Sunday, April 30, 2006

Why oh why would they get Colbert to perform at the White House Press Dinner if they didn't want both the press and especially the Bush Administration to get thrashed? Playing his O'Reilly-style conservative fool, Colbert took it to them. Here's the transcript, and one of my favorite bits...
The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will. As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side.

But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!

Friday, April 28, 2006

It wouldn't be a second term without rip-roaring sex scandal. Looks like that's just what we might get. Did you, like me, wonder why Congressman "Duke" Cunningham was so quick to plead guilty, scurry out of Congress, and cry on TV? Admitting all kinds of heinous bribe-taking? It could be because he desperately wanted to keep out of the news the fact that his lobbyist buddies didn't just give him cash for votes...sometimes he wanted prostitutes too. And he wasn't alone...this could be more fun to watch than Rove getting indicted...especially if TPM Muckraker speculation bears out.

Just what Washington needs, a good old fashioned prostitution ring!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"Impeach the President"
Lyrics to the new Neil Young song have found their way onto the Internets. Apparently, it could become quite the anti-Bush anthem when it's released on Friday.
Let's impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

He's the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war

Let's impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government's protection
Or was someone just not home that day?

Let's impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank god he's racking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There's lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean
Thank God
What will it take to get this song on corporate radio? Is 60% disapproval not enough?
Republican Senators have a plan for the high gas prices: bribe the public. Seriously--they want to send all taxpayers $100 each to offset the high price of gas. Because that's really the energy problem--taxes are too high. Isn't that their answer to everything? Lower taxes! When you're just a hammer, everything see is a nail.

[UPDATE: Plus, attached to the bill is authorization to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Hoping for $100 we will turn the other way?]

Meanwhile, let alone the fact that it won't help that much...where is the money going to come from?
(thanks to reader LE for the tip)
Now That's a Fast Decline
So, a Senate panel will be recommending that FEMA be totally dismantled and replaced by something new, as a part of yet another Homeland Security revamping. Why? It's just too screwed up:
Crippled by years of poor leadership and inadequate funding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot be fixed, a bipartisan investigation says in recommendations to be released Thursday.

Taken together, the 86 proposed reforms suggest the United States is still woefully unprepared for a disaster such as Katrina with the start of the hurricane season a little more than month away.

"The United States was, and is, ill-prepared to respond to a catastrophic event of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina," the recommendations warn. "Catastrophic events are, by their nature, difficult to imagine and to adequately plan for, and the existing plans and training proved inadequate in Katrina."
Describing FEMA as a "shambles and beyond repair," Collins said the overall report "will help ensure that we do not have a repeat of the failures following Hurricane Katrina."
I have to agree with Kevin Drum's response:
FEMA was a fine organization for eight years under Bill Clinton, widely recognized as one of the best run agencies in the federal government. But after a mere five years of George Bush's stewardship there's now a bipartisan consensus that it's so rundown that the only choice is to get rid of it and build a completely new agency in its place.
Meanwhile, hurricane season is upon us.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

This should be passed on.

Do you get emails that forward things someone famous supposedly wrote or said -- Andy Rooney, Robin Williams, Ben Stein -- on patriotism, the good ole days, immigrants, Katrina, etc.? More often than not, these offend me and have been falsely attributed, and I either delete without response or email back with a Snopes link.

This, however, is a letter truly written by the person it is attributed to. Jeff Whitty, a NY playwright, wrote Jay Leno this letter/email which is circulating on the net and was featured on a CNN story this morning. He is gay, he is tired of being joke fodder, and he is spot on with this letter.

Some snips here, but read it all for yourself.

"When you think of gay people, it's funny. They're funny folks. They
wear leather. They like Judy Garland. They like disco music.
They're sort of like Stepin Fetchit as channeled by Richard Simmons. . .

"When I think of gay people, I think of the gay news anchor who
took a tire iron to the head several times when he was vacationing in St.
Maarten's . . . . I think of a countless list of people who took their own lives
because the world was so toxically hostile to them . . . . I think of
a silent holocaust that is perpetuated by people like you, who seek to minimize
us and make fun of us and who I suspect really, fundamentally wish we would just
go away."

