Saturday, May 31, 2008

Regina Spektor: Breaking Hearts

A little bit o'weekend music. Love her. She Also has a great song in the new Narnia Prince Caspian Soundtrack.

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DNC Meeting Live Video Cast

Sausage making is messy and you never know what you are going to get...
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Friday, May 30, 2008

What Should They Read?

The New York Times Book Review this week has an interesting segment; Truth To Power. They asked famous writers to recommend some summer reading for our 3 presidential candidates. One of the best, I thought, was the first one from Junot Díaz.

I believe in books as only a deep reader can, but even I cannot imagine that any book would change any of our candidates. But just in case:

McCain: War Hero needs to read his fellow Vietnam vet Joe Haldeman’s novel “The Forever War.” McCain’s willingness to keep the nation in Iraq for, say, 100 years is a sign that for all his war hero posturing McCain has truly forgotten the young people we’ve damned to this folly we call Iraq. Perhaps Haldeman’s marvelous novel will crack Pharaoh’s heart. But don’t bet on it.

Hillary: What to recommend to a driven, brilliant, flawed woman who has no problem threatening to obliterate Iran, should they attack Israel? I recommend Peter Balakian’s “Black Dog of Fate,” in an attempt to cure her of her genocidal impulses. Armenians know all about being “obliterated,” and perhaps that nation’s suffering and miraculous survival will crack Pharaoh’s heart. But don’t bet on it.

Obama: A warrior-hearted black man running for president in a country that bends over backward to deny its white supremacist tendencies? Now here’s a cat who truly is an optimist, who really believes. For the honorable senator I recommend Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony,” a) because it’s a perfect novel about our country and b) because “Ceremony” is all about love and hope, and Senator Obama is going to need a ton of both to get through this one with his warrior-heart intact.

There are a bunch of other interesting people who weigh in, Scott Turow, Barabara Kingsolver and John Irving (and more.)

So GNB readers, I put the same question to you. If you could speak some truth to power and give our candidates each one book to read what would it be and why?
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Freaky Friday

Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday.

Open Thread Friday

When was the last time you switched roles?

Ate rolls?

Cooked rolls?

Prepared for a role?

Rolled down a hill?

Got rolled?

Rolled someone over (Whom? Why? [Keep it fairly clean, please. *grins*])

Watched life roll by? (What's rolling by you right now?)

Sang a song with “roll” or “rolling” in it? (And it was?)

*** Nada please about politicians lying, playing or prepping for roles. ***

Anything else about rolls or roles?

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Got Our Eyes on You

CNN online will carry the DNC Rules Bylaws committee proceedings live starting at 9:30 am EDT; as will C-Span.

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GNB Credentialed for 2008 Democratic National Convention

Party in Denver in August

The Democratic National Convention Committee has announced Group News Blog is among more than 120 blogs credentialed for the convention.

Blogs Credentialed For The Convention.

From July 1 through July 15, Group News Blog will hold our first fund-raising drive. The primary use of these funds will be staff expenses for the convention.

Steve Gilliard was one of the roughly 30 bloggers credentialed for the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston. This feels very much as if we've come full-circle.

We are deeply honored to be on the same list with the blogs who are credentialed, both the State Pool (released a few weeks ago) and today's release of the National Pool (both lists are combined in the above linked list.)

In the weeks and months to come we'll tell you more. Right now, all we know is GNB is on the list. Who from GNB is going, how much access bloggers will have, even where we're going to stay... the details are not confirmed. We're not going to talk till we have confirmed facts to tell you.

As people say when they're nominated for major awards or make it to the Show:

"We're just happy to be here. We're going to take it one day at a time. We hope we can help the Team. And the good Lord willing, it'll all work out."

This is THE BEST.


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The Fall Of The House Of Bush

Even The Dour Poe Looks Happy Beside The Besieged Bush.

“And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!–for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.”

“The Haunted Palace” poem from Edgar Allen Poe's “The Fall Of The House Of Usher”

Patience is a virtue. So too can one's being incredibly busy. Both of those factors figure into this story, as I'd actually begun to write this tale two weeks ago . The main “arc”? Merely the brutally obvious unraveling of the world around President George W. Bush like it was a stray thread-yanked whirlwind of revelation to even his staunchest defenders that his presidency was not the lovely burnt sienna toned painting they'd deluded themselves into believing it was,...but rather, the earthy, brown bed-shit of a two-term disaster.

The bullet points of the tale?

T'was to begin with the embarrassing, five-hour FBI raid on the home and Office of Special Counsel, Scott Bloch, whose “job” was to investigate federal whistle-blower complaints, and other deeply internal Federal probes of in-house wrong-doing. Issues like digging about for “Hatch Act” (of 1939) violations by one Karl Rove, who in his possible (and patently obvious) law-breaking was using federal monies and employees as a taxpayer financed, campaign workforce—patently illegal under the “Hatch Act”.

And then some...via TPM:

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided the Office of Special Counsel here, seizing computers and documents belonging to the agency chief Scott Bloch and staff.

More than a dozen FBI agents served grand jury subpoenas shortly after 10 a.m., shutting down the agency's computer network and searching its offices, as well as Mr. Bloch's home. Employees said the searches appeared focused on alleged obstruction of justice by Mr. Bloch during the course of an 2006 inquiry into his conduct in office.


Bloch's agency is a little known one that is charged with investigating whistleblower complaints, Hatch Act violations, and the like -- but who is himself being investigated for retaliating against whistleblowers and politiciang his office. The Office of Personnel Management's inspector general has been conducting that investigation since 2005. The feds are apparently investigating whether Bloch tried to obstruct that investigation by deleting his hard drive, among other things.

To give you an idea how fraught this investigation is with unique issues. Bloch is not only busily investigating the White House for political briefings Karl Rove and his aides made to various agencies, but he's also conducting an investigation of the politicization at the Department of Justice and issues related to the U.S. Attorney firings -- a probe that he complained was being blocked by the DoJ. Of course, he can't do much to block the DoJ investigation of him.

When Eliot Ness and his G-Men roll up into a Bush appointee's office, shut down the in-office network, knock out the e-mail system, and grab everybody's computer and the file server, then hit his house and grab his shitty Dell Inspiron with every piece of porn and Pure Prarie League music in it because they caught wind that he'd been clumsily calling “Geek Squad” guys to purge files from all of his and his staff's computers—that is a big-ass deal. This is the kind of stuff that was dealt with in the heady “We are the grown-ups!” years, in the dead of night, by shady people called in on the Red Cheney-Devilphone™ to bring the shredders and lead-lined safes to clean up a messy situation.

Those days are long gone, as months are short, scores left unsettled are coming a' cropper, and fewer and fewer seem to fear the hoarse, feeble quack of our crutch-wielding duck of a president.

Feds bustin' in the door and snatchin' ever'thang from a Bush appointee?

Could that have possibly gone down in 2003? '04? '05, '06, or even early '07?.

Yeah, I thought not.

The story's second bullet point was to be the odd, open-air bus-crushing of another Bush-picked toady-in-trouble, one Lurita Alexis Doan. You remember Doan, don't you? She was the Powerpoint-hypnotized head of the Governmant Services Administration busted for the aforementioned crime of using her office as a de-facto arm of the RNC as opposed to a free-standing government agency. When caught out there on her CLEAR violations of the “Hatch Act” she was reduced to a laughable, spluttering paranoid mess in front of Henry Waxman's congressional committee. She was a textbook case of Bush's “Heckuva Job” cronyism exposed at its worst. Unable to be defended. Rank in its stupidity. And of course...tolerated up until this month in spite of clear evidence of wrong-doing, even after being told to resign or face criminal charges. This is the kind of person Bush used to snigger at us all about as he backslapped them and told the world how Jonas Salk and MLK weren't fit to wipe these people's posteriors. No more.

It's the Bush administration's special approach to accountability: stand staunchly beside an administration official as the allegations pile up and his or her credibility dwindles to nothing, and then months later -- long after the administration could derive any credit for the deed, and it is widely assumed that they are content to let the official fester in office for the duration -- the official abruptly and inexplicably resigns. So it was with Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales. And yesterday General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan stepped down.

