Monday, October 31

Happy Birthday


John Franklin Candy: October 31, 1950--March 4, 1994

The Moose should'a told ya.

Plus I Dropped the Remote

I routinely wake up with something stiff and throbbing, and Sunday morning, as has become more the rule than the exception, it was my back and my right heel.

One of the by-products of last weekend's furniture rearranging frenzy was the elimination of the rear speakers. I'd been using a pair of Yamaha 8-inch two-way bookshelf speakers which were too large for the job, and the new arrangement reduced the separation between them and the couch to next to nothing. And I'm addicted to home theatre sound, something which came as a complete surprise to me. The solution (already anticipated before the furniture started moving) was to mount speakers on the back wall or the ceiling, which the Yamahas were too big for.

Okay, no big deal. I've got a half-dozen speakers floating around unused, including a pair of 8 x 4 jobs that'd work just fine. I quickly eliminated the idea of mounting shelves; just go find a couple of those speaker mounts that swivel, and check the prices of those teeny satellite speakers in case they're so cheap I can't pass them up.

Ha ha ha.

I wasn't going anywhere out of the way, just anywhere that wasn't WalMart. There's a Radio Shack just up the road. Twenty bucks for a single fucking speaker mount. Those were the cheap ones. They ran to about $50 for a model which apparently involved the handling of plutonium in the manufacturing process. And by the way, more expensive has nothing to do with how much weight the things support.

And that wasn't all. Radio Shack, at least the only one I was going to bother travelling to, doesn't sell speakers. Well, they do, provided you want to buy an entire fleet for a surround-sound system. Otherwise you're SOL.

Okay, no big deal, just a fuck-you to Radio Shack and a bop over to Best Buy where I don't hold out much hope for cheaper mounts but at least I can rummage through their speaker room and check prices. Get to the front door and find one of those faux-apologies for the inconvenience of the mess as they rearrange the store the better to serve me. A vital part of that service, it seems, required the elimination of the speaker room, although I could still stop nearby and permanently deafen myself in the car-speaker section. Stereo systems, including speakers, had moved en masse, along with the DVD players and such, to several aisles where you can't stand back far enough to hear what they sound like. The selection was reduced by a good 65%. Thanks for the inconvenience.

Well, this was really just a stop on my way to Target anyhow. Once again, nothing but speaker systems. I guess you're supposed to just toss all five if one goes bad. But this time I was offered an alternative to $20 single mount packages: the $35-for-five deal. At this point I was pondering whether any jury would convict me if I just shoplifted a couple.

I finally found a pair for twelve bucks at a second Target, got 'em home, dealt with the instructions which were originally written in English before being translated into Korean then back into English, found a replacement for a missing set screw, went up and down the ladder a couple dozen times, spliced the wires, didn't hear anything, fucked around with that for twenty minutes, got 'em to work and attached them to the ceiling. So far they're still up there.

This is all by way of explanation as to why I was sitting in front of the teevee in the middle of Sunday morning with my foot on an ice pack and the vibrating heating pad on my back, and watching Meet the Press when they announced that morning's panel: David Broder, David Brooks, Judy Woodruff and William Safir(e). Four Republicans, two of whom are dead. Results below.

The Collected Wisdom of the Ages

So there I am, barely ambulatory, reading the Sundays with the teevee on. Turner Classics was gracing me with South Pacific, and in my usual fashion I checked to see how much of it I could take before my head exploded. Just to the beginning of "There Is Nothing Like a Dame." I flip over to where I think they store the networks, and catch Timmy announcing The Panel That Time Forgot.

Now, just how is it that after the worst week a Republican administration has suffered without anyone named Milhouse involved the panel discussion is a world bound in a can of soggy nuts? Well, here they are in a nutshell:

MR. DAVID BRODER:  It's very hard to imagine that somebody as smart and as organized as Scooter Libby would disremember where he heard that kind of information...

MR. WILLIAM SAFIR(E): ...a complicated series of accusations of a cover-up, but the most important single fact that emerged from the indictment is what was not in it.  This whole thing started as an investigation of the violation of a law....And what the special counsel found is that law was not broken.

MR. RUSSERT:  That's a very important point.

MS. JUDY WOODRUFF: ....I think Mr. Fitzgerald did a pretty credible job of explaining why truth is central to our judicial system.

MR. DAVID BROOKS:  Well, I agree with that.  But listen, nobody's going to remember most of the details of this six months from now.  What people want to know, is there a dark, malevolent conspiracy in the middle of the White House? Is there a cancer on the presidency, to use John Dean's phrase.  And I think what Fitzgerald showed, you know, he was in there for 22 months.  He had full cooperation from everybody.  And what he found was no criminal conspiracy to out a covert agent.  He indicted one person of perjury, which is serious.  But the White House has to be breathing a sigh of relief, and the American people have to know that the wave of hysteria, the wave of paranoia, the wave of charges and allegations about Karl Rove and everybody else so far is unsupported by the facts.

Got that, America? After a two-year investigation, all Fitzgerald found was that this one guy lied. And that's a bad thing, and he should have known better. But this proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that nothing else bad was going on. In fact, why are you even watching Meet the Press? Get a jump on it, start the forgetting process now.

Once again, it's impossible to believe that even this panel, two dead guys sitting up, the Nostradamus of Lawn Care, a woman who told Andy Card on the eve of the 2000 Inaugural that she "looked forward to working with your administration", moderated by a guy who kept mum about his own involvement for two years while still pitching softballs to Dick Cheney, does not contain one member who understands that "Fitzgerald found no criminal conspiracy" is not a supportable statement. Impossible. It's impossible to believe that a group of Beltway insiders with an aggregate experience of 4,738 years, has no appreciation for the subtleties of language or of matters left unaddressed which someday soon just might be. Did Judy Woodruff leave even the slimiest stone unturned during the Clinton administration? Did Timmy? But now indictments are returned against Libby, and the matter is settled?

Funny, but with this superannuated group you'd imagine one or two of 'em would have remembered when Watergate was just a third-rate burglary, wouldn't you?

Then, seeing as how there was little chance of a news program breaking out, they decided to try their hands at slapstick comedy:

MR. BRODER:....I have to say that I thought the president had taken sensible steps to try to ward off second-term problems.  He was well aware of this history.  And he had, particularly in the terms of agenda, laid out a very ambitious second-term agenda that he thought would give a real focus and purpose to it.  Turned out that he misjudged what the country was looking for in a second term.  And the question that I think now confronts the president is:  "Can I really rely as much as I have on my own sort of gut instincts to guide my policies?... 

MR. RUSSERT:  If the president does try to recover, does try to reach out, will the Democrats join with him or will they resist him?...

MR. BROOKS:He's bloody and they want to kill him.  I mean, let's look at the agenda for him....I would say go back to the issues that are really on people's minds:  gas prices, keeping up with China and Iraq, the fundamentals....

MR. SAFIRE:  And I think in the next month or two you'll see a turnaround and a swing of the pendulum.  I hope next week the president really does address a crisis that may be developing in bird flu.  And that suddenly is more important than all of this.

MS. WOODRUFF:....I just want to say on this whole privileged reporters protecting their sources--I don't know a reporter who wants to go, you know, and talk before a grand jury.  I'm sure Tim was uncomfortable with it....

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, we resisted and the court orders you...

MS. WOODRUFF:  It's an investigation where reporters were central to the case...

MR. RUSSERT:  But it's awkward.

MS. WOODRUFF:  ...and to proving that somebody lied.  And can I just quickly double back to--go ahead.

MR. RUSSERT:  We've got to go.

MS. WOODRUFF:  You've got to go.

Dammit, it takes to the very end of the program before somebody says something reasonable. Yes, Judy. Tim has got to go.

Saturday, October 29

C-List Punditocracy Roundup

I had only about an hour to spend with the cable wall-to-wall Friday, and now I'm kicking myself for not setting up a tape, but I did catch a couple highlights:

• Even a blind crackpot whose balls are in his sister's purse can find the obvious on occasion:

"The President needs to change the subject."

--Pat Buchanan


• But what do the reasonable people think?

"Critics say there's a line between hardball and criminal activity."

--Bill Schneider


• The Over/Under is "When all you fucks are in prison":

"I don't know when Paul [Begala] and his party are going to stop arguing about the war."
--Gary Bauer

Friday, October 28

Maybe It's Me?

I've been following the news of course, like y'all, without any ansy-ness about Fitzgerald, but it still seems like the world is a boil on your butt that can't be lanced yet.

Friday Doghouse Riley Celebrity Playlist

First, Michael Penn is invited to the cookout, but his list was thirty songs long so he has to agree to leave on time. Second, how long, O Lord, am I going to have to listen to fat white guys say, "Dis is illin'"? It makes one reconsider one's position on avian flu. U no wot ahm sayin'?

Penn's list got me wonderin' whether I could produce an ultimate list of Ten, and only ten, Penn, of my own. Well, right off the bat classical/serious/instrumental jazz/ethnic musics are out; I couldn't even list my ten favorite guitar pieces, and the list would already be taken up with Bach. So I gave it a twenty-four hour working over with just pop, and discovered I can't do that either. So here's my celebrity playlist in case Apple calls me this weekend. Subject to change. U no wot ahm sayin'. Celebrity-zen comments included:

Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks: Moody Richard (The Innocent Bystander)

Striking It Rich (from 1971) is probably the album from my high school days which has held up the best. Which is odd considering the 30s Western Swing stuff seemed like a goof at the time. Dan's songwriting just inhabits that space, his singing with the Lickettes is like Manhattan Transfer minus the showtune mentality and with a soul transplant; John Girton plays gorgeous guitar, and Sid Page's violin could give you Stendhal's Syndrome.

Patsy Cline: Sweet Dreams (Of You)

God bless Owen Bradley. Without him Patsy might have wound up a yodelling novelty act. (Among the songs she hated: Crazy, Walkin' After Midnight, and I Fall to Pieces). I get chills every time I hear her opening here. It doesn't take me saying she sang every word from the heart, and the song is by Don Gibson, who wrote the same way.

