Friday, August 29, 2008


Just when you thought that the Republicans had nothing in their quiver except character assassination and fear, they pop out with this one.

On the day when everyone was supposed to be talking about Obama's strong speech and what it means for future polling (always more important than what was actually in the speech), the McCain camp drops the bombshell that it's adding Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to the ticket.

I have to hand it to them on both the timing and the content. They really stole the Dems', and Obama's, thunder. I mean, here I am writing about this instead of BO's speech. And everyone on the radio has cut their discussion of Obama in half, at least. Go to any newspaper or news website. You won't see Obama's picture. You'll see the one you see here. Nice work, GOP. Now no one will be talking about all of the horrible things Obama said about you yesterday. LOOK OVER THERE!

Palin, no relation to this man, is an unknown to the vast majority of the American public. (Come on, did you know who she was before, say, this morning?) But there are two words that sum up everything she has going for her that McCain wasn't going to get anywhere else. Say them with me. Young. Woman.

It's an obvious ploy. But it will work. How many female Obama supporters are now stopping and thinking "Hmm, now I'm not so sure"? Especially the older ones who thought that Hillary was ther last chance to see a woman in the White House. It doesn't matter that they don't know anything about this woman other than that she shares their plumbing any more than it matters to many Obama supporters that he shares their skin color (sort of).

If McCain is expecting to peel off some PUMAs with this one, I don't think he's going to get them. Although their stated credo was that Obama was somehow a terrible candidate, his only real problem was that he wasn't Hillary. So, rather than vote for that terrible, inexperienced disaster-in-waiting, they would vote for McCain. Because McCain's policies would be so much closer to Hillary's than Obama's, apparently. When Obama was considering Kathleen Sebelius for his VP slot, this was considered an unwise move. After all, if you're going to pick a woman, why not Hillary? The people who deep-sixed that idea are not going to jump in and support this newbie, who may be a woman, but is most definitely not Hillary.

But he will get more women of the slightly (slightly) saner variety. Although anyone who supports abortion rights (an issue that I think dominates political debate far more than its significance merits) will not want to get on this bandwagon. On this and pretty much every other issue, she's a straight-up conservative. And she wants to drill an ANWR.

She may or may not be a solid candidate for the office. Probably not. But this was a great move from an electoral and media perspective.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bill and Hill Shill

Somebody's ass has some party unity.

It was refreshing, even exhilarating, to see both Clintons go to bat for Barack Obama the way they did. The chattering classes, of course, yakked beforehand about how they were taking over what should have been Obama's convention. Nonsense. They're party bigwigs and they had business to take care of. Obama bats cleanup here. And he speaks in the big house. It's still his convention.

You really couldn't have asked the Clintons to do more than they did. There wasn't a shred of ambiguity in their endorsements. Whether the PUMAs listen to them is another story. But if they don't, you certainly can't blame these two. That may have been the primary purpose of their speeches (CYA) but it would be nice to think that they did the right thing because it was the right thing for their party and their country and not just the right thing for them.

The speeches themselves were knockouts. I actually kind of like Hillary again, after having a lingering filthy taste in my mouth from her primary shenanigans. I know what primaries are about. I know that when your policies are that similar, you kinda have to get somewhat personal to make distinctions. Obama did the same thing, although he wasn't as damaging about it. ("You're likable enough, Hillary" is not anywhere near as bad as "He's not ready to lead.") But I think they all could have spent more time fighting the real enemy rather than sullying each other and giving the GOP more ammo to use against them later.

But, just as the New Testament (love, baby, love) is supposed to make you forget the Old Testament (kill, baby, kill), Hillary made it as clear as she possibly could that the past was past and Barack was the future. At least the immediate future. And we're all real proud of her. Not just because she did the right thing. But because she did it so incredibly well. The lady's got chops. Brava, Senator.

As for Hillary's future, can you say Attorney General Clinton? Maybe Supreme Court Justice Clinton? I'll bet she can.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

These Are Words That Go Together Well

Michelle Obama: America-hating secret Muslim terrorist who has it in for whitey? Or apple pie mom?

