Friday, June 30, 2006


For the first time in my life I participated -- lurked is more like it, as I kept quiet and just listened -- in a political action conference call.

This one was held by USAction, a non-partisan organization dedicated to "campaigns to strengthen social, economic and health security for all Americans. We get Americans involved in the political process and promote policies that hold corporate influence in check."

With this progressive populist agenda in mind, this group commissioned a poll on how swing voters might react this year to a strongly progressive economic agenda. You know, radical ideas like rolling back tax cuts for the rich to fund schools, renewable energy and affordable access to health care.

The conference call was with Liberal bloggers, and while I can act all nuanced about it, that's basically where Nettertainment sits. Some very interesting bloggers from all corners of America, maybe 25 of us, were on the call, and the idea is to get the word out and try to influence positioning by actual politicians this fall.

USAction offers this info to anyone, so the GOP and Dems will both receive it in hopes of moving minds, but they expect one side to treat it more favorably, of course. Third party candidates are welcome to the data as well. Again, the group is non-partisan, they just want to -- hey, does this sound square after six years of GOP misrule? -- influence government to help out regular people.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rossner Research and the results can be found here in various .pdfs. I suggest just checking out the main presentation (be forewarned, it's a .pdf and will open Adobe Acrobat in your browser window), and I'll just sketch a couple of the major findings, inasmuch as I understand them.

Nearly 3/4 of swing voters (73%) -- sometimes voting Dem, sometimes GOP -- think the U.S. is on the wrong track. Fully 2/3 (66%) disapprove of how El Presidente Bush is handling only the most important job in the world.

If the election were help today (if only!) the overwhelming majority of swing voters and pure independents would vote for a Democratic candidate for Senate or House of Reps over a Republican.

Most importantly, while there are certain self-reliance (see Libertarian) and please-don't-tax-me-more sentiments, the swing voters overwhelmingly support a progressive investment agenda, when presented to them with accountability controls.

And if a candidate favors tax cuts over such an agenda, 2/3 have serious or very serious doubts about that candidate.

Now, all good news, and power to the people, but I have a few caveats before popping election night champagne. You've got a minefield coming up of Karl Rove dirty tricks, Conservatives-in-sheep's-cloth, Conservatives that get elected due to image or personality or Diebold, not to mention the need for the Dems to make a clear claim to be more trusted than their rivals on national security.

The bottom line is that this kind of economic agenda, if properly offered and defended, is one more piece of a winning puzzle, and shouldn't be ignored as it seemed to have been in the last Presidential election, when either John Kerry was insufficiently clear about it or allowed the GOP to paint him so.

A progressive U.S. investment agenda is plenty appealing.

Just ask the swingers.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I've long been eager to see the myth of Conservative competence punctured like a hot air balloon. I'm sick of Conservatives puffing up their chests to support a war they would never offer up their own children to fight in, all the while ruining the U.S. reputation abroad and gutting the freedoms and institutions that made America great at home.

The equally useless twin of this myth is the one about Bush not being a real Conservative. Excuse me? And no, you don't get a do-over with, say, Sam Brownback.

Now Alan Wolfe, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, has written the most cogent argument on how Conservative ideology intrinsically leads to their failed leadership in The Washington Monthly, entitled Why Conservatives Can't Govern.

Read the whole piece, but here's the foundation of his argument:
Contemporary conservatism is first and foremost about shrinking the size and reach of the federal government. This mission, let us be clear, is an ideological one. It does not emerge out of an attempt to solve real-world problems, such as managing increasing deficits or finding revenue to pay for entitlements built into the structure of federal legislation. It stems, rather, from the libertarian conviction, repeated endlessly by George W. Bush, that the money government collects in order to carry out its business properly belongs to the people themselves. One thought, and one thought only, guided Bush and his Republican allies since they assumed power in the wake of Bush vs. Gore: taxes must be cut, and the more they are cut--especially in ways benefiting the rich--the better.

But like all politicians, conservatives, once in office, find themselves under constant pressure from constituents to use government to improve their lives. This puts conservatives in the awkward position of managing government agencies whose missions--indeed, whose very existence--they believe to be illegitimate. Contemporary conservatism is a walking contradiction. Unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve it, conservatives attempt to split the difference, expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding. The end result is not just bigger government, but more incompetent government.

This is the story that has to get out. The issue is Bush, the issue is Republicanism, the issue is at root that Conservatism is a failed ideology.

Toss it on history's dustbin along with Communism.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


From the great State of Texas, nee The Republic of Texas, the state that gives us great barbecue, great musicians, and sometimes great movies, comes a great candidate for Governor.

Now, I know that Texas has also brought us our last two fiasco wars. President Lyndon Baines Johnson lied us into Vietnam. El Presidente George Walker Bush lied us into Iraq. Well, at least Johnson didn't take a great big dump on America's underclass during his years in office, and maybe he earns a reprieve for the Economic Opportunity Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Great Society. But there's no doubt that the next time we elect a tall-tale-teller from Texas to the most powerful office in the world, it's shame on all of us.

Meanwhile, there's musician and mystery novelist Kinky Friedman, cowboy and onetime leader of the band "Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys". Born in Chicago, raised in Texas, a Peace Corps vet, and author songs like, "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore" and "Asshole From El Paso," Kinky has just been certified as an independent candidate for Texas State Governor.

His poll numbers are rising as well. While Republican Rick Perry still holds the lead, Kinky recently jumped 5 percentage points to pass even the Democratic candidate:
The Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters indicates 38 percent of voters would re-elect Perry while 20 percent would elect Friedman. Strayhorn places third with 19 percent of the vote, while Bell garnered 14 percent.

Now that he's officially on the ballot, I'd expect those numbers to rise. Kinky, er, candidate Friedman explains that such polls only target "likely" voters, and his campaign is targeting folks that don't usually vote.

It's all in good fun, but what about his positions? While some are clearly meant for humor, others make, well, common sense:
Kinky Friedman put forth his most detailed agenda to date Monday, calling for publicly financed political campaigns, a two-year lobbying ban for state officeholders and employees after they stop working for the state and giving residents the right to push an idea onto a statewide ballot.

The independent candidate for governor also said he wants revamped political primaries, voter registration on election days and a nonpartisan commission to draw legislative districts instead of lawmakers.

There's been a couple interesting pieces in the MainStream Media regarding Kinky. For an early look at his campaign and its growing pains, check out this New Yorker article. For an even more MSM view, here's a link to his 60 Minutes interview, which features this classic exchange:
Does he think Texas is ready for a Jewish governor?

"Absolutely. Listen, I tell people, trust me, I'm a Jew, I'll hire good people," Friedman says.