A gay friend of mine was badly beaten in a McDonald's parking lot and, as stupid as this sounds, he wasn't doing, saying, or wearing anything to have provoked it. Probably too many of us can relate. It would be nice if more of us circulated messages like this.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

When Incompetence Knows No Bounds
Once you read the entire article by the New York Times, I think you will agree that the following statement is, ... uhhhm, how do you say in dramatic fashion -- the understatement of the year? The funniest part is how this dude still feels the need to say "probably."
"In hindsight, knowing what I know today, I would have probably said we need more geology information before we start drilling those holes," Colonel Du Bose said.
The Earth, obviously, could care less whether or not humans exist. It's going to be here until a giant asteroid blasts it or the sun burns it into oblivion. When we complain that we're damaging the Earth we just mean we're screwing with our chances (not to mention those of lots of other life forms) of existing here happily. Of course we don't mean that global warming is going to make the planet explode, disintegrate, melt, whatever, idiot.
Lower Still

Monday, April 24, 2006

What have you been reading, watching, listening to?

New Pollan Book
Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire is one of my favorite books ever. Beautifully written and a tremendously interesting idea. I'm thrilled that he has a new book out: The Omnivore's Dilemma; and even more happy that I've had this exact idea! Only mine was for a TV show, one that each week would take a meal and trace its origins: how/where the food was grown/transported/slaughtered/preserved/prepared/whatever. So, for those of you that laughed back then, HA! Now, it's a book by a bestselling author! I'm glad somebody did it. Can't wait to read it.

UPDATE: I just read the introduction, which is available online for free as a pdf. Here is an excerpt. Sorry, a little long, but I think you'll like it:

[T]here exists a fundamental tension between the logic of nature and the logic of human industry, at least as it is now organized. Our ingenuity in feeding ourselves is prodigious, but at various points our technologies come into conflict with nature’s ways of doing things, as when we seek to maximize efficiency by planting crops or raising animals in vast monocultures. This is something nature never does, always and for good reasons practicing diversity instead. A great many of the health and environmental problems created by our food system owe to our attempts to oversimplify nature’s complexities, at both the growing and the eating ends of our food chain. At either end of any food chain you find a biological system—a patch of soil, a human body—and the health of one is connected—literally—to the health of the other. Many of the problems of health and nutrition we face today trace back to things that happen on the farm, and behind those things stand specific government policies few of us know anything about.
Benkler Book
Professor Lessig says this is a must-read. I believe him. Plus, it's available for free download.

Music on TV
This week, you can catch Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, The Flaming Lips, and Neil Young on network tv! (Has anyone heard the new Neil Young or the new Flaming Lips? I am still absent both) But you should check the handy schedule, because turn on the wrong night and you could accidentally hear Mandy Moore, Jennifer Love Hewitt or Brooks and Dunn.

Not my first, or last, meaningless vote, but.
I guess I missed this story because my local TV stations' portion of our satellite service was out for several days, but apparently MY township voted recently to put a referendum on the November ballot that calls on bush to withdraw our troops from Iraq:
"Shall President George W. Bush and Congress commence a humane, orderly,
immediate and comprehensive withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel and bases
from Iraq?"
That's right, I will get to answer that question on my ballot in November. Maybe there's time to get an impeachment referendum on there too, as long as we're "voting".
- Deb

Weekend Box Office
1. Silent Hill
2. Scary Movie 4
3. The Sentinel
4. Ice Age: The Meltdown
5. The Wild
The Sopranos Thread
Episode 72 - "Luxury Lounge"

- warning - may contain spoilers -

Friday, April 21, 2006

I submitted a comment at Chris Mooney's great blog, The Intersection. It pretty well sums up my occasional frustration having to depend on experts.
Chris, do you have any thoughts (or have you seen any good ones..) about the recent Duke study that questions the seriousness of global warming impact?..or at least that's how the Washington Times presented it today.

