuba and get the help they needed. The local firefighters even honored them with a ceremony, saying they were all brothers. Sicko is a very touching and very necessary film.

Fittingly, only five people were in the theater at my showing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thoughts on the YouTube debate

These observations are taken from nine pages of notes of the 2-4 a.m. replay of the debate and from CNN post-analysis. Just so you know who and what to blame for the following.

The debate format--An innovative idea, and probably as close to direct democracy as we're likely to get. Hopefully, the powers that be won't soon find a way to sterilize this format as they have with all other forms of presidential debates. Nice spectrum of questions and civil adherence of time constraints. A much-needed shot in the arm to political discourse.

That said, though, whoever was responsible for copy-editing the video information was clearly eating a sloppy joe. First off, Berkeley, CA is definitely not spelled, "Berkely." Second, the very last video was marked as originating from "COLDRODO SPRING, CO." Ted Haggard must be spinning in his political grave!

I thought they were wrong to immediately dismiss the question, "You've gotten us out of Iraq. Then what?" Anderson Cooper said it was because too many people asked it as part of a campaign. That was a flimsy excuse to avoid a very good question.

Also, too many people pronounced the word "either" as "I-ther." That drives me nuts.

And Anderson Cooper really needs to stop saying "Missippi."

As for the debate itself, its unique format allowed each of the eight candidates to shine (and falter) in their own ways. After tonight, I'd vote for pretty much any of them were they nominated in the general election. But given that each candidate has shown their hand, for better or for worse, some are clearly favorable to others. The following list illustrates what I like and don't like about each candidate. I'm leaving out prior reputations, fund-raising and superfluous scrutiny regarding appearance, etc. and sticking to what was said last night.

Barack Obama

Why I would vote for him: He has taken measures for greater transparency in government, especially with regards to funding. Gave direct answers regarding reparations, racism, Iraq and most other issues. Had probably the best quotes of the night, on Iraq: "We must be as careful getting out as we were careless going in" and "Not talking to our enemies is ridiculous...Reagan and Clinton did it." Takes what was probably the most realistic compromise on gay marriage: civil unions, with marriage up to individual denominations. Is against privatization of Social Security and for universal health care. Despite professed Christian beliefs, is an ardent supporter of separation of church and state. Responds to critics with plausible responses and without hesitation.

Why I wouldn't: Because I committed a felony and lost my right to vote.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Why I would vote for her: By her own account, is calling out the Pentagon and the Republicans for an exit plan in Iraq, which suggests that she is finally beginning to atone for her vote for the war. Favors no-fly zones in Darfur, saying that diplomacy could be key to ending African genocide. Supports public schools and noted that Chelsea attended them until security concerns made that impossible. Clearly hasn't let the flame of her aborted health-care plan die. When asked if having the Bushes and the Clintons take turns was a bad idea, quipped, "I think it was a problem that Bush was elected in 2000. A better man won." Isn't ashamed of Bill's legacy. Assured a snarky YouTuber that she will be taken seriously as a woman leader because she has already been by 82 heads of state. Seemed genuinely optimistic when asking, "Isn't it great that we're debating over who will be better for women? Isn't that a nice change for everyone to hear?"

Why I wouldn't: Quickly distanced herself from the word "liberal," preferring to be called a "modern progressive." Said she is "agnostic" on nuclear power. Seemed reticent to the idea of meeting leaders of estranged nations. Also went a little too Freudian by blurting out, "When I'm inaugurated..."

John Edwards

Why I would vote for him: Supports U.S. troops and makes the crucial distinction between their duty and the actions of their leadership. Is against nuclear-power expansion and prefers greater use of biofuels. Wants to mandate universal health care for all U.S. citizens. Thinks all Americans deserve representation, regardless of religion (or lack thereof).

Why I wouldn't: Struggles with direct responses, often redirecting unrelated questions to the same stump answers. Admits frostiness to the idea of gay marriage, saying his Christian faith won't allow him to advocate it.

Dennis Kucinich

Why I would vote for him: For one thing, voted against the Iraq War. Advocates "strength through peace and the science of diplomacy." Supports full gay marriage, the only candidate to openly express such a view. Asked if the Democratic Congress has put politics before conscience regarding the Iraq War, said, "Yes, the Democrats have failed. You didn't expect the Democratic version of the war." When does he want the troops home? "Now!" Supports smarter taxes through the ending of NAFTA, the World Trade Organization and wartime borrowing from China. Big believer in going green and fighting global warming.