Nettertainment hereby endorses Kinky for Texas Governor. Hey, if Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger can do it, why not the man who once wrote (Greenwich Killing Time, 1993):
I knew I wasn't as stupid as I looked. No one was.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Although I'm often railing against the rich and powerful of America and the world, generally when they're using their wealth and power to keep the other 98% of us down, I'm a capitalist at heart, albeit one who believes the government has a role in keeping capitalism as honest and fair as possible.

And while I went through my anti-Microsoft period back in the '90s, even while using their products many times daily, I've come to respect Bill Gates as the best possible mogul to come out of the late century tech boom, particularly when he uses his vast wealth and public power thusly.

Here's to responsible capitalism, especially as being practiced by Warren Buffett. Not only has he announced that he will leave roughly 80% of his estimated $44 billion fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he came out strongly against repealing the estate tax.

I like how that tax is being called the Paris Hilton Tax or, more recently, the Luck Tax. Of course I believe there should be reasonable bottom end limits to protect family farms and more moderate inheritances.

But while the GOP is happy to repeal a tax that only affects their wealthiest donors while denying the U.S. government over $1 trillion through the next 10 years, Warren makes it plain:
"It's a very equitable tax," Buffett said. "It's in keeping with the idea of equality of opportunity in this country, not giving incredible head starts to certain people who were very selective about the womb from which they emerged."

He's in a fine tradition that includes staunch capitalists Thomas Paine, Theodore Roosevelt and, my personal favorite, Andrew Carnegie. To wit:
Carnegie sharply distinguishes between the intended consequence of the inheritance tax (to create funds for public purposes) and its unintended consequence (private philanthropy). The unintended effect of the tax is "“to induce the rich man to attend to the administration of wealth during his life." Wealth is a trust fund for the community that helps the rich "“dignify their own lives."

Great libraries, a great educational institutions, a great concert hall, a great hero fund.

Ah, if I were a rich man...

Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Secrets of the Daily Show

I had the good fortune last week to be invited to a taping of The Daily Show starring Jon Stewart by a friend who works for Viacom, hence "V.I.P." tickets such as they are. On behalf of those Nettertainment readers who are also, like me, Daily Show completists, I offer as a public service this behind-da-scenes look on what it's like to be in the audience.

1. You wait.

Even with the VIP tix we were told to arrive at 4:00pm. Our line was shorter than the reg'lar folks line, and we got inside earlier. To the lobby. At 4:50pm.

This means we go through the metal detector before the reg'lar folks, we get to use the restroom first -- as we are warned that there is no escape for bodily demands once we're in the studio -- and we get to stand in air conditioning under four huge vertical banners, one each for Jon, Rob, Ed and Samantha.

The studio is way on the West Side just off 58th Street, which means you think you're entering a warehouse. Not much in the way of amenities in that lobby. Where we waited. Another forty minutes.

2. You are warmed up.

But who's counting. Because once you are let into the studio and trafficked to the seats, you start getting really happy. If you're like me, prematurely elated.

Our party (four of us) was seated in the precise spot that no camera ever sees, stage right in the corner, so no luck with the self-identification this weekend on the TiVo. However, we were close to a set of video monitors that a couple of flip-flops 'n' shorts wearing dudes sat at during the show, my guess being staff writers. As we sat there waiting for something to happen, we realized the scene on the monitor was from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and immediately assumed much goofing off. Little did we know it was to be part of the ensuing show.

I've been to a couple late night talk show taping before, and one of the more entertaining parts is often the warm-up. In some cases it's a producer of the show, but most times there's some legit stand-up comic who gets the job -- I have no idea what it pays, or if it is either respected or a stepping-stone in the comedy "industry".

I seem to remember that the gent who warmed up for Craig Kilborn several years back was a middle-aged guy, very sharp and a little fatherly, who may have occasional been on-camera for the show but mainly did gigs, one of which he plugged. The art of the warm-up is to (a) get you excited for the host, (b) tell you how you should perform with especially heightened applause when the host is introduced -- you are primarily there for the show and to serve their home audience reach, not as important for the show to entertain you -- and (c) to make you feel like a very happy community.

Our warm-up artist last Wednesday (not sure if he does it every day) was a very funny young comedian named Paul Mecurio. He was energetic, fast, and profane. As is the custom with such acts, part of the community-building, he picked out various members of the audience for comment, conversation and teasing, asking one high school kid if he smoked weed (with enthusiastic roach-toke pantomime), then asked his white-haired Mid-Western mom two seats over, "Ma'am, are you a gin drinker because you look like a gin drinker."

I became very nervous about being called on, and thankfully was not singled out. We got all our instructions along the way, he emphasized that the show uses no laugh track so it was all up to us (makes me wonder who does?), he told us he used to be a corporate lawyer (very believable, especially if in NYC) and plugged his website. And he told us...

3. Jon comes out before the show and takes questions.

Yes, Jon Stewart has more unscripted real person Q&A in one week of The Daily Show than George Bush does in his typical month. Than in all of 2004. Plus 2005.

I've never seen this at such a taping before, but Stewart comes out as personable as can be and answers audience questions. One of the first was, "What's your shoe size?" After wondering for a sec what prompted such a question he beautifully snapped, "Size 14" with a smug little look. The studio erupted in laughter and he followed with, "Actually, they're children's shoes."

He answered a question on when the show loses Rob Cordry -- they have him maybe through October, then he goes off to do a pilot. They already lost Nate Cordry -- "Can't trust those Cordry's, they'll stab you in the back!"

Maybe the most interesting answer was regarding Ann Coulter. Stewart doesn't really cover her on the show, and my own preference with this blog is really to ignore her, even when she's most admonishable, since I don't want her to earn an extra dollar from my coverage of her hate-mongering con. I can't remember the question, but Stewart's answer went to how her depersonalization technique, that what makes her so heinous is her stripping away of any shred of humanity from her poison-pen targets, i.e. those of a Liberal political persuasion, that no real dialogue or discourse, those fundamental building blocks of our country and any thriving democracy, can exist. I'm avoiding the "N" word, but where else can you go but Pol Pot, KKK and those guys who took over Germany 1933-1945?

4. Not so easy to see Jon.

Once the show starts, and the studio audience is cheering like crazy, two or three cameras move in close to Stewart at his desk and, at least from our angle, partially occlude the view.

There's a lot of checking out the studio monitors hung high off the grid, and much craning of the neck to catch opportune glimpses of the host, but it was particularly tough during the guest interview (Anderson Cooper).

One saving grace was our placement near the green screen where the show's "remote" correspondents do their reports from the Baghdad Green Zone, outside The White House or, in our case, San Andreas.