But Doan, who gained mucky prominence for her clueless cronyism, wants everybody to know that she's not stepping down voluntarily. She was fired. And not only was she fired, but she was fired because she refused to cave to political pressure. Or something.

“I would rather get fired for something I believe in, and a cause I was willing to fight for, rather than to believe in nothing worth being fired for.” That's what Doan told Government Executive Magazine in an email last night. It's far from clear precisely what this "something" she believes in is.

Under fear—and that's really all it was—of deeper, more embarrassing investigations as he fades into the post-power phase of his presidency, Bush canned Doan's ass like Aunt Luberta's syrupy peaches. What made the firing doubly damaging was its un-typically messy handling. Normally the members of Bush's “Losers Brigade” are eased out the door, borne aloft on a sedan chair with rose petals and florid lies strewn before the press eunuchs carrying them out. This was an ugly departure, missing only building security flanking her on the walk-out and a pat-down for filched Post-Its™ and boxes of Sharpies™ at the front door. Although, it wouldn't surprise me if there's a shitty Xerox of Doan's White House ID card photo with a hastily scrawled “Do Nott Let In Bildeng!” on it behind the security desk at 1600 Penn.

Those two recent incidents were my main bellwethers indicating the spreading cracks in the foundation of “The House Of Bush”. Then there was to be a window-rattling return to the newly smoldering potboiler of Karl Rove's legal troubles with the resurgent Don Siegelman case as handled by our own Hubris Sonic:

WASHINGTON -- The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday subpoenaed President Bush's former chief political adviser, Karl Rove, to testify about whether the White House improperly meddled with the Justice Department.

Accusations of politics influencing decisions at the department led to the resignation last year of Bush's attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.


Let the 45 day countdown begin. It was a mistake for Rove to leave the White House, he has little protection now and can get no help from the president's lawyers. They didn't release Siegelman because they thought he was guilty, it must have been really obvious to the appellate judge that he was railroaded.

Rove has since tried to hide behind plans for a legalistic stall, and even been forced to do his favorite thing in the whole wide world—outside of skulking about maternity wards for wriggling, downy-haired snacks—which is to go back and re-tell a story when his web of lies tightens about his scrotum.

While watching him flinch and squirm from those constricting canards pinching at the short n' curlies, other Bushian roof tiles and siding have begun peeling from the edifice at an alarming rate.

We saw the brutal volleys from the Obama camp, and most shockingly—the press—after Bush's noodle-armed serve of the “appeasement issue”, idiotically injecting himself into the presidential campaign. Obama's verbal nad-kick crossed Bush's eyes something fierce, and then doubled over Dubya's reluctant pal McCain with the deft tying of ol' McGollum™ to his previous statement regarding diplomacy, and to the electoral boat-anchor that is Bush. Worse still, it even prompted a few reporters to go punch up “the Wiki” where they found out about Grampa Bush's “Charles Foster Kane”-ish craven cuddling up to history's murderous little paper-hanger. Accounatbility? Ow! Owwww! Owwwwweeeeeee!

I dashed out of the house yesterday morning, watching only the local all-news station for the weather, so I missed much of the morning's TV, although while walking east on 23rd street to an appointment, the big screen TVs in the appliance store had an interesting and additional depressing Bush news flash that made me laugh, and probably made Bush chuck a Moussy bottle at the ol' Philco.

Apparently John McCain was so deathly afraid of being seen by the wider public with the two-term tragedy Bush at a downgraded fundraiser in his home state! (moved to a private home in Arizona making it a gold-plated “Tupperware” party instead of the planned big-room event), that the only extant visual evidence evidence of it was blurry “Bigfoot”-grade video of Bush and McCain sitting in the back of a limousine at the Phoenix Airport.

About 15 seconds worth, thank you very much.

How embarrassing is that? It's “What's Eating Gilbert Grape” embarrassing, that's what. With McCain in the neurotic Johnny Depp role and Bush in the part of the house-bound, “Oh-my-God-we-can-not-be-seen-with-her-she's-a-mess!” mom. Minus mom's good-hearted-ness and any reason for sympathy, that is.

And then I stopped at a diner for a light breakfast and almost Danny Thomas-ed my coffee over what I saw on the large TV screen near the door.

Little Squatty McMelon's incendiary new book “What Happened” was being discussed—in grave tones as the tome evidently gives Mr. Bush the grand, slow tour of the chassis-view of a Greyhound Americruiser.

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the public with a “political propaganda campaign” led by President Bush, aimed at “manipulating sources of public opinion” and “downplaying the major reason for going to war.” McClellan said Vice President Cheney was “the magic man” who steered policy while leaving no fingerprints.


News of McClellan’s tell-all book seems to have soured White House officials’ impression of him. Current Press Secretary Dana Perino said McClellan was obviously “disgruntled”, while Fleischer said he was “heartbroken”, and Bartlett called the book “total crap”.

MSNBC’s Kevin Corke reported this afternoon that White House officials, on background, went even further, calling McClellan a “traitor” and likening him to Benedict Arnold. He said the White House was “upset,” substituting that word for a word he said he could not repeat on television:

CORKE: I have heard on background they are upset. I’m using the word upset because that’s not the word they used, and it is not the word I can say on TV. Another person said they are flat out angry about what transpired here. I heard the word “traitor” and “Benedict.” I think another person said to me, not far from here, it was like a shot to the gut when you are not looking. […]

O’DONNEL: Quickly Kevin, a White House staffer said to you on background—they used the word “traitor”?

CORKE: “Traitor.” Absolutely. And I raised my eyebrows, and he said, It is what it is.

That sound you heard wasn't thunder. It was the fucking chimney on the house falling down. “Boom!”

Not the roof just yet—but a major part of “Manor Bush” is severely structurally compromised.

McLellan's rough Sacajawea-dollar dropping on his mouth-breathing boss, wasn't totally out of the blue. We caught wind of this last November and dealt with it when juicy details about the book leaked out.

What—if I may paraphrase Mr. McLellanthe fuck happened?

I think it was this:

McLellan was put out in front, every day for months without so much as a fly-swatter to fend off questions about the veracity of his boss and peers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. His job was to beat the wolves back, and to change the tenor of the story around the leak and the subsequent lies about it.

I believe he knew he was lying for the boss, but that they were “good soldier” lies of necessity.

Unfortunately, the sordid mess he was tasked with smoothing over was impossible to finesse, and he became identified personally with the stumbling and bumbling in the cover-up. He was clearly frustrated with this particular project, and on several occasions pretty much threw his hands into the air in exasperation and resignation over what was a hopeless situation for him. He of course, left before the Libby trial and its negative verdict, but the damage had already been done. His inability to spin bug-eaten straw into 14-karat gold was held against him, I think. His being unable to stand and lie with the cool authority of Tony Snow—and thus take some heat off the White House—made some in the White House not like him. “How dare he not effortlessly play the 'true believer' role as we need him to!”

“Fuck him. He's dead to us.”

Note that McLellan got no hook-up at FOX, or at the Journal, or any other bastions of walk-in wingnut welfare.

And even before that, but it didn't take a genius to see it coming. Just a casual student of political history and human-fucking-nature:

(LM) I too, have come to if not a belief in "cyclical" patterns, a belief at least in "the law of averages". So much skullduggery -- and yes, patently evil acts have been perpetrated by this administration, particularly in the name of this war and all of the wrangling of people and facts involved in it that THEY'VE GOTTEN AWAY WITH, that the law of averages just seems to be coming into play now. They're the lean whip of a guy who had the fast metabolism seemingly forever, snarfing down burgers by the bagful -- shakes by the gallon, and now thirty-plus years old, BOOM!, the jello-shaking gut appears, he can't get up the steps anymore, and his chest is always hurting him now. Bad news is on the horizon for this "fella".


3.) A major whistleblower who produces documents detailing Bush admin misdeeds. Call me an optimist, but there's always somebody who just...breaks under conscience's weight.