One difficult thing about being a (complete) non-scientist is not really having the tools to critically read scientific reports. The rest of us have to wait for the peer review process to play its way out..and with something like climate change/human existence i'm not sure how smart waiting is! So, I turn to thinkers I you in this case...and ask the question: should this study make me less afraid of the effects of global warming...and if so, how much? and if not, why not? What do you think?
I can't really believe that we're suddenly supposed to breathe easy over global warming. But, since I likely wouldn't know how to read the report even if I tried, I don't know all the good reasons to not pay attention to it, or at least to the Washington Times' version of it. My first reaction is to find little comfort in a conclusion that says that the imminent destruction of most lifeforms on Earth as we know it is not as likely as we thought. I mean, just falling a little shy of that dire prediction is still pretty bad, right? But I'd like to know what a real scientist, or a smarter person than I, thinks.

One thing I am sure about...isn't it just like the Washington Times to try and throw cold water on global warming just ahead of Earth Day?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

And a Fox poll at that. Drinks are on me once the first poll is released that puts Bush's approval rating in the 20s. Meanwhile, Rummy and Congress are both disapproved of, but Secretary Rice gets an approval rating. My theory on that? Nobody knows what she's doing. The HHS Secretary would probably get a good rating too.
When our President took over in 2001, we had a record surplus--on our way to paying down the national debt, to the relief of future generations; we were at peace--on our way to cooperating with the rest of the world to address worldwide problems.

That combination--national prosperity and peace--seems a million miles away today. What could we have done with it? How about this: we could have focused our energies and resources to attack some truly horrendous problems. Here's just 2 that are pissing me off today:

1. The environment--is it too late? A growing majority of Americans care about the problem of global warming, but can we convince the Congress and the White House to cooperate with the UN, and spend the resources necessary to address it? And is there a megaphone big enough to raise this issue over the drumbeats of war in Iraq and now Iran?

2. Genocide in Darfur. We used to care about genocide. There will be a rally in DC on April 30 to try and draw attention to the fact that the systematic murder of the black Sudanese has resulted in nearly half a million deaths and 2 million refugees. And, oh yeah, there's no food, water or medical service there. I wonder if the news on April 30 or May 1 will be able to fit it in?

And instead of having the focus/time/money to demonstrate some leadership on these problems, we gutted our economy with tax cuts for the rich, and squashed our military resources/national attention span by going to war with Iraq.

President Bush has made hundreds of horrendous mistakes, but has any President ever made 2 decisions any worse than those 2--tax cuts and war with Iraq?

What things are you annoyed that we can't or won't address thanks to our President's poor judgment?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Worst President Ever?
Rolling Stone has an article that begins this way:
George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How To Help?
We're less than 7 months away from mid-term elections. What can you do to help? I recently signed up to volunteer for an important Senate candidate, but another option is coming up April 29, when the DNC is hosting a national door-to-door day with new fancy door hangers. Click here to find an event in your area, and if there's not one, start one.

Find candidates in your area through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. MyDD also has links to political blog/news for every state (scroll down and look in the far left column).

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Sopranos Thread

Episode 71: what did you think? (warning: probably some spoilers in the comments)
What have you been reading, watching, listening to?

By Popular Demand
In the comments, Scott requests a Neko Case review. I caught her show in Memphis at the HiTone Saturday. She was really incredible - and the band was just right. Her legendary voice is every bit as good live, all the more impressive since she sings so hard. How to do that while on tour? Her pitch and tone were solid.

Best of all though was the intimate venue. I don't know if everyone enjoys those tight-fitting, standing room only, hot and sweaty shows like I do. But I don't think there's any better way for an artist and an audience to share energy. If it hadn't been for the truly horrendous sound--and not sure who to blame for that--it would have been an unbeatable night. But the constant feedback while they plied the reverb as high as they could, was a constant disappointing distraction.

Like I linked last week, if you want to hear a live show of hers from DC earlier this month, NPR has it online!

Would this be a metaphor?

I missed this story Friday, in which the US military has reportedly admitted to having trampled all over the cradle of civilization in Iraq. The money quote, from the Marine in charge of winning hearts and minds by destroying priceless artifacts:
“If it wasn’t for our presence, what would the state of those archaeological ruins be?”
Maybe less ruined.
- Deb 3:04 pm

Weekend Box Office
1. Scary Movie 4
2. Ice Age: The Meltdown
3. The Benchwarmers
4. The Wild
5. Take the Lead

Friday, April 14, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
The trailer has been released for the Al Gore film. Not sure i'm crazy about the marketing approach--see what you think. But it looks like the kind of demonstration that says all the things that need to be said about global warming and the future of the planet.