Yep, we had a perfect profile view of audience-beloved Samantha Bee appearing as if inside the game itself, hence the GTA appearance on the desktop monitor before the show. It wasn't the greatest bit she's ever done (which might have been offering her body to Virgin founder Richard Branson) but we were buzzed enough on the whole experience to fill in for any missing laugh machine.

One side treat was that Stewart's whole bit that night regarding Congressional grandstanding over videogame violence made some of the better gamer blogs.

5. They curse.

If you've watched the show you know they bleep, but it was quite refreshing to hear it all au natural just like...we're adults. I counted one "shit" from Stewart, three "motherfuckers" from recent new mother Samantha Bee, and then a couple f-bombs in a very special, un-aired bit, that provides my favorite Secret of the show:

6. Stewart and Colbert do a throw before the throw.

As is custom ever since The Colbert Report debuted in the half-hour following Stewart's show, Jon turned to a monitor facing him to "check in with our friend, Stephen Colbert," but as they started talking the audience began to realize this wasn't the tightly scripted "bit" we're all used to seeing at home. In fact, in their ramblings (clever nonetheless) about Stewart's discomfort wearing pinstripes for the first time and his kids draining "the calcium from your body" it was clear that Stewart was leading more than in their scripted bits, or that Colbert was obviously and delightedly deferring.

I'm assuming the studio-only bit serves as warm-up for the two performers, clears any tech questions for those running the inter-studio transmissions (Colbert tapes in Stewart's old, smaller studio several blocks away), and that they just enjoy each other as much or more than we might already imagine.

We got one more treat following. Colbert blew his punchline in the actual throw and broke character for second to say "I fucked up the joke" to everyone's amusement no one moreso than Jon, who replied, "That's the first time you've ever done that!" Sarcasm, you ask?

7. Global Edition.

After wrapping up the regular show, Stewart said that Wednesday night audiences have the extra duty of his Global Edition intro, which he does standing rather than sitting, in front of some slick wireframe globe graphic. It's a half-hour compendium, the best of the week one hopes, and there were actually a few audience members who had seen it (Stewart asked).

He also commented on how the show airs on CNNI (CNN International), making him wonder whether or not CNN knew that the show was actually a Fake News Show.

8. Gentleman Jon.

Unlike my experience on the Kilborn show (unless my memory betrays me), where we didn't get no thank you from the host, Stewart makes a point to come back out after officially leaving for backstage, and thanks the audience for coming, invites them back again, basically acts like a gracious human being.

9. Jon in control.

Several years ago I read Merv Griffin's autobiography. The best chapter was on how to construct a talk show. Griffin was clearly a master, not a tool, and Stewart is clearly the master of his show as well. Prior to attending I had asked someone connected with the show how long the taping would take. They told me, "Whatever Jon wants."

That feeling was present in the room. When Stewart bobbled a joke, he didn't bother asking for another take, he just riffed loosely like a pro and moved on. He seemed taller on the set than in his bio, and when he cut a whole last line in the Global Edition intro, replacing it with deftly comic epithet, the two flip-flop wearers at the monitor near us burst into hysterics. We could see their teleprompter feed and that he'd summarily sliced off the whole ending, but there was no retake. Stewart's rules.

10. Go. Why not?

Okay, maybe the waiting, but if you can put up with it you might get a stellar night like with Al Gore scheduled later this week, or maybe a full take-down of Bill Bennett.

Okay, maybe one other reason not to go. Before I left my office in Los Angeles I told a young employee that I was going to see The Daily Show taping.

"No, no, man," he said. "You gotta go see The Colbert Report. That's the big show now."

How quickly they turn.


Here's the face-saving measure BushCheneyCo needs: an Iraqi plan for conditional phased withdrawal (i.e. the Democratic plan).

Is this a lie, or do we have to wait for the response from the Bush White House?

Watch The Great Walkback from the "more of the same" crowd.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


It's easy to forget.

Here's why Bruce Springsteen is a boss, maybe even The Boss.

The juicy stuff starts @ 1:33, when Bruce can no longer take Soledad O'Brien's idiotic questions about him expressing his politics seriously.

He's the real deal and he basically laughs her out of that line of questioning. Says he doesn't even consider the need for Bush to be replaced a political opinion anymore, just common sense.

Atrios has a nice piece on it, including:
In outlets with barriers like TV and radio, some people magically enter the "pundit club" through various channels. Some people earn their key to face time by being on enough rolodexes. Some people are actually experts in some stuff. But, for a long time punditry has consisted of people who don't necessarily know what the hell they're talking about posing as experts in just about everything.

Meanwhile, I heard this driving home late tonight and blasted it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I'm pretty much a fan of Paul Begala but especially today on how the Democrats should be manhandling the GOP on Iraq. Not by trying to rebut "cut and run", but by hitting the message that those very disagreements within the Party means it's the only place where anyone is seriously debating future options for Iraq:
As usual, the Smart Guys have it backwards. Democrats can and will win the Iraq debate if they embrace the fact that they disagree and contrast it with the slavish, mindless rubber-stamp Republicans.

You play it like the other guys aren't serious. That they're out of gas.
If anyone tells you the solution to Iraq is easy or obvious, they'’re a liar or a fool (a false choice in the case of our president). So why not feature the debate? At least someone is debating what to do.

The fact is the American people want a new direction in Iraq, and the Democrats offer several. The Republicans, on the other hand, offer nothing more than a four-word strategy: more of the same.

If the GOP run with "More of the Same" or if the Dems can successfully brand them that way, things could get less Rovian. Because the only plan they have now, that they've had since the whole thing started blowing up in their faces, is how to save some face. Bush's face.

But don't count on it. I'm not such a nihilist that I think the Dem Party can never show collective cajones, I'll give anyone a second chance. But I think most folks want to see the some of the interesting Dems, are there are a bunch including Brian Schweitzer, Al Gore, Barak Obama, Mark Warner, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, Barbara Boxer, Joe Biden, even John Kerry, Tim Kaine, Robert Kennedy Jr., John Corzine, Russ Feingold, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean -- I'm sure I'm missing someone egregiously, even Jimmy Carter's kid in Nevada -- to step up and seize the day. Even Hillary, in some non-Chief Executive way.

You're up against Sam Brownback, Ralph Reed, Karl Rove, Richard Cheney and some other Puppet. I'll do what I can to help, but please kick their asses.

Read the whole thing, but Begala concludes:
In short, Democrats can and will win the debate over the war in Iraq not by playing defense (pleading "We'’re NOT for cut and run!"”) but on offense: the Republican Congress has blindly backed a failed strategy that has left 2,500 Americans dead, 20,000 wounded, and put us $2 trillion in the hole.