It's sad that this is even an issue but her speech last night was about convincing a goodly chunk of our nation who may believe that she is the former that she is really the latter. Or at least that she falls a bit closer to that end of the spectrum than previously believed.

The speech itself? Nothing special. Just the usual hard-working, close-knit family, American Dream narrative. My dad worked hard through adversity, my mom was our support after he was gone, my brother and I watched TV, my husband loves his kids and dammit, so do I.

As a potential First Lady, not as anyone who would have any actual responsibility in an Obama administration, there's not much she could or should have said about policy. Her job was to send one message: I am not scary.

Well, she did that, all right. And man, if anyone watched her speak and still thinks she's scary, there wasn't much hope for them anyway. There is a certain faction, either racist or pathologically conservative (or both!), who will not support these people under any circumstances. This was not for them. But for the rest, if you thought Mrs. O was scary before, I'm not sure how you could honestly still think that.

She was warm, bright, intelligent and charming. She looked terrific and she delivered the speech not like a pro but like someone who meant it. (A subtle and possibly meaningless difference.) She told Middle America that she was one of them. And for crying out loud, she is. You can't get much more like the Republican ideal than her. Working-class background, pulled up by bootstraps, worked to go farther than parents, married, monogamous, kids, took hubbie's name, stumps for him... What more do you want? If you're still looking for something else, you're not gonna get it.

She'll never be white, people.

And those kids! Adorable! Serious points there. No, this wasn't about politics in the normal sense. It was about optics. And dammit if she didn't knock this one out of the park.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama Selects Biden as Running Mate

Below is a photo of Barack Obama and Joe Biden just before the rally announcing Obama's selection of Biden as his VP.

If these two can learn to stand each other, the Republicans don't stand a chance!

Has Anybody Seen...?

We hereby solemnly mark the passing of Dr. Hugh R. Butt, whose breakthroughs in gastroenterology and the study of coagulation have saved many lives and made many other lives better.

Dr. Butt had worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for many years and lived to the ripe old age of 98.

He was born Hugh Jass but changed his name to Butt in 1957 after a series of prank phone calls drove him and his family to distraction and annoyance. Wanting to make the phone calls cease while still honoring the respected Jass family name, he chose his new surname as a less naughty partial synonym. Puzzlingly, the phone calls continued nearly until his recent death.

For all you did, Hugh, we thank you. Now when anyone asks if we've seen a Hugh Jass, we'll tell them to look under the Hugh Butt.

Dumb Letters: It's All About Mike

This is from today's NYT. The letter writer is referring to NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg's suggestion that we can harness wind energy by placing turbines on our buildings. This seems reasonable. What I didn't realize is that this was really all about Mike.

"The suggestion of putting wind turbines on the roofs of skyscrapers is another glaring example of our mayor’s ever-increasing agenda of self-promotion."

Wait wait wait. How is this so? This is another of my favorite rhetorical gambits. When someone has an idea you don't like, rather than propose a counterargument you just impugn the motive of the person proposing the original idea. It's the equivalent of throwing sand in someone's face. By the time they've recovered their sight the other person has run away and they never have to face the actual issue at hand. Case in point: I'm actually responding to it right here.

Is Bloomberg planning on reserving naming rights for all of the turbines for himself? Putting his picture on them, maybe? By the standard set by the letter writer, what initiative could he possibly propose that would not be about self-promotion? Should he stay in his office all day and not say anything to anybody, for fear of seeming like a self-promoter?

Having accomplished her first goal, she then goes on to attempt an actual argument against wind turbines.

"Why take such a chance in a city already scarred by falling construction cranes and other construction debris? And who could ever forget the sight of a helicopter crashing on top of the former Pan Am building and blades tumbling into the street below?"

Holy crap. Because a helicopter once crashed into a building (Blades! It has blades!), and because poorly maintained construction sites have had accidents, that means that turbines will inevitably come loose from their moorings and come screaming down from the skies in never-ending hailstorms of wildly spinning eco-friendly metal, terrorizing an already shaken city and presumably decapitating scores of its good citizens.

