Sunday, July 31

TV Guide™: What Went Wrong?

By now you will have learned that TV Guide™, once the weekly publication with the greatest circulation in the country, nay, the world, will soon cease to publish actual television listings. It will no longer serve as our Guide. They are, as it were, getting rid of the difficult math section. The size will change, too: no longer will our wait in the supermarket checkout line be assuaged by thumbing through the two-to-eight Collector's Editions nestled snug in their racks, hardly bigger than one of those index cards that are bigger than real index cards. In jettisoning the Listings section the magazine will actually become larger, in defiance of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. We live in disturbing times.

Oh, I know there are scoffers out there among you. The snazzily dressed, technologically savvy, postmodern young urbanites with your digital recording and your onscreen menus; the libertarians who say the market determines value; and yes, even my fellow liberals who say Walter Annenberg was a slimy, scum-sucking, mobbed-up bastard of a Nixon crony who should be dug up and killed again just to make sure. To you TV Guide is antiquated, strictly for "squares", one more example of how The Man just don't get it. To which I reply, fine. I'm just an old Luddite who answered when his country called so that you'd one day be free to sneer at me on the street. I'm unfashionable, incontinently nostalgic, and my turn signal goes on for blocks without my noticing. Sure, what you call my analog ways aren't "cool", and I guess there's no place anymore for my near-encyclopedic command of Laugh-In cast members and British Invasion-era singles in today's world. You don't need the collected wisdom of the elderly anymore. You've got the internet.

Or maybe you're even one of those people who claims to despise television, to be too good for its anodyne amusements and lockstep "USA! USA!" 24-hour news coverage. And all I can say is, I'm sorry for you. Because once upon a time this country was about community, a Golden Age when all Americans, regardless of which Protestant denomination they belonged to, could choose one of two or three available sitcoms or Westerns, depending on reception, that showed us what the real America was like.

Look to yourself, Young American. Wake up, smell the coffee, and enjoy the mind-numbing celebrity-based chitchat on the morning news programs while you still can. Because just as my day is here, yours is coming. And trust me, it won't be pretty.

Saturday, July 30

"Here's Twenty-five Cents. Call Someone Who Cares. In Fact, Here's Fifty Cents. Call 'Em All." *

MSNBC Shifts Tucker Carlson to Late Night
By DAVID BAUDER AP Television Writer

July 29,2005 | NEW YORK -- MSNBC will shift Tucker Carlson's low-rated talk show out of prime-time in much of the country to 11 p.m. EDT, with ex-Fox News Channel anchor Rita Cosby filling his time slot...

Carlson's was the first new prime-time show developed since Rick Kaplan took over as MSNBC president last year. Kaplan said Friday the switch wasn't a demotion, that he had considered Carlson's program for 11 p.m. all along, but that "it would have been a mess" if he had said that publicly from the beginning....

"I couldn't be more psyched," said Carlson, who said he had unsuccessfully pushed CNN for an 11 p.m. show when he worked there.

Comments: 1) Tucker Carlson is the fucking Mir Space Station of television personalities. How is it that the only people who don't understand that are programming executives? 2) Why would anybody even bother to quote him? 3) Okay, I'm just outside that desirable 18-49 demo, but you aren't getting that or anybody else to watch. How can it be that with three 24 hour news channels that aren't FAUX there's not a single talk show I want to watch, and in fact there's only one--Olbermann's--that I can watch, and it's 90% crap.

* I wish I could remember whose joke that is.

Random News

He was in the middle of the frame when I hit the shutter release

• He's still cute

• We don't want to strangle him yet.

• My wife is giving off the hints she likes "Larry", which was his adoption name, especially when I told her that "larry" is a late 19th century noun meaning "(state of) confusion or excitement". No, I don't know whose dialect. Yes, I had to look it up.

• I looked it up because I'd said Wonder Woman had a Golden Lariat, and my wife said no, it was a Golden Lasso. Same thing, I said. No, a Lariat is a thing you wear around your neck, she says. Turns out she was thinking of lanyard, which, technically, is not a thing you wear around your neck, although it can be.

• I only know that Wonder Woman had a Golden Lariat, which made people she lassoed tell the truth, because somebody did a gag about it on the old Doctor Katz show.

• Last week I said the only solid color cats I'd owned were white. Inexplicably I'd forgotten about the black Siamese I had in college. Solid black, crook in the tail, Siamese morphology and vocalisms. He is the spitting image of that cat in facial features and habitual actions. It's sort of eerie. This week I'm gonna search for a picture.

• Got a clean bill of health from the vet. She thinks he's part Oriental, which would be unfortunate as that is the ugliest breed there is. I think it's more likely he's part Siamese, since Siamese are more likely to be wandering around impregnating naive young Domestic shorthairs.

• She also said he's five months old, not the three the rescue people said. I knew they were off by at least one. He's already started teething.

• Most endearing kitten tricks: 1) he's a toter. Likes soft play balls he can run around the house with in his mouth, to the merriment of observers; and 2) he's still too small for stairs so he has to hop them, and he has to lauch himself from the second step when descending or he'll smack his head on the floor. To his credit, he learned that after one attempt.

• Stinky is none too happy about sharing his oxygen, and he's disturbed by the construction work in his basement, but there haven't been any fights. The kitten gives him a wiiiiide berth. Like all adult cats, Stink is personally insulted by the kitten's lack of dignity and eagerness to please.

Friday, July 29

Friday Shuffle, Obscurities From the Basement Edition

I've been kittenproofing the basement for the last three days, and I'm probably a third of the way done. Framing and panelling the open end of the stairs, blocking off access to the furnace, sump pump, and chimney, plus securing anything else he can get into (which is considerable) and a general clean-up while I'm at it. Part of that was refiling the twenty or so LPs that were indolently left atop the CD carousel. That effort, and the sort of peevishness that comes from hours of inhaling cobwebs, suggested the game of Stump Corndog without dipping into the stuff that's unfairly obscure.

Cactus World News The Bridge
Mid-80s. Produced by fellow Dubliner Bono, if I recall, and I'm not going back down into the basement to check that. Good anthemic rock in the U2 mold.

Joe "King" Carrasco and the Crowns Caca de Vaca
Late 70s. Tex-Mex "Nuevo Wavo". Doug Sahm and ? and the Mysterians played for laughs, mostly, and not too funny at this point.

Cock Robin When Your Heart Is Weak
Mid-80s. Peter Kingsbery still makes music and he's got a gorgeous voice. It's more Duran-Durany than I remembered. The French love it.

Deaf School Taxi
Late 70s. Liverpool art school kids who made witty caberet/ Kurt Weill New Wave pop instead of witty garage band New Wave pop. Resolutely non-commercial. Highly enjoyable.

Gruppo Sportivo Girls Never Know
Late 70s. Dutch New Wavers. Funny and geeky. Bette Bright of Deaf School sang with them for a time.

Klark Kent Theme for Kinetic Ritual
1980. Pseudonymous slumming popstar from one of the biggest bands ever. There's a prize for whoever names him without googling.

Jona Lewie (You'll Always Find Me In The) Kitchen At Parties
Late 70s. Probably the least known member of the Stiff Records stable. Oddball pre-synth rock synth rock. I think he has a song that's a perennial Christmas favorite in the UK.

Sadistic Mika Band Time Machine
Mid-70s. Japanese rockers. Roxy Music influenced. Vocals in Japanese. One of those albums I bought to drive people out of the house when the party was over.

John Simon King Lear's Blues (Cordelia)
1972. Better known as the sixth member of the Band and producer of Music from Big Pink. This one's got a remarkable studio band: Dave Sanborn, the Brecker brothers, Howard Johnson, Dave Poe, Dave Holland, Simon's piano and his cheerily downbeat songs. School of Can't Sing/Can Phrase vocals ala Dylan and Randy Newman. Unfairly forgotten gem.

Woodentops Good Thing
Mid-80s. One of the best first albums of all time. These guys don't sound like anybody else, and they still sound fresh. I listened to the entire first side, which is why I'm still typing at 2 AM.