Being part of a party that has three or four different new approaches to Iraq beats the hell out of being part of a party that marches in lockstep off a cliff.

Rove is planning to eat Democrats like they are little Democratic infants for him to much on like a dinosaur. It's Final Branding Time.

It's debate, not dissent.

Not when things are going so shitty.


According to Michiko Kakutani's excellent review of Ron Suskind's new book, The One Percent Doctrine, in The New York Times:
This book augments the portrait of Mr. Bush as an incurious and curiously uninformed executive that Mr. Suskind earlier set out in "The Price of Loyalty" and in a series of magazine articles on the president and key aides. In "The One Percent Doctrine," he writes that Mr. Cheney's nickname inside the C.I.A. was Edgar (as in Edgar Bergen), casting Mr. Bush in the puppet role of Charlie McCarthy, and cites one instance after another in which the president was not fully briefed (or had failed to read the basic paperwork) about a crucial situation.

Imagine, for a moment, that this picture is really of George Bush and Dick Cheney.

As I've always said, whenever the entire truth comes out about the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove Administration, it will be much, much worse than anything any of us can imagine.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Worst War Ever

So el Presidente Bush does about 5 hours in Iraq last week, entirely inside the surreally protected Green Zone and what appears to be another "Mission Accomplished" photo-op type moment devoid of all but manufactured symbolic value, having little to no bearing at all on real life in Iraq, merely a way to get aggressive with the U.S. media and, by extension, electorate in advance of the fall mid-term Congressional election showdown.

Meanwhile, in a leaked memo sent by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to US Secretary of State Condoleeeeeeeeeeeezza Rice and marked sensitive on June 20th, all the news Americans aren't hearing from Big Media:
Iraqi staff in the Public Affairs sector have complained that Islamist and Militia groups have been negatively affecting daily routine. Harassment over proper dress and habits is increasingly persuasive. They also report power cuts and fuel prices have diminished their quality of life.

O.k., bad opener, but is that it?
Another, a Sunni, said people in her neighbourhood are harassing women and telling them to cover up and stop using cell phones. She said the taxi driver who brings her every day to the green zone has told her he cannot let her ride unless she wears a headcover. A female in the PAS cultural section is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats.

Now, I can't quote every section, that's what I have hotlinks like above, but I can tell you:
Staff members have reported it is now dangerous for men to wear shorts in public; they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts. People who wear jeans in public have come under attack.

Well, certain parochial schools have dress codes, I mean, is there really something to complain about here?
An Arab newspaper editor told us he is preparing an extensive survey of ethnic cleansing, which he said is taking place in almost every Iraqi province, as political parties and their militias are seemingly engaged in tit-for-tat reprisals all over Iraq.

Negative, negative, negative. How about some uplifting news about all the good we're doing over there:
We have begun shredding documents that show local staff surnames. In March, a few members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate.

Hey, at least they have their friends.
Personal safety depends on good relations with "neighborhood" governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. People no longer trust most neighbours.

Well, at least those Iraqi employees who work inside the Green Zone can be trusted to keep us straight on the real picture.
Although our staff retain a professional demeanor, strains are apparent. We see their personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels. Employees are apprehensive enough that we fear they may exaggerate developments or steer us towards news that comports with their own world view. Objectivity, civility, and logic that make for a functional workplace may falter if social pressures outside the Green Zone don't abate.

Hmm. How can I say this...

How about:
Holy motherfucking shit?


Remember the big bru-ha-ha over Dubai taking over our U.S. port operations?

Remember how the BushCheneyCo Administration appeared to cave under pressure from both within and without their own party?

Turns out...they lied.

Huffington Post has the story, which comes from CNN Lou Dobbs transcripts.

Judge for yourself.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


At approximately 8:30pm on Friday, September 15, 1967, I changed the channel on my family's television to find Captain Kirk, First Officer Spock, and Chief Medical Officer McCoy of the U.S.S. Enterprise appear in glittering beams of light on Spock's home planet, Vulcan. From that moment I was hooked.

In a sea of features and Voyagers and even documentary films about the fans themselves, I've never had my love for those original characters and the early episodes (almost all of Season 1, more than half of Season 2, and about five episodes from Season 3) dislodged from my heart.

Lately I've been sharing the early episodes of what fans refer to as Star Trek TOS, i.e. The Original Series, with my two sons, one of whom is 6 1/2 and is totally hooked, and the other at 3 likes the tribbles best. Thankfully, G4 is airing the original episodes unedited, i.e. the TiVo goes to 1:08. And they've got these killer spots featuring Charlie Murphy as Spock:

Star Trek Cribs - The Director's Cut
Star Trek Karaoke
Star Trek Coffee House
Star Trek Poolside

Adding to the hilarity, if unintentionally so, but adding to the possibility for expanded TOS enjoyment as well are a number of varyingly credible fan episodes, essential fanfic (a post-TOS, pre- anything else phenomenon of the 1970's) writ large with the wide range of filmmaking and effects tools available to amateur filmmakers today. The New York Times has a nice piece, with a great video accompaniment.

It appears that as long as you don't monatize your production, Paramount turns a blind eye. The best of these may be Star Trek New Voyages, which boasts actual creative involvement from original series participants. Walter Koenig (Chekhov) actually in what he expects to be his swan song for the role, George Takai (Sulu) may be in an upcoming episode, and TOS Story Editor/Writer D.C. Fontana has written for the amateur series.

There's been the fan re-edit of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (hint: Jar-Jar Binks now a walk-on) and the five years in the making shot-for-shot fan reproduction of Raiders of the Lost Ark (why does Lucas seem to draw these efforts?), Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. But those are one-offs, while some of these "5 Year Mission"ers have been going a lot longer.

The best TOS episodes, especially the very early ones, are just solid, imaginative, smart science fiction stories. Some of the writers were original greats, like Jerome Bixby, Theodore Sturgeon, and the later but influential Harlan Ellison. But I think there's an additional aspect that worked in an alchemical way with the sci-fi to make it so popular over time.

Check it out, but every episode of the original series is about leadership. That's the big theme. Usually James T. Kirk's, sometimes (when Kirk is incapacitated) by Mr. Spock, but it's always the crux of the episode.

By having Kirk, a rational yet intuitive 20th century idealization of a leader, always seeking opposing council from the logical Spock and the emotional McCoy, we get to experience the decision-making process laid bare. Whether it's Kirk going all Ahab after a deadly gas cloud or being body/mind swapped by a scientist or a spiteful woman, or even split into ruthless and weak halves, there's always that element of what do you do in the jackpot situation -- when you have 500 other souls to protect.

I'll try to skip past the thirst for such leadership today and just give credit to the creators and performers who brought the TOS world alive.

Two of the original crew are gone already, Deforest Kelley (Dr. Leonard McCoy) and James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott). I'm betting that even when the rest of them have warped out, the original show will still be widely playing, inspiring a new generation of dreamers and leaders.

I'm starting with my own young crew.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


In honor of Father's Day, which I'm thankful to say I'm a beneficiary, here's something that struck me tonight.

The two biggest rock & roll bands from 1964, I'm talkin' about -pop- music, are in the today's news.

Although he was not a member of the Rolling Stones at the time, guitarist Ron Wood is in the news. Born in 1947, he was a few year away from his brief debut with swingin' London mod rockers The Creation. Nonetheless, he was part of last year's #1 grossing touring act, the $162 million grossing Stonesfest, and I'm not sure that's counting sponsorships.

And if there were any more proof needed that Ronny's a bonafide Stone by now:
She confirmed reports that Wood, 59, had checked into an alcohol rehabilitation facility in South London this week but insisted he would be on stage and ready to perform with the band for the opening show in Milan.

And you know that's going to be one party night!

Ron, it turns out, was there when the first tour-delaying incident popped:
Wood, who has long battled drinking problems and was in rehab last year, was reportedly with Richards, 62, and their wives on vacation in Fiji in late April when Richards suffered a head injury that forced the Stones to postpone the first 15 dates of their European tour.

Meanwhile, the band that dominated even the Stones in that era, The Beatles, are in the news again. There's been the business about McCartney's divorce from second wife Heather, which is a tough break considering how tragically he lost his beloved first wife, Linda, to breast cancer. It was May-December, I cut him a lot of slack (although not for "Silly Love Songs"), and what a bummer that it's the news story going with his turning 64. The news story:
But far from the enduring love he described when, as a teenager, he wrote the Beatles' classic "When I'm Sixty-Four," McCartney finds his life in turmoil after he and second wife Heather Mills decided to separate after a four-year marriage.

"When I'm Sixty-Four" was reportedly one of the earliest songs McCartney wrote almost entirely on his own, from before they were even called The Beatles, but it wasn't until 1966's seminal Sgt. Pepper album that they recorded and released it. How poignant those once carefree lyrics now seem:
Every summer we could rent a cottage in the Isle of White,
If it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save, grandchildren at your knees,
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Yeah, so now Sir Paul could certainly own the cottage and another 8000 acres around it, but the "we" is gone...and the tabloids are letting him know it:
The separation is being played out in the full glare of publicity as intense as anything McCartney experienced during his days as a member of the world's most famous rock group.

It's not all good, but hey it's free publicity and what do you know, these guys are still living the rock star lifestyle. Abusing alcohol. Swinging single. Falling out of...coconut trees.

It's enough to make a poppa proud.


David Ulin has an op-ed piece in Friday's Los Angeles Times that criticizes the new Pixar animated feature, Cars, on the basis of the vehicles in the movie having no hands, hence no opposable thumbs:
...from the very first scene, it's also a universe where racetracks, freeways and buildings rise up in a facsimile of our all-too-human world. "Who did all the construction?" I mumbled to my wife as we sat in the theater. "How could any of this exist when the cars, literally, cannot handle tools?"

David is a friend of mine, hence my pity that he was unable to enjoy this very entertaining addition of the string of Pixar seven-count'em-seven hits. I took the family, and unlike some other highly touted children's animated features that sent me to Slumberland, I found this one to be full of great details, animation so fluid and attuned that at times you forget you're watching a cartoon (the brilliant drives through the Southwestern U.S. landscapes), and a script that actually takes you on a journey, kicking off with an action-packed race.

Ulin actually makes a good point about the boundaries necessary for creating credible fantasy, citing examples from other Pixar movies which did not suppose alternate universes so much as ones unseen by human eyes, co-existing yet never trespassed. He reaches back to a particular lesson in his senior year of high school:
What my teacher meant to introduce us to was a fundamental truth of the imagination: There are boundaries, borders, rules of engagement, and even an illogical universe must have an inherent logic if it is to resonate.

Take a look at David's version and see if you agree or, on the other hand, think he's a killjoy.

Because I have a solution, thanks to the rubbery character animation in the movie:

Opposable bumpers.

Friday, June 16, 2006


We're seen he's dumb. We've seen he's an overachiever. We've seen the press flock to him like shiny metal in the sun.

Today White House Press Secretary Tony Snow called the 2500 American military men and women killed so far in Iraq, those individuals, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, he called them "a number".

I am not a number, I am a free man!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Libertarian Democrats

I'm not for purity in politics, not from the standpoint of ideology, and I think most people are the same way. My karma ran over your dogma. And dogma is rarely housetrained.

Back in 7th Grade I learned from teacher Warren Stoker than elections are won by coalitions. That implies compromise. I think most folks (but maybe not the loudest folks these days) want some form of mixed government that protects individual rights but gets the big stuff done with a minimum of corruption.

Libertarians are still cleaning off their name after voting GOP in 2000. The idea that government is by nature evil and needs to be pared to nothing but security functions rankles me, because it implies both denying that the will of the people can make a difference and endorsing a kind of authoritarianist.

However, there's a counter-movement.

After the last election I took this test, Political Compass, and scored a surprising "Libertarian Left".

A LibLib?

Direct opposite of Authoritarian Right, flanked by Authoritarian Left and Libertarian Right. Lower left on the grid.

Democrats typical of this are against banning abortion or nationalizing gun control laws. Montana is a hotbed of this new kind of thinking. I still love this great Salon article from 14 months ago on Governor Brian Schweitzer. He ran with a Republican for Lieutenant Governor as his ticket, and his accomplishments for last year are very impressive; progressive, but with the balanced budget.

He won his elections with ads -- and political instincts -- like this:
But you know, when they see you pick up a gun, they know you've used one before. When you pick up a gun and you put in a round and you fire one off, they know that you know what it's all about.

In my Senate campaign [Schweitzer ran unsuccessfully in 2000], I had a great campaign ad. I stood in front of one of my barns, and I said: "Montana is not New York City. We don't need a bunch of new gun laws. We need to enforce the ones we already have." And then we moved to a shot where I was with one of my sons and my daughter, and I was holding a .270, which is a fairly good-size rifle. As I'm talking, I lifted the bolt, shoved in a bullet, put the safety on and handed it to my son as my daughter watched, and he touched one off. And as I was doing that, I was saying, "In Montana, we understand that passing responsibility from one generation to another with gun safety is part of who we are."

So it wasn't about guns, necessarily; it wasn't about family, necessarily; it wasn't about responsibility, necessarily. But it was the nexus of those.

The winner of the recent Democratic Primary for the right to take on corrupt GOP Senator Conrad Burns is John Tester. He's a farmer who's even missing a finger, for contraceptives being covered by health insurance, made it on lots of small rather donations by regular families, is in the Schweitzer mold.

Markos Moulitsas is a big supporter of these guys, and it goes to Howard Dean's 50-State Strategy (which scares the DC insiders and diverts campaign money away from their apparatus). He wrote a particularly compelling piece on The Libertarian Dem. He writes about how up to now Libertarianism have been mainly aligned with the GOP, then goes on to say:
The problem with this form of libertarianism is that it assumes that only two forces can infringe on liberty -- the government and other individuals.

The Libertarian Democrat understands that there is a third danger to personal liberty -- the corporation. The Libertarian Dem understands that corporations, left unchecked, can be huge dangers to our personal liberties.

Libertarian Dems are not hostile to government like traditional libertarians. But unlike the liberal Democrats of old times (now all but extinct), the Libertarian Dem doesn't believe government is the solution for everything. But it sure as heck is effective in checking the power of corporations.

In other words, government can protect our liberties from those who would infringe upon them -- corporations and other individuals.

Another contender in this mold is Virginia Democratic Senate Candidate Jim Webb, winning last week to go up against adoptive Cali-born Confederate flag fetishist George Allen. Webb is even getting fair press from the Cato Institute:
Webb is not your typical Democrat, which is why he had trouble winning the nomination over a lesser-known party activist. But he should be strong in the general election. He'’s a Vietnam War hero who was appointed Navy Secretary by Ronald Reagan and was an early and vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, warning in 2002 that "“there is no exit strategy."” He can appeal to both leftwing Democrats and moderates who are increasingly disillusioned with the war and the Republicans.

Virginia...winning Democrats...Governor Mark Warner.

The old Liberal tendency to think that just because the federal government under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pulled us out of the Depression and won the biggest war in world history, it's the solution to every problem. But we know it's not true (and certainly not when guys who hate government are running it).

Without gutting government like the current swine, for this coalition to work Liberal Democrats need to have a little less faith in large bureaucratic structures.

I'm hopeful. I think there is a third way, one that is progressive while being thrifty.

After all, it wasn't just Conservatives who voted down Rob Reiner's tax-the-rich mandatory pre-school program.


For awhile I've been thinking about a post on the death-whine of Conservatism, which is the attempted distancing from Bush. This is where Conservatives, including Conservative Republicans, deny that Bush is a "true" Conservative, whatever fantasy they think that means.

However, Josh Marshall just said it sooner and better:
With all the efforts now to disassociate President Bush from conservatism, I am starting to believe that conservatism itself -- not the political machine, mind you, but the ideology -- is heading toward that misty land-over-the-ocean where ideologies go after they've shuffled off this mortal coil. Sort of like the way post-Stalinist lefties used to say, "You can't say Communism's failed. It's just never really been tried."

It's a genius piece, and one to take to heart in this day and age. He concludes:
Take the movement on its own terms and even be generous about it. What's it about? And has it delivered?

Aggressive defense policy? Check.

Privatization of government services? Check.

Regulatory regimes favoring big business? Check.

Government support for traditional mores and values on sex and marriage? Check.

That about covers it. And Bush has delivered. The results just aren't good.

Uh, amen.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Unanswered Prayers

Dear Jesus, Buddha, Allah and Adonai:

A little while back I wrote to you in solemn prayer. I asked that you pretty-please give Karl Rove, one of the four bosses of the BushCheneyCo corporate criminal enterprise, the perp-walk. That meant indictment in the traitorous Valerie Plame CIA leak case.


Today I learn, maybe you don't read this blog. Is what we've got here a failure to communicate?

As Time magazine once asked, Is God Dead?

Wow, I beseeched four-count'em-four deities and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. Meanwhile "Turd Blossom" (as his boss calls him) is laughing all the way to the November mid-term elections. Lots of things to fix in advance...

Yet, as is tradition with the faithful, I still cling to a shred of hope. Maybe the machinations of the Almighty(ies) is not for me to discern with my Reptilian Human Mind.

Maybe Patrick Fitzgerald has bigger fish to fry. Maybe Rove is getting off because he's cooperating.

Maybe one or more of you deities will ultimately come through.

Faithfully yours,

Monday, June 12, 2006


Joe Lieberman should be a hero, but he's not.

In fact, he's hinted at an independent run should he lose the Democratic Primary to his challenger, Ned Lamont.

So I find it interesting that, when asked about Ned Lamont, Harry Reid answered some bloggers in Vegas this past weekend:
He said he'’d met with Ned twice and liked him a lot. And as to the opposition we've been mounting against Joe? Reid said it to me twice, and he chose his words very carefully:

It'’s important for people to know that their actions have consequences.

By which I took it to mean, from the context, that Lieberman'’s actions have brought this on himself.

You can read the rest on Firedoglake.

It pains me to have these feelings about Joe Lieberman. He's a fellow tribesman, I thought he spoke powerfully at the 2000 Convention in his VP candidate acceptance speech. I know he's been on the right side of a woman's control over her uterus and civil rights.

It's just that the enablers have to go, particularly within the opposition party. This is no time for those who's bad judgment in any way helped launch the Bush Iraq War to be taken seriously as a national leader. Not unless they've in some way renounced their choice.

And Lieberman is still towing the insanity line.

Maybe something on the state level. Slower. Less "international".

Less likely to set something on fire.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Potentially the most important political gathering of this past weekend was YearlyKos in Las Vegas. A fulcrum-ation of the ever more essential DailyKos progressive Democratic site, this is the first convention of forward-thinking, out-of-the-Beltway bloggers in American history.

From the actual political world speakers included Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic Party Leader Howard Dean, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Ambassador Joseph Wilson (husband of Bush-outed CIA agent Valerie Plame).

The list of Presidential hopefuls included Ex-Governor of Virginia Mark Warner, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Retired General Wesley Clark, and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.

There's lots of mainstream media coverage, and Pacific Views has this great list.

It's a little daunting that so many members of the mainstream press (you know, the ones who are generally letting the BushCheneyCo Administration get away with high crimes) either feel so threatened by the blogosphere or are so out-of-touch that they have to minimalize it or accuse it of co-optation, but in the end it won't matter.

History is being made by a combination of regular citizens and a number of visionary leaders, like Markos Moulitsas.

If you want to see why the only thing radical about this movement is that real people are involved, I highly recommend watching this eight minute interview with Kos himself on Meet the Press.


Maddox is beloved by a younger (male) audience, teens and maybe 20-somethings, and here's my two favorite examples why from his Best Page in the Universe:

I am better than your kids.

More crappy children's art work

I can't vouch for the quality of his new book, The Alphabet of Manliness, but it is # 18 today on !

Friday, June 09, 2006


As I've argued earlier this week, Moderate Republican simply means, in plain English, "enabler".

Today's most dangerous charlatan is GOP Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. He's the Head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supposedly a principled statesman last man standing at the barbarian BushCheneyCo gates.

Just a day or two ago, he went public with his anger at Dick Cheney, who it appears is personally working to insure the cover-up of the illegal NSA phone-tapping of U.S. citizens without having bothered to ask for the Congressionally-mandated court order. Cheney went behind Specter's back to influence the committee. Specter told the media he was incensed.

What a difference a day makes.

Specter has completely caved. He folded to committee member John Kyl (R-AZ) and 100% de-toothed his proposed legislation.

One of the key provisions: TOTAL AMNESTY for the criminal lawbreakers, from Bush and Cheney down through their hired help, for anyone's role in this breach of our Constitutional form of government.

Glenn Greenwald
has the best breakdown of this massive legal breakdown.

If you're not pissed yet, check out Jack Cafferty for a lesson.

What do they have on Specter? Do they have photos of him fucking, like, a car? Are they holding one of his grandchildren hostage? Do they just have his balls in a vise?

The fix is in.

The only slim hope for the future may be your outrage.


I am absolutely overjoyed that this very bad man has eaten U.S. shrapnel.

No moral relativism for me, not for killers like al-Zarqawi. Even if he had a valid political point somewhere deep inside his ideology, and I'm not saying he did, go like Gandhi and I'll take it seriously. I don't believe all ends, maybe any ends, justify any and all means.

Zarqawi was particularly into beheadings whether over the Internet or overnight in the village he and his band of slaughterers took over, leaving them out in the morning to terrorize the populace and squelch dissent. Congrats to our armed forces for eliminating him.

The big question is: Has the "Iraqi insurgency" been beheaded?

We'll see over the next days and weeks, and while I sure hope so, I'm not betting on it. The insurgency has long since turned into sectarian violence, and that appears to have morphed into civil war.

I won't go into how we're in an ends/means swirly ourselves, but I will link to Eric Alterman on why today's successful elimination of a very dangerous man means so much less than it would have four (4) years ago when, as NBC's Jim Miklaszewski revealed:
...long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself -- but never pulled the trigger. The reason? 'People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president'’s policy of preemption against terrorists,' according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.”

Someday, perhaps, heads will roll.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


In a welcome respite from toxic Republicans and DC Democrats who need to listen to, say, the progressive, libertarian and (the kicker) successful Montana Democrats, here's some true American ingenuity, talent and musicality:

The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments

Maybe not an inducement to eat or drink more of said products?


Of course, why wouldn't those more centrist Republicans be scared? Per the New York Times:
"It may stir up my primary voters a little bit against me," said Mr. Chafee, a centrist Republican up for re-election. He opposes the push for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage and is under intense pressure to back a proposed amendment that would forbid flag burning. "I'm collateral damage."

Of course, Lincoln. You're part of the problem, an enabler. No matter your good intentions, or those of Christine Todd Whitman or anyone else, your party is now controlled by a toxic combo of mega-business oligarchs and rightwing religious extremists. Every single one of your votes with your party leadership just make things worse.

Don't take my word for it, just look at the moderate rank and file voters within your own party:
A poll released Tuesday showed a slide in support for President Bush among members of his party. The survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, found Mr. Bush experiencing steep declines among those calling themselves moderate Republicans, with conservatives turning away from him as well, though more slowly.

The poll, based on a survey of 3,204 adults conducted from April 27 to May 22, found that Mr. Bush's support among moderate and liberal Republicans had declined to 56 percent from 81 percent in December 2004, immediately after his re-election, while conservative approval had fallen to 78 percent from 93 percent.

I'd even bet that if you, Lincoln Chafee, and maybe fellow moderate GOP Senators like Olympia Snowe switched to the Democratic Party, you'd win reelection in a landslide.

The only alternative is to speak out LOUDLY against your party's leadership -- Bush, Frist, Hastert -- on this pro-prejudice Constitutional Amendment. Like, embarrass them.

Anything less, and you deserve to lose.

Monday, June 05, 2006


President George W. Bush has just committed the most cowardly act of his cowardly Administration, more cowardly than "My Pet Goat" or picking a fight with Iraq or failing to capture Osama Bin Laden when he had him cornered in Tora Bora. More cowardly than having less press conferences than any President in history, more cowardly than holding all of his campaign rallies with canned and screened crowds and questions, and doing the same again on his Social Security tour debacle.

Today he choose to put the full weight and majesty of the highest elected office in our land behind prejudice, bigotry and the targeting of a historically persecuted minority of our great America.

From the New York Times:
The president, speaking at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, said an amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman was necessary because too many "activist judges" had tried to overturn efforts by voters in several states to ban marriages or civil unions between same-sex partners.

"I call on the Congress to pass this amendment, send it to the states for ratification, so we can take this issue out of the hands of overreaching judges and put it back where it belongs: in the hands of the American people," the president told a gathering of invited social and religious conservatives.

It's like the Bizarro Lincoln. Never before in U.S. history has a President supported a Constitutional Amendment to actually limit rather than enlarge the Civil Rights of a minority group of citizens.

Perhaps the best headline is from Yahoo!:
Bush rallies gay marriage opponents

And what better crowd to be rallying?

Ah, but this is a gang of thieves that could not be less concerned with the civil rights of anyone other than their cronies. Even over-achieving Press Secretary Tony Snow, the literal mouthpiece of the Administration, cannot even define the term, "civil rights".

Picking on someone less powerful than you for prestige is a tactic commonly associated with schoolyard bullies. That's exactly the area, apparently the only area, where smug George Bush has a winning record. He's not one to win fairly; he can't even present an honest reason for supporting the evil FMA. He's whining, like so many Republican Conservatives, about activist judges.

Woo, scary.

Why not just come out and say, gay people do not deserve a seat at the table, not the America table?

Why not just say, I'm pandering. I don't really give a shit, I'm just trying to shore up my enabling GOP Congress' support before this crucial election, which if they lose will lead to my investigation.

Here his Log Cabin Republicans coming out against him. Finally! By now you might think it'd take rounding up for camps to get a statement like this:
Mr. President, gay and lesbian Americans pay taxes, contribute to community and family life across our great nation, and worship the same all-loving and compassionate God. Thousands of gay and lesbian Americans, under your command, serve proudly in our nation's military, fighting to win the war on terror and promoting liberty across the globe. Your effort to codify discrimination against our families, including men and women in uniform while the nation is at war, is offensive and unworthy of the office of the Presidency. Great Republican Presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan have united Americans and appealed to our best hopes, not our worst fears.

Desperation, sure, but of the most poisonous kind.

The upside: it'll all be over in a decade. Most young people simply do not care about this issues because, while anti-gay prejudice will always exist in some twisted hearts, young folks have grown up with a more open society regarding sexual orientation. Straights are exponentially less freaked out when a friend or family member comes out of the closet than ever before. Everyone, by and large, stays friends.

Corante notes that coward Bush's hiding behind the anti-gay marriage discriminatory majority is exactly what happened with marriage between blacks and caucasians:
In December of 1912, an amendment to the Constitution was introduced to abolish racial intermarriage:

Intermarriage between negros or persons of color and Caucasians . . . within the United States . . . is forever prohibited.

Said the now forgotten sponsoring Representative as he introduced the measure:
"Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant. It is subversive to social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery to black beasts will bring this nation to a fatal conflict..."

George W. Bush, big pussy. I mean, huge. Is there an extra circle of hell for this kind of ugly pandering?

But there's hope. From an email posted by gay Republican and apostate Bush/Iraq War supporter Andrew Sullivan on his blogsite today:
Having just watched George Bush speaking in his desultory way about gay marriage, I felt a secret glee rise up within me. I think we just watched the death of the opposition to gay marriage.

You can read for yourself the brief reasoning, ringing refreshingly true. The letter ends:
Just as George Wallace's extremism nailed shut the sarcophagus of Jim Crow, so this George will be trotted out as the personification of the bigotry of an era passed. Sometimes, a man's reputation rings louder then his arguments. George Bush's failed Presidency will drag this issue down as does a drowning man a healthy swimmer.

Amen to all that.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Civil War

Happy Monday.

Hey, call me an alarmist, but can't we call a spade a spade?

On Meet the Press Joe Biden told Tim Russert that Iraq has moved from insurgency to sectarian violence.

With the supposedly cracked-down upon Basra blowing up this weekend (28 dead), masked gunmen in Baghdad killing 21 students, the Baghdad morgue hitting an all-time high of 1400 bodies in May, and another one of our own soldiers killed in the Anbar Province on Saturday, what would you call it?

For a little balance, here's more evidence of Saddam Hussain's inhumanity, maybe nothing we didn't know before, but worth remembering as the third or fourth or fifth tier reason we went into the war, moved up in the queue after it was discovered that the first two or three, the ones BushCheneyCo sold us on, weren't really the reasons.

If it was all worth it, why is this man laughing?

Arianna has it right about the BushCheneyCo culture of death and links to news sources on the hell they've wrought, coming to a head in Afghanistan now as well.

Meanwhile, in an alternative universe, reason prevails and An Inconvenient Truth his #9 on the weekend box office charts despite playing in only 77 theaters nationwide.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


On Wednesday night I was in the audience at the most unlikely musical event I might ever imagine: Steven Seagal and Thunderbox (his band) live at the El Rey. Without going into detail and lest you suspect my judgment, the why I was there had to do with work. I can't imagine even having heard about it otherwise. No, I swear.

Okay, lots of stars dabble in fronting a band. Bruce Willis at the Ritz in the 80's. Juliette Lewis more credible, channeling Iggy Pop. Giovanni Ribisi...I don't know anything really about his band, except that he has one.

So why not the veteran star of something like 30 feature films, which have collectively grossed over $600 million buckaroonies?

There's some snark at Defamer here (I was just so pleased to read them covering something I actually went to myself), but the shocking thing is that it was actually, as this review from an earlier Seattle date concurs, a great show.

More than you'd ever expect from his acting career, more even than you'd expect listening to these tracks from Mojo Priest online, Seagal fronts a phenomenal Memphis blues band. I mean, even Luther Allison's son is in it. And they're all black, he's the single white guy his sleeveless shiny purple tunic.

To his credit, Seagal didn't mix his lead guitar playing and vocals out front at all. They weren't buried, but he has the good sense to let us hear his band, including two dynamite back-up singers. And his playing far from sucks.

And, a credit to his race, Seagal clearly knows his blues.

They rocked the joint. Half-full might be charitable -- it was midweek, after all, and a nice sized hall -- but everyone started dancing almost immediately.

The band plays first, classic R&B show style, then Seagal comes out. He may have expected the skeptical Hollywood crowd he partially got (a couple young guys indicated to me that they were basically just there for the goof). I guess I expected Michael Bolton meets Jean-Claude Van Damme. But this is really authentic sounding juke joint blues that never feels like you're watching a star band. That hard-rocking blues beat won the crowd over. Handily.

Dude or dudette, you can check here to see if Steven & Thunderbox (is that feminine?) are coming to your environs and get your tickets no wait.

Seagal also does credit to himself with his opening act, young Scottish singer-songwriter J.J. Gilmour.

While we were waiting for the show to start(i.e. drinking) I spotted a young boho with a long dark coat and an acoustic guitar case walking through to the stagedoor, thought it might be a session guy for the Seagal band, but then five minutes later this kid came out onstage with a total brogue except when he sings, which is when he sounds like The Everly Brothers.

More unlikely good tiding. I expected a drippy troubadour in some watered-down Britpop fashion, but the kid kicks in using his acoustic as a rhythm instrument, and playing it fast for most of the set.

J.J.'s got a classic U.S. rock'n'roll flavor, and he seems to be writingthoughtful songs you can dance to. And he blogs.

So here's to the flipped expectations. Seagal was even hanging out for autographs after the show, generous with his time. Who knows what it's like being on the set with him in Akido Actor mode, maybe he's just truly grateful that folks came out for his show.

You don't go into the blues genre to make another $600 million. You sure do go into it to make people move.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Nedlines 2006-06-02

Bush to Press for U.S. Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Another GOP
Ex-White House Aide Denies Lying About Ethics Issue

Another GOP
New Policy Adviser Admits Altering Text

Bush to NYC: Drop Dead

A defiant Chertoff won't budge

Bush Snubs Gore Film on Global Warming

Never Finishes Anything
Afghanistan: On the Brink
Heckuva job, Bushie.

The Big Steal
Was the 2004 Election Stolen?
Of course it was. That's what they do.

The Air Up There
Couric hopes to end "pretentious era" in news
Better yet, how about ending the "ineffectual era?"

Good News
Troops cleared in Ishaqi deaths
Send them home.

Goody Good News
Court Turns Aside Libby's Request for Many Documents
Keep hope alive...


I'm going to do something I've never done before. I'm going to recommend a movie I've not yet seen.

So don't take my word for it. Take theirs.