Why I wouldn't: Because I won't have a chance to do so.

Bill Richardson

Why I would vote for him: Believes the safety of troops is "more important than George W. Bush's legacy." Actually used the word "quagmire" to refer to the Iraq war, and calls for a six-month withdrawal to begin immediately, with no residual forces: "Our troops have become targets." Wants to end predatory lending. Unhesitant in call to "scrap" No Child Left Behind, which he said hurt New Mexico schools. Says teachers should be granted a minimum salary of $40,000. Favors paper trails for all voting precincts. Would extend health care to undocumented workers. Likes instant background checks for gun buyers. Wants diplomatic intervention in Darfur.

Why I wouldn't: Supports "what is achievable" for gay marriage, which he thinks stops short of marriage. Said he would not be willing to work as a public servant for minimum wage.

Chris Dodd

Why I would vote for him: Had the best response on Hurricane Katrina, and how wrong that all turned out. Favors a return to diplomacy. Wants a timetable for Iraq withdrawal; says troops should be out of Iraq by "April next year." Calls for national-service requirement, though not necessarily a draft. Would employ hybrids as government vehicles, increase fuel-efficiency requirements on all cars and enforce a corporate carbon tax. Dead-set against privatization of Social Security, and would raise cap on withholdings. Advocates stem-cell research and medical coverage for undocumented workers.

Why I wouldn't: Only Democrat to explicitly say marriage "should be between a man and a woman." Says that Catholic faith and mother's death drove him away from public schools, suggesting that he would not hold them in necessary regard.

Joe Biden

Why I would vote for him: Favors a complete change in structure for the tax system. "It was a mistake," Biden bluntly says about No Child Left Behind. Has well-thought-out withdrawal plan for Iraq, which has (briefly) seen light of day in Congress. Was responsible for the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, and said of a questioner, "If that gun is his baby, he needs help."

Why I wouldn't: Said withdrawal plan cannot happen in short time, as Biden so angrily drove home. Frequently went off-topic on key questions. Very cranky, particularly when rejecting diplomacy as a choice in the Darfur situation. Said he would not be a public servant for minimum wage.

Mike Gravel

Why I would vote for him: "The only thing worse than soldiers dying in vain is more soldiers dying in vain." Filibustered to end the draft in the 1970s; wants the Selective Service to include women as well as men. Advocates a "living wage" as opposed to a minimum wage.

Why I wouldn't: One of his first statements was an attack against Obama, which Obama immediately rebutted. Responded to a question about conservation by touting a seemingly unrelated tax-savings plan. Spoke little at first, then tried to leverage that fact as an excuse to bend debate rules. Said the Clintons "sold out the U.S."

Don't miss the Republican version of the YouTube debate on September 17. Why so late? Because they're behind the curve! Anyway, manufacturing questions takes time.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Iraq defense:conscience::oil:truth

Thomas Sowell proves that one can make a good point once the Bush talking points have been torturously worked through:

What has gone right is that the Iraq war is already over. Our troops won it.

Ever since then, we've merely been...preoccupied.

But our politicians may once more lose the peace - and with disastrous consequences for us and for the world.

We have to find the peace before we lose it again! Maybe it's hiding with the weapons of mass destruction.

Peace has not been achieved in Iraq, though pacification continues - always at a cost in American lives - and shows signs of progress, much to the dismay of those who have bet their political future on an American defeat. ...

1) "Pacification" is a term used most often to refer to subjugation of a people by colonial powers. It was also the term of choice for OCP in the RoboCop films when referring to driving people out of their homes and streets. Sowell's use of the term is an unfortunate Freudian slip.

2) A three-legged human emerging from a scorched, post-nuclear wasteland is also, technically, progress, though the real issue is that the bomb went off and there's nowhere to go but up.

3) Anti-Iraq politicians are not betting anything on defeat! The defeat is already there, which Sowell himself is about to admit. If anything, it is the Bush administration that is betting on defeat, seeing as how they refuse to back down and apparently see nothing wrong with the status quo.

That is the direction in which the defeatists are moving, as politicians who have never deployed troops, or even worn a military uniform, speak loftily of "redeployment," as if they actually know what they are talking about.

