Thursday, November 27, 2008

She's STILL Pro-Life

So, I know that not everyone regards other life forms as worthy of compassion. But even societies that eat other animals used to treat them with respect. Some even had big rituals where they thanked the animal for their flesh and venerated their souls. (Look it up yourself. I'm too lazy today.)

Not in Aw Shucks, Alaska though. And frankly, not in your local Ralph's-supplying abbatoir either. You've probably seen this already, or at least read about it. It's not overly graphic but it certainly conveys the casualness of slaughter.

Really, is this the only vantage point from which they could have conducted this interview? Grim.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

She'll Use Small Words, So Georgie Can Read It

So apparently Mrs. Idiot is now planning her memoirs. It's telling that her reading list includes "The Brothers Karamazov" and "Beloved" but excludes "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "My Pet Goat".

I've got a good title for her new book:

"I Can't Believe I've Squandered 30 Years with This Fucking Illiterate"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Not Thought of the Day, Thought of the Month or Thought of the Long Weekend. Just Thought. Thought of the Day always makes it seem like you should think about it today and then think about something else tomorrow.

One of my college professors always said that if something is worth reading it's worth reading twice. I feel the same way about thoughts.

And I have been re-reading things lately. My most recent re-reading thing is a collection of Kafka's short fiction, including "The Metamorphosis" and "In the Penal Colony". Included in the collection are some other works, themselves anthologies, that contain brief, often very brief, stand-alone pieces. Here's one in its entirety from the collection "A Country Doctor" (the title piece of which is a hair-raiser, by the way, if you haven't read it).

The Next Village

My grandfather used to say: "Life is astoundingly short. To me, looking back over it, life seems so foreshortened that I scarcely understand, for instance, how a young man can decide to ride over to the next village without being afraid that - not to mention accidents - even the span of a normal happy life may fall far short of the time needed for such a journey."

So much to see. So much to read. So much to learn. So much to do. So much to feel. So much to think about. Don't even tell me you're bored. I'll slap you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Da da da da da da da da, WAX-MAN!

Yes, Henry Waxman. The Waxman. He looks like a villain but he's one of the good guys.

So far in our election hangover we've seen Mr. President-elect pick some fine not-so-liberal folks for his team. We've also seen him support the retention of Senator Douchebag while the knife wound in his back was still fresh.

The one clear victory for progressives so far (other than the fact that The Idiot is leaving soon, which couldn't help but move us in the right direction, even if it's not far enough) is Mr. Waxman's ousting of John Dingell as head of the Energy and Commerce Commitee. Dingell has been in the pockets of the auto industry forever and has almost single-handedly prevented us from moving to smaller and more fuel-efficient cars. He's opposed increased fuel efficiency every step of the way. Global warming and, more importantly, plain old pollution have been the winners. (Not to mention that old standby, reliance on foreign sources of energy. You know which one.) If you like asthma, Dingell's you're man.

Waxman isn't perfect. (Shock!) He spent way too much time trying to nail steroid-using ballplayers to the wall. It didn't work because they were so bulked up the nails kept breaking on their skin.

But he's very strong on environmental issues and should actually move us in the right direction for a change. Hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Joe Lieberman: Douchebag Extraordinaire

So, let's just say I'm your pal. I'm such a good pal that you let me use your car. And you let me join that exclusive club you belong to. And you let me hang out with you even after I slagged your new friend and then convinced our other friends to keep me in the club even after I was voted out. Okay, you forgave me and for that I thank you. Mighty big of you.

So, next your biggest enemy comes along and says that you're a total pud and that you do the nasty with your mama. So what do I do? Well, I say, "Yeah, he's a total pud and I heard about that mama thing. It's scary, dude. And ya know what else? The whole club's a bunch of puds. Fuck those fucking puds." Then I let your enemy drive your car and crash it while he's drunk. And then blame you for it.