Ella Fitzgerald: Someone To Watch Over Me

I'll take Billie if I'm gonna listen to a whole CD, but the purity of her voice and the pure longing of the song knock me out. A perfect cocktail.

Lotte Lenya: September Song

The greatest pop song ever written, sung by Weill's greatest interpreter. Funny how that worked out.

The Beatles: Baby's In Black

Self-consciously contrarian choice, definitely one of their B-level songs, but with an interesting structure, and Paul and John's harmony on the refrain sends me. There were times when their voices blended, times when they were complementary, and times when they showed each other off. This is one of the times when they became some sort of heavenly creature and flew off.

Elvis Costello: Allison

I just realized how many ballads I chose. Well, this is the best number on My Aim Is True, which is saying something right there. Plus, in retrospect, it seems to encapsulate everything he's done, somehow.


Eddie Floyd: Knock On Wood

This tops anything else that came out of Stax. Otis, Sam and Dave, anybody. Song by Eddie and Steve Cropper.

Tom Waits: Time

Why isn't he on a stamp?

Jackie Wilson: Lonely Teardrops

Mr. Electricity. Like Roy Orbison in the 60s his material seemed just a little out of date, and it didn't matter a damn bit.

Little Feat: Fat Man In The Bathtub

I named a cat for Lowell George. That sort of thing isn't done. The man was a slumming angel, the finest slide player ever, a first-rate songwriter, and a helluva singer to boot. At the all-star memorial for him in LA they couldn't find anyone with the range to sing this.

On Miers

"The "conservative" "movement" now wants so much to get behind the President."

--David Brooks, PBS News Hour


Right. So long as he nominates one of them, they're behind him 100%.

I have no idea why they nominated Miers. But Bush said, "Trust me," and the Rabid Right didn't. It would be nice to have a man of any sort of substance in the Office who would now make them pay, who would see that the greater good requires ending their stranglehold. They insist on having a fight. Let them fight themselves. Nominate a moderate.

I don't say that as a liberal who'd like to see it. I say it as an American who thinks it's the obvious battleground. Bush is a lame duck. He doesn't need a base. His veep says he isn't going to run. There's a bloodbath on the way, one Mr. Brooks there sees pretty clearly despite his insistence that Miers was shot down on her "qualifications", as if there's more than one qualification that matters to the social extremists. Have we not suffered enough disaster yet from basing our actions on "faith"? You may be able to win electoral college victories by appealing to the Solid South and the Empty West, but for how long? 51% last time. 48% before that. A few thousand votes in a single state either time and you lose.

But of course there's no such man in the White House, and the base wants to conquer, not govern. There are more disasters ahead. Right now there's a slim chance of confining them to the electoral hopes of the extremists.

Wednesday, October 26

Sylvia

Forty years on.

The word looks odd there, impossible, trivial. Too large. Nearly as long ago as my dad was old then, forty-five to an eleven year old kid looks like an archeological dig. Forty years from then was the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, Paris between the Wars, Buster Keaton and biplanes. And too short just the same; forty years now is like blowing apart a dandelion. Does forty years ago look to my neighbor's twelve-year-old daughter like it looked to me then, a silly ghost world that adults for some reason think of as real?


Wednesday, October 27, 1965.

I was in the sixth grade. A couple of months from turning twelve. A hormonal internee, trying to learn the new language the girls had started speaking the previous year. I had a red Gibson Melody Maker with black pickups that would shortly slip off the strap and break its neck. Gibson replaced it a couple months later with a red SG, a better guitar; I learned only recently that the Melody Maker had a bad neck design--for forty years I thought it was my fault. I played rock and roll with a guy from the white trash part of town, across the street from Stand J at the track. I took lessons, but they were jazz-oriented and boring. I played the grooves off of Beatles 65 and Bringing It All Back Home. I'd heard "Subterranean Homesick Blues" on my transistor radio that spring and bought the album. Highway 61 I got about the time school started. I was the only Dylan fanatic in grade 6. My buddy and I played "Tombstone Blues" and "Maggie's Farm" along with "Louie Louie" and "Walk Don't Run".

After a year of fighting my parents were separated. My dad lived in an apartment a half-mile up the street. We saw him on Sundays. The divorce would be final before school was out.

My dad ate shredded wheat for breakfast every morning, and he'd read the entire paper, holding it in this weird stainless steel contraption he still has. He started me in reading the comics, what he called "The Funnies", when I was in kindergarten, listening while I spelled out words I didn't know. By fourth grade I was reading the whole thing myself every morning. By sixth grade he wasn't there anymore, and neither was that contraption, and my sister wasn't talking to anybody. I read on in a silence like the silence that follows a car wreck.


It was the blackest headline I ever saw. They'd used blacker ink, somehow, blacker than the day Kennedy was killed.


October 27, 1965. Wednesday.

A 16-year-old girl named Sylvia Marie Likens had been found dead in a house on the east side of town. Over a period of three months she'd been starved, beaten, burned with cigarettes, scalded in a tub of hot water. The words "I Am A Prostitute And Proud Of It!" were carved on her abdomen. Above that a numeral '3' was branded onto her chest because her tormentors had reversed the C-shaped hook heated on the gas stove while attempting to make an 'S'. She'd been thrown, finally, into the basement to live, and finally, die, with the dogs.

It wasn't the work of a madman. It was the work of a family. And their neighborhood.

The cause of death, a subdural hematoma and traumatic shock, is almost beside the point. The young medical examiner who performed the autopsy testified:
...over the forehead there were multiple abrasions and yellow brown discolorations of the face...each lesion would range from a day or so [old] up to one or two weeks...Both eyes demonstrated ecchymosis, essentially what is known as a black eye, and edema surrounding the eyelids....multiple scratches over the entire face...a large area of scraping over the left cheek and down to the jaw.....the lips were markedly torn and essentially in shreds...
Over the neck there were more areas of loss of superficial skin....this was either done with a sharp or a hot object....[The many small burns] did not appear to have been caused with hot water because water would have burned the surrounding area....Over the right shoulder there is an area with linear shape where again there is loss of superficial skin....along the border of the collar bone are two more areas where there is a patchy loss of superficial skin. Over the left shoulder there is another area, from the top of the shoulder extending down the anterior aspect of the arm. Going to the chest, over the right breast are more areas of loss of skin. The nipple itself is not involved....A similar pattern on the left also did not involve the nipple itself. Present in the midline of the abdomen, between it...essentially the level of the umbilicus...between it and the sternum...was [a numeral] three....
Present over the abdomen...were the words "I am a prostitute and proud of it" with an exclamation point. *

There is similar damage up and down her arms and legs. The cigarette burns number about one hundred and fifty. Her nails are all broken, backwards, probably self-inflicted from scratching the basement floor in her agony, self-inflicted like those chewed-through lips. Her liver and body weight indicate malnutrition. There is edema and a severe hematoma of the external genitalia, but no evidence of vaginal laceration. She died a virgin.


Sylvia and her younger sister Jenny, a small, frail polio victim, had been living in that house under the charge of a woman named Gertrude Baniszewski while their parents toured the country with a carnival that season. They were beaten--"paddled"--at the end of the first week when the $20 for their care did not arrive. It came the following Monday.

Gertie, as the neighbors knew her, was thirty-seven. She had seven children living with her and not enough beds for them. She'd had six miscarriages. The house had a total of three spoons. What income there was came from child support payments (sporatic, not surprisingly) and taking in laundry and babysitting. Lester Likens consigned his daughters to her care after knowing her for twenty-four hours.

No one knows why the beatings escalated. The first few weeks were reasonably normal. Sylvia and Jenny went to Tech High School with Paula and Stephanie Baniszewski. They went to church together, saw friends. But the physical punishments began to quicken in August. It was alleged that in retaliation Sylvia had told fellow students at Tech that Paula and Stephanie were prostitutes. Stephanie's fifteen-year-old boyfriend, Coy Hubbard, beat Sylvia up when he heard.

By the end of August, Gertie and Paula were supervising some of her other children, and some neighborhood children, in continual beatings ("judo flips" were Hubbard's speciality; various household objects also were employed, and after Paula broke her hand hitting Sylvia she beat her with the cast), burnings, and sexual humiliation as "punishment" for various sins. By early October it had escalated, if that word can even be employed, into the branding and scalding episodes, into Sylvia being thrown into the cellar, fed nothing more than crackers, until she died there. Neighbors heard her pounding a shovel on the concrete floor that night until it finally stopped and they could get to sleep. No one ever called the police.

No motive was ever presented at trial, nothing beyond a pure mean poverty of a woman who'd had seven kids and six miscarriages, a poverty beyond their having to take turns using a single spoon in that sordid clapboard house after the other two disappeared, and jealousy over a pretty young girl on the verge of womanhood, the promise of something bright neither Gertrude nor the pregnant Paula would ever know. A few days before she died they'd made her write a letter to her parents--stupidly addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Likens"--telling them she'd gone with a "gang of boys" who had done those things to her. When she finally rebelled in the only way left, by dying on them, they lugged her up to the third floor, gave her a bath, tried to pull some pedal pushers on her, and dumped her on the filthy mattress where the police found her. Her hands were folded across her chest.

Dozens of local children had taken part in the game. Only two--Hubbard and the fourteen-year-old Richard Hobbes, the boy from two houses down who'd done the branding and helped drag her corpse upstairs--were charged. Stephanie got a separate trial; eventually the charges against her were dropped. Gertie, Paula, her thirteen-year-old son John, and the two neighbors were charged with first-degree murder.

Gertrude's defense was that she had been too sick and too doped up to know what was going on. She had only punished Sylvia a couple of times, but was too weak to make much of an effort or to rein in her children. Jenny Likens disputed her testimony, of course, but the sensation of the trial was when the prosecutor broke eleven-year-old Marie Baniszewski, who had been backing her mother's story. Yes, she finally sobbed, it was her mother who had started carving the words on Sylvia's stomach, who only managed the "I" before the stench of burning flesh made her sick and Ricky took over.