Who can ever forget 9/11? Let's close all of the airports! And the skyscrapers, while we're at it. Why take a chance?

"It goes without saying we all need to conserve, but New York City will never be a shining beacon of energy conservation, because of the nature of the beast. If he wants to leave his mark on this city, the mayor would be better advised to attend to its crumbling infrastructure, which is an embarrassment to the greatest city in the world."

Sabine Thomas

New York, Aug. 21, 2008

I appreciate the concern for our fair city's crumbling infrastructure, which is appropriate. But that's another issue. Should we also ignore the schools because of the crumbling infrastructure? How about the water in the harbor? Or the homeless?

And here's some news. We already are a shining beacon of conservation (relative to the rest of the nation, anyway), not in spite of the nature of the beast but because of it. High-density urban living is the most energy-efficient mode of living. We have people living in apartment buildings, which conserve energy not only by reducing the amount of infrastructure required per capita but by conserving heat through shared resources and proximity. (Your fingers stay warmer in a mitten than they do in a glove. Guess why.) And the generally smaller living spaces mean even less area to heat. We also have more people using public transportation or walking, drastically reducing the need for cars.

We can and should be leading the way in other areas of energy production and conservation, not ridiculing sensible ideas for doing so.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympic T&A: Synchronized Diving

Does anyone besides me find it a bit creepy that after every synchronized dive we're treated to a shot of the young and usually female divers having a nice shower?

Now I enjoy watching young ladies shower as much as the next guy, and possibly a bit more, depending on the day. But is this really appropriate? Is this practical? Are these girls really getting all rinse-y clean? In most cases, they just get a little spritz. They're not getting anywhere near all of the chlorine off, especially since they're still wearing their suits. I'm guessing they'll get a real shower later. So what's the point?

Don't answer that. I think I know.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

PYSBRIoM: Glenn Greenwald

No! Not another freaking acronym! Okay, here's what it stands for: People You Should Be Reading Instead of Me. (And yes, it's an acronym, not just an abbreviation, because you can pronounce it as a word. Pizzbreeom! Let's review. FEMA, NASCAR, FISA: acronyms. NFL, NRA, USSR: not acronyms.)


If you never have, you owe it to yourself to read a blog by Glenn Greenwald. According to his own bio, he's a former constitutional law and civil rights litigator. Now he writes stuff. He blogs for Salon but he's published some books too. He continually debunks right-wing myths and beltway conventional "wisdom". His relentless criticism of the media and its relationship to our government is devastating. And he was one of the first media persons to raise an eyebrow at the FBI's (not an acronym) flimsy and possibly fraudulent case against Bruce Ivins.

We need Glenn Greenwald now more than ever. Worth reading every day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Title

Okay, so Spanky McSchmanky's Cub Scout Den of Iniquity may not exactly be a world beater of a name for a blog (or a movie or a cat or a baby). Or maybe it's the greatest name in the history of the known universe. But, ya know, when I was setting this thing up I didn't know I was going to have to make such a decision. This is what I came up with on short notice.

Got something better? Let me know in Comments World. If I like your idea and actually change the name I'll give you a shout-out and possibly a nice firm handshake. But keep in mind that I'm the type of guy who tends to stick with things.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Oh, the Times, They Aren't a-Changin'

The Washington Times, that is. You know, the nutjobs who have appropriated a respected name and font in order to assume the appearance of an actual newspaper? I just love this editorial about why The Decider isn't so bad after all.

Some choice excerpts:
"Love him or hate him, he's been decisive and principled."

This is one of my favorite false virtues, being "decisive" and "principled". Remember the scene in Woody Allen's "Bananas" where the dictators are making their new rules known over the loudspeaker? You know, like "From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside... so we can check."

Now that was decisive. And principled, by gum. Those guys knew that if the people wore their underwear on the inside it would lead to all sorts of government intrusion, like randomly forcing innocent folks to drop trou. Can't have that. No no, the principle is important. Call me crazy, but I don't give a rats petoot about decisiveness if the decisions being made are so horribly wrong. The same goes for the principles. It's just another way of saying hard-headed. But hey, it's my principle that everyone should give me all of their money. And women should be naked. Not all of them, just the ones I like. I'm just principled, love me or hate me.