Young Marble Giants Wurlitzer Jukebox!
1980. Welsh trio. I always considered this the first post-punk album. Minimalist with zombie vocals. Resolutely non-commercial and undanceable. Still kinda shocking, actually.

Thursday, July 28

It's D. Sidhe Appreciation Day

from comments at World O'Crap:

"I can't decide if that was brilliantly witty or just plain meanspirited..."

Thanks, D. Those are the two nicest things anybody's ever said about me.

CC: Blogosphere

July 28, 2005

Dr. Michael Griffin
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Johnson Space Center
Houston, TX

Dear Dr. Griffin:

Enclosed please find:

1-calculator, good condition, the "7" sticks sometimes
1-jar Tang orange drink, unopened
1-reflecting "space" blanket, mint

I'd like my tax money back, please. Cashier's check preferred.


J.B.S. Riley

Wednesday, July 27


Yesterday was the 15th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Channel 8 covered the celebration held at the Arts Garden downtown. I didn't see the other channels do so.

They interviewed Ric Edwards, the ADA director for the Department of Natural Resoures. Mr. Edwards lost the use of his legs in an auto accident in 1970, when he was fifteen.

I was transfixed. Here was a guy who spoke simply and eloquently about his life being turned upside down, and about the consequences he faced because all this happened before the federal government got involved. And because the reporter kept out of the way and let him talk, and didn't ask him to describe the emotions she'd already announced he should be feeling.

“The world's changed dramatically for somebody like me.

"The thing that I think is most important about the American with Disabilities Act isn't the curb cuts, or the access to buildings or even the employment issues. It's simply an education, an increased awareness that people with disabilities are capable of doing anything that anybody else would like to do. In fact, folks with disabilities have the same dreams as anybody else has because they are people first. They are people with dreams, hopes, aspirations. They simply have a disability as well."

I turned to my wife. "Y'know, every other frickin' day there's a 'heath report' on some new plastic surgery technique or wrinkle cream, and they stick a microphone in front of some self-absorbed thirty-or-forty something with terminal consumeritis. And here's this guy who has a real story to tell, about real problems and how we can really make a difference in people's lives by legislating compassion and inclusion. What's more, he's better spoken than anybody who works for this outfit. And you'll probably see him again. In ten years."

She switched channels shortly after, and within five minutes Channel 13's Health Beat or Health Scence or whatever it is spent five minutes on a sunblock/wrinkle cream the FDA won't let you have.

And for those of you keeping score, we also got to see the Governor cutting a ribbon somewhere. He's about to junket off to Asia on an economic mission. I think he ought to concentrate on landing some ribbon manufacturers and the makers of giant novelty scissors.

Daily Regimen

I don't know why. I was swallowing the first of two handfuls this evening and I decided to list it. Feel free to chime in.

Vitamins: A, B complex, C, E
Calcium & Magnesium
Saw Palmetto
Ginkgo biloba
at least 3c. yogurt containing S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, and Bifidus, or the equivalent in tablet form

Aside from the yogurt and aspirin I have absolutely no idea if any of this stuff helps, though I'm reasonably convinced the 5-HTP and Ginkgo biloba improve mental functioning. It's impossible to say for sure because my thinking has been muddled since at least 1958. I'm not even sure when some of these were added, and I used to think vitamins were a complete waste of money. But then, I'm not on any prescription medication, a situation which rather astonished 'em at the hospital a couple years ago.

Tuesday, July 26


• I do try to keep the talk of Indiana politics to a minimum, or at least constrained to the Universal, to the Hoosier in all of us, the inner child that enjoys a good high-speed car crash and hopes to get that GED someday. But damned if Emperor Governor Mitch "Is It Even Hotter That Close To The Sidewalk?" Daniels doesn't do something every week I can't overlook. The latest was actually from the end of last week, but got lost in the latest round of Time Zone Roulette. Candidate Mitch toured the state in an RV. Sorta like Lamar Alexander's plaid lumberjack shirt schtick, if his shirt had been 40-feet long and got 2 mpg on the highway. Anyway, the Mitchmobile had apparently seen better days by the time he was elected, and the fine folks at the Monaco Corporation donated the use of a new one to the state. It's been christened RV 1, just in case you'd like to test your gag reflex.

So last week Mitch takes his rolling gated community to a Republican fundraiser, and Democrats cry foul. And Daniels--have I mentioned he's short and has a chip on his shoulder?--fired back about "partisan attacks" and said the Democrats have a guy whose job it is to "throw mudballs" at him every morning. Mitch, that's just because with you as governor there's so much mud around just going to waste. It may not be a big issue, but it is pretty goddam clear you can't use state property for fundraising purposes. Mitch says he was advised by his legal counsel "before, during and after" that the trip was okey-dokey. This is presumably the same crack legal team which was caught flat-footed by the requirement that the Governor live in the Governor's mansion. Look, I got no problem if you wanna use the Fugs Defense, or the Pretzel Gambit, or the It Was Like That When I Got Here Misdirection Play, but how about, one time, just shutting the fuck up?

• Oh, and that fundraiser? It was for State Representative Troy Woodruff, R-Vincennes, the freshman legislator Daniels talked into reneging on his promise to vote against Daylight Savings Time.

• The Mighty Atom never misses a photo op, either. He's been at more store openings than Tony Orlando, a job that used to go the the Lieutenant Governor. Today he joined Earvin "Magic" Johnson at the opening of an inner-city Starbucks, which rated five minutes on the local news. The good thing about that is that Mitch is so diminutive of stature you have to look close in order to spot him.

• And by the way I will never forget that Magic, one day after announcing he was retiring due to AIDS, went around screaming "I'm not gay!" Which would have been a vile enough thing to do if it were true, but y'know, Earvin, I'm still waiting to hear how many other straight stud athletes from the 80s were infected because they got more ass than a toilet seat, as we said in junior high.

• Headline for James Taylor story in the Indianapolis Star: "Singer focuses on music, not frills". Damn, I was just going to see him spit flaming lighter fluid.


Saturday: Cedar Waxwing in the nearly dead maple out front. I'd never seen one. My wife says they were common in her youth. I grew up across the street from a dairy farm. The birds that shared my world--Eastern meadowlark, red-winged blackbird, Northern bobwhite, brown-headed cowbird, Baltimore oriole, bobolink--I never see anymore, except for the rare feeder visit from a red-wing or the sight of a meadowlark on a farm fence on our way to a hike. Its song, or the rasp of the red-wing, is instantly nostalgic. Wish I could go to sleep on a warm spring night listening to the bobwhites again. And that train whistle off in the distance.

Sunday: First sighting of a clearwing hummingbird moth on the bee balm. A real hummingbird has been around, and spotted at the feeder once or twice. We never get much activity until right before migration, and then it's usually one aggressive female who chases off all competition. We counted five at one time one day, but only the one got the nectar. For you Westerners it's the ruby-throated hummingbird. If we see any of the seven species you folks have, we know they're lost.

All Summer: Happy increase in honeybees, now in its third year. They don't care much for bee balm. I'm not sure if that's because it's covered with bumblebees or not. Five or six reliably on the catnip flowers in the last few days though.

Monday, July 25

I Double-Checked the Date and Sure Enough, It Says "2005"

For whatever reason, Sunday morning, after I'd braved impending triple-digit misery index numbers to do actual work in the garden, I sat down with my second cup of tea and grabbed the A section of the New York Times. I rarely read the Times for actual news, which I prefer to get from reliable sources. But suddenly there it was in my hand. Maybe I'd failed to "hydrate". I can't say the Channel 8 Weather Bunny didn't warn me.

[Incidentally, I used to think they said "Be sure to hydrate" instead of "Drink water" because it sounds more scientific, but it recently occurred to me that the latter could be construed as endorsing a product. The weather bunny also suggested I wear light-colored clothing, so I skipped the black-leather gardening chaps this weekend.]

The thing that kept occurring to me as I read on was, "Weren't we supposed to ask this question back when this news broke?" There's an insurgency in Iraq now? And our presence may, in fact, be helping recruit more terrorists? Military recruiting is down? And nobody's calling for sacrifice on the Home Front? A question has arisen about whether George Bush really wanted to get to the bottom of the Plame affair in 2003?

