30 September, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

The Republicon party has now officially become a farce.

They can't get their message straight:

John McCain not only supported the bailout package rejected by the House, he bragged about his role in getting the bill to the floor yesterday. His running mate suggested the bill was necessary to avert a depression. His campaign credited McCain personally for the bill's very existence.

So it was a little odd to see the Republican National Committee come out with a new ad this morning blasting Barack Obama for the bailout package.

The Republican Party's independent expenditure arm is up with an ad that hints at opposing the bailout, and links Obama's spending plans, in a vague but ominous way, to it.

The ad was expected to air in Indiana and Virginia, along with more traditional battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Let me get this straight. The Republican president supported the bill. The Republican Senate leadership supported the bill. The Republican House leadership supported the bill. The Republican presidential nominee supported the bill. And the Republican National Committee runs an ad insisting that Obama's bailout package "will make the problem worse."

Indeed, the RNC unveiled its breathtaking ad literally within minutes of John McCain telling Fox
that in order to get increased support for the bill, "We're going to have to change enough Republican and Democrats' minds.""

Does this remind anyone else of two children trying to pull a wagon by tugging in opposite directions? We have McCain not speaking for the McCain campaign, the McCain campaign not speaking for McCain, Sarah Palin not speaking for either one, and now the RNC takes up a position diametrically opposed to its own fucking candidate. I'm expecting clowns to come tumbling out of the campaign plane any minute now.

Oh, wait. They already have one:

Howard Kurtz generated some interest yesterday when he reported that as bad as Sarah Palin's interview(s) with Katie Couric were, the "worst may be yet to come for Palin;
sources say CBS has two more responses on tape that will likely prove embarrassing."

How much worse could it be? Apparently, one of the problematic responses has to do with the Supreme Court.

The Palin aide, after first noting how "infuriating" it was for CBS to purportedly leak word about the gaffe, revealed that it came in response to a question about Supreme Court decisions.

After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases.

There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence.

Usually, she can at least respond with incoherent babble. This actually isn't a hard question: anyone with a passing familiarity with national issues can name at least one Supreme Court case other than Roe. Off the top of my head, I can name Miranda vs. Arizona, Hamden, Bush vs. Gore... there's plenty more. If you read as many newspapers as Sarah Palin, rattling off a Supreme Court decision or two should be no problem:

Tonight on the CBS Evening News, host Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin which sources she relies on for her news consumption. Three separate times, Couric tried to elicit a response from Palin about which specific newspapers she reads. Seemingly caught off guard, Palin could not name a single news source:

COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?

PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media —

COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.

PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.


For fuck's sake.

McCain could've run a parrot as his veep and would've gotten a more loquacious, aware partner. African grays are intelligent birds, and they could at least repeat the talking points his aides have been stuffing down Palin's maw with some degree of accuracy.

Moving on from that trainwreck, the devastation doesn't get any better. I've heard talk of Obama being like Lincoln and appointing a bipartisan cabinet containing a few intelligent, hard-working Republicons, but I have no idea where he might find some. Would he choose... Newt Gingrich?

Now that House Republicans are insisting their vote against the bailout yesterday had nothing to do with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s supposedly “partisan” speech, some are wondering what in fact turned at least 10 Republican votes Blunt thought he had against the bill.

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported this morning that conservatives may have been taking their marching orders from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who “was whipping against this up until the last minute” — despite issuing a statement supporting the bill as the vote was
taking place:

MITCHELL: I’m told reliably by leading Republicans who are close to him, he was whipping against this up until the last minute when he issued that face-saving statement. Newt Gingrich was telling people in the strongest possible language that this was a terrible deal, not only that it was a terrible deal, that it was a disaster, it was the end of democracy as we know it, it was socialism. And then at the last minute comes out with a statement when the vote is already in place.

No, too hypocritical and devious, not to mention totally fucking insane. House Republicons, maybe?

Yesterday, after the proposed bipartisan bailout package failed to pass, the House Republican leadership declared in a press conference that a “partisan” speech by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was to blame for GOP opposition to the bill. But after being ridiculed by Democrats, media observers, and even some conservatives, Republicans are now walking back that claim:

– Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN): “We are not babies who suck their thumbs.”

– Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO): “I think you don’t want to give too much blame to that speech.”

– Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ): “It was embarrassing for leadership on both parties to lose the bill, so they went out and made a stupid claim.”

– Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN): “That speech was not the reason I voted against the bill.” [MSNBC, 9/30/08]

Oh, fuck no.

I think Obama's gonna have to stick with regular ol' Dems and maybe the occasional Independent. I hear quite a few of those used to be Republicons before the crybabies and toddlers took over the party.

Bill Donahue Strikes Again

Is it possible for the Catholic League's Bill "Frothing Insane" Donahue to sound even more ridiculous than he did during the Great Cracker Controversy?

Oh, my, yes:

The Catholic League's Bill Donohue comes to Sarah Palin's defense now that the video of her being blessed by Thomas Muthee has been making its way into the mainstream media, accusing the "chattering class" of ridiculing Palin's faith and demanding that they respect Muthee's apparent belief in witchcraft:

“Witchcraft is a sad reality in many parts of Africa, resulting in scores of deaths in Kenya over the past two decades. Bishop Muthee’s blessing, then, was simply a reflection of his cultural understanding of evil. While others are not obliged to accept his interpretation, all can be expected to respect it. More than that—Muthee should be hailed for asking God to shield Palin from harmful forces, however they may be manifested. And for this he is mocked and Palin ridiculed?

“We know that many cultural elites have a hard time embracing religion, but is it too much to ask that they at least show some manners when discussing subjects which most Americans hold dear?”

Now, Bill. I know you're off your meds, but let's try to face a little reality, here. Firstly, witchcraft isn't a "sad reality." Superstitious buggers believing in witchcraft and murdering people over that inane belief is. There's an important difference, which I'm sure you're not quite equipped to appreciate there.

Secondly, no, all can't "be expected to respect" some frothing fundie's superstitious claptrap. You yourself don't respect others' beliefs. You took off after poor Pastor Hagee for his sincerely-held belief that the Catholic church is the Great Whore.

That's not even to bring up your incredible anti-gay, anti-secular Jew, and anti-anyone-who-doesn't-think-exactly-like-Bill-Donahue bias.

"Gay death style?" "I'm pretty good at picking out queers"? Your language, Mister, is positively outrageous. Your little tantrums are increasingly tiresome. Is it too much to ask that you at least show some manners when letting your bigotry hang out in public?

Hooray, Tax Revenue!

