Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Here's the best Internet video I've seen all year.

Come see what $280,000 buys you.

It renews my faith in America.

Monday, October 30, 2006


How do you know when a Republican Vice President knows his Party is going to lose big?

Could it be when he has the paper shredding truck come to his house?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Frighteningly Incompetent

Cmon, don't you think the GOP are going to lose big this election because of debacles (and there are scores, maybe hundreds of them!) like this:
The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.

This report was commissioned by Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who's one of the finally-come-around-to-it Admin critics on the War, so I'm guessing he knew this might be damaging to the GOP electoral hopes if it manages to get traction on the Monday of the last week before the vote.

How bad did they fuck up this time?
The American military did not even take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of nearly half a million weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might be in the wrong hands.

Exactly where untracked weapons could end up — and whether some have been used against American soldiers — were not examined in the report, although black-market arms dealers thrive on the streets of Baghdad, and official Iraq Army and police uniforms can easily be purchased as well, presumably because government shipments are intercepted or otherwise corrupted.

Does this mean we might be supplying Al Queda or the insurgency with American made 9-millimeter pistols and assault rifles?

It gets worse -- check out their computer network back-up policy:
Mr. Bowen found that the American military was not able to say how many Iraqi logistics personnel it had trained — in this case because, the military told the inspector general, a computer network crash erased records. Those problems have occurred even though the United States has spent $133 million on the weapons program and $666 million on Iraqi logistics capabilities.

Is this front page New York Times story going to be picked up by the TV news networks? Is anyone in the Administration going to be challenged on it, even over-achiever Press Secretary Tony Snow?

Are these numbers just so big and steadily terrible that no one in the mainstream media gives a shit anymore? These are the lives of our fellow American soldiers we're talking about. This is a war El Presidente keeps telling us we have to win:
In its assessment of Iraqi weaponry, the inspector general concluded that of the 505,093 weapons that have been given to the Ministries of Interior and Defense over the last several years, serial numbers for only 12,128 were properly recorded. The weapons include rocket-propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles, machine guns, shotguns, semiautomatic pistols and sniper rifles.

That's .5% recorded. Why, you ask?:
There are standard regulations for registering military weaponry in that way, governed by the Department of Defense small-arms serialization program. The inspector general’s report said that when asked why so many weapons went to Iraq with no record of serial numbers, American military officials in Baghdad replied that they did not believe the regulations applied to them.

Ah, now that makes sense. Of course they didn't. Why should they be any different from Bush and his cronies way up at the top.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Final Preparations

We're entering the final week before the election and conventional wisdom has the Dems picking up control of the House of Representatives while narrowly missing it in the Senate. By the same token, the GOP-Karl Rove election machine could manufacture another victory (by hook or by crook?) or there could be Democratic tidal wave to "throw the bums out" that completely turns over Congress and gives El Presidente no cover during his last two years of damage. I mean, office.

The GOP have the advantage of incumbency, of U.S. naval forces just arrived in the Persian Gulf (possible incitement to war with Iran), a fearful or paid for Fourth Estate including a well-watched Republican news network, and a mega-shot at controlling the last day of the news cycle before the election, Monday, November 6th, as they're staging the sentencing of Saddam Hussein (would you expect anything less than shameless?) two days before our election.

Any bets on what the sentence will be?

So after that public bloodletting, or the promise of such, kind of a torture season climax for anyone who's still happy we went in there, there's just GOTV. That's Get Out The Vote as abbreviated.

With all this in mind, here're a few tidbits to help get a grip on where we're at:

The Four Key Senate Races

Per the Associated Press, GOP majority rule in the Senate will be decided by four too-close-to-call contests:

- Former Undersecretary of the Navy Jim Webb (D) challenging Sen. George Allen (R-VA)

- State Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) challenging Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO)

- Rep. Harold Ford (D) vs. former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker (R) for the Tennessee seat Bill Frist is vacating.

- Appointed (2004) Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) vs. State Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R)

Money quote:
Democrats must gain six seats to win control, and have strong leads in Rhode Island and Montana as well as Pennsylvania and Ohio.

They're all great dramas and how these four races develop on election night will tip you off to the tone of this country for the next two years.

The Fear

For those of us who sleep less easily wondering, "Seven Reasons Why Karl Rove Is Optimistic" was just posted today on The Hotline (part of The National Journal Group). The main reasons (and it's a great, eye-clearing, article to read through), summarized, are:

1. 20 margin-of-error close races he thinks he can win with his GOTV. )Which is why I will always wish the Dem candidate be at least 5% ahead of their rival coming into Election Day.)

2. They think they can win the Senate races in Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri, and will look to put together an upset elsewhere.

