Complaining that Disney’s ‘The Princess and the Frog’ isn’t black enough is silly: Like moaning that Martel is ‘only’ giving Barbie pubic hair


(Princess to frog: "You're SO not black enough...!")

Hurrah, I’ve found an organization I instantly dislike as much as I’ve grown to dislike the Disney company, over the last few decades.

It’s called ‘Black Voices’ and it’s taken umbrage at a new Disney movie, called, ‘The Princess and the Frog.’ Now, for those Web dwellers who tend not to notice what they ‘read’: Remember the first paragraph? Where I already mentioned I don’t like Disney?

Try to keep up, if you can.

So, the Company that brought us more sickeningly sweet tales than a Scottish chippie sells fried Mars bars on a Saturday night, is at it again, with yet another Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast type of story. It’s that princess and the frog tale but this time the heroes are black – or, at least, carrying vaguely more pigment that the good folks who hopped on board of the Mayflower, some time ago.

Two small snippets of critique from the afore-mentioned and subtly titled ‘Black Voices’ website:

“Black Voices, a Web site on AOL dedicated to African-American culture, faulted the prince’s relatively light skin color. Prince Naveen hails from the fictional land of Maldonia and is voiced by a Brazilian actor; Disney says that he is not white.

“Disney obviously doesn’t think a black man is worthy of the title of prince,” Angela Bronner Helm wrote March 19 on the site. “His hair and features are decidedly non-black. This has left many in the community shaking their head in befuddlement andeven rage.”

Others see insensitivity in the locale.

“Disney should be ashamed,” William Blackburn, a former columnist at The Charlotte Observer, told London’s Daily Telegraph. “This princess story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community.””

My first, hasty and ill-considered response upon reading this was, “Oh, fuck off! Get a life.”

As was my second and third reaction – and it’s still what I’m thinking, eleven paragraphs in, so we may assume I won’t change my mind much about this.

Anway, first, I would suggest that there are still more pressing race-related problems around than the relative ‘blackness’ of a fucking Disney cartoon character.

You know spun sugar. The Brits call it ‘candy floss’, Americans think of it as ‘cotton candy’ but, today, for this column’s purposes, I will run with the Australian term for it, which is ‘fairy floss.’


So, Disney is the fairy floss stall at art’s gloriously big and unruly carnival. It sells cheap crap that looks very nice indeed and can become quite addictive, if you start consuming it in serious quantities. Once upon a magic time, Disney made truly mind blowing movies, like ‘Snow White’ and ‘Fantasia’, but it is no longer in the mind blowing business and it hasn’t been for ages, now.

The Mouse Company deals in Fairytale Lite. Very, very lite. For Disney to even notice or acknowledge any colour that doesn’t have ‘WASP’ on the can is almost like Martel giving their Barbie dolls a slight dusting of pubic hair.

Critics like those sad ‘Black Voices’ folks might – no: would, no doubt – complain that this still left Barbie well short of a long overdue good fuck but, as Lincoln already noted on his blog, “You can’t please all of those stupid trolls all of the time.”

As with Martel, so with Disney: The revolution won’t start there – and everybody knows it. Beating the Mouse to score a few cheap ‘race awareness’ points is just silly. Worse, it’s also counter-productive. As I already stated, there are still enough real racial issues. Anyone who’s been following the latest brouhaha about Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, and who still thinks we’re now all living in some ‘post-racial’ society, has built him- or herself an own, highly peculiar version of Disney World.

So, when you have sites like ‘Black Voices’ going on about bloody Disney characters, the majority of well-meaning folks will simply roll their eyes and mutter something impolite under their breath. If we’re lucky, those folks will just forget about that bit of vulgar nonsense and go on to the next story. If we’re unlucky and you have too many of these types of silly grievance stories, people will, after a while, simply turn off, tune out and drop out of the whole conversation about race – and that could be dangerous.

Right, this column has grown long and unruly enough as it stands – or sprawls. I’d wanted to spend some time on that preposterous remark about Disney being wrong to use New Orleans as a setting for its latest movie. That using the city was, somehow, an insult to the memories of those communities most harmed by Katrina but I’ll just have to be very short about that, now.

It’s still utter bollocks, of course. Yes, Katrina and its aftermath were bad but this is just another desperate search for any stick to beat Disney with. I would dare ‘Black Voices’ to find any location in the USA where black communities haven’t had really bad shit happen to them. What with America’s still recent history of slavery and segregation and all, you can’t place a story anywhere on the continent without raising at least some chain-rattling ghosts - especially, if, like those good folks of ‘Black Voices’, you’re always looking for these ghosts anyway.

(’It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black’, indeed…)


News Roundup for 5/29/09

All to avoid buying a stamp

-Headline of the day-
"Anti-Gay 'Journalist' Dragged Kicking And Screaming From Air Force One."

Georgia-based "journalist" Brenda Lee had to be dragged away from Air Force One after she demanded to hand-deliver a letter to Barack Obama asking him to "take a stand for traditional marriage."

Lee, who claims to have White House press credentials, writes for something called the Georgia Informer, which sounds pretty nuts. According to the report, the Informer seems to exist only online and hadn't (at the time of the report) been updated for a year. "[S]o far I can only find an incomprehensible editorial by her in which she thanks God for not destroying California with an earthquake, despite all the wicked people living there," the report reads.

That's nice of her.

Lee also claims to be a "Black Catholic Priestess" -- whatever the hell that is. Whatever it is, Lee insists it's damned important, heathen, and stop asking so many questions.

"On what grounds does Rev. Lee speak for GOD?" she writes at the Informer. "Her credentials out weigh that of Benedict XVI [sic] and every other Christian, or religious leader in the world. They have not heard the VOICE of GOD and they do not have the gift of prophecy or healing. None are willing to meet her face to face and call upon the name of GOD, as of the days of old because they know that she ranks with John the Baptist and Saint Peter." I didn't know there was a ranking system.

If you're guessing the site's been updated since Lee's experience, you're right. They've posted the letter Lee was trying to give Obama, titled "God Verses Men." You'd think that such Supreme Holy Authority would come with some spelling skill.

The letter itself is nothing special or surprising. She blames AIDS on God's wrath over gays, says gays are child molesters, and urges Obama "to stand against the gay life that threatens to tear America apart." Typical wingnut shit, really. The only thing remarkable about it is how familiar it all is. I guess your average religious right screwball is just as loopy -- just not so publicly.

For her part, Lee doesn't see what all the fuss was about. "My reaction to [being carried off by the Secret Service] is total shock," she writes. "All of it was unnecessary. At no point did I demand to give President Obama the letter; it was in an envelope and address to the White House. I thought I would save myself and stamp [sic] and I would be assured that he received it."

Well there ya go then -- she's just frugal. And here you thought she was squirrelly. You wouldn't be the only one. She says the Secret Service guys insulted her by "implying that I had mental problems" and asking if she was on drugs. She knows all about that stuff, she says, because her sister Betty "worked on the sixth floor of Macon Hospital" -- which naturally makes her an expert on implied mental illness and drug use. So she knew they were making fun of her.

Can't pull one over on someone who ranks up with John the Baptist, I guess. (Joe. My. God.)

-Unrelated religious whackjob news...-
Wikipedia has banned the Church of Scientology from editing entries at the online encyclopedia. Turns out that cultists who believe we're possessed by alien lifeforms have a long history of bullshitting.

Who would've guessed? (Raw Story)

-Who cares what Dick Cheney think?-
Turns out the odds are pretty damned good it's not you.

A recent Rasmussen poll asks, "Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been speaking out lately on a number of topics. Now that he has left office, how important are Dick Cheney’s opinions?"

The results:

17% Very important

22% Somewhat important

26% Not very important

31% Not at all important

4% Not sure

57% assign little or no importance to what Dick says -- and Rasmussen polling often skews Republican. Writes Greg Sargent, "I’d tally up how many times the cable nets have granted Cheney a platform to air views that a sizable majority says aren’t important, but it’s Friday and I’m too lazy."

Amen buddy. I'd do the same, but it means I'd probably have to get out of the hammock and put down the drink with a little umbrella in it. Screw that. Suffice it to say that Dick Cheney gets a lot of teevee time for someone no one gives a fuck about.

Now, if you'll excuse me, this fruity beverage isn't going to imbibe itself. (Plumline)

Torture is Not Heroic

Bush and CheneyQuick, name any nation in history that we congratulate for their torture. That's kind of a stumper, isn't it? A willingness to resort to torture has never been a characteristic of "the good guys." When we look back at torturers of the past, we see people we assume are cowards, zealots, or sadists. At no point in human history do we look at a torturer and think, "Now that guy was a real hero."

But that's how we're being asked to view the Bush administration. For them, torture was a "tough decision" that was forced on them. They looked at their options, decided the stakes were too high for petty concerns such as morality, human rights, or law, and went right ahead designing a system of torture to "keep Americans safe."

We know what they're going to say before they even say it. We've heard the arguments so often we can repeat them in our sleep. But the fact is that the administration that failed so disastrously on 9/11 felt they had no choice but to overcompensate. They would stop at nothing, not to keep us safe, but to keep their historical legacy and their political relevance safe. They'd been through the 9/11 Commission once and, flawed as that investigation was, it pretty much brought the Bush White House to a standstill for a while. They had Social Security to privatize, they had taxes to cut, they had a conservative economic policy to institute and thereby prove flawless. You've heard of the "ticking time bomb scenario?" That was the Bush administration -- after September 11, 2001, they had eight years at best and four years at worst. The clock was ticking and they couldn't afford to be sidetracked again. So, in a panic that they may not be able to reinvent every part of America in their wingnut image, the Bush administration resorted to torture.

Yeah, they were real freakin' heroes.

George W. Bush defended that heroism yesterday, in an appearance in Michigan. Taking only prescreened questions, Bush was asked about torture -- which means he wanted to be asked about torture. Not surprisingly, he said he was a real freakin' hero for strapping people to boards and drowning them.


Bush told a southwestern Michigan audience of nearly 2,500 -- the largest he has addressed in the United States since leaving the White House in January -- that, after the September 11 attacks, "I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you."


[H]e described how he proceeded after the capture of terrorism suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003.

"The first thing you do is ask what's legal?" Bush said. "What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, 'I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.' I can tell you that the information we got saved lives."

Others disagree. "Torture does not save lives," says former interrogator Matthew Alexander. "And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool... These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse... literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives."

"At the prison where I conducted interrogations," he said, "we heard day in and day out, foreign fighters who had been captured state that the number one reason that they had come to fight in Iraq was because of torture and abuse, what had happened at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib."

Maybe what Bush had in mind was a sort of "you have to spend money to make money" formula -- torture that cost lives saved more. That'd be one of those "tough decisions" these guys love to talk about. But, of course, that wasn't the case.

"We spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms," said one interrogator of intelligence we got from torturing Abu Zubaida. Another was more concise, calling that info "crap." There's nothing about torture that forces someone to tell the truth or to magically know what they didn't know before. In fact, the only thing you can do with torture with any predictability is get people to lie. Ask John McCain, he was tortured into "confessing" to war crimes by the Viet Cong.

And we know what those lawyers Bush asked about the legality of torture were worth. So did they. The Bush administration collected and destroyed dissenting opinions regarding the legality of torture -- probably under the orders of Dick Cheney. If torture is illegal, they wanted to be able to pretend they didn't know it. The pretense of ignorance is never a good indication of honesty. They cherrypicked the opinions and wanted them to look unanimous.

Asked about how he hoped history would remember him, Bush told his audience, "Well, I hope it is this: The man showed up with a set of principles, and he was unwilling to compromise his soul for the sake of popularity."

Well, we know he wasn't popular -- so he succeeded there. But it looks like he compromised his soul for nothing. History won't remember George W. Bush as a hero, for the same reason that we don't remember any torturers as heroes.

Because torture is inarguably evil.


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The Starbucks swashbuckler: How many beans can a man grind down, before you call him a nut?


(The end of civilization as we know it…?)

It’s not exactly up there with the quest for the Holy Grail.

In fact, if you’d decide to make a movie about it, you wouldn’t turn to the people who did the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hell, even the Indiana Jones crowd would, most probably, pray to have this cup pass them by:

“A software engineer from California is on a mission to visit every single Starbucks coffee shop on the planet. Winter, 37, has spent 12 years drinking coffee in 9,100 chain stores. He estimates he has 3,000 left. This week he arrived in London to tackle 400 shops in England, Scotland and Wales, reports the Times. Winter, who changed his name from Rafael Antonio Lozano Jr, will then move on to Spain, Portugal and Germany for more “Starbucking”.”

Still, it might do well as a Simpsons sketch, or a minor running gag on South Park.

I can’t say it comes as a big surprise that this loon comes from California. No idea though why he changed a hot sounding name like Rafael Antonio Lozano Jr into a tepid, mass produced moniker like Winter.

Not that I think his family will mind, of course.

As to the why of this epic quest, here’s what mister Winter had to say himself:

“In this world it is difficult to do something unique.”


Still, I’m not sure drinking coffee at Starbucks really qualifies as such, however much of the stuff you drink.

Ah well, enough about the Coffee Nut Formerly Known As Rafael Antonio Lozano Jr…

… apart from this small observation:

How come that when you hear about these kinds of projects, it’s always about idiots going for a new world record bungee jumping, or pizza baking, or hotdogs eating, or dwarf throwing, or towing trucks with their dick?

For every sad loser who wants to drink at all the Starbucks of the world, get a picture taken with every Ronald McDonald in the known universe…

… for each and every useless wanker who wants to get the autograph of every Playmate of the Month since Noah spent some quality time ‘reading the interviews’ inside the Ark’s single toilet or fuck every person who ever wore a Minnie Mouse costume in a professional capacity at Disney World…

… can you name even one person who tried to visit as many great libraries as he or she could manage, watch every Picasso or Rembrandt original in the world’s museums, take the time to listen to the complete works of J.S. Bach, go see all of Shakespeare’s plays or read the Holy Texts of the world’s Top Four religions…?


Enough about this whole sorry subject.

Let’s just hope the CNFKARAL(Jr) packed enough antacid tablets, before he started on his odd (and overpriced) odyssey. God knows he will need the bloody things.

That, and a life but I think it might be a bit too late for the latter.

(Talking about epic quests…)


News Roundup for 5/28/09

Cheney on 'State of the Nation'
Dick Cheney, being forced to appear on TV against his will

-Headline of the day-
"GOP strategist slams MSNBC for too much Cheney coverage."

Yeah, let that one sink in.

If you ask GOP strategist KT McFarland about media coverage of the former Republican vice president, she'll tell you she's against it. Speaking to MSNBC's Mike Schuster, McFarland said that Cheney's big "Yay for torture" media tour is bad for the party. Saying she'd "like to hear other voices in the Republican party too," McFarland blamed the media -- not Cheney -- for Dick's appearances everywhere and anywhere a network news camera sits on a tripod. "[S]hame on you guys to only be covering Dick Cheney," she said. "There are other people speaking out."

People like some lady named "KT McFarland," who was busy complaining on a national cable news talking head show about how much people like her are being ignored. That kind of undercuts her argument just a little bit.

If Republicans are having trouble with Cheney's ongoing campaign to save his own ass, maybe they ought to take that up with the Dark Lord himself. As it is, Democrats are positively gleeful. Appearing on the same panel, Democratic strategist Peter Mirijanian said, "Well, he is the former vice president and he has been fairly outspoken and he has taken up all the airtime. I in fact like to see him out there..."

"Of course you do!" McFarland interjected. "Please!"

Hey KT, no one's got a gun to Dick's head. This thing is all his own idea. You're basically blaming the trainwreck on the crowd that gathered to check out the twisted metal afterward.

Blame "Casey Jones" Cheney for that one. (Raw Story)

-How to break a terr'ist-
Editor and Publisher is reporting the gruesome details of a TIME magazine story to be published tomorrow. It's the story of "the most successful interrogation of an al Qaeda operative by US officials" and the horrifying tactics required to break him. Trust me, it's brutal and terrifying, shocking in it's violence and inhumanity. They knew this guy was bad news, so they didn't stick him in a little box, they didn't slam his head against a wall, they didn't deprive him of sleep or waterboard him. He would've laughed that all of, because he's al Qaeda -- which means he's magic.

No, according to the report, "All it took to soften up Abu Jandal, who had been closer to Osama bin Laden than any other terrorist ever captured, was a handful of sugar-free cookies."

Wait, what?

"He was a diabetic... We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him... So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures," says former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan.

"Defenders of the Bush program, most notably Cheney, say the use of waterboarding produced actionable intelligence that helped the US disrupt terrorist plots," TIME will report. "But the experiences of officials like Soufan suggest that the utility of torture is limited at best and counterproductive at worst."

In Cheney's defense, you have to remember that the typical conservative reaction to a problem is to be an unbelievable hardass about it. And what's more hardass than torture?

OK, so that's not a defense. Sue me. It was the best I could come up with. (E&P Pub, via reddit)

-Obama destroys patriotic American car dealers!-
Eek! Chrysler's closing car dealerships all over the country and -- guess what? -- a lot of those dealers turn out to be Republicans! It's a big conspiracy to destroy the powerful Republican Chrysler dealer lobby, which holds more sway in Washington than the NRA, the AARP, and the American Potato Chip Producers Association combined. Didn't give money to Obama's election campaign? Screw you, good American car lot guy! It's a commie world now. Luckily, the conservative blogosphere got wind of this and are using this scandal to take the Marxist Obama administration down.

Not surprisingly, this new "conspiracy" turns out to be complete bullshit. Yes, more Republican dealerships are being closed that Democrat-owned ones, but there's a simple explanation for that. "There is just one problem with this theory," writes statistician Nate Silver. "Nobody has bothered to look up data for the control group: the list of dealerships which aren't being closed. It turns out that all car dealers are, in fact, overwhelmingly more likely to donate to Republicans than to Democrats -- not just those who are having their doors closed."

"Conservative blogs jumped on this before thinking it through," says Steve Benen.

I'm sorry, but isn't that pretty much all conservative blogs do? (Washington Monthly)

A Goldmine of GOP Stupidity

Obama and SotomayorThis post is about the right and their reactions to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to fill David Souter's seat on the Supreme Court. But let me start out by making one salient point; it's important to remember that Newt Gingrich is a horse's ass. He was forced to resign as Speaker of the House and, when re-election became impossible, decided to retire. He's often rumored to be considering running for president, but those rumors probably originate with Gingrich. Even if he did run, he would have no hope of ever winning. Newt is merely a media whore of the first order, a ridiculous, pompous nobody with an inflated sense of self-worth and a confidence in the wisdom of his own opinions that's shared by pretty much no one. Why we're supposed to give a crap what Newt thinks is a mystery to me. Yet there he is, on cable news talking head shows almost daily, repeating the most inane talking points out there.

Then again, we live in a world where Michele Bachmann can get camera time anytime she wants, so I guess being ludicrous and insane is no impediment to being a Republican tastemaker these days. And we all know that, with few exceptions, cable news isn't home to the best and the brightest. Maybe Newt gets all these talking head gigs not because he's smart enough, but because he's dumb enough. Either way, it's hard to imagine serious Republicans (and yes, there are one or two left) seeing Newt Gingrich as being helpful to their party.

That said, I give you this typical bit of Gingrichian stupidity, courtesy of Politico:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on Wednesday charged that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a "racist."

"Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman.' Wouldn't they have to withdraw? New racism is no better than old racism," Gingrich wrote in a post on his blog.

"A white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw," he added.

At issue was this comment by Sotomayor; "Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position... When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account."

Oops! I'm sorry, I got my notes mixed up. That's Bush nominee Samuel Alito. Sotomayor said something pretty much along the same lines. It's so easy to get your ethnic supremacist bigots confused.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life," she said. The comment was made at a speech to the University of California, Berkeley's annual Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Lecture. In honoring the memory of a Hispanic judge, Sotomayor said something nice about Hispanic judges. How awful!

Of course, the idea that someone might use their life experiences to gain insight on the job is nothing new -- as Justice Alito explained. Does anyone really believe Newt would be freaking out if Sotomayor talked about a "wise Christian woman?" I doubt it and -- if you allow yourself a moment of honesty -- so do you. Gingrich is just fishing for things to be outraged over, so he can keep getting his face on the teevee machine. He's got books to sell.

If you think that Gingrich mines the depths of possible stupidity here, you'd be wrong. Others have made much more idiotic statements and much less sense. Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe comes pretty close to finding the absolute bottom. "Of primary concern to me is whether or not Judge Sotomayor follows the proper role of judges and refrains from legislating from the bench. Some of her recent comments on this matter have given me cause for great concern," Inhofe said in a statement. "In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the US Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences." Backing up Inhofe is Lamar Smith, who worries that Sotomayor may display "personal bias based on ethnicity and gender."

See. because white men are raceless and genderless, I guess. Or, at least, automatically neutral. I think the best comment I've seen on this comes from John Aravosis; "GOP members of Congress Inhofe and Smith do have a point. I mean, do we really want Sotomayor yelling 'Lucy I'm home!' every time she arrives at an oral argument?"

But that's still not the bottom. It's possible to be stupider and Mark Krikorian of the wingnut Center for Immigration Studies finds it -- Sotomayor is forcing us to speakie the Spanish. See, pronouncing her name correctly is "unnatural in English" and her insistence on pronouncing it that way means she's not adapting to the glorious melting pot of American society. She's the product of -- gasp! -- multiculturalism. As such, "insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to."

You want stupider? Because I've still got some. Check out this bit from an article in The Hill:

Sotomayor also claimed: “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events.”

This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such as
patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs' feet with chickpeas — would somehow, in some small way influence her verdicts from the bench.

No, really.

The paper says Curt Levey, the executive director of the Committee for Justice, "said he wasn’t certain whether Sotomayor had claimed her palate would color her view of legal facts..."

It'd be nice for Republicans if Newt Gingrich were the stupidest voice on that side of the aisle. Fortunately for Democrats and unfortunately for conservatives, he's not. Looking over everything I've put together here today, I have one bit of advice for conservative voters out there.

Stop letting stupid people speak for you. It's not helping.


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Homeland Security doesn’t like it when we smile (That’s why so many terrorists have beards)


(Resistance is futile: Have a nice day…)

It may not be safe to say this, in various parts of the world (and it would certainly be frowned upon in certain European circles) but I do like America. Granted, not its surface culture of fast food, fast living & fast spending but there is so much more to this vast and quite diverse continent than those who judge it on the merits of its (regrettable) TV shows and Hollywood movies will probably ever learn - but then, we know that prejudice is a condition that doesn’t welcome new information.

Anyway, on the whole, in America, people are certainly more friendly, welcoming and, definitely, more polite than in most of the other places I’ve visited and lived in.

The only gripe I share with a large amount of other Europeans who’ve spent time in the USA, is the way people in various types of shops, bars and restaurants wish you, upon leaving, a very nice day, with smiles as big and as fake as Elton John’s toupet.

It’s not the fault of these individual employees, of course: It’s their bosses with their ‘Smile or be fired’ policy who are to blame for this nonsense but it is, nevertheless, quite grating.

Having said that, the following news story is still vaguely depressing:

“Few places in Virginia are as draining to the soul and as numbing to the buttocks as the branch offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles. And yet, until recently, smiling was still permitted there. No more. DMV officials say the smile ban is for a good cause. The agency would like to develop a facial recognition system that could compare customers’ photographs over time to prevent fraud and identity theft. “The technology works best when the images are similar,” said DMV spokeswoman Pam Goheen. “To prepare for the possibility of future security enhancements, we’re asking customers to maintain a neutral expression.””


‘Technology’ will only ever be happy if each and every individual person becomes part of an identical looking, thinking, consuming, voting and overall similarly behaving herd.

A sad looking herd, no less – since our new overlords, the machines, can’t cope with deviating expressions on the faces of individual pieces of cattle.

All this to prevent fraud, identity theft and, no doubt, terrorism.

Homeland Security already demands we remove our keys, our belts and bottled water, before we even go through ‘control’

… and now, the powers have started to demand we drop our smiles as well.

Which is the kind of news, I imagine, Osama bin Laden will find highly amusing.

Not that you would notice, of course, with that beard of his.


News Roundup for 5/27/09

Thomas scowls
Clarence Thomas being warm and delightful

-Headline of the day-
"Flashback: George HW Bush On Clarence Thomas' 'Great Empathy.'"

When it comes to attacking Obama's Supreme Court nominee, the right is floating a few trial balloons. The problem is that these balloons keep popping under the weight of their own dumbitude. Which is why an early attempt to paint Sonia Sotomayor as irrational isn't working out so well. Barack Obama promised that he'd choose a person of "empathy" and the right dived on that comment as if someone with a complete lack of empathy were a sane and logical jurist.

As I pointed out yesterday, the opposite is true. Someone without empathy is literally a psychopath.

Still, since the Republican party is the party of torture, the right isn't going to let a little disability like psychopathic personality disorder cast a shadow over their ideal of the perfect Supreme Court nominee. Empathy is bad in a judge, they say, and if that means the best person for the job is a serial killer, then the best person for the job is a serial killer. That's just the way it is.

So they need to get right on with working to impeach Clarence Thomas, who was sold to the American people as not being a psychopath. "I have followed this man's career for some time," Bush the Elder said of Thomas in 1991. "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor."

Not only is he a person of "great empathy," but he's "warm" and "delightful!" That's code for a leprechaun or an elf or something -- maybe even gay. And, of course, we all remember how the Republican party attacked Clarence Thomas for being warm and delightful and non-psychopathic.

Maybe criticizing Sotomayor for not being a psycho isn't the best way to go. They can always pile on her about not being a kleptomaniac or a firebug or something. (Talking Points Memo)

-"OK, how about in my backyard?"-
With Barack Obama looking to shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, elected representatives have been quick to reject the idea of putting the prisoners in US prisons. US prisons are made out of cardboard and terr'ists have superpowers, so that's just not safe. Besides, all those al Qaeda guys are violent, soulless crazies and everyone knows that the place for soulless crazies isn't in US prisons, but on the Supreme Court.

Anyway, someone didn't get the memo. According to the report, "The tiny town of Hardin, Montana, is offering an answer to a very thorny question: Where should the nation put terror detainees if the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is shut down by the end of the year as President Obama has pledged?" Turns out Hardin wants the diabolical supervillains in their town.

"It would bring jobs. Believe it or not, it would even bring hope and opportunity," says Hardin's economic development director Greg Smith. "Hope and opportunity"... Pffft! It'd bring certain death, destruction, and the end of the United States. It'd probably even make Baby Jesus cry. Just ask those in the know.

"Housing potential terrorists in Montana is not good for our state," Max Baucus, the state's senior Democratic senator, wrote to the nuts at Hardin. "These people stop at nothing. Their primary goal in life, and death, is to destroy America." And we know that, if there's one thing about American terr'ists -- of which there are plenty in US prisons -- they'll stop at something. We just haven't figured out what yet. These al Qaeda guys are literally devils. Maybe even witches.

"I just don't think it's appropriate, that's all," says Montana Sen. John Tester. "I don't think they know what they're asking for."

Seriously, these guys have to stay in Gitmo, because there's something in the soil there that's like crosses to vampires to them. Sure, Hardin has a state-of-the-art maximum security prison and Guantanamo is basically a dog kennel kit someone from the Pentagon bought at Lowes, but that's no excuse not to FREAK THE FUCK OUT! over the idea that terr'ists might brought into your town.

Come on, Hardin. Get with the program. (CNN)

-In other words, "pancake whistle marshmallow railroad"-
Appearing on C-Span's Students & Leaders series, Texican Rep. John Culberson's plan was to get all Libertarian on an audience of students' asses. Government is nothing but oppression and intrusion, John Culberson insisted and, next to the terr'ists, Washington is the biggest threat to the American Way of Life. "I'm very focused on eliminating -- shutting down as much of the federal government's functions as I can," he told them.

Teabags forever! w00t!

His plan went off the rails, however, when a student asked him about gay marriage. He then fell into rambling incoherence as he tried to keep the "big gummint is out to git you!" argument going, while also arguing that big gummint has to save you from the Homosexual Menace.

"Federal law cannot permit -- if one state, Vermont, wants to do that, you can't let that cross state lines," he said. "You've got to let -- frankly, a lot of these issues have got to be left up to the states. But the federal government cannot permit for example -- The federal government has a legitimate role in interstate commerce. And that's where the federal government comes in. I think the federal government can't recognize -- shouldn't recognize it, it's just a bad idea. And uh -- But fundamentally, the right of privacy's fundamental. I'm not interested -- what people do at home's their own business."

I dare you to make less sense, Rep. Culberson. And I'll give you a dollar if you can. (Think Progress)

This Administration is Willed by God

Bush speaks in front of crossI'd always thought that George W. Bush was a religious phony. He was just the typical Republican, throwing bones to the religious right to score political points. In my defense, he played the game like the rest of them, talking the talking while not walking the walk. He'd make a big deal out of how similar he was to the GOP base -- hating the right people and holding the religiously correct positions -- while doing very little for that base. They wanted abortion to be illegal, they got a capital gains tax cut. They wanted evolution out of schools, they got No Child Left Behind. They wanted a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, they got an attempt to privatize Social Security. The religiously-based changes Bush made were mostly temporary, policies set by executive order that could easily be changed by following presidents. The zealots got very little in terms of lasting change. The evidence points to Bush being only an ordinary madman, not a lunatic of the religious type. Looking at what he left behind, you'd assume he was just a talentless ideologue who took a job beyond his ability and found the ideology he relied on to fill in the gaps wanting. In no way have two terms of George W. Bush left the world any better. In many ways, he left it worse. But, in any case, there's nothing especially Christian about any of it, other than the language and the propaganda.

But what if Bush was that very special type of religious fanatic -- the truest of true believers? What if Bush was an "End Times" nut and his politics were based on the belief that the Apocalypse was just around the corner? What would abortion and gay marriage and evolution matter then? If Jesus is coming back tomorrow, which would be more important; saving people who were already damned or cashing out as quickly as possible?

There can be no real doubt that Bush policies allowed the already wealthy to make themselves even wealthier. New evidence shows that he thought it was one last party before the end.

First, there are the covers for secret briefings on Iraq prepared by Donald Rumsfeld. Those covers featured Bible verses that suggested the invasion was a Holy War. According to Bush biographer Eric Draper, the covers were used to please Bush specifically.

Second, and more damning, is an account by Jacques Chirac from 2003:


In 2003 while lobbying leaders to put together the Coalition of the Willing, President Bush spoke to France's President Jacques Chirac. Bush wove a story about how the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and how they must be defeated.

Genesis and Ezekiel Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy:

"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them."

Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac:

"This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins".

The story of the conversation emerged only because the Elyse Palace, baffled by Bush's words, sought advice from Thomas Romer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne. Four years later, Romer gave an account in the September 2007 issue of the university's review,
Allez savoir. The article apparently went unnoticed, although it was referred to in a French newspaper.

So there you go. George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States of America, was just as religiously crazy as he seemed to be. It wasn't a pretense for the chumps he wanted to vote for him, it was real. Bush thought in terms of preparing for a final battle straight out of the Book of Revelation. Turns out that George W. Bush was all different kinds of crazy.

Bush may be in retirement, but the group of religious zealots he belongs to are still in Washington -- out of power, at the moment, but that could change. And the thing about belief in prophecy is that you can't prove it wrong; the future is always the future. Unless a prophecy mentions a specific date, you can't logically disprove it. It never fails to happen, it just hasn't happened yet. The true believer is never proven wrong. The End is always just around the corner, it just wasn't today.

They won't stop trying to bring it about. The Bush administration really was a sort of death cult, trying to end history and the world. We can be grateful he didn't show up earlier, when the end of the world looked like war with the USSR. I don't have a lot of doubts that Bush would've pushed that shiny, red button without hesitation and with a quiet little prayer.


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Vatican Radio will start running commercials: Richard Branson says he wants to do lunch


(Maybe not…)

Now, this is interesting news:

“VATICAN CITY - Vatican Radio said Tuesday it will start running commercials for the first time in its 78-year history, interspersing the pope’s messages with “ideologically” sound publicity spots.”

Because I am a helpful kind of guy and because the Vatican, to paraphrase that old l’Oréal ad, is so worth it, I can’t help but start thinking about the kind of commercials and the type of products Vatican Radio should aim for.

Granted, the Church has been around the block a fair bit of times, so you could say, with Head and Shoulders, that it might be a bit late to make that vital first impression but still, there are more ways to lose your virginity than having sex.

Your first Crusade, your first auto da fé, your first indigenous massacre: There can be many significant ‘firsts’ in anyone’s and any organization’s life – and a first commercial break is one fo them.

So, which ones to choose first. Obviously, Trojans are a bit of a no no – and though more topical, I feel that ads for incontinence pads, anti-ageing creams and those ‘pre-need’ funeral insurances would not really set the right tone. Not the one the Vatican is looking for, anyway.

Enough of the negatives though: Let’s try and think of something fitting to launch Vatican Radio’s bold first trip into commercial space.


So simple, really, when you come to think of it.

What better commercial to start with than one for a Richard Branson product. I mean, give the man a white sheet, a pair of sandals and a bit more beard and he even looks a bit like Jesus.

Indeed, the very first ad in that very first commercial block really should be for Virgin Airlines.

‘Going Home in Style’, would make a fine headline for what could become Virgin’s new ‘Vatican line’ campaign.

I could see the Bearded One, sitting in his office, in his new Jesus rags but with that same smug smile on his face, with a picture of the current Pope in a gilded frame on his desk, next to a miniature Virgin airliner.

The Bearded One looks into the camera and proclaims:

In my Father’s house there are many mansions but you will only get decent room service if you can say you have travelled with Virgin.”

Fade out of the B.O., followed by a wide angle shot of a real Virgin plane taking off into a very blue sky, where a band of angels awaits it, with their trademark tambourines and trumpets at the ready.

Final fade out to the sound of that old Madonna song, ‘Like a virgin.’


(”Are you ready to ride with me?”, indeed…)


News Roundup for 5/26/09

Smog monster
Artist's depiction of Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney combined

-Headline of the day-
"Powell's approval ratings more than Cheney, Limbaugh combined."

It may be just me, but I don't want to imagine some sort of combined Cheney/Limbaugh hybrid. It just freaks me out.

A new CNN poll finds that the doubleteaming Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney have been playing on Colin Powell is having an effect; Powell is now more popular than both of them combined.

Apparently forgetting the role he played in getting us stuck in Iraq, 70% of respondents viewed the former Secretary of State in a positive light, compared to Cheney's 37% and Limbaugh's 30%.

Both Cheney and Limbaugh have accused Powell of not really being a Republican. Powell denies it, but they're probably right -- Republicans don't get those kind of approval numbers. Clearly, Powell is secretly a Democrat, because the vast majority of people don't think he's crazier than a monkeyhouse.

The math is weird, too. Cheney is both the most popular and most unpopular of the two Sith Lords. While Cheney beats Limbaugh in favorability, he also beats him in unfavorability -- 55% Cheney, 53% Limbaugh. You figure it out.

Not that it makes any difference, majorities think both are blowful. The disagreement is on just how blowful.

Suck it, losers. (Raw Story)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, think you know your right hand from your left? Ha!

Click for animation

There is no left or right, young Grasshopper. There is only Oppositeland! (MarkFiore.com)

-I'll take that as an endorsement-
In a blog post for the American Enterprise Institute, John Yoo writes that he doesn't like President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

Yeah, that John Yoo. The Bush torture lawyer John Yoo. The "in danger of being disbarred for being a shitty attorney" John Yoo. The possible war criminal John Yoo.

What's the problem? Well, it turns out she's all human and stuff. Yoo says Sotomayor's selection "shows that empathy has won out over excellence in the White House." Yoo has no use for empathy because -- let's face it -- it's hard to design a legal defense for torture when empathy's high on your list of personal priorities.

You know who else has no use for empathy? Any given psychopath. Your average psycho displays a "callousness and lack of empathy," along with other abnormal personality traits, according to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.

Sure explains a lot about John Yoo, doesn't it? A note to Yoo's family -- hide the steak knives. (The American, via reddit)

According to the GOP, Judges Aren't Supposed to Make Decisions

Barack Obama gets a to make a Supreme Court nomination pretty much right off the bat and it turns out that a lot of early speculation was right.

[Associated Press:]

Sonia SotomayorU.S. President Barack Obama tapped U.S. Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, officials said, making her the first Hispanic in history picked to wear the robes of a justice.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sotomayor, 54, would succeed retiring Justice David Souter. Two officials described Obama's decision on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.

Administration officials say Sotomayor would bring more judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice confirmed in the past 70 years.

First nominated to the Federal bench by George HW Bush in 1991 and elevated to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1997, Sotomayor should have support from both sides of the aisle. But these aren't typical times and the loyal opposition isn't exactly rational these days. Obama could nominate anyone at all -- even an identical twin to Samuel Alito or Clarence Thomas -- and the GOP would oppose the nomination as too liberal. See, it comes from Barack Obama, who's supposed to be the most liberal president ever, so any judge he nominates will logically be a terr'ist sympathizer and a commie.

Never mind that Obama's not the most liberal president ever -- Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are two Republican presidents I can think of who were more liberal than Obama -- and never mind that Sotomayor was originally nominated by Bush the elder. Sonia Sotomayor is the most liberal judge any president has ever nominated to the Supreme Court. At least, that'll be the predictable spin coming from the right.

Trust me. It's going to get stupid.

Before Obama's SCOTUS pick even had a name, the ideological guns were loaded and ready to fire. President Obama said he'd nominate a judge with empathy and the Republican party took that as a threat. Judges shouldn't be empathic, they said. They should be freakin' robots. They should read the law as written and generate a ruling with the same lack of compassion that computer generates a report. Looking for something -- anything -- to get in a fight over and (hopefully) score political points, the right glommed onto the word "empathy." That word is supposedly code for "activist judge."

[Associated Press:]

Empathy isn’t part of the job description for a Supreme Court justice, a top Republican says.

As President Barack Obama prepares to name his pick for the high court, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican said the qualifications being discussed — "emotions or feelings or preconceived ideas," Sen. Jon Kyl called them — aren’t enough to justify a lifetime appointment. The Arizona Republican on Sunday wouldn’t rule out a filibuster to block an Obama pick that falls outside his definition of the mainstream.

"We will distinguish between a liberal judge on one side and one who doesn’t decide cases on the merits but, rather, on the basis of his or her preconceived ideas," Kyl said.

Leaving aside the hypocrisy of a Republican filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, this line of reasoning is poorly constructed. In fact, this entire idea the right has of "activist judges" is based on a really stupid pretense -- that judges don't actually make any decisions.

It works this way; the law is written and, surprisingly for a human endeavor, it's complete and all-encompassing. There is no situation the law wouldn't cover. In every situation and in every case, the law is clear and well-thought out, because it was written by elected officials -- who are faultless human beings notable for their perfection. As they do with many things, Republicans believe this with all their little hearts -- until they don't. Let someone suggest government handle our health care, for example, and suddenly people in Washington are barely functioning mental invalids who survive without the aid of constant supervision only by a miracle. But in matters legal, they are flawless -- so long as they're Republican.

So, elected representatives being the perfect lawmakers that they are, the founders in their wisdom decided to set up the courts to support that idea. Presidents would search out the nation's greatest legal minds, either from the courts or the classrooms, set them up in big columned buildings that look like a cross between a temple and a wedding cake, dress them up in robes, treat them with the utmost respect and dignity, and use them a legal librarians -- because, of course, the law is absolutely flawless.

Never mind that any first year law student could do the job that Republicans pretend judges do, this is what they want you to believe is the purpose of the courts. Someone makes an argument, you look it up in your rulebook, and see what it says. Then you come back and tell them what the book says. In fact, you don't even need a law student to do that, all you need is a database. Still, we need this nation's greatest legal thinkers to pull off this feat of astounding simplicity. Why? I guess because only geniuses of jurisprudence are capable of looking up things up in a book of law. Or maybe only they are able to grasp the shining perfection of the work of elected officials.

Anything other than a glorified law librarian is an "activist judge." Someone who approaches the law even considering that it might be unconstitutional is a "judicial activist." The legislatures write law and the judiciary stamps it official without question. It's the job of the legislative to write law, not the courts, and -- by some insane leap of logic -- invalidating law is "legislating from the bench."

None of this has to make any damned sense at all, because it's not about making sense -- it's about manufacturing a reason to oppose a judge. Republicans are overjoyed with what they would otherwise call "judicial activism" when the decision goes their way. Find a Republican who was outraged at Bush v. Gore, for example.

If there's any code here, it's in words "activist judge," not in the word "empathy." "Activist judge" just means "liberal" or "Democrat," not what they say it means. Because the reasoning behind what they say it means rest on a really stupid argument -- that all judges are just glorified law librarians.


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Ed Balls, England’s Schools Secretary, caught pissing on soldiers’ graves


(”What…?! Thirty quid for two poppies…?!”)

I have to say that the, still ongoing, scandal about British politicians and their expenses has been quite educational.

Not that the venality and arrogance of that loathsome tribe are all that surprising, per se. It’s just that their greed has been allowed to blossom in such pathetic detail.

I don’t want to compare this particular crowd with Hitler’s Third Reich but I remember reading about the death camps – and how everything there was organized to the tiniest detail. Such as fake soap being provided to make those death chambers look more like shower rooms.

Again, the sins of this shameless set of politicians are of a different order altogether but it’s still, as I said, educational to see how bad things can get if we don’t tag these people like sex offenders or put them in glass, Big Brother type houses.

On the other hand, they couldn’t pay me enough to keep a close eye on the likes of Ed Balls, England’s Schools Secretary, who is, almost, in a very repugnant class of his own:

“Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary and one of Gordon Brown’s closest allies, claimed £33 for two Remembrance Sunday poppy wreaths — and had the bill disallowed by the Commons authorities.”

How sad can anyone be?

To what dizzying lows can even a politician aim to reach?

Remembering the dead: those soldiers that died in a world war for the country you ’serve’ as a minister of the crown.

Serving your country, that is, by claiming a lousy £33 as fucking expenses for the two poppies you wear on Remembrance Sunday…

Some things are beyond criminal.

When you’d actually piss on the wreaths at a soldiers’ memorial, you would be in breach of the law.

Ed Balls, the man responsible for the education of England’s children, might not have broken any laws, in trying to get the country to pay for the poppies he was happy enough to wear for the odd publicity shot but he might just as well have taken his dick out and marked that memorial with his politician’s scent.

(When WILL they ever fucking learn…?)


Natural born fuck-ups: Your government (and General Motors) in action


(Sail on, sail on, o mighty Ship of State…!)

Sometimes, the old ones definitely are the best. Be it Rhett Butler’s, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” to Shakespeare’s Mercutio shouting, “A plague a’ both your houses”

Which, in the following case, would be a plague on the political & business classes, on both side of the pond.

So, yesterday, we could read that good-for-fuck-all General Motors will get another ‘loan’. Not, mind you, to ensure they will finally get their house in order. No, they will receive another $30 billion to help ’steer the company into bankruptcy next week.’

In other words, those stupid arseholes can’t even go bust without government help.

Meanwhile, in Britland, the New Labour government showed us yet again how glaringly incompetent a bureaucratic busy-body machine can be, if you give it enough silly money and monopolistic mandates to play with:

“A two-year-long, 178-page report that cost taxpayers £500,000 has arrived at the unsurprising conclusion that passengers are likely to be in a “positive emotional state” if their train is punctual and announcements are audible and comprehensible, and in a “negative” frame of mind if the service is late and no one tells them why.”

You know, given the arrogant incompetence of our political and business leaders, it would almost be preferable just to give up.

To return to that famous tree we once climbed out of, select a sold enough looking branch and either hang ourselves or, preferably, all those useless shits – elected and unelected – who got us in this fine mess, in the first place.

In the meantime, right now, I’m not in the mood to spend any more time reading or commenting on ever more infuriating news stories.

So, I’m off to the park, to feed the ducks and to listen to some Leonard Cohen on my neolithic Walkman.

It’s a shame I can’t really invite my readers to come and join me in my duck feeding frenzy but at least I can leave you with a few, fitting Cohen songs to chew on. Enjoy:

1) Democracy

2) Closing time &

3) The Future:


Dick Cheney: A Coward and a Failure

Dick Cheney
Obama v. Cheney. POTUS v. former VPOTUS. Democrat v. Republican. Barack v. Dick. The media's big story yesterday was that the President of the United States gave a big speech on national security, followed by one -- supposedly on the same subject -- given by some guy who should've been the White House's spare tire.

But Cheney's speech wasn't about national security. The previous administration's biggest neocon took a look around and was alarmed by the lack of pure terror in the American people. In Dick's perfect world, we should never feel safe. And by God, we should never show a glimmer of courage. The proper place for a good, patriotic American is trembling under the bed, terrified that some terrorist is going to come knocking on their door.

And so, in his speech, Dick mentioned 9/11 25 times. But behind all the attempts to frighten you was Cheney's own cowardice. The entire speech was an attempted justification of everything they did and every outrage they committed. President Obama will kill you, Dick said, because everything he and Democrats are doing is "a serious step to begin unraveling some of the very policies that have kept our people safe since 9/11."

But how safe have our people been? Never mind that the responsibility for 9/11 falls directly in the Bush administration's lap -- three thousand people died because no one in the White House would take terrorism seriously. Since then, Americans haven't been safe. At this moment in time, 4,295 Americans have been confirmed dead in Iraq. How safe are they, Dick? Or don't they count? The math doesn't speak well of your record of "safety" -- going on 8,000 Americans have died since you guys took office. You don't get to brag about your record of keeping people alive.

But let's not forget Afghanistan. No matter how someone might feel about that war -- whether they support it or not -- it's hard to argue that we'd being fighting it if it weren't for 9/11. So those deaths are also the result of the Bush administration being asleep at the switch on September 11, 2001. Add 686 to that total of the number of times the Bush administration has failed to keep us safe.

And even to keep their lousy record on that score down to these unacceptable numbers, they felt they had to lie, to torture, to tap phones and read emails. Looked at objectively, Cheney has absolutely nothing to be proud of. The numbers show a record of failure.

Not surprisingly, that's not the way Dick wants you to see it. "To the very end of our administration, we kept al Qaeda terrorists busy with other problems. We focused on getting their secrets, instead of sharing ours with them," Dick said. "And on our watch, they never hit this country again. After the most lethal and devastating terrorist attack ever, seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed."

Why doesn't anyone point out that measuring success by the lack of a second 9/11 is setting the bar absurdly low? It's like Mrs. O'Leary bragging that her cow only burned down Chicago once. Yeah, that's a real accomplishment -- you managed to get through seven and a half years without screwing things up so disastrously again. That's great Mr. Cheney. You must be so proud.

After Dick tried to both scare the pants off us and bury us in BS, a wiser man had a better idea. "...I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values," President Obama said. "The documents that we hold in this very hall -- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights -- these are not simply words written into aging parchment. They are the foundation of liberty and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality, and dignity around the world."

"Freedom, fairness, equality, and dignity" aren't the words that come to mind when you picture some guy strapped down to a waterboard. Especially when that man is being tortured, not to get information to keep anyone safe, but to manufacture a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. When Cheney says, "You’ve heard endlessly about waterboarding. It happened to three terrorists," he neglects to tell you about that. Trying to create a reason to invade Iraq doesn't actually qualify as an attempt to keep anyone safe. It's the opposite.

In the end, former Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney is just a ridiculous old coward. He claims that his administration made the "hard choices" in protecting the nation, but wants to disown those results that don't reflect well on him. How hard could these choices have been if Dick really believed they would come without consequence? Committing a crime because you think no one will ever find out about it isn't a "hard choice," it's a gutless act.

The Bush administration's record of keeping Americans safe is a failure on thousands of counts. One of the masterminds of those failures doesn't get to act as if he were a great success or a hero.


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Why Americans say grace when they take the piss


(One man’s swill…)

It is often said that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’m not sure that’s always true. Any tabloid pundit who once called Mike Tyson a common rapist could, for instance, go the full twelve rounds with the boxer, have his ears and nose bitten off in the process and, somehow, still survive to mumble the tale through his broken teeth but I rather doubt that any ring side doctor would describe the condition of the victim as ’stronger.’

Still, it’s definitely true that some adversity does help you cope with things. Living a few years in London will help you to deal with the most dodgy umbrella operating systems around, while dodging the eye-catching tips of their feral cousins’ spokes, for instance.

Life in Sweden may very well prepare you for marauding IKEA furniture and make you immune to ABBA…

… and I, having been raised in the proud shadow of Hans Brinker’s raised finger, am living testimony to a truth, not quite universally acknowledged, that you can be subjected to wooden shoes, tulips, windmills and sadistic barrel organ grinders and still not have enough hard evidence brought against you in court to seriously risk conviction as a serial killer.

So, it should not come as a huge surprise that a steady national diet of drive-through, semi-solid shit and suspect fizzy drinks has prepared your average American to grin and bear and ignore all that boring advice about the yellow snow:

At the international space station, it was one small sip for man and a giant gulp of recycled urine for mankind. A first for space was celebrated yesterday with ­astronauts drinking water recycled from their urine, sweat, and water condensed from exhaled air. “The taste is great,” said the US astronaut Michael Barratt.”

Now here's a sad and cautionary tale...:

News Roundup for 5/21/09

The numbers '9/11'
Pictured; former vice president Dick Cheney

-Headline of the day-
"Cheney speech reportedly refers to 9/11 25 times."

We can drop the "reportedly" now. It did.

Dick continued his campaign to save his own ass today with a speech to the American Enterprise Institute. In that speech, he talked about 9/11. A lot. We had to torture people because of 9/11. We had to fight a big, stupid war because of 9/11. 9/11 once kicked Dick Cheney's dog. If it weren't for war and torture, 9/11 would've come to your house and 9/11ed you with a 9/11... And no one wants that.

Accept, of course, Barack Obama. He's a secret Muslim terr'ist commie.

Never let it be said that anyone in the Bush administration has ever appealed to your courage. For them, a good American is a cowardly American. If someone says "al Qaeda" and you don't immediately wet your pants, it means you hate America and want the terr'ists to win.

It's not the flag pins that show you who are the finest, most patriotic among us -- it's the strong smell of urine. (Raw Story)

-Republicans for slavery-
You've got to wonder what Republican National Committee head Michael Steele thinks about this one.

As President Obama gave his big "Torture is evil" speech today, the RNC sent out a tweet to the Republitwits reminding them that Obama hates America. "as he prepares to deliver remarks in hall that holds the constitution, flashback obama: 'constitution flawed' http://bit.ly/tFL7O #RNC," the Republican party twittled.

Hahahaha! Obama's a dumbie and commie who hates the Constitution! Let's all hate him! Grrrr!

The problem here is pointed out by Media Matters; "Obama Explains The Constitution's 'Fundamental Flaw' Was Slavery. The out of context video the RNC links to contains audio from a September 6, 2001 program called 'Slavery and the Constitution' on WBEZ Chicago. On the show, Obama explained that the 'fundamental flaw' was 'Africans at the time were not considered as part of the polity that was of concern to the framers.' In addition, the framers did not 'see... it as a moral problem involving persons of moral worth.' [WBEZ Radio, accessed 5/21/09]"

So Barack Obama's against the Constitution as it was way back when it said slavery was cool -- not a real shocking position to be held by the first black POTUS. I'm guessing he's probably also against the Constitution that said that women couldn't vote. He might even think that Prohibition was a bad idea.

Now it'd be easy to jump to the conclusion that the RNC was just trying to play gotcha politics with selective quoting. But that would suggest some sort of dishonesty on their part and we all know that, in politics, accusing someone of lying is just the worst thing ever. Absolutely verboten.

So we have to take the GOP at their word; they believe that Barack Obama is wrong for opposing slavery. Which means they're all for it. Which, in turn, means they're even more shitty and evil than everyone already says they are.

It's either that or they're not being extremely honest. And it would be wrong to assume that. (AMERICAblog)

-Speaking of Dick-
The Republican point man for electing people to the Senate is saying that candidates may get a special friend to help them out on the campaign trail. They might just get a little boost from the most popular figure in America, Dick Cheney.

"I think the vice president is controversial in some quarters, but there is nobody that knows better than he does what the threats are that are facing our nation and why it is necessary to take extraordinary measures that will affect our country," Sen. John Cornyn said at a breakfast briefing hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Asked for comment, a Democratic spokesperson said, "Yay!" (Politico)

A US Funded School for Jihadists

OK. Looks like I'm wrong.

Yesterday, I wrote that closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay wouldn't kill us all. US prisons are just as capable of dealing with foreign terrorists as they are of dealing with serial killers, gangbangers, and domestic terrorists like Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, and the Unabomber. The fear that al Qaeda guys are too dangerous for American prisons is ridiculous.

But I failed to consider what would happen to those we just up and let go. That's where the New York Times comes in with a Pentagon report showing that releasing detainees from Gitmo means certain death.

Prisoner and guards at GitmoAn unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.

The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against the transfer or release of any more detainees as part of President Obama's plan to shut down the prison by January. Past Pentagon reports on Guantánamo recidivism have been met with skepticism from civil liberties groups and criticized for their lack of detail.

The Pentagon promised in January that the latest report would be released soon, but Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said this week that the findings were still "under review."

Boy, is my face red.

Or it would be if it weren't for that part about similar Pentagon reports having "been met with skepticism from civil liberties groups and criticized for their lack of detail." The NYT is seriously understating the facts here. The reports weren't just criticized and met with skepticism, they were proven to be BS.

The last time one of these things came out -- this January -- Seton Hall Law School took a look at the evidence and found that it relied on unconfirmable numbers and an absurdly broad definition of "returning to the fight."

"[T]hey’ve failed to identify names, numbers, dates, times, places, or acts upon which their report relies. Every time they have been required to identify the parties, the DOD has been forced to retract their false IDs and their numbers," wrote Seton Hall's Professor Mark Denbeaux at that time. "They have included people who have never even set foot in Guantánamo—much less were they released from there. They have counted people as 'returning to the fight' for their having written an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and for their having appeared in a documentary exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival. The DOD has revised and retracted their internally conflicting definitions, criteria, and their numbers so often that they have ceased to have any meaning -- except as an effort to sway public opinion by painting a false portrait of the supposed dangers of these men."

Denbeaux sees no real difference this time around.

"It's part of a campaign to win the hearts and minds of history for Guantánamo," he told the NYT. "They want to be able to claim there really were bad people there."

Denbeaux concedes that some released detainees do wind up in some sort of terrorist activity. "We’ve never said there weren't some people who would return to the fight," He said. "It seems to be unavoidable. Nothing is perfect."

But how many of these are actually "returning to the fight?" Strong evidence suggests that many of these people would never have become terrorists in the first place if they hadn't been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay. A detailed study of released detainees was done in 2008 by McClatchy Newspapers. What they found was that Gitmo was making terrorists of detainees who were otherwise innocent of terrorism.

A McClatchy investigation found that instead of confining terrorists, Guantánamo often produced more of them by rounding up common criminals, conscripts, low-level foot soldiers and men with no allegiance to radical Islam -- thus inspiring a deep hatred of the United States in them -- and then housing them in cells next to radical Islamists.

Saying that these detainees are "returning to the fight" is actually an abuse of language -- they were never "in the fight" to begin with. They've been radicalized by Guantánamo and are fighting for the first time. It's been said that the prison is a recruiting tool for terrorists. That's truer than most people realize. Al Qaeda is recruiting from within Guantánamo Bay. The truth is that Gitmo is literally creating terrorists.

"The Taliban and al Qaida leaders in the cells around them were ready to preach their firebrand interpretation of Islam and the need to wage jihad, Islamic holy war, against the West," McClatchy reported. "Guantánamo became a school for jihad, complete with a council of elders who issued fatwas, binding religious instructions, to the other detainees." Including these people among the "Gitmo recidivists" is nothing short of a lie.

This Pentagon report will eventually be shown to be as big a crock as all the other ones. If you sit down and look at all the evidence logically, honestly, and dispassionately, it's hard to come to any conclusion other than "it's done more harm than good." If the idea that it's not justice means nothing to you, then consider the idea that it just doesn't work.


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Scientists claim skin cancer makes you smarter


(Cheesy…? Moi…?!)

Now, this is one of those stories that make Internet browsing such fun.

No, I’m not talking about yet another celebrity divorce, fuck-up or cult.

What’s great about the Internet is all those stories that swim there, mostly unobserved, minding their own business, always being upstaged by the big, Paris Hilton type fish but not minding this one little bit.

Stories like the following, that pop up occasionally, like a modestly flying fish – not making that much of a splash in the process but always fun to catch sight of:

“For decades parents have warned their children not to have cheese before bedtime to prevent bad dreams. But researchers have disproved this old wife’s tale and found that cheese could actually aid sleep. The study by the British Cheese Board, involved 200 volunteers in a week-long experiment. The cheese-munching volunteers reported no nasty dreams after a late night snack. After eating a 20g piece of cheese 30 minutes before going to sleep, 72 per cent of the volunteers slept very well every night, just over two thirds remembered their dreams and none reported nightmares.”

‘Cui bono?’ is what the old Roman consul & censor Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla used to say – and God knows how many detective writers after him.

I suppose ‘What’s up, doc?’ would work as a translation – if you can complement that with a mental image of a nervous Elmer Fudd who’s guiltily stuffing his wallet with big dollar notes.

In other words, it would have been more convincing if this passionate defence of cheese had not come from the British Cheese Board…

I’m not saying our Cheese Boys cheated but it does sound a bit like a ‘The water is lovely’ campaign by the Australian Shark Board, or some such.

All of which idle chit chat brings us to the news story that caught my eye, a bit earlier today:

“Being a sun worshipper could make you cleverer in later life and ward off dementia, claim scientists. Researchers found that increased levels of vitamin D, obtained from exposure to sun or eating oily fish, could help keep our brains in top condition as we age.”

Which will come in very handy, of course – when you have to make an informed & intelligent decision about which type of skin cancer treatment you will go for.

Cui bono…?

Hell, I don’t know.

Just don’t blame me when you stuff your face with cheese, right before bedtime and then dream of a chorus line of malignant moles in sharkskin suits, doing the background vocals for the Dick Cheney Quintet, who are surfing their water boards, while singing ‘Skin flakes keep falling from my head.’

(Hm, I LOVE this woman...:)


News Roundup for 5/20/09

Beavis and Butthead
Typical RNC members

-Headline of the day-
"Republicans Say No to 'Democrat-Socialist' Resolution and Clown Suits."

Too bad, really. Writes US News' Robert Schlesinger, "RNC Chairman Michael Steele managed some successful party leadership today. Though in all fairness, that leadership essentially took the form of convincing his fellow Republicans not to dress up in a collective clown suit and convey their policy preferences through air horn blasts."

That collective clown suit came in the form of a resolution to the Republican National Committee to rename the Democratic party the "Democrat Socialist party," offered because grade school name-calling is so constructive and so becoming of a national party.

There are still adults in the GOP, however, and they seem to have won the day -- kind of... Instead of a resolution renaming someone else's party, they've changed it "to condemn the 'Democrats march toward socialism.'" Because, again, that's so constructive. But the kids weren't happy about it.

"What's really both funny and scary about all of this is how seriously the fringe-nuts in the GOP take it," writes Schlesinger.

"This will be an opportune time for the RNC to exert bold and aggressive leadership by the passage of these resolutions, which our members and supporters are crying out for and which the American people need and deserve," said RNC member Jim Bobb -- who apparently has no last name -- from Indiana, an author of the original resolution.

Your leadership's already doing enough to make you look stupid, Jimmy Bobb, they really don't need your help. How on Earth do "the American people need and deserve" a bunch of screwballs hurling insults across the aisle, Bobby Jim? Seems to me, Billy Bob, that you guys -- as well as the rest of the nation -- have bigger problems than Democrats calling themselves by a name you don't like. Things like useless dumbasses from Indiana, sitting around with their thumbs up their asses, fiddling with pointless crap like this while Rome burns.

Oops! Sorry about that Gomer Jim. That there was what you call yer "historical reference." It's a little beyond deep thinkers such as yourself -- Rome, Nero... bunch of elitist stuff you wouldn't know about. Let me put it another way. You know how Beetle Bailey is always sleeping when things need to be done?

Yeah, it's like that. (US News & World Report)

-It's hard work-
Dirk Van Dongen -- I swear that's his name -- is a top fundraiser for Norm Coleman in his doomed quest to steal the Minnesota election from Al Franken. As this doomed quest goes on, the "doomed" part is becoming more and more apparent. Especially on the fundraising part, where Van Dongen comes in.

"There are legal limits to what you can give to Norm," he says. "Once you get people to max out they can’t do more for him directly. Which means the circle of people you have to reach out to is getting further away from him. That makes it somewhat more difficult to raise money."

Of course, that reaching out just got a little easier, since the National Republican Senatorial Committee just dropped $750,000 into Coleman's lap in a move that, according to Greg Sargent, raises "questions about whether GOP donors are funding an effort they know is doomed merely to keep the seat empty as long as possible."

Golly, y'think? There's that word "doomed" again. It's generally not used positively. Of course, that three-quarters of a million dollars they're spending now means three-quarters of a million dollars they won't be able to spend in 2010. But since when have Republicans ever played long ball? Thinking ahead is for America haters and commies. It's strategy and that's for fancypants elitists chess players.

Real Americans fly by the seat of their pants and make decisions impulsively. If pouring $750,000 down a rathole seems like a good idea at the time, then -- by God -- you'd just better go ahead and do it.

That's the thinking that got us into Iraq and look how that turned out. (Plumline)

-Americans are Pro-Life!-
Except they don't agree with the central argument of the anti-abortion movement.

Big headlines were generated last week when a Gallup poll found that most respondents (51%) call themselves "pro-life."

Yikes! A fundamental shift!

Yeah, not so fast. Saying you're pro-life is one thing, being pro-life is another. Turns out that when people say they're "pro-life," what they're really saying is that they're not super-comfortable with abortion -- not that they think it should be illegal. They just don't approve of it.

In fact, a new CNN poll shows that 69% of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. In strictly legal terms, that makes them pro-choice. What they actually call themselves is irrelevant. If the nuts with the signs in front of abortion clinics think they have an ally in the average American, turns out they're mistaken.

By the nuts' reckoning, the vast majority of Americans are still radical feminazi baby-killers. Sorry to rain on their parade. (MSNBC)