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Friday, October 29, 2004
 
“Hey Dubya ... Did You Walk To Work Or Carry Your Lunch?”

Long before Lost Citizen JP launched into his current pastime of
busting out in twice-daily aneurisms as The Lost City's official
Übercommenter, he worked for a goofy little satellite news
outlet known as the All News Channel. If you were without
satellite service in the 1990's — but were an incurable
insomniac — you might remember their syndicated news broadcasts
sandwiched between those
dueling psychic
phonebuddy
infomercials
on your late-night television.


A brainchild of CONUS
Communications'
United States Satellite Broadcasting Service
(USSB), All News Channel was intended to be the Upper
Midwestern counterpoint to CNN. It might have worked, except
that CONUS had to funnel so much money into the hardware of its
project that the rest of the venture wound up starved for cash. As a
result, ANC was a total
bomb
, and USSB eventually got swallowed up by DIRECTV.


But JP the Übercommenter was there to witness the rise and
fall of this media dream ... and if pressed, will even admit to
knowing some of the staff of KSTP television, the local
ABC affiliate that was part of the mighty CONUS empire. In
true CONUS cheep-ass fashion, the entire on-air studio staff of ANC
was culled from KSTP's stables.


Well, it took a while, JP — and ANC isn't around to
enjoy the moment — but you'll be happy to know that your old
army buddies finally managed to get in something of a trump on Big,
Bad CNN. Barely a day after The Thing That Ate Atlanta
reported that the saga of the missing explosives at Al Qaqaa was all
just a little misunderstanding
, ANC-remnant KSTP
snapped right back at 'em with a big old “no
way, Jose!


How can they be so certain? Why, they were there, of course; and
they have the footage to prove it.


Finally, imbedded reporting is put to some decent
use
:


A videotape made by a television
crew with American troops when they opened bunkers at a sprawling
Iraqi munitions complex south of Baghdad shows a huge supply of
explosives still there nine days after the fall of Saddam Hussein,
apparently including some sealed earlier by the International Atomic
Energy Agency.


[...]


The New York Times and CBS
reported on Monday that Iraqi officials had told the agency earlier
this month that the explosives were missing, and that they were
looted after April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell.


Yesterday evening, the Pentagon
released a satellite image of the complex taken just two days after
the inspectors left, showing a few trucks parked in front of some
bunkers. It is not clear they are the bunkers with the high
explosives.


All we are trying to
demonstrate is that after the I.A.E.A. left, and the place was under
Saddam's control, there was activity,” said Lawrence DiRita,
the Pentagon spokesman. It is not clear from the photo what activity,
if any, was under way.


[...]


The videotape , taken by KSTP-TV,
an ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, shows troops breaking into
a bunker and opening boxes and examining barrels. Many of the
containers are marked “explosive.” One box is marked “Al
Qaqaa State Establishment,” apparently a shipping label from a
manufacturer.


The ABC crew said the video was
taken on April 18.
The timing is critical to the debate in the
presidential campaign. By the Pentagon's own account, units of the
101st Airborne Division were near Al Qaqaa for what Mr. DiRita said
was “two to three weeks,” starting April 10.


Then they headed north to
Baghdad, and the site was apparently left unguarded. By the time
special weapons teams returned to Al Qaqaa in May, the explosives
were apparently gone.


So it's pretty much like the doomsayers
doomsaid
all along. The
stuff
was there when we took over the country, and only
disappeared after we stupidly wandered off, abandoning it to the
wolves.


The title of this post, by the way, is a reference to some weird
in-joke between JP and Stan
Turner
, the former Chief Anchor for ANC, and pretty much
the only thing that ever passed for an on-air personality on that
network.


Like I said, if you were an insomniac back in the 1990's you might
remember who he was.


 
“The Semi-Monthly Military Conscription Rant Will Begin In: 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...”

I used to have a link on this site to a very neat weblog called
The Daily Outrage. A product of the
hyperventilationatory-yet-intellectual magazine The
Nation
, it was pretty much structured like this one is —
information dense, with loads of links leading to (mostly) major
media sources to back up its occasionally nutty-sounding assertions.


Sometime last spring Matt
Bivens
, the author of the site, announced that he was moving on
to other things. After the site was dormant for a month or so, I
assumed that meant it was dead.


I should have known better. TDO is back up again, frothy as
ever, and currently helmed by Ari
Berman
. Berman is a writer whose work includes articles in The
Nation
(natch), Editor
& Publisher
(always a plus), and the New
York Times Online
(well ... okay, I can't get too juiced up
over that).


In honor of TDO's reanimation, I am restoring it to its
rightful place among the 'blogs. I also direct you to this
recent post
, which contains a number of pointed questions for
those skeptics
out there
who still
do not believe
a draft is looming large.


Berman's post is not long enough to lift a sample from it without
having it feel like violating the Unbreakable Law of Fair Use.
Instead, for those of you too lazy to check out the post on your own,
here is an extremely condensed abstract of Berman's points:



  1. The National Guard has been stop-lossed eleven times since
    this war began.


  2. 1/3 of Individual Ready Reserve soldiers called up have not
    reported for duty.


  3. Army and Army Reserve recruiting numbers are plummeting.


  4. Minorities and the poor are grossly overrepresented in
    combat, and even more so in terms of actual casualties.


  5. Every expert without a neocon dog in this fight insists that
    we are ridiculously undermanned for the mission at hand.


  6. The geopolitical environment is so polluted that even Kerry
    couldn't cajole our traditional allies to lend us a hand.


  7. Everybody wants to expand the Army dramatically, but nobody
    explains how we're going to do this with recruiting numbers so deep
    in the latrine.



These are his points, not mine (although I am in close agreement).


Frankly though, if I were writing it I wouldn't even bother with
point #4. Not because I don't think it's a valid issue, mind you ...
I just don't think any white baby-boomer making more than 50K a year
in this country gives an honest damn about it. You can try bringing
it up if you like, but good luck getting anything heard past the
“Wacky Liberal Carnival Music” tootling off in their
heads.


Thus, we are forced to stick with just the rock-jaw basics ... of
which, out of the above, the most unavoidable issue is point #3.


I've
covered
this before,
but at the time I did so, it was still a future issue to contend
with. But let's face it ... it's not like this was such a hard thing
to see coming down the line. Given a choice between working the
McDonald's drive-thru or getting your ass blown off by a middle-aged
Arab in a jogging suit, which
glorious destiny would you prefer
?


For the second straight year, U.S.
Army recruiters fell short of their goal for signing up enlistees in
the first month of a new recruiting cycle.


For the first 30-day period in its
new recruiting year, the Army was 30% shy of its goal of signing
up 7,274 recruits.
The Army had a particularly hard time
recruiting for the Army Reserve, on which the Pentagon has relied
heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan. Enlistments for the reserves were
45% below the target.


That's from a for-pay online article in the Wall Street
Journal
, culled by the Am
I Patriotic
website. Considering how incendiary some
of the Journal's reporting
has been
this year
, the Bush Administration should be grateful most
liberal webloggers seldom take the time to check it out.


And yes, those recruiting figures are early numbers; but nothing
in them can be spun as good news for the Pentagon. In fact, the only
thing I can think of that might make them more acceptable is that in
order to hit their numbers for last year (Fiscal Year 2004, which
ended
about a month ago
), the military accelerated the enlistments of
many Delayed
Entry Program
(DEP) recruits scheduled to enter the armed forces
this
year
:


Because of an increased demand for
recruits this year
[FY 2004,
which is now over]
, the Army has been rushing delayed-entry
soldiers into basic training ahead of schedule. That has depleted the
pool of soldiers who would have reported next year
[FY
2005, which has just begun]
and added to the burden for
recruiters.


In other words, they ate their own seed corn.


It don't take no fancy-pants PhD in Farming to know what a damn
fool idea that is; and let's face it, there's nothing more pathetic
than a starving farmer ...