At this point, Sowell starts to sound conflicted. In mid-sentence, he changes from attacking the Democrats (whom he has stated want the war to fail) to the White House (who have never served in uniform). Unless he's just being unintentionally ironic.

The great tragic failure in Iraq has been political failure, not military failure. ...

Nations cannot be built. You can transplant institutions from one country to another, but you cannot transplant the history and culture from which the attitudes and traditions evolved that enable those institutions to work. ...

People will support tyranny before they will support anarchy. ...

Trying to create democracy in places where it has never existed - and where the prerequisites for democracy may not exist - has been a needless gamble. ...

Good for Sowell to come around, even if he had to wade through history's stupidest talking points to reach that conclusion.

I've argued for a long time that democracy is a political system best promoted by its everyday benefits. Maybe if the United States would live up to its ideals, rather than force them on the world like the world's most aggressive Jehovah's Witness, then other countries would adopt them naturally. As it is, the war on terror has resulted in a lot fewer civil liberties here at home, while we hypocritically point weapons at the countries least receptive to democracy on a good day. And this is definitely not that day.

In the past, I've pulled for the people of Iraq - both the ones hurt by Saddam Hussein's regime and those currently affected by U.S. actions. But now I'm wondering if I should care at all anymore. It's difficult to listen to the White House talk about how much we're supposedly doing for Iraq, when the same mouths won't pay so much as lip service to New Orleans. Which, for those of you currently being cheated by No Child Left Behind, is actually within our shores.

Maybe isolationism isn't such a bad idea. It seems to suit our leaders' tastes pretty well.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

An example of God's snide side

Tammy Faye Messner dead of cancer

Immediate visceral reaction: She's dead and Jim's still kicking...huh...

Second immediate visceral reaction: I'll bet that was a hell of an embalming job...

Third immediate visceral reaction: I am so going to hell...

My favorite part of all this was Jim's statement: that Tammy Faye "lived her life like the song she sang, 'If Life Hands You a Lemon, Make Lemonade.'" I thought that was a very humble statement on his part. Or ambiguous. Not sure which.

For some reason, I always liked Tammy Faye, at least compared to her brethren. Which, I suppose, isn't saying a whole lot - like saying Reggie is my favorite Bush, except with more mascara and fewer touchdowns.

Do you suppose she and Jerry Falwell are doing something dastardly at this very moment? If there's a tornado in Branson in the next few days, we'll know who did it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fairness, or Doctrine?

One of many, many arguments against teaching Creationism alongside evolution is that, if we give equal merit to one article of faith, then we open up the need to teach every version of the creation myth. After all, Creationism is as scientifically sound as my childhood theory that God created the world in a frying pan in his kitchen one day out of boredom. Should equal classroom weight be given to both? And, if not, why not?

This principle, albeit translated to politics, is what drives Sarah Overstreet of the Springfield News-Leader to take a stance against the restitution of the Fairness Doctrine. She argues that the measure backfired because of its broadness, which stations feared would render them vulnerable to allegations of bias (and fines) if they didn't air the rantings of every kook who demanded it. This, in turn, led to less media dialogue. It's a worthwhile point to consider.

Still, I've always been a big fan of the Fairness Doctrine. It remained in force from 1949 to 1987, which (coincidentally or not) matches the most prosperous period in U.S. history - a time when progressive taxation and various social reforms brought increased equity and equality to all Americans. It wasn't all peachy, of course; but a national unity of sorts existed, a feeling that the nation was a community and owed it to each other not to let to let the disconnect between the haves and have-nots get too imbalanced. Much credit for this goes to the credible, hard-hitting, relatively staid newscasts of the time.

The 1980s, and Ronald Reagan, changed all that. Through numerous deregulations and the genesis of the Me Decade, being an American became less about civic obligations and more about pure-grain capitalism. Not coincidentally, this also began the age of the media as a profit-driven corporate entity. Prior to this, most networks devoted their news departments strictly to telling the news, while allowing financial losses to be made up by the entertainment division. This agreement allowed for a golden age of journalism, unburdened by the pressures of prioritizing stories based on what sells (Paris Hilton) or of offending the political sensibilities of the deep pockets behind the broadcasts (hopefully, never Paris Hilton). Following the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, however, news organizations were free (so to speak) to base their content on what the people would want, which would presumably create a de facto natural balance.

The only flaw in this reasoning is, to put it in the words of Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty, "Since when do people know what they want?"