Only Gertrude was convicted of first-degree murder, and the jury refused the prosecution's demand for the death penalty. Paula, convicted of second-degree murder, would eventually receive a new trial, plead to manslaughter, and be released in 1973. The three boys were convicted of manslaughter; each served eighteen months in juvenile. Charges against four other neighbor children were dropped.

Gertrude, suffering from terminal cancer, was paroled in 1985 and died in 1990. Paula is said to be married, living on a small farm in Iowa. John Baniszewski drove a truck and became a lay minister. Richard Hobbes died of cancer at 21. Coy Hubbard was later charged and acquitted of the murder of two men. Names changed, whereabouts unknown. So many escaped justice, and those who didn't did not really pay, as if they ever could. If I waste a thought on any of them these days it's just to wonder if they really did escape.


I've walked those ugly streets two or three times, looking for ghosts. A few years ago the house was fixed up and turned into a woman's shelter, but I understand it's empty again. I've been up to Boone County and found her small headstone, and cried for someone I never knew. I'll go back later today. But I know I'll never say goodbye to her.

*testimony taken from The Basement: Meditations on a Human Sacrifice, by Kate Millett, who's carried Sylvia around with her as I have.

Tuesday, October 25

Pride Goeth Before Destruction, and a Pleasant Evening Before Picking Glass Shards Out of the Carpet


Forget to use it one day, use it the next.

Sunday night the Flying Karamazov Brothers were in town with their show "Life: A Guide for the Perplexed". It was the first time I'd seen 'em live. It was a fun piece about midlife crisis, which I enjoyed because, um, I'm a juggler.

When you juggle, even with very slight proficiency (I can do a lot of the standard 3-ball repertoire, got a few cigar box tricks, and I can sort of handle three clubs but I haven't practiced enough) mere technical brilliance is seldom that impressive. Yes, my jaw drops watching Sergei Ignatov handle eleven rings, but seeing someone do fairly simple tricks with panache is easily as satisfying, and the Brothers have that in spades. Roderick Kimball, who, without his beard, looks like a kid and played one part of the time, did a nice routine that rarely ventured beyond three. They worked in plenty of their patented four-man club passing, which included a fairly spectacular wipe-out that reduced it to two-man club passing at one point. The best routine of the night started with them seated at a table, and was more rhythmic than showy. In between there was plenty of music, bad puns, and some terrific choreography. I'm pretty sure that's the first time "terrific choreography" has appeared on this blog. I apologize for any unintended Google hits.

There were two problems. The sound was over the top for a fifteen-hundred seat theatre, and since we were sixth row center and the speakers were 35 feet over our heads it took some time before we understood everything that was said. And the crowd sucked.

It was like a dinner theatre crowd had gotten bad directions or something. I was probably in the 50th percentile based on age. Which there's nothing wrong with, of course, but the Brothers did not get the sort of enthusiasm they deserved, and the two Iraq and two Halliburton jokes were met with an audible intake of breath around us. There was a kid seated next to me, who'd been drug in by parents who couldn't risk leaving him home with his Playstation, who never applauded once. I hogged the armrest just to spite him.

Still, I got home in a wonderful mood, only to find that Larry, the Tax-Deductible Kitten, had managed to knock over and smash the lucky bamboo and its glass vase our neighbors gave us. My Poor Wife was nice enough not to remind me that she'd suggested locking him in his room before we left. She's slipping.

Of course I'd made the aesthetic decision to replace the river rock they'd originally rooted the stuff in with some lovely black/grey/red stuff the size of aquarium gravel, so I spent a good hour picking it up. Which seems to have had a slight effect on the David Brooks piece I wrote, because I forgot to point out he never mentioned the word "Iraq" nor the fact that the Mysteriously Disappearing Republican Agenda in the late '90s was right where it had been all decade, inside Bill Clinton's trousers.

And I forgot all about the picture. I wanted to post a short series of the Louis Wain cat paintings (see above) which used to be (maybe still are) used as an illustration of progressive psychosis despite the fact that the chronological arrangement was more-or-less fictitious. The point being that this time there's no mistake.

Monday, October 24

Wherein A Calm Sunday Morning Is Ruined As My Wife Lets An Injured Weasel Scamper In The House

David Brooks, The Savior of the Right

Okay, I had to read it three times to believe it: he means George W. Bush.
[Bruce Bartlett makes] a coherent case, but it's wrong. Bush hasn't abandoned conservativsm; he's modernized and saved it.

Let's deal with this first. I have no use for Bruce Bartlett, any other Republican, or anyone else for that matter, who suddenly realizes, in the last quarter of 2005, that the Bush administration is an abject failure and the country is in deep trouble anywhere you wish to look. The war, the deficit, the economy, the corruption, the cronyism, the criminal ineptitude of Homeland Security--those are things we marched into with eyes wide open. To say now that it's a result of the administration being "insufficiently conservative" adds insult to idiocy. It's the sort of thing cultists say to explain their increased confidence when the world doesn't end on August 23.

But if blaming Bush for the results of everything the Republican party was cheering him for a few months ago rings hollow, what are we to make of Brooks asking what all the fuss is about?
Let's start by remembering where conservatism was before Bush came on the scene. In the late 1990s, after the failure of the government shutdown, conservatism was adrift and bereft of ideas.

Voters preferred Democratic ideas on issue after issue by 20-point margins. The G.O.P.'s foreign policy views were veering toward isolationism, its immigration policy was veering toward nativism, its social conservatism had crossed into censoriousness, and after it became clear that voters didn't want to slash government, its domestic policy had hit a dead end.

It's hard to decide where to begin here. Perhaps with the government shutdown, which occurred not in the late 90s but in late '95, just one year after the Gingrich Revolution. It's difficult to understand how the party of Big Ideas became bereft in less than twelve months. Perhaps because the Ideas were more like Slogans, and the public had already seen the distinction? At any rate it's rather easy to see why Brooks tries to move voter dissatisfaction with Republican ideas a bit further away from the source. Because that makes the Republican bereavement part of a process Brooks is selling.

But the truth is that the modern-day Republican party has always been bereft of ideas, or more precisely, of solutions to the problems it sells over and over with updated packaging. Reagan ran for sixteen years on a single idea--that deficit spending was an abomination. And when he finally got the opportunity he did something about the deficit--he tripled it. The Reagan administration had one Big Idea: Supply Side economics. Not even they believed in it.

So pray tell, Mr. Brooks, with what Big Ideas had George W. Bush reinvigorated the party?
Almost single-handedly, Bush re-connected with the positive and idealistic instincts of middle-class Americans. He did it by recasting conservatism more significantly than anyone had since Ronald Reagan. He rejected the prejudice that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad, and he tried to use government to encourage responsible citizenship and community service. He sought to mobilize government so the children of prisoners can build their lives, so parents can get data to measure their school's performance, so millions of AIDS victims in Africa can live another day, so people around the world can dream of freedom...

This is not to say that Bush's approach to government is fully coherent. The tragedy of the Bush administration is that it never matched its unorthodox governing philosophy with an unorthodox political strategy or an unorthodox management style. With his policies Bush could have built a broad coalition across the right and center of American life. Unfortunately, his political strategy was a base strategy, which led him to reinforce the orthodox divisions between the parties.

I"ve said this many times and I'm going to keep saying it until it becomes standard practice: Vladimir Nabokov once said that "reality" is the only word which should always be surrounded by quotation marks. In terms of American politics, "conservative" should join it.

These guys have gone from hidebound defenders of Red Scare/Goldwater/John Birch Society extremism through Nixonian paranoia, the reality-bending of the early Reagan years and the reality-denial of the later, to the public display of sexual juvenalia over Clinton, which merely set the table for the descent into episodic psychosis. Auditory hallucinations first turned Bush's public incoherence into reasonable speech, then into masterpieces of oratio recta. His staged--clearly, obviously, ham-handedly staged--carrier landing in a Halloween flight suit turned into a fellatio festival. By that point it was already too late. Now that the inevitable collision with reality (we can do without the quotes this time) has left parts scattered everywhere, including a couple thousand dead Americans to no discernable purpose, there's nothing for it but a free-fall into hallucinosis.

There is nothing of "Conservatism" in Brooks' piece. Nothing. Right-Libertarians aren't "conservatives". Religious extremists aren't "conservatives" nor rabid budget-cutters nor the guys who fill the bathtub that government is supposed to drown in. All that's left are a few Straussian corporatists and one guy who writes a fantasy column for the Times Op-Ed pages. It's as if for a whole generation the constant demonization of the word "liberal" eventually exorcized all meaning from political terminology. "Conservatives", for Brooks, are those people who in the future will do things precisely his way, which will finally result in that perfect world we've all been dreaming of.

Y'know, you walk down any city block or into any supermarket and there's a half-dozen people talking to themselves. I've begun to wonder, seriously, if we've lost the ability to distinguish between the raving psychotic and the guy who just has a cell phone. And I open the Sunday Times and start to wonder if maybe they aren't one and the same.

Friday, October 21

Domestic Tranquility

You'd think--but you'd be wrong--that in three decades my wife and I would have made some inroads into efficiency, but it never fails: I find out she's on vacation the morning the vacation starts, and if I happen to mention that, which I don't anymore, she insists she told me.

And she's generally right, although it usually amounts to a brief declaration dimly remembered from three weeks earlier. My wife thinks that so long as something is in her daily consciousness it's in mine, too. (That seems to be a big club.) There's a calendar in the kitchen where I write things down. She doesn't. Maybe I could start writing this stuff down. I don't. The course of true love an' all that.