For those of you out there, by the way, who still aren't
convinced a draft is likely — I honestly applaud you're
steely-eyed skepticism; but isn't there some rule of thumb out there
that states that when Donald
Rumsfeld claims something isn't true
, that generally means that
it is?


Thursday, October 28, 2004
 
All The News That's Fit To Print ... And Then Some

I just thought I'd let you guys know that I was adding the Weekly
World News
as a permanent link over there on the side. You
can find it in the newspaper section. Enjoy.


Yeah, that's right, smart guy. The newspaper section. Where
else do you think it should belong?


Remember, I know Batboy
personally. Don't make me have to send him over to your house.


 
Planet Of The Homos

This is truly amazing. An expedition of paleoanthropologists have
just announced the discovery of a whole new species of extinct human.
What's incredible is not only how different these humans were from
us, but how recently they managed to stick around. In fact, if it
weren't for a violent twist of fate, they might even be alive
to this day
:


The remains of a tiny and hitherto
unknown species of human that lived as recently as 13,000 years ago
have been discovered on an Indonesian island.


The discovery has been heralded as
the most important palaeoanthropological find for 50 years, and has
radically altered the accepted picture of human evolution.


The skull and bones of one adult
female, and fragments from up to six other specimens, were found in
the Liang Bua limestone caves on Flores Island, which lies at the
eastern tip of Java.


The female skeleton, known as LB1 —
or by the nickname “Ebu” — has been assigned to a
new species within the genus HomoHomo
floresiensis
. Examination of the remains shows members of the
species stood just 1 metre tall and had a brain no bigger than a
grapefruit.


Yes, you read that correctly. The adults of this species topped
out at just three feet tall, about as big as your average homo
sapien
three-year-old. Go ahead and call them Hobbits
... even the scientists can't
resist it
.


And no, this is not some sort of Weekly World News
exclusive.”
It's all very sober and peer-reviewed, even if it's damned incredible
stuff. For the most detailed rundown of the backstory of the species'
discovery, I recommend this interview
of expedition member Peter Brown
in the latest edition of
Scientific American.


It's been a pretty topsy-turvy couple of weeks in
paleoanthropology. Just last week, we learned that the existence of a
species
of human hair louse
found only in the Americas points to some
sort of fairly recent contact between American Indians and a
lingering remnant homo erectus population somewhere in Asia.
Researchers were so excited by this development that they were
already psyching themselves up to conduct an investigation of human
pubic lice
, just to see how (ahem) close the contact really was
between these two species.


Homo erectus still loafing around the planet a mere 25,000
years ago? I thought that was a pretty big deal at the time. But an
entire island full of teeny-tiny people, only a few thousand years
removed from our own time? That's freakin' major.


What this also means is that little more than 25,000-30,000 years
ago there were at least four separate and distinct species of
humans wandering the planet.


That's right, four. In fact, if you accept some scientific
assertions about what makes us human, then there could have been as
many as six coexistent species at the time — three of whom are
still alive to this day.


Here's a rundown of the four/six human species in question, by
order of their most recent appearance on the scene. The first four
are by their official taxonomies, while the latter two are presented
for the most part as educated speculation:



  • HOMO FLORESIENSIS: The new discovery.
    Amazingly, it appears as if these little guys, and not us,
    were the most recent species of humans to evolve. While this
    interpretation is subject to change (research on this species is
    still in its infancy), the oldest fossil evidence so far uncovered
    indicates a branching off from the parent population between 78,000
    and 94,000 years ago, long after our species of human first showed
    up in Africa (see below). They might still be with us to this day,
    if a massive volcanic eruption hadn't dropped a giant turd in their
    island-paradise punch bowl.

    Then again, maybe the volcano didn't
    kill them all off. The scientists who discovered them note that
    island folk tales speak
    of contact with a people
    very much like floresiensis up
    until the arrival of European colonists only a few hundred years
    ago.

    But while floresiensis may have come along after us,
    they did not evolve from us, however. Floresiensis in
    all likelihood is a direct
    descendant
    of our own immediate parent, homo
    erectus
    . It's gratifying to know that even in this late
    stage of his existence, good ol' pappy erectus was still able
    to get it up ...


  • HOMO SAPIENS: Otherwise known as “us
    guys.” While recent
    fossil discoveries
    have pushed the age of the species sapiens
    to about 160,000 years ago, we don't seem to have amounted to much
    during the first 60,000 years or so of our existence. For the most
    part, we just sorta putzed around Ethiopia until about 100,000 B.C.
    ... after which we literally swarmed the planet, nearly wiping out
    every other species of human in the process.




  • HOMO NEANDERTHALENSIS: These guys were straight
    outta Bedrock.
    Squat, heavy-boned, and powerfully muscled, a Neanderthal
    would be king
    of the barroom-brawl
    if he were around today. He isn't —
    fortunately for us modern barflies — having fallen victim to
    global
    climate change and probable encroachment
    from those swarming, if
    more effete, homo sapiens. Homo neanderthalensis first
    appeared in Europe and West Asia about 300,000 years ago, peaked
    around the same time we showed up on the planet (see above), and
    managed to hold it together until about 28,000 years ago — a
    blink of the eye in geological terms.

    Early speculation was that
    interbreeding diffused neanderthalensis into the sapiens
    gene pool. Fossil evidence indicates that hybridization
    between the two species
    , if it happened, wasn't terribly
    successful; and recent
    genetic research
    shows no
    evidence
    of unique neanderthalensis genetics in modern
    Europeans. This bolsters the notion that they were a separate
    species of human (homo neanderthalensis), rather than a
    subspecies (homo sapiens neanderthalis). Nevertheless, in
    their time they were our closest relatives, sharing the unique (if
    unofficial) classification with us of “guys who wear clothes.”


  • HOMO ERECTUS: The parent of all three species
    of humans outlined above (and, considering how he got around, God
    knows
    what else),
    erectus was a very
    old and successful
    species of human, first arriving on the scene
    some two
    million years ago
    , and finally giving up the ghost just 25,000
    years ago
    (which, suspiciously, is the same time the final
    neanderthal breathed his last). Homo erectus was the genius
    who first figured out how to make fire and complicated tools like
    axes and knives ... none of which, unfortunately, was of much use to
    him when us sapiens came a-knocking on his door.

    In
    addition to giving rise to the rest of humanity, erectus also
    bequeathed to the ancestors of modern American Indians his sacred
    collection of ancient
    hominid cooties
    before passing on — a gift that has kept
    on giving now for thousands of years.



Well, that's it for Us and the Commonly Accepted Humans of Recent
Antiquity that We Killed Off. And now, as promised, here are the rest
... the living “human” wannabes:



  • HOMO PANISCUS: Both homo paniscus and
    homo troglodytes (see below) are not in any way broadly
    accepted taxonomical divisions yet, but rather names given to them
    by a small
    but determined group
    of biogeneticists.
    This is because both species are still alive today; in fact, they
    are quite well known to us ... as bonobos (more commonly known as
    pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (aka pan
    troglodytes
    ).

    Nevertheless, the bonobo (also known as the
    pygmy chimp) is widely regarded as our closest relative, regardless
    of taxonomical esoterica. They possess social
    and behavioral patterns
    that are eerily humanoid, have a
    tendency to walk
    upright
    (when the environment suits them), possess a highly
    developed proto-lingual
    capability
    , and share in excess of 99%
    of their critical genetic makeup
    with us. That's a good start,
    if you ask me — but I'd first let the scientists duke this out
    before coming to any conclusions.




  • HOMO TROGLODYTES: Chimps.
    Despite how cool it would be for our little furry brethren to be
    considered people too, one of the problems I have with reclassifying
    them into the homo (i.e. “human”) genus is that,
    to the best of my knowledge, the earliest accepted representative of
    our genus shows up in the fossil record only about 2.5 million years
    ago. The most common assessment of when chimpanzees and humans
    diverged has it happening around 5.5
    million years ago
    . There was some sort of pre-human
    critter or two
    roaming around the veldt at that time, but none
    of them have been blessed with the vaunted homo
    classification.