Which brings us to today. With more information and founts for information than ever before, the average American still comes off as ill-informed. And not for lack of trying. Passion, not reason, typically drives political beliefs. The line between journalism and infotainment has been blurred beyond recognition, the result being that Fox News is considered a legit source of news, as is Air America on the left. They aren't. They are what any editorial outlet is and should be - a forum for opinion intended to appeal to those who have educated themselves on current events. Unfortunately, too many citizens skip that step now, whether they know it or not. They are living off cotton candy, forgetting that they have to eat a balanced meal to get real nutrients. Conversely, truly informed citizens have grown so cynical that even reputable news outlets won't pass muster with them, thus hurting the standing of the good guys even further.

Perhaps the Fairness Doctrine is a relic of a bygone era, and would not solve the specific problems inherent in today's media. But I'd argue that a much more sinister form of government interference continues in its place: the growing manipulation of public opinion through misinformation and implied retribution against outlets that don't toe the party line. And I'm all in favor of repealing that nonsense.

Ian McGibboney works for the Springfield News-Leader. He does not work for Fox News and seems on track to keep it that way.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Brought to you by the same minds behind 'No Child Left Behind'

The Young Republicans are the nation's largest political organization for Republicans between the ages of 18 and 40.

Yes, I would suppose so. I can't imagine the Old Democrats make much headway in that demographic. Though the Kneel Before Zod club probably does.

Why is the GOP so splintered anyway? Young Republicans, Black Republicans, Republican Women, Real Republicans, etc. It's as if they support segregation or something!

The Democrats have women and blacks too...but they run for president.

A fine example of Christian love and compassion

Does this even need context? I doubt it. Just watch.

I first noticed this several days ago, via Humid Haney. I shook my head and went about my day. Then the Springfield News-Leader received this letter, which was too priceless to ignore:

Thursday's prayer by a Hindu guest chaplain sponsored by Sen. Reid-D [is that his rap handle?] was an abomination to God and an insult to the fabric on which this nation was founded. This nation was not founded on Buddha nor Mohammed, but on the God of the Christian Bible. While these religions are free to practice without state interference, they have no right to defile the chamber built on the principles of the one true God. History was made Thursday, but it was also erased as well. This nation, in its conception, decided that every session would begin with a prayer offered to God. As this nation was battling inner factions Benjamin Franklin offered this piece of sound advice from the Holy Bible. "Unless the Lord builds it, they labor in vain." The Lord is not Buddha or Mohammed. The Lord is Jesus Christ. With the 2008 election just around the corner, maybe faith should play a major factor on who we put in power. God forgive our nation. [Emphasis mine]

You know, for someone who is so absolutely certain about the correctness of their beliefs, they seem awfully threatened by what the government chooses to do in its chambers.

Personally, I think prayers and other public shows of faith should stay out of Congress, or at least stay in the minds and hearts of those in the chambers. God is mentioned exactly zero times in the Constitution, and the first part of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights (which precedes the one about handguns, by the way) guarantees freedom of and from religion. As an American citizen, I have no use for such displays, and think the best thing to do to avoid contentious standoffs, such as the one above, is to ax them altogether.

Even so, if I were there that day, I would not have disrupted the chaplain. Why? Because of one of the good moral lessons I have retained over the years: respect. The guy isn't channeling a messiah complex as an excuse to never change his tragically misguided mind; he's just a guest bringing a bit of diversity into the legislative branch of what is supposed to be the most diverse nation in the world. But to hear some people tell it, the U.S. is now officially endorsing the Hindu religion! And that makes them scared.

Established religion sucks when it isn't yours, eh?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stop cell-phone division

Remember when every square inch of the planet wasn't a phone booth?

At my apartment complex, the swimming pool is always lined with college kids catching tans or - for at least one minute per hour - actually dipping into the water. The rest of the time, they are invariably gabbing away on their cell phones. It's not unusual here to see three girls, presumably best friends/roommates, sit together for a long time and exchange scarcely a word...with each other, at least. But they're talking, all right - engaged in what psychologists say is one of the most annoying sounds to humans, the one-sided conversation.

This has to be a sign of the apocalypse. I can see why people would want to have a cell phone in their daily lives, whether out of necessity or just to have around in case of emergency. But what compels people to bring them to a swimming pool on a summer weekend, especially when they presumably have their friends with them? As many times as I've been swimming with friends and family, I can't think of a single situation where I would want to pick up a phone and spend the entire afternoon calling others who aren't there. Isn't going to a pool one of those things you do to escape that sort of thing?