So now I'm wondering if Judy Miller had been hiding everybody's mail for the last few years.

Sunday, July 24

This Is Not News. This Is 21st Century Bear Baiting.

The first coverage I saw was on CNN. Yes, my wife was at the controls once again, channels going by at eyebat speed while I was trying to read. So I was already slightly irritated. I admit when it comes to irritation you have to grade me on a curve.

A couple years back the fine folks at Comcast decided to rearrange all the channels for our convenience, grouping channels by "type". Naturally they did a half-assed job, and that sort of division really makes no sense unless you're going to do some maintenance from time to time, which they aren't, but for our purposes it explains why all the cable news channels are at the upper end of the dial, the place where she stops, turns around, and heads back the way she came. And one of the things guaranteed to irritate me more than using the teevee as a manually-operated strobe light is seeing cable news. And she stopped on CNN, and here's the delightful feature story on the poor heartbroken crew that caught an 1191 pound tiger shark, only to arrive six minutes late to claim the $85,000 prize. Later I got to see the same footage and the same "gee whiz wouldja look at that big fish" coverage on local news, and again, somehow, on CBS.

This is not a bleeding heart issue. If it were not the case that large coastal sharks are overfished this would simply be more disgraceful behavior from Homo yahooensis. But they are overfished, in no small part because of some stupid thirty-year-old movie and the generation of mindless sensationalism in its wake. If in the 21st century we have not reached the point where fishermen themselves are the first to protect ecological balance then those big brains of ours serve only to increase the price of hats. I'm sure the relevant laws and regulations were observed as scrupulously as they usually are, maybe a bit more so as we could hope such whoop-de-dos might draw an increased amount of scrutiny.

But that isn't my point. What beyond slack-jawed gawking was the point of the story? If you can't give a report on PETA's activities without calling it "the controversial animal rights group" then this shit is controversial too. This magnificent monster was swimming in the ocean where God put him, and he's killed by a bunch whose greatest risk is the ice will melt and the beer will get warm, and it's news? Congratulations on helping to breed a whole new generation who'll want to go out and kill things to get their pictures on teevee. When they jump into the water naked and wrestle the thing barehanded, call me. Then it'll be a sport.

Then there's the local news angle. I saw it on the CBS affiliate, WISH-TV, which was obviously concerned that some local jaw might go undropped in the central Indiana audience. Debby Knox read the story. Debby was Indianapolis' first female anchor. Is this why? So someone minus a Y chromosome can read whatever the suits think will sell toilet paper? Debby, do you personally go out and slaughter animals for sport? For the sake of winning valuable prizes and fifteen minutes of fame?

Was this your career goal, to become the barker at a geek show? To read this crap in between breathless updates on the new CBS fall schedule and touting the latest breakthroughs in vanity surgeries under the rubric of "health" reporting? So you could cash a check without ID anywhere in Central Indiana? Job well done.

Saturday, July 23

I Think She May Have Been Living With Me For Too Long

This is one of my favorite garden views, looking back toward the house at the potted plants on the deck, best viewed from the comfort of the garden bench at the back of the yard, but that pic obliterates all the detail for posting purposes. As it is the sharp-eyed may note that Caged Barbie currently resides at left center, though there's no way you can catch the pheromonic admirer in the person of that guy from Scooby Doo perched atop her feminist manifesto prison bars. He showed up a couple months ago. To the right you might just make out the yard-sale alabaster statuary my wife came home with a couple weekends ago. I went out this morning to check on the results of last night's storm and found this:

She'd picked up a fast-food salad with sliced tomato and hard-boiled eggs last evening.

As I've said before, these things happen completely unannounced, which adds to the humor when I find them, but it's slowly dawned on me that I'm a lot jumpier in the garden than I used to be.

Friday, July 22

Indifferent Housekeeping Seal of Approval

Okay, we are neither one of us exactly neat freaks in this household. Don't tell my wife I said that. In second grade I had a praying mantis cocoon hatch out in my desk--it had been there for about three months and gravitated to the back behind the books and I'd forgotten all about it. About two dozen little mantids were swarming over the potato chips that were in there for snack time. The teacher killed them all with a ruler. If I'd know she was prone to hysterics I wouldn't have put the thing there in the first place. I am somewhat better now but, honestly, not that much better.

New kitten means moving furniture you never move and childproofing outlets and getting wiring up and protected, so ya might as well clean back there, because the next kitten could be four or five years away. So here are a few recommendations. Because after all, who are you going to listen to--those consumer reports scientists in their pristine labs, or a guy who regularly does a half-assed job and then has to make up for it?

Dyson DC 14 Animal vacuum It's expensive. There's no cord rewind. The space-age styling gets old (my Poor Wife is supposed to paint those kewl flames on it, but hasn't gotten around to it). There's all sorts of little buttons and hidden releases to swap around attachments that take about two weeks to master. And it's just a flat-out remarkable vacuum and worth every penny, plus you can park it at the foot of the stairs and vacuum all the way to the top with the hose. And it picks up cat hair.

Those furniture slider things Work like a charm. Big teevee, large center speaker, two vcrs, dvd player and the table they all inhabit move with one hand.

Swiffer wetjet mop I hate gizmos like this, but I really hate the typical household mop, and buying a string mop and bucket and ringer and trying to lug all that around the furniture's out of the question, so I gave this thing a shot and it's a whiz. I'm not too crazy about using disposable pads but it gets into corners and picks stuff up really well and you never have to dry mop. Not much room for painting kewl flames on it, though.

Simple green Soap. Buy the gallon jug and a sprayer bottle and dilute it however you want. I've got simple green, ammonia, bleach, and baking soda under the sink, and the house would be spotless if I'd get around to using them.

Web furnace filters I've always used expensive filters. The late Hoover shed enough that you could knit a new cat every twenty-four hours. The Absorber filter is good enough that the difference was noticeable. If you don't have pets the regular filter can be washed and reused.

Nature's Miracle Stain and Odor Remover and Litter Box Treatment Trust me.

Friday Shuffle, Judicial Review Edition

Everly Brothers Poor Jenny
Moon Martin (My Baby's) Gun Shy
Junior Brown Highway Patrol
Tom Waits Walking Spanish
Bessie Smith Send Me To The 'Letric Chair
Steve Earle Devil's Right Hand
John Hiatt Tennessee Plates
Bobby Fuller Four I Fought The Law
Bukka White Parchman Farm
Was/Not Was Dad, I'm In Jail

Thursday, July 21

Now That's What I Call Blogging, Vol VI

eRobin puts the John Roberts Sale-a-bration in its proper context.

Filling the Much-Needed Gap in Mid-Week Cat Blogging

Stinky would like you to know he's resting comfortably. It's what he's best at.

And thanks for your good wishes. Dimbulb is doing okay, not quite back to normal but out of the woods. We're not forcing his introduction to the new kid, and he hasn't shown a whole lot of interest in what's going on behind the guest room door. Young Random, naturally, is a tiny bullet train and was in danger of having the door closed on his head when you entered or exited while trying to keep him inside. So I bought some of that clear plastic carpet protector stuff your grandma uses and velcro'd it to the hall doorways, and he gets to play out there sometimes. And Stinky's observed this a few times, and he still hisses at him. Which is a laugh riot, because this is one laid back cat. I don't think I'd seen him hiss three times in ten years. And at first he was doing the whole ears-back thing, and the transformation was astonishing. He's a big cat and he looked mean. It was like having Mr. Rogers thump you in the chest.

Random goes to the vet for the rest of his shots on Friday, so we'll learn if he's defective, but he's whip-smart and remarkably well-adjusted. Kudos to the fine folks at Tails-a-Waggin' shelter, but please change your name.

It's a Great Time To Be a Hoosier Except Nobody Knows What a Hoosier Is and We Still Can't Decide What Time It Is Either

Emperor Governor Mitch "I Am Standing Up" Daniels was bailed out by his old colleague Norm Minetta earlier this week when the Department of Transportation said it would consider a switch to Central Time for Indiana on a county-by-county basis, instead of holding hearings on the statewide switch Daniels had campaigned for. Indiana is one of two states in the nation which is not in a single time zone.