3. 15 Congressional districts where they think they did enough negative advertising to knock down the Dem candidates' favorables and squeak back in with their scoundrel.
4. A mantra: What happens during the last week of the election matters as much as what happened during the last month; what happens during the last three days matters as much as the last week. Republicans might catch a break from exogenous events; they might win news cycles in critical areas.

See above re: Saddam. The November surprise?

5. Money. A bit more of it than the Dems, and all running through Ken Mehlman at the NRCC. Whereas there are several different top tier money distributors on the Dem side.

6. They may have lost the periphery of their base, but their core base is revved up, all the usual volunteer programs proceeding apace as with previous years.

And, the saving grace:
7. This final reason is perhaps the most important. If Karl Rove evinces one shred of doubt about the fate of Republican congressional control, he’d be lucky if half of the volunteers who diligently show up to Republican victory centers across the country pack up and go home. Optimism breeds faith. And more importantly, optimism could mean the difference between losing 14 seats and losing 35.

They always play this confidence game, and it always does well for them. Does this mean the Dems should play as confident? After being crushed in the final vote or aftervote three times before, should the attitude be sanguine about our chances (advantage: take nothing for granted) or unwaveringly confident (advantage: juiced Dem electorate)?

My thinking is that it's good to believe people are fed up, that when they get into that booth with that touchscreen on Nov. 7th, even if they're not sure their vote will be fairly tabulated, they'll just want to change the by now ludicrous course this country is on, no more support to the way it's going, the GOP, pull out every leg of George Bush enabling possible.

A boy can dream.

The Improvements

According to an Adam Nagourney article in the Sunday New York Times entitled, "Democrats Push to Counter G.O.P. in Turnout Race":
After two national elections in which Republicans’ sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation helped them triumph over their opponents, Democrats have invested heavily in catching up.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean is candid that they might not be at parity yet, expecting more likely to be so in 2008, but thinks the Dems are enthused enough about their chances and GOP depressed enough about their leadership that it'll tip the scales their way on the 7th.
Other Democratic leaders disputed Mr. Dean's view, saying they were increasingly confident about their party's ability to achieve parity, and perhaps regain its dominance, against the Republican get-out-the-vote machinery. Democrats pointed to evidence of what the party's $35 million in spending on turnout programs, nearly matching Republicans, has given them in tight races like the Senate campaign here in Missouri, where Senator Jim Talent, a Republican, won office in 2002 by just 21,000 votes.

Nagourney quotes Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) who's on top of the Senate races this year, who says, "We believe we are now equal to them."

The truth is that until or unless Dr. Dean can get the party GOTV apparatus under a single authority, the question is whether the Dems are unified enough in anti-Bush/GOP/Iraq War purpose to win this election with their decentralized approach:
Democrats are getting help this year in recruiting volunteers from an arena that has more often taunted Democratic officialdom, bloggers and groups like the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and MoveOn.org, which has started sophisticated Internet-based turnout operations that rival what even some party committees are doing.

"We're in about 40 districts right now," said Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org. Mr. Pariser said his group had trained 70,000 people to use its Web-based program to call prospective Democratic voters on lists that MoveOn.org had assembled.

A friend asked today if I was guardedly optimistic. He is, but I'm not yet prepared to go that far. I'm hoping, praying, that by Monday, November 6th, there's no amount of BushCo manufactured news that can stem their bleeding, maybe one last grand slam scandal to drive a stake in their feverdreams of empire, and November 7th flips it all the Dem way.

But even if it does, my money says that the Democrats should sure as hell be better prepared this year for the post-election Karl Rove-direct attack on the results of various key races until he can have some judge give him a majority.

You know, his M.O.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Is this the turning point?
Corporate America is already thinking beyond Election Day, increasing its share of last-minute donations to Democratic candidates and quietly devising strategies for how to work with Democrats if they win control of Congress.

The shift in political giving, for the first 18 days of October, has not been this pronounced in the final stages of a campaign since 1994, when Republicans swept control of the House for the first time in four decades.

Smart money making moves?

So this pleases me, because I don't want the GOP the deepest pockets. Better if it comes from small individual donors, but every corporate dollar that goes to the Dems is one that Karl Rove didn't get.

The big question is if, should they win, the Dems can handle it, or will they allow the lobbyists to write their legislation just the way the GOP Congress flagrantly operates, or will they have the people's back enough to put up a firewall against corporate greed running the country.

It starts getting eerie:
Lobbyists, some of whom had fallen out of the habit of attending Democratic events, are even talking about making their way to the Sonnenalp Resort in Vail, Colo., where Representative Nancy Pelosi of California is holding a Speaker’s Club ski getaway on Jan. 3. It is an annual affair, but the gathering's title could be especially apt for Ms. Pelosi, the House minority leader, who will be on hand to accept $15,000 checks, and could, if everything breaks her way, become the first woman to be House speaker.