Courtesy of some right-wing churches that want to have their cake and eat it, too, it looks like we could be in for a windfall:

Following up on an item from a few weeks ago, federal tax law, as it relates to tax-exempt religious ministries, is pretty clear -- houses of worship may not legally intervene in political campaigns, either in support of or opposition to a candidate or a party. Those who violate the law run the risk of losing their tax-exempt status.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a prominent far-right legal-advocacy group, came up with a plan -- convince conservative Christian pastors to break the law, on purpose, invite IRS punishment, and then take the whole issue to court in order to challenge the law itself.

They called the plan "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," which was held yesterday in 33 churches across the country.

Defying a federal law that prohibits U.S. clergy from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit, an evangelical Christian minister told his congregation Sunday that voting for Sen. Barack Obama would be evidence of "severe moral schizophrenia."

The Rev. Ron Johnson Jr. told worshipers that the Democratic presidential nominee's positions on abortion and gay partnerships exist "in direct opposition to God's truth as He has revealed it in the Scriptures." Johnson showed slides contrasting the candidates' views but stopped short of endorsing Obama's Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain.

Johnson and 32 other pastors across the country set out Sunday to break the rules, hoping to generate a legal battle that will prompt federal courts to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.

The ministers contend they have a constitutional right to advise their worshipers how to vote. As Johnson put it during a break between sermons, "The point that the IRS says you can't do it, I'm saying you're wrong."

At first blush, this may sound compelling. If a church wants to endorse a candidate, it's the church's business, right? If congregations don't like it, they can go to another church. If a pastor passes the collection plate for John McCain during Sunday services, church members can contribute or not contribute. This isn't, the argument goes, any of the government's business.

But this falls apart pretty quickly. Tax law doesn't stifle free speech; it applies conditions to tax exemptions.

I do believe this little stunt's going to go over about as well as their repeated attempts to teach creationism in science class. Maybe we can pay for the eventual bailout by taxing churches that are too stupid and pompous to believe the tax laws should apply to them.

Hopefully, this moronic move will make it to the Supreme Court. I could use the entertainment. I do so love watching arrogant assholes get bitch-slapped by Constitutional law.

Adventures in Banned Books

Raise your hand if you think you're looking at child porn.

Back when I worked at B. Dalton, I only saw my manager lose her composure with a customer once. Some fuckwit came up to the counter foaming at the mouth with an Anne Geddes book in his hand. He demanded we remove all copies from the shelves immediately. "Anne Geddes is child porn!" he proclaimed.

My manager gave him a dumbfounded look. He'd struck both of us speechless. And he continued to rant while we attempted to pick our jaws up off the cashwrap, pompously turning pages and pointing to damning pictures of nekkid bebbes lying in fields of roses and other such horrors.

Now, I'm no Anne Geddes fan. Nauseating cute has never been my forte. Babies, in my world, are sticky squalling bundles of misery best left to others to ooo and ahh over. People look at Anne Geddes and think, "Adorable!" I look at her photos and think, "I wonder how long it took for them to get the kid to stop screaming and look precious." But the last damned thing most of us would think is that such images were pornographic.

My manager and I looked at each other, both thinking the same thing: Anyone who would see these photos as child pornography needs some serious counselling.

She tried sweet reason with the fuckwit. "These are cute babies, there's nothing sexual about this, look, most of them are in little costumes." To no avail. He continued demanding we remove the books. He was going to write to our corporate office, and the newspaper, and probably the attorney general, and let them all know we sold kiddie porn.

My manager lost it at last. Her face turned red. "We do not censor books," she informed him in tones that would have flayed a normal individual alive. "There is nothing wrong with Anne Geddes. We're not removing those books, and I want you out of this store immediately."

He redoubled his rants. She finally exploded. "If you don't leave now, I'll call security and have you removed. Do not ever come back here."

She marched him out the door, and returned to me fuming. "I can't stand people who try to censor books," she announced.

Well, neither can I. I even went so far as to buy some Anne Geddes kitsch for family members by way of protest.

We proudly wore our "I READ BANNED BOOKS" buttons at the store. We sold anything and everything, without fear or favor - except The Anarchist's Cookbook, which either through corporate policy or law enforcement request wasn't something we'd carry. That was the only time we failed free speech, and it wasn't our choice. I'm proud of that record.

Book banning is a slippery slope. Ban one book for its content, and you've opened the door to a multitude of excuses. Everyone's going to find something offensive, even in the least offensive of tomes. Best to draw the bright line at no censorship, and let the marketplace of ideas take over from there.

Otherwise, we won't even have saccharine sweet books of baby pictures to read.

29 September, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Remember how McCain "rode to the rescue" of the bailout package? Remember how just this morning, he and his campaign were bragging about how his intervention saved the day? Heh heh heh whoops:

Everyone knew the vote on the bailout package would be close, and it was. Everyone did not know it would come up short.

In a moment of historic drama in the Capitol and on Wall Street, the House of Representatives voted on Monday to reject a $700 billion rescue of the financial industry.

The vote against the measure was 228 to 205. Supporters vowed to try to bring the rescue package up for consideration against as soon as possible.

Stock markets plunged sharply at midday as it appeared that the measure was go down.

House leaders pushing for the package kept the voting period open for some 40 minutes past the allotted time, trying to convert "no" votes by pointing to damage being done to the markets, but to no avail.

Here's the final roll call on the vote. A total of 140 Democrats voted for it, 95 against it, while 65 Republicans voted for it, 133 against it.

Heckuva job, Johnny!

So, why did the Republicons bail on the bailout? Was it a principled stand against a flawed bill? Concern that throwing $700 billion at the problem wouldn't solve it? A burning desire to ensure that Main Street doesn't get raped by Wall Street? Um, no:

I can appreciate how ridiculous House Minority Leader John Boehner looks right now. I can even appreciate the fact that the Republican Party is looking desperately for someone to blame. But the GOP really hasn't thought this one through.

Several Republican aides said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had torpedoed any spirit of bipartisanship that surrounded the bill with her scathing speech near the close of the debate that blamed Bush's policies for the economic turmoil.

Without mentioning her by name, Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., No. 3 Republican, said: "The partisan tone at the end of the debate today I think did impact the votes on our side."

Putnam said lawmakers were working "to garner the necessary votes to avoid a financial collapse."

But the defeat was already causing a brutal round of finger-pointing. "We could have gotten there today had it not been for the partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House," House Minority Leader John Boehner said. Pelosi's words, the Ohio Republican said, "poisoned our conference, caused a number of members that we thought we could get, to go south."

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the whip, estimated that Pelosi's speech changed the minds of a dozen Republicans who might otherwise have supported the plan.

On its face, this is comically stupid. House Republicans wanted to vote to prevent a financial collapse, the pitch goes, but the Big Bad House Speaker made them mad with a speech. You can read Pelosi's remarks yourself -- if it strikes you as the kind of speech that's worth risking the economy over, let me know.