Today, as you might have guessed, was the first day of Fall Break and I hadn't cleared the decks. I spent the morning rearranging schedules and the afternoon rearranging furniture, and I will spend tomorrow morning trying to get out of bed. About a month ago I heard, on one of those home remodeling shows that occasionally turn up on teevee, some decor hipster say something like, "Nothing says 80s decor like a roomful of videotapes." Welcome to Casa Riley. Set your watches back 25 years.

Every piece of furniture we have weighs at least 150 pounds. There are wires running everywhere along the baseboards. It's not that I don't see the point of a teevee you can hang on the wall and couches you can dust under. It's that I'm cheap. The teevee works, and the screen is large enough to see. The couch doesn't fall apart when you sit on it.

And look, the videotape thing: yes, I've lost count of 'em, there's two shelves in the bedroom stacked two deep and two high with stuff, and two big storage boxes (with indexes) parked by the closet door. Upstairs there are two five-foot carousels that'll hold 200, except they also hold the CD collection and the DVDs. I took a couple measurements while I was moving them around. A standard DVD collection is about the same width as a video cassette. Two regular DVDs equal one tape. Most of my tapes have two films on them, or sometimes six one-hour shows. So the fact is that if I'd been born thirty years later I would, by this time, have roughly the same bulk looking for some floor space. There just wouldn't be anything stashed in the basement. This made me feel better, except for my back. Because if I were thirty years younger I might give a shit about being twenty years out of fashion.

The sudden appearance of a four-day weekend's worth of projects means that I don't have a single idea in my head, nor am I quite sure what day it is. I do have a note to myself which says, "Lindt chocolate," a reminder of the commercial I saw a couple days ago for my favorite example of Swiss engineering. In it there are a lot of people wearing chefs' whites. One guy is holding a bowl of chocolate he's recently been beating by hand, and he's gazing almost carnally at the slowly dripping whisk. The next shot has two cuisiniers, one of whom is pouring brown gold onto a desk-sized marble tabletop while the other stands poised with a spreader. The note was to remind me to relate that I shouted at the screen, "Maybe if you quit standing around and made the stuff in commercial-sized batches IT WOULDN"T COST SO MUCH!"

Have a pleasant weekend, all.

Friday Shuffle

Bob Mould: Wishing Well
Prince: Alphabet Street
Jane's Addiction: Just Because
Artie Shaw: Diga Diga Do
Jason and the Scorchers: White Lies
Richard Buckner: A Chance Counsel
Joe Jackson: Sunday Papers
Marshall Crenshaw: Someday Someway
Stevie Wonder: As
Ringside: Struggle

Thursday, October 20

Pretty Close To the Penultimate Hurrah


The sad orphan close-out sale maple with the bent trunk my wife bought three years ago, in its autumn glory. It's hard to get a halfway decent pic because it's really a 3-D experience; the thing curves back and the leaves cascade. Despite its abomination of a trunk (it might be a decent bonzai in thirty years) it's the frozen-waterfall star of the deck all season long. I wouldn't have looked at it twice. That's why she's the artist.

Top 50 or so of Something-or-Other of the Century of the Week


What, no love for Sonny?

This time it's the American Society of Magazine Editors Top 40 covers of the last 40 years (slide show here). It's interesting in no small part because it's the sort of thing most people outside the industry would have no opinion about, unlike, say, Rolling Stone's Top 25 Hotel Rooms Trashed by Vince Neil. I, on the other hand...

Well, I have an opinion about this, because in terms of covers I was an avid reader of probably the two greatest magazines in their respective golden ages: Esquire in the 60s and the National Lampoon in the early 70s.

Both get some recognition; Esquire's got three in the Top 10, and four over all, if I recall correctly. But as usual, the list would have been much better if they'd just asked me.

First, celebrity covers at Nos. 1 and 2? Naked celebrities??? And the nude Lennon/clothed Ono thing is just voted in on sentiment (it was taken the day he was killed). Sentiment is fine at #8, say, but not #1. And if it's iconic of anything it's the disturbing infantilism that seemed to mark what little the man got of middle age. Plus it has Yoko. The Demi Moore thing I don't have a problem with. It was a great cover, it created an enormous amount of buzz, and it works even though it's Demi Moore, though if it had happened a few years later her breasts would still have been larger than her belly.

But it's not number one by default, because the #1 cover of all time comes in at #7: the glorious Nat Lamp Death Issue:

C'mon. Comedy gets no respect, I know, but the "The New Yorker's view of the country" is Number Four, and it's just a mild giggle. Not only should this be Number One, there should be a statue of Ed Bluestone somewhere for coming up with the idea. And the photo by Ronald G. Harris is brilliant, and was probably done for less than what Annie Leibovitz spent on lunch for either of the top two.

And that's not even the biggest gaffe; the omission of the Sonny Liston Santa cover is criminal. Esquire reportedly lost a million dollars in advertising on that one. In 1962 dollars. Imagine anybody willing to offend an advertiser for 1/10 of that in current dollars today for the sake of a great idea. Imagine being the guy who had to adjust that hat on Liston's head.

That cover summarizes the state of race relations in the country at that time, and it had to strike White America in its very Protestant marrow. Not only is Santa black, you crackers, he's got one-punch knockout power in either hand, and then he's gonna sleep with your wife. Merry Christmas. The first African-American woman on the cover of Glamour makes the list (Overcome!) and this gets forgotten.

Then there's the Lampoon. No Nixon as Pinocchio fold-out with Jimminy Kissinger?

The Nation's Alfred E. Bush (hey, I love that one, too), but not the thirty-years earlier Lt. Calley?

No Self Portrait With Banana?

[In case younger readers don't have the reference, "I can't hear you, I've got a banana in my ear" was a classic Sixties schoolyard joke.]

Anyway it was fun, but I don't think it's going to spark the sort of water-cooler debates that TV Guide™ does. Because I don't have a water-cooler.

Wednesday, October 19

This Is It for the Political Content Today, Folks. The Rest Is Beer and Circuses.

Re: Cheney Steps Down, Condimelda Steps Up rumors. Capsule comment: Bulls' pizzles. I wish everyone who posted this more than half credulously would offer odds.

1) Cheney resigns if indicted. Why? His inherent sense of fairness? His abiding respect for the rule of law? To unburden himself of cumbersome advantages and defense-fundraising opportunities not available to the private citizen?

2) Condimelda named new Veep. Get out more. This GOP partisan wank fantasy dates to 2003. Cheney was going to step down as candidate and be replaced by the Instep Queen (alternately by McCain or Rudy, whose wank quotients I'm not going to consider). It was, then as now, based solely on the idea that her candidacy would create a huge rent in the Democratic base as African-Americans and women deserted the party and their self-interests to vote for "one of their own". This, in turn, is based on the standard basement-dwelling right-wing commenter having no notion of women or African-Americans, never having had a close relationship with either, and so assuming they're as stupid as everyone else who disagrees with his tiniest cephalic event.

Apparently some of this was inspired by U.S. News and World Report, in my day the preferred resource for high school debating squads, and one which I thought had gone the way of Collier's. Here's a excerpt of the sort of insight their Beltway insider status can provide:
"It's certainly an interesting but I still think highly doubtful scenario," said a Bush insider. "And if that should happen," added the official, "there will undoubtedly be those who believe the whole thing was orchestrated – another brilliant Machiavellian move by the VP."

Precisely my thought when I first heard the rumors: "Curse you, Dick Cheney, you brilliant Machiavellian!"

Hey Kids! Find the Punchline! Win a $25 Savings Bond!

Jonah Goldberg, who could give being a fat, clueless Star Wars fanboy living off Mommy's money a bad name:
ELITISM & BEER [Jonah Goldberg]

There's a whiff of urban legend here, but I like it anyway. From a reader:
Jonah, There's a great French restaurant in Philadelphia that has had a five-star rating for several decades. It requires a second mortgage to pay the tab and features a wine list that would greatly impress a poseur like the Sideways character, Miles. A few years ago, according to the testimony of a buddy, a rather unassuming guy booked reservations for twelve and sat down in the tres chic dining room to enjoy a convivial evening with family and friends. After the somelier went around the table, noting everyone's selections, he came to our host, who unabashedly ordered a Yuengling, the old reliable of Pennsylvania beers. The wine snob visibly winced and sniffed ,"Sorry, monsieur, we do not carry such a thing." With that, the guy stood up and announced to one and all: "We're leaving." As fate would have it, the gentleman was a direct descendent of the original Pottsville brewing dynasty. And he was more than ready to take his friends, and his cash, and walk out the door.

Okay, first, no points for catching a "whiff" of urban legend, since you claim to like this. Just give us some short essay answers:

1) Who's being elitist here: the five star French restaurant which doesn't stock Yuengling, or the guy who thinks being a direct descendent of a brewing dynasty makes him some sort of hereditary princeling?

2) Even been in a five star restaurant, Jonah? Ever been served by a sommelier? (Which reminds me, doesn't the Corner provide you with a spell checker?) Did he walk around the table taking individual cocktail orders?

3) Ever known anyone who works in a restaurant, five star or otherwise? Do you imagine they go out of their way to insult customers just for asking for something that's not on the menu? How long do you imagine the place would keep a five-star rating if the staff routinely showed its irritation at the slightest provocation?

4) Do you imagine that in a five-star restaurant a party of twelve which is unknown to the staff is seated without every member of the staff involved being informed which person is the host?

5) Ever known anyone who owns a restaurant? Are they in the habit of refusing to stock popular local products because they're too pedestrian? How many times, in an average night, would you guess someone asks for a Yuengling in such an establishment? Or a Budweiser?

Extra credit: What's the area code for Philadelphia? How many five-star French restaurants do you suppose there are? If you asked your readers to do some more research for you, how long would it take to find out?

Okay, okay, you thought it was "funny", but that's because you're a dullard. Since it's blind bet day, I've got $20 says if you find the place they carry Yeungling.