What's your next move? Tell me to piss off? Why no, of course. You give me the keys to your new car and whole-heartedly welcome me back to the club. Why?

Because you're a congressional Democrat
, that's why.

Why the fucking fuck is fucking Joe Lieberman still in charge of anything? I know, I know. We're all in the spirit of bipartisanship. Fuck bipartisanship. Bipartisanship for the past 8 years has meant "everybody do what the president wants." Don't complain. Don't argue. You wouldn't want to be "partisan" now, would you? Bullshit.

Now we're all supposed to be "bipartisan" even after the criminals are being bounced out. Why? Because the wrong people are in power now, apparently. Partisanship is only good if it's not Democrats who are engaged in it.

Joe Lieberman is a goddamn traitor. And not an honorable one. He is more than welcome to believe anything he wants. He is more than welcome to support whomever he wants in any election. He is more than welcome to say anything he damn well pleases. But why on earth is he being rewarded for it? What kind of jellyfish does that?

It's bad enough that he supported McPain and slagged Obama throughout the whole election. You can make the argument that stripping him of his chairmanship for that would be petty. Although I'd argue with you there.

But the entire time he chaired the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee he did nothing (NOTHING!) about the Bush administration's continual lawbreaking. The man did not do his job. In fact, he aided and abetted criminal behavior when he was charged with calling it out and exposing it. This alone is grounds for dismissal. And censure, if you ask me.

Simply put, he didn't do his job. He was worse than ineffective; he was destructive. A normal person in a normal job would be fired for such a thing. And yet here we are, with Joe Lieberman in exactly the same place he was in same time last year. (Oh, wait, he lost one little subcommittee chair. That'll show him.) The man is not a Democrat. And he does not believe what Democrats believe. At least not in the department in which he holds power. Fuck him and the horse he rode in on.

I'm Back

Did you even notice I was gone? I spent a long weekend at a music conference, so blogging was just not happening. It was filed right next to "sleeping" in things I wasn't doing.

Like you care.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Smart Letters: The Environment

Okay, so I love dishing on Dumb Letters as much as anybody. But sometimes I want to give a "Yay, team!" to the smart ones. There were two smart ones in today's NYT in response to Al Gore's thoughtful op-ed piece in Sunday's paper on our new opportunity to tackle environmental issues that have been sadly neglected by The Idiot and his gang of eco-thugs.

Smart One the First...

While we build a network of high-capacity underground electrical lines, we should also build high-capacity, high-speed, grade-level rail corridors.

Combining construction of both would lower the costs of each by combining right-of-way acquisition. Passenger rail, which is 5 to 10 times more efficient than air or car travel, would use local energy supplies and save energy over all.

Plus, this construction would spur the creation of hundreds of thousands of good jobs.

Ari Ofsevit
St. Paul

We have criminally neglected rail travel in this country. We had many opportunities to create a great rail network on par with Europe's (people don't have cars in Europe like we do; they don't need to) and we have failed every time, opting instead for more highways and more cars. Here in New York City most people don't have cars. It's difficult to keep one here but it's also unnecessary. The subway goes nearly everywhere and the few places it doesn't go are served by buses. Better public transportation means a better environment. And more self-sufficiency for people of limited financial means.

I like Mr. Ofsevit's idea of killing two birds with one stone. Three, really. JOBS! But I'd go one step further and go with maglev trains for intercity and long-distance travel. They have them in Japan and they're awesome. They can't be plopped onto existing tracks but if we're making new lines (or refitting old ones) they should be considered. They're fast, quiet, and efficient because they eliminate friction. And, at speeds of over 300mph, they can compete with air travel.

Smart One the Second...

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases is generated by livestock production, more than by transportation.

Yet Al Gore does not even mention the need for Americans to reduce meat consumption as we attempt to rescue ourselves from the climate crisis.

