December 29, 2005

Houston: It Is Flat

Have you ever wondered if Houston is flat? Well, wonder no longer: I can tell you from personal observation that it is. It is very, very flat. It would make an excellent location for an ancient inland sea.

I may have other observations about Houston, but I felt this was too important to wait.

Time To Purge The Counterrevolutionary Spam

Apparently for Christmas I received 3,785 spam comments. That number is not a joke; it is 100% real.

So, a massive spam purge is now underway. My apologies if I accidentally send one of your innocent comments to the Gulag, where it will be worked to death before being buried anonymously in the icy Siberian tundra.

December 23, 2005

This Simile Is What You're Getting For Christmas

Few people can handle a masturbation-themed figure of speech like Matt Taibbi:

Bush and his mouthpieces continue to try to obfuscate and cloud the issue of why we're in Iraq, and they do so not only selectively but constantly, compulsively, like mental patients who can't stop jacking off in public.

This is nice too:

McClellan, a cringing yes-man type who tries to soften the effect of his non- answers by projecting an air of being just as out of the loop as you are, starts pimping lies and crap the moment he enters the room. He's the cheapest kind of political hack, a greedy little bum making a living by throwing his hat on the ground and juggling lemons for pennies.

And there's more.

December 21, 2005

Thank God Our Leaders Are Etc., Etc., Etc.

Previous installments in the never-ending "Thank God Our Leaders Are Completely Different From Saddam Hussein" series can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Let's take another look at this article about Saddam Hussein's trial. Here Saddam is addressing a man named Mohammed, who had been tortured by his goons:

"I realize there is pressure on you and I regret that I have to confront one of my sons," Hussein said to Mohammed. "But I'm not doing it for myself. I'm doing it for Iraq. I'm not defending myself. But I am defending you."

Huh. That sounds strangely familiar.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said yesterday that President Bush views America as a ''10-year-old child" in need of the sort of protection provided by a parent...

''It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child," Card said. ''I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children."

Card then added: "As part of sacrificing all for my children, I tap their calls and imprison them indefinitely without charges."

Yes, indeed. Just as all Iraqis must want to say it to Saddam, all Americans surely wish to tell President Bush: Thanks, Dad!

December 20, 2005

I [Heart] Digby

And so do you, if you're a worthwhile human being. You probably also [heart] Digby if you're one of the world's few literate possums. I think we can all agree, humans and super-intelligent possums alike, that Digby is one of the most historically- and politically-informed writers in the blarghosphere.

And it turns out Digby could use a few bucks. I urge you to go visit and fork some over.

Conyers Introduces Resolution Censuring Bush & Cheney

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, just introduced a resolution of censure for both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney in the House of Representatives. He also is asking Congress to create a select committee (ie, like the Ervin Committee, which investigated Watergate) to investigate whether Bush's actions rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

Simultaneously, the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have released a report called The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War. You can download it here.

You can find out more, and sign a petition supporting Conyers, here.

Dear Leaders: Please Stop Protecting Us So Hard

One thing we know about George Bush: he really, really cares about protecting us. In fact, he cares so much he's been spying on Americans without warrants. But as he explained at his press conference on Monday, this had nothing to do with him. It's all about us:

I want to make sure the American people understand that we have an obligation to protect you.

The same thing was true about the Patriot Act. It had nothing to do with him getting gigantic new powers. That's ridiculous! Like most ambitious politicians, President Bush got into politics in order to have as little power as possible. Instead, as he said when he signed the Patriot Act:

Today, we are taking historic action to defend the United States and protect our citizens.

Likewise with Saddam Hussein. Did you think he wanted absolute power? How preposterous! He would much rather have stayed at home, knitting decorative tea cozies. Unfortunately, he was forced by circumstances beyond his control to defend Iraqis.