Cell phones are too ubiquitous in society. Way too many people have them. And way too many people are extremely rude with them. What's surprising, though, is that (at least in my experience) many people don't find anything unusual about conducting entire transactions with cashiers or hanging out with their friends with their ears glued to their cell. Am I the only person who finds this teeth-grindingly rude?

I think Rob Guillory said it best: "The wireless web woven to bring us closer together is building a digital wall between us. The first step to bringing it down is hanging up our phones..."

Well said. And he didn't have to call anyone to say it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A political plank in Vitter's eye

The Daily Advertiser has a great comment thread (thanks Greg) that encapsulates much of the debate about David Vitter's little, uh, indiscretion. The main point of contention on this thread is over whether or not the diaper call even matters. And, of course, Vitter apologists are laying on the who-cares attitude, as if they learned that just a little too late from the Bill Clinton mess.

Of course, it does matter in this case, because it directly relates to...wait, what?

David Vitter needs to step up and take the heat. So far he has been AOL, and he needs to end that.

Not sure how AOL's recent woes translate to this topic, but...oh, I get it...he means AWOL! Like a true Republican family-values morality hawk! Ha ha ha ha ha!!!

AOL! That's funny! AOL!! LOL!!!

Sorry. Easy laugh for an easy mistake.

In all seriousness, though, sexual indiscretions matter when they violate a cornerstone of a candidate's entire platform. Vitter built his entire reputation on a sentiment that can be distilled thusly: "I am a devoted family man who is sick and tired of the left's full-frontal assault on family values, morality and Christianity. Elect me and I will clean up our spiritual mess and return Louisiana to its Godly roots, one conservative measure at a time." In this case, apparently whatever measure his madam recorded.

It seems to me that if these guys want to instill old-fashioned values into politics, they could at least practice what they preach. How hard can it be to live morally? I have no hard time with it, and there's no voice in my head (or self-imposed and impossibly high standard) demanding I do so.

Hey, maybe that's the ticket!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Plausible alibis for David Vitter

"As someone who replaced Bob Livingston, I had a lot to live up to."

"My wife said she was like Lorena Bobbitt. And all Republicans look up to John Wayne!"

"Why do you care about my personal business when much worse stuff is happening in IraqohwhythehelldidIjustsaythatdamndamndamn..."

"I was following in the moral footsteps of Louisiana's own Jimmy Swaggart. Wait, I actually was?"

"I wanted Congress to forget even more about New Orleans than they already have."

"I did it just to prove how much more Jesus America needs."

"Hadn't everyone already figured out what was behind my dumb Quagmire grin? Giggity!"

"I already have George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Bobby Jindal, Charles Boustany, Pat Robertson and Rudy Giuliani on speed dial. What's one more whore?"

"Some called us the elite. She called us her base."

"In Louisiana, we're always taught to say, 'yes ma'am.'"

See video on the Vitter story...though that's not nearly as sexy as it sounds.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Stuff that gnaws at me

--I know I'm a latecomer to this one, but I just watched some clips of Fox News' Half Hour News Hour. God, that was atrocious. Painful. And not simply because I find conservative politics repulsive - in fact, Rush Limbaugh did a decent acting job - but because the whole thing typifies the desperation that comes with fitting Jon Stewart into a square hole. Those anchors looked like someone hosted a casting call for Young Republicans, every Young Republican in the country showed up and they picked these two because they were the Youngest and Most Republican. Even the laugh track sounds like a bunch of Young Republicans laughing at whatever insensitive stuff Young Republicans laugh at. Except that they weren't laughing, otherwise the clearly visible Young Republican studio audience would not need to be augmented by a Young Republican laugh track.

(While looking for an image of these anchors via Google image search - which, by the way, I never found - I came upon an HHNH forum on, of all places! Drew Brees and Deuce McAllister should never share a page with this travesty. At least the general tone of the thread disses the show.)

I was also sad to see Larry Cedar wasting his talent on this show. Even if all he did was play straight man to a live caricature of the liberal newsman in Mallard Fillmore. Didn't Larry used to stand for education, which is the opposite of this show? Can't we put Square One back on for this guy?