Michael Radkowsky

I pride myself on not being a sanctimonious asshole about my food choices. I ate meat for over 30 years and dairy for another 5 or so. So it would be abject hypocrisy for me to excoriate others for not doing exactly what I do exactly when I do it. Nobody wants to be told what to eat (or not to eat) and I'm not going to look down on anyone for the choices they make in this area.

But a vegan with a Hummer has a much smaller carbon footprint than a carnivore with a Prius. Just sayin'. (Vegan with a Prius? Now you're talkin'. Vegan that takes solar-powered maglev public transportation? Be still, my healthily beating heart.)

What I like in this letter is that Mr. Radkowsky does not even say we need to eliminate meat consumption but that we should think about reducing it. This is easier for people to swallow. How many times a week do you eat meat? Six? Drop that to three and you've made a difference. Food for thought.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

I'm always a bit conflicted on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. You see, I'm basically a pacifist. I think all war is stupid and I wonder why anyone would glorify it. But I know, I know, sometimes it's necessary. Unfortunately, I think a very small percentage of wars falls into that category. With 20/20 hindsight we can usually see how things could have been headed off. Alas, foresight is not so keen. And of course, the Law of Unintended Consequences often comes into play. One never knows what is truly necessary and what isn't. Even after the fact. But I think we err on the side of war way too often. We forget that, as Jimmy Carter said, "Although war is sometimes a necessary evil, it is always evil."

Here we must make a clear differentiation between those who fight our wars (and who we honor) and those who make the decisions to send them off to do so (who we generally despise).

When I see pictures of fine men and women at Walter Reed that are missing arms, legs, eyes, large pieces of their heads and even larger pieces of their souls I get pretty pissed. These people signed up to defend us. Few actually do. More often than not, they're on the offensive thousands of miles away from the homeland. This is an increase of tragedy. The loss is utterly unnecessary.

Our leaders should have to look at pictures of these people all day, every day. They should invent a computer program that simulates the minds of PTSD soldiers and make our leaders feel what they feel on a regular basis. Nightmares, daymares, jitteriness, moral numbness and isolation. And fear. Maybe they'd think twice about sending other people's sons and daughters off to kill and die to satisfy their geopolitical wet dreams. I'd even settle for them thinking once about it. War sucks the humanity out of people.

My own views on the necessity of their vocations aside, I have great respect for the people who don the uniform and serve. There is nothing any of us can do that compares to it. It's something I am constitutionally incapable of doing. Even when they are being sent on fool's errands, they are serving us. They are doing their job for the country they love. And it's not exactly a cushy one. Or a well-paying one.

It's almost criminal that I'm getting paid more for sitting in an office building than somebody who's getting shot at every day. Not to mention the warmongers who sent them to do so. And senators and federal executives get lovely parting gifts, including pensions and lucrative careers on the public speaking circuit. Your average soldier? Not much. Part of their college tuition and medical care. That's the very least we can do. Really. I think that anybody who goes through combat should be taken care of for life. LIFE. And their immediate families should be taken care of too. Why do we give a scumbag like Tom DeLay a bigger pension than somebody who went and got his legs blown off and wakes up screaming every night at 3AM? It makes no sense.

There will always be veterans of the military. I've got some in my family. Although they didn't fight, thankfully. But I want for there to be no veterans of war. It won't happen in my lifetime. Most of the soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are half my age. And it won't happen in our children's lifetime. It will probably never happen.

But we should at least work towards making sure that we have fewer and fewer veterans as time goes on. Can we do that, please?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wait a Minute

Now, I'm as excited about anybody else regarding this past week's election. It fills me with a hope for my country that I had long since abandoned. Not to pee all over this, but let's stop for a second and consider two things. (I consciously waited a few days before posting this. We needed to celebrate a bit. But here we are.) We're gettng seriously into glass-half-empty territory here, but these are important things to consider before we go all giddy.

Thing 1: The Bush Administration

This actually comes in two parts, Thing 1(a) and Thing 1(b).