As with Bush, we know this is true with Saddam because that's what he says. Here he is at his trial, challenging a witness who accused him of ordering the witness' torture:

"I realize there is pressure on you and I regret that I have to confront one of my sons," Hussein said to Mohammed. "But I'm not doing it for myself. I'm doing it for Iraq. I'm not defending myself. But I am defending you."

It almost makes me cry to see the deep love our leaders have for us—the way they care so much for us, and so little for themselves. I hope Iraqis are as grateful to Saddam Hussein as we are to President Bush.

Thank God Our Leaders Are Completely Different From Leonid Brezhnev

I've been busy with actual work, and will likely be for a while longer. Very sad. Still, I have time to follow our descent into barbarism, which I'm pleased to see is proceeding according to schedule.

For instance, take these excerpts from two op-eds from the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. One is by someone tortured by the U.S., while the other is by someone tortured by the Soviet Union. Because of God's ironic sense of humor, both were published on the same day, last Sunday.

See if you can spot the telltale similarities!

Contestant #1:

I went on a hunger strike demanding a defense lawyer of my choice... To break me down, they started force-feeding me in a very unusual manner -- through my nostrils. About a dozen guards led me from my cell to the medical unit. There they straitjacketed me, tied me to a bed, and sat on my legs so that I would not jerk. The others held my shoulders and my head while a doctor was pushing the feeding tube into my nostril...

And Contestant #2:

I was beaten again and left in a small, dirty, cold concrete cell. I was extremely thirsty, but there was only a bottle of putrid water in the cell... The following night my interrogations began. They asked me if I knew why I had been detained. I said I did not...

In desperation, I began a hunger strike. After 27 days without food, I was taken to meet [...] the prison director and another man, referred to as "the Boss." I pleaded with them to release me or bring me before a court, but the prison director replied that he could not release me...

After 37 days without food, I was dragged to the interrogation room, where a feeding tube was forced through my nose into my stomach. I became extremely ill, suffering the worst pain of my life.

Having trouble seeing the overlap between the two? Here's a tip: both of the authors hate freedom.

If you're one of those pro-terrorist, anti-freedom zealots who have long bedeviled the U.S. and Soviet Union, you might wish to read both columns yourself. One was by Khaled El-Masri, while the other was by Vladimir Bukovsky.

December 15, 2005

About Patrick Ruffini

Recently there's been a giant online fight about Dan Froomkin's column for If you don't know the background, a good place to start is here. The short version is: Washington Post editors are fretting that Froomkin is blatantly liberal and people might think he's a reporter rather than a columnist and if that happened Planet Earth would explode.

The source of their anxiety appears to be complaints from Republican political operatives—specifically Patrick Ruffini, webmaster for the Bush/Cheney 04 campaign, and now eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee. Brad DeLong recently had a conversation with Post editor John Harris in which Harris weirdly refused to answer what he (Harris) knew about Ruffini.

I, however, am happy to say what I know about Patrick Ruffini. It's this: he doesn't understand the basic mechanics of Social Security. (He's confused about how benefits are calculated and how this determines the effect productivity growth has on Social Security's solvency.) He wrote something on his site demonstrating this back in March. It seemed clear he was honestly mistaken rather than consciously deceitful, so while I did leave comments correcting him, I attempted to be polite while doing so.

As you'll see if you read the comments (I used the cover name "Jon"), my attempted politeness was not reciprocated. First Ruffini was snide while making further mistakes; then, once he realized he was wrong, he lost the bluster but didn't have the grace to concede he'd been inaccurate.

I formed an opinion about Ruffini at that point that has not changed since. I sympathize with Dan Froomkin.

ALSO: For some Patrick Ruffini-themed jokes, see here.

Why Must Writers Always Denigrate Our Flawless Nation? Whichever Flawless Nation It May Be?

There's a truly interesting piece in the New Yorker this week by the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk:

Last February, in an interview published in a Swiss newspaper, I said that “a million Armenians and thirty thousand Kurds had been killed in Turkey”; I went on to complain that it was taboo to discuss these matters in my country.