"Attendance will be high," said Steve Elmendorf, a former Democratic Congressional aide who has a long list of business lobbying clients. "All Democratic events will see a big increase next year, no question."

Hey, I want these folks to come listen to Nancy (rather than her counterpart, Dennis Hastert) and hope in a few weeks she can be called "Speaker", as long as this isn't just the intro to a whole new swing of corruption, bad stories about 2006 Dem heroes making the papers in 2012.
For the first nine months of the year, for example, Pfizer’s political action committee had given 67 percent of contributions to Republican candidates. But October ushered in a sudden change of fortune, according to disclosure reports, and Democrats received 59 percent of the Pfizer contributions.

Can the Dems take Pfizer's contributions and still fix Medicare? Will they still work to allow group medical plans to purchase drugs imported from Canada?
Republicans still received 57 percent of contributions, compared with 43 percent for Democrats, but it was the first double-digit October switch since 1994. "A lot will hold their powder for now," said Brian Wolff, deputy executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "But after the election, we will have a lot of new friends."

Cool, I'm looking forward to that happening.

And if it does, let's keep an eye on those new friends.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


When I was a kid we used to drive down three hours from Albany to New York City on birthdays to see a Broadway show. We saw a lot of great ones -- Sleuth, Raul Julia and Clifton Davis in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Frank Langella in Amadeus -- but the most eye-popping one was Dreamgirls.

It was, I believe, the last show directed by the late Michael Bennett, and starred Sheryl Lee Ralphs and Jennifer Holliday. It had a slightly gossipy edge, being a thinly veiled retelling of the Diana Ross & The Supremes story, featuring the romance between her and the Berry Gordy (founder of Motown Records) character, and the heartbreaking shunting off of the original lead singer, Flo (Effie, in the show).

In the feature coming out later this year, American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson has the Holliday character, and word is she steals the picture (like she stole hearts when getting cut at something like #6 on the TV talent show). I'm not the musical fan I was as a young kid, but this picture looks like it could be the sleeper hit of the year...maybe even Oscarbait.

Check out the trailer here.

It looks like movie writer/director Bill Condon has nailed the glamorous 1960's look, from the soul clubs to the Mahogany years.

Sixties funk, soaring ballad, period perfect, backstage drama...

...am I nuts to think this is a one way ticket to Hitsville?

Politi-flicks: Southern Strategy

Back in 1964 when Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Right Act, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, he is said to have remarked, "We have lost the South for a generation." And sure enough, the once solidly Dem South became, over the next 20 years, a Republican stronghold.

In the election of 1968, Nixon campaign strategist Kevin Phillips coined the phrase, "Southern strategy." This meant for conservative GOP politicians to use the euphemism, "state's rights," to signal they were against federal anti-discrimination laws, appealing directly to those unrepentent Southern white folks who did not share the goals of desegregation and its kin.

Phillips has since decried the very strategy he helped create, and as recently as last year Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, told the NAACP national convention in Milwaukee that "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."

Welcome, even if overdue, sentiments. Now the healing can begin.

So what's all that ruckus down in Tennessee? According to The New York Times:
The Tennessee Senate race, one of the most competitive and potentially decisive battles of the midterm election, became even more unpredictable this week after a furor over a Republican television commercial that stood out even in a year of negative advertising.

The commercial, financed by the Republican National Committee, was aimed at Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., the black Democrat from Memphis whose campaign for the Senate this year has kept the Republicans on the defensive in a state where they never expected to have trouble holding the seat.

Ford is up against Bob Corker, a wetlands-selling businessman, white skin, white hair, almost seeming like an incumbant especially because it's an open seat being relinquished by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Harold is running pretty conservative except on abortion -- for border control, against gay marriage, traditional Southern positions with a dash on Libertarian.

The Corker campaign, lately, seems to be running on mud. Per its accusers, the race-baiting kind.

The Republican National Committee began running the controversial ad this past week, where actors portray "people on the street" interviews cut rapidly, all a little broadly acted, beginning by slamming Ford's good looks. But the real heat:
The controversy erupted over one of the people featured: an attractive white woman, bare-shouldered, who declares that she met Mr. Ford at a “Playboy party,” and closes the commercial by looking into the camera and saying, with a wink, “Harold, call me.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Ford, who is single, said he was one of 3,000 people who attended a Playboy party at the Super Bowl last year in Jacksonville, Fla.

The most offensive part of the clip, no longer readily available on the Internet, can be seen in this Wolf Blitzer interview with Corker. As Atrios puts it:
In the Northeast the appeal to racism involves a general association between being black and urban criminality.

In the South it apparently involves the notion that black men are jungle animals who are going to sleep with all "your" white women, who will all be overcome by their animal magnetism.