    In other words, in order to rejigger chimps (and
    bonobos) into the genus homo, we would have to either
    discover evidence of a later branch-off date (which is possible: the
    date given above is admitted to be somewhat arbitrary), or widen the
    homo club to include our primitive australopithecine
    granddaddies (also possible: the afore-mentioned erectus once
    wasn't considered to be homo, either).

    Still, chimps can
    act
    pretty human
    when they want to be, what with their primitive
    tool-using abilities
    ... not to mention their
    tendency
    to engage in organized
    warfare
    against one another. And the possibility of a “natural”
    (i.e. copulated) human-chimp
    hybrid
    , although highly unlikely, is
    not considered
    entirely out
    of the question
    either.

    Yeah, yeah ... I know. Yuck.



At the very least, getting chimps and bonobos reclassified would
provide 11-year-old boys with loads of sophomoric summer vacation
fun. Can you imagine anything more hilarious to a pre-teen than the
thought of running down to the local zoo and calling all the
chimpanzees a “bunch of homos?”


Not that I would have ever done a thing like that, mind
you.


But there you have it. Four recognized (and very different)
species of humans once occupying the planet at the same time, and two
other possible species of humans still living with us today.


Then there's the intriguing fact that of the four recognized
species on the list, all but one of them are extinct. Not only that,
but after coexisting with us for almost 90% of our history on this
planet, they all died out at roughly the same time. What's up with
that?


It may be our breeding ... or lack thereof. One of the creepier
discoveries of our advanced genetic age is the fact that homo
sapiens
are one of the least
genetically diverse animals
on the planet. In short, we are
freakishly inbred — like an entire planet overrun with
appalachians. Genetically speaking, the concept of “race”
as it relates to human beings is meaningless.


Inbreeding is usually considered very
bad
because it increases the possibility for unhealthy genetic
traits to be passed off from one generation to another. On
the other hand
, if a species is really, really lucky, useful
genetic traits will be reinforced, thus speeding
up evolution
and — by extension — that
creature's
domination
of its environment
.


Sounds like us, all right. It was recently discovered, for
instance, that around 30,000 years ago our ancestors suddenly
experienced a dramatic
spike in longevity
. Within a few generations, the number of old
people (i.e. folks 60 years old or older) hanging around the tribe
increased by a factor of five. That's a lot of old farts — and
in those pre-internet days, a
lot of accumulated knowledge
to pass around.


The other humans didn't get this bonus. Certainly poor old,
hulking homo neanderthalensis didn't; although considering his
live
fast, die young, and leave a busted-up corpse
” lifestyle,
who could tell?


Other factors may have been involved in our rapid global
ascendancy, but it seems mighty telling that the two major alternate
lines of humans both died out within 5,000 years of this development.
That sounds like about the right amount of time for one species to
displace another on a global scale.


As for the little
guys
... well, it's too bad their island went all kablooey on
them. I would have liked to have had a chance to meet one.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004
 
Choose And Lose


Having recognized that their efforts to suppress turnout in Florida are morally wrong, the Republicans are now encouraging minorities to vote.

Once again,The Onion proves that the line between hard news and parody is not only getting blurry, it's disappearing altogether:

MIAMI, FL—With the knowledge that the minority vote will be crucial in the upcoming presidential election, Republican Party officials are urging blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities to make their presence felt at the polls on Wednesday, Nov. 3.

"Minority voters should make their unique voices heard, especially the African-American voting bloc, which is always a major factor in every election," said Florida Republican Party voter-drive organizer Mark Monreal, as he handed out flyers at a community center in the mostly black Miami neighborhood of South Farms. "That's why we put up hundreds of brightly colored banners featuring Martin Luther King Jr. and the 'Vote November 3' reminder. We needed to make sure they know when we want them at polling places."

"You can't walk through a black neighborhood here in Miami without seeing our 'Don't Forget Big Wednesday!' message up on a billboard, tacked to a phone booth, or taped to a bus shelter," Monreal added. "The Republican Party has spared no expense in this endeavor."

Sure, you can laugh, but don't think the idea hasn't been kicked around in RNC planning meetings.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004
 
Aieeeee! Flying Monkeys!

"Block the vote! Block the vote! Bahahahahaha!"

Leave it to the BBC to break a story that the American press is too gutless to tackle:

A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan - possibly in violation of US law - to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts, a BBC Newsnight investigation reveals.

Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called "caging list".

It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida....

Ion Sancho, a Democrat, noted that Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from obtaining a ballot.

They may then only vote "provisionally" after signing an affidavit attesting to their legal voting status.

Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter "in the 16 years I've been supervisor of elections."

Clearly, the Republicans are hoping a mass challenge effort in battleground states will suppress turnout in heavily Democratic precincts.

Silence implies consent -- no doubt that's why the American media has been so silent on this issue.


 
A Tomorrow That Eerily Resembles Today


President Batboy confers with Queen Elizabeth at a future G-8 conference in London.

America's most-trusted news source, The Weekly World News, reprints this intriguing item that reminds us that next weeks election doesn't matter anyway:

WASHINGTON - In a stunning revelation, self-proclaimed time traveler Hyram Trowbridge revealed to government officials this week that by the year 2028, America will be overrun with, and ruled by, hideous mutants and freaks.

And Bat Boy will be president.

"The freaks control everything," the disheveled and often incoherent time jumper said.

"There are subhuman monkey-men in Congress, terrifying ghouls in the Supreme Court, and the creature you call Bat Boy is President of the United States!"

Sure he didn't jump to 2004 by mistake?


Monday, October 25, 2004
 
The Wolves Respectfully Disagree (Part II)

The ecological ignorance of the “Wolves” spot is only
the surface of the matter, however. What's even more disturbing are
the “factual” underpinnings of the ad itself.


As Slate magazine points out, the accusation against Kerry
in the ad is most likely related to fallout from a ten-year-old
intelligence scandal — one that involves the blackest of
black-budget agencies in that carnival
of spooks we call US intelligence
:


Here's the background: In the
early-to-mid '90s, the National Reconnaissance Office—the
branch of the U.S. intelligence community that controls spy
satellites—had come
under investigation
for serious financial malfeasance.
The
probe found vast waste, extravagance, and hoarding. In one instance,
the NRO canceled the launching of a highly expensive spy satellite,
didn't tell Congress (or any federal agency) about it, and kept the
money.


So, Congress voted to cut the
budget—not to curtail intelligence operations, but simply to
retrieve money that was never spent.
As I put it at the time,
“[I]t's as if Kerry had once filed for a personal tax
refund—and Bush accused him of raiding the Treasury.”


Another distortion in the “Wolves”
ad: It wasn't just “the liberals in Congress” who voted
for this refund. The sponsor of the Senate amendment that
passed—and it passed without controversy—was Arlen
Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania.


Sheesh. The NRO. Ooh, my head
... when is the hurting going to stop?


So it wasn't Kerry and his pack of “liberal” minions
at all who tried to pop a cap in the intelligence budget, but a
bipartisan panel of affronted Congressmen. And it wasn't anything in
the budget that they wanted to cut out, but rather a massive slush
fund
kicking around the agency for God knows what purpose.


Billions of dollars in unregulated fun-money, a mind-bogglingly
expensive satellite that never gets launched, a massively corrupt and
inbred intelligence circle-jerk exposed ... and Bush makes out that
Kerry's the chump for trying to do something about it.


Then there's the matter of the NRO's record of personal duplicity
in this matter. Consider, for one, that this is the same agency whose
satellites most certainly intercepted all
those pre-9/11 al Qaeda communications
... you know, the ones
that hinted of an attack coming, but never
gave enough detail
for our agencies to actually act on it.


And then remember, for two, that this was same the agency that, in
one of the most startling
coincidences
of the September 11 attack, had actually scheduled
an airplane-collision
drill
for its northern Virginia campus on that very morning.


Add those two points together, and one cannot help but wonder:
what else do those NRO boys have hidden up there in their
Chantilly, Virginia headquarters — squirreled away from the
prying eyes of Congress, the public, or even other federal agencies?


 
The Wolves Respectfully Disagree (Part I)

I finally got a look at that infamous “Wolves” ad
today. I haven't seen it on my local television yet, but anyone who wants to
can pop on over to the Bush/Cheney website and view it. Go
here
and see it for yourself.


That's where I saw it. And man, the legends are true: it is awful.


The problem might be me. You see, I'm not afraid of wolves at all.
In fact, I have always rather liked them, certainly respect them, and as such felt vaguely offended when I
learned that Bush & Company were comparing them to terrorists.


But then again, wolves are tough, resourceful, and noble critters;
it's no wonder that Republicans are so uncomprehendingly fearful of their ways.


Wolf attacks, as any good lupophile will quickly tell you, are extremely rare in North America. While some
heavily-vested
groups swear
otherwise
(most notably ranchers
and pro-hunting
groups
), more commonly recognized sources have documented only
four
attacks
by pure, all-wild wolves on Americans — none of
which were fatal.


Part of this can be attributed to the fact that the wolf has been
rendered
nearly extinct
in the continental United States. Only 25 years
ago, a tiny portion of the roughest,
brambliest part
of northern Minnesota was the only place where
any population of them still existed in the lower 48. The numbers
have recovered somewhat since then (due to explicit government
intervention), but it is still extremely rare to find a gray wolf in
the US outside of that isolated pocket.


Domesticated wolves and hybrids aside, true wolves just won't go
after humans (well ... American
humans
). They're very smart animals, and have learned from hard
experience that to hunt the human is to invite trouble into your
house. That's not enough to keep them away from a nice fat calf,
sheep, or other domesticated Ally of Man; but, hey, a guy's gotta
eat, right?


In other words, wolves aren't going to bother you if you don't
bother them. So if you're some greasy, fat Republican wandering
around the forests of northern Minnesota filming a commercial about
terrorism, and you stumble across a pack of wolves in your sweaty
ambling, and they look up at you hungrily ... well, whose damn fault
is that, anyway?


More importantly, it means that you're in their
territory
. You, interloper, are the one at fault. Even so, the wolves are much more likely to cut and run than try
to make a nice hominid fricassee out of you.


Admittedly, this is a somewhat trivial point to make, and will
probably get me dismissed as a tree-hugger in some circles; but the
sheer ignorance of it all, coupled with the deeper (and
unintentional) metaphorical implications of the commercial, are hard
to ignore.


Sunday, October 24, 2004
 
Only The Kooks Can Save Us, Part II
"I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk? "

Good old Dirty Harry. Like our tough-as-nails president, he always knows where he stands. Self-doubt, hesitation and moral reservations are for weaklings and fools. In spite of the way the Dirty Harry screenwriters -- including Red Dawn's John Milius -- stacked the deck in favor of their protagonist, we admire Harry for his strength and his certainty. For me, Dirty Harry has the same element of wish-fulfillment as a James Bond flick. A guy watches a Bond film and admires the character -- his ability to laugh at danger, his cool during the adrenaline rush of the car chase or gunfight, the way in which he never has to chase women because he knows they will always seek him out. But in spite of our admiration we know that Bond is absurd; he does not, and indeed could not, exist in the real world -- or at least, not for very long.

Just as Bond revels in consequence-free sex and violence, so Dirty Harry revels in consequence-free fascism. In Harry's world, constitutional protections never benefit the innocent, they only shield the guilty. Political correctness prevents the authorities from facing the brutality of the criminal mind; early in the film the mayor, who is reading from Scorpio's taunting letter to the police, cannot even bring himself to read aloud the word "nigger"; this squeamishness is the sort of thing that earns Harry's contempt. Police brutality is depicted as something that is either overblown or completely phony, another way for crooks to game the criminal justice system.

Dirty Harry wants us to believe that there are times and situations where police brutality -- even police torture of suspects -- is justified. This has been a hot topic since September 11. Some conservatives have argued that there are situations in which it is proper to torture a terrorism suspect. The most commonly cited scenario is this: you know that there is a nuclear weapon in the city and it will go off in one hour. If you don't find it, tens of thousands of innocent people will die. You have a suspect in custody. You are 100% certain that the suspect knows the location of the bomb. Is it then okay to torture the suspect to find out?

If the stakes were that high, and if I was that certain, then the answer might well be yes. But the world is a little more complicated than that. What if you're not 100% certain? What if you're only 85% certain? What if you think there might be a bomb, but you're only 60% sure? Or 40% sure?

Part of the allure of fascism is the willingness to replace possibilties with rock-solid certainties. If you're 85% sure, that's good enough. The subversive thing about Dirty Harry is the idea that Harry, who views the Constitution as an obstacle to justice, is necessary to the maintenance of civilization. Only Harry sees what needs to be done; just look the other way and he'll take care of it for you. The mayor and his ilk, by contrast, are depicted as children who want to negotiate with a pack of wolves.

Ah, yes. Wolves. These guys are subtle, don't you think?


Friday, October 22, 2004
 
Listen Up
If you have not yet been to William Gibson's blog, I would encourage you to check it out now. It had previously been a kind of literary naval-gazing, sell-the-book-and-throw-the-fans-a-few-crumbs sort of thing, indifferently maintained; it had actually been dormant for some time. But Gibson has come back lately with some very interesting political observations. Here's just a taste:

In some more cheerful historical continuum, I could be quite happy with a decent centrist Republican as president. Indeed, from what I take to be the perspective of the extreme left, the problem with Kerry would be that he's merely that: a decent centrist Republican. There are, in fact, decent centrist Republicans who quite rightly regard themselves as true conservatives, and it was not my intention yesterday to tell people like that to buzz off. If you're a decent centrist Republican, or a true conservative, today, I feel for you; your party has been carjacked by some sort of radical movement, and driven right around the spectrum -- people who've bathed their brains all too thoroughly in the White Light of the far, bad side.

In very much the sense that Bush is not actually a Christian, likewise is he nothing remotely conservative. Believing Bush is conservative in any traditional sense is like believing that a Formula One racer with the Perrier logo on its side is full of mineral water. The RNC today is a party in the hands of dangerous political radicals.

Can you believe that Neuromancer was published 20 years ago? Amazing, and amazing that Gibson's still cool.


 
“Double, Double Toil And Trouble ...”

So ... how do you boil
an Englishman
?


Well, if you're George W. Bush, and you've bought
into that urban legend about the primitive
state of amphibian thermal regulation
, then you might consider
handling it like the stories say about doing
in the frog
... one
degree at a time
:


The Black
Watch
regiment was yesterday ordered by the Cabinet to help US
forces throw a “ring of steel” around Fallujah before an
all-out assault on insurgents in the city.


[...]


The role assigned to the Black
Watch will also cause anxiety that British troops are being more
closely associated than expected with the forthcoming assault on
Fallujah. The Defence Secretary indicated on Monday that they would
be relieving an existing US unit, but military sources said last
night that was not the case. “The Americans are throwing a ring
of steel around Fallujah, and are sending in Iraqi forces to do the
close fighting. The British and American forces will be in an
outer ring of steel,” a military source said.
“The
Black Watch will protect an approach route to the city. They are not
replacing an existing American force.”


The number of British troops in
Iraq is set to rise because the Black Watch will be replaced by an
850-strong force of the 1st Battalion, the Scots Guards with Warrior
armoured vehicles.


The Prime Minister's official
spokesman said Mr Blair secured the “unanimous” support
of the Cabinet for his Iraq strategy. Whips headed off a
full-scale mutiny by Labour backbenchers furious at Mr Blair for
appearing to put British lives at risk to support George Bush in the
US election.


For those of you unfamiliar with the “Westminster
parliamentary system of governance, group discipline is everything in
that environment. The British
definition of a political party
ain't the same thing as this
motley confederation of yahoos, true believers, and paid hacks that
pass for a party on Uncle Sam's side of the Atlantic Ocean.


In parliament, the party in power stays in power by proving
its ability to govern — every day, and with every vote that
passes under its watch. Any threat to party discipline in such a
darwinian environment would ordinarily be treated quite harshly; that
there is even talk of a “full-scale mutiny” bubbling
up
from within the ranks
of the backbenchers
should be taken very seriously.


Politically speaking, it is the equivalent of waking up in bed
with the strong smell of smoke in the air.


Just as serious is the revelation that British troops will be
taking part in the seizure of Fallujah,
no matter how peripherally. The backbenchers (and, by extension, the
British people) are certainly feeling as if they have been lead
by their noses
into this dark corner, and will not tolerate any
extra blood that may come of it. The existence of Tony Blair's
government may very well be riding on the outcome of this battle.


Which, according to official sources quoted in the above article,
will be spearheaded entirely by Iraqi troops. Since almost everything
that official sources say about the internal situation in Iraq is
pure
crap
, I find that frankly hard to believe. Just last month,
according to a recent report in USA Today, nearly
half of an Iraqi unit
sent to take part in the seizure of Samarra
deserted their posts.


The good news, according to those afore-mentioned full-of-crap
official sources, is that other half didn't desert. The
crap-speakers swear up, down, sideways, and on a basketload of their
own medals that the rest of the Iraqi crew participated fully and
bravely in the reclamation of their recalcitrant city.


The bad news is that Samarra didn't put up much of a fight, all
things considered
. When force was brought to bear, the few
hundred insurgents said to be in the city put up a half-hearted
pretense of a resistance, and then melted
away
into the desert ... just as any smart
guerrilla force
ought to do.


So, really, the question of whether or not our Iraqis are prepared
to fight and die for us still has not been answered — at least
not to any conclusion that we'd want to hear.


Then there's one other lingering question that the logistics of
this upcoming assault presents, one that should be of immense concern
to English-speaking peoples on both sides of the Atlantic: if
the Iraqis are going to be doing the fighting in this operation, and
if we Americans are so well-larded with troops for our half of the
bargain, then why
do we need the Brits
up there in the first place?


Amazingly, somebody actually bothered to answer that question.
Typically, it was not anyone on this side of the Atlantic that
did
it
:


In response to repeated questions
why the US needed 800 British troops when they had 133,000 of their
own in Iraq,
[British
Secretary for Defence Geoffrey
] Hoon told MPs that less
than a third of the US force had the “requisite combat
capability”.


What?!


Thursday, October 21, 2004
 
Furious George Rides A Bike


"George thought he was doing very well. But suddenly, the AP/Ipsos poll was released."

The latest Associated Press/Ipsos poll -- released today -- shows Kerry with a 3-point lead, 49-46. As Josh Marshall points out, this is within the margin of error, but provides some evidence that things are trending toward Kerry.

The poll also shows Bush with a 47% approval rating -- a very dangerous place for an incumbent to be.


 
Breaking Strain
Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a spectacular demonstration yesterday of bold, unflinching mendacity. During Question Time in Parliament, he declared repeatedly that no decision had been made about the redeployment of the Black Watch battalion to western Iraq. Everyone in the chamber knew he was lying through his teeth, and by this morning the redeployment had been officially approved. The Americans had requested the change to free up more soldiers for the planned all-out assault on Fallujah.

Conservative Party leader Michael Howard had been unusually subdued during the colloquy, reassuring Blair that the Tories wouldn't push for a vote in the House of Commons. But Labor back-benchers and the Liberal Democrats are angry about the move, because they smell politics:

Backbenchers who voted in favour of the war in March last year are dismayed that the prime minister is apparently throwing a political lifeline to George Bush on the eve of the US election.

David Watts, the MP for St Helens South, spoke for many MPs who have serious doubts about Downing Street's claim that any redeployments would be entirely a matter for the military. "Why is it us?" he asked. "We need clear military reasons. Our troops should not be used as political pawns."

But political pawns they most certainly are. John Kerry has been slamming Bush for his "go-it-alone" strategy in Iraq; how better to illustrate to the voters that the Brits are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us?

And if you want to know why we're suddenly gung-ho to carry out a do-or-die assault againt Fallujah now, just think back to April, the occasion of our last bloody foray into that city. The operation cost a lot of American lives, but Bush found his poll numbers rising -- because Americans always rally around the President in a crisis, at least in the short-term. And the short-term is all Bush can afford to think about right now.

Blair has thrown Bush a life-line, but who's going to throw Blair a life-line? It seems clear that Blair has pushed his party too far on Iraq. He is tougher than his rival M.P.s, and that has saved him so far -- but how far can he push them before they break?


Wednesday, October 20, 2004
 
Karl And The Chimp


Don't miss "Karl and the Chimp", Thursdays at 8:00 (7:00 Central and Mountain) on NBC

A story in today's New York Times offers some hope that the polls might be starting to break John Kerry's way. According to the article, the latest polls show Kerry now edging out Bush among likely women voters across the board. Kerry had previously only led among unmarried women, an underrepresented demo in the 2000 election.

Now, Rove and Co. will have a very predictable endgame here. But what if it doesn't work? I know that it's very early to start thinking about this, but what will George and Karl do with themselves if they lose this election?

Here's my suggestion. Let's team them up in a light-hearted NBC comedy-drama! "Karl and the Chimp" would be the story of a fun-loving interstate trucker who, with his fun-loving chimp George, encounters many adventures and misadventures on the road! Their closest friends are seven fun-loving "lady truckers" who, improbably, are all young, beautiful, and scantily clad!

There's also a bad guy in the story -- the not-at-all-fun-loving Sheriff Lobo, who wants to catch Karl and make him testify before the grand jury. But Karl and the Chimp always manage to keep one step ahead.

Don't miss Karl and the Chimp, Thursday nights at 8:00 (7:00 Central and Mountain) on NBC!


Tuesday, October 19, 2004
 
Furious George Steers The Ship Of State

Today's Guardian has an article by Markos Moulitsas (the disembodied brain behind the Daily Kos site) about George's increasingly angry and petulant public persona. Check it out.


Monday, October 18, 2004
 
Bush Is Stupid

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Usually, I try to put a little more effort into
a too-clever title. But with a President this stupid, why bother?


And, hoo boy, is he a low wattage kinda guy. I'm about ready to
say, without exaggeration, that Dubya's neurons are firing somewhere
down there in the dim echelons of Dan
Quayle territory
:


In the Oval Office in December
2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of
the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were
high hopes that the United States-sponsored “road map”
for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and
the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries
providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone
agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and
Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or
Palestinians. One congressman — the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos,
a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in
Congress — mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were
viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president
how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small
peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a
well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him
appraisingly, several people in the room recall.


I don't know why you're
talking about Sweden,” Bush said. “They're the neutral
one. They don't have an army.”


Lantos paused, a little shocked,
and offered a gentlemanly reply: “Mr. President, you may have
thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are
historically neutral, without an army.” Then Lantos mentioned,
in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to
protect the country in the event of invasion.


Bush held to his view. “No,
no, it's Sweden that has no army.”


The room went silent, until someone
changed the subject.


Funny thing about that article. A continuing theme in it is how
the President says something moronic, followed by a stunned room full
of important people clearing their throats and staring at their
shoes.


And people say our democracy is no
longer a beacon
to the world.


And he is a moron: Ignorance, plus incuriousity, equals idiocy. Of
course Sweden has an army;
if it didn't I wouldn't be here today — or at least I'd be a
very different person.





An
actual shot of the Swedish military in action. Really.


One of the main reasons my paternal great-grandfather left Sweden
was to avoid service in the Swedish army. He just didn't see the
point in it; why the hell should he have to do military service in a
country which hadn't fought in a war since Napoleon was Emperor?


And he would have had to serve too, since Sweden (like
Switzerland
, ironically) practices universal
military conscription
for its entire male population. Both still
do to this day; in fact, while Switzerland is considering dropping
the draft
, Sweden is looking into expanding its universal
conscription system to include
its women
as well.


That's a wise move, I'd say. If Dubya thinks Sweden doesn't have
an army, and he's looking for an easy kill right before the election,
he might start making noises about what King
Carl XVI Gustaf
has stowed
away in the royal closet
. Before you know it, the news cycle
would be wall-to-wall with reports of the mind-boggling horrors of
Sweden's
progressive taxation system
, rumors of a secret Swedish plan to bombard Finland with rancid herring, and how Batboy might be piloting a nuclear-tipped Swedish longboat up the St. Lawrence Seaway this very minute.


That might work out fine for me, though. If Bush is gonna get
re-elected, I might as well find an angle in it I can use; and I bet
I could make a killing as a Swedish
exile.


 
My Own Private Israel

With all this talk lately about the President and his cronies
having become ideologically
decoupled
from reality,
I'm having second thoughts about the world around me. Have the events
of these past few years been real,
or just the thin plotlines of some hack novelist's allohistorical
potboiler?


Seriously. It's getting so a fella can't even head out for a nice
bit of culture without running headlong into a minor-league Homeland
Security drama.


The other night I went downtown to catch the local production of
Batboy: The Musical,
currently running to tiny-but-packed
houses
at the lower
theater
of Hennepin Stages. Those of you locals unfamiliar with
Hennepin Stages will no doubt remember it as Hey City Theater, the
eternal home of Tony
'n Tina's Wedding
(a.k.a. Italians Say The Darn'dest
Things
, or The Show That Wouldn't Die.)


At any rate, Tony 'n Tina are finally off on their honeymoon,
leaving Batboy to look after the house — and finally giving me
a sense that it was safe to venture back to the downtown theater
district again.


Nope. Couldn't be more wrong.


Earlier that evening some clown had up and left a “suspicious
package” lying about on Hennepin Avenue. Some other clown
freaked out about it; and quicker'n you can say “Osama,”
every cop in the area was hurried in to muster and tasked with
cordoning off something in the area of four blocks of prime downtown
Minneapolis real estate while the local bomb squad was called in to
sniff out the particulars.


My girlpal companion and I, not realizing what was up, parked
immediately south of the whole imbroglio. Hennepin Stages was located
on the opposite end, to the immediate north of the
cordoned-off area. What was intended to be a two block walk was
suddenly stretched into a six-block march around the perimeter,
punctuated by grim-faced police officers giving their best imitation
of a thousand-yard stare while barking at us to stay the heck away
from them.


When we got out of the theater, it was all over with. Not an
explanation anywhere as to what the commotion was all about. I
couldn't even find a reference to it in the local news the next day.


I guess almost-bomb events that lock down large swathes of
downtown are no longer newsworthy stories in this town. I know it
wasn't
always
that way; but then, with the country
apparently crawling
with wild-eyed, bushyfaced,
election-influencing
terrorists, who's got the time or the energy to keep track of all
the plotting
these days, eh?


Batboy: The Musical is a brilliantly monstrous piece of
tragicomic theater, by the way. If you're in the area (and now that
you know where it is), I recommend — no, I demand
that you buy yourself a ticket or two, grab your evening flack
jacket, and skitter on downtown for the show. Did I mention it has a
cash bar?


If you're not in the area I'm sure you can find a Batboy
production somewhere
nearby
, if you look hard enough. Maybe the local high school is
doing it.


Yes, even a poorly-acted Batboy production would be worth
seeing; in fact, a poorly-acted Batboy production would be
especially worth seeing. In all, I liked it so much that I've
decided to work in at least one Batboy reference into every
one of this week's upcoming posts.


Everyone deserves a little monomaniacal aggrandizing every now and
again.


 
Only The Kooks Can Save Us, Part I

These days, it's hard to imagine the exploitation of fear for political gain without picturing Karl Rove in a fright wig, playing a 40-stop pipe organ in a Transylvanian castle. But Rove's tactics have actually been used in various forms for a long time, and I was reminded of that the other night while watching the movie Red Dawn (1984) on the AMC channel.

For years I have suffered from long bouts of insomnia, and I've seen a lot of odd movies as a result. I had never seen this particular cinematic crapfest, which came on at 3 am and which held me absolutely enthralled. Red Dawn is largely forgotten today, except perhaps as the answer to a trivia question (what was the first movie to be awarded the PG-13 rating?) but it is remembered fondly in the hearts of survivalists, backwoods militia members and right-wing cranks of various denominations.

The plot -- such as it is -- revolves around the invasion of the United States by the Soviet Union, in concert with the vast, well-equipped armies of Cuba and Nicaragua. This evil cabal drops thousands of paratroopers on the tiny town of Calumet, Colorado. Their fiendish plan? To land in the soft underbelly of America, striking outward to the east and west coasts of the U.S. simultaneously, crushing all resistance in an attack so swift, so sneaky, that World War III will be over before the weak, hand-wringing Americans are even aware that it has begun! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

I'm sorry, what's that? Is there a question from the back? Okay, in case you didn't hear it, the question was, "Wouldn't the United States military respond to a direct invasion on our own soil?" Well, I didn't major in Military History in college, so I don't have an answer for you. You make a good point, though -- it probably would take several days for the Soviet mechanized divisions to reach the east and west coasts, even if they were allowed unfettered access to the Interstate Highway System. And unfettered access to Stuckey's, too. Now that I've had fifteen seconds to think about it, I guess it doesn't sound like a very good invasion plan to me either. But let's just run with it for now, okay?

Anyway, the Soviets have taken control of Calumet, Colorado, and they immediately force people to eat soy burgers and stand in breadlines. The Noble Right-Wing Gun Owners are rounded up and put in detention camps, where they are forced to watch Sergei Eisenstein's classic film Alexander Nevsky. The United States Army, Navy Air Force and Marine Corps are apparently out of town on business or something, so the only hope to turn back the Soviet invasion is the local high school football team, the Wolverines -- led by Patrick Swayze!

No, I'm not making this up.

Anyway, the football team hides out in the mountains, conducting hit-and-run operations against the enemy forces. Before long, they've secured enough heavy Soviet armaments to allow them to make a frontal assault against the invaders!

Now, Red Dawn was panned mercilessly by the critics at the time, but it did boffo box-office because it spoke to several adolescent male fantasies at once:

1) Saving the world in full view of everyone in your home town;

2)Killing bad guys with a constantly improving arsenal of fearsome weaponry; and

3) Being presented with a passive and compliant Lea Thompson and Jennifer Gray with a charge to "protect them" from the bad guys.

The key to making good propaganda seems to be the ability to link our most childish fears with our most childish power fantasies. Empowerment is always a major theme in these stories, because the target audience is usually people who have little or no control over their own lives.

While it's common these days to appeal to people's fears about terrorism, the really good propagandists seduce people into believing something more: that if they do the right things they will prove to their friends and neighbors that they are courageous and forthright -- that they are participants in history, and not just observers.


Friday, October 15, 2004
 
The Fix Is In

America, put on your game-face, slip on your panic-buying shoes,
and barrel on down to the nearest Fleet Farm you can find.


Don't worry about traffic signs or pedestrians; just mouth a
silent prayer to Darwin,
and scrape 'em off when you reach the parking lot. You're gonna want
to beat the crowds, and you're gonna need it all: duct tape, bottled
water, canned goods, batteries ... the works.


Hell, if you can squirrel up grandpa's old army surplus geiger
counter, grab on to that too. The Hellfire's on its way, America
and but soon.


Take it from no less of an authoritative source than the nation's
own Giggling
Cassandra
, The Onion:


In an announcement that has alarmed
voters across the nation, Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that
he will personally attack the U.S. if Sen. John Kerry wins the next
election.


If the wrong man is elected
in November, the nation will come under a devastating armed attack of
an unimaginable magnitude, one planned and executed by none other
than myself,” Cheney said, speaking at a rally in Greensboro,
NC. “When they go to the polls, Americans must weigh this fact
and decide if our nation can ignore such a grave threat.”


Added Cheney: “It would be
a tragedy to suffer another attack on American soil, let alone one
perpetrated by an enemy as well-organized and well-equipped as I am.

My colleagues and I urge voters to keep their safety in mind when
they go to the polls.”


Oh, yeah. Sure, America, yuck it up ... laugh all you want. Have
yourself a high ol' time.


No. Really it's The Onion. You're supposed
to laugh.



That's a real nice country ya got there, mac. It'd be just too bad if somethin' were to ... happen ... to it.”


Still, one should never take the precognitive powers of this
publication lightly. It was only a few weeks ago, you recall, that
its editors prematurely (and accurately)
announced the death of punk-rock legend Johnny
Ramone
.


And one should never forget (not that I'll ever let you) how
strikingly
accurate
they were in their description of Dubya's first term in
office ... back in January of 2001, long before any of this bad
weather came thundering down upon our polity. It's enough to make you
wonder if the whole thing isn't cranked out by a couple of office
cutups at the NSA.


So go ahead and laugh it up, America:


After his speech, Cheney was asked
to confirm his remarks.


Make no mistake: If Kerry
becomes president, no one will be safe from me,” Cheney told
reporters. “Businesses, places of worship, schools, public
parks: No place will offer you refuge. A vote for Kerry is a vote to
die in your own bed at the hands of Dick Cheney.”


Stepping up to the podium after
Cheney, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge vowed to increase
surveillance of the vice president.


Wherever Cheney is—whether
in his office in the White House or stumping in battleground
states—we will be watching him,” Ridge said. “I
will not rule out raising the terror-alert level, should Kerry begin
to draw ahead in the polls. Every percentage point conceded to
Kerry brings the nation under greater threat of attack by Cheney.


Just remember, when it all hits the fan, where you heard it first.


Thursday, October 14, 2004
 
I Went Back To Ohio, And My City Was Gone

Take a close look at an electoral map of the U.S. This election looks like it will be close, but I think we can make two pretty safe assumptions.

1. Bush will win Florida (Jeb will see to that); and

2. If Bush loses Ohio, put a fork in him -- he's done.

Our old friend Atrios seems to think last night's debate sewed up Ohio for Kerry:

I'm pretty sure last night's debate just won Ohio for Kerry. Between [the debate] and John Snow's comments yesterday that job losses were a "myth," Ohio's going to go Kerry....Why Ohio? Because Ohio does have one of the higher unemployment rates in the country - 6.3%. Admittedly, that still isn't so high, but the thing is Ohio's been hit with the kind of unemployment which doesn't just hurt individuals, it demolishes communities. And, Bush's answer was just a slap in the face to all of those people.

Atrios can get a little over-excited at times, but he's right to focus on Ohio. If you see that state go to Kerry on November 2nd, you can turn off the TV and go to bed; the election would be over at that point.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004
 
If You're Gonna Dream, Dream Big
Today's New York Times takes a gander at the endgames being employed by both the Kerry and Bush camps. One paragraph in particular caught my eye:

Still, some Democrats argued that this contest was comparable to the election of 1980, when former President Jimmy Carter saw his standing plummet after a debate in which Ronald Reagan, who had been belittled by Mr. Carter throughout the fall, was widely viewed as winning simply by exceeding the low expectations Mr. Carter had established for him. Mr. Bush's aides have resisted that historical parallel, saying a more apt comparison was Franklin D. Roosevelt's re-election campaigns in World War II.
.

Now, Kerry didn't start to gain traction until after the first debate, so I can see the Democrats' argument. But do the Republicans seriously believe this election is going to be a replay of 1944, with Bush cast in the role of FDR? Earth to the Bush spinmeisters: FDR was a popular incumbent. He won 53% of the vote and 432 electoral votes to Dewey's 46% and 99 electoral votes.

Well, at least they've stopped predicting a replay of the 1984 contest, so we're making progress. But yumpin' yiminy, there aren't enough psychiatrists to treat these people.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004
 
Live Long And Prosper, Alan Keyes

"Logic isn't everything, Mr. Spock. That's why we're voting for Alan Keyes!"

Alan Keyes, I underestimated you.

All this time I thought you were a nut, a sacrificial lamb being thrown under the wheels of the Barack Obama juggernaut in Illinois. But how devious you are! Like a Romulan, you coldly calculated the odds and began looking for a consitituency to exploit. And you found it. You have sewn up that most crucial and overlooked of demographics, the Trekkie vote. Without question, Illinois' silent majority of Trekkie voters will be drawn to your candidacy like a gang of Ferengi to a bar of gold-plated platinum! How do I know? Because it has been revealed that you, Alan Keyes, are -- ulp! -- a Trekkie!

Keyes is an unabashed 'Trekkie,' taking time between his cerebral, philosophical books to plunge into "Star Trek," "Stargate" and other science fiction pulp.

"Alan really loved that line in the Star Trek movie, the one with the Borg, where Picard draws the line in the sand and says 'It ends here,'" Lewis said.

Keyes' favorite is "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." He is watching the whole series on CD.

"There's something basically clean and decent and all-American about the respect for human dignity that [Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry showed," Keyes said. The episodes are morality plays about good vs. evil like the old Westerns such as "High Noon" that Keyes loves, he said

.

Funny, I always thought Star Trek was a cautionary tale about a guy who jumps between the sheets with alien women on various planets and then high-tails it out of town before the test-strip changes color.

I'm a political junkie as well as a science-fiction geek, and I've always been interested in the Star Trek franchise's peculiar take on political and economic reality. I've tried to engage Trekkies in friendly discussions about the politics underpinning the show. But there's no such thing as a friendly discussion with a Trekkie; no matter what the topic, they become crazed and irrational, kind of like the evil Kirk in that episode where there was....well, a good Kirk and an evil Kirk.

But one thing that always seemed clear to me is that Star Trek is remarkably liberal, even left-wing, in its worldview. The show is unflinching in its depiction of a multi-hued, multi-cultural society where everybody gets along. The Federation that governs this society is a kind of outer-space U.N., an organization that is noble in concept and just in execution, its benign will enforced by Starfleet. It is an economic future in which self-sustaining machines produce all goods and the profit motive has been eradicated from society....resulting in a sort of technology-driven socialist utopia.

In one of the Star Trek movies -- I don't remember which one so you'll have to trust me on this -- someone asks Captain Picard how much it cost to construct the Enterprise, and he replies "Nothing". Umm, nothing? Are you sure? Because money is a measure of finite material resources expended, and finite human resources expended. If it costs nothing to produce the outer-space equivalent of an aircraft carrier, can I have one? How about one for each person reading this post? I'm a pretty liberal guy, but I believe that an incentive-based economy is necessary to a healthy society. Star Trek depicts a society where technology has freed people from having to do anything they don't want to, but in my opinion that would distort human civilization in so many ways we couldn't guess at the outcome.

In spite of all this, Alan Keyes -- whose candidacy rests equally upon God, the Unborn and the Free Market -- is a Trekkie? Did I miss something?

Or did he?


Monday, October 11, 2004
 
He Knows Because He's Been There

David Bossie's group, Citizens
United
, has just released a movie titled: “Celsius 41.11 —
The Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die.”


If you
guessed that it's a rebuttal movie to “Fahrenheit 9/11,”
then you'd be right.


I first learned about it while watching CNN's Headline News
the other day, when out of the blue I was assaulted by the image of
Mr. Bossie's doughy, man-in-the-moon face waggling and pontificating
all over my screen, like some sort of John Birch Society bobblehead
collectible.


The last time I caught wind of Bossie's stench was back in the
spring of 2003. It was also on CNN, and he was waggling and
pontificating back then about a series of pro-war ads that his
organization had spun out in anticipation of our then-upcoming
Glorious Petal-Strewn March To Baghdad. You might remember them; they
were the ones
starring Hollywood actor-turned-Congressman (turned
actor again) Fred
Thompson
.


Even in my jaded years, I am constantly amazed by CNN's
ability to pretend that David Bossie isn't anything but the wartiest
of trolls. Every few months or so he pops out from under his bridge,
craps out a few more turds on reality, and just grins toothily while
CNN laps it up for him.


I'll get more into that later; for now, here's a little of that hot
talk about
the movie
:


After its premiere in Washington
last week, there seemed to be two prevailing sentiments among the
solidly Republican crowd of 300. One was that the film is a lot more
thoughtful and accurate than Fahrenheit 9/11. The other was that it
is not going to gross $100 million.


Well, duh. The film isn't going to gross $100 bucks if you
keep showing it off for
free
. Lordy, for a bunch of hard-core Republicans, you people
sure don't seem to have much grasp of the free-market system.


And I don't care how much bloviatory you folks care to spout about
butting
up against
some great “liberal media” conspiracy. The
type of people who actually own the theater chains in this
country are certainly not among that cadre. You should have no
problem locking in as much theater space as you want, if Philip
Anschutz
has anything to say about it.


And I dare say he could, since he owns something in the area of
6,400 theater
screens
in this country. And since he's one of those freeky-deeky
fundo Christian billionaires that suddenly own and run everything on
this continent, you can bet he will do it, too.


And with his newly-acquired
newspaper
empire
, it's also safe to say that he'll figure out how to get
the word out for you.


But money isn't really the deal with this thing. As the original
article
goes on to point out, you all know that too:


But then, that was not the point,
as the Hollywood conservatives (yes, there are some) who made it kept
insisting.


We could have gone wall to
wall with red meat on this, but we purposely didn't,” said
Lionel Chetwynd, a writer and producer of the film. His credits
include the screenplay for The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
and documentaries on D-Day, Vietnam and Sept. 11, and he was billed
as a special guest at this past weekend's Liberty Film Festival,
“Hollywood's first conservative film festival.” “The
cheap shots may be entertaining in Moore's film,” he added,
“but we wanted to make the intellectual case and go beyond
lecturing to the converted.”


Now that's rich, coming from a guy giving high praise to a movie
fronted by David
Bossie
.


Michael Moore may be something of a
blowhard, and his documentaries may be slanted; but David Bossie is
such an unforgivable fabulist that if he walked right up to me and
announced that there was no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, I'd
immediately whack his teeth out with the nearest rock and fully
expect to find a bagload of quarters under my pillow by the next
sunrise.


During the nineties, Bossie made a
career for himself as one of the chief witch-smellers of the
anti-Clinton Crusader Crowd. He was prospering mightily at it, too
... until the Web Hubbell tape recording incident.


You might remember, during the height of the Whitewater frenzy,
that there was some question as to whether Hillary Clinton had been
involved with billing irregularities at the Rose Law Firm, where she
worked. When taped
conversations
between Clinton confidants Webster Hubbell and his
wife were released to the public, it appeared as if their
conversations confirmed those suspicions.


Appeared as if, that is. Because, as it turned out, those
conversations had been selectively
edited
. Whereas in the unabridged version of the conversation Web
Hubbell specifically denied Hillary Clinton doing or knowing of any
such thing, the edited version conveniently
eliminated
those parts. In fact, any one listening to the edited
conversations would have come to the exact opposite conclusion
— that Hubbell and his wife were actually accusing Hillary of
corruption.


At the time, David Bossie was the chief investigator for the House
Government Oversight and Reform Committee, the organization
responsible for this gaffe. Although he copped to no wrongdoing at
the time (do they ever?), he did abruptly
resign
when the malfeasance was discovered. At least one insider
to the incident referred to the mangled tapes as a “David
Bossie Project.


For a nauseatingly precise rundown of some other “David
Bossie Projects,” I suggest you check out this
page
. There, you'll find such disturbing Bossie anecdotes as the
time he and a cohort burst into the hospital room of a stroke victim
and began hectoring his nervous wreck of a wife about their
daughter's 1977 suicide.


They were trying to find out if Clinton had anything to do with
it, you see.


And then there's Bossie's organization — Citizens United.
Anybody alive during the 1980's should remember their most famous
project.


In case your memory needs a little prodding, however, here's a
little sample dialogue to spark
your memory
:


“... Dukakis not only opposes
the death penalty, he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend
passes from prison. One was Willie Horton, who murdered a boy in a
robbery, stabbing him 19 times. Despite a life sentence, Horton
received 10 weekend passes from prison. Horton fled, kidnapped a
young couple, stabbing the man and repeatedly raping his girlfriend.
Weekend prison passes. Dukakis on Crime.”


Yep, that's right. These
are the same people
who brought us the “Willie Horton”
ad ... the most vicious, pandering, racially incendiary piece of
advertising trash in modern political memory.


I don't care if Michael Moore is the Devil himself. After what
these people have done, I'll believe Moore over whatever they tell me
any day of the week.


Sunday, October 10, 2004
 
Help, Mr. Wizard!
Sometimes I begin conversations with sentences like, "I've been thinking about Tooter Turtle lately."

Mrs. Uncle Mike sighs a lot on such occasions, but the truth is I have been thinking of that show and its eponymous amphibious protagonist. And try as I might, I can't shake the feeling that there is something important about it.

Tooter Turtle, for the uninitiated, was a cartoon show about a sweet but dull-witted turtle who dreamed idly of engaging in various exciting occupations. Tooter would get the hankering to be a fireman, or a cowboy, or an astronaut, things he was not remotely qualified to do. But his friend and mentor, Mr. Wizard, would allow Tooter to experience the career in question for a short time. Inevitably, poor Tooter would get in trouble and in desperation would cry out "Help, Mr. Wizard! I don't want to be an astronaut [or fireman, or cowboy] anymore!"

In every episode, Mr. Wizard would call Tooter back with this incantation:

Drizzle, drazzle, drozzle, drome

Time for this one to come home

Mr. Wizard would then lecture Tooter about how it's better to be happy with your mundane life than it is to yearn for things you can't have. This sentiment was always puzzling to me, though, because it seemed so....well....so un-American. After all, we Americans are never afraid to yearn for what we can't have -- that's what sets us apart. We are a defiant people; we like to believe that there are no limits on our lives or our dreams.

But maybe I was wrong. Perhaps Tooter Turtle is a true-blue American archetype -- an archetype embodied by our current President!

After all, George W. has lived a very Tooter-esque life. He dreamed of being a Texas oil baron, a baseball team owner, a corporate CEO. Each time his wish was granted by a real-life Mr. Wizard. And each time George ran into trouble, there came the inevitable cry: "Help, Mr. Wizard!" And the Mr. Wizards in George's life -- and certainly there have been many -- waved a magic wand and George's problems faded away, like the memory of a bad dream.

Now, presiding over a bloody conflict in Iraq and a sputtering economy, facing an angry and disillusioned world and a bitter re-election fight, George is calling on Mr. Wizard one last time. But perhaps now it will be the voters, not Mr. Wizard, who speak the magic words

:

Drizzle, drazzle, drozzle,drome

Time for this one to come home



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