So, what's happened to him for breaking this taboo?

In Istanbul this Friday [...] I will stand before a judge. My crime is to have “publicly denigrated Turkish identity.”

Wow, what monsters they are in Turkey! Thank god we don't have anyone like that here!

Except of course for the 1996 Republican presidential nominee!

The purpose of the National History Standards seems not to be to teach our children certain essential facts about our history but to denigrate America's story while sanitizing and glorifying other cultures. This is wrong and it threatens us as surely as any foreign power ever has.

That's from a speech Bob Dole gave to the America Legion on September 5, 1995. The National History Standards had recently been promulgated by the Department of Education. Dole's speech was part of an attempt by the U.S. right wing (including Lynne Cheney) to intimidate historians who brought up things like, say, slavery.

Here's something else Dole said:

...this country is the living result of one of history's most magnificent ideas.

Now, this is in some sense true. But there is an iron rule in American politics: the people who continually blather about the greatness of America are always those who want to destroy the parts of America that are great. America is great because we have freedom of speech! they will say, as they actively work to squelch freedom of speech. Their message is always:

Because it is possible to criticize America, you must never criticize America

December 12, 2005

I Think It's Hypocritical For Dean Baker To Criticize Hypocrisy

For unknown reasons, Dean Baker thinks the shameless hypocrisy of America's elites about "free" trade is a bad thing.

Dennis Perrin on Richard Pryor


December 11, 2005

More Funny

Last spring Consumers Union released the song "The Drugs I Need" by the Austin Lounge Lizards, as part of their Prescription for Change campaign for drug safety. It was downloaded over 100,000 times, I suspect because it's extremely funny. If you haven't seen it already, you should.

Now Consumers Union has teamed up with the Austin Lounge Lizards again, with new songs for two more campaigns. The first is "The Tower," part of "Hear Us Now" opposing media consolidation. The second is "It's Always Christmas Time (for Visa)," part of a project on changing our hideous credit card laws. You should go to both sites, watch both songs, and sign both petitions.

Consumers Union: putting the "fun" back in "fundamental political reform."

More Me

I'm going to be on the Eugene Ellis show on CASH 1700 am in San Diego tonight from 10-11 pm ET, 7-8 PT. We're supposed to talk about Iraq, the Bush administration's lies about Iraq, the Bush administration's lies about their lies about Iraq, and so on in an infinite, Esher-like regression. Live streaming is here.

December 10, 2005

Geez, Everybody's Dying Today

So, Richard Pryor died today at 65. This Newsday obituary is pretty good, but of course you'd be better off just renting Live in Concert and Live on the Sunset Strip.

And Eugene McCarthy also died.

What is it with human beings and dying? Make sure that you, like I have, get your exemption form in on time, because they're really sticklers about the paperwork.

December 09, 2005

More Evidence David Broder Is Right! Right! Right!

Last week I wrote a letter to David Broder about this exchange between him and Tim Russert on Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, is it possible for official Washington--the president, Democratic leaders, Republican leaders--to arrive at common ground, a consensus position on Iraq?

MR. DAVID BRODER: It's possible, Tim, but they won't get there by arguing about who did what three years ago. And this whole debate about whether there was just a mistake or misrepresentation or so on is, I think, from the public point of view largely irrelevant. The public's moved past that.

In my letter I inquired what the evidence was for Mr. Broder's assertion. Mr. Broder hasn't seen fit to respond, but I think that's only fair, since it was such a stupid question. Every passing day brings more evidence no one cares about this dumb issue—for instance, this NY Times/CBS poll released yesterday (pdf):

58. How important do you think it is right now for members of Congress to question the Bush Administration about the way the intelligence was used in order to make the case for going to war inIraq-- do you think it is very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all?