You may recall that the diminutive architect of the first three wildly effective Bush budgets ramrodded passage of a Daylight Savings Time bill in the last legislative session. The proposal turned out to be unexpectedly divisive, and Daniels' last-minute arm twisting of one freshman legislator from the Illinois border who had promised to vote against led to the first public tar-and-feathering in the last half century. There's some speculation (O wicked times!) that Minetta's decision was designed to rescue that part of Daniels' nose which hasn't already been bitten off when he stuck it somewhere it didn't belong. But now several supporters of the DST bill who voted in favor in anticipation Daniels would spearhead the switch to Central Time he'd promised have joined the ranks of the royally pissed off.

Daniels, who seems to be backing off that pledge, declined to be interviewed, but issued a statement expressing his appreciation that Mineta "has found a way to help this process move forward," thus proving once and for all that he is the same Mitch Daniels who worked in the Bush White House.

The best part of the story is that every local news report references the Association of Indiana Drive-In Theatre Owners, a political powerhouse if ever there was one.

Speaking of local news, the hairdos were just dissolving into puddles of pure excitement this afternoon with the news that John Roberts is one of our own, just a boy who ran barefoot through the corn and shot hoops against the barn after the milkin' was done. Well, not really. Roberts' family moved to Long Beach, a tony little Lake Michigan resort community, when his steel-company executive father was transferred to the Region. His boarding school nestles in the woods nearby.

Okay, I'm enured to this Hoosier Connection crap--people in this state claim as their own anybody who's had his picture in the paper and was once rerouted to the Indianapolis airport, and Axl Rose could still have a career here if he wants one. And you're probably already as sick of this Supreme Court Nominee Grand Opening Sale-a-bration as I am. However, I would like to invoke the Fireworks Purchase written test. Anyone interviewed for an I Knew Him When segment should be required to first name four current Supreme Court justices. Though that would have led to five minutes of dead air last evening.

About fifteen years ago Indianapolis dedicated a memorial to its namesake WWII cruiser. The Indianapolis, flagship of the Fifth Fleet and once host to FDR, was famously sunk in the closing days of the war without the Navy noticing for three days. I donated money to the construction, and I went to the 50th anniversary. If there were any dry eyes in the house mine weren't among them. So this weekend I open the paper and find an ad for the 60th reunion later this month. Among the festivities will be a presentation at the Westin Hotel by...Olie Fucking North. The men who survived three days of shark attacks in the Pacific and then saw their captain scapegoated by the brass will be honored by a convicted lying scumbag and a disgrace to the uniform.

Wednesday, July 20

Punk Bonzai #4: Diorama for the Kansas State Science Fair

The Court

Just a couple of points to make here, because 1) I'm busy and bone-weary and 2) my unlettered opinions about the Court, for what little they're worth, are, well, legalistic, simplistic, and hopelessly idealistic. For example, I believe that Bush was honor bound to nominate someone more moderate than himself, as that reflects the country at large. That is not to say that I believe one can use "Bush" and "honor" in the same sentence and keep a straight face.

When I was growing up it seemed a truism that the men who ascended to that lofty perch were changed by the experience. They became, over time, more concerned about the abuses of governmental power and more intent on making the common platitudes about The Land of the Free operate for every citizen. The laundry list of decisions from my youth which are despised by the Right--Brown, Miranda, Furman v. Georgia, Engel v. Vitale, Roe v. Wade--were not the result of litmus-test appointees finding for a temporally advantaged political position. In contrast, today we have two justices who are little more than careerist politicians, and decisions which sound like results from fixed Fifties quiz shows. And it's not surprising, because we have today on the Court the equivalent of fixing the intelligence around the policy; the Right's opposition to stare decisis is unprincipled and intellectually hollow. As a present-day argument, textualism and originalism have the same connection to reality as has the imaginary Ozzie and Harriet America of the Reaganauts' wet dreams.

The President of the United States, ladies and gentlemen, after floating a couple of different names in the afternoon, went on prime-time fucking teevee to announce a Supreme Court nominee, like he was introducing the newest manufactured American Idol, and said the proceedings should be conducted with "dignity". That's another word which shouldn't be used in the same sentence with his name. There may be solutions to our current political cesspool, even eventually to our political Court, but there's no known cure for mass stupidity.

Tuesday, July 19

Meditation On Finding That Pictures of Adults Twisting or Frugging Are Now the Comically Anachronistic Photo Choice of Greeting Card Manufacturers

Okay, this is still a little before my time--I was barely in grade school when Chubby Checker hit the Big Time--but still it occurred to me:

A man my age should either dispense wisdom or candy.

Anybody want some candy?

William Childs Westmoreland, 1914-2005

The New York Times obit continues the rewrite of the history of America's war in Vietnam. I know, I should have warned you to sit down before I revealed that.

Okay, okay, early on they quote Gen. Bruce Palmer, one of the few upper echelon officers who saw that war clearly and yet didn't suffer an end to his career because of it, as saying the war was "the first clear failure" in American military history. But that's a quote. Which reduces it to a matter of opinion. I suppose you could argue about the "first" business--Woodrow Wilson's sending US troops into Mexico in 1914 and into Russia in support of the Whites in 1918 come immediately to mind. (What? You didn't know the US intervened militarily in the Russian Revolution?) But the clear failure of the US in Vietnam is not open to debate, no matter how fervently some might wish it.

And yes, they quote several others, both military critics of Westmoreland's leadership and historians critical of US conduct, as well as some passages from Robert McNamara's 1995 mea culpa. But how could they do less? Continuing to portray a war fought forty years ago as a matter of unsettled debate and not (largely) settled history is disingenuous, and it's done as a sop to political forces which don't want to hear the truth. It does not require a "critic" of the war to note that Westmoreland's attrition strategy failed. It failed. It's not a matter of opinion that our "air mobility" was ineffective. It was. In the clearest possible terms. Returning to the language of controversy ignores the salient lesson of that war, that massive application of military force does not guarantee victory on the battlefield this side of visiting nuclear winter on the globe. It's a lesson we chose to write ourselves out of after the fact, and our failure to learn it is clear in Iraq. We have an entire generation which has grown up being told that it is impossible for the US military to suffer defeat, that our loss in Vietnam was the result of domestic politics and somehow not "real". And three decades later we send an insufficient force to the Middle East with no plans for anything other than a rousing success.

And someone please explain this to me:
The overthrow and killing of President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam in a coup by officers in November 1963...

The paper which published the Pentagon Papers now maintains that it was a coup by ARVN colonels that deposed Diem. The mind reels.

We dishonor 57,000 dead Americans when we turn their cause into fable. And what's more, we make it that much easier to throw away more lives in empty, dishonest, and ill-considered international adventures. RIP, General.

Monday, July 18

Matt Cooper

Just for a change of pace I was gonna write a thoughtful piece about this, but recent cat-related events plus 5 inches of rain on Saturday conspired against me. So I'd just like to note what Poor Matt Cooper was up to. He was vetting a Time story on Social Security to the WH political advisor. After he was "warned off" the Plame story, he passed the warning on to his editor. No one is ever going to convince me that these guys thought they were actually considering genuine facts rather than shaping the news to suit Uncle Karl. The supposed "nepotism" argument was as fucking full of holes when Rove gave it to Cooper as it is today, and everybody knows it. And if I were a gambling man I'd lay dollars to doughnuts that Novak sang like choirboy, and Cooper's eleventh-hour reprieve came after he called Rove and told him he was singing, too, so he might as well release him. First Amendment my Aunt Fanny.

Because Every Day Is A Good Day For Cat Blogging

Official First Day Portrait

Name: Random (provisional; cats don't get their official names around here until sometime after teething, which has resulted in at least one vet visit when I couldn't remember what name they had for cat I'd brought.)