There is always somebody who gives it up. Always. If not necessarily for conscience, at the very least to cover one's ass. McLellan was pooh-poohed as hyping the book based on a juicy editor's pull-quote or two at the time. Now? Not so much. He's got people running around the West Wing with their faces a rich “Buchanan Purple” in rage. Got 'em tossin' around words like “Traitor!”, “Benedict!”, and “Shot in the gut!”. It severely damages Bush's desperate legacy rebuild as he staggers drunkenly into the political sunset—brass-knuckle-clad cock-punching the reasoning for his horrific war from the deep, deep inside, and it also pimp-slaps John McCain's campaign dead in the grille as he's running on the prosecution of this heinous, misbegotten conflict. It ties McCain to Bush as surely as if he were Slim Pickens' Major Kong lock-straddling that big, dumb bomb all the fucking way down to the white-hot heart of a doomsday mushroom cloud.

This is NOT the way Bush wanted this thing to end. He was hoping for a “skate”. He wanted to ride out on a sea of platitudes, shaded by an election involving personalities that would distract from him. Steve back in the day always spoke of how he expected Bush to go out spittin' and shittin' with teeth a' grittin' as the hounds tore at his ass. I never believed that. Now, I'm not so sure. I think the skatin' away ain't gonna happen. And while I don't think there'll be an episode of “Cops” featuring a sweaty, tank-topped Bush being dragged off to the hoosegow, he will almost certainly not leave 1600 Pennsylvania intact. There will be bruises and scars.

Picture the belligerent drunk stumbling out of the bar at closing time.

He's on his way out at least. Loud and stupid, yes. But thank God that son-of-a-bitch is almost out the Goddamned door.

Then you catch a whiff of something awful, and realize he's shit in a booth. Not the bathroom—but a booth in the bar proper. Some heinous shit—pardon the pun. So instead of letting him just walk out the door on his own, the bouncer kicks him dead in the middle of his back as he staggers out for good measure. “Boom!”

McLellan's book and its subsequent firestorm is a bouncer's swift Size 13 in the back. A vicious move by a one-time friend. A one-time right hand man. And a sure sign added onto the rest of the exiting drink-tosses, face-spits, and leg-out trips that the end won't be pretty. He'll leave with his popularity at Nixonian levels. Nix-fucking-onian. His original posse, gone—save for Dick, and who the hell knows where his ass is these days. I'll bet there's a layer of dust on the swivel chair in his White House office. It leaves only a lonely “Baron” in a tumbledown manor. With parapets leaning and stones pulled free—letting in a chill wind. Echoes in an empty house. “The centre cannot hold, and things fall apart”.

The Baron sits bolt upright—there's a dagger in his back. Who would do such a thing?

There are numerous “Poe”-isms from his works that'd cap that off. Stuff from “The Raven”, or “The Premature Burial” come to mind. I like to close things like this out with musical codas. The obvious musical punchline would be The O'Jays “Backstabbers”. But I think another tune from the “City Of Brotherly Love” seems more apt...

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Wednesday Wire

Oddly enough, it's Wednesday again. Time for John McQueen's Wednesday Wire.

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McSame's League of Nations

I suppose we should not be surprised that nothing but old ideas are coming from this antiquated campaign. The newest in the long list of stupid ideas from the McCain camp is his idea for a "League of Democracies." Basically the GOP attempt to undermine and circumvent the United Nations. Problem is they are also trying to encourage our candidates to sign on to this dumb as wood idea.

Amid the continuing brouhaha about issues of race and gender in the US presidential campaign, we may be in danger of losing sight of the most important question that has arisen in the candidates' skirmishing over international affairs. That relates to John McCain's advocacy of the establishment of a "league of democracies", and the mounting clamour for Barack Obama to espouse the same idea as his own.

McCain says he'd establish the league in his first year in office: a close-knit grouping of like-minded nations that could respond to humanitarian crises and compensate for the UN security council's tendency to be hamstrung by the likes of Russia and China when it needs to take decisive action against the world's evil-doers. Neocon guru Robert Kagan, an avid proponent, says: "The world's democracies could make common cause to act in humanitarian crises when the UN security council cannot reach unanimity." The league's strength would be that it "would not be limited to Europeans and Americans but would include the world's other great democracies, such as India, Brazil, Japan and Australia, and would [therefore] have even greater legitimacy"- Shashi Tharoor The Guardian, Tuesday May 27 2008
Be sure to write your democratic candidate of choice and tell them what you think of this plan! And some well placed letters to the editor wouldn't hurt either.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

DNC Rules Against Clinton

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's prospects of persuading Democratic officials to override party rules and recognize all delegates selected in the Florida and Michigan primaries suffered a setback yesterday after lawyers for the party ruled that no more than half of those delegations could be legally recognized.

Democratic National Committee lawyers wrote in a memo that the two states must forfeit at least half of their delegates as punishment for holding primaries earlier than DNC rules allowed. Clinton (N.Y.) prevailed in both contests, although the Democratic candidates had agreed not to campaign in Florida and Michigan, and Sen. Barack Obama removed his name from the Michigan ballot.

The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee is scheduled to meet Saturday to make a final determination on Florida and Michigan, which would have collectively awarded 368 convention delegates. But in the memo, party lawyers determined that full restoration, as sought by Clinton, would violate DNC rules, although it did note a loophole that would allow her to carry the challenge to the first day of the Democratic National Convention in late August.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters that the senator from Illinois is prepared to forfeit a portion of his delegate lead, as part of a compromise to resolve the Florida and Michigan flap. "We don't think it's fair to seat them fully," Plouffe said of the two delegations. But he added, "We're willing to give some delegates here" in order to put the matter to rest. wapo

No surprise here. It was a fantasy that after Florida and Michigan decided to flip the DNC the bird that they would get all of their delegates seated. In other news Nancy says AW HELL NO...
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will step in if necessary to make sure the presidential nomination fight between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama does not reach the Democratic national convention - though she believes it could be resolved as early as next week.

Pelosi predicted Wednesday that a presidential nominee will emerge in the week after the final Democratic primaries on June 3, but she said "I will step in"

Obama should be within 10 delegates of the golden 2,026 number by next week.

Can. He. Go. All. The. Way.
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These Kids Will Vote; Part 2

The Kids in Prairie View continue their battle for voting rights. These are the same Texas Uni. students that marched 1000 strong 10 miles to vote in their primary this year when the county did not provide adequate voting centers near the campus.

Recent cases being heard focus on events like these;

In 2004, Oliver Kitzman, then the Waller County district attorney, challenged the students’ right to cast ballots here rather than in their home communities, although the Supreme Court had long ago decided they could. Students, claiming that the county’s white residents feared the voting power of the predominantly black 9,000-member student body, marched in protest, and Mr. Abbott wrote an opinion supporting them. Mr. Kitzman soon retired, and students continued to cast ballots here.

But other voting rights disputes have since erupted. Before the 2006 election, Judge Charleston said in an interview, he personally registered about 1,000 students. But on Election Day, he said, hundreds of them were turned away as not registered to vote. The registration cards were later found in county offices, he said.-NY Times
The fight goes on, and it is one worth keeping an eye on.
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The GNB Progressive Reading Room

Thinking about rolling out a weekly or bi-weekly reading post. Sharing mostly progressive, or political titles with a little "just for fun" sprinkled in. What are you reading lately? Recommendations? (My to be read stack is huge.) Here's a few;

My Bookgroup just finished and discussed "The Ominvore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. I highly recommend it. Not quite as approachable as "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Kingsolver, but really quite fascinating and thought provoking. The highlight of the book discussion was one woman who said she had not even realized how much she had come to depend on convienience store food and packaged goods. Because of the book she had started cooking again for the first time in years, and was loving it. That is a pretty good endorsement I think.

In the Progressive blogger-writer world, some of our own have had successful book launches recently. Including a few who used the new technology at Facebook to create and build interest in their book releases.

"The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington" by David Sirota

"Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy" by the Frame Shop guru, Jeffrey Feldman.

"Free Ride: John McCain and the Media" by David Brock and Paul Weldman. Important as we head into the general for sure!