56% Very
24% Somewhat
9% Not too
9% Not at all

You see? An overwhelming 18% majority of the population think this should be ignored, while a tiny 80% minority disagree. The danger, of course, is that this small, irrelevant 80% minority will somehow gain influence in our political process. However, I think we can sleep soundly with heroes such as David Broder protecting our great republic.

December 07, 2005

To Me, This Is An Argument For Giving The CIA Much More Power

This Washington Post article on "erroneous renditions" isn't just about enemas, of course. It's of interest for many non-enema reasons as well. Just for instance:

The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls "erroneous renditions," according to several former and current intelligence officials.

One official said about three dozen names fall in that category; others believe it is fewer. The list includes several people whose identities were offered by al Qaeda figures during CIA interrogations, officials said. One turned out to be an innocent college professor who had given the al Qaeda member a bad grade, one official said.

Yes, things are going just as well as you'd expect.

Small, barren cell in an unknown location. SEVERAL CIA AGENTS, including the LEAD CIA INTERROGATOR, stand around a handcuffed KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMAD.

I plotted 9/11 with an old professor of mine.

Hawk, Sparrow, this is yours. I want this professor waterboarded in the Salt Pit by 0700 tomorrow!

Yes sir!

(Two agents quickly exit)

Who else?

Well, Al Qaeda's mastermind, of course, is my, um, ex-girlfriend. She was going to, uh, hijack Air Force One. With a nuke.

Was she working alone?

Um, together with my old landlord. And my neighbor with the yappy dog! My neighbor and landlord were also, uh, collaborating on a special hybrid anthrax-syphilis-smallpox-plague. They're genetic engineering geniuses.

(Writing in notepad) Got it.

Make sure you rough up the dog.

(Writing) Yappy dog...extreme prejudice. (Pause) Is that it?

No. I haven't even mentioned the most vicious terrorists of all: those fuckers at the Visa collections department.

How many of them are there?

I don't know. 1,000? Better get them all, just to be sure. What you have to understand is that every collections agent at Visa has sworn eternal jihad against the Jew-Crusader alliance.

December 06, 2005

The Part They DON'T Tell You About James Bond

Many people are exercised about an article in Washington Post on Sunday about "erroneous renditions"—that is, instances where the CIA snatches people off the streets of countries all over the world and sends them off to be tortured, only to later realize they were completely innocent.

This is all very bad, of course, but I don't think enough attention has been paid to the smaller details. For instance:

Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA's own covert prisons

The easy joke here would be the resemblance our foreign policy apparently bears to a peculiar, intricate sexual fantasy.

My greatest fantasy? Um, I'm wearing a costume, an all-black costume with a mask. Then I blindfold you and cut off all your clothes. Did I mention all this time I'm a secret agent? And that I've brought an adult diaper with me? Then, I, uh...

The less easy but more intriguing joke is that apparently there really is someone at the CIA whose job it is to administer INTERNATIONAL TOP-SECRET ENEMAS. Despite the undeniable horror of what we're up to, I can't deny I enjoy this. I enjoy the idea that out there right now there is a person who's the James Bond of Enemas.

So, man, everybody says you're been hired for this ultra top secret stuff for the CIA now. What exactly do you do? I bet it's really glamorous.

Uh, I'm afraid that's classified.

December 03, 2005

I Have A Prediction

Based on current trends, I predict that sooner or later there will be product placement in pornography.

While I'm serious about this, it is also a fruitful comic premise. I invite anyone who cares to to explore it in the comments.

(Thanks to this Bob Harris post for inspiring this enjoyable train of thought.)


The King of Zembla, a distant northern land, just interviewed Joe Dante about his "dissident zombie" movie now on Showtime:

DANTE: And now with the country so split ideologically it's become riskier for films/tv to take a stand and risk alienating the customers. And don't misunderestimate these guys...they may be down today, but they're not out. They have the media (as Ms Coulter has reminded us) and despite their almost unbroken record of jaw-dropping incompetence in nearly every area, they still know how to play the Rubes.