But more important that than is the truly ridiculous frame Republicans are establishing for themselves by using Pelosi's speech as an excuse for their own failure. The House GOP, for reasons that defy comprehension, has decided to characterize itself as a caucus of cry babies.
Worse, they're irresponsible cry babies who, according to their own argument, are more concerned with their precious hurt feelings than the nation's economic stability.

It's a great slogan for the election season, isn't it? "Vote Republican -- We're More Concerned With Our Feelings Than Your Future."

That's right. That mean old Nancy Pelosi said mean things, so in a fit of petulance, the poor widdle Republicons threw a tantrum and refused to play. We are ruled by a House full of two year-olds.

I can't wait to see how that excuse plays with voters who are watching their 401Ks vanish as we speak.

But let's not let impending financial collapse due to the Republicons' inability to swallow their hurt feelings and vote for what we've been assured is the only thing standing between us and the next Great Depression distract us from really important issues. Such as... is Obama the Antichrist?
Fort Hill, SC Mayor Danny Funderburk said he forwarded a chain email suggesting Barack Obama is the antichrist because he was “just curious” if it was true:
“I was just curious if there was any validity to it,” Funderburk said in a telephone interview. “I was trying to get documentation if there was any scripture to back it up.”

If the House Republicons hadn't thrown their tantrum, that would've been the single most fucking stupid thing a politician did today. I can't even begin to dissect the layers of dumbassitude in that statement. It's too bad he has so much competition for most fucktarded politician in America.

If there's a ray of sunshine in all of this relentless dumbfuckery, it's this:

After an 18-month investigation, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility released a report today on the Bush administration’s controversial removal of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. Though the report finds that three of the attorneys were fired for political reasons, “former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales will not be referred to a federal grand jury for his role” in the firings.

Instead, the report recommends that Attorney General Michael Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor to “determine whether the evidence demonstrates that any criminal offense was
committed” in any of the firings. In a
statement today, Mukasey named Nora Dannehy, the acting U.S. attorney of Connecticut, as the special prosecutor:

The Report leaves some important questions unanswered and recommends that I appoint an attorney to assess the facts uncovered, to conduct further investigation as needed, and ultimately to determine whether any prosecutable offense was committed with regard to the removal of a U.S. Attorney or the testimony of any witness related to the U.S. Attorney removals. […]

Therefore, I have asked Nora Dannehy to exercise the authority of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia for purposes of this matter. In that capacity, Ms. Dannehy will report to me through the Deputy Attorney General.

According to the Washington Post, Mukasey’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor ensures “that the politically charged issue will extend into the next administration.”

There is a faint hope here that some of the egregious criminality in the Bush Regime may finally get some of these fuckwits pulled into court and, eventually, thrown in jail. Just a tiny ray of hope.

I'll take what I can get at this point.

Carnival of the Elitist Bastards V: Gone Cruisin'

Aye, my darlings, the crew of the HMS Elitist Bastard is all aboard The Coffee-Stained Writer's Caribbean Elite, and we be savoring the luxury. Captain NP, who worked herself to the bone and delivered a brilliant Carnival of the Elitist Bastards, has the full report of our carousing.

Look on her works, ye landlubbers, and admire!

Our celebrated return:

(Postdated to stick around a bit)

An Unhealthy Aversion to Sex and Fantasy: Welcome to Banned Books Week

I know, I know. The Palin Train Wreck is about to leave the station (and who can doubt that her upcoming debate with Sen. Joe Biden is going to be anything but an epic fail?), the bailout package is wandering the halls of Congress demanding braaaiiinss, and as John McCain watches his poll numbers sink, he gets more frantic by the hour, which leads to endless entertainment. Who has time for anything else?

But this is important, my darlings. It's Banned Books Week, and with a vice presidential candidate who's all about the book banning, it's more important than ever that we don't let the banners and burners get a leg up on us.

In reading through lists of challenged books over this past year, I've noticed an ongoing theme: sex and fantasy. The banners are of the opinion that the slightest description of sex, the merest hint that homosexuality isn't eviiil, and the faintest whiff of witches or wizards are reasons to ban books. And they're not limiting themselves to screaming blue murder over blue language at the local school library.


They're going international:
On September 10, ABFFE and 18 groups issued a statement urging Congress to protect American writers and publishers from the growing threat posed by libel suits that are filed in foreign countries in an effort to intimidate them. The lawsuits are filed in countries that offer less protection for criticism than the United States and where the burden of proof rests with the defendant to prove the truth of any allegedly libelous statement. Defendants in these cases sometimes have to defend their books in countries where they have never been published. The practice of filing foreign libel cases against Americans has been denounced as "libel tourism." The statement, which was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, calls for passage of the Free Speech Protection Act of 2008 (S. 2977). Modeled on a New York law, S. 2977 provides that foreign libel judgments cannot be enforced in the United States if the speech is not actionable under U.S. law. S. 2977 also authorizes U.S. authors to countersue the foreign plaintiffs in a U.S. court for damages of up to three times the amount of the foreign judgment if the foreign plaintiff acted to suppress their speech. Click here to read the statement.
The burners are serious about censorship. We're going to get serious right back at 'em. So, my darlings, grab your buttons and your favorite banned book, and make a statement: Your psychological hangups don't dictate my reading material!

Now Taking Requests

Let's open the floor to you all, my darlings. This cantina, after all, is for you.

Do you have a field of science or a particularly juicy bit o' science news you want to see highlighted in Sunday Sensational Science? Lay it on me.

Ideas for Friday Favorites? Let's have 'em.

Anything else on your mind? I'm all ears.

The floor is yours.

There's Divorced from Reality and Then There's...

...murdering it, cutting it into pieces, stuffing the remains into suitcases, and dumping them in remote areas while telling concerned inquirers that "Reality and I just felt like we needed a little break from each other. I think she went to Barbados. Don't worry - I'm sure she'll be back soon!"

The co-founder of the Federalist Society answers the question of whether distrust in the Bush administration was leading to skepticism about the treasury bailout plan:

This Administration deserves to be trusted because it has kept us safe from terrorist attack since 9/11, has fought and won two wars, has presided over eight years of economic growth, has appointed two stellar justices to the Supreme Court, and has even learned how to do Louisiana's job of protecting that state from hurricanes. The day will come, and not before long, when Americans will wish that George Bush was still president.
There's not a single statement in there that even remotely corresponds to reality. There's not even a single plausible statement in there. It's a new neocon record for most sweeping denial of reality evah!

Do I even have to debunk this? I mean, it'd be sort of like debunking the ravings of a schizophrenic homeless guy: it could be done, but why do the work when the rest of us know it's just the insanity talking?