I've written before about why I think conservative comedy usually fails on its face. Believe it or not, I'd really like to be proven wrong on this point. But I still have yet to see an example of (naturally authoritarian) conservatism uniting with the freewheeling, irreverent tendencies needed for satire. For the time being, I don't see it happening. It's like me hosting a hunting show - you've got to have a gun first and blinders second.

--I haven't seen Transformers yet, but I've warmed up to the idea that it exists. That's saying something, considering that I saw the original cartoon movie in the theater at age six (and cried in the car all the way there, knowing Optimus Prime was going to die). I vow to go into this incarnation with an open mind and enjoy it, even if the forced vehicle tie-ins make me want to barf. After all, Prime still has the same voice, right? Also, I've heard better-than-average reviews. Now if only Michael Bay would shut up about how proud he is to place products and placate the non-thinking majority of the moviegoing public, I could enjoy his movies more.

--"God Bless America" I can tolerate, but "America Bless God"? That's just too cute. Precious. And not in a good way. First off, it's a bad thing to say in today's sensitive religious climate. Second - and this is most important - it makes no sense! How can the blessed bless the blesser? I don't get it. Does God need blessing from people, the same people who shop at Wal-Mart and watch movies about rats who cook? Somebody explain the logistics of this to me.

--Springfield currently has a problem with thieves stealing catalytic converters. No joke! Supposedly, this car part can yield a thief up to $140 worth of platinum, though some older ones are worth as little as $5. It's like cracking into a bank's safe just to steal the handle off a safe-deposit box. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Something to read on the world's biggest wedding day ever

This is either the driest bit of satire ever written, or the best argument for the moon to break orbit and drop onto the United States immediately:

How to meet and marry a billionaire

Anyone who has read this blog more than zero times knows that I've never been among the wealthy and connected, nor does the prospect of being wealthy and connected appeal to me at all. From what I've read, seen and heard, being rich involves a lot of standing around in ritzy places dressed up in ridiculously overpriced suits with other people, drinking and eating trendy food no one can pronounce in some sort of ritual called "networking." As much as I love socializing with people, even rich and well-connected people, I also like being comfortable. And that just doesn't happen for me when I'm in a place where I'm afraid to touch a table because it may be made of Faberge eggs laid by Donald Trump's bald eagle.

Basically, I don't care for pretense. Conspicuous consumption doesn't impress me. If a decent person has really nice stuff, great. I like to think I do too. But stuff isn't going to influence my opinion of someone one way or the other. And it puzzles me that, in 2007, there are still enough educated Americans shamelessly shallow enough to constitute a target audience for these sorts of sentiments:

Marry money. Real money. As in not a mere millionaire (a dime a dozen these days) but an honest-to-goodness billionaire...

A seven-figure donation from your beloved to the school of your choice and your kids are in the door, even if they're no smarter than grapefruit.

Google is a gold digger's best friend.

Get an M.B.A. ASAP. To worm your way into a billionaire's business, and eventually his heart, you need the right career. An M.B.A. will give you the most flexibility. Since people think that it qualifies you to do just about anything, you can get hired just about anywhere.

Not all charities are created equal in the hearts and wallets of the superrich. To figure out which nonprofits are most likely to put you in touch with people of ultrahigh net worth, peruse the Chronicle of Philanthropy to see what causes top givers favor.

Ginie Sayles offers seminars around the country on marrying rich ($50 to $150 a person), as well as $500-an-hour private sessions. Using a 14-point system to help hoi polloi ramp up their classiness, she says, her clients have married several multimillionaires in her 20 years in business.

...available in her book Get Serious About Getting Married: 365 Proven Ways to Find Love in Less Than a Year...

Once you zero in on a prospect, you'll have to look as if you're interested in what he or she likes.

If you do make it to the altar, hire a smart lawyer to negotiate the best terms on your prenup. But no matter how difficult things get, hang in there. The longer you stay, the more the court will award you if the marriage fails. There's no reason, after all, that your divorce shouldn't be every bit as lucrative as your marriage.

What bothers me about this article isn't that it caters to the worst impulses of ruthless, attention-starved, super-capitalistic gold-diggers, but that it is so flagrant about it. And what's worse is that we all know actual people who are like this. And not as a joke, either.

Even without the money element, this is sad. "Look as if you're interested?" Why would anyone want to spend time with someone who bores them, even if billions of dollars are involved?

As a single guy, I get lonely sometimes. But that's preferable to being bored and phony.