I'm a small-minded, naive person. So for at least a few minutes after seeing it I'd like to believe that lots and lots of people could be convinced to see it. And that if they do---and if it doesn't have political jabs to hang their fear on ("just a bunch of Bush-bashing!")---it could fundamentally change the debate here over environmental protection and global warming. An infusion of regular movie-going people suddenly determined to address that issue would do it.

But then, I thought Super Size Me might bring down McDonald's.

One thing is for sure - if this film doesn't do well at the box office, Republicans and right-wingers will use that fact to laugh at Al Gore and say he's a failure and doesn't resonate with the people. But if it does well...they will do everything they can to ridicule the substance and will attack him viciously every way they can. If Inconvenient Truth makes 80-100 million this summer, he will become the dirty word Michael Moore is.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Cruel Alphabet
I've often wondered if there's much societal bias that benefits last names early in the alphabet. In the academic publishing world there's a (weird) reason for it.

But, really, why are there so many B's and C's in my music collection, compared to P's, R's, S's or T's? Hmmm.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Britney Spears dropped her baby on his head. Sort of.
Politics of the immigration issue
Republicans have made no secret of their efforts to make political inroads within the Hispanic community the last 6 years. But I can't help but think this immigration debate could reverse all of those gains and more all at once.

This a civil rights issue. And if Democrats step forward and show real leadership in championing opportunity and fairness for immigrants, truly embracing their contributions as a part of America, we may have paved the way for 2 generations of Hispanics to identify themselves solely with the Democratic Party. Sure, many immigrants can't vote. But their children can. And those young citizens, living through this civil rights experience will hear their parents and community bad-mouthing Republicans for years, and rightly so. If Democrats do the right thing in the right way, an entire generation of Hispanic Americans might live the rest of their lives as likely to vote for Republicans as African-Americans whose parents marched through the 60s: not very.

Republicans may not be that politically suicidal. Looks like they may be backing off the most egregious elements of the bill. And Democrats might not be either that smart or honorable. But for a couple weeks at least, the fastest growing segment of American population has witnessed with the GOP really thinks immigrants and the working poor. That kind of honest moment in today's age of pandering feels pretty rare.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Atrios is Right: Press should say "unpopular President"
I'm not so impressed as georgia10 at Kos, about the part of the new Washington Post poll that shows 63% thinking Bush has acted *either* illegally or unethically. I assume you could get a pretty high number in any poll about virtually any politician if one of the choices is "unethical." People love to question elected officials' ethics. But...60% job disapproval is pretty darned high. And like Atrios says, the height of Clinton's job disapproval was only 53.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What have you been reading, watching, listening to?

Too Soon
Movies about September 11, but they're coming.
A movie theater on New York's Upper West Side pulled the trailer after complaints from audience members, including a woman who burst into tears. And at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the trailer provoked audience cries of "Too soon!"
On ESPN now....paintball.

Neko Case
and Martha Wainwright are on tour together. NPR's All Songs Considered (which offers free concert webcasts almost weekly) has the audio of last night's show in DC. I'm going to hear Case in Memphis on Saturday--woohoo!

Weekend Box Office
1. Ice Age: The Meltdown (What? Teaching Children that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old?)
2. The Benchwarmers
3. Take the Lead
4. Inside Man
5. Lucky Number Slevin
The Sopranos Thread
What did you think? (warning: probably some spoilers in the comments)

Friday, April 07, 2006

My first question when I heard about Bush's leaking/declassification argument is that if this information was in the interest of national security, rather than simply selective misleading information picked to further a political advantage (built on a lie), why didn't he come right out in public and present it himself, instead of sneaking it to a New York Times reporter?

It's Josh's question too, leading him to summarize Bush's security view this way: "Classification is a tool of my political strategy."

Kevin Drum/Andrew Sullivan have more.
"in over his head"
Bush approval at 36%
Give 'em hell, Harry!
(watch on crooksandliars, read on CNN, Huff Post, etc.)