28 September, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Today, we learn that Sarah Palin doesn't speak for the McCain campaign:
Over the summer, there were a series of instances in which John McCain would say something, and McCain aides would walk it back by saying the candidate doesn't actually speak for the candidate's campaign. At one point, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, one of McCain's top advisors, said that just because McCain says something publicly about a policy, "that doesn't mean it's official."

This morning, McCain took a similar tack with Sarah Palin.

Sen. John McCain retracted Sarah Palin's stance on Pakistan Sunday morning, after the Alaska governor appeared to back Sen. Barack Obama's support for unilateral strikes inside Pakistan against terrorists

"She would not...she understands and has stated repeatedly that we're not going to do anything except in America's national security interest," McCain told ABC's George Stephanopoulos of Palin. "In all due respect, people going around and... sticking a microphone while conversations are being held, and then all of a
sudden that's -- that's a person's position... This is a free country, but I don't think most Americans think that that's a definitive policy statement made by Governor Palin."

I see. So, just because Sarah Palin says something in public doesn't mean Palin actually believes what she's saying. And for goodness sakes, no one should think that Palin's comments are a reflection of the campaign's position on an issue.

Can I just ask one small question here? Thank you. If John McCain doesn't speak for his campaign, and his running mate Sarah Palin doesn't speak for his campaign, just why the fuck are we supposed to vote for them?

While we're at it, would somebody please tell me why we would want to vote for a man with a gambling problem?

We talked the other day about John McCain's affinity for gambling -- literally with games of chance, and figuratively with taking enormous risks -- to the point that even some
Republicans concede that McCain is "
on the borderline of what is acceptable."

But in a striking and well-researched piece, the New York Times' Jo Becker and Don Van Natta report today on the extent of McCain's gambling interests and gambling ties.

Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party's evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who
represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.

The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to Mr. McCain's campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world's second-largest casino. Joining them was Rick Davis, Mr. McCain's current campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just Mr. McCain's affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress.

That appears to be an understatement. McCain has more than 40 top advisers and fundraisers who have lobbied or worked for gambling interests. Several of McCain's closest personal friends are casino executives. He receives more money from the gambling industry than almost any member of Congress, especially those outside Nevada and New Jersey. And he loves
heading to casinos, traveling to Las Vegas regularly for "weekend betting marathons," overruling aides who've asked him to consider the appearances -- not only of a man who gambles too much, but also of a senator who has enormous oversight responsibilities of the gaming industry.

Gambling isn't a hot-button issue for me, but this is why I find McCain's penchant to play the odds disturbing. First, it's not a part of his personality he seems to be able to turn off: he's as impulsive with policy decisions and political choices (Palin, anyone?) as he is with the games. Secondly, he favors games of chance, not strategy - which can speak to a personality that doesn't like to fiddle with details, carefully assess risks, and in general isn't the kind of attitude you'd like to see in a president. Thirdly, there's the fact he's immersed so deeply in the gaming industry. It's one thing to play a few games. It's quite another to have forty fucking advisers and fundraisers who have such close ties to that industry.

And McCain does them favors, such as getting rivals out of the way:

McCain often brags that he led the Senate investigation into fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who overbilled his Indian tribal clients millions of dollars. However, the New York Times reports that lobbyists in McCain’s inner circle “played a behind-the-scenes role in bringing Mr. Abramoff’s misdeeds to Mr. McCain’s attention — and then cashed in on the resulting investigation“:

For McCain-connected lobbyists who were rivals of Mr. Abramoff, the scandal presented a chance to crush a competitor. For senior McCain advisers, the inquiry allowed them to collect fees from the very Indians that Mr. Abramoff had ripped off. And the investigation enabled Mr. McCain to confront political enemies who helped defeat him in his 2000 presidential run while polishing his maverick image.

After firing Abramoff, the Coushatta tribe hired lobbyist Hance Scarborough, who had been friends with McCain since the ’80s. Scarborough charged the tribe nearly $1.3 million for 11 months of work, although his firm produced few tangible results. In 2005, Scarborough also put McCain’s then-chief strategist John Weaver on the tribe’s payroll. The Coushattas said it was like the Abramoff scandal “happening all over again.”

That doesn't sound like a man who's going to clean up Washington, does it?

Unless, of course, your definition of "clean up" is "rob blind."

Sunday Sensational Science

Captivating Clouds

Who hasn't spent an afternoon dreaming dragons and castles in the clouds? Watched a thunderstorm build from nothing into towering anvils and bizarre colors? Some of the most beautiful sights on earth begin with clouds sailing over the moon or sun. Simple water vapor and ice crystal collections do some spectacular things.

But if all you've seen are the old standbys of cumulus, cirrus, and stratus, you've missed out on some truly incredible sights. Let's take a walk through the skies and observe some of the rarest clouds around.

Noctilucent (night shining) clouds form so high in the atmosphere - over fifty miles in some cases - that scientists still don't completely understand them. They were first observed after Krakotoa's eruption in 1885, and there's some talk that their increased prevalence could be a harbinger of global warming. Their ice crystals are so tiny they don't scatter light efficiently, and so they're only visible when the sun is below the horizon.

Click the picture for a great NASA story on them.

Mammatus clouds, though not an everyday sight, aren't quite so rare. They're opportunists, forming under a wide variety of cloud types - not to mention jet plane contrails and volcanic ash clouds. They're another poorly understood lot. Wikipedia lists no less than ten proposed mechanisms for their formation.

Lenticular clouds have personally freaked me out before. Living near a mountain, you have a good chance of seeing these every once in a great while, and it's bizarre. They don't look like they could have possibly formed from natural causes. They form on the downward side of warm, moist air flowing over mountains and creating standing waves.

Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds look like nature went a little crazy with the scroll art. They form when two different layers of air moving at different speeds make wave structures. These look like stylized ocean waves because it's pretty much the same mechanism that forms both: Kelvin-Helmholtz instability. Yes, air does indeed behave like a fluid.

Nacreous clouds form 9-16 miles high, and put on a spectacular show, lit by the invisible sun after sunset or before dawn. Gorgeous, yes, but also associated with ozone depletion: they support the chemical reactions that allow ozone holes to form. Bad, bad, beautiful clouds!

And, finally... regular old water vapor clouds. These look totally ordinary, don't they? And so they are, except for one thing: they're from Mars:

As northern summer ends on Mars, water vapor from the north pole comes down to lower latitudes making clouds, frost and even fog possible. That is what we are starting to see at the Mars Phoenix landing site.

Isn't that absolutely awesome? The ordinary is extraordinary again. Click the image to watch the Martian clouds go by on a late summer afternoon.

Persistent IDiots, Aren't They?

They're too stupid to give up. Here's yet another creationist-infested school board getting ready to toss millions of dollars down the shitter just so they can shove their religious claptrap down kids' throats:

The Brunswick County school board is looking for a way for creationism to be taught in the classroom side by side with evolution.