Your turn. What's on your TBR pile? What are you reading now? What has caught your eye at the local bookstore? Do you have a local bookstore? You get the gist.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fareed Zakaria, Stupid Motherfucker

War supporter Fareed Zakaria, pictured above with manicial skull stare, writes that us silly libtards have it all wrong terrorism isn't on the rise it's declining.

You know that we are living in scary times. Terrorist groups are metastasizing all over the globe. Al Qaeda has re-established its bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hizbullah, Hamas and other radical Islamic groups are gaining strength. You hear this stuff all the time, on television and on the campaign trail. Amid the din, it's hard to figure out the facts. Well, finally we have a well-researched, independent analysis of the data relating to terrorism, released last week by Canada's Simon Fraser University. Its findings will surprise you.
No, I really don't think they will. Let me guess, terrorist attacks are down, because we aren't including Iraq and we are going to reclassify what a terrorist attack is.
The Simon Fraser study points out that all three of these data sets [NCTC,MIPT,START] have a common problem. They count civilian casualties from the war in Iraq as deaths caused by terrorism. This makes no sense. Iraq is a war zone, and as in other war zones around the world, many of those killed are civilians... ...Including Iraq massively skews the analysis.
I would imagine.

Look, jackass, may I call you jackass? I am not the least bit surprised that terrorist attacks are down everywhere except Iraq. We are focusing on counter-terrorism. Banks and financial organizations are helping watch the flow of money and law enforcement is coordinating globally. Immigration officials aren't simply rubber stamping visas. We managed to track down some of the ring leaders in spite of the Bush administrations best efforts to antagonize everyone one on the planet, running terrorist cells is still something left to a small core group of very unhappy people and we caught a bunch of them.

None of this surprises me.
Why have you not heard about studies like this or the one from Simon Fraser, which was done by highly regarded scholars, released at the United Nations and widely discussed in many countries around the world—from Canada to Australia? Because it does not fit into the narrative of fear that we have all accepted far too easily.
A narrative of fear you helped spread, a narrative you helped form in order to scare people into supporting the Iraq war. Now you use Newsweek to set up your straw man that everybody is saying terrorism is on the rise. If memory serves, the Bush administration's talking points are that Bush has been keeping us safer, and we are fighting them over there [Iraq] so we don't have to fight them over here. It's unclear what the long term impact on terrorism the Iraq war is going to have, in fact it's impossible to know that now. So I am not sure who you think is running around saying terrorism is on the rise. All this is about is trying to justify your war, trying to say that we stopped terrorism through our bold stance against the brown man. It's you trying to get back into the party by pretending you are so serious a person, analyzing terrorism, and letting us rubes know what's going on. Sorry Fareed, that spot doesn't go away.
Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!
—One; two: why, then 'tis time to do't.
—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow'r to accompt?
—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?
Do me a favor Fareed, stop trying to pretend that you understand anything about terrorism, or foreign policy. You are just one more pro-war propagandist who doesn't know shit. Certainly doesn't understand the impact of your asinine scribblings.

Look, Fareed, what's your point? Terrorism is down? Okay. There is at least 1/4 million dead in Iraq. The middle east itself is a much more violent place than it's ever been. We are running our own torture gulags and we are burning through 3 trillion dollars, but terrorism is down. Great, thanks, keep those updates coming. Stupid motherfucker.
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A Sad Loss Of Direction

It Was A Tough Weekend If You're A Fan Of Television And Film With These Losses.

I spent a huge chunk of this past weekend scooting up and down the Eastern Seaboard visiting family and relaxing (it's been a bearish last month, more on that later), so there were lengthy hours spent in a car either focusing on the road and directions while driving, or snoozing as a passenger. In being out of that loop for a hot minute, I missed the news of the passings of damned notable folks in the Hollywood community—former “Laugh-In” co-host and noted TV director Dick Martin at age 86, and the very sad loss of film director Sydney Pollack at the age of 73.

I myself have been quite busy the last few weeks what with the WGA Strike-delayed “Up Fronts”—the network showcases put forth for ad buyers hyping the new shows on this fall's sked— and the ensuing frenzy it brings as folks (yours truly included) scramble to nab meetings and get new material in the hands of production execs. I've been a little immersed in TV and film doings, augmenting my writing for that medium (and helping me through a bout of serious pain issues as noted before) by watching as much “good” material as I could. Turner Classic Movies has been on a continuous loop at Casa dé LM as have my piles of classic TV DVD box sets.

If you haven't figured it out, I'm a huge TV and film buff. In large part due to being a child of the sixties and seventies when there were a lot of great things to see—on TV with it's then-limited three networks and a clutch of local independents who picked up the best of “yester-vision™”—and in film—where I lived through that second golden age of brilliant rebel filmmaking of 1966-1980 (Basically from 67's Point Blank to 1980's Apocalypse Now). How closely did I identify with “the biz”? The Dick Van Dyke Show's Rob Petrie was an idol of mine. Great job in television, the cool, sofa-appointed office, good friends, natty attire, a gorgeous wife and a beautiful home. (This will be explored further in a future piece called “Why We Write”) One of my lifelong dreams always was to work in television, and I've been lucky enough to have that dream come true. An added bonus is the fact that I've had the opportunity to work with some of the people who worked on shows that I (and a lot of others) hold in high regard.

Here's where the late Dick Martin comes into play. He and I are separated by one degree career-wise. We both had the distinct pleasure of working for an extended time with a talented, award-winning director who shared knowledge with and mentored me in directtion—and I would assume Dick as well, as post-“Laugh-In” he would also go on to excel as a TV director. It was a thrill to work with someone who worked so closely with Martin on a show (“Laugh-In”) that was one of my all-time favorites, and in that time, I learned a great deal about the inner craft of television directing, as well as learning from behind-the-scenes tales of life on the wild “Laugh-In” set. Martin in every one of these stories was an absolute professional, and apparently one phenomenally funny man. What you saw on “Laugh-In” was only half of how uproariously funny the program was. The out-takes were legendarily hilarious, and a lot of that had to do with the chemistry between Martin and his comedy partner, the late Dan Rowan. Martin played the semi-oblivious “goofball” role of the two, punctuating the pointed jokes with seeming bumbling naiveté, but in reality deftly deploying a biting undercurrent that stuck it to the personalities and issues of the day. He was according to people I trust, a kind and warm-hearted man, and a joy to work with—on set, and “in the control room” where a lot of TV direction is helmed. He'd go on to direct numerous episodes of the original, classic “The Bob Newhart Show”, “House Calls”, and “Archie Bunker's Place”, to name a few, so he was no slouch.

But his passing hit me hard when I got wind of it, because it was yet another small, tangible loss of one of those things I hold dear—part childhood memory, part career inspiration, and part of my own professional history (personal and shared). I'm of an age where a lot of people who inspired and taught me are of an age themselves where they're passing on at an increasing frequency. And unfortunately taking that considerable talent with them. I know i'll sound like a fogey here, but the reality I've encountered is that the folks who now fill many of those gaps in the talent continuum just don't seem as gifted, or as sharing as the people who've since gone on. This drives me all the more to go to “those who know”the masters I can get to, to soak up that much more of their knowledge. It's something we should all do when the opportunity presents itself. For example, during Tribeca Film Festival week here in New York recently, the Apple Store here in Lower Manhattan had a series of seminars and discussions hosted by prominent people in film, and I got the chance to soak up info from people like Martin Scorcese's film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, documentary film maker Errol Morris, “The Daytrippers” and “Superbad” director Greg Mottola, and the actress/filmmaker Isabella Rosselini. It was free, and they practically had to throw mw out of the place at week's end. But the main thing was I had a chance to learn from these seasoned professionals, and I would urge every one of you with a creative yen to take any opportunity you can to keep yourself inspired and on the front end of the learning curve by taking whatever you can from talents you respect. Be it through in-person or one-step removed instruction or as I was doing for much of this month, simply surrounding myself with their works as inspiration.

That's where the work of the late Sydney Pollack comes in.

I'd see him around town here every now and then in his signature suede shirt-jacket, t-shirt and corduroys, walking here and there in the West Fifties (most often near the Director's Guild theatre on 57th street), but I never got a chance to meet him. His work however, particularly his material during that aforementioned “Second Golden Age” of filmmaking is indeed inspirational. Starting officially with his uncredited work on the existential Burt Lancaster vehicle “The Swimmer” (one of the great cinematic treatises on mid-life crisis, and based on the paragon of this genre, John Cheever's New Yorker short story), moving to his dark turn on the exploitation of human suffering “They Shoot Horses Don't They?” from 1969, and then to the prescient, and frightening youthful sibling in the 70's great paranoia trilogy, “Three Days Of The Condor” (preceded by equally disturbing “The Parallax View” and “The Conversation”), and from there to the highly popular and artistically excellent (and award-winning) “Tootsie” and “Out of Africa”. The two-time Oscar-winning Pollack was a directorial “everyman”, capable of handling a wide range of genres, ranging from bleak drama, to suspense thriller, straight action and farcical / romantic/ light comedy. He cut his eye teeth (like a major directorial influence of mine, John Frankenheimer) in the fertile training ground of fifties and sixties television on projects like The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Ben Casey and The Fugitive. Pollack's directorial works are Cable TV evergreens—you can always catch Tootsie or Condor on a weekend somewheres, so he's ubiquitous—and that's good—because the work is so damned good. Aside from the simple enjoyment factor of the films, they are splendid lessons in filmmaking unto themselves.

As a teenager, I saw “They Shoot Horses Don't They” on an ABC Sunday Night Movie and found myself riveted to the movie for its subject as well as the intentionally stark and unflattering way it was shot—depicting depression-era America in an un-romanticized and harrowing way that just got under your skin. That's what a director (along with his Director of Photography/Cinematographer) does—fuse script, carefully cajoled performances, and a stylistic vision into a cinematic whole. And the good ones do it well. Pollack was damn sure one of the good ones and was considered something of a “dean” of the craft to the younger set. I know he was to me, and I frequently consulted his works (particularly “Condor” and “Tootsie”) as learning works. But alas, he is now gone as a direct teacher, although he was a gifted raconteur in discussing the craft (and a not bad actor in his own right in roles that played on his paterfamilia persona) and informative interviews with him exist in abundance. And fortunately, with the super-repository that is YouTube, you can also find Dick Martin at his faux-dim best, cracking 'em up still in clips from the seminal “Laugh-In”.

It's easy to forget now how ground-breaking Laugh-In was in the late sixtoes and early seventies, but consider that we were coming off the staid, but still-entertaining classic template of variety television exemplified by the almost eternal Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton comedy shows. Laugh-In broke the template into a million little pieces, grabbing from the Ernie Kovacs school of irreverence and blasting out a thousand little sketchlets and “blackouts” that were also daring for their time in terms of taking on “the establishment” and its icons.

That was a huge portion of Laugh-In's appeal for me, and many others, which dovetails nicely into my love for my favorite of Sydney Pollack's films, “Three Days Of The Condor”, a subversive, sour take on government, the intelligence industry, the ugly and evil side of our involvement in the Mid-East oil biz, and as fully revealed at the end, how all of that ties into media manipulation. Just the last fifteen minutes of “Condor” will leave you looking over your shoulder forever for where the powers-that-be lurk. Pollack challenged them with thst film and maybe that's why I have such a soft spot for it.

Like Laugh-In, it stuck a finger in the eye of those who needed to know they were NOT untouchable.

For that alone, a tip of the cap to both men is more than in order. So Godspeed while on to that better place, Mr. Pollack and Mr. Martin.

And thanks for bodies of work that will long continue to “Sock it to us”.

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I am sure

you weren't expecting this.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Sydney Pollack Dead at 73

Director Sydney Pollack just died. He was part of America. Look at these movies... Absence of Malice, Three Days of the Condor, This Property is Condemned...

The Slender Thread (1965) director
This Property Is Condemned (1966) director
The Scalphunters' (1968) director
The Swimmer (1968) co-director
Castle Keep (1969) director
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) director
Jeremiah Johnson (1972) director
The Way We Were (1973) director
Three Days of the Condor (1975) director
The Yakuza (1975) director/producer
Bobby Deerfield (1977) director/producer
The Electric Horseman (1979) director/actor
Absence of Malice (1981) director/producer
Tootsie (1982) director/producer/actor
Out of Africa (1985) director/producer
Havana (1990) director/co-producer
The Firm (1993) director/producer
Sabrina (1995) director/producer
Random Hearts (1999) director
Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005) director
The Interpreter (2005) director, executive producer, and actor.

Nice legacy... Goodbye Sydney, thanks for all the movies.

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Brad Blog on Memorial Day

Brad Blog has gone to the trouble of listing all the folks who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Take a look.

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No More Liz Trotta

I am sure by now you've all read about and seen the disgusting so-called joke made by FOX contributor Liz Trotta.

In a week of a depressing level of this sort of behavior we can either stew in our rage or do something about it. Even some small action, when joined by thousands of others, can make a difference. So if you were as angry as I was/am right now- consider a little note to the sponsors of FOX about your reaction to the types of people they have on as contributors, hosts and guests. Make sure you reference Ms. Trotta specifically. She is certainly someone I would be happy to never see on the public airwaves again.


William R. Rhodes
399 Park Ave
New York, NY 10022
TEL: (800) 285-3000

Jeffrey Kindler (thanks to Rosali for the correction)
Chairman & CEO
235 E 42nd St
New York, NY 10017-5755
TEL: (212) 573-2323
(212) 573-7851
Ray Kerins
W: 212-733-9203
C: 917-324-0080

Executive Vice President
Reckitt Benckiser Inc.
Morris Corporate Center IV
399 Interpace Parkway
Parsippany, NJ 07054-0225
TEL: (800) 333-3899
FAX: (973) 404-5700

Vice Chairman
Procter & Gamble
1 Procter & Gamble Plaza
Cincinnati, OH 45202
TEL: 513-983-1100
FAX: 513-983-9369

Charles Fruit
Chief Marketing Officer
The Coca Cola Company
1 Coca Cola Plaza
Atlanta, GA 30313
TEL: 404-676-2121
FAX: 404-676-6792

Vice President, Public Affairs
Kraft Foods
3 Lakes Drive
Northfield, IL 60093
TEL: 847-646-2000
FAX: 847-646-6005

Kathleen Flaherty
Chief Marketing Officer
1 AT&T Way
Bedminster, NJ 07921
TEL: 908-221-2000
FAX: 908-532-1675
Consumer and Consumer Wireline Services
Sarah Illingworth

h/t to Pammy1151 for gathering this list.

I really don't understand what happened to these people. Liz Trotta: distinguished career flushed down the toilet.

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Memorial Day

1st Battalion 1st Marine Division. Korea.

Open Thread

As I do each year, I'll be spending part of today at Tahoma National Cemetery. The kids aren't with me, which is unusual. They're at a party in the south-east part of Puget Sound.

A lot of veterans come out to the cemetery. Including during the year, but especially Memorial Day weekend, 4th of July, and Veterans Day.

Later in the day, I'm going to go to a good restaurant and have a steak. I feel the need for some serious protein in my diet. And I continue to work my way through Jeff Sharlet's amazing book, The Family. Which I'll do a full post on, once I'm done reading. Amazing material, highly recommended.

What are your plans?

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Globally Getting Out the Vote

We’ve mentioned Democrats Abroad on this blog before… DA keeps Americans living overseas involved in the political process and helps them vote.

The big way they do that is through a website that they launched that is better than any other voter site out there for absentee ballot info. It is basically a wizard that guides you through the voter registration and absentee ballot request process by asking only those questions you are required to answer for your specific voting state and personal circumstances.

It automatically produces a completed voter registration and absentee ballot request form with all the information you need to provide. No more, no less. You then just need to print, sign, and mail it to the address provided. Registering should be this easy everywhere! Plain and simple. VFA was built with voter input, volunteer input and with a lot of elbow grease.

The mission: To help Americans everywhere exercise their rights to vote as American citizens living abroad.

DA has been using the website with great success since 2006 but one of our goals this year is to get more blogs, state party websites, and media webpages to provide a link to VFA so that we can get the word out.

Most Americans living overseas get a big % of their news and entertainment from the Internet so getting the link out viraly is one of the best ways to empower our overseas voters. If you have any ideas how to help with this project, share them in the comment thread! And if you know any American friends living overseas be sure to let them know about
The GOP knows the importance of the overseas vote, it is one of the reasons that they are throwing up roadblocks to make it harder especially for Vets, many of whom have retired overseas. But Dems Abroad and VFA are going to help us help voters everywhere.
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Senate Votes to Fund War Through 2009

On this memorial day weekend some good news and some bad. There was a vote to fund the GI bill BUT there is no timetable, no end in sight for the war, and plenty of money still going to fund this illegal and immoral fiasco.

The Senate has passed $165 billion to fund the war in Iraq until President Bush's successor takes over. The 70-26 vote came just minutes after a majority of Republicans voted to add tens of billions of dollars for veterans college aid and extending unemployment benefits to the war funding bill.

But Bush has promised to veto the bill if it contains the domestic measures, and the president still has enough GOP support to sustain a veto.

The Senate also voted 63-34 to block a Democratic plan to urge Bush to begin redeployment of combat troops and place other strings on his ability to conduct the war in Iraq.

The House still has to act on the bill. Last week, the House voted to reject money for continuing the war. - AP, Washington
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Phoenix Lander on Mars

Just before 8 p.m. Eastern time, mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here received a radio signal from the Phoenix on the ground in the icy plains north of Mars' Arctic circle.

Because the signal was relayed via the Mars Odyssey orbiter, the controllers would have to wait another couple of hours, until Odyssey's next pass over the landing site, for additional word of the Phoenix's condition, including whether it had successfully unfolded its solar panels and possibly the first photographs. --

This is great stuff. You can watch realtime at NASA TV. The engineers at NASA never gave up on space. After getting saddled with teen-age neo-cons and other assorted Bush administration jackasses, after getting their budgets cut to virtually nothing. They kept building spacecraft. I worked at Kennedy Space Center, and I have to tell you these guys are some of the best engineers in the world and they love their jobs. The Kennedys are much in the news right now, and I have to say that one of JFK's greatest legacy's to the world has to be his interest in space and the moon race.
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HBO "Recount" the Reviews are In

Again, due to my far-flung status, I will have to wait to see HBO's "Recount" but I am a big Spacey fan and look forward to hearing what people say about this TV film detailing the events of the 2000 election, recount and controversy in Florida.

Recount tells the story of the immediate aftermath of the 2000 presidential election in the United States, when the state of Florida became a farcical political battleground. With the nation essentially locked in a 50-50 stalemate between Democratic nominee Al Gore and Republican nominee George W. Bush, the election came down to Florida. And Florida couldn't figure out who won.-London Free Press
There is also a wonderful, detailed book about this time call "36 Days" written by correspondents from the New York Times Back to recount, the buzz is that all the principle characters put in stellar performances. I like these folks, and generally respect their work. So this one goes on my must see list.

From the London Free Press again;
Actually, there's only one individual who really gets held up to ridicule in Recount, and that's the woman who was Florida's secretary of state at the time, Republican Katherine Harris, who is played in spectacularly creepy fashion by Dern.

Recount presents Harris as a bizarre combination of vanity and fragility, and as such, she comes across -- and came across in real life, by the way -- as unqualified and unprepared for the significance of her role as, essentially, the person in charge of the election in Florida.

Even Baker knows it. As he watches Harris on TV early in the proceedings, Baker says, This woman is hopeless -- we're going to need some help on this.
All this is pretty ironic as we head toward the showdown on 5/31 and the DNC Rules and Credentials committees make their decision on Michigan, and yes-- Florida delegates for the Democratic primary race.

More reviews of Recount here and here.
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The Creator

Available Sunday's at Salon. Click for LARGE.

Damn straight. See every post on pain ever written at GNB.

It's 6 am. Time for my morning pain meds. (And going back to sleep. I won't be able to write worth a damn for a few hours.)

After which I'm heading over to a sports bar to drink Coke-Cola™ and watch Danica Patrick kick everyone's ass. (Qualified in fifth place with a speed of 225.197 mph, roughly 1.2 mph slower than the pole position.) The 92nd Indianapolis 500 starts at noon/9 am ET/PT, and I plan to watch it all.

Tradition. *smiles*

Open Thread:

1. Are you taking meds today and if so, for what? (No need to name the med.)

2. What are you drinking?

3. What are your plans for today? (And tomorrow, Memorial day?)

4. Danica, and any other sports conversation.

No politics please. *smiles*

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Memorial Day

I don't want to politicize Memorial day, but I hear a lot of reasons from the left about why John McCain would be a bad president. I agree with all if it. Especially that he is doing Ambien© all the time. That's pretty bad if you want to run the most powerful nation on earth. However, before his visit to Baghdad in April 2007 the only thing I had against him really was that he was old as shit. I always figured the "Maverick" thing was bullshit, but I didn't dislike the geezer.

No, I actively started disliking the Senator from Arizona when, like Bush does, he draped himself in soldiers. This time with 2 companies and 5 helicopters of the 101st Airborne in order to make a political ad, and to make his point that it was safe in Baghdad. Which or course it really wasn't. I don't think any vet missed the point of that exercise. John McCain was more than happy to put soldiers lives at risk in order to further his political goals.

I honor John McCain's service to his country, and it's time for him to retire.

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MIB: Obama to Bush/McCain, "I make this sh*t look good."

Some of you know that a few of us here at the GNB have been fans of BagNewsNotes for quite a while. If you haven't been over there, give it a tour. Basically, Michael is all about analysing the photos and visual images we are presented with in news and politics. The discussion over there is great and helps really break down and analyse the messages being played out underneath the spin, hype, and hyperbole.

This shot, from the NY Times really wow-ed me. The bagnewsnotes title was, "The First Post-American President?" and this and some other recent campaign trail photos of all three candidates have been the basis for some great discussion and information.

I really like this photo of Barack, he seems comfortable in his skin, cool and competent. This picture says to me, confidence but not arrogance. And yes, I know I am biased. But like I said, Bagnews does interesting shots and discussion of all the candidates and news, something for everyone.

h/t to Michael and Donna
(image: Doug Mills/The New York Times. May 22, 2008. Bozeman, Montana. via

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

ANWR, Again

The government publishes yet another report on the effects of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

Relative to the AEO2008 reference case, ANWR oil production is projected to have its largest oil price reduction impacts as follows: a reduction in low-sulfur, light (LSL) crude oil2 prices of $0.41 per barrel (2006 dollars) in 2026 in the low oil resource case, $0.75 per barrel in 2025 in the mean oil resource case, and $1.44 per barrel in 2027 in the high oil resource case. Assuming that world oil markets continue to work as they do today, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could neutralize any potential price impact of ANWR oil production by reducing its oil exports by an equal amount.
Again, we learn that ANWR will not save us at the gas pump.
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Palpitations...And No Pride To Speak Of.

To Everything There Is A Season...

I had something else in mind in my dealing with this subject again—this indelicate matter of loose and insensitive words about the spectre of assassination that hovers over the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama.

The focus was going to be on the macabre little bit of snuff humor snarked out at an NRA convention late last week by the alleged GOP wordsmith par excellence, Mike Huckabee. It was to be a rumination on comedy and how said craft is really best left to the professionals. There was going to be a tie-in of Randi Rhodes' odious statements while amateurishly prowling a stand-up stage in San Francisco. There was to be a treatise on the meaning of words and context, and how professionals whose stocks in trade are words should know better.

It was going to be titled “Comedy Is Not Pretty”, borrowing from the old Steve Martin-ism. I even had a plan to explain in detail why playing around with that subject (assassination of Blacks who would dare ascend to power) is a dangerous game when you consider recent (in my lifetime) American history and its sorry record of using violence to silence Black folks who are on the verge of making a difference.

And yes...I was going to refer to the piece written here post-the sea-changing Iowa Democratic primary results, “Pride and Palpitations”, where I opined how on that politically startling night, my thoughts and the thoughts of many African Americans turned to fearful musings on the safety of the then-nascent candidate Barack Obama.

The plan was to have a little bit fun at ol' Huckabee's expense while highlighting the serious nature of his gallows humor over the subject that is discussed in hushed tones 'round the Beltway and in the pundit circles. intruded. There will be little whimsy here as today's unfortunate verbal diarrhea spew just crowds humor into a corner and then kicks at it with hob-nailed boots.

In fact, let's go back a few months ago to the aforementioned “Pride” piece for a little foreshadowing on today's “events” shall we?

Let's go there...

I watched the end of Obama's speech—still sniper-checking a bit, and silently imploring him to “move around a little...make it difficult for 'em”. But then, it was done. The crowd roared, he hugged Michelle, confetti fell, and I imagine upstairs in their suite McFadden and Whitehead's “Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now” was heard at least once.

I relaxed for the first time in many minutes, finishing my drink and looking at the post-speech coverage of Olbermann trying not to laugh at the shit-scared White man writ large, Chris Matthews sitting next to him, all darting eyes and afraid of what is on the horizon. My wife rolled over and said simply “Whew! He made it. Thank God. Mmmmmkay, g'night.”

Which was the signal for me to leave for the front room.

And as I walked there, I reviewed my emotions of the night. Shock. Disbelief. Pride...and then muscle-tensing fear when I realized where this was all I sat down to watch the continuing coverage and saw the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson review Obama's speech glowingly, and then...he cited the feeling he had when watching the hopeful, ”new day” swelling of popularity when Bobby Kennedy was running, and he was almost aglow when he mentioned that campaign. But then, he brought it down a bit in the next breath—quickly, and probably because he'd just thought of exactly what I'd thought right after he mentioned it.

Namely, how RFK's campaign tragically ended. (New 5/23/08 emphasis, mine—LM)

Now, let me close by saying that I don't mean to be a killjoy about what last night may have meant. In spite of my having not formally chosen a candidate I really feel strongly positive about, I'll be damned if I didn't feel something soul-deep special when they announced that Obama had won Iowa handily, and at that moment he geared up to speak, things did seem for a time like the climax to a crazy, pre-waking lottery-hit dream. I felt deliriously good about progressives in general when they gave the voting numbers for the caucus—Dems doubling the turnout damn near from '04, and tripling the GOP's mouth breathers in-state.

But I want you to understand what that nervousness and yes, I'll say it—fear was about as Barack Obama thanked his supporters and urged them onward. I don't know if you'll ever really understand it and why it comes so quickly to the fore for Black folks. I guess, you need only to look at not distant, but recent American history and how deadly cruel it has been to Black people on the cusp of busting a door wide open. In my lifetime, Malcolm X was cut down. Medgar Evers was blown away. Martin Luther King's flame was sniper's bullet snuffed. Never mind all the back-room, black-bag shit the U.S. government ran on folks who stood tough locally like Chicago's Fred Hampton and others.

We have developed an unfortunate Pavlovian response to the repeated sight of our best and brightest being blown away like so many dandelion bits in the wind.

We have our moments of pride, and then...then, those uncontrollable palpitations. Worrying about when the ax will fall. Or the grenade. Or the bullet's sharp crack, the diving security and guests, and the inevitable cut to a shocked newsroom.

Dave Chappelle used to have segment on his show featuring Paul Mooney called “Ask a Black Dude”. Well, I won't wait for you to ask, I'm just telling you what goes on. What went my house, and I would assume hundreds of thousands of households like mine, where recent history's bloody spectre hovers in a tattered 60's sack-cut suit and skinny tie. He hovers and points at today's goings on.

“There”, he moans. “There,” as his dusty hand notes the television and all the happiness on the screen. He doesn't smile. he doesn't blink. He just says “There,” as he crooks a bony finger. And up Black America's collective spine, goes his chill.

He was there in Iowa too. I know Barack and Michelle saw him. But maybe the kids didn't. And I'm guessing that Barack and Michelle fought like hell to push him out of sight eventually.

Dropped balloons and confetti on him. Drowned his “There.” out with McFadden and Whitehead, or Curtis' “Move On Up” or some such blaring counter to that hollow moan.

I hope to God they did. 'Cause that'll make them the lucky ones. Unlike the rest of us.

There were a few pats on the back for that post—and more than a few “How dare you mention so horrible a thing and taint so glorious a moment!” comments here and at other sites that linked to it.

Why indeed, would I dare resurrect history's “bloody spectre” of the coward's ultimate weapon against upsetting change—cold blooded murder? Because you will note in the original piece, I was dealing with an emotional response—one keyed into my African American DNA almost as deeply as my shade of brown or kink in hair. Belittle it if you wish (and you'd be a snake to do so, but hey...), that response, that reaction...that fear is well founded. In my lifetime, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Fred Hampton were all snuffed out like candles a hurricane has touched, just at the moments they were on the verges of coming into their own as leaders—as human beings—bent on contributing to the world in ways beyond what they had been. It isn't a thing to be joked about by insensitive people playing to crowds stocked with people who would have no problem with murderous violence as a solution to politics that perturb them. Mike Huckabee's groan-inducing, anti-comedy stylings before the blunderbuss bunch was sickening. The sort of thing that were I to cross paths with him, I'd have to fight spitting on him.

Why? Well, let's ask a different question and a more probing one—“Why the goof about Obama in particular getting shot? A man who was a thousand miles away—literally and position-wise from that assemblage of over-compensating man-children?

Because the idea of Obama's physical safety's being in jeopardy is NOT just something Black folk who've been around a while talk about. You can bet your bottom dollar that it's something folks in the beltway set and media chattering classes discuss sotto vocé behind closed doors, because of the obvious similarities in tensions and personalities to America's last time of great upheaval when you consider the historical perspective. What Huckabee did however had as much to do with an earnest discussion of the situation as a visit to a brothel has to do with a search for true and everlasting love. He was bringing an ugly tale, not discussed flippantly among decent folk, and tried to make a crowd-pleasing joke about it...and in so doing bombed like the Bikini Atoll, circa 1945. The “joke“ (while giving a speech before the NRA, Huckabee and the assembled heard a loud noise from backstage, prompting Huckabee to crack wise that the loud bang was Barack Obama diving to the floor because of a brandished weapon) was in exceptionally poor taste, considering a.) the reactionary “Yahoo element” he was playing to (and who he felt comfortable enough with to chuckle about that with), and b.) because of the known-to-everyone brutal and frightening history of what he was joking about could NEVER BE FUNNY coming from the likes of him. It was a thunderclap and lightning strike into an oil refinery level of “gaffe”, and in spite of his apology, the idea that he would joke thusly gave us all a peek into the soul of this so-called “Man of God”—where we found spiders, vermin and a dank, rotten sociopathic core.

And let's be clear—joking about this country's recent history of “quick-lynching” Black folks who scan as being “on the move” is just that—sociopathic behavior. It's not a taboo subject to discuss...but again, as with everything, context IS everything. When I wrote about it here in February, it was in terms of an emotional response to eerily familiar visuals and an equally eerie vibe about the personalities involved. It was a gut reading., based on a community's collective pain. And it was painful to lay out there—but, it was cathartic in a way. A release of demons that haunted me and so many others. That's what that discussion was about. A sharing, and a release. Nothing more to it.

Which leads us to Senator Clinton's little discussion before the Sioux Falls Argus Leader editorial board from yesterday.

Here's the video of that, via TPM:

Now, aside from the extreme, poor-mouth exaggeration and favor-currying spin of her “People have been trying to push me out of this since Iowa” schtick, there is the truly disturbing self-aggrandizement that's got tongues a' wagging—namely her invocation of the tragic and abrupt ending of Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 primary run late in the campaign season as a reasoning for the dogged continuance of her own campaign here some forty years later.

It's not the first time she's mounted that ghost horse of a reason—on at least two other occasions in recent months, she's re-conjured that awful time, albeit in less gut-punch wording—as a reason for the campaign to push into the summer.

But timing and context is everything. Keith Olbermann noted last night that in the previous incantations of this mantra, the language was softened—the campaign's sudden end noted, without the hard word “assassination” being thrown out there. At those times, the election math was ugly, but nowhere near as dire as now. Again, context is everything. Things one may say while sitting in a coffee shop sipping away while nibbling biscotti, are going to come out and probably scan one way. They may be frank. Perhaps off-the-cuff. But even with that, there may be a veneer of earnestness in a more relaxed atmosphere allows for a generous reading and granting of a benefit of the doubt. But the things that same person may say while hanging on for dear life from a steep cliff by a small branch over the side, are probably going to sound more than a bit different. The language may be ramped up because of the emotion of the moment. Impending doom is a powerful catalyst. People have been known to move two-ton cars with their bare hands to save a life, or cut off their own trapped limb to escape a certain death. Desperation is a metamorphic force. And, I said this about it too:

“Desperation is the flashing, trembling hand that snatches away the veil of false propriety.”


If you think for so much as a second that Senator Clinton's campaign is NOT in a desperation mode, you either can't do math, or still wait for reindeer hoofbeats on your roof on Christmas Eve. You've heard the delegate news, and hear of the daily padding of super-delegates onto the Obama side of the ledger, lead-bricking the scale further his way. You've also heard the reasoning mounted (occasionally by her own campaign staff) that her side is holding out for “something big and unexpected to happen” to blunt the Obama momentum that'd allow her to swoop in and claim the nomination.

I want you to roll that last statement around in your head for a second, and then roll around yesterday's words from the Senator again.

And one more time, please.

Now, this isn't a Huckabee situation, where he's making a malicious joke about tragedy. For all his supposed affability, he was reveling in being a mean-spirited, hollow-hearted jerk. Sen. Clinton's comment was something else. Not outright malice in an open hoping for tragedy that would allow her to claim a long-sought prize, but an unveiling of an indisputable, craven opportunism that does little else but lower her. When it is known that you're basically waiting around for trouble to befall your opponent and you then speak of the worst of the worst possible scenarios occurring—a tragedy so freighted with historical baggage that you would benefit from—I. Do. Not. Care. How. You. Slice. It...

That's abominable.

Don't spin me with after-the-fact ass-covering about how it was “about the month and calendar”, and not the incident itself. The assassination of RFK—which I am old enough to remember it's soul-numbing effect so close on the heels of MLK's murder—isn't about a Goddamned date. It's about one of the nails in the casket of hope. It's about a reaction to in-country upheaval. It's a major signpost along a highway of evil, America-altering deeds. And don't piss on our legs and tell us it's morning dew with the canard about this being about duty and safeguarding the party should unforseen problems arise. This isn't 1865 when news sometimes took weeks or months to reach people and quick decisions in tragic times were truly difficult. This isn't even 1968, when as far as we'd come, it was still difficult to turn on a dime when problems arose. It's the height of disingenuousness to play as some final bulwark against democracy's fall when one is being so obviously self-serving. Where was Senator Clinton in the real fight for democracy during the 2000 recount? Or the recent FISA battles for Americans rights to privacy? Where pray tell was she in these fights that did not serve to directly benefit her? Now we're supposed to take at face value a faux-courageous stand as the super-ultra-mega country-saving fallback should things fall apart in a primary election? A primary election she's fought tooth, nail and molecule for?

People who support Senator Clinton have of late taken Keith Olbermann to task for his hard words toward her when she has transgressed. I've noted his hard line too, and as a regular viewer, I remember when it came into stark relief. It was when she began playing the “fear card” in the Bushian manner as a reason to consider her for the office of Commander-In-Chief. It unleashed something in him, and rightfully so. For the better part of six years we have all railed against the flashing of that card by President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and their various mindless talking-head minions as a way of cowing and bending the populace to their self-benefiting way of thinking. To see Hillary Clinton resort to that same awful manipulation is borderline heart-breaking, and indisputably maddening. It set Olbermann off—and a large swath of people who otherwise respected her. Include me in that group who the “fear card” antagonizes.

This “Remembering what happened to RFK is why you shouldn't look past me” talking point is more “fear card” playing. And the extra-juicy tossing about of the “assassination” language is just jaw-droppingly insensitive, considering again the particulars involved. Add in the supremely weak defense in her “apology” and by her supporters about the statement being more about the Kennedys than an unnamed other candidate and we descend lower still. You would think that the Kennedy family probably has enough heartache on their collective plates right now with the sad anniversaries of RFK's murder and JFK Jr.'s untimely death looming, and the real-time pain from the dire prognosis of the family's patriarch Sen. Ted Kennedy that second-hand flogging of the family's tragic history wouldn't be something to worry about from a friend. But sure as hell, it unfortunately is. And it's a disgusting and insulting dodge from what the words were really about...

...Vulture politics.

Spare me the talk about fatigue. I've let slide other ill-formed and ill-thought out statements that offended before. Same with the debilitating rigors of “the trail”—both candidates are busting their asses, and it seems that the one who'll supposedly be ready for the all-important “3 a.m. call” is the one constantly goofing up because of a lack of rest. I have been fair, and forgiving about a lot here, but this is a line-step I will not forgive. Senator Clinton has spent the better part of two decades as a player on the world stage, and is no neophyte in the talking point game. You want to say that message command and control has broken down as the campaign is floundering? Okay. Say it. Let the distracted surrogates take the heat for their verbal gaffes. But these words still came from her mouth. Her mind. The mouth and mind of the person trying to get elected president, and no one else. A smart person. A savvy person. A person who should know better and I think did. Desperate times call for desperate measure, and the inside voice that roars within but common sense suppresses got free and said its piece for all to hear. I don't think for a second that her words were a call to the lunatic / hyper-activist fringe to “clear the way” for her.

What it was, was an ugly play for votes based on an appeal to people's darkest internal fears about America's shameful legacy of political violence. And using the obvious target—Obama—as a stalking horse for stoking that fear is such a prestige diminishing act that I almost pity her as much as I'm incensed at her over it.


I wrote on the subject based on emotion. She conjured the subject based on raw opportunism. If you can see the difference between the two, you can understand the anger and disgust she's rightfully engendered. While politics isn't “beanbag”, it shouldn't be the ear scene in “Reservoir Dogs” either, especially if you want to call yourself a progressive. “To everything there is a season”, the Bible says. This was NOT the season for those words. She rubbed raw a scar on our collective soul as Americans that hasn't yet healed—and she didn't do it to inform or examine. She did it to justify her present personal ambition.

“To justify her present personal ambition.”

As “off-the-chain” as this world is these days, the last thing needed is people we supposedly trust to be level-headed to dump gasoline over the fires of crazy—especially if it has nothing to do with principle or belief, and everything to do with furthering their own selfish desires. This campaign is ending on a wave of sludge-topped ugliness and it is frankly depressing. Its “bitter end” has been written about here twice in recent days. And every time I think a few days have gone by where we might see a glimmer of a light of decency at the end of the tunnel, a side valve opens up and in pours more festering sewage.

This was sewage.

No. Let me re-phrase that. It was not sewage. It was just plain, old shit.

Senator Clinton knew what it was when she haltingly said it, and even moreso in her ashen-faced faux-apology, delivered ironically in the liquor aisle of a South Dakota store. MSNBC analyst Chuck Todd noted her demeanor as she spoke, saying:

“She looked pained, like someone who realized she may have just destroyed all the goodwill she spent so long trying to build up.”

He was right. And here's a picture from moments after her “thousand-yard-stare” mea culpa-lite:

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

It's quite telling, really. Almost funereal, and rightfully so. In battling so hard to stave off an ending she had every right within reason as a candidate to delay, she may well have hastened it with her own unthinking, selfish and frankly ghoulish words. That sad picture looks an awful lot like one of a person with palpitations...and no pride left to speak of.
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