If our cut-rate zombie movie can make even one Bushevic question their beliefs it'll have been worth making. Sam [Hamm] and I look at it as kind of an act of patriotism, actually.

Much more here.

December 02, 2005

Let's Hear More From This Fellow Larry Beinhart

Larry Beinhart, best known for his novel Wag the Dog, has been writing a multi-part series for the Huffington Post on the law governing war. He pulls off the difficult trick to which I aspire: using history to illuminate the confusing hurly-burly folderol fluffer-nutter of current events.

It's all worth reading—Part I, Part II, and Part III—although I'd actually suggest beginning with Part III.

ALSO: Check out the site for Beinhart's new book Fog Facts.

December 01, 2005

Hey, Let's Place The Great Events And Figures Of Our History Into Context!

(Pointed out by Ess Jay in The Poorman's comments.)

Yesterday Lynne Cheney went on the Diane Rehm Show on WAMU in Washington to promote her new book A Time for Freedom. The publisher's description explains that "A Time for Freedom places the great events and figures of our history into context..."

Here's an informative exchange between Cheney and a purported "Vietnam" "veteran" who called in. Note the relentless belligerence with which Diane Rehm demands that Cheney answer his preposterous questions. It's yet more proof of the media's vicious, irrational hatred of the Bush administration.

It begins at 37:55 of the show.

DIANE REHM: To Tim in Detroit, Michigan, good morning to you.

TIM (CALLER): Hello, how are you?

REHM: Fine, thank you.

TIM: I've been listening to your interview with Mrs. Cheney. She seems to have a very selective memory on things. It was Jean Schmidt, a Republican from Portsmouth, Ohio that made those statements about Jack Murtha in the House of Representatives. Matter of fact, the House was so upset with those remarks that they actually struck it now from the Congressional Record. But she does know where Condi Rice will go when she retires.

I just want to clarify two issues. Number one, that her husband actually did receive five deferments from the draft. Personally as a Vietnam veteran who had to serve two terms, two tours over there, I'd just like to confirm that her husband got out of the draft. And secondly, I was just curious: how many of her personal relatives, how many relatives of hers are currently serving in Iraq right now?

Thank you, Diane.

REHM: Thanks for calling.

LYNNE CHENEY: Well, Tim, I want to first of all thank you for your service to our country, I think that, uh, anyone who has served, um, deserves the thanks of the rest of us, and, uh, I have, um, um, been honored to be able to meet with young men and women who are serving in Iraq and to, uh, thank them for our service.

I did forget Jean Schmidt's name. Diane reminded me during the break that these were not her words. They were words that she had read. But you're right, they were very controversial, and I know that, uh, Dick was very glad to go out the next day and say what I just said to you. And that is, uh, thank you for your service, and he honored, uh, Congressman Murtha for his.

(brief pause)

REHM: Here's an email from Arthur, who says, do you ever disagree with your husband about national matters...

A Short Play Starring Christopher Hitchens

"Stop the taunting, and let's have a real debate about the Iraq war"
—Christopher Hitchens, Nov. 22, 2005

Lights come up on a bare stage. At stage left is the VAST MAJORITY OF HUMANITY. Stage right is CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS.

Invading Iraq is a really, really, really bad idea.

You just say that because you're nostalgic for Stalinism!

Uh...right. Also, the evidence Iraq has any banned weapons is shaky.

Just you wait! Very soon, you're going to look foolish in the extreme!

Are you sure about that?

It's obvious to anyone who can think at all!

Okay, whatever. But most importantly, the idea the Bush administration is going to be an agent of democracy is extremely peculiar.

Thankfully, it no longer matters what you think!

Enter REALITY, stage left. REALITY strides over to HITCHENS and punches him very, very hard in the face. HITCHENS falls to the ground as REALITY exits.

A long pause. HITCHENS coughs and spits out blood and several teeth.

Stop the taunting, and let's have a real debate!