Saturday, September 30, 2006

Meltdown

You gotta expect that Bush/Rove/Cheney/whatever has a big surprise planned this month, whether a Rovian attack on the GOP made to look like some Dems did it (his trademark) or Bush wiping his ass with the Constitution as he bombs Iran with nuclear weapons.

But as Sunday dawns, you've got a Republican Party in meltdown mode.

- They're macacca over lifelong racist Senator George Allen.

- They're contradicting over House homosexual predator scandal cover-upper Speaker Hastert.

- It turns out they did host corrupt super-lobbying Jack Abramoff at the White House a zillion times, leaked him key information, and even let him in on their longtime plan and date to attack Iraq.

- Baghdad is in curfew (rumors earlier of coup plans, now being called Green Zone suicide bombing watch) and a record three thousand citizens were killed in August. (Just imagine when they release the September numbers.)

- They're adding, through Bob Woodward's new book and at incredulous heights, to the Iraq-Vietnam War metaphors -- they went to Kissinger for advice and he showed them the damning memo he wrote in 1969!

- And their sneaky Path to 9/11 deceiv-a-drama has backfired, opening the door not just to Clinton's snapback on Fox but more revelation of how the Bush Administration completely dropped the ball on terrorism prevention pre-9/11, and, well, lied about it.

For a change, right?

Ah, Schadenfreude!

Maybe you come home grumpy the day after the Senate follows the House in approving El Presidente Bush's torturer-in-chief amnesty, Geneva Convention flaunting, habeas corpus suspending bill, wondering how such villainous scoundrels and their syco-court are managing to gut our United States Constitution like aggressive hookies from Civics class. Maybe you're justified. Maybe it's been a long week, not as much sleep as you'd like, and you're all Oscar the Grouch.

Then maybe you read all about GOP family values, about a Congressman from Florida (Governor Jeb Bush, El President's brother) named Mark Foley, a courageous fighter against...uh...sex in videogames...by day, only to find out by night he's...he's...he's...Maf54:
Maf54: You in your boxers, too?
Teen: Nope, just got home. I had a college interview that went late.
Maf54: Well, strip down and get relaxed.

Another message:

Maf54: What ya wearing?
Teen: tshirt and shorts
Maf54: Love to slip them off of you.

And this one:

Maf54: Do I make you a little horny?
Teen: A little.
Maf54: Cool.

Yep, a genuine Republican hypocrisy-laden underage gay sex scandal.

Okay, but he's just 1 member of 435, a tiny percentage of that noble body. Maybe a little satisfaction, a quick smile, but what could possibly make it full-blown "pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune"?

The entire GOP House leadership knew. It's known possibly as long as 10 or 11 months.

That's Tom Delay successor House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).

That's Dennis Hastert (R-IL), the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kinda reminiscent of another scandal where the sanctimonious high-ranking hypocrites knew but didn't act, to their own eventual destruction.

Hey, gotta ask...did Karl Rove know? RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman?

If this story has legs, then mmm, schadenfreude. The top GOP Congressional figures knew they had what appears to be a homosexual predator on their hands, and they did nothing for almost a year?

Spin that, bitch.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Politi-flicks: Skillet

October is a breath away and the skillet of U.S. Election 2006 is heating up. While the rhetoric is already high, the GOP actually promises that they'll unleash their biggest negative ad assault ever next month. Are the Democrats toughened up enough to withstand the assault this time around? Will having so many military vets this round make the difference, or is anyone Swiftboatable?

Continuing with our opportunity for Internet video match-ups, here's two head-to-heads featuring Dem soldiers on attack and defense:

Jim Webb vs. George Allen

Challenger Webb even served as Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, but hits Sen. George Allen (R-VA) for being a George Bush "Follower", specifically on Iraq. Meanwhile, Allen talks about his "Big Idea" for a National Innovation Act in an ad featuring kids, albeit not interacting with the Senator.

Give Webb credit for not making the ad an attack on Allen's character regarding racism, a mounting press story for the sitting Senator. Give Allen credit for...sounding like a Democrat?

So voters of Virginia, this pair gives you a clearcut choice if your vote is a referendum on the incumbent: Is he a Follower...or man with Big Ideas?

Peter Roskam vs. Tammy Duckworth

While GOP candidate Roskam and Dem Duckworth are up against each other for the Illinois 6th District Congressional seat, the ad slams what it calls the "Duckworth Illegal Immigration Amnesty Plan", it's actually produced by the Republican National Committee, and by law Roskam's name does not appear in it. Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both her legs then the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting was downed by an enemy rocket, doesn't mention her opponent by name either in her succinctly titled rebuttal, "Truth".

Which claim appears more truthful? Which might lean more towards the "truthy"?

I leave it to you, valued reader, and the voters in what Stephen Colbert must sure call "the fightin' 6th" to decide for yourselves.

More heat to come.


(As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's Lit

It appears President Bill Clinton lit the fuse with his smackback at Fox's smugfaced Chris Wallace on Sunday. It's been building for months with various new-Dem candidates like Jim Webb and Ned Lamont, but the Democrats are finally, after way too long, fighting again. And not with each other.

John Dickerson
has a fascinating take on "Clinton's Strategic TV Blowup" at Slate. His take:
Bill Clinton wasn't sandbagged, because he is a smart politician. He just spent several weeks fighting ABC over its interpretation of his administration's hunt for Bin Laden. He knew the question was coming and he took advantage of it. Forty-three days before the election, he has provided a moment to rally party activists and attack the GOP at the heart of its perceived strength on handling terrorism.

If true, one can only admire and, on my side of the fence, be exceedingly grateful to the Big Dog. Because what the Dems need to do to win this election is exactly the opposite of what they usually fall into, and exactly what Karl Rove always does: attack their opponent's greatest perceived strength.

John Kerry Vietnam War Hero (our side filled with combat and draft dodgers)? Swiftboat that sap and cast aspersions on his medals. Bring them into doubt. It's not so much that you have to convince; you just have to de-convince.

The only thing the GOP have to run on is fear, i.e. fear that any party other than them can effectively fight threats to America, specifically the inaccurately named "Global War on Terror". More specifically, their favorite platform plank, 9/11:
Clinton didn't just get the blood pumping among liberal activists. He made a policy critique aimed at the GOP election strategy designed to promote Republicans as the only party competent enough to handle terrorist threats. Each day people are discussing Clinton's performance or Wallace's questioning they will also be discussing which president did more to try to kill Bin Laden. Articles will revisit Bush's Aug. 6, 2001*, Presidential Daily Brief in which he was told al-Qaida was planning a major attack and to hijack planes, and producers will reinterview Richard Clarke, who says Bush dropped the ball. (Clarke's book, which is highly critical of the Bush team's pre-9/11 terror efforts, is in the top 10 on Amazon.)

With the Dems holding hearings (it doesn't get much play, but it ain't the GOP Congressional leadership that's invited former Generals to tell us the truth about Donald Rumsfeld's inability to win) on the Iraq debacle, it may just take a drummed up A-bomb attack by Bush on Halloween for the GOP to survive this election. Just check out the current individual House race poll numbers.

This is the moment where winners don't back down, they press their advantage without mercy until the final decision, and drive a stake through their enemy's chances to win. The GOP will be smearing across America all this upcoming month, so the Dems need to keep hammering home every single macacca.

And it looks like they are. Some appetite-whetting samples:

- Al Franken, potential 2008 Senate candidate challenge to Minnesota GOPer Norm Coleman, takes down the perpetually self-satisfied Tony Blankley on Hardball.

- Paul Waldman of fact-checking online crusaders Media Matters beats down half-wit rightist John Stossel who smears his site and then admits to not having read or being able to accurately recall anything he's just smeared them about having posted on their site.

- Congresswoman Jane Harman, who engaged the blogosphere after nearly losing her Primary race against a progressive opponent, has since been showing us cajones many thought atrophied if ever possessed. Today she revealed that there is a second National Intelligence Estimate needing declassification, this one focused even more singly on Iraq, and to date not even mentioned by BushCheneyCo. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, she's calling for it's release.

- Young Bill Clinton supporters provide a hilariously unwelcome backdrop to Fox's inane Fox & Friends morning show. Watch as they eventually steer the camera away, the moronic host making a lame joke on the name "Bill" before just sweating through the rest of the segment.

- And after Condi's morally bankrupt smear that President Clinton did not leave them, as he claimed, a plan to fight Bin Laden, parsing it was not a "comprehensive" plan because in her caveat-seeking reading it did not somehow fully cover Pakistan the way they did after 9/11 happened on their watch, Hillary decided to git her sum', a stalwart defense of her husband as well as nice positioning as a fighter for 2008 -- Sen. Clinton hits back at Rice over 9/11.

Try to run against that, Condi. Read any good memos lately?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Keith

Holy cow, if you think I was adamant last night, check out Keith Olbermann, backing me up and then some.

A sample, via Crooks and Liars:

The Bush Administration did not try to get Osama Bin Laden before 9/11.

The Bush Administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors.

The Bush Administration did not understand the Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S."

The Bush Administration... did... not... try.

Moreover, for the last five years one month and two weeks, the current administration, and in particular the President, has been given the greatest "pass" for incompetence and malfeasance, in American history!

President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs --— some of them, 17 years old -- before Pearl Harbor.

President Hoover was correctly blamed for, if not the Great Depression itself, then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the Stock Market Crash.

Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War, though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.

But not this President.

To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been President on September 11th, 2001 --— or the nearly eight months that preceded it.

That hardly reflects the honesty nor manliness we expect of the Executive.

It's all about responsibility. Clinton accepts, like an adult, Bush evades, like a comma.

I can't recommend the Keith clip enough, the most manly man in television journalism today. He takes it to the Coward-in-Chief, Orwell references, the works. Hard to believe he could have topped his 9/11 anniversary brilliance, but he's got more here.

The comparison of Bush to Clinton could tip the scales towards the Dems. Hell, I'm worried they'll try to shut Clinton up -- a plane crash, maybe? Let's pray I'm wrong.

On the GOP network and Chris Wallace himself:
As with all the other nefariousness and slime of this, our worst presidency since James Buchanan, he is having it done for him, by proxy.

James Buchanan, the President who allowed succession on his watch, hence giving us the American Civil War (1861-1865). What treats will our own worst President leave behind?

And now his Republican Congress is on the verge of giving this bloodthirsty coward the power to choose who and when to torture.

What the hell is anyone thinking?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Traitors

It's about time we stopped ascribing good intentions to the team of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, and their closest fellow travelers. These scoundrels can talk all they want about how far they'll go to protect America, but not one of them ever put their body in harm's way, preferring AWOL and draft dodging. Their actions now make it clear, they are not helping America by torturing prisoners, wiretapping without independent judicial oversight or invading a country (soon possibly two) that had nothing to do with the clarion call of 9/11.

These are men who have given away to the wealthiest Americans the surplus left by a genuinely caring administration, and gone on to enrich their cronies with no-bid war contracts, further pillaging our nation's Treasury for the benefit only of their political machine. Like Boss Tweed in 1860's NYC, one can only pray it doesn't end in some sort of financial disaster as resulted from Tweed's endemic pilferage.

Just check out the latest news on the traitorous decision to lie America into the War in Iraq (as War on Iraq and War for Iraq are no longer operative, if they ever were):

There's more torture going on in Iraq now than under Saddam Hussein (one of those post-WMD arguments for going in). Per the U.K.'s Guardian:
"You have terrorist groups, you have the military, you have police, you have these militias. There are so many people who are actually abducted, seriously tortured and finally killed," said Mr Nowak, an Austrian law professor.

"It's not just torture by the government. There are much more brutal methods of torture you'll find by private militias."

It gets even more chilling:
Unami cited increasing evidence of violent torture, a growth in the numbers of death squads, and a rise in the honour killings of women and girls.

"Corpses appear regularly in and around Baghdad and other areas. Most bear signs of torture and appear to be victims of extrajudicial executions," said the report.

How about Iraq as some sort of central front excuse in the GWOT (Global War on Terror, per Bush Admin). According to a high-level U.S. intelligence report suppressed since April and only just released (The New York Times:
The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled "“Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, "“Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,"” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report "says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,"” said one American intelligence official.

Okay, so treason is a strong word, say, a rightwing word for each and every liberal American. But unless one believes that America is and should be an oligarchy, does this sound like the stirring words of a patriot?:
BLITZER: Let'’s move on and talk a little bit about Iraq. Because this is a huge, huge issue, as you know, for the American public, a lot of concern that perhaps they are on the verge of a civil war, –if not already a civil war. –We see these horrible bodies showing up, tortured, mutilation. The Shia and the Sunni, the Iranians apparently having a negative role. Of course, al Qaeda in Iraq is still operating.

BUSH: Yes, you see -- you see it on TV, and that's the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there's also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people. Admittedly, it seems like a decade ago. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is -- my point is, there'’s a strong will for democracy.

That's right, 2700 American military dead and, by some counts, over 150,000 Iraqi civilians and this is a comma?

Curse words come to mind. That, and impeachment, as fast as humanly possible. See the whole bit for yourself on Crooks & Liars. More nauseating that Jackass Number 2, and that involves horse semen cocktails. To be that smugly dismissive...means you really, really, don't give a shit about anybody but your own treasonous self.

Contrast with a real patriot, President Bill Clinton, who turns the tables on Fox's Chris Wallace and shows what a fighting Democrat looks like -- one who can not only stand up for himself and more against the entire GOP disinformation campaign, but clearly fought terrorism for real.

I'm sick of Bush, Cheney, Rice (then National Security Advisor) et al getting a pass on 9/11. If they had not downgraded the most important terrorism fighter in the U.S., Richard Clarke, if they had focused on the intelligence in front of them instead of planning from before the start of their first term to attack Iraq, if they weren't such pretend patriots, then maybe, just maybe, 9/11 would have been thwarted just as well as the Millenium Plot during Clinton's term.

But then again, without 9/11, they wouldn't have all this to run on.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Looky

Saturday night, how about a break from politics?

For a long time I've been meaning to post a shout-out to my friend and sometime co-conspirator, Gus Mastrapa, has been steadily building a name for himself a culturally literate videogames critic. While always adept at speaking directly to a gamer audience, I believe it will be writers like Gus who eventually bring videogame criticism out into the light, as finally happened with film criticism in the 1960's.

Gus writes for a growing number of outlets, but his home site is Looky Touchy. The Looky is generally when Gus has only a trailer or screenshot to go on, which he'll analyze armed with a wealth of games industry knowledge. Touchy means he played the damned game.

He's talked about redesigning the blog, but I think it's an easy to enjoy stripped-down look, screenshot followed by review, all on white background. The writing is economic and opinions clear, often quite funny. He's got a core understanding of gameplay, classic to today, and gives only one rating, "Recommended". It's somewhat rare and separates out the homeruns from the singles, doubles and triples, to all of which Gus will give fair credit. But when you see Looky Touchy giving the Recommended seal, you can trust that you'll get a great game experience from that title.

Writing recently about the well-received (and Recommended) Dead Rising on Xbox 360, Gus waxed political:
Dead Rising's setting is a brilliant choice for the sandbox genre because the zombie story, especially the George Romero take on the legend, is about nihilsm. These people are better off dead and as a survivor of the zombie apocalypse you're helping them get dead again. The Dawn of the Dead zombie is a metaphor for the sleepwalking consumer, the opinionless and the impotent. They're pretty harmless one at a time, but when you get them in a crowd they can shuffle you into a corner and tear you limb from limb.

I guess it's all a matter of fantasy. Grand Theft Auto is about the fantasy of strength and lawlessness. It's a self-centered fantasy where the rest of the world is in the way. Dead Rising, and all the great zombie tales that have come before it, has a sort of revolution and dissent at their core. And that's why I'll always dig them more.

His sense of social and media critique sets him apart from other videogame writers, maligned as they are. Earlier this year, on the 24 videogame release, he brought up some wry questions for the entire franchise:
I wonder a bit about 24, a program I rarely (if ever) watch. Do all the bad guys usually look like the thugs from a Stephen J. Cannel show? I made it halfway through the game and it seemed like most of my enemies were burly American dudes in bandanas. I guess I missed a plot point, but who exactly are we fighting here? And does the show really have that many contrived countdowns? On several occasions it seemed like they were scraping the bottom of the excuse barrel for reasons for me to make with the quicky.

And finally, when they make the feature film will it be called 2?

Based on his core grasp of how games differ from any other medium, Gus is wary of crossovers between games and film and back again. Writing last year in a rare "Not Games" critique of the Doom movie (starring The Rock), which was based on the blockbuster videogame license:
Here's the problem with most video game movies; they're based on derivative product. The "story" behind the Doom games is a hackneyed mix of Aliens and H.P. Lovecraft. Nothing terribly original. What made Doom an amazing game was its ability to immerse and isolate the player, to take them someplace different and make them feel fear. What makes Doom a shitty movie is that it does none of those things. There's very little to set this picture apart from the miserable direct-to-video sci-fi pics you see on the new release wall at Blockbuster (besides the 45 days it will take to get there).

Gus has reviewed games for print before, but now he's hit the big time with G4 and The Onion. How about this opening to his positive G4 review on Prey:
Here's an oxymoron to contemplate; the thinking man's shooter. No disrespect to Gordan Freeman, but honest-to-goodness goatee strokers like Gore Vidal and Stephen Hawking probably wouldn't resort to gun play quite so eagerly. Maybe an essay or a general relativity talk first, then out comes the rocket launcher.

His inaugural review for America's greatest satiric resource is actually a straight piece for the "A.V. Club" arts section, covering Star Fox Command for the Nintendo DS. He notes of the fur-covered lead character:
Beyond the game: More than a decade after the series' debut, its talking animals with shapely human bodies veer dangerously close to the bizarro sexual fetish of furry fandom.

Lastly, you can check out his opinions on non-game media on Things I Like, his legacy blog but one I wish he'd update more often. His most recent post is on his late discovery of the new Battlestar Gallactica series, where he "offer(s) up my sincere apologies to all my friends and loved ones whom I doubted."

I'll close with Gus' ten "Best of 2005" from the end of last year. Like Tom Sturgeon's annual 50 best comic book list, it an eclectic genre-crossing, platform assorting celebration of excellence, in this case excellence of the electronic interactive kind; the Art of Gameplay:

1. Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube)
2. Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 2)
3. Killer 7 (GameCube)
4. Guitar Hero (PlayStation 2)
5. Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS)
6. Lumines (PSP)
7. Psychonauts (Xbox)
8. Hot Shots Golf Open Tee (PSP)
9. Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (Nintendo DS)
10. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (GameCube)

Try any of them; with Gus' choices, you won't go wrong.

Mark of the Beast?

While I wouldn't exactly use Sigmund Freud's definition, I'm a believer that to some remarkable degree, physiology determines destiny. I also have a friend who once told me that he believes each of us chooses our own face.

Does the big "W" that's developed in the middle of Tony Blair's forehead bolster either of these theories?

Things are going kinda shitty for Bush's inexplicable ally. Tens of thousands of protestors are expected in London this weekend:
About 30,000 people are expected to mass in the city ahead of a three-hour march, under the banner "Time to Go", aimed at challenging Tony Blair's stance on a number of emotive issues: the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Government's response to the bombing of Lebanon this summer, the next generation of nuclear weapons, the building of new nuclear power stations and the deportation of failed asylum-seekers.

He says he won't give a date when he'll resign, but his very own Labour (Labor) Party, and his very Cabinet is in open revolt.

If I'm Tony Blair I'm thinkin', okay, supporting El Presidente in the Iraq fiasco might cost me my job, my friends, the respect of my electorate...but does it have to fuck up my face???

Mark of the Beast?

While I wouldn't exactly use Sigmund Freud's definition, I'm a believer that to some remarkable degree, physiology determines destiny. I also have a friend who once told me that he believes each of us chooses our own face.

Does the big "W" that's developed in the middle of Tony Blair's forehead bolster either of these theories?

Things are going kinda shitty for Bush's inexplicable ally. Tens of thousands of protestors are expected in London this weekend:
About 30,000 people are expected to mass in the city ahead of a three-hour march, under the banner "Time to Go", aimed at challenging Tony Blair's stance on a number of emotive issues: the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Government's response to the bombing of Lebanon this summer, the next generation of nuclear weapons, the building of new nuclear power stations and the deportation of failed asylum-seekers.

He says he won't give a date when he'll resign, but his very own Labour (Labor) Party, and his very Cabinet is in open revolt.

If I'm Tony Blair I'm thinkin', okay, supporting El Presidente in the Iraq fiasco might cost me my job, my friends, the respect of my electorate...but does it have to fuck up my face???

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Kabuki

It looks like the GOP have closed ranks around their torture-loving Presidente. After a week where Republican Senators John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham got to play "independent" and object to some Bush/Cheney Co. language with the Dems sidelined (some combination of choice and majoritylessness), they folded, I mean "compromised" today in a private session to create a bill that the White House is happy with and they can...act like they protected the Republic.

It's all feeling so theatrical, so Kabuki, masks and poses for news headlines and postures, faux statesmanship. A sideshow to mask the Bush/Cheney/Rove/Rumsfeld glee. Hey, why aren't we just talking about Iraq's accelerating descent into chaos?

Per The New York Times, it's "A Bad Bargain":
Here is a way to measure how seriously President Bush was willing to compromise on the military tribunals bill: Less than an hour after an agreement was announced yesterday with three leading Republican senators, the White House was already laying a path to wiggle out of its one real concession...

...The deal does next to nothing to stop the president from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the White House agreed to a list of "grave breaches"” of the conventions that could be prosecuted as war crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation techniques he considered permissible. ItÂ’s not clear how much the public will ultimately learn about those decisions. They will be contained in an executive order that is supposed to be made public, but Mr. Hadley reiterated that specific interrogation techniques will remain secret.

The fact is this legislation is not necessary, it's just a trick for George W. to put in the fix for himself, his cronies and underlings. Just like he transferred our entire buget surplus to the richest Americans through his bullshit tax policies, he and his mob are seeking to gain immunity for war crimes, both committed and future. He may have suspended habeas corpus already in Iraq, Pakistan and Guantanamo, but I'll be he's looking for more cover just in case we do let him get away with unilaterally invading Iran.

The way gangs or mob operations work when they get the votes is to shock their way by audacious disregard for establish law or civil custom wherever it benefits them to flout it and whenever they can. Since all the more civil folks are still playing by the old rules like, say, the traditional American interpretation of our Constitution, they get flattened.

Here we've got the defining issue of America, the republic. If our leaders make law circumventing the Geneva Conventions, we're no better than any other empire. Or maybe it's just us taking the mask off.

You'd think after six years of this radical activity the Democrats, the Press, the People, even the less ideological or corrupt Republicans might finally know the drill and even have developed strategies to combat it. Instead of folding their way into an unprovoked war on Iran.

Hello, October Surprise. Karl's ready, Cheney wants to be the second world leader in history to use nuclear weapons (our Harry Truman being the first and only other), and Bush has got his finger on the trigger. Maybe blame it on Iran, say we used conventional bombs but it must have set off one of theirs. Even though it's not possible -- they're not yet at that stage of nuclear refinement.

Gird yourself and for God's sake, speak out this time. Or else just shout out in our town squares and shopping malls, "Death to the Republic, Long Live the Empire!"

Politi-flicks: Face-offs

A friend of mine took issue with how I characterized the new reach of political campaign ad thanks to the Internet video revolution. He wrote, "...a great Lamont ad makes its way around the net like wildfire, but i think it ends up only being seen by people who already support or at least like or at least know of Lamont. If i send the ad to a republican friend of mine (okay, i don't have republican friends, which is also part of the problem w/ your thesis) he'd never look at it anyway."

I countered that it didn't matter if the opposition saw an ad or not, it's still a broadened reach, even to geographically distant believers. Besides, the body armor spot is all over the net. This week there's even a Rick Santorum version, kinda like the alt ending on a DVD. He ultimately conceded that, "well maybe: ultimately a political ad is supposed to do 2 things: harden support from current supporters and convince non supporters to give you their vote."

I think they can do other things, like dishearten your enemy, but he's basically correct. Turn out your core, get the rest as they make up their minds. Make their minds up for them, if you're good enough.

So why not take advantage of what surely will soon be a floodgate of new campaign ads posting to the web until the spigot shuts off Tuesday, November 7th, and let's see some candidates currently working their cameras off trying to harden and convince.

New Jersey: Fighter?

The son of former Governor Thomas Kean, who later co-chaired the 9/11 Commission and most recently admitted to being advisor on ABC's The Path to 9/11, is running for U.S. Senator against recently appointed incumbent Bob Menendez, Democrat. Republican Tom Kean Jr. appears to be distancing himself from his own (or any) political party, shooting for the image of maverick who's already stood up to special interests. Click on the right column where you see the "Independent Reformer" spot, and decide for yourself if it sticks.

On the other side, Menendez appear a bit older, approaching avuncular, and the ad features real port workers as well as the candidate striding through a few shots, boasting that he led the win against the Bush Administration on foreign ownership of ports. Take a look at "Tough". This match up is all about who's got the most guts -- is there a clear winner?

Pennsylvania: Heartstrings?


Speaking of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), he took some heat two years ago when it was revealed that his children go to school where he's not a legal resident. They were going to some Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School -- I know, it sounds so L.A. -- and while the original issue was confusing to me, I'm even more confused by however it resolved. Maybe you can figure it out.

In any case, he must have decided or agreed to not only inoculate but get aggressive on the issue, employing his many children (just when you think you've seen the last one...) in a well-produced TV spot. See what you think about "Important Job".
Santorum has his brood, poll-leading Democratic challenger Bob Casey has "Arkecia". She was a 5th grade student of Casey's back when he taught, and I can't imagine a better advocate.

You moved by either of them? In different ways? That either hardened or converted you?

Arizona: Mud

The 1st Congressional District race is between two women, which may not be unique but is certainly the rarest of the three possible chromosome match-ups. Here it's all about that slippery ol' friend, the truth.

Well-known Republican incumbent Heather Wilson, sub-chair of the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, went after Democratic challenger and state Attorney General Patricia Madrid early and negative. Here's the ad Wilson ran. If nothing else, her production team should get credit for a great job choosing and matting the unflattering clips of the Attorney General.

Madrid countered here. It's about :20 strong defense, although side-by-side I'm not even sure the two ad narrators are talking about the same cases, capped with a :10 slam back, looking to land a couple blows.

Are either one of these ladies cleaning up in this mudfight?

Aw, don't make me go there.

Plenty of gentlemen candidates are gonna be jumping into the pit before Halloween rolls around.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jew Don't Say!

Wow, George Allen really, really doesn't want to be in the club. Or maybe he just wants to be in a club that doesn't accept folks of my heritage/religion?

Per Talking Points Memo:
Speaking with The Times-Dispatch, Allen said the disclosure is "just an interesting nuance to my background." He added, "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."

Of course, as a very Reform practitioner of the Jewish faith, I also eat ham sandwiches, with mayo, and tasty pork chops. Even better, gimme a place of those bbq ribs, preferably from old Saltlick.

Maybe George is just being funny, like other Jewish comedians (Henny Youngman, Robert Klein, 1/2 of Ben Stiller). His quote is so Woody Allen. "Jew eat, George? Because I've got a whole stack of latkes hot off the griddle waiting for ya!"

Hell, I'd take one Barry Goldwater over ten George Allens.

Hey, George, are you prepared to offer the ultimate proof that you're no Hebraic American?

No Thank Jew

So as a proud American Jew I kinda feel like, if George Allen doesn't want to be Jewish, I'd prefer he wasn't.

If I can have a voice in this decision, can we just take Wesley Clark?

The macaca is farkatke.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Love Trek

It's lonely out there, ship traveling relentlessly through the middle of nowhere, just 500 souls sailing with you, many of them already coupled, so many of them below your rank, your abilities. Your sense of honor.

The work is challenging but often dangerous. Life and limb are routinely threatened by forces and beings -- some all too sentient, others more like virus or machine -- that come out of the unknown, raw and threatening new worlds, each a revelation to all mankind.

It's stressful, sure, and there's only so many ways within the code of service to release that stress. To release it by sharing it with someone, an only one. When you admit it to yourself, the only one for you.

Now imagine you're maybe two years into this five year mission, trapped most of your days and nights in the vessel. However large it is at times like this it's just a cage. You already feel different from everyone else aboard, you can sense it all the time. The one person you truly respect, truly look up to even though you are sometimes his equal and always his intellectual superior, is the man you are commissioned to answer to.

Now imagine you're suddenly hit with slammin' case of pon farr.

Your life might suddenly become like a Douglas Sirk movie.

Uncontrollable, unimaginable, your body risen in rebellion and fire and ice, fighting with all your storied strength those deepest urges (and he is, too, you can see it!) until you can fight no more but only surrender that you may reach, you may consummate, you may become...

...Closer..

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Blog Fixed

Blogger.com did not respond to my support queries over the weekend, but I've founda fix by showing fewer old posts on the main page, and any archive material can be found in the month archives on the sidebar. Thank you for your patience, and as always, for reading Nettertainment.

Just-published post from Friday night below.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Not Insane for President

Firesign Theatre, the pioneering stream-of-consciousness comedy troupe (especially if your consciousness was under the influence of mind-altering substances) that broke through in the early 1970's, "ran" a candidate for President in 1972 -- and again apparently in 2000 -- named George Papoon of the National Surrealists Party.

After catching some of El Presidente's typically smug and unusually petulant press conference (even by his standards) today, where he tried to beat back a revolt from some Senators within his own party who are evincing a last vestige of decency after six years of murderous George W. surrealism, I was reminded of our old Firesign friends.

It turns out I'm not the only one. As Bruce West of Arizona's Tri-Valley Central.com explained back in May of this year:
"Not responsible!" was the first half of his campaign cry. The remaining part of the platform was "Not insane!" and followed the multitudinous voices joined in the catchy ditty presented at the head of this column. Indeed, Papoon had been released from a mental institution after extensive treatment. He claimed to be the only candidate in history who was documented to be not insane. "Who knows about the rest of them?" he famously asked about the other candidates. For all we knew, they were all crazy.

So it is today. The bunch we have in Washington certainly act crazy enough but, unlike Geo Papoon, they cloak themselves in the mantle of low expectations while expanding executive power. "It's somebody else's fault," they seem to cry when something goes wrong, as it often does. With our current president, the buck always stops elsewhere. The big difference is Geo Papoon was the invention of the comedy troupe, Firesign Theater, and Geo Bush is president of the United States.

It turns out, Papoon "vowed to take an immediate, extended vacation upon election...ensuring that he wouldn't be responsible for anything that happened."

Then President Richard Nixon, that crazy alcoholic fuck, likely inspired Papoon's "Not Insane" pledge, and like all loser Conservatives he ultimately fell back on the belief that he was stabbed in the back, rather than take responsibility for his own criminal sociopathy. But he didn't actually take a vacation from the Presidency, as our most vacation-gulping President in U.S. history has.

And what was Katrina, let alone the failure to secure Iraq from the moment Saddam fell, but George's Executive Vacation Time?

So while the Bush as Idiot meme has spread like Baghdad blood from Left to Right, tell me if in watching this entire clip -- not one of those ten second soundbytes that get edited into what most newswatching Americans see -- you don't start to wonder if this guy is fucking nuts (thanks C&L) or not. Take this exchange from the CNN transcript:
QUESTION: But, sir, with respect, if other countries interpret the Geneva Conventions as they see fit, as they see fit, you're saying that you'd be OK with that?

BUSH: I am saying that I would hope that they would adopt the same standards we adopt; and that by clarifying Article 3 we make it stronger, we make it clearer, we make it definite.

And I will tell you again, you can ask every hypothetical you want, but the American people have got to know the facts.

And the bottom line is simple: If Congress passes a law that does not clarify the rules -- if they do not do that, the program's not going forward.

Uh, there are clear rules. They've called The Geneva Conventions and have been around since 1864. Basic adherence to this protocol has served us brilliantly in two World Wars and a bunch of smaller ones, and the U.S. Army just last week issued a new Manual that makes it clear to every soldier that they are to be followed. It is only Bush and his traitorous neoconservative cronies who want to muddy our adherence the rules -- quite possibly to circumvent being charged with war crimes for their...war crimes.

But what can one expect -- Tony Soprano will always be a thief, and El Presidente will always lie.

So maybe he's not insane -- it's all self-preservation. Maybe he's just acting insane like Uncle Junior was for awhile. The problem is, Junior eventually went insane for real. I'll bet the pretending didn't help -- maybe it just warms you up for actual insanity.

El Presidente's words in transcript come across as impossible Rube Goldberg logic machines, but I think watching is a whole lot weirder. Check out at around 2:54 if you can definitively tell me that his clinically defensive prep-school giggles when attempting to ridicule the real-world characterization of his law-violating actions as, "the illegal eavesdropping program" isn't batshit crazy.

Again, under the laws of self-preservation, attempting to foster public ridicule of this phrase -- even with the same technique as with belittling an upstart rush candidate at the frat house -- is not a nutty or even an insipid notion. The laugh just sounds...transparently desperate. An undercurrent of hair-trigger floodgate neuroses. An alcoholic urging the patrons to cast out the temperance worker, his voice disconcertingly loud. A cocksucker who knows he's just about on the run.

I'm wondering if over time, as with Nixon, the more we see of the once reclusive Presidente, now forced to speak publicly to defend his increasingly exposed "policies", forced to go it alone as all his fairweather hacks seek to distance themselves, even the most reliable 2000-2006 watercarrying scum, the more we will start to see it as a psychodrama played out on the national stage. After all, as Nixon sunk deeper, supposedly started drinking again, flailed with strength and soon weakness, it became like a psychological television series, which climaxed with this.

If things continue to go against Geo's "created" realities, I think we'll get our own 2006 remake, more attuned to our times but no less of a slow-motion auto wreck as the real world comes crashing in. At least this scion of a wealthy family (that made much of its early fortune enabling Hitler and his Nazi Party's rise to control of Germany) has defense mechanisms of privilege and wealth to help forestall the horror. Nixon only had the former. And it was taken away from him.

This is ultimately what psychos Cheney and Rumsfeld are fighting against, the court decision that opened the door to bringing down their first boss, who made the mistake of flirting with insanity himself on his path into the yawning snake pit.

With El Presidente's remaining followers getting more and more extremely insane, with Congressional cronies who must have been insane to think they would not go to prison for outright bribery, with an insane security plan to dig insane trenches around a city we let sink into insanity, it's up to American citizens in November to show the world that we are not, as a people, insane.

Not insane for President. Not insane for Senator or Representative.

Even in this day and age, is that too much to ask?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Politi-flicks: Tailgunners

In Chris Anderson's The Long Tail thesis and book, he posits a new relationship between consumer and entertainment object due to the revolution in inventory:
For too long we've been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching - a market response to inefficient distribution.

The main problem, if that's the word, is that we live in the physical world and, until recently, most of our entertainment media did, too.

How does Anderson see thing things changing (and at such a rapid pace)?:
[That was] the world of scarcity. Now, with online distribution and retail, we are entering a world of abundance. And the differences are profound...

...With no shelf space to pay for and, in the case of purely digital services like iTunes, no manufacturing costs and hardly any distribution fees, a miss sold is just another sale, with the same margins as a hit. A hit and a miss are on equal economic footing, both just entries in a database called up on demand, both equally worthy of being carried. Suddenly, popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability.

I believe The Long Tail effect is changing political advertising as well. Whereas traditionally you saw a political television ad somewhere between once to ad nauseam depending on that particular side's media buy -- the winner usually being the one with the heaviest donor list -- you can now watch political ads on YouTube, send them to friends, embed them on your webpage.

This means the ads are blips or daggers in the night. They're available for download as quickly as they hit the airwaves, if not before. Perhaps pre-release to the web will become a focus testing exercise done for more and more political spots to see if they'll work on TV. Makes economic sense -- the campaign isn't reliant on an onerous media buy.

So if the ads are being increasingly viewed on the Internet, by those in different markets than the targeted media buy, by those with an interest in a political race, by those who find entertainment in the free market exchange of ideas, slams, and (lest we forget) smears, will they automatically have to improve?

Here's two ads that are noteworthy for very different reasons.

Bob Casey has been ahead of incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) for months. Santorum has a huge donor supply, and has made a very slick, entirely fictionalized mise-en-scene for a fear-oriented attack ad accusing his poll-dominating challenger of corruption. Via Will Menakar at TPM Cafe:
This new ad just out from GOP Senator Rick Santorum's campaign attacking Dem challenger Bob Casey is really a doozy -- one of the most negative ads we've ever seen. In a scene reminiscent of Goodfellas, actors playing Casey donors puff on cigars -- while sitting in a prison cell. The ad intones that a "Philly businessman," a "New Jersey developer" and other Casey donors (none named) are under investigation or have been indicted. Casey's response? The figures apparently referred to gave to previous Casey campaigns before being investigated; two others have given to Santorum, too; and a fifth is dead. Amazingly, a Santorum rep has even admitted that none of the men apparently being referred to has given to Casey's Senate campaign.

At a different end of the spectrum, this single issue ad by VoteVets.org slamming incumbent Sen. George Allen (R-VA) for his lockstep votes with the Bush White House against body armor funding for U.S. soldiers in Iraq, while not explicitly advocating challenger Jim Webb (who happens to be a former Combat Marine).

While both ads are clearly skillfully produced, the VoteVets ad has a kick-ass reality to it -- a young Iraqi vet with just enough charisma and an AK-47, out in the desert shooting holes in two vests, one with modern body armor "made for today's weapons" and one like a sieve.

These ads are getting around in a huge way on advocacy blogs, and I think they're a welcome political media education for professionals and consumers alike. It takes even the most negative smear out of the shadows and brings under-reported issues to light. Internet video as the explosive next big step forward in expanding our nation's free political discourse, and maybe expanding our democracy.

And as for maybe the Longest Tail of all, here's the television campaign ad that kicked off the modern era, Johnson (D) vs. Goldwater (R), 1964 Presidential Election, the legendary "Daisy Girl".

One sixty-second ad and...boom.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Worst. War. Ever.

Here's a running total of the U.S. taxpayer cost of the Iraq War, up to this very moment.

When I just checked it was in the $314 billions, and counting. There's a nifty gadget to check out the cost to your community.

For us here in Santa Monica, that's approaching $150.6 million. New York City itself is in for over $10.5 billion. And counting. And counting.

So what do we get for our money?

Death squads (how El Salvador 1980's):
The leader of Iraq's biggest Sunni Arab group demanded Wednesday that the beleaguered Shiite-led government take steps to disarm militias after police said the bodies of 65 tortured men were dumped in and around Baghdad.

Dead civilians and U.S. soldiers by the cartload:
On a violent day even by the standards of Baghdad, car bombs, mortars and other attacks also killed at least 39 people and wounded dozens. Two U.S. soldiers also were killed, one in enemy action in restive Anbar province on Monday and the other in a roadside bombing south of Baghdad on Tuesday, the U.S. military command said.

But if you really want to see how well El Presidente's bold leadership is working, check out how they take off and visit their solicitious neighbor, who happens to be our designated enemy. They even get offers of help on security from this enemy.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad had something of a lovefest at their press conference on Tuesday. Ahmadinejad expressed his complete support for the Iraqi parliament, political process and government. The Iranians always sound just like the Bush administration when they talk about political progress in Iraq. Ahmadinejad also offered help with security affairs.

Are they, like, going to take neighborhoods that our soldiers aren't really interested in? Do our grunts and theirs get to rub shoulders in Baghdad? Or do they mean security as in against the Western infidel invader?

So maybe not money well spent. History will tell! And it sure is looking historically...bad.

Oh, well. At least all those hundreds of billions have been properly accounted for.

Run

Run! Run away!

Run away from George W. Bush!

He's radioactive!!!

Click here to see a very happy man, incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), who beat back an a hard rightwing challenge, funded by the arch-conservative "Club for Growth", to win his Party's renomination. He had massive help from the Republican National Committee, which is terrified of losing the Senate.

Chafee has been what passes for inside-GOP opposition to their El Presidente, but his presence in the Senate as a 98% assured rubberstamp Republican vote is no blessing. However, he did make one principled (or maybe clever?) move last week, stalling or possibly killing the U.N. Ambassadorship nomination of noted Captain Kangaroo impersonator John Bolton.

The persistently intelligent military centrist Steve Clemons writes at his The Washington Note:
Chafee showed backbone on the issue of whether John Bolton reflected a brand of foreign policy that Chafee could accept -- both at the end of July and again last Thursday.

Having lived in Rhode Island and appreciated his father's service, I cut Chafee slack and think he's actually a reasonably principled guy. But he's voted with the President way too much of the time, and I'll be all too sorry if the Dems do not take the Senate or House from the GOP. Two more years of single party rule?

While there's always the chance Bush/Rove will eventually weasel Bolton through, the big news is that running against El Presidente worked. The GOP would like you to believe that some of their individual members are actually now dissenters. After six years of voting with Bush, four years of denying the real problem with Iraq -- that we should have never invaded in the first place, after Medicare Part D and Terry Schiavo, how much comfort will those alleged "dissenters" be when Social Security Privatization is on the floor?

So run, little Republican incumbents, run like so many quivering white mice with beady red eyes, like so many lemmings into the sea, run, run away!

You'll never be missed.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fantasy

I don't think anyone still watches the President speak on TV anymore. We all know it's canned, partisan, obfuscating and with only a tangential relationship with reality. As The New York Times puts it in their editorial on tonight's address entitled "President Bush's Reality":
He has described a world where Iraq is a young but hopeful democracy with a "unity government" that represents its diverse population. Al Qaeda-trained terrorists who are terrified by "the sight of an old man pulling the election lever" are trying to stop the march of progress. The United States and its friends are holding firm in a battle that will decide whether freedom or terror will rule the 21st century.

If that were actual reality, the president'’s call to "put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us" would be inspiring, instead of frustrating and depressing.

If that were the actual reality.

If.

On the lack of a clear plan for extricating ourselves -- let alone winning as he and his courtiers so bray:
But the nation needs to hear a workable plan to stabilize a fractured, disintegrating country and end the violence. If such a strategy exists, it seems unlikely that Mr. Bush could see it through the filter of his fantasies.

Alas, he's not the only lunatic in charge. There's the man so often called President Cheney:
It's hard to figure out how to build consensus when the men in charge embrace a series of myths. Vice President Dick Cheney suggested last weekend that the White House is even more delusional than Mr. Bush'’s rhetoric suggests. The vice president volunteered to NBC's Tim Russert that not only was the Iraq invasion the right thing to do, "if we had it to do over again, we'’d do exactly the same thing."

It is a breathtaking thought. If we could return to Sept. 12, 2001, knowing all we have seen since, Mr. Cheney and the president would march right out and "do exactly the same thing" all over again. It will be hard to hear the phrase "lessons of Sept. 11" again without contemplating that statement.

The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again even if always getting the same undesired result. Especially when it has to do with human slaughter.

If you don't believe that Bush is dangerously insane, then treat yourself to his attempt at browbeating an unusually bold Matt Lauer and through him the American people into his almost-makes-sense-oh-holy-shit insanity regarding CIA prisons and U.S. use of torture, via Crooks and Liars. Money quote:
"I'm not going to talk about techniques. And, I'm not going explain to the enemy what we're doing. All I'm telling you is that you've asked me whether or not we're doing things to protect the American people, and I want the American people to know we are doing so."

Could this not be translated into English as, "Just trust me, bitches!" Because after all his empty promises and bald-faced lies, only an insane citizen would trust him. Not when he won't even acknowledge to us, his employer, what the fuck he authorized.

Bush argues with Lauer that everything he's authorized is "legal," which makes him either a liar or insane like President Logan on 24. In fact, it turns out he his White House counsel, John Yoo, may have been insane -- power-crazy -- himself:
UC Berkeley law Professor John Yoo, who as a Justice Department lawyer was one of the Bush administration's chief legal theorists, summarized its view in his forthcoming book, "War by Other Means":

"We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch."

As Glenn Greenwald reminds us:
The Constitution is actually pretty clear on that score. Article I says "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States" -- Article II says the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" -- Article III says "the judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in . . . inferior Courts." That arrangement isn't really a side detail or something that shifts based on circumstance. It's pretty fundamental to the whole system. In fact, if you change that formula, it isn't really the American system of government anymore.

So where are the keepers of the asylum? Aside from all of us at the voting booth this November, the opposition Party is finally unwilling to go along with the madmen.

Explains Kevin Drum:
Within a few months of 9/11 Karl Rove was telling party members what a great issue terrorism would be for Republicans. Andy Card was busily working on the marketing campaign for Iraq, timed for maximum impact on the midterm elections in 2002. Joe Lieberman's DHS bill was hijacked and deliberately loaded with anti-union features in order to draw Democratic complaints and hand Bush a campaign issue. The UN resolution on WMD inspections in Iraq was kept on fire until literally the day after the midterms, at which point the version acceptable to the rest of the world was suddenly agreeable to Bush as well. Democrats who supported Bush on the war were treated to the same scorched-earth campaigning as everyone else. Bipartisanship bought them nothing.

Spencer Ackerman's explanation for that which drives my small, in relentless blows against the empire:
I think I understand a psychological motive for Bush hatred now: By using September 11 to aggregate power for himself, and to make his opponents--you, me, and every other liberal who needed to feel like we could trust our leaders after we were attacked--feel disloyal to their country, he prevented us from healing.

The king of controlled American outrage tonight is the man of snowballing integrity, Keith Olbermann, again courtesy Crooks and Liars, as he broadcast with the still gaping hole left by the terrorists behind him:
How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death… after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections… how dare you or those around you… ever "spin" 9/11.

He closes hard on the who responsibility for why that awful 9/11 hole is still unrepaired, still taunting us:
Look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:
Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
You have.
May this country forgive you.

You deserve to watch it all yourself -- media history.

Five years is seems a milestone time to reflect, and you can see the spins they used to consolidate their insanity stranglehold on America are now ghastly reflections being used against them, their smug rhetoric, their lies.

After all, what comes to mind now when you read the two simple words, "Mission Accomplished"?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

5 Years

Five years ago today my wife and I were living with our twenty-two month old son in San Francisco. I was getting dressed to go downtown to work when my sister-in-law phoned from midtown Manhattan to tell us to turn on the television.

Stacy and I met in Manhattan. I grew up in Albany, three hours north of New York City, and after college I moved there for nine years. I already knew the people of New York were superb and resilient and able to help one another in a time of crisis. If I think back to that day and the weeks to follow, if I can forget how our Federal leadership and their party has colonized the feelings I had, that we all had that day, I feel proud of how we Americans responded to the terrible the tragedy, the horror, the brutality, the destruction. I can feel the appropriate anger at those who killed so many civilians from so many different countries, who attacked our nation directly and caused so much destruction on our soil.

A week ago I wrote about seeing Oliver Stone's World Trade Center movie which gave me an opportunity to express some of my 9/11 feelings, most of all how badly the worldwide capital we earned through that heinous experience has been squandered like A Rake's Progress. Aside from what I wrote in that post, I just want readers to know that as an patriot I take what happened that day seriously, I always supported getting the fuckers where they lived in Afghanistan (had been reading about the evil Taliban for a couple years in advance), and just wish we had had President Gore back then. I believe there is a good chance 9/11 would never have happened, since the Clinton White House was actually focused on anti-terrorism, while Bush screwed the pooch and anyone who was National Security Adviser -- in this case Bush crony Condoleezza Rice -- should have been fired from allowing it to happen on their watch, with the warnings right in front of their very eyes. But if it had happened, President Gore would have finished the job in Afghanistan, increased rather than erased our nation's moral authority in the world, and generally made us all safer to this day. And responded like a leader to Katrina.

A guy can dream, can't he?

Back when I lived in New York, the World Trade Center was how you oriented yourself. Every day. I had been up in Windows on the World three times, top floor, a place where so many restaurant workers were killed when the plane hit. Once with some friends, where we were lucky not to be wearing jeans, as the ground floor elevator guard told us he hadn't allowed Warren Beatty up just the previous weeks because of the no jeans rule. Once I went during the day, the night view being spectacular but the day view just being such a huge opportunity to see so much of the city, clearly, from about. The third time was late one Saturday night, Stacy and me scouting out a potential wedding band. (We went for the other one.)

When I went back for Thanksgiving two months after the attack, I set aside a morning to go down to the site. You couldn't get right up to it, but you saw the hole, the holes actually, the enormous gap Bin Laden had created in the city, the effect on the other buildings around still standing. You saw the one metal building side jutting up out of the ground, the last erect portion of the two overwhelmingly large towers.

On the drive in over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Newark Airport a few nights earlier we had gotten our first taste of "it's just not there". No way to orient as usual. Disorienting.

I remember the intense feeling building as I worked my way closer and closer to the site. How the streets had pedestrian detours and so much of them were torn up, all kinds of pipe re-routing going on. How everyone knowing they were in a different space, maybe holy, maybe vespertine, but hushed and rarified. In an almost counterintuitive way, it made you feel good to be alive. To walk those sidewalks for the dead.

But the emotion was strongest, the image still so strong in my mind, of all the missing persons flyers with photos of the lost, posted by grief-stricken loved ones on all the walls and wrought iron fences in those last blocks before the ruins.

My heart goes out to anyone who lost a spouse, a family member, a lover or a friend in all of the attacks that day. Here's to a brighter future for America. With God's grace, let's get out of the mess we're in.

Smearjobs

What do you run on when your party has, for four straight years, shown itself 100% incapable of governing?

After creating the largest deficit in our nation's history, after murdering tens of thousands of innocent foreign citizens in their own country and thousands of your own soldiers in a war of choice sold on a bed of lies, after Jack Abramoff and Halliburton have ripped your democracy off like bank robbers, after you fail to protect a major American city or rescue them from hurricane flooding, after lowering taxes for the wealthy minority while stagnating or lowering wage means for the gross majority, after your only significant piece of legislation all summer is a bill banning horse slaughter for human consumptions, affecting just three-count'em-three factories in the all of the U.S.?

You smear those trying to unseat you, those trying to right the ship of state.

If you want to know why this mock-you-drama smearing of the Clinton Administration is hitting network television, check out this comprehensive uncovering of the neocon/fundamentalist plot to rewrite history with baldfaced ideologically motivated lies, courtesy of Seeing the Forest. At some level it all goes back to Richard Mellon Scaife, right wing zillionaire who gave a million dollars to Richard Nixon's re-election campaign and was the major funder of the Arkansas Project, the organization that hounded Bill Clinton throughout his term of office, eventually achieving his impeachment. He seems to have funded rabid reactionary neocon (once Liberal academic) David Horowitz...
..."who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, he is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group founded by The Path to 9/11's director David Cunningham that proclaims its goal to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision.">...who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, he is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group founded by The Path to 9/11's director David Cunningham that proclaims its goal to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision.

That's right, this is a planned smear on history by the very same people who tried to tear down the man who brought America eight years of peace, prosperity, balanced budgets, and effective anti-terrorism intelligence work. But don't take my word for it, as Joe Conason delineates the findings in the official 9/11 Commission Report itself:
"President Clinton was deeply concerned about [Osama] Bin Ladin," remarks the opening section of Chapter 6, titled "From Threat to Threat." It goes on to note that by the summer of 1998, Clinton and his national security advisor Sandy Berger "ensured that they had a special daily pipeline of reports feeding them the latest updates on Bin Ladin's reported location."

...Again and again, the report takes careful note of Clinton's active, personal participation in the effort against al-Qaida during the Millennium alert, exploding myths about his supposed distraction by domestic scandals. Clarke spoke directly with the president on several occasions that month. "In mid-December," the report reveals, "President Clinton signed a Memorandum of Notification (MON) giving the CIA broader authority to use foreign proxies to detain Bin Ladin lieutenants, without having to transfer them to U.S. custody. The authority was to capture, not kill, although lethal force might be used if necessary."

So The Path to 9/11 isn't so much based on the 9/11 Commission Report as it is on the radical rightwing imagination of the filmmakers and their coven.

That's right, tell anyone who will hear it over the next few 9/11 commemorating days, Bill Clinton was a terrific defender of the country against terrorist attacks.

You can't blame them -- their Presidente ignored (with his trademark lack of intellectual curiosity) memos like, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack within U.S.", read My Pet Goat instead of responding immediately in any true leadership fashion, and has conducted and foreign and military policy since then seemingly dedicated to exponentially increasing the number of recruits wanting to participate in attacks on America and Americans, all the way up to the cost of their lives.

Don't let the smear stand: Clinton may have been a flawed human being, but he was a hero on terror.

Now leaving behind the propaganda set-up (see now how Karl Rove could have known about this all the way, and influenced perhaps the timing?), there's the not inconsequential issue of how the GOP dig themselves out of a hole in the November election, in large part to avoid turnover of either House of Congress which would certainly lead to investigations and individual indictments for all the Admnistration's crimes and cronies.

The answer, per The Washington Post:
Republicans are planning to spend the vast majority of their sizable financial war chest over the final 60 days of the campaign attacking Democratic House and Senate candidates over personal issues and local controversies, GOP officials said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads.

My one caveat in the face of such skullduggery is that such Swiftboating and sewage work actually tests the mettle of the individual Democratic candidates; those who respond quickly, decisively and lethally actually prove themselves moreover as right for the job.

American politics doesn't get any prettier even after you're elected.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Wire

The dam is about to break. I've been managing my anticipation of Sunday's Season 4 Premiere of HBO's monumental cops & robbers show, The Wire. Like the great Warner Bros. crime dramas of the 1930's, The Wire is filled with sociology, economic criticism, and good people trying to reform a lethal world. Like the best novel you read last year, the end of the final episode will give you a satisfaction that no other television drama even attempts.

With a steadily building fan base from the original broadcasts and (like Season 3 debuting at #1 on Amazon) DVD pick-ups, with a long overdue lionization by the popular press these past two weeks, with the early reviewers all climbing over each other to proclaim this the best season yet, it's looking like this might just be The Wire's moment.

I'll admit it took me three episodes way back at the start of the first season to get hooked. The title seemed small, like a subset of a cop show idea. The setting was gritty and at first the camerawork seemed maybe low budget, artless. And then there was the surfeit of characters, many of which were not exactly as good or brilliant or narratively validated as a typical TV drama.

It turns out The Wire is actually social criticism through drama, a detailed examination of the institutions and bureaucracies that regularly fail We Americans. The title refers to warrant-certified eavesdropping, initially on Baltimore's leading drug dealing infrastructure, but it ends up the metaphor for just trying to survive, whether cop or chief or dealer or user or union leader or politician or, this season, student. It turns out the shooting style is urban poetry. The complex web of characters turns out to be the jazz that keeps the series buzzing around your head all week, all thirteen weeks, until the last episode caps your ass.

I got hooked when mid-level drug dealer D'Angelo explained the game of chess by comparing the pieces to the drug organization's hierarchy. And further when desk-buried Detective Lester Freamon told ambitious young Detective James McNulty that when the wire operation he set in motion eventually reaches city leader corruption to prepare for a similar fate. And forever when McNulty and his partner, Detective William "Bunk" Moreland, did an exhaustive examination of a crime scene communicating entirely (over 50 times in three minutes) with the word, "Fuck."

Each season is a novel unto itself, meaning it's possible to start watching Season 4 cold and still get an incredible, rounded story. Maybe because creator David Simon (Homicide: Life on the Streets) never knows if they'll be renewed for a next season, each 13 episode arc ends with enough closure to make the open ends forgivable. He and the stellar writing team (including ex-cop Ed Burns, accomplished novelists Richard Price, Dennis Lehane and George Pellicanos) are unafraid of killing major characters to advance the story, so unlike every other TV series you've ever seen, there's never ever the sense that the show is ultimately just serving the perpetuation of its formula into the next season.

Each season follows the main cop characters as they come together, always with some shuffling of members, for a new special investigation -- the season's wiretap -- and each season also keeps moving the crooks side as well. However, each season also revolves around a different institutional focus, making for organic season-contained plotlines. Season One focused on the cops vs. dealers. Season Two added the deteriorating Labor situation at the declining Baltimore docks. Season Three replaced that with City Hall, and the slow-burning conflagration when one police Major creates a penalty-free drug zone in an abandoned pocket of the city.

This season continues the political plot, focused on quasi-idealistic City Councilman Carcetti's attempt to become Mayor, but the new action is in the schools, where young kids being raised by other kids decide whether to stick it out or start working the streets dealing. HBO has aired two half-hour specials, surprisingly spoiler-free, that I finally watched tonight to get all set up for Sunday. I'm ready and stoked.

Not just me -- The New York Times says:
This season of "“The Wire"” will knock the breath out of you. HBO'’s formidable police drama, which as a ratings enigma has never been coddled by the cable channel, has become only tougher and tighter through three seasons. But this time around, the "Wire"” row house has undergone a gut renovation. The series looks the same, roughly, from the curb, but the old place has been replumbed and rewired, as "“The Wire"” now focuses on four besieged Baltimore middle schoolers. This shift of emphasis by the show'’s creator, David Simon, is a risky, even arrogant move that pays off in literary television that broadens the mind and blows the heart open.

A few weeks ago Stephen King devoted his full-page Entertainment Weekly end column, concluding by calling the show "a staggering achievement." Just this week the magazine's Ken Tucker listed the show as #1 in his "5 Reasons to Live", writing:
In the opening scene of the new, best-yet season of quite possibly the finest series ever made for television, a black youth goes into a big Home Depot-like store and asks the middle-aged white employee to recommend a nail gun. They exchange questions and answers about power and nail size, but their talk is completely at cross-purposes: The man is talking about home repair; the youth is talking about death. Get used to seeing The Wire on this list. I'm not going to give any plot points away, but if you like [NAME OF YOUR FAVORITE SHOW HERE, AND I DON'T EVEN CARE IF IT'S TWO AND A HALF MEN], you owe it to yourself to watch The Wire. It will rip your heart out and replace it with a new, stronger one.

Simon has said that a fifth season (still not greenlit) would finish the mission, complete the examination of the city institutions in his not-so-fictionalized Baltimore. Here's hoping HBO doesn't let us down. On Sunday night I'll be settling in with some of the finest actors on television, certainly the most emphatically diverse cast on television, and juicing for the yarn to get started.

I'll be eager to find out about these new characters, these kids on the edge of hope or degradation, but I know I'm going to be most psyched to see my old friends. Sima. Prez. Avon. Cutty.

Then there will be that moment, maybe in the first episode, maybe in the thirteenth, but sometime you just know you'll hear that whistled version of "The Farmer in the Dell" echoing down the deserted midnight streets of Baltimore, as the man with the shotgun, a Robin Hood who steals from the drug dealers and gives to himself, comes sauntering by.

Hello, Omar.

Hello Wire, Season Four.

Friday, September 08, 2006

War - Day 3

The battle of Election 2006 took some remarkable turns today. Bush White House moves seem to be hitting a Wall of No, with Dems generally united and some unusual allies, including principled military lawyers, nervous Republicans and their new best friend, the blogosphere.

First Bush's version of military tribunals, which considering his entire record of public service one can only assume would revolve around the most rigged possible outcome, preferably with crony judges and politically timed verdicts, is going down in flames. As in, shot down by our own military, which you can only imagine they've been waiting for a long time to do. Per The New York Times:
But the military lawyers argued back. And the Senate Republicans said there were still several areas of contention between them and the administration, chiefly, a proposal to deny the accused the right to see classified evidence shown to the jury.

Brig, Gen. James C. Walker, the top uniformed lawyer for the Marines, said that no civilized country should deny a defendant the right to see the evidence against him and that the United States "should not be the first."

The U.S. military has a standard procedure for showing the defense an unclassified version of the evidence. Presumably this means one where all the U.S. secrets that need to be preserved are pared away, leaving the actual stuff that can convict a defendant. So far enough GOP Senators, like those who are reading the current polls and might ever run for office again, are with our fine military legal experts:
"It would be unacceptable, legally, in my opinion, to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them," said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has played a key role in the drafting of alternative legislation as a member of the Armed Services Committee and a military judge. " 'Trust us, you're guilty, we're going to execute you, but we can'’t tell you why'?"

Now hold on a sec, mister, why wouldn't anyone trust the Bush Administration?

It turns out that El Presidente's attempt to reinstall blustering wingnut John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, after circumventing a contentious Congressional vote earlier this year, is (per Steven Clemons) in big danger, due to the anticipated strength of a Democratic filibuster should Bolton's nomination reach the Senate floor and sudden prophylactictic blockage in committee by embattled GOP Moderate Lincoln Chafee (R-RI):
Today Chafee told Senator Lugar that he would not support John Bolton as things stood. He would vote no if pushed. This has been glossed over now by Senator Chafee's staff and others as being a prolonged period of purgatory for Bolton because Chafee has "unanswered questions".

But the vote was delayed -- and it is now certain to be delayed beyond the September 12th primaries in Rhode Island. After Senator Chafee wins, which TWN hopes he does, the Senator's hand is even freer to vote his views and conscience on Bolton.

And finally, the storm over ABC's two-night The Path to 9/11, which if not conspired in some way by Karl Rove could easily be his wetdream, is getting a pre-broadcast shellacking, helped in large part by an activist netroots preventative war.

You know you're in trouble when even your publicity-shy lead actor goes on Showbiz Tonight to say the movie lies.