Location: Guest Room

Sex: male, already neutered
Age: 3 months
Catalog description: pretty much all the features of the larger models in a smaller, high-energy package

Acquired from: very nice animal rescue people who had an adoption show at one of those big box pet places to which suburbanites bring their poop-eating Irish wolfhounds in the belief that animals just love to shop at specialty stores

Adoption delayed by: being in line behind a woman who wanted to have her selection declawed and chose to argue the point

Color: medium gray. I've never had a solid-color cat before, except white, and since the guest room is green I thought he'd look good in there. You may notice from the pic that he seems to have been trimmed in silver fore and aft, and there's three shades of gray on his face. Plus faint tabby markings on his legs which are a little less prominent than in the picture, and a very faint tabby bullseye on his flanks. His two brothers were uniquely colored, too: one had more tabby markings but was a lot more silver, and the other was calico-patterned but without any cream or orange. Random was the biggest of the three.

Likes: cat toys, running around at high speed, the wastebasket
Has Already Developed: taste for human blood
Dislikes: getting his nails clipped after developing the above

Despite decades of experience, what went ill-considered: the amount of work involved in kitten-proofing a house that hasn't had one in a decade.

Hasn't been formally introduced to: Mr. Stinky, aka The Cat Who Refused To Urinate. My wife took him to the vet last week while I was in Michigan, and they found crystals in his urine. In a follow-up phone call the vet suggested putting him on Science Diet CD. By Saturday morning there was blood in his urine. The vet said keep an eye on him, the CD's breaking up the crystals and they've probably cut him some. By Saturday night he was going downstairs to the litter box constantly but producing no urine. He was restless. His bladder felt full to me. At 3 AM I decided that was enough and took him to the emergency hospital (motto: Please slip credit card under the door, then ring bell).

The late Lowell (Boy) had FUS and got blocked three times, each time on Friday evenings meaning the emergency place is the only option, so I know 1) it's serious and 2) I'm about to pay through the nose, which I understand is just the cost of having 24/7 availability. But it turned out he wasn't blocked, he just has a tiny bladder (in a 14 pound, not overweight cat), and he urinated while being examined, so he wasn't catheterized and I wasn't soaked. But the vet there thought he shouldn't have gone on CD quite so abruptly (I was mixing it half-and-half with his regular food). Which is about the tenth time in my life I've had two vets tell me two different things in the same week. God knows if I could afford healthcare for myself I'd get a second opinion every time.

Two things about the emergency vet's: 1) when I got there they were watching Animal 911 on teevee; 2) there was an office person, two lab assistants, plus the vet there, and they were all young women--the vet looked no more than 23--and they were absolutely captivated by Stinky, as most people are when he can't run away from them. "He's so handsome!" said the office person. "He's so handsome!" said one of the lab techs. And he is, plus he's endearingly dim-witted. I was turning on the charm myself, and if I wasn't such a good moral Midwesterner I'd be writing this to Penthouse Letters right now.

Sunday, July 17


Ky. Kills 'Mr. Smiley' License Plates
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- That smiling sun on Kentucky's license plates was just a bit too cheerful for most drivers: Now Mr. Smiley's headed for the recycling bin....

Despite the criticisms, the smiling sun won the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association 2003 award for best license plate, beating Maine's lobster by one vote.

Speaking of justifiable road rage, I can now confirm for three more states that the more faux-patriotic geegaws are found on a vehicle, the more likely it is that the driver is utterly unaware that anyone shares his roadway with him.

My Poor Wife kept some notes for me on local goings-on in my absence. My favorite was the local news report (obviously taken from the wires) about the young girl who suffered cardiac arrest after riding a ride at Disney World. The reporter dutifully noted that state officials from some agency or other (my wife didn't quite catch it) were "monitoring" the inspection of the ride. Interesting choice of words there, in that Disney is beholden to no government in the state of Florida except its own; if Disney decides someday to line every seat with broken glass there's nothing any state inspector can do about it. Yet these powerless functionaries get invited to watch the proceedings in an obvious PR move, and it not only gets reported as news, it gets phrased in a way that suggests the state is in control.

In a similar vein there's the recent report from Carmel, In, Indianapolis' obnoxious Republican wing-nut rich uncle to the north, that sewer bills are about to be raised 9% as part of the city's continuing effort to annex the rest of Indiana block by block. The Star's Lesley Rogers Barrett wants to make sure you get some historical perspective in the first sentence:

Carmel residents face a 9 percent increase in their city sewer bills, but the proposed monthly rate is still lower than what it was a decade ago.

Does such information belong in this sort of story? Probably. Does it generally appear before the first punctuation mark? Only when it's Republicans raising taxes to fund their One World Government schemes.

T-ball Coach Allegedly Paid To Have Boy Hurt
PITTSBURGH (AP)--A T-ball coach allegedly paid one of his players $25 to hurt an 8-year-old mentally disabled teammate so he wouldn’t have to put the boy in the game, police said Friday.

Mark R. Downs Jr., 27, of Dunbar, is accused of offering one of his players the money to hit the boy in the head with a baseball, police said. Witnesses told police Downs didn’t want the boy to play in the game because of his disability.

Police said the boy was hit in the head and in the groin with a baseball just before a game, and didn’t play, police said....

Eric Forsythe, the president of the R.W. Clark Youth Baseball League, said Downs had two daughters on the T-ball team.

League organizers investigated accusations against Downs before the T-ball season ended earlier this month but could not prove that he did anything wrong. If Downs is convicted of any crime, he won’t be allowed to be a coach next year, Forsythe said. [emphasis mine]

Aw, c'mon. Have a heart.

Saturday, July 16

Three Days of Peace, Solitude, and Questionable Personal Hygiene Practices

This was my third trip (first solo) to UP Michigan's Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the second-best hiking destination in the Midwest after Isle Royale National Park, and probably the best for scenery. Ninety-two square miles, with sixteen miles of Lake Superior shoreline, huge stands of old-growth hemlock, pine, and hardwoods, several waterfalls, rapids, two gorgeous lakes and a large lily pond, and, most importantly, places for the shirtless dads and their broods to park the RVs where you never see them.

In the absence of Vioxx my Poor Wife's knees won't take this sort of strain, but she was kind enough to forego my company for the week, though perhaps a tad overeager. So she stayed home and got rained on all week (at least she didn't have to water plants) and I made the twelve hour overnight drive by myself. I've never figured out a better way to do it--stopping en route would just mean getting up early to finish the trip, and getting there later means you're more likely to run into the one social problem the wilderness area does have, the packs of Boy Scouts like miniature dismounted cavalry. "Wearing a uniform in the woods" is definitely one of my turn-offs.

So I started off a bit worse for wear, but took the couple-mile detour to the Lake of the Clouds overlook to get a natural grandeur pick-me-up, then took to the Lake Superior trail. You can't really see the lake through the underbrush for about the first four miles, it's just a blinding bluewhite in your peripheral vision, but I had the trail to myself and plunged ahead until I got to the clearing at Lone Rock, which, oddly enough, is a big rock a couple hundred yards offshore. I watched the gulls and made some tea and stuck my feet in the sub-60º water. It'd be a good spot for the sleep-deprived middle-aged hiker to set up camp, except there are two "rustic" campsites with firerings nearby, and those things draw Boy Scouts the way George Bush draws evangelicals. So I dried my feet, tossed a few interesting rocks in the pack for my wife, and pressed on to a more secluded overnight spot. I found one with a view of the lake and enough open sky to get a view of the stars from my tent. Which turned out to be a worthless exercise, since I fell asleep the minute I crawled inside.

I didn't bother with a sleeping bag, just a ground pad and a flannel sheet, and I hadn't put the tent fly up since I was gonna enjoy the stars, so naturally I caught a brief rain squall in the face at 4:30 AM, jumped up, grabbed the fly and a couple of clothes pins off the line where I'd hung my socks and shirt and clamped the thing on. It rained for all of about two minutes, but I was awake so I went down to the bank and ate breakfast and waited for it to get light enough to get back on the trail.

In another couple miles I turned my back on Superior, but just at that spot, thirty feet above me in a tree, was either a Golden eagle or a young Baldy, and I stood there enjoying his company before he launched a prodigious torrent of birdshit about ten yards. Fortunately we were at right angles, though when I thought about it later getting shit on would have made a better story. He finally flew off over the lake and I turned to spend the day winding around the Little Carp River, past three waterfalls, around the lily pond, and off to find a spot to pitch the tent at Mirror Lake so I could go to sleep with the loons. Hearing loons at night is the best wilderness experience there is. Isle Royale is the best place for that--I came close one night there to getting up and asking them to keep it down. I was hoping I might get to hear wolves as well. They're thankfully on the ascendancy in the UP, but if there were any nearby they weren't feeling talkative.

The Porkies are black bear country, too, but I've never seen one. I'm scrupulously clean about foodstuffs, but I never hang my food. I put everything in two stuff sacks and find a spot 100 yards or more away that's low lying and leave it there. So far that's thwarted everything.

Five trails meet around Mirror Lake, and I hadn't decided which way to go until breakfast. I headed off for Trap Falls, the last of the big waterfalls in the wilderness area, which was the only time I ran into other humans in any number, including a warren of Scouts. (Is there a collective noun for Boy Scouts? I propose " a meritocracy".) Fixed a little lunch, doubled back, followed a beaver for about a quarter-mile of the trail, then brought it on home through wetlands full of chanterelles and then the most astonishing old-growth hemlocks. One more trip to the lookout to see where I'd been. That, and twelve more hours on the road, which couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

Monday, July 11


See ya when we get back! Don't fall in love with any other blogs!



• A Bloomington mosque was set on fire with an incendiary device Saturday. So far, big-league bloggers Michelle Malkin and the Powerline boys do not seem to think this reaches the level of an Indiana pie attack.

• Al Roker on MSNBC, in fully-rattled combat mode six hours before Hurricane Dennis was scheduled to make landfall:

"If history is any indicator, and it not always is..."

• I'd like to remind the cable nets that this is the beginning of hurricane season. I'm inured by now to the week-long slow-motion 20 mph chases of major-storm-like graphics across thousands of miles of ocean blue. I realize that any impact on Caribbean islands that does not involve American tourists will be treated as footnotes. We in the Midwest are well aware that California and Florida are the Beyoncé and Brittany of weather, while we are, at best, Dido; half the Mississippi Valley was underwater for two months in 1993 before anybody but NPR even noticed. But if you persist in sending your parka-clad minions (one guy looked like he was dressed for an assault on K-2) out into the height of the storm, sticking microphones into the faces of any other idiots who pass by, they will, by Hurricane Fred at the latest, be surrounded by people holding up "Hi Mom" and "John 3:16" signs.

• And the result of all that was that CNN spent the entire time Dennis was making landfall with Anderson Cooper describing what was going on in the parking lot of his Ramada.

• If this behavior will end only when somebody is bisected on air by a flying stop sign, I pray it will be one of the "talent" and not some poor cameraman.

• On the other hand, to whatever Indianapolis Star editor assigned the July 5 "Hey, kids, fireworks are all on sale at tremendous savings!" feature: I have a bag of marshmallows in storage waiting for the day they set your house ablaze. Marshmallows have a long shelf life, but I'm hoping for sooner than later.

Dennis Prager, God's Chosen Asshole

Evil Targets God's Chosen

Could someone explain to me exactly what Michael Kinsley is doing, or am I too late in askin'?

[Mr. Prager's comments in blue, for fear someone would confuse them with my own.]

Addressing the ball: "If the west understood the meaning of the Muslim terrorism against Israel and of contemporary Muslim anti-Semitism, it would be far better prepared to fight the sort of terrorism that struck London last week."

Words and phrases I take issue with it the above sentence: "west", "understood", "meaning", "Muslim terrorism", "Israel", "contemporary Muslim anti-Semitism", "would", "far better", "prepared", "fight", and "sort of terrorism that struck London". I'll grant the "last week" part.

For "if" the Dennis Pragers of this country would understand that modern day Israelis are not the Israelites of their Bronze Age fantasies, if he would stop picking and choosing which political/ethnic/religious/epithetical designation best fit his argument at the moment, then perhaps we could begin to discuss what real-world solutions might somehow make us more secure. Or quit pussyfootin' and call for a religious war, already. You guys have been practicing political camouflage for so long you can't find the forest or the trees.

You know, Dennis, the State of Israel was founded by groups which, by anybody's definition, used terrorism to further their aims, including blowing up a large building with innocent people inside. Their idea of why God chose them seems to differ somewhat from yours.

The Anti of my anti-semitism is an anti-semite: "However, as almost always happens, too many dismiss anti-Semitism as the Jews' problem or even the Jews' fault, when in fact it is the most accurate predictor of an evil that humanity will have to fight."

Words and phrases I take issue with it the above sentence: "almost always happens", "too many", "dismiss anti-Semitism", "Jews' problem", "Jews' fault", "in fact", "most accurate predictor", "humanity", "will", "have to", "fight".

The Anti of my anti-racism is a racist: "...the claim of Jewish chosenness could not be racist because a) The Jews are not a race. There are Jews of every race. And b) Any person of any race, ethnicity or nationality can become a member of the Jewish people and thereby be as chosen as Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah or the current chief rabbi of Israel. "

Declining the old "I don't own a dictionary" gambit: What, exactly, do you do with your time, Mr. Prager? The idea that there is some genetic Ideal which can be defined as "race" in some meaningful way was finally overthrown about the time you learned to read.

The A Word: "As for the claim of chosenness being irrational or even bizarre, it is so only to an atheist. But anyone, even the atheist, must look at the evidence and conclude that the Jews play a role in history that defies reason. "

Brief rebuttal: No.

End simple hallucination, begin hallucinating in color: "Without the Jews, there would be no Christianity (a fact acknowledged by the great majority of Christians), no Islam (a fact acknowledged by few Muslims) and nothing that developed in those cultures that was based on belief in the God the Jews introduced to the world — such as science and the abolition of slavery."

There may be a slight exaggeration or two in the above: Like, fer instance, the implication of religious intolerance in the made up statistics of the first clause, or the idea that science grew out of monotheism (are you guys planning on writing the Greeks out of high school geometry texts next? I see an investment opportunity). As for the abolition of slavery, while I'm tempted just to say, "Eat shit, Prager," and be done with it, I'd like to mention something that bothers me. It's not that slavery as an institution was tolerated in the West from the beginnings of Christian hegemony until the end of the 19th Century (1888, Brazil, Mr. Prager; US and Western history are not the same thing). It's not that the Christian Bible was used in defense of slavery, and then of racial separation. It's not even that the Christians who played such a large role in the abolition of institutional slavery in the US were not Biblical literalists. It's the simple fact that following the 14th Amendment, a mere 140 years ago, slavery was replaced with an institutionalized racism which by most measures was at least as odious as slavery had been. Those were good white Christian crowds lynching black men and boys for looking at white women, Mr. Prager. With all due respect to the many Christians who fought, and died, for racial equality, the end of institutional racism in this country is the work of activist judges and liberal politicians, the ones you insult on a daily basis.

Tell me again why the Times prints this crap: "The Muslim world is obsessed with the Jews and with annihilating the one Jewish state, an obsession analogous to that of the Nazis. "

Final word, Mr. Riley? I should have stopped at "Eat shit, Prager."

Sunday, July 10

Maybe You Should Get More Roughage: Part I In A Series

Salon: With its hot, androgynous heroine leading the remnants of humanity against evil, God-fearing robots, "Battlestar Galactica" is boldly re-creating sci-fi TV. By Laura Miller.

'Cause, like, this time Starbuck's a girl, and where in the original series everybody had shag cuts, now they're all up to date looking.

Ms Miller, please. If you have to gush for three pages, do me the favor of not starting off by trying to divorce yourself from the genre fans in a sorry attempt to gain some critical credibility. You are talking about a program about robots who can make themselves appear human. I don't ask you to repeat that to yourself over and over while you're enjoying it, but you might say it aloud once or twice before you start typing. Turning a 70s space cowboy into an androgynous female for the Noughts is a "creative" decision made by people who study Q ratings for a living. It's no more a breakthrough than having Cedric the Entertainer play Ralph Kramden is a landmark in civil rights history.

Saturday, July 9

I Believe The Correct Figure Is Triple-Super-Gazillions

(AP) [Responding to the announcement that softball would be removed from the Olympics in 2012] American pitcher Lisa Fernandez, a three-time gold medalist, blamed the decision on IOC president Jacques Rogge.