"It's really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism," county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday's meeting. "The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists."

Yes, you fuckwit. That's because evolution isn't a fucking religion - it's science. Not that you would know what science is. Fucking morons.

The topic came up after county resident Joel Fanti told the board he thought it was unfair for evolution to be taught as fact, saying it should be taught as a theory because there's no tangible proof it's true.

"I wasn't here 2 million years ago," Fanti said. "If evolution is so slow, why don't we see anything evolving now?"

What the fuck is wrong with these people? Why do they seem to believe they had to be there to personally witness events over millions of years before they're valid? And did this dumbass ever consider the fact he wasn't here 6,000 years ago, either? Let me ask you a question, Joel: if God is such a badass, why aren't we seeing him babbling from burning bushes now? I haven't personally seen Jesus in the flesh: therefore, he must not have ever existed.

See how that cuts both ways?

Not to mention the fact that evolution is fucking everywhere. Joel could step into any bloody biology lab in the country and watch evolution happen right before his god-blind eyes. The only thing not evolving is the fucking creationists.

Board attorney Joseph Causey said it might be possible for the board to add creationism to the curriculum if it doesn't replace the teaching of evolution.

Schools' Superintendent Katie McGee said her staff would do research.

Babson said the board must look at the law to see what it says about teaching creationism, but that "if we can do it, I think we ought to do it."

Let me save you the time and expense: you can't do it. No way, no how, no creationism.

You know what I think an easy solution to this is? Make these fuckers pay. Instead of the schools having to foot the legal bills for yet another hopeless attempt to replace science with fundamentalist Christian bullshit, make the dumbfucks who propose this crap pay for the pleasure. If school board members were personally on the hook for the expense, some of them might not be so eager to tilt at windmills. Even if not, at least the money would be coming out of church pockets (because you know they'd take up a bloody collection). Schools shouldn't have to pay for creationist stupidity.

(Tip o' the shot glass to Tristero)

27 September, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Adios, Paul Newman. You were awesome, and we'll miss you.

Ned Lamont, who challenged Lieberman for Connecticut's Senate seat, remembers:

We were way down in the polls and I was busy leaving messages on answering machines when a young volunteer came bounding into my rabbit warren and announced breathlessly, "Paul Newman is on the line." A little skeptical, I shot back that I was on the line with Vladimir Putin so hold all calls, but our savvy volunteer suggested that this was a call worth taking.

"Thanks for calling, Mr. Newman," I parried.

"Cut the Mr. Newman crap, it's Paul," was his opening line -- unmistakably the real deal.

After remembering Newman's humorous adventures with robocalls, Lamont says:

To me, Paul was Cool Hand Luke, challenging the good ol' boys and the conventional wisdom, with a delighted twinkle in his eye.

We'll miss you, Mr. Newman.

We already do.

Alas, the stoopid doesn't pause just because a great actor and human being died. Stoopid doesn't stop for anything - probably because it's too stupid to realize when it should quit. Yes, I'm talking about McCain and his merry bunch of raving fuckwits. However did you guess?

They're serving up a heaping helping of stoopid today. A friend of Steve Benen's described the McCain campaign's style as "ready, fire, aim," and he was spot-on. McCain did exactly that with his new attack ad. I imagine his foot's bleeding rather heavily about now:

So, McCain, unconcerned about decency or honesty, is doubling down on accusing Barack Obama of not supporting U.S. troops. In a new ad, unveiled this afternoon, the McCain campaign insists, "In the midst of war, Senator Obama voted to cut off funding for our troops." It concludes that Obama supports "risking lives."

McCain desperately has to hope voters are fools. Indeed, this came up last night, and Obama explained reality fairly well:

"Senator McCain opposed funding for troops in legislation that had a timetable, because he didn't believe in a timetable. I opposed funding a mission that had no timetable, and was open-ended, giving a blank check to George Bush. We had a difference on the timetable. We didn't have a difference on whether or not we were going to be funding troops. We had a legitimate difference."

What's really idiotic about McCain's attack is that, by his own logic, McCain voted to cut off funding for our troops in the midst of a war. That's an inescapable conclusion -- McCain supported troop funding when he liked the conditions of the spending bill, and opposed troop funding when he didn't. As it happens, Obama did the exact same thing, only in support of different conditions.

If Obama voted to undermine the troops and "risked lives," then McCain voted to undermine the troops and "risked lives." It's as simple as that.

Why is it that McCain doesn't seem to be concerned that his hypocrisy will cost him votes? Voters don't like to be treated as fucking fools, yet that's exactly what he's doing. Maybe he thinks he can throw another Hail Mary pass and distract attention just long enough to trick people into forgetting he thinks they're ignorant assholes. But he's already played the surprise veep (went badly), the POW card (whoops, overplayed) and suspend campaign (ouch, epic fail) cards. What's left?

Ah. Child exploitation (h/t Kagro X):

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. "It would be fantastic," said a McCain insider. "You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week."

He'd better fucking hope it would. Judging from the poll numbers, the more voters see of McCain, the less they like him. But I don't think watching Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter get married to her redneck boyfriend is going to be the salvation they're looking for. The Palin shine has definitely rubbed off.

Speaking of Palin...
After a debate, campaigns generally want high-profile figures telling the media how great their candidate did. And as a rule, it's hard to top the running mates as high-profile figures.

It was pretty interesting, then, that the Obama campaign was anxious to get Joe Biden in front of the cameras -- while Sarah Palin was nowhere to be found.

Indeed, as this CNN clip shows, Biden was not only out there, he was excellent, offering a forceful and on-message denunciation of McCain, and explaining how right Obama was. (Biden delivered the same critique on CBS and NBC.)

Some viewers at home seemed to think it was unfair that CNN interviewed Biden as part of the post-debate coverage, but didn't have Palin on. Eventually, Wolf Blitzer had to explain to the audience that the network wasn't slighting anyone.

"We've been getting some emails from views out there wondering why we spent some time interviewing Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee and not Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee," Blitzer said. "We would have loved to interview -- we'd still love to interview Sarah Palin. Unfortunately we asked, we didn't get that interview.... We're hoping that Sarah Palin will join us at some point down the road."

Heh heh. Funny thing, Wolf, but she was just down the road - at the bar:

Palin appeared at the bar on 20th and Walnut streets last night to shake hands with her fans for about an hour before the first presidential debate. While the crowd inside was friendly, hundreds of people lined the street outside in protest with signs that read things like "Palin is Santorum With Lipstick."

Palin did not take questions from reporters nor did she talk policy. She posed for pictures and chatted with supporters, many of whom were from outside the city limits, and made an approximately minute-long statement.

You'll be utterly shocked to learn that her "statement" consisted entirely of "We've got to fix Washington!" empty fucking talking points.