Thing 1(a) is the existing legacy of these turdheads. The damage that they have done to, among other things, the environment, workers' rights, women's rights, science, separation of church and state, the judiciary, our infrastructure, confidence in government, our standing on the world stage, and, oh, our constitution is going to take the better part of Obama's first term (hey! optimism!) just to discover and unravel, let alone to fix.

And the judiciary can't be fixed unless one of the Supreme Court justices contracts a particularly virulent communicable disease, taking Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas down with them. Barring that, those guys aren't going anywhere for the foreseeable future. The best-case scenario is that Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens are replaced with justices who will be similar to them. Obama's win won't shift the court back to the left. It will only prevent it from moving farther to the right. And this also leaves out the lower courts, which decide what even gets to the Supremes. Their effect goes largely unseen by the general populace. Dozens of creeps on the level of Scalia have been planted there over the last eight years. They're not going anywhere either.

And restoring regulations to industry is going to take forever, and will be violently opposed by the coal, oil, gas, logging and nuclear industries. Good luck with that. We can't take back the unnecessary pollution that has already been spewed and will continue to be spewed while we struggle to return some common sense to our environmental policy. Or bring back the polar bears and other less-cuddly animules that are dying out due to global warming. Which brings me to Thing 1(b).

Thing 1(b) is the inescapable fact that these guys are still in power for another two months. They have plenty of time to make things even more difficult for Big O. All presidents sneak in last-minute regulations designed to tie the hands of the next administration, or at least to make them look bad by repealing them. Read this to find out what we're up against here. We won't even mention all of the pardons for themselves and their buddies for civil rights violations, torture, illegal wiretapping, lying to congress etc.

Thing 2: 52%-47%

This felt like a big victory because Obama won a vast majority of electoral college votes. And the rest of the world is overwhelmingly pro-Obama. (Except, uh, Al Qaeda.) If the entire global population were allowed to vote in our election, Obama probably would have received 75-85% of the vote. But right here, he got just over half. What the hell is wrong with us?

Obama will undoubtedly be able to restore world opinion of us to a respectable level. He already has, without even doing anything in an official capacity. But right here at home, we have advanced a little but we've still got a long way to go. We're still a bit racist. We're still a bit anti-intellectual. We're still a bit untrusting of anything that smacks of gummint control, even if it's really government assistance. We're still not quite bright enough to take accusations like "socialist" with a real understanding of what the terms mean and how they relate to historical reality.

Considering a) how badly John McCain ran his campaign, b) how badly Bush/Cheney and the Republican Party have run this country, c) that 80% of the country told pollsters that the country was heading in the wrong direction, d) how little McCain's policies differed from Bush's, and e) how unbelievably ill-equipped Sarah Palin was for the office, it's pretty pathetic that almost half of us still thought it would be better to elect the same party again.

The hope that I have after this historic election is tempered by the sad realization that we have not, in fact, come such a long way, baby. But maybe we can get there. I'm willing to try if you are. I'll end with the same line I ended with earlier this week, because it holds true no matter what.

Let's get to work.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Jimmy Carl Black

Jimmy, we hardly knew ye.

I knew nothing about this guy until the news dropped that he was dead at the ripe young age of 70. Well, almost nothing.

What I did know was that he was the drummer in The Mothers of Invention and he didn't do too much of note after Zappa disbanded the group after a few of the freakiest records that anyone had heard up to that point (which was 1969).

And every time I popped in "We're Only In It for the Money" I'd hear him say, "Hi, boys and girls. I'm Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the group." Which was kinda funny, although I'm not really sure why.

It really sucks for some people after they get booted out of famous bands. Millions of people hear your playing and you get bupkis for it. The Ms of I were on salary and Frank wrote all of the songs so he kept all of the royalties. Apparently the guy even worked in a doughnut shop for a while. Oh, the humanity.

But he seemed like a decent guy who had a sense of humor about himself. And there just aren't enough Indians in rock music anymore. Or ever.

No, Buffy Sainte-Marie doesn't count.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dumb Letters: PC Liberal Illogical Unreasonable Ignorant Socialists Destroy America

I get the feeling there are going to be a lot of Dumb Letters in the near future.

This one is from the Los Angeles Times. I'm going to have to take this one bit-by-bit. You'd choke if you read it all at once.

I am in mourning this morning because political correctness, redemptive liberalism and youthful ignorance triumphed over logic and reason in the presidential election.

Ha! Political correctness! Redemptive liberalism! Youthful ignorance! Logic! Reason! Oh my. This is the type of racism that gets published in papers. If you don't like a black person's success, chalk it up to PC liberals. Dude, the guy won because he was logical and rational. Oh, I almost forgot... Mourning! Ha!

Let's be honest. Obama, with virtually no experience and no record of legislative accomplishment, was elected only because he is black and liberal.

Let's be honest. Your letter was only published by this paper to show what an ignoramus you are. I could give other reasons why people voted for him, but why bother. Remember that last line.

Any white candidate with a resume as thin as his and similar ideas about redistribution of wealth would have been laughed off the stage, no matter how well-spoken he was.
Take away the "redistribution" line and you've got pretty much what happened to Sarah Palin. So maybe the ideas are okay with us and we, I don't know, admire intelligence.

Likewise, most of the people who voted for Obama would never vote for a black conservative candidate, no matter how experienced and qualified he was.

Wait, I thought we voted for him because he was black. If that's the case, why wouldn't we vote for a black conservative? Make up your mind, dude. And hey, if most of the people who voted for him wouldn't vote for a black conservative, doesn't that mean that most of this country is actually >shudder!< LIBERAL? Enjoy your irrelevance.

Obama's policies, all of which have been tried before and failed, are not new and do not represent change, but rather they are a naive vision of how he believes things should be, instead of how things really are and have been proved to work best.

Uh, we did "try" them before. It was Bush who moved us away from them. They worked just fine in Bill Clinton's presidency and in the many before that that "tried" a top marginal tax rate of the one proposed by Obama and much much higher in some cases. How was that economy in the 90s again? And how is it now? Working best, is it? And here's one of Obama's policies that we've never tried before: energy independence and economic growth through investment in alternative fuel sources and technologies.

I am hopeful that his political pragmatism will keep his socialist ideas in check and prevent harm to our country.

James B. Davis
Beverly Hills

Do we have to disprove the whole "socialist" meme any more? I'm sick of it. But I'm more sick of idiots like this. Get over it, dude.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dumb Letters: Freedom of the Press

From the Chicago Tribune:

I am not a Republican or a Democrat; for each election, I do the research and try to vote for the most qualified candidates. I do not remember any election like this one; not only have the mainstream media (and I mean all of them—print, broadcast and digital) all but ignored every presidential candidate other than John McCain and Barack Obama, but I am disgusted by the selective reporting and spin favoring Obama.

That is not freedom of the press as America's founding fathers envisioned it.

—D. Kuite, Winfield

I'm thinking it's exactly the freedom of the press the founding fathers envisioned. If you think that the press is biased, it's showing that you're thinking skeptically about the content you're being delivered. That's fine. Good for you. But if you think that their perceived bias is a violation of the constitution, nuh-uh.

The press has the freedom to be biased. In any way it likes. Should we call the government and ask them to make the media slant a little more in our favorite direction? Good luck with that. It's unconstitutional. That's how they do things in China.

Don't like it? Get your own press.

Yes, We Did!

For a long time I have wanted to be proud of my country. I bristle at the reflexive patriotism of many on the right that seem to live in the "real America", where we're always perfect and we never have to work to improve ourselves; we just need to wave a flag and give dirty looks to everyone else. And some of us nominal Americans seem to fall into the "everyone else" category.

I watched as a corrupt administration subverted our constitution and broke our most important laws, and had the nerve to call anyone who objected un-American. There's irony for you.

I watched as another nation was invaded, a nation run by a big fat creep, mind you, but one that posed no threat to us or to our allies. I listened to the obvious lies and marvelled that so many bought them wholesale. I despaired as those of us who cared about our laws, our treaties, and simple morality were shouted down and made to feel, again, un-American.

I watched as the same people who sold us the war, and who had already shown over four painful years that they were utterly undeserving of the trust that we had placed in them, were given another four years to wreak further havoc. I was shamed because the first time was a fluke, but this time we only had ourselves to blame.

I lost all hope in the American electorate at that point. And I never thought we could recover from the damage done by these people. And it may take a long time to do so. But I finally have some hope. I finally believe that the people who will be in charge are honest and intelligent and driven by a desire to move us forward, not deeper into some reactionary Manichean fantasyland.

I followed the election last night with measured optimism. I would not allow myself to fall into the trap of assuming it was over until there was no doubt. And at the beginning of the night, there was plenty of doubt to go around. The first layer of fear fell away when they called Pennsylvania. But it persisted. Then they called Ohio. Oh my.

After Ohio, the numbers simply were not there for McCain. It would have been downright impossible for him to make up the electoral votes he needed. And yet, I would not allow myself. I needed to see it clearly, unambiguously and unequivocally. I knew that California and the Pacific Northwest were done deals, but I needed Wolf Blitzer to say it out loud and flash the graphic on the screen. I could not relax until then.

As the onscreen clock counted down the time until the polls closed in California, I clenched my hands together, waiting for it to somehow be yanked away, like the 1986 World Series. Somehow the ball was going to go through somebody's legs. Somehow this was going to be snatched away from us. But it wasn't.

When the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, I did not jump up and down like a crazy person and run screaming through the streets. I felt a sense of relief, a peace and serenity that I didn't expect. I became rather quiet, shared a glass of champagne with friends, and silently wept.

When the graphic finally came on the screen last night declaring Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States of America, I felt a similar calm. I did not jump up and down like a crazy person and run screaming through the streets. I sat and stared at the screen, not excited but relieved and serene. I still could not quite believe it. And I silently wept.

I feel proud of my country again. Maybe for the first time, truly. The margin of victory (in the popular vote, anyway) was not large enough to make me feel totally confident that enough of us have turned the page. And the current occupants are diligently poisoning the well to make it even more difficult to even get back to where we were in 2000. But that commentary is for tomorrow. Now we are at the dawn of a new day. I feel like we are once again a place of sanity. And hope. And true patriotism, not mere jingoism.

Thank you, Barack Hussein Obama. Thank you, Joseph Biden. Thank you, Michelle Obama. Thank you, ACORN. Thank you, David Plouffe. Thank you, Howard Dean. Thank you, whoever you are that kept calling me and e-mailing me asking for money. Thank you, Rachel Maddow. Thank you, Keith Olbermann. Thank you, Tina Fey. Thank you, Ohio. Thank you, Florida. Thank you, (holy crap!) Virginia and Indiana.

Thank you, America. I love you.

Let's get to work.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Are We There Yet?

This election is like crack. I've been consumed by it. I obsessively scour the web for any news concerning any of the candidates and how the polls are going. I look at the major newspapers, I look at the blogs, I look at Pollster (a lot), I look at InTrade. I even watch all of the nattering nabobs on cable TV. Mostly Olbermann and Maddow, because they natter for my team. Which is refreshing after only having two other flavors in the recent past, Neutral and Shit Sandwich.

I cannot wait to get this damn thing over with so I can go back to being a somewhat normal human being again. I hate anxiety. I hate uncertainty. I want to wake up and know that everything is going to be all right. Or at least that it won't be all right, but I'll know what the not-all-rightness will look like.

It will be soon.

I hope.

Go vote.