"And while anti-Bush Web sites incessantly mock him with the moniker "worst president in history," at least more than one historian has noted: History cannot be judged in the midst of it. We are still in the midst of the Bush presidency."

Oh, now that is scary. You mean it can get worse? See my last post. I've had quite enough already, thank you. History may not be able to be judged but current reality certainly can. And current reality is far worse than anything we've already experienced in "history". And that's based only on what we already know about this presidency. Slowly but surely, more and more horrifying things keep coming to light. As "history" moves on, we'll know more and more and more, despite all of the Bush/Cheney junta's efforts to quash information about their crimes. It ain't gettin' any better, people.

Here's my favorite part of the "Times" "editorial":
"The president also has a domestic record that he can be proud of - from literacy and faith-based initiatives to judicial appointments and tax cuts. That record also includes the moral restoration of the presidency after years of the embarrassing Clinton scandals."

Oh, god! That last bit sends me spiraling into fits of uncontrolled hysteria every time I read it. Never mind the judicial appointments and tax cuts. How many motherfucking scandals do these people have to be involved in before the right wing stops and assesses them objectively as flatly and unambiguously IMMORAL? (NOTE: Rhetorical question. I know.)

Announcer: And now, ladies and germs, welcome to "Moral Faceoff" with your host, Wink Martindale! Wink?

Wink: Thanks, Johnny. Contestants, let's begin. For $100, which is more immoral, torture or a blowjob?

Buzzer: BZZZZ!

Contestant #1: Blowjob!

Wink: That's right! And a followup for another $50. Torture...of innocent people who happen to be muslims...or a blowjob?

Contestant #1: Blowjob!

Wink: That's right! Next question: For $200, which is more immoral, invading another nation, unprovoked and under false pretenses, causing the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and untold suffering for millions more, or a blowjob?

Buzzer: BZZZZ!

Contestant #2: Blowjob!

Wink: Right again!

And so on.

So thank you, dear Washington Times, for pointing out to us just how the fine folks in the White House have restored morality to the presidency. You are performing an invaluable public service.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Is It Over Yet?

We're so close, and yet still so far away. According to the fine folks at this website, the Bush administration is 94.18% over as of today.

This is both encouraging and nauseating. After all of the horrible damage these people have done to our country, it should be great to hear that they have just over 5% of their time left. You'd think we'd be rejoicing in the light at the end of the tunnel.

I can't though. I just can't. First and foremost, although it doesn't seem like much, they still have A LOT of time to do even more damage. Just this week, they're implementing new rules at Labor that will make it more difficult for employees to make claims about being poisoned by their employers (which is about all the department has done in the past seven-plus years). They're still threatening to attack Iran. They're still stonewalling legitimate congressional investigations by ignoring subpoenas, for which ordinary folks like you and me would be in jail. They're still ignoring global warming and, just as importantly, the pollution that causes it. I just don't have the energy to even attempt a comprehensive list.

Even if they left today, it would take us years to dig out of the mess we're in on many many fronts. I couldn't possibly list all of the areas in which they've created horrible problems for us. We could spend the next four years doing nothing but investigating the crimes that these people have committed in almost every conceivable area of government. And it would be time well spent, in my opinion.

But we also have to start with the digging. And even then, our hands will be tied by the fine folks that have been appointed to the federal benches and to career government positions by these crooks. Alito, 58, and Roberts, 53, aren't going anywhere for decades. Not to mention all of the lower court judges that nobody knows anything about. And I'm sure I'm not the only one holding his breath that John Paul Stevens, 88(!), doesn't kick the bucket in the next 5 months.

And is everyone ready for the blanket pardons that will be going out to all of the liars, torturers, warmongers, war profiteers, influence peddlers, polluters and other assorted cretins come January?

Almost over? In a way. But in other more important ways, we're just getting started. We can't make any progress when we have to spend so much time and energy just getting back to Square 1, if that's even possible. It's a long road ahead and I'm having a hard time facing it with any kind of optimism.