It's a good thing she didn't bring up John "I'm Clueless About the Economy!" McCain's latest scheme for "fixing" the economy:

When McCain said this nutty thing, I assumed he was just having a pardonable senior moment:
MCCAIN: How about a spending freeze on everything but defense, veteran affairs and entitlement programs.

LEHRER: Spending freeze?

MCCAIN: I think we ought to seriously consider with the exceptions the caring of veterans national defense and several other vital issues.
But I learn from Yglesias that McCain was actually serious.

Folks, this isn't an idea. This is just plain nuttiness on the level of a UFO behind the Hale Bopp comet, scientology, and invading Iraq. You don't take it seriously. You laugh at it. You sneer at it. And you use it as an example of the sheer flakiness of the person who mentions it.

Why not take it seriously? Oh, a couple reasons:

And a spending freeze of this magnitude goes well beyond getting rid of a few earmarks. Mark Schmitt explained:

A spending freeze ... is a very specific thing -- some programs will be in the freeze, some out. In a recession, programs that would normally cost more automatically -- like Food Stamps or Unemployment Insurance -- will be unable to respond.

Over the next few weeks, Obama (as well as the press, if it's not too much to ask) should pound relentlessly on the spending freeze: What's frozen, and what's "several other vital issues"? In a recession, are Food Stamps frozen? Student loans? Unemployment benefits? Pell Grants? S-CHIP? Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)? The list is long, and different states and constituencies naturally have their own programs that they would like to know whether McCain would freeze them or not.

And wherever McCain's answer is yes, that program would be part of the freeze, numbers can usually be put to it quickly. For example, freezing LIHEAP would leave X million seniors without heat this winter. Freezing Pell Grants would mean X million students couldn't go to college.

At the end, McCain will be in one of two boxes: Either he's a guy who is willing to slash every domestic program, leave seniors in the dark and kids blocked from college, while dumping hundreds of billions of dollars into Wall Street and Baghdad, plus his tax cuts. Or his "spending freeze" is just another vacuous gimmick.

I'll take "vacuous gimmick!" for $1000, Alex!

Yglesias sums up what a spending freeze means in terms even a high-functioning moron such as Bush could understand:

It’s worth really focusing in on the fact that John McCain’s campaign was running around — proudly! — boasting about the fact that they intend to follow up a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street and $800 billion in tax cuts for the rich with an across-the-board spending freeze. That means, in real terms, less money for your local police department. Less money for the FBI. Less money for Head Start. Less money for Pell Grants. Less money for infrastructure. Less money for everything except failed banks and endless wars.
Throwing money at failed banks and endless wars is all McCain understands. Couple that with a vice president who's even more clueless than he is, and what you have is an insult to this nation. If they loved America, if they truly put country first, they'd abdicate their farce of a campaign and let some grownups take over.

Of course, the stoopid's too stoopid to care.

McCain: Low-Ranking Monkey

I don't mean to flood you today, but this was just too awesome to pass up. A TPM reader analyzes McCain's refusal to look at Obama during the debate, and comes to a fascinating conclusion:

And here's another note from TPM Reader TB. I guess I'm really not sure quite how to characterize it ...

I think people really are missing the point about McCain's failure to look at Obama. McCain was afraid of Obama. It was really clear--look at how much McCain blinked in the first half hour. I study monkey behavior--low ranking monkeys don't look at high ranking monkeys. In a physical, instinctive sense, Obama owned McCain tonight and I think the instant polling reflects that.

So McCain may have given away his status as a low-ranking monkey. I'd never even considered monkey rank.

Niiice. I'm going to have such fun with this one. Damn, I love behavioral science!

Are Too a Republicon, Dino!

This is not only desperately amusing, it's an excellent political move:

The state Democratic Party filed suit Tuesday in an attempt to force Dino Rossi to list his party preference as "Republican" on the November ballot instead of "GOP Party."

Democrats say the Iraq War and low approval ratings for President Bush have left the Republican Party a damaged brand and that Rossi is trying to distance himself by using GOP as his affiliation.

Rossi is running against Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. He lost to Gregoire by 133 votes in the 2004 election, and polls show this race to be close as well.

Polls by Stuart Elway have suggested many people don't know that GOP and Republican mean the same thing. One recent Elway poll indicated Rossi did better among voters if he used the "GOP" label instead of "Republican."

Now, Washington state's a little strange - our top-two primary allows candidates to call themselves whatever they like - so the Dems probably won't win this one. But it's a smart move nevertheless. A stunt like this means that voters will get the "GOP" is "Republican" message loud and clear. Basically, it's advertising. And it lets people know that Dino Rossi's trying to play them for fools.

I think that's why the Dems didn't bring this suit during the primaries. They want the word out close to the election. It doesn't really even matter if the ballots get printed with "prefers GOP party" - that would have been nice, but they weren't likely to get their way, and timing it like this means the association will be fresh in the voters' minds.

Clever. I likes it.

The Regulars Weigh In

Two of my readers who are brilliant bloggers have been having entirely too much fun with the political fuckery lately.

First, there's Cousinavi, who rips CBS a new one:

It is now reported that the honchos at CBS News are pissed at Dave for grabbing their feed and airing it. Some sort of, “S’posed to ask first” bullshit.
Fuck all that. And fuck those News Jackal Bastards, too.
Why does it keep coming down to David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to tell Americans what the fuck is really going on - to provide anything remotely resembling cogent analysis and sane perspective?
Why is it that every fucking time I tune in to that gasping, grunting, yammering fuckwit Wolf Blitzer, it’s another simmering pile of crap that ne’er bothers to distinguish between a goddamn fact and an outright fucking lie?
WHY does CBS News want to keep it a secret - the difference between what John McCain TELLS PEOPLE and what John McCain actually DOES? Why is it a problem when the pictures speak louder than any words ever could?
That would be, you know, what a NEWS ORGANIZATION might occupy themselves with, were they at all interested in DOING THEIR GODDAMN JOB!

My darlings, I think we should stage a march on CBS to remind them of these facts. We'll give Avi a bullhorn. He does a fair job conjuring the ghost of Walter Cronkite. We can hope that this, combined with Katie Couric's devastating interview with Sarah Palin, might just shame them enough to start acting like journalists rather than whiny Rethug children.

Look, I can but dream.

Cousinavi was catharic. PTET finished off the catharsis with a belly laugh by dubbing clueless stupidity over - well, clueless stupidity:


For an encore, I really hope he dubs in the "Oh, my god, Becky, look at her butt" speech from that one rap song by that artist whose name I can't remember... you know the one I'm talking about. I don't know if you guys have watched any of those interview clips, but Katie Couric's expression is just perfect: I don't think I've ever seen an interviewer look more disgusted. She kept it professional, but you get the sense she wanted to break out of her detached journalistic role and start reaming Sarah Palin for being the most outrageously stupid vice presidential candidate ever to walk the earth.

*Happy sigh* I love my regulars.

I've been so busy watching the train wreck that is the McCain/Palin campaign and trying to keep on top of the complicated nonsense that is the bailout that I haven't been keeping up with the rest of you like I should. I hope you all know that I read and appreciate each and every comment, and I do click through your links. You're 90% of why this blog is worth doing. (The other 10% is that I get to air my outrage in public. I do believe I would've exploded like the man with the dinner mint in Monty Python without this.)

Time for an open thread: send me some links to your latest. We'll have an impromptu Carnival of the Cantina Regulars here. You, my darlings, deserve the spotlight.

Child Porn, An Evangelical, and Me Old Hometown

Damn, it looks like I missed some interesting times:

Evangelist Tony Alamo was arrested Thursday in Flagstaff, Arizona, on charges related to a child porn investigation, an FBI spokesman said.

The 74-year-old founder and leader of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries was arrested without incident at 2:45 p.m. (4:45 p.m. ET) as he was departing the Little America Hotel with his wife, said Manuel Johnson, spokesman for the FBI in Phoenix, Arizona.

The FBI, the Flagstaff Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety were involved in the arrest, he said.

Alamo was charged under a federal statute with having knowingly transported a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity, Johnson said.

What the fuck is up with evangelical megastars and their penchant for sex scandals? Is it just me, or do they seem to have more of them than ordinary famous people?

It gets worse:

Federal agents and Arkansas state police had raided the headquarters of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in tiny Fouke on Saturday and removed six girls ages 10 to 17. They sought evidence that children there had been molested or filmed having sex.

Prosecutors sought Alamo's arrest after interviewing the girls this week, but Frazier would not disclose what the children said.
Six little girls? Sounds like he had himself a stable of victims. And I'm sure the parents and the community thought it was just fine to let him collect kids, because after all, he's a minister and can totally be trusted because he's a man of God. He's got Jesus in him - he said so:

Asked why authorities were searching the property, Alamo compared himself to Christ.

"Why were they after Jesus?" he asked. "It's the same reason. Jesus is living within me."

What a fuckwit. He's even less coherent than Sarah Palin. I'm no expert on the life and times of Jesus, but as far as I recall, the authorities didn't take off after him because he was fucking and filming little kids. Maybe Tony thinks they persecuted Jesus because Jesus was living within himself. I'm pretty fucking certain Jesus isn't living within Tony, though, and I doubt that any of the law enforcement officers thought so, either. I've read extensively on the FBI, and hunting down people because they had Jesus in them never came up on the list of federal crimes the FBI investigates.

This guy is some sick piece of work. My hometown paper, the Arizona Daily Sun, took him apart:

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, describes the ministry as a cult. Alamo's church rails against homosexuals, Roman Catholics and the government, and Alamo has preached that girls are fit for marriage once they are sexually mature.

"Consent is puberty," he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press last week from Los Angeles while agents raided the compound. He denied any involvement with pornography.
Those must have been some pretty well-developed ten year olds they took off his property, then. What a sick fuck. And it's not like no one could have seen this coming:
Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 and served four years in prison after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million. Prosecutors in that case argued that Alamo was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.
Disgusting son of a bitch. At least he's too old to get out of jail, claim he's rediscovered Jesus, and start preying again.

That's something that always bothered me about Christianity: that get-out-of-jail-free card. Sin, confess, ask forgiveness, and hey presto! You're free to repeat the cycle. Even during the couple of months I was Christian, that stuck in my craw. It's too easy for con artists to take advantage of. Naive people think that because someone's found the Lord and come back to the light, they're safe, and then innocent people get hurt.

At least Tony won't be preying in my hometown.

26 September, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

I just want to make an observation here. McCain is reminding me of my former German shepherd.

She would come bounding into a quiet, peaceful house, rouse the cats from their reveries by pouncing on them, unleash untold chaos and anger, and then come prancing over to me with a bleeding muzzle and a sparkle in her eyes that said she thought she'd done a power of good. The cats, meanwhile, plotted her demise.

McCain is exactly like my dog, galloping back to Washington, sticking his nose where it didn't belong, disrupting a delicate balance of power, and then proclaiming a job well done as he prances down to Mississippi, leaving chaos in his wake. Like my dog, he doesn't seem to realize he's bleeding, much less that what he's done was about as fucking far from helpful as it's possible to get:

Let me get this straight -- John McCain left the campaign trail to "help" wrap up a bailout deal in response to the crisis on Wall Street. When a compromise was reached that included everything McCain said he wanted, he decided not to take "yes" for an answer, and sided with far-right House Republicans, who have their own ridiculous plan, and who've never liked McCain anyway.

A few phrases come to mind to describe this madness, but "country first" isn't one of them.

There's no shortage of angles to this, of course, but the one thing I've been trying to wrap my head around is what McCain is doing in D.C. in the first place. Before he arrived, negotiators were making progress. After he arrived, talks broke down. Before he arrived, McCain and his campaign indicated that the bailout was a necessary evil. After he arrived, no one seems clear on exactly what McCain wants.

There was one participant at the White House who took on the role of "the old hand at consensus building, and as the real face of bipartisan politics," but his name was Barack Obama.

For his part, McCain "rarely came close to the Capitol suites and committee rooms where the talks were taking place." He showed up for a meeting at the White House -- which, according to the Bush gang, was McCain's idea -- but while Obama pressed Henry Paulson on policy details, McCain sat silently. At one point, McCain briefly touted the House GOP "plan," which Bush immediately rejected. After the meeting, McCain did some interviews, and was back in one of his homes by 6 p.m.

His day of destructive grandstanding and substance-free work was complete. For McCain, who obviously couldn't care less about the economy or the nation, it was "mission accomplished" -- nothing got done, it was at least partially his fault, and there's now a chance he can pick up the pieces of a process he helped break and pat himself on the back.

Brilliant. If America elects this fuckwit, they're effectively electing the dumbest dog I ever owned. A guard dog, I'll have you know, that allowed herself to be stolen.

You know it's gotten beyond the level of farce when it's a Republicon saying things like this:

According to a pool report, John McCain boarded his plane earlier this afternoon with his wife, top aides, and Rudy and Judith Giuliani, all headed for Mississippi. What was the atmosphere like on McCain's plane? According to the report: "utter confusion."

Republican consultant Craig Shirley, who advised McCain's presidential campaign earlier in the cycle, noted the bizarre developments. "It just proves his campaign is governed by tactics and not ideology," Shirley said. "In the end, he blinked and Obama did not. The 'steady hand in a storm' argument looks now to more favor Obama, not McCain."

Shirley added, "My guess is that plasma units are rushing to the McCain campaign as we speak to replace the blood flowing there from the fights among the staff."

So. We have the biggest fucking joke ever to win the nomination for president running around like a subnormal German Shepherd, both Republicons and Democrats in Washington are telling him to get the fuck out of the way and let the adults handle the crisis, and even his own party is busy poking fun at him while trying not to get splashed with the stupid. I have a feeling what conventional wisdom is on Bush will go triple for McLame should he be elected:

Paul Begala, the television commentator and Democratic strategist who with James Carville propelled Bill Clinton to the presidency in 1992, knew he was about to get into trouble on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" show Thursday night with his description of President Bush.

He said as much as soon as he opened his mouth.

Still, with a panel that included Ed Rollins, the Republican strategist who ran Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign, he blurted it out:

I'm going to get in trouble. He's a high-functioning moron, and that's what Congress treats him as. Both parties.

We can't even really say McCain's a high-functioning moron. Not after this week. A high-functioning moron would at least give the illusion of having his shit together. McCain can't even manage that.

And this is the man who's supposed to be the perfect leader for situations like this:

While Americans wait to see if our financial systems are going to melt down, a story that is getting far too little attention is the dangerously deteriorating situation in Pakistan, an important U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. Specifically, real questions now exist as to whether Pakistan can still be considered a U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. This is a critical issue for tonight’s debate and may be the most important national security item for the next president.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that “Pakistani troops and a U.S.-Afghan ground patrol exchanged fire near a frontier checkpoint… in a new heightening of armed tension between allies in the war against Taliban insurgents”:

According to the U.S. Central Command, the incident began when Pakistani troops at the checkpoint opened fire on two small American helicopters that were providing air support to the U.S.-Afghan unit while it was on patrol near the border. In response, Americans in the patrol fired shots into a hillside on which the checkpoint stood. Pakistani forces then fired on the patrol.

In an excellent article on the current situation, Dexter Filkins described a similar firefight in which U.S. forces out hunting the Taliban called in airstrikes after taking fire near the Pakistan border, resulting in the deaths of 11 Pakistani border guards.

This is a situation that could go from really fucking bad to beyond horrific in an instant. And what's McCain going to do, knock some heads together and tell Pakistan to cut the bullshit? We saw how well that worked in Washington, where supposedly he's known and respected. I can only imagine how a lot of pissed-off Pakistanis would react.

You know what? My dumbass dog would've made a better Commander-in-Chief.

Condemned to Repeat


History became a living thing in Roz Ashby's and Ken Meier's hands.

On the first day of Western Civilization I, they handed out a quote and asked us to date it. It was a typical "kids these days" rant, full of complaints about their manners, their dress, and their stunning lack of respect toward their elders. Most of the class guessed it had been written in the 1950s or 60s. Professor Meier revealed, with a delightfully sardonic smile, that we were all wrong. The rant had been written by Socrates more than two thousand years ago.

Titian, An Allegory of Prudence

I still have the handout they gave us that day: "The Value of History" by Robin Winks. I'd signed on as a history major because I love the past. I hadn't, until then, thought of it as something of urgent importance. But the professors' punk, their impassioned lecture on the vitality and relevance of history, and Winks' case for its value changed my perception entirely.

History wasn't just curiosity. It wasn't simply tradition and heritage, important to preserve for its own sake. It was also essential in order to understand the present and navigate the future.

"From the past the man of the present acts prudently so as not to imperil the future," Titian inscribed on his famous painting. We should chisel that saying into every monument. Those who don't take the past seriously, who treat history as a trivial handful of facts, interesting stories, and events that have no bearing on today, won't have the wisdom to create a better future.

"Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it," George Santayana wrote in The Life of Reason. Too many don't listen to that warning. How many times have we weathered a crisis only to discover that it had all happened before? Individuals, organizations, entire nations have rushed themselves over cliffs that others fell from before, when a safe way down had already been discovered.

It's true that things change, and no situation is exactly the same as another. Some people seem to believe those cosmetic differences mean there's nothing to learn. And so, mistakes get repeated. Safeguards get torn down because no one seems to remember why they were put in place to begin with. Blinded by the present, looking toward the future, we don't see what history is trying to show us. We strip away the protections that people made wise by the events of their own day put in place in order to protect the generations to come. We're seeing the effects of that now, in a myriad of ways: our failed imperial experiment in Iraq, the erosion of our Constitutional rights, and the crisis in our banking industry brought on by the repeal of regulations enacted to prevent another Great Depression.

That was another age, those who disregard history say. Things are different now. And they plunge in, believing they're blazing new trails when they're traveling down well-worn roads.

The past is never truly past. "Great events have incalculable consequences," Victor Hugo said in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Some of those consequences echo down through ages. You can't understand what's happening now if you don't understand what happened then. The effects are still being felt. What we do now will impact generations to come.

"This black page in history is not colourfast / will stain the next," Epica warns in their song "Feint." We can't prevent that stain, but history can give us advice on how we can limit its spread.

Some things, perhaps, we'd rather forget. But as Chaim Weizman knew, "you cannot deny your history and begin afresh." History comes with us, whether we will it or no. Denying it gets us nowhere. Embracing history, knowing it, allows us to accomodate its effects.

History is of great practical value, then. But that's not the whole of its worth. It offers perspective and proportion. Knowing what others survived gives us hope for a future in dark times. It can put current events in context, just like your old dad giving you the yarn about having to walk to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways as a kid. I often take comfort from that when the world seems like it's coming apart at the seams. It's frayed, often torn, before. We always manage to patch it back up somehow. Civilization has been through worse. As long as we avoid following the same paths that led other ages to worse, we'll probably do just fine. I tell myself that a lot these days, and I have plenty of history to prove it. From history comes hope.

There's delight in seeing ancient people behaving the same way we do. We tend to get only the broad brushstrokes of history in school. We don't get the delightful, everyday bits, the ones that tell us people are people everywhere. Read Socrates griping about the idiot kids in ancient Athens, or abu Nawais looking for his next drink, and you realize that they were people like us. There were fart jokes in the cradle of civilization and risque graffitti in Pompeii. The more you learn of history, the more you realize that the things we consider larger than life arose not from some golden age of supermen, but from mostly ordinary people doing their best to deal with times that were no more or less challenging than now. The best days are indeed behind us - but they are also now, and they are ahead. How much easier it is when we can pick the brains of our ancestors, pluck up their best ideas, and avoid their worst mistakes. It's practically cheating!

"He who cannot draw on three thousand years of history is living merely hand to mouth," Goethe once said. When we neglect our history, we impoverish ourselves. History gives us a chance to live richly. When we can draw on thousands of years of knowledge and experience, we're no longer condemned.