Travelogue

I had to go to the bank, the natural foods store, the unnatural grocery store, and the Post Office today. I may have mentioned it before, but no matter what day or time I do any banking I manage to get in line behind someone who wants to change drachmas to kroner and then into dinars, and someone else who wants to pay his electric bill with a third-party check signed over by a guy who was featured on America's Most Wanted as recently as last Thursday. To top it off, today I got the teller wearing the Trainee hat and she screwed up my simple deposit-cash back transaction so badly they had to reboot the entire system. It probably made the evening financial news. I didn't check.

Didn't matter, nor did the usual crowd of wandering geriatrics at the Post Office, though I'll be damned if I can figure out why the average customer age at that place is always 96 and the average driving speed in the parking lot and surrounding public thoroughfares is 12. It didn't matter because a) it was a beautiful day; b) we're at about 10-15% fall color this late, which is early perfection; and c) there's a notable drop in the number of SUVs on the road. Believe me, you drive a subcompact car, you can report on that accurately.

All I can figure is a lot of people had fuel efficient cars at home but chose to drive those suburban Panzers everywhere until recently for style points.

And the color, well, the big destination in Indiana for ooh-ing and ah-ing from the comfort of your own speeding vehicle is Brown County, which is about an hour or so south of here and a week or so later, color-wise, most years. Me, I'll head west to Shades and climb the ridge to look out over Sugar Creek if I need the full stereophonic experience, but a trip down the block to the church complex that still has the old farm field tree line around it is all the fix I need. One tree, or five, can be as stunning as two hundred.

Tuesday, October 18

Happy Birthday


Chuck Berry: born Oct. 18, 1926

Judy Bats

Got the chance to read Judy Miller's personal account in the Times yesterday afternoon.

By now you've no doubt heard the major pieces of the story, especially the "I don't remember who told me" and Judy's almost-as-bizarre-as-the-original explanation of Scooter's appreciation of aspens. I didn't read it for news; I was looking for a couple of other things.

It's an odd, disjointed account, with frequent references to "what my notes indicate" or "as I testified". Judy's shaky memory and her strangely inadequate note taking make several appearances. She remarks on the fact that she was not allowed to take notes of her testimony (!). She insists, again, that Scooter was her only source, the one she went to jail to protect.

What I was reading for was this: was there any explanation for her returning to testify last week? The answer is no, just a brief mention of returning "after finding a notebook". That discovery, and the subsequent testimony, are central to the question of post-Big House Judy. Did she fail to tell Fitzgerald about the June 2003 meeting with Libby, the one that took place before Wilson's Op-Ed piece appeared, during her testimony on Friday? (This was the meeting which was mentioned in a Times piece this summer and later denied on the corrections page.) If anything, the sudden discovery of the notebook after her initial testimony is even less believable than the 'I don't remember the source of the Valerie Flame notation'. Fitzgerald must have had that June meeting in his pocket (from WH logs?), and Miller didn't cop to it the first time around. And Fitzgerald told Bennett his client was a perjurer and she could either cough up the notes and testify honestly or find out what life is like inside an actual prison.

So, frankly, I'm not buyin' the loss of memory story. Judy's second round of testimony occurred with serious legal threats hanging over her. Somebody got slicked here, and if you think it's Fitzgerald I've got a bridge you might be interested in.

Miller's tale sounds an awful lot like a George W. Bush news conference. She pushes an awful lot of buttons she goes out of her way to reach. "Mr. Fitzgerald told the grand jury that I was testifying as a witness and not as a subject or target of his inquiry" she says, immediately after mentioning her Wednesday appearance. But she could very well have been a target; the idea that reporters cannot be prosecuted for trafficking in classified information belongs with the idea that Fitzgerald's investigation is bound by the limitations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. It isn't, and they can be. If Fitzgerald announced that on her second day of testimony, it came in the form of a quid pro quo.

Another thing I found curious about the story, though not surprising--there's nothing surprising about journalistic ethics in this country anymore--was her straightforward acceptance of the role of stovepipe. She freely grants Scooter the changing of his cover from "senior administration official" to "former Hill staffer" because she figures the White House doesn't want to be seen as attacking Wilson. But why that should be so doesn't seem to enter the equation. In fact Why makes no appearance in her tale. Why, if there was "selective leaking" coming from the CIA, wouldn't the White House confront it head on, in public, on the record? Why should the President of the United States fear a single Op-Ed piece? Why doesn't Miller ever ask Why? Because she'd been part of the effort to cook the intelligence all along, and by June 2003 it was in ruins. There are no doubt other, maybe bigger reasons, as well. But that's enough.

Monday, October 17

And I Accuse Him of "Pulling a Boner"

Andrew Sullivan:
"Miller is pulling a Clinton when she says she cannot recall who gave her the name 'Valerie Flame.' So she is either protecting Libby or someone else entirely or her own reporting. What is she hiding and why?"

I guess the reason we didn't go for what seems like the obvious Oval Office metaphor there is that in order to "pull a Reagan" she'd have had to have said she couldn't recall 87 times.

Speak, Mnemosyne

Apart from the undeniable comic value, the coverage of last week's scripted teleconference has me thinking of earlier, happier times, when the Press was a lot more credulous:

Vandalgate.

The Bush administration occupied the White House at midday, January 22, 2001. By the morning of the 24th two right wing sites (one of them Matt Drudge) were black-lettering the wanton destruction of The People's House departing Clintonites had left. A day later Ari Fleischer was pushing the story, eventually, rolling out cut wires and hundreds of inoperable computer keyboards and the hiring of an investigative team to catalog the damages; that evening Tom Brokaw called the reports "distrubing". Ari promised a detailed public accounting, then reneged after being called on it by Bill Clinton and several of his former staffers. Ari eventually produced as evidence one Polaroid that showed boxes stacked up in a hallway.

The Press, as you know, had gone Cocoa Puffs koo-koo for the story, as well as the appended Pardongate, Giftgate, and trashing/looting of Air Force One stories. Anne E. Kornblut questioned the absence of facts in the Boston Globe on January 26th; the Kansas City Star did the same two weeks later. That stacks up against screaming front-page stories everywhere else.

It was a month into his Presidency, and only after Bill Clinton's demand for a public accounting, that George Bush deigned to comment on what had been its biggest story to date, issuing a sort-of-denial: "There might have been a prank or two, maybe somebody put a cartoon on the wall, but that's OK. It's time now to move forward."

This, of course, was the signal to the Press to stop pressing for any proof of the stories which had been circulating out of his White House for a month, as though the President's Press Secretary just goes out and freewheels it every day. Naturally Bush's comments played out on page A-13, the same place the GAO report of May 18 (the damage "was consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy.") would find eternal rest.

Beltway insiders knew that pranking is a tradition. Those who'd been around for awhile--let alone full careers like Brokaw's--had probably heard the rumors that Dan Quayle's staff had been particularly, uh, vigorous about it. Yet the story broke, in part because it had played on Drudge's site, with its track record of pure horseshit, and only one reporter demanded evidence. It became obvious pretty quickly that Fleischer would not be providing any documentation, but even when he coughed up a furball no one pushed it. If Clinton staffers had done serious, malicious damage to the communications at the White House it was, indeed a story. But somehow, if the incoming administration was willing to lie, bald-faced and straight out to the American public, and trash the reputations of a lot of public servants in the process, all for some transparent political motives, why, that was no story at all.

I suppose nobody among the Gaggle had heard of Karl Rove before.

That's why when I hear now that the Bush administration is in disarray, that Rehearsalgate wouldn't have happened if Uncle Karl wasn't distracted, I have to say, well, it's been four and a half years. And if the Press had done anything approaching its job, they would have caught him at it on Day Two.

Sunday, October 16

Point of Order

I read the Times piece on Miller, and I'm waiting for the double-secret backdoor (thanks, Alex) to open Judy's personal saga--which is being kept behind the Select wall--so I just have a couple of quick questions: if Judy doesn't remember who gave her Victoria Flame's name, what are the grounds for refusing to testify? How can you claim to be protecting a source if you don't remember the source? Doesn't this amount to saying reporters should never be required to testify because they promise confidentiality to someone, somewhere, sometime, even if it's not to the subject of an investigation? Hell, Mob guys do that.

On occasion I give my word not to reveal something or other. Should that exempt me from testifying? Aren't there First Amendment implications if I do so? Chilling effects on the social benefits of the free exchange of information, or something?

Okay, that was several questions, but I guess the real one is this: how'd the Times ever find itself in the position of having to defend Judy Miller as a "journalist"?

Saturday, October 15

It's...Bigger!

Yes, it's the much anticipated, jumbo-formatted, updated for today's Wi-Fi'd, belly-button-bejeweled, rainbow-partying generation TV Guide™. The erstwhile Most Popular Magazine in the World, once small enough to fit in the top pocket of Grampa's overalls is now large enough to bury all three or four remotes under at once. Which just may be the best use you can make of it, unless you compost.

Now, given my track record predicting public tastes, or even explaining them after the fact, it's no wonder no one consulted me on The Change. And I would have gone the other direction. I would have renamed the magazine When Shit You Might Possibly Find Doesn't Insult Your Intelligence Is On, and I would have printed it on an index card folded in half and marketed it as "1/16th the Size of a Nano!"

(Incidentally, the new Guide was just crammed into the old Rack at my supermarket check-out, sorta half-rolled up. Must be digital marketing.)

Right from the cover you can spot the changes, and not just because it says "ALL NEW!" at the top. Because now, in addition to the cover star there's a sidebar of three orbiting associate stars. So you not only get Ty Pennington, who has room to stand up and stretch, you get Ellen DeGeneres, a guy from Lost, and "Warrick" and his "Secret Wife" from CSI. Although I suspect they may just rotate those four in the coming weeks, and toss in a Desperate Housewife or two. Since they're all rolled up anyway, what the hell?

(Incidentally, what the fuck is the deal with Ellen DeGeneres? She funny. I mean, she's fucking funny, and without having to say "fuck" a lot, or ever, even, but she indicated her willingness to peddle her talent in whatever embarrassment someone would pay her for so long ago I've lost track of when it actually occurred. Here she's our debut "Guest Columnist" and turns in an 18-pt page of material so lame it's not only obvious that she asked some toady on her staff to write it with fifteen minutes notice, on Friday afternoon; it's obvious she didn't pay him anything for it either.)

Rest assured that once you get past the Editor's Note, which, rest assured, will assure you that they've got a New Attitude, that TV is More Exciting Than Ever, and that all Your Old Favorites are Still Here, you'll get a half-page photo of Survivor labeled "Moment of the Week", followed by a two page spread featuring the "21 Shows You've Gotta See!" That's a full 22-1/2 hours worth of programming, one half-hour of which (the debut of The Colbert Report) I gotta see, and 22 hours of network dreck you couldn't pay me to watch. But then I'm part of the old, analog readership.

Let's liveblog the first issue and see how long I can stand it...next page, Bruce, Demi, and Ashton! Overleaf, Nicole and Paris! Uh-oh, all the way back at page ten. Show's over. Why, hello, Tom and Katie! They're expecting, it seems. Okay, that's it. Four pages.

Letters: I'm sorry, but Letters, or "Mail", just isn't the same set in a typeface normally reserved for books intended to be read to children, let alone that the letters are now "answered" by TV Guide™ "critic" Matt Roush. They manage to cram in four letters, a sidebar, and the tvguide.com poll, which asked "If Oprah ran for office would you vote for her?" 35% yea, 65% nay. No undecideds, which is kinda surprising this early in the election cycle. Also, I'd have liked to see the numbers vs. potential opponents. Oprah vs. Mitt Romney. Oprah vs. Bill Frist. Oprah vs. that guy from Lost.

I gave some consideration to chucking this entire piece and substituting a direction to the reader to turn to page 80 ("Monday Highlights") under "Comedy", where you find the aforementioned debut of The Colbert Report, which includes this nugget for the digital generation: "...his name is Stephen Colbert (pronounced Col-bare)." Pretty edgy of them not to spell out the "Stee-ven", I thought. But if you're seeking real insight into the ALL! NEW! ATTITUDE! at the Guide, you'll want to head straight for everybody's returning favorite, "Cheers & Jeers":
JEERS: to Keven Smith for flushing what little hipster cred he had left by doing a guest spot on Joey.

The torch has been passed to a new generation of hipster.

Karl Rove's Amazon Wish List



I'm guessing "200 cartons of cigarettes" is really #1, but you can't ship 'em across state lines.

Friday, October 14

Deah Me, Ah Believe Ah May Faint

Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

If this is news to you you must be getting your news from the AP.

I Got Dem Term'nally Suburban, All Outta Bourbon, Leaf Blowin', Snow Throwin', Natcher'l Gas Middle Class Blues

It's winterizing time here in the Great Midwest, which this year means that thanks to my numb-nutted fellow citizens who felt that electing a coke-addled legacy oilman with a dishwater IQ would ensure their cherished fantasies of terror and mayhem would remain our #1 excuse for making criminally stupid decisions, we're looking at a 25% increase in natural gas prices at least. If nothing else we get to relive the 70s, which at least makes me feel young again.

I try to jump on things early because I have the biggest leaf-related disposal activities program in the neighborhood. I have the first leaves to fall and the last, and a lot in between. I'll be rakin' stuff up three weeks after my neighbors have gone inside for the duration, the wimps, plus I shred everything and compost it while they just stuff it in bags and send it off to the landfill. Once it's consistently over 50ยบ F next spring they'll come around and ask me for gardening hints.

Yesterday afternoon's project was caulking the windows in back, the end of a three-year program that began with the west-facing front yard, moved to the sides of the house and the second story, and finishes now. It reminded me of the following, which we saw recently on one of those home remodeling shows you can occasionally find on teevee:

Hairdo #1: I finally finished caulking, and my hands are killing me.
Hairdo #2: Which caulking gun did you use?
Hairdo #1: What's a caulking gun?

A previous owner of this place seems to have mostly dispensed with a caulking gun as well. Near as I can tell he sliced the top off the tube, dug out the caulk with a flexible scraper, bent the thing back like you'd fling peas with a butter knife, and aimed in the general direction of the windows. There were two attendant aesthetic decisions: one, do not smooth the resultant globs, for that Jackson Pollock effect, and two, always use gloss white no matter your surroundings. I have to wear sunglasses to scrape the stuff off. I do hope to meet him someday.

Somewhere Near the Next-to-Last Hurrah At Best


Gruss an Aachen rose (aka "Jerry")

Autumn-blooming clematis from about three weeks back. It's covered in small white flowers which, as it turns out, are too small for you to see. You probably can't smell them, either, but they smell good, too, if you like that sort of thing.

Grape leaves on the house, turning rapidly.

Friday Shuffle: World Tour Edition

Joni Mitchell: Free Man in Paris
John Cale: Child's Christmas in Wales
Elvis Costello: Tokyo Storm Warning
The Vibrators: London Girls
Mott the Hoople: All the Way From Memphis
Eno: China My China
Mike Scott: City Full Of Ghosts (Dublin)
Fever Tree: San Franciscan Girls
The Bottle Rockets: Indianapolis
3 Lb. Thrill: Bikini Island

Thursday, October 13

Corrections

lkiser thoughtfully writes:

"just thought you should know. Emptywheel is a woman."

And so I should have. Thank you. My apologies. For getting it wrong, I mean. Not that she's a woman.

May I say in my defense that it did occur to me as I was writing and came to the first pronounic requirement that I did not know Emptywheel's choice of gender, and, being educated in the last century, I use "he" as the third person neuter instead of trying to come up with some rococo sentence construction that would avoid the issue entirely. So, no sexist presumption involved. Honest. Sorry.

Judy's Fingerprints

From Gar Smith's "A Strategy of Lies: How the White House Fed the Public a Steady Diet of Falsehoods," via the Digby story linked below:
Among the many examples that [retired USAF Colonel Sam] Gardiner documented was the use of the "anthrax scare" to promote the administration's pre-existing plan to attack Iraq.

In both the US and the UK, "intelligence sources" provided a steady diet of unsourced allegations to the media to suggest that Iraq and Al Qaeda terrorists were behind the deadly mailing of anthrax-laden letters.

It wasn't until December 18, that the White House confessed that it was "increasingly looking like" the anthrax came from a US military installation. The news was released as a White House "paper" instead of as a more prominent White House "announcement." As a result, the idea that Iraq or Al Qaeda were behind the anthrax plot continued to persist. Gardiner believes this was an intentional part of the propaganda campaign. "If a story supports policy, even if incorrect, let it stay around."

And who, pray tell, was on point for the Times on the anthrax story? The co-author of Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War?

Oh, and the recipient of a fake anthrax letter herself at the beginning of the attacks?

As Digby says, this sounds a lot like tin-foil hat territory, but it ain't. It's difficult now to even recall the sort of hysteria the anthrax attacks whipped up in a country already in shock. It may have faded from popular memory how quickly that hysteria turned to complete disinterest once it became obvious the source was domestic.

At some point between September 19-25 NBC received and opened a letter containing anthrax. It was not immediately recognized or reported in the media. The first case was reported on October 4. The victim died the next day.

Judy opened her hoax letter on Oct. 12, the day before the first media reports of the hoax letters. The letters to Daschle and Leahy, the ones which contained the deadliest, "weaponized" form of anthrax, were already in the mail. The copycat hoax letters began appearing around Oct. 14. Daschle's office opened the letter on the 15th.

It had to be clear shortly thereafter that the source was the U.S. military. The FBI had to have established that within 24 hours. Yet it took until the middle of December before the Bush administration admitted as much.

In the meantime, in the pages of the Times and all over teevee news, Judy Miller, bioterrorism expert, was touting the "three country scenario", insisting that the source was the United States, the former Soviet Union, or Iraq. But there was no evidence whatsoever that Iraq had ever acquired the Ames strain, and the Soviet strain was in fact distinct from what had been mailed. The stuff in the mail came from one of twenty labs in the U.S. Period. Known by mid-October, not copped to officially until mid-December.

But both the Times and WaPo continued to push the possibility of a foreign source. So did Miller, who wrote of a possible Soviet-Iraqi anthrax link as late as December 3, 2002, and wrote of Al-Qaeda attempts to obtain anthrax on December 28, 2003. In between, on May 7, 2002, she reported on a speech by John Bolton which accused Cuba, Libya, and Syria of violating international treaties on unconventional weapons which seems to have ignored the fact that we'd been caught red-handed doing the same.

Miller's mitts all over the anthrax scare stories has been largely forgotten, and she's now out from under the contempt charge, but if the rumors that Fitzgerald wants to expand his investigation further into the Iraq Group are true, it just might be that Judy isn't through testifying.

Read Me

Sifu Tweety at The Poorman: Football Analogies.
That was videogame football in a college dorm. It literally couldn’t have mattered any less. But now we have Josh Marshall and Matt Yglesias , among others, playing the same game with the decision to invade Iraq, something that mattered a whole hell of a fucking lot. I wonder, guys: rather than turning any discussion of the run-up to war into imaginary bullshit jam-session time, where everybody competes to craft fantastically elaborate sets of assumptions that WOULD HAVE justified invasion, do you think there’s anything profitable to be gained by examining the mistake you made in the actual world?

Digby: Two Tense Weeks.
This sounds like tin-foil hat conspiracy crapola, but it isn't. There was a concerted, organized propaganda campaign out of Downing Street and the White House to sell the Iraq war. It wasn't bad intelligence. It wasn't even "sexed-up" intelligence. It was lies and propaganda, pure and simple. When Dr Kelly and Joseph Wilson pulled back the curtain in the spring of 2003, the powers that be on both sides of the atlantic played the hardest of hardball.

Fair Warning

I don't handle compliments well. No, I have not tagged myself with that Five Idiosyncrasies thing from Kathy. No way I could narrow mine down to single digits. Double digits, maybe.

No, it's just that this blog is more or less the electronic version of what my Poor Wife has endured for neigh-on thirty years now, only with pictures: me talking to myself but with other people in the room. It was just wonderful when people followed me here from other locations where I'd been making an ass of myself. I actually enjoyed attracting a stalker. I became a little embarrassed in garnering links from Julia and Chris Clarke and s.z. and everybody, and emails from galactic blog stars like Norb or Roxanne made me go sorta gooey. But then in short order this week I had a comment and a nice note from Tom Burka, who is one of the three funniest men in America, which was sorta like if John Lennon had turned to me that day in 1964 and said, "Nice shoes, toff." Although now that I think of it I'd just climbed out of the motel pool, so I wasn't wearing shoes, and it would have been really weird if he'd said, "Nice suit." I guess it's best he never turned his head. Ringo smiled at me, though. Where was I? Oh, yeah, then I turn up on The Daou Report, my little blog up there on the same page with Wolcott and Talk Left and Americablog.

So, just so you know, if this keeps up I'll probably be headed to Mexico to follow the trail of Ambrose Bierce, or I'll be changing my name and starting a new blog dedicated to celebrity musical tastes. I'll try to leave a trail of breadcrumbs if I do.

Wednesday, October 12

More MSM Lies Exposed! Next Stop: Time's Blog of the Year

Miers Established Reputation As Confidante

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

Her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Lang-Miers, a justice on the 5th Appellate District Court of Appeals in Texas, said Miers likes to play tennis, run and take in a movie. "She makes a wonderful sweet potato pie," she said. "Many marshmallows. They call it a vegetable, but it's probably more of a dessert."

After spending two days poring over 60s-vintage cookbooks I believe I can state without fear of contradiction that that should read "Mini marshmallows". Damned liars.

Judy Judy Judy

I've mentioned the work that Emptywheel has been doing at The Next Hurrah on the Plame case. He had an interesting piece yesterday concerning some peculiar Corrections which have appeared in the Times the last couple of years that revolve around Judy Miller. One in particular caught my eye:
Correction: July 30, 2005, Saturday...The article also misstated the month in 2003 that the special prosecutor in the case said that another reporter, Judith Miller of The New York Times, talked to a specified government official. It was July, not June.
 
This is the meeting which in fact was in June and which Judy has suddenly found notes on which had her testifying again yesterday.

Murray Waas says that Scooter didn't tell Patrick Fitzgerald about the meeting when he testified, and that Fitzgerald only found out about it days ago, when Miller found the notes. Emptywheel thinks the series of corrections may have been caused by Times reporters sneaking the truth into stories that editors later had to try to rescind. (If so, I guess it's too bad for them that corrections go on A-17.) At any rate, it's sure that the Timesmen are getting restless; The Guardian had yesterday's memo from Bill Keller almost as soon as the staff did.

It Worked For Nick Drake, Though The Timing Was, Unfortunately, A Little Off


I really am so excited about John Simon's Journey turning up (partially) on iTunes that I'd break bread with Penn Jillette just for noticing. It's a terriffic album, released in 1972 and promptly ignored, and unavailable between its quick drowning then and suddenly bobbing back to the surface last June. It features an ungodly big band of then-young players: Howard Johnson, Dave Sanborn, Dave Poe, the Brecker Brothers, the incredible Dave Holland on bass, and Simon's piano, which manages to keep up in that company. Be forewarned: it also features Simon's soulfully miserable whine of a voice, which clocks in somewhere between Randy Newman and Mrs. Miller. If this sort of thing bothers you, well, you shouldn't be reading this blog. Clever and witty lyricist, too.

Simon was mostly known as a producer, notably for The Band, but he also produced Janis Joplin's Cheap Thrills, Leonard Cohen's first album, and a host of others as they say in the hosting business. Journey was one of the albums I've obnoxiously forced people, especially people much younger than myself, to listen to in order to prove how radio betrayed the American public in the early 1970s. The others:

Nick Drake, Pink Moon
John Cale Paris 1919
Richard Thompson Starring As Henry the Human Fly
Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks Striking It Rich

Since it's what it takes these days it's time the rest of these people were selling Volkswagons.

Tuesday, October 11

No Thanks, That's Enough Entertainment Already

Tuesday Filler

So I'm trying to figure out what to do about iTunes' Celebrity Playlists. One of those Norbizness audit deals would be nice, but there's something like 200 of the things now, plus anytime I don't know a song I'd have to judge it based on the fifteen second preview. Maybe a quick letter grade? Or a review of each celebrity's writing style. Funny how people mostly turn out to be about as thoughtful or as vacuous as you expect them to be. There's thoughtful analysis from Branford Marsalis or Butch Vig, and there's the Joss Stone/Kelly Clarkson school of "o my god this song makes me think of my first crush!!!!!" There's some surprising entries: Elijah Wood taps James Chance, Gang of Four, and Pink Floyd from Meddle, not The Wall. Stephen King, reputed metal head, picks some Spoon, Ollabelle, and James McMurtry, plus the Peter Gunn Theme. Barry Manilow says his favorite male vocalist is Tom Waits.

And then there's this:
"I like this song because my mom's name is Judy and my dad's name is John."

--Avril Lavigne

And:
"I love blasting this in my car while cruising down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills."

--RuPaul

So does everyone else, no doubt.

My thinking at present is to use the Playlists to determine which celebrities to invite to our next cookout. So far, RuPaul and Kathy Griffin are out, because the closest thing to Cher is this house is, well, nothing. Andrew Lloyd Webber, too, because while his list was a tad above theirs he chose the Everly Brothers' cover of the Mickey and Silvia classic "Love Is Strange" and not only will I not forgive the choice, I won't forgive him pointing out that they covered it. Tommy Lee is out for being a walking drummer joke, and Frank Black for choosing nothing but Burl Ives, not because he chose nothing but Burl Ives but because doing so wasn't nearly as clever as he thought it was.

Elijah Wood and George Clinton can come early and stay late. Carole King gets in for picking Dusty Springfield, Elvis Costello, Roxy Music, and Rufus Wainwright, even though she chose her own version of "Up On the Roof". And Penn Jillette, just for remembering John Simon's Journey when I had no idea it had been re-released, but the minute he starts any libertoonian crap about global warming he's out.

Monday, October 10

Happy Birthday


Thelonious Sphere Monk: October 10, 1917--February 17, 1982

Peter Pan Conservatism

David Brooks gets over my back fence and into the house like a Pigeon from Hell:

As Parties Grow Weary, Time for an Insurgency
After a while, you get sick of the DeLays of the right and the Deans of the left. After a while, you tire of the current Republicans, who lack a coherent governing philosophy, and the current Democrats, who are completely bereft of ideas. After a while you begin to wonder: Did I really get engaged in politics so I could spend months arguing about the confirmation of Harriet Miers, the John Major of American jurisprudence?

Matters Outside Our Present Focus:

1) How there comes to be an equivalence between Republican Tom DeLay, the sleeziest, slimiest Congressman in a leadership position since the invention of the light bulb, at minimum, and Democrat Howard Dean, who merely holds positions Brooks doesn't care for.

2) How it is Republicans suddenly lack a coherent governing philosophy despite spending all their free weekends discussing Edmund Burke and Ludwig von Mises.

3) What Times editor passed on "completely bereft".
And when you begin thinking this way, you find yourself emotionally disengaging from the exhausted clans that dominate the present. You find yourself going back to basics and considering the fundamental questions: What visions originally excited me about politics and government? If it were completely up to me, where would I plant my flag?

Here's where I would plant mine.

Let me save you any further reading and myself a lot more typing (since I can't cut and paste Brooks anymore and have to actually focus on every damn word): if it were completely up to him, David Brooks would plant his flag exactly where it is now, except completely bereft of any association with the six feet of toxic Republican floodwater we're all bobbing around in like flotsam as a result of those ideals, opinions, policies, and bumper-sticker catchphrases being given free rein for the last 4-1/2 years. Yes, you see, David Brooks is a supporter of the America of Opportunity, of Hamilton, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. It is not his fault that none of those three turned up to rescue the Republican party from itself. It's not his fault that, for the second time in twenty years, incontinent tax cutting has led to incontinent debt. It's not his fault that Iraq is a disaster.

Wait. Why isn't it his fault that Iraq is a disaster?

Say it again: trendy middle-aged "reformed liberal" National-Greatness-libertarian-slash-neocons like Brooks were never forced to grow up. Through the simple good fortune (theirs, not the country's) of a favorable political biorhythm chart--Nixon's Southern Strategy plus increasing media corporatism plus the collapse of the Soviet Union plus twenty years of relatively good economic news--they've never been asked the tough questions, let alone forced to answer them. And now it's too late to learn, or too late to admit they were wrong. Because in the final analysis, all they ever had was an unshakable belief that their opinions were inerrant and everybody else's opinions were misguided or worse.

It doesn't matter that unlike many of his fellow Republicans Brooks seems personally disinclined to attach a car battery to the genitals of randomly-selected Iraqis, nor that he might shed a public tear or two over the plight of an underclass he knows nothing about:
I hated the old welfare system, which pushed people away from work. I love welfare reform, which encourages work. I hate government that directs ever more money to the affluent elderly, but I would love a government that gave poor children savings accounts at birth, which would encourage them to think about the future and understand that their destiny is in their own hands.

(The budget's tight right now, Dave. Maybe we could afford to issue every poor child his own bootstraps.)

No, It doesn't matter, and it never should have. By the time Brooks had a public forum, however cute and trendy and completely bereft of intellectual substance, the game was already up. Anyone with a smidgen of intellectual honesty, or at least enough to overcome the burning desire for a big book deal advance, had to realize it. The notion of the oppressed White American male was a sham. The idea that Reagan had accomplished some fundamental, opportunity-based shift in American politics was a cover story for the Rubes. To pretend, at this late date, that Tom DeLay or George W. Bush represent an aberration in the Republican party and not a culmination of its thirty-year war on everything that wasn't White, Christian, and pro-big business in this country is to continue shoveling manure while you're up to your nose in it. There's no pretending that your good intentions PR counts for anything anymore. Beyond the fact that the Times keeps paying you for it, I mean.

The sorry results of that thirty-year war are not the result of minor miscalculation or unforeseen circumstances. They are not even, in that favorite phrase of so-called conservatism gone by, the result of the "law of unintended consequences". This is your Republican paradise, Mr. Brooks. Here's your National Greatness. When you're covered in shit it's time to stop pretending the smell is coming from somewhere else.

Saturday, October 8

Scribes and Pharisees

Friday, Marion County Superior Court judge Marilyn Moores ordered life support removed from a five-month-old boy over the objections of his mother. Judge Moores also issued a do-not-resuscitate order.

Hamad Elijah Sanda was brought to Methodist Hospital September 22. He had a fractured skull and a brain injury. The suspected cause is abuse, and the case is under investigation by Indianapolis police. A few points:

• Tiwanna Sanda, the boy's mother, was not represented by counsel at the hearing. She has a previous conviction for battery on another of her children.

• The boy's father, Hamadou Sanda, is reportedly out of state looking for work and "could not be reached to participate" in the hearing.

• The baby is not legally brain dead, but has some brain stem function.

So Congress will be working all night to get the ventilator reinserted, right? Bill Frist has ordered up a video tape so he can perform another of his patented long-distance diagnoses? The Dobsonites at the Indiana Family Institute are demanding life support be maintained per the mother's wishes, seeking a stay until the father or grandparents or any other concerned relatives be contacted?

Uh, not quite. Indianapolis Star:
While "every presumption" must be given to preserving life, there can come a time when medical technology is only prolonging death, said Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute, which promotes Christian views on family issues. In such cases, it might be appropriate to withdraw extraordinary measures.

By extraordinary, Smith said, he means something like a ventilator. Under all circumstances, he said, regular care, such as food and water should be considered.

Interesting, huh? Right-to-lifers now believe food and water are considerations? That medical technology can now preclude, in some circumstances, at least, miraculous recovery? That the wishes of a parent do not even have to be ascertained before the state orders extraordinary measures withdrawn?

The baby is five months old. Had the judge issued a similar order six months ago Curt Smith would be calling her a murderer. Not without reason did Dante put political frauds in the two lowest circles of Hell.

Friday, October 7

What Got Into Her?

First, I could not, under pain of death, pick Katie Holmes out of a lineup or name one movie she graces, if any. Death would actually be preferable given the choice. I think I know she was on some teevee teen epic. The last teens I watched on teevee were on Dance Party USA, and that was mostly to laugh at the, uh, unusual camera angles. At least while my wife was in the room.

Like most Americans I could pick Tom Cruise out of a lineup, like I'd pick link off a sweater, and like most Americans I think that's where he belongs. In a lineup, I mean, not on my sweater. My knowledge of Mr. Cruise comes entirely against my will and without having ever spent a red cent on anything remotely connected with him. I watched Risky Business on teevee once, where, now that I think of it, he gave a convincing performance as a piece of lint, and I saw a few minutes of Mission Impossible, only because I happened to tune in during the thrilling train sequence, and by "thrilling", of course, I mean "the most offensive insult to the laws of physics and the intelligence of the average nine-year-old ever."

Anyway, Pepper brought up America's Favorite Train Wreck du Jour (that's two segues in a month!), and after I got over the remarkable resemblance to the public love fest of Lou Dobbs and Judy Miller (same denial of reality approaching the cosmic, same front-page fascination with people who'd be dropped down a mine shaft if we got to vote on it) I got to wondering if there was some deeper meaning in this. For one thing, doesn't this seem like some Bizarro World version of the Missing Blonde White Girl? We've had a near permanent vigil going on for the past two years or more, and now it's happening right before our eyes and yet there apparently are enough Americans playing along to rate the happy couple a front-page blurb on my morning paper. And now some form of impregnation has reportedly taken place, without the benefit of clergy as they used to say before that acquired a very different meaning. Arnuld wants to prevent same-sex partners from marrying, and he wants to lock up the self-same paparazzi he'd be preening in front of if he needed 50 bucks worth of publicity, but this young woman, this celebrity, fer chrissakes, gets treated like an Arkansas teenager abducted by aliens, and nobody does a flippin' thing about it.

We've had it, is all. And any time I think about that I think about Ronald Reagan. I think about the way Tom Lehrer sings, "Ronald Reagan??????" in the intro to his song about George Murphy, where you actually do hear the six question marks in his voice. I think about the joke that went around in '67 when he was running for Governor: "Jimmy Stewart for Governor. Ronald Reagan for his Best Friend." I think about the late-70s Steve Martin special that ran one summer in the Saturday Night Live slot, where a black screen came up, and then the words "President Ronald Reagan." Comic pause, and then the words, in subscript, "Think about it."

There was an opportunity. It was known to the headline writers as "Iran Contra". That was the time the narrator was supposed to come in and say, "All right, America. Lights up. Show's over. Hope you enjoyed your little fantasy." But it didn't happen. We went on ignoring anything unpleasant, and the Right was able to go on pretending a perpetual crusade to repeal the Sixties equalled progress, and the religious nuts got to go on pretending that they believed their own crapola in an effort to force everyone else to pretend to believe it too. And instead of real news we got celebrity news, on the grounds it was "safe" and wouldn't rile anybody up too much. And look at what celebrity news is now. Worse than the bad news we were avoiding in the first place.

Shut Up

Senate, House to Clash Over Military Bill
By LIZ SIDOTI Associated Press Writer
Delivering a rare wartime slap at Pentagon authority and President Bush...

Y'know, at one point we had over a half-million troops in Vietnam, killing and being killed by both an insurgency and the standing army of another country, and nobody every used that "wartime" crap. People did make arguments involving our being at war, but there was always the recognition that it wasn't declared. I wouldn't bother to quibble about "war", although that was never legally accurate, and at this point your war's over. But wartime, for fuck's sake. When was it ever wartime in America? When did anybody in this country sacrifice a toenail clipping for "Iraqi freedom"? Sure, we had our pockets picked, but that's more like business as usual.

Friday Shuffle

Van Morrison: Brown Eyed Girl
The Pogues: USA
Stereolab: The Flower Called Nowhere
Fats Waller: Hey You, Stop Kissin' My Sister
Deaf School: English Boys (With Guns)
Ry Cooder: Mexican Divorce
Sisters of Mercy: Ribbons
The Waterboys: Savage Earth Heart
Dan Bern: Tiger Woods
Adrian Belew: One of Those Days

Thursday, October 6

Quickie

Indiana State Senator Patricia Miller (Guess Which Party-Indianapolis) has abruptly withdrawn a proposal that would have prohibited homosexuals and unmarried persons from using medical assistance for procreation, just a day after it was made public.

Miller issued a one-sentence statement Wednesday saying: “The issue has become more complex than anticipated and will be withdrawn from consideration by the Health Finance Commission.” Miller chairs the committee, which is meeting this month to vote on legislative recommendations for next year's legislative "short session" and to examine how big a steak the legislative per diem will buy at St. Elmo's.

The proposed bill defined assisted reproduction as "causing pregnancy by means other than sexual intercourse, including intrauterine insemination, donation of an egg, donation of an embryo, in vitro fertilization and transfer of an embryo, and sperm injection." Various details, such as the status of a farm girl impregnated by a bullet ricocheting off the testicle of a nearby Confederate soldier, were yet to be hammered out.

Potential parents would have been required to prove they were married--to each other--and those who could not provide the necessary sperm and egg combo platter on their own would have been required to complete an assessment similar to that required of adoptive parents. From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
Some of the required information includes the fertility history of the parents, education and employment information, hobbies, personality descriptions, verification of marital status, child care plans, letter of reference and criminal history checks.

A description of the family lifestyle of the intended parents is also required, including individual participation in faith-based or church activities.


I don't know the percentage of outright loons on the Health Finance Commission, but if this thing had a chance of being recommended out of committee it wasn't going anywhere, not in an election year, not even in Indiana, where, frankly, we don't cotton to people sticking their noses in our you know whats when they're busy you know where. Still, the instantaneous spaying of Sen. Miller comes as something of a surprise; this sort of thing used to get a long lead before being yanked back to its own yard.

Yes, George, We Know. And Yes, George, We Know.

"I just can't tell you how important it is for us to guard executive privilege in order for there to be crisp decision making in the White House."

-former President George W. Bush



"[Bush] has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections."

-baseball Annie George F. Will

You Lost Me At "Hello"

"Journalist" Lou Dobbs scores the first public make-out session interview with "First Amendment Martyr" Judy Miller:
DOBBS: There are those liberals who've commented here, obviously in public, and I'm sure to you, saying, you know, she is protecting a conservative White House and really is not protecting sources, or upholding the public's right to know by doing so. She's really providing benefits to the conservative -- this from the liberals -- the conservative enemy. How does that make you feel? How do you respond?

Hey, if this is such a matter of principle, what's with the whorehouse shuffle? You can very well spin the issue so Judy was protecting "sources" if you wish, but what idiots tried to spin the issue as "benefitting the 'conservative enemy'", Lou? Names, please.

Of course the question wasn't really meant to be answered, because, well, nothing kills a romantic interlude like harsh lighting [emphasis mine]:

MILLER:...I didn't want to be in jail, but I knew that the principle of confidentiality was so important that I had to, because if people can't trust us to come to us to tell us the things that government and powerful corporations don't want us to know, we're dead in the water. The public won't know.

DOBBS: The public is certainly...

MILLER: The public won't know. That's why I was sitting in jail. For the public's right to know.

DOBBS: And all of us in this craft respect you immensely and are deeply grateful to you for so doing. It's an immense sacrifice.


Oh, ick. You could see their tongues and everything.