My heartfelt pity goes out to anyone who reads this article and takes it seriously. At least when you're not high-society, you know who actually loves you.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

License plate sighting of the day

(On a new red station wagon with Missouri vanity plates)


Expires 2008. How appropriate!

And thus was born the most expensive bumper sticker ever. Except, perhaps, for the economic and political costs of the Bush-Cheney series.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My plans for the Fourth

--Just wrote a veteran to thank him for his service, and his recent attempt to jump back into the field (a sentiment which, by the way, extends to all my friends and family in the military);

--Go to the park to fly the foam glider that's made me feel nine years old again;

--Hopefully attend a Springfield Cardinals baseball game;

--Anything else I feel like doing, because I'm an American with the day off.

Have a good July 4th. And remember, supporting freedom is not necessarily the same as supporting the president. If it were, Independence Day wouldn't have a five-month restraining order against Presidents Day, would it?

(Wow, that was profound...Good job, Ian...)

To close, here's James Earl Jones reading the Declaration of Independence. To use his own authoritative words from a 1992 promo of Gabriel's Fire, "Watch it!"

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

No need to beg for this pardon

Over the years, I've heard Republicans endlessly claim the upper hand on being tough on crime:

"We must stop coddling our criminals! Make an example of them by prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law! Build more prisons! Make executions public! Nothing makes a better deterrent against crime then watching someone fry! An eye for an eye!"

And, as we heard endlessly during the Clinton circus:

"No man is above the law!"

Of course, that last one is true. Which is why, as of yesterday, no George W. Bush supporter should ever engage in a debate on crime. For their own sake. With one deft reduction of Scooter Libby's sentencing, Bush has shown once and for all that his friends will always take precedence over the justice system - or what's left of it ever since he's had his slimy hands on it.

Put in simplest terms, a Bush crony (allegedly on orders from Karl Rove) releases the identity of an undercover CIA agent for political reasons. Said revelation (through a top conservative column, no less) undermines national security and threatens the life of the agent. Then the outer attempts to block the investigation. And when it comes time for Libby to face a ridiculously lenient penalty, Bush commutes the sentence, calling it "excessive." And, shortly thereafter, he says he isn't ruling out a pardon at this point. You know, to save the country the embarrassment of having leaders punished for embarrassing crimes.

Do we need any more evidence that Bush is the most transparently hypocritical leader of our times, and will do anything to protect his buddies? To be fair, others often say they would bend the law for their friends and principles: the mafia, abortion-clinic bombers, the KKK, drunken college kids, etc. Illustrious company, for sure.

But above all else, I have to wonder: why does Bush still have the power of pardon when he himself is likely to be a dubious recipient of such a decree? That, even more than the Libby wrist-slap, makes the justice system look criminal.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Caption Central

"13:22:07 away from WHAT?!!" edition

President Bush tours the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala.
Gerald Herbert / The Associated Press

--Bush turned away frustrated, never having found the button marked "nucular"
--Hey! It's Fat Cat AND Little Boy!
--Bush knew he'd really have to work hard to top Jeb in the "Fast Money" round
--"Bet you could launch one hell of a fireworks show from here."
--If you fold this picture Mad Fold-In-style, Bush appears to be selling cigarettes at 7-11
--TOO EASY: "Where's the button? I want to try out these launch codes!"
--As Fox News reported later: "Mr. Bush just radiates warmth"
--Fortunately for Bush, the terror-alert color had not been upgraded that day
--"Now where is that zany Smithers?"
--Unfortunately for America, we are much more than 13:22:07 away from a new president
--Behind the scenes at InnerSpace 2: Vacuum Packed
--Man, that Creation Museum is SCARY!
--"Heh heh! Blastoff! Oh, shit..."
--Behind the scenes of Honey, They Shrunk Me and Put Me in Dick Cheney's Heart
--Worst episode of 3-2-1-Contact! Ever.
--It's like Deal or No Deal, without the "Deal"
--That circle of yes-men doesn't quite cut the arc that it used to...
--"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be around here somewhere."
--Now this picture should scare off any terrorists looking for a fight
--If I'm the buttons and Bush is my waiter, then you'll understand why I stormed out of Applebee's yesterday (I know that's not political, but why waste perfectly good rage?)
--We put nuclear power in the hands of Alabamans? Really?
--Men at Work had it right. It really IS a Mistake...