“Rogge has basically conspired against the sports to get them removed. We had done our job as a sport world wide to show we belong,” she said. “I feel one person, the president of the IOC, a person from Europe, has taken it upon himself to ruin the lives of millions, actually billions of women.”

Friday, July 8

Swell Sentiment

Kevin Drum:

If I could have one small wish for today, it would be for the blogosphere on both left and right to refrain from political point scoring over the London attacks. Just for a day. Isn't tomorrow soon enough to return to our usual arguments?

I had the day off yesterday. Was up for an hour or so around 6 AM, fed the cat, started some laundry, and went back to bed for another hour, because yard work was tops on my To Do list and I really wanted to give my belatedly-purchased copy of Gillian Welch's "Time (The Revelator)" another listen while I was about it. I don't make any outdoor musical noises before 9 AM at the earliest, 11 on weekends. When I got up the second time my wife had CNN on.

So, of course, that interrupted morning plans for a good hour or so, and I went back and forth between chores and watching news and reading some reports online. Between then and the time I felt I had to sit down and write something (rather lacking in political point scoring, I think, but that isn't the point), I saw:

• The sorry state of cable news in the form of talking hairdo Soledad O'Brien and especially her partner, the escaped disk jockey from an Adult Contempory station somewhere on the prairie, Miles O'Brien, extemporizing. Not a pretty sight, and not for those who might be considering suicide. At one point Miles, who could be suspected of using Steve Carrell's Daily Show character as a role model, uttered the following, which I am rendering in the form of a sentence fragment, since I don't know what else to do with it: "The repercussions of this all just becoming familiar to us, known to us." And that's just the line I bothered to write down.

• Andrea Mitchell playing the role of Beltway insider, explaining the intricacies of John Negroponte's role in the newly reorganized Multi-Mega Interagency Security Protocols for what seemed like ninety minutes. At one point she referred to some CIA function or other as taking place "off campus", which I suppose is literally supposed to mean "not at Langley" but really means, "I, Andrea Mitchell, am the consummate insider".

• MSNBC's White House correspondant, David Gregory, reassuring us that despite the fact that Bush was in Scotland and Cheney was either in the wilds of Montana killing surplus game species or in Colorado secretly getting another heart, both were instantaneously in charge of things via video conferencing, so America could rest easy, secure in the knowledge that none of their crackpot appointees was running the show. Why Bush was appraised of terror attacks in London when nobody thought it necessary to interrupt his exercise program when his own airspace was breached was not addressed.

• The response to the above report from the NBC A-Team of Brian "Raccoon Eyes" Williams and Katie "Perky But Solemn" Couric who were called in to weigh down the anchor desk at MSNBC, which was a two-minute Gee Whiz Isn't Technology Amazing I Remember When They Used To Have To Use Telephones duet reminiscent of the New York Times' "Scientists Use Computers" headline that Corndog caught.

• The usual assortment of twenty-three-year-old "terrorism experts", all of whom seem just chock-a-block with inside knowledge of the nefarious interconnections of world terrorism, but none of whom seems to be doing anything about except sell books.

So, Kevin, what I say in response is this: my one small wish is that we'd have twenty-four hours when The News covered "the news", instead of rampant speculation, random thoughts from the professionally vapid, and free-of-charge White House public relations work. By the time I'd sat through a couple hours of that I was actually looking forward to reading Michelle Malkin take on the Islamofascists.

Thursday, July 7


I've been rereading Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.

I had a comparative literature professor who, when he got the inevitable underclassman "Are you choking on something?" looks for pronouncing Van Gogh "Van Hocckkkk" would say, sweetly, "You'll pardon me for pronouncing it correctly." For us Boomers who still walk among you there has always been a relatively simple choice: pronounce Vietnam correctly, ignore it, or take cover in the rewriting of history that began a decade after our involvement there ended. God knows plenty of people who lived through those years have no idea how we got there in the first place, no idea of how the war was fought, no cognizance of the lies that sustained it or the lies that paved it over later. For Chuck Hagel, who was there, who was seriously wounded, and who cannot ignore at least the simple outline of that history, the lost war "humiliated" us. For me, too young by a year to get caught in the draft, the military outcome was of little import to the disgrace of not living up to our standing as the World's Great Democracy, of our decision that self-determination was for Europeans only, that international law was for the other guy to observe, of young American lives thrown away at the whim of hubristic bureaucrats.

Just as all wars are fought by generals prepared to win the previous one, Vietnam was fought with one eye on Korea, and all of our internationalist adventures since have been fought as a do-over of 'Nam. We hear the same litany of lies about Fifth Columnists and criticizing an action while soldiers are in harm's way. We see in the moral cowardice of the refusal to call for conscription and bring the war into every household in America the same willingness to let other people do the killing and dying for us. And above all we see the same insistence that the American theory of meat-grinder warfare will succeed in all cases, provided we "stay the course", the same bureaucratic smothering of any contrary views.

It would have taken a remarkable leader to face the public on 9/11 and call for a reasoned course of action to make the world safer instead of a cry to slake our bloodlust. I'm not sure it could have been done. We had already squandered our good fortune as Americans in battles over blowjobs and stone tablets, and our leadership reflects it. Today is a day to grieve for the needless suffering in London. Ever day is a day to do that somewhere. And by tomorrow, no doubt we'll be back to the same arguments over the same failed approach.

Woman in Chains

Let's begin with some unintentional humor. At least I assume it was unintentional:

"Judy has chosen such an act in honoring her promise of confidentiality to her sources," he said. "She believes, as do we, that the free flow of information is critical to an informed citizenry."
Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.

So here's a little excerpt from Amendment V of the US Constitution:

"...nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself..."

Sounds absolute. Until you look up the definition of transactional immunity.

There aren't any absolutes in Amendment I either. A moment's thought about the sort of havoc which could be wrecked by a reporter freed from all constraints against conspiracy shows why. So, no thanks, I'm not buying the idea that I have to defend Judy Miller in order to defend freedom of the press. Miller was stovepiping administration propaganda. She is then involved in an attempt, serious and possibly criminal, to intimidate an opponent of that administration and, for all we know, several others who may have had information "critical to an informed citizenry". At that point we've entered a crowded theatre. If the confidentiality of a source can be used to shield the exposure of some other source then we can no longer stand on platitudes about the need for confidentiality. We have to decide who is worthy of protection based on the facts of the case.

Miller had, and has, no right to offer any source a promise of complete confidentiality. She may have the informal right to choose to go to jail over the matter. And Judge Hogan had every right to send her there.

And I think that before people like Keith Olbermann join in the media chorus in her defense they ought to take a hard look at the woman herself. Is Miller actually protecting a source, or has she found an opportunity to defend what's left of her standing as a journalist? (And I don't say her "reputation" since I don't think she has one left.) Miller, after all, did not publish any stories based on the information about Joe Wilson's wife, and so far as we know the information came to her as part of the attempt to plant it. That "source" is most likely more like a pipeline. Considering she was almost single-handedly responsible for the Times' fictional pre-war WMD tales, she might find four months in stir preferable to revealing just how connected she truly was. Free speech and freedom of the press may protect scoundrels as well as the public's right to know, but that doesn't mean we have to join them in the trenches. It is one thing to defend Harry Reems' right to make porn. It's another to propose putting him on a stamp.

Wednesday, July 6

Tuesday, July 5

Celebrity Match Game

I consider myself a Western rationalist, a child of what David Brooks now incessantly refers to as the 18th Century Enlightenment, as though to suggest his 19th century apologetics are somehow cutting edge. So you can imagine how surprised I was when, on a lark, I went to (all the kids are doin' it) and based on biorhythms was matched with:

Because, not only had I heard of all those women, I've slept with four of them, and Jenny Agutter and I were married on the Isle of Wight back in 1974, although it later turned out that the "vicar" was actually a roadie for Slade.

I think they overstate the compatibility thing, though.

Tough Talk From Behind A Bunch Of Dead Trees

Time to check in with Deborah Solomon's Questions column in The New York Times Magazine, the weekly opportunity for Republicans and billionaire industrialists to finally get their message across.

This weeks questionee is Nebraska's Chuck "Miraculous Upset" Hagel, US Senator and former chairman of Election Systems & Software, among other interesting part-time jobs. Let's go to the tape:

How would you compare the situation in Iraq with the one in Vietnam?

Congress was absent during the Vietnam War, and they didn't ask the tough questions, and consequently we lost 58,000 Americans and lost a war and humiliated this nation. It took a generation to get over it. As long as I am here as a U.S. senator, I am going to do whatever I can to make sure that isn't going to happen.

I know Chuck Hagel has been the posterboy for Republican sanity in some liberal circles, but I'm rather less inclined to pass out medals for simple sanity, rare though that may be. Hagel voted for the Iraq War Resolution. He's voted for all three blank checks we've handed out to fund the thing. He gets to make noises like he's the voice of sanity while knowing it makes no difference to our policy.

Claiming there was a failure of Congressional oversight of the Vietnam War amounts to saying Congress should not have voted for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Whether it would have passed had Congress known the report was erroneous is a moot point. After the resolution Congressional oversight was itself moot, as it had given LBJ the power to wage war without a declaration of war. If there is a single lesson we should take from Congress and Vietnam, it is that.

But, Senator, what did you do when your own time came? You authorized the President to wage war absent a declaration of war. You did so despite the fact that you had expressed misgivings about a potential conflict. How does that differ from Vietnam, Senator Hagel? The difference is that with Iraq we should have known better from the start, and there was every chance to do something about it before there were needless US casualties.

What do you suggest that the president do?

For starters, we don't have enough troops. But I don't think the answer to increasing manpower is to pursue some of the things the Pentagon is doing, such as doubling and tripling bonuses for those in the military.

That seems to leave a draft, Chuck. Have you forgotten how to introduce a bill?

On the other hand, with our deficit now exceeding $400 billion, aren't we sort of out of money?

In terms of the deficit, we have blown the top right off. We're a bunch of Democrats.

Did I mention "talk radio host" on his resumé? Lessee, in addition to forking over $400 billion tax dollars for a war with no oversight you've pledged to combat, what else have you done about the deficit? Oh, yeah, voted for all the Bush tax cuts.

I've never heard anyone call President Bush a Democrat.

That's my point. We're less honest about it. We built the biggest government history has ever seen under a Republican government. The Democrats are better because they are honest about it. They don't pretend. I admire that. They'll say: ''We want more money. We need more money.''

God, me too. I get so tired of hearing Democrats ask for more money so they can piss it away on social programs. That's how Clinton ran up those big deficits, innit it? And isn't it about time we held the Dems feet to the fire on the Wilmot Proviso? 'Cos like the Democrat Big Spenders most all those guys are long gone, too.

Monday, July 4

French Accent Joke

My neighbor--the good one, not the mope who tried to kill me with plastic explosives this weekend--went shopping with her 12-year-old daughter yesterday, and they stopped at the perfume counter. Mom tries a sample, likes the effect, but the print is too small for her to read, so she asks her daughter what it is.

Daughter reads the label. "It's Demonstratione" she says.

Happy 28th Through the 11th

It's illegal to shoot off fireworks in Indiana. I said, it's illegal to shoot off fireworks in Indiana. I SAID, IT'S ILLEGAL TO SHOOT...nevermind, I'll tell you Thursday, after the fireworks die down.

About a decade ago the World's Third Worst State Legislature™ decided, in the interests of a free economy, that it would be just ducky if every vacant storefront in Indiana could become a fireworks store from June through July. There was that little problem with them being illegal, but nothing is too great an obstacle for these guys, except maybe deciding what time it is. They simply required anyone purchasing fireworks to sign an affidavit stating that they are either a licensed pyromaniac or promise not to set the things off inside the state lines. It's worked like a charm. This is the same legislature which decided a few years back that Hoosiers weren't paying enough for beer.

Okay, I'm a stick in the mud, a killjoy, and a party pooper. And, call me a liberal, but I do have a vague awareness that other people live nearby, and some of them share living quarters with very excitable dogs, neither of whom I want to scare the bejesus out of for no good reason. I really don't have a problem myself with people shooting the damned things off to celebrate the Fourth. I'll even grant them the whole weekend in this instance. But the shit starts blasting the last week of May, and there'll still be one idiot middle of next month sitting in his backyard at midnight going psssssst....BANG! psssssst....BANG! psssssst....BANG! for two fun-filled hours.

What seems new this year is that it's not just the people working on the second case of Old Milwaukee (unpalatable swill, now at premium prices!) who start up in the middle of the afternoon on June 29, it's also the thrill-seekers with money for these Tactical Suburban Mortar Emplacements (TSMEs) which fire stuff 75 feet in the air. I'm not quite sure what the attraction is, and if I was I'd have to wonder why you're shooting them off in broad daylight. Maybe it's the simple embarrassment of riches. When I was a kid people had to drive to Tennessee to get this stuff, so they were more frugal with their ammo. Anyway, I'm up on a ladder Friday afternoon, clearing a blocked gutter, when my next door neighbor fires off about 80 rounds out of the blue. I nearly jerked myself right off the ladder. And, lemme tell you, liberal or no liberal, at that point we would have been putting the laws of the Sorry State of Indiana to the test. Not the one about fireworks. The one about justifiable homicide.

As you know, I'm nothing if not positive, and I have a simple solution. I sent it to the State Fire Marshal Saturday. The Fire Marshal used to campaign pretty strongly against this stuff, but with Republicans in control you can tell he's become dispirited. This year he called a press conference, and instead of warning people about the dangers of fireworks he said, "Go ahead, let your kid blow his damn arm off. But we're not helping you look for it." I've suggested that instead of making people pledge not to shoot off illegal fireworks in state, we just ask each of them, "What happened on July 4th?" That ought to cut sales by 98%.

Friday, July 1

Programming Note

Wednesday's intended slog, E!'s 100 More Celebrity Oops! turned out to be the only time in my recollection that a television network aired 120 minutes of a limp dick. I'm aware that none of my readers exhibits a paralyzing phobia that something, somewhere might get penetrated, but if you know anyone like that, this is the show for them. Forget wasting the talents of Jake Johanssen and Julie Brown; this show wasted the talents of Gary Coleman. The best moment was Mad TV's Debra Wilson faking an orgasm which looked for all the world like her impression of Ben Turpin faking an orgasm.


• Afghanistan

What, we're still there? Yes, the information is a bit preliminary, but a helicopter crashes on Tuesday and we don't reach the wreckage until Thursday? And the Pentagon spokesman leaves the story to spokesman speak: "We are conducting search and recovery operations. But we are more into the recovery stage." Meaning we knew everyone was dead (including, reportedly, three troops on the ground) immediately but we're still being cagey about it.

• Fuck You

WASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) - Several Senate Republicans denounced other lawmakers and the news media on Thursday for unfavorable depictions of the Iraq war and the Pentagon urged members of Congress to talk up military service to help ease a recruiting shortfall.

Families are discouraging young men and women from enlisting "because of all the negative media that's out there," Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Inhofe also said that other senators' criticism of the war contributed to the propaganda of U.S. enemies. He did not name the senators.

So call for a draft, you chickenshit bastards.

• Bush poll numbers fall after big televised speech

Granted, the administration relies on a moronic public, but maybe this is the signal for the networks to disconnect from that assessment. Was someone expecting a big upturn from that speech? Was the public supposed to slap its collective forehead and say, "Oh, 9/11! That's why I support the war!" ? If Bush has any more sorry-assed PR efforts in him, at least make him call a pretend news conference from now on. With 43% approval and a 50% negative in the Red States, he no longer holds the whip hand.

• Hey, look! It's Iran!

TEHRAN, June 30 - Two Iranian leaders of the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 dismissed allegations on Thursday by former American hostages that Iran's president-elect was one of their captors. The Bush administration, however, said it took the charge seriously and vowed to investigate.

"Obviously his involvement raises many questions," President Bush told reporters on Thursday morning, referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president-elect.

Oh, by all means, let's investigate. While we're at it, let's see if we can round up the missing pages of Bill Casey's dayplanner, and clear up that little mess about the hostages being released in time for Reagan's first inaugural, shall we?