Harry Taylor, my brand new hero, stood up at bush's North Carolina closed appearance yesterday and said:
"Okay, I don't have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that in
my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my
leadership in Washington, including the presidency . . . "

I am amazed someone who would even think that was allowed within a mile of w, and I have great respect for his ability to deliver an articulate message without the shrieking slobbering fury I would exhibit were I in his shoes.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sealing His Fate?
Ok so now he may have won my heart. That's not a good sign for his political future.
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a prospective 2008 presidential candidate, said yesterday that he thinks bans on same-sex marriages have no place in the nation's

Feingold called the amendment "a mean-spirited attempt" to single out gay men and lesbians for discrimination and said he would vote against it. But he went further, announcing that he favors legalizing same-sex marriages.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Immigration and Terrorism
I've stayed away from the larger issues of the immigration topic out of, frankly, ignorance and not having given it much thought. I remember in college arguing against the entire system, saying that we should just let whoever in that wants in whenever they want in and encourage citizenship, and that we could then focus on the real challenge, which is pressuring other countries, especially Central American ones, to change the way they provide for opportunity and hope among their own citizens, diminishing the incentive they would have for leaving in the first place.

Isn't this really the problem? For all the advances Mexico may have made, they still want to essentially encourage their poor to leave so they don't have to deal with the extreme situation of poverty with reasonable services.

My teenage solution--like most of them from back then--seems a bit, um, impractical of course now.

But I still believe that is the biggest problem and challenge. And until and unless it is addressed--no, I'm not sure how to do it--whatever illegal immigration woes we have will continue no matter what the policy.

So, to be clear, I'm a fan of programs that invite and allow workers to become citizens. But guest worker programs smell a bit fishy to me, and I worry that we will trade in our present woes for much bigger ones. What could be worse you ask? How about the official creation of an entire second class of non-citizen? I'll leave the rest of that track to Fareed Zakaria, who says what I've also been thinking, but much better than I could, and with an added dimension I hadn't thought of, in the form of a reasonable answer to this important question: Why has there been no attack in the US since September 11, 2001? We know it's not because the Bush Adminstration's security apparatus is so on the ball. No, Zakaria suggests the answer may lie in our present immigration policy, and that we should think twice before changing it in the direction it seems headed. Like I say, I have never thought of it before, but he makes a convincing case.

I'm kind of a sucker though. What do you think?
Great Moments in Casting
Read this. Then insert joke below.
Christmas Comes Early This Year

Monday, April 03, 2006

What have you been reading, watching, listening to?
The Sopranos Thread
What did you think? Warning: These comments will likely have Sopranos plot spoilers!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Rice Does Britain
Things didn't exactly go according to plan.
Hopes of meeting former Beatle Paul McCartney fell through, a mosque withdrew its invitation and a local luminary lined up to host a concert in nearby Liverpool pulled out as a political statement.

She visited a school in this community that is 25 percent Muslim, but many of the children were kept home for the day by protesting parents. Others cut classes to join the protests.

Rice was supposed to watch Straw's beloved Blackburn Rovers football team play but their match was moved to Monday night for better television coverage. So a brief ceremony to present her with a jersey took place in an empty 32,000-seat stadium.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

16 Minutes of Jonah
If you haven't been following the details of released hostage reporter Jill Carroll's last couple of days, including her video statements which--obviously said under duress and coercion--claimed opposition to Bush and said positive things about her captors, you're probably better for it. Some of the responses to her have been disgusting. And one who jumped in to question her was Jonah "Yeah Iraq War! But I ain't goin to fight" Goldberg.

Today at 4:52 he posted:
It now looks like she was coerced into making those statements -- though we still need to know a lot more. If that's the whole story, that's fine with me. I don't think anyone can fairly begrudge someone saying what they feel they must under such trying circumstances in order to survive. But, most of the lefty emailers -- and many bloggers -- took her initial statements at face value. I didn't. So far, it seems to me that I was right and they were wrong. I see no need to apologize.
Then at 5:08
I take Carroll at her word and hope nothing but the best for her. I'm sure it was a terrible ordeal and I think, barring some major revelation, this should put an end to the criticism of her. Leave her be. I'm sorry for suggesting that she might have believed what she said.
Of course, at 4:52 he already acknowledged that it looked like she was coerced but he saw no reason to apologize. Here is Carroll's statement.
Blogs were made for this
The Great Taco Hunt (via Kos)