If anyone has their doubts about what the RNC is intentionally doing here, check out the radio spot they started running this week as well. From TPM Cafe:
It actually has what sounds like tom-tom drums playing in the background every time the ad talks about Dem Harold Ford, Jr. The ad -- which says it was paid for by the campaign of GOP Senate candidate Bob Corker -- can be heard right here. When the ad mentions Corker, the music soars and no tom-toms are audible. Throughout the entire minute-long ad, you hear the rumble of tom-toms every time Ford is mentioned.

Here's their link to the audio. I mean, it's like listening to the New York Dolls' "Stranded in the Jungle".

Ford has responded quickly with this confident three-shot rebuttal, all on him "Kicking The Dog". You can see his conservative angle, and by not addressing the attack ad directly, just allows Ford to present himself as the most civilized opposite of the jungle caricature.

Meanwhile, both Corker and Ken Mehlman have done their damnedest to act like neither on of them had anything to do with the TV ad. Mehlman went so far as to pretend to Tim Russert that he has no control over the committee of which he is chairman, the RNC which (by law) has its credit on the ad.

There's been no escaping the public culpability, though, as evidenced by the RNC's sudden replacement of the offending "white woman" shot towards the end with a slick looking man in black shirt and shades saying, "So he took money from porn movie producers, I mean, who hasn't ha ha ha." Check it out here for yourself.

What strikes me at the end of this ad is the chirpy cartoon music, as if it's okay to smear Ford with that smug racism because it's all done in a teasing tone. You know, you don't talk about it but everybody knows, winks to each other, silently agrees.

Then there's the lettering at the end. Hard black background. Harold's name in white...but the subhead, "He's just not right," in grey. Dusky. And what the hell does "just not right" mean? "Just not white?"

While the ads are still being spotted here and there, there's been some backlash including, again per TPM Cafe:
At least two Tennessee stations are refusing to run a new Republican National Committee ad attacking Dem Harold Ford, Jr., saying that they want more factual documentation of the ads from the RNC before running them, a Ford senior adviser, Tom Lee, has told Election Central.

And ABC News claims that:
Late today the Republican National Committee said the controversial commercial will be dropped, and while officials still defend it, they acknowledge the negative response forced their hand.

Even Chris Matthews, bless him, says the Corker ad campaign is out-and-out racism, no bones about it, no place in a campaign.

You might have thought Chris was right, by this day and age. But if Corker and George "macacca" Allen win, maybe there's a whole lotta juice left in that Southern strategy.

And, if those are indeed the results two weeks from now, what does that say about the Virginia and/or Tennessee electorate?

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I don't care how many races are won by tight margins or how many polls show this or that Dem so many safe points ahead. There are no safe points. There is no winning by just this much. There is only smashing the opponent with everything we've got and hoping they don't have enough to best us on the counterattack. There is only the Overvote.

The Overvote means that so many citizens vote for the good guys (okay, the ones I want to win) that they overwhelm even the stealing of votes by Republicans with the Diebold machines in their garages or the Republicans with the exceptional Get Out The Vote drive. The Overvote means you never rest on your laurels, you never give an inch, you fight back even when there seems to be a lull, you all get your asses out to the polls and vote vote vote!

The Overvote is the only potential remedy (in time, at least) to this or to this.

Voting in America?


Monday, October 23, 2006

Hard Architecture

After seeing The Departed last night I feel duty-bound to tell you what I thought about it, what I'm still thinking about it, but the picture is so damned fast and furious that all I can give you are some positive impressions and not a lot of deeper understanding of the movie. This one I may have to see twice, but I sure don't want to do it right away. The movie is too seductive.

I've got a little theory about master filmmakers, the ones who sometimes make you utter "genius!" and the problem we have when all their pictures don't give you the same buzz as the ones they made that you hold all their others up against. The theory is that you have to give them a little critical leeway, on the off-chance that nobody's perfect. Even Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Bunuel, Stanley Kubrick, John Ford, even Akira Kurosawa doesn't hit every picture out of the park.

How many masterpieces is the limit for a feature film directing genius. Four? Six? For fans like us, you go along a particular filmmaker because you like his or her point of view and you want to see what they say next. You enjoy their company. You're glad their contributing to the cultural discourse and maybe the two of you share a sense of humor.

I remember getting all teary-eyed at the end of John Huston's final movie, the James Joyce short story adaptation, The Dead. I was fortunate enough to be alive for his late classics -- Prizzi's Honor, Under the Volcano, Wise Blood -- not all masterpieces, but all an extraordinary night out at the cinema. The picture, which opened four months after Huston's death in December 1987, is a gorgeous final bauble, mainly in real-time, an Irish dinner party of lost souls with an incredible singing scene in the middle and an elegiac somberness that was shot fluidly, vividly, alive.

So the sadness I felt for Mr. Huston was a sadness for a voice gone, a companion lost. You had to feel this guy died vindicated over and over again -- great directors rarely make a last movie that good, and him on an oxygen tank at 81 hard-lived years old.

Here comes Marty Scorsese, so many Oscars unrewarded, four or five certifiable masterpieces (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, King of Comedy, Goodfellas and maybe Kundun) under his belt. Lunchtime critics may feel superior because this or that picture didn't work perfectly, but he's an artist, and artists never phone it in. They may repeat themselves, they may slightly disappoint you here or there, but they always have their moments.

I thought The Aviator was a terrific movie and kinda hoped it would beat Million Dollar Baby for Best Picture, but I understand why it didn't and still think it's an amazing picture, with a particularly inspired ending. The Aviator had so much to say about the ambition it takes to make history and its cost, and since it is based a true story, it should and in some ways does have the benefit of gravitas over The Departed which is, after all, just based on a 2002 Hong Kong thriller (Andy Lau's wildly impressive Infernal Affairs).

But in terms of Scorsese's career, this new one is simply his most unabashedly entertaining night at the movies since Goodfellas (1990).

Pretty much all of Marty's movies, even Cape Fear, are more about character than plot. He's always been more interested in showing us his convincing vision of how things really work than in making events fit a classic Hollywood storyline. What gives his pictures such a dynamic kick is that he's one of the greatest students of Hollywood who has ever lived. You see it in the lighting in Raging Bull, in the climactic Liza Minelli number in New York, New York, how he handles the biggest stars alive by simultaneously magnifying their legend while making us think we know them better.

Since The Departed wisely keeps the crackerjack original plot intact or improved, it's really the lethal focus of the movie. How many times have I heard "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones but now I can't get out of my head how he uses it near the start, how it signals everything that's wrong with Jack (Nicholson as mob boss Frank Costello). The picture is cut so sharply that the 2 1/2 hours fly by like half the time, and at the end you feel suckerpunched but aren't quite sure why. I mean, it doesn't seem that deep.

I think there are maybe three reasons why it may be deeper than first glance.

For one, the story transplant to not just Boston but the Boston Irish world, Southie boys turned cops and hoods. On one hand, it's Angels with Dirty Faces all over again, even the main character names being similar and I'll be damned if DiCaprio didn't study James Cagney for this role (that's a compliment), but on the other it's Scorsese social anthropology all over again only with Irish rather than Italian Catholics.

Number two, the movie has the courage of its dramatic convictions in the Jacobean revenge play kind of way. Adapting screenwriter William Monahan (Kingdom of Heaven) has fashioned a classical structure -- not merely a classic Hollywood script structure -- and I think it resonates.

Number three, there's a lot of little allusions and layers hidden in there. In his big film documentary Marty explains how the filmmakers from "A" to "B" grades throughout Hollywood history have hidden messages and tropes in even the most studio of product, and as he's taken the opportunity here to reference James Joyce himself ("departed" is standard Irish Catholic for dead), I imagine there are more depths to plumb in a second viewing. There's certainly a wealth of doubling and criss-cross imagery, but I swear I was just keeping up most of the time; it's that kind of ride.

So I can't go deep into what he did with the camera on one viewing, just impressions of hard architecture and circular traps. I can't comment on the final image without spoiling something, but I think it's a bold move. For a sixty-four year old guy, Scorsese is making it more exciting and unexpectedly relevant than all of the guys half his age.

Which brings me to some closing thoughts on the acting, and the direction of actors. It's demonstrable now that Leonardo has brought as much to Marty as he's gotten in return -- the two of them have made Scorsese young again. I have know idea how they actually work together, but if a rumor about the director dressing down the young actor for misbehavior on the Rome set of Gangs is true, maybe something clicked then and Leonardo's allegiance has been a gift to everyone.

There's not a bad casting decision in the entire picture, with the thrill of these two icons of 70's breakthrough filmmaking (Marty and Jack) working together for the first time, with Martin Sheen and Nicholson facing off like the two old Irish acting successes they are, with Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin getting all the best lines, with Ray Winstone walking away with scenes and both Kevin Corrigan and Anthony Anderson putting in welcome, memorable bits. DiCaprio hits maybe his best groove since What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Matt Damon gives a classic ambiguous villain performance, daring to be just enough less sympathetic, in the long run, than his corresponding character in the original. He scores (sic) strongest in his flirting/wooing scenes with Vera Farmiga, a clever go-getter routine, and it's their scenes that make it a date movie.

Because Mr. Scorsese has a find with Ms. Farmiga, who's scored in a few indies but is about to break out, bigtime. Smart smart smart, sexy sexy sexy, with piercing blue eyes and a kind of Klute era Jane Fonda bone structure. As the woman in the middle, it could so easily be a thankless role, but between her performance and the screenwriting here, it isn't. She even gets a killer Third Man moment of her own.

So that's it. Not too deep, hopefully no real spoilers. It's a hard rockin' time, and maybe not all that much more than that.

But who cares -- rock and roll will never die, baby.

Those aren't bullets. That's the soundtrack.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


As in, "Lying..."
During an interview today on ABC's This Week, President Bush tried to distance himself from what has been his core strategy in Iraq for the last three years. George Stephanopoulos asked about James Baker'’s plan to develop a strategy for Iraq that is "between 'stay the course' and 'cut and run.'"

Bush responded, "We'’ve never been stay the course, George!"

The sociopathic ease with which it rolls of his tongue is as impressive as it is chilling, considering his position.

There is no reach-around.

If you think you can stomach it, you can find a longer excerpt from the interview here at Crooks and Liars, the full snake oil pitch.

The usual smugness seems a little forced and I swear I can tell he's slipping, he's not liking looking like he's needing adult supervision, when Stephanopoulos gets around to The Baker Commission.

The other thing that jumped waaaaay out at me was near the end of the clip where he says, "The fundamental question the American people have to make (sic) is d-- (like he was about to say 'do we cut 'n' run') should we stay?"

His stumble seems to indicate his discomfort with the question, as he tries to hold his grinning mask, a couple quick shifts in the sentence for the audience, no doubt. But what really struck me was the content: I thought he was "The Decider?"

Why is he suddenly shifting responsibility back on us?

Get ready for the Great Bush Responsibility Walkaway. The very next stretch is where he again admits (proudly, almost gleefully) that he intends to leave the Iraq problem for his successor.

From our President of the United States: an un-AAed, un-therapized dry-drunk's sense of responsibility.

Of truth.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wirestar Gallactica

There's the daily staple of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to keep me sane; then there's the delectable, epicurian feasts that come once a week from two of the best dramas arguable ever broadcast on U.S. television, The Wire and Battlestar Gallactica. Regular readers know I've written about them before, but I'm inspired anew by each to make this posting. (SPOILERS for this week's Battlestar below.)

One of the scariest supporting roles this year actually opened the season with a bi-level conversation at a home improvements store, where "Snoop" bought a nail gun to use in her job as hit-person for a young druglord. A lot of my friends have mistaken Snoop for a guy, and they're not to be faulted. The actress, Felicia Pearson, is an authentic product of the Baltimore streets, as profiled by the New York Times in a fascinating piece that just ran:
"I was a crack baby," Ms. Pearson said by telephone from Baltimore. "I was, like, three pounds, and I had to get fed with an eyedropper." She started selling drugs at 10 and at 14 was locked up for more than seven years after shooting a woman. "I grew up not giving a damn about anything, because why give a damn if you are in a foster home and your parents didn’t care anything about you?" Ms. Pearson said. She added that she had so many drugs in her system when she was born that she was cross-eyed as a child. "Kids would tease me, saying that I’m cross-eyed and don’t have a real mother, and all those kids who said those mean things, I beat the hell out of them," she said.

Hmm, seems it makes sense to be especially polite to Ms. Pearson should you be fortunately enough to meet her...

Felicia was discovered at a Baltimore nightclub by Michael K. Williams, who so charistmatically plays the fan-adored Omar character on the show. He brought her to the show's producers and the rest is history in the making.

The Wire is skipping a week, so there won't be a new episode tonight, but I got a jolly fix of epic episodic with Friday's highly climactic Battlestar Gallactica blast.

(It's SPOILERVILLE from hereon -- not total, but if you're a die-hard fan waiting to see the ep, hold off on reading.)

It's no secret that the show is highly political and highly charged on a mirror-reflection of the current Iraq War. Only this week, the occupiers lost, big-time. While the humans engineered a masterful evacuation of what had become their prison planet, the Cylons were forced to, ultimately, cut and run.

Precognition, maybe?

While the sheer cajones of playing out the dramatic conceit as we read about civil war openly engaged in southern Iraq, American "arrogance" and "stupidity" (from one of our own senior diplomats), and a Presidente forced to make press releases about a tactics conference while categorically refusing to alter strategy is momentous enough, I was equally struck by the pictoral ambition.

This write-up on the episode covers all the major plot bases (and biblical references), but best of all there are links to two incredible clips of the rescue operation that had been built to for so long. Both of them have the strong special effects that make the world of the show seem so real, but on such a phenomenal scale that it harkens way, way back to the best science fiction covers of the old pulp magazines.

In fact, the Pegasus sequence in particular is like a Robert Heinlein story come to life. The hardware looks all the more real (as it is blasted into pieces) because of the handheld/documentary style shooting on the show. In a sense it does those old Astounding sci-fi covers a greater service by not presenting the scenes in pristine, obviously composed manner. You're in a world beyond your imagination, but you're right there in the mix.

Bottom line is that both shows are not only appealingly political, but they have the texture of authenticity. Is it so much to ask for even from any hour of televised dramatic entertainment -- the real deal?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Reality Check

The snark's on hold tonight. A loyal (and resourceful!) reader sent me the following link, to a real behind-the-headlines short video made by a British photojournalist, Sean Smith, who was evidently embedded with some American troops in Iraq.

It's called "Iraq: The Real Story" and it sure reminded me how much my mental picture of what's happening in-country is imagined based on news articles. The overwhelming sense is pointlessness -- as he says in the narration, all Iraqis are suspects and you watch the U.S. soldiers arresting the very Iraqi troops they're supposed to train to "stand up so we can stand down."

What's clear now is that "Stay the Course" is as meaningless a construction as "Cut and Run" as there is no course other than treading water and nothing to really run from when the only strategy is futility.

I urge you to watch the video, as it's not long, uses an old song from the Vietnam War era to resonant effect, and clears up any misconceptions you might have about the type of warfare being engaged in over there these days. In fact, watching the video, you'll see plenty of reason for things to get worse for our stalwart troops.

And maybe after watching the video, you'll be even more shocked that this man isn't in exile, jail or an insane asylum, when he insists yet again that he's never going to change.

Oh, and this guy, too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Circular Squad

According to Friday's New York Times, there's a circular firing squad forming over this mid-term election, and for the first time I can remember, it isn't the Democrats who are shooting each other over their failure to win.

It's Republicans, various brands of conservatives, blaming each other for an election they haven't even lost yet!

The article has the Social Conservatives (outlaw gay marriage, abortion, good TV shows) vs. the Neoconservatives (invade Iraq, nuke Iran, make the U.S. a global pariah) vs. the Economic Conservatives (cut taxes so only those wealthy enough to have a safety net, social services or economic justice gets any).

Okay, okay, I'm not just biased, the article's giving me license to gloat, and that's a very dangerous emotion three weeks before an election. And even if Karl Rove doesn't steal by Diebold or strategic vote contesting or even win squarely on GOTV (Get Out The Vote -- the GOP has the most technologically advanced GOTV in human history), there's no gloating really, because one election is only the first step towards saving our nation.

In the meantime, check out these poll-dragging bickerers:
In the case of the Republican Party this year, the skirmish among conservatives over what is going wrong has begun unusually early and turned unusually personal.

From Dick Armey, one-time rightwing Congressman, an evangelical who's outspoken against the Religious Right:
“The Republicans are talking about things like gay marriage and so forth, and the Democrats are talking about the things people care about, like how do I pay my bills?” he said.

If you had asked me 10 years ago, I'd have that when Dick Armey is talking sense, it's the First Horseman of the Apocalypse.
“Economic conservatives,” he argued, were emerging as the swing voters in need of attention, in part because they had become more likely to vote Democratic in the years since President Bill Clinton was in office. “A lot of people believe he brought us from deficits to surpluses, and there is a certain empirical evidence there,” Mr. Armey acknowledged.

That's right -- remember prosperity? Like we might have had under President Gore?

Meanwhile, with the Iraq War no longer deniable by anyone but El Presidente as a disaster, here's how the Neoconservatives are rationalizing their role:
“There is a bit of a battle between people who say, Hey, your tax cuts wrecked our war and people who say, Hey, your war wrecked our tax cuts,” said David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter who was among the war’s proponents.

How about, "Both ideas suck!"

Then there are those pesky Social Conservatives not satisfied enough at, say, the Terry Schiavo intervention that made so many freedom-loving Americans wonder why the hell Congress was intervening in a single tragic family matter:
Christian conservatives began complaining last year that the Republicans had put proposed Social Security changes and tax changes ahead of issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, risking the support of social-issue voters.

Hey, here's a clue: That's because for knuckle-under rich guys like Bush and Cheney, what they really care about is increasing the wealth and power of their own oligarchical class -- at the expense of everybody else.

I mean, look at that phrase they love to use as a weapon against any Iraq War critic, "Support the Troops."

F-you, George W. Bush, if this is how you Support the Troops.

If the GOP loses one or both Houses of Congress on November 7th, it'll be because there's only one way they know how to govern.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Politi-flicks: Chicks

Twenty million. That's the number of women who could have voted in the last Presidential election but didn't.

An organization called WVWV -- Women's Voices. Women Vote -- wants women to know about this and improve their participation in the electorate. To this end they've created a series of ads featuring female stars like Angie Harmon, Felicity Huffman, Regina King, Rosario Dawson, Tyne Daly, Lauren Graham, Marg Helgenberger and Daphne Zuniga, all urging women to use their power in the voting booth.

The most arresting of these ads is called "My First Time" linked here on YouTube. It's wall-to-wall double entendres, more sex winks than in an entire James Bond movie, but there's no denying the passion these actors communicate on the way to the "VOTE November 7" punchline.

You can check out the rest of their spots on the organization's dedicated website here.

While Diebold-rigging and voter roll-purging can chip away at my sense of patriotism, there's some sort of 7th grade civics class reverence for the inaliable right to pull that lever (the way we did it back in Delmar, NY) that gives me the tingles. It's important to remember that so many people fought and lost their lives over the simple right to vote, not the least of which was the U.S.A. circa 1776 and, later, African-Americans during the Civil Rights era.

So there's a corresponding sense of disgust when I read that Rush Limbaugh is devoting his not insubstantial bullhorn to smearing the WVWV organization and, by extension, their essentially non-partisan message. Is it because women, particularly married women, are not polling the way Rush and his team would like this cycle?

Finally, there's another video on the web from a previous election, aimed at younger women voters, which in hip fashion recalls the entire history of voter enfranchisement, starting with the original rules under which this nation worked. It's called "Chicks Rock", and reminds us that what Rush may wish to suppress took 150 years to amend into our Constitution.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Here's a story that's been making the rounds, but this version has the best picture.

It seems that in Afghanistan, they grow some "killer weed":
Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of 10-feet-high marijuana plants.

And that's a problem?
"We tried burning them with white phosphorous -- it didn't work. We tried burning them with diesel -- it didn't work. The plants are so full of water right now ... that we simply couldn't burn them," he (General Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defense staff) said.

Now that's a problem!
"A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hillier said dryly.

Oh, you Canadians.


Monday, October 16, 2006


What's one way to make politics entertaining without sexy emails or cigars?

When you get to point out the idiots. The ones somehow elected or appointed to power.

Radar has a highly entertaining list of "America's Dumbest Congressmen: Radar ranks the 10 biggest fools on the Hill". The hall of shame, in order of increasing moronity:

10. Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Bunning is a Hall of Fame pitcher who, during his eight years in office, has shown "little interest in legislation that doesn't concern baseball," writes Time magazine.

9. Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)
This May, the tow-headed son of the ruddy senior senator from Massachusetts plowed his car into a barrier—and himself into infamy—while under the spell of an Ambien-fueled hallucination. He then attempted to convince Capitol police he was late for a floor vote at 3 o'clock in the morning.

8. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT)
One favorite was his reference, in an immigration speech, to the "nice little Guatemalan man" who does yardwork around his estate (the long-suffering Burns press office was forced to issue a follow-up statement clarifying the cute little brown fella's legal status).

7. Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
First there was her notorious encounter with a Capitol Hill police officer who dared to ask her for ID. After brazenly ignoring several polite requests, the caterwauling congresswoman responded by walloping the officer in the chest. During the ensuing fracas she complained that she was persecuted for "being in Congress while black."

6. Representative Jean Schmidt (R-OH)
"The Iraqi's perception is that we're all powerful," Schmidt wrote in a recent newsletter, offering her thumbnail portrait of the noble savages. "We watch them from space with technology they cannot even imagine ... They know we can do anything."

5. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
(Guess they desperately needed "balance.")
"Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, 'Thank God I'm still alive.' But of course those who died, their lives will never be the same again."

4. Representative J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ)
Over the years, he racked up more than $150,000 from Jack Abramoff's clients, $64,520 in the last election cycle alone, second in the House only to Majority Leader Dennis Hastert. Alone among Congress members, though, Hayworth has refused to return any of the tainted funds, offering only this rationale: the donors don't want the money back.

3. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)
Inhofe is best known for his categorical claim that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people"—a rhetorical flourish he recently refined by likening climate change theories to Nazi propaganda. And here's the scary part: Those are the sentiments of our chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

2. Representative Donald Young (R-AK)
Congressman Don Young, already in office for 20 years, is on the stump preaching the virtues of Newt Gingrich's Republican revolution to a group of high school students. Just look at all the wasteful things the federal government does with taxpayers' money, he tells them. The National Endowment for the Arts, for example, funds art involving "people doing offensive things ... things that are absolutely ridiculous." One student asks, "Like what?"

"Buttfucking," replies the great scourge of obscenity and instructor of youth.

1.Representative Katherine Harris (R-FL)
If dumb Congress members were the X-Men, Harris would be their Wolverine—a mutant possessing fearsome skills, the product of a demented government experiment gone horribly wrong...

...Running for re-election in 2004, she told voters in Venice, Florida, that a "Middle Eastern" man had been arrested for trying to blow up the power grid of Carmel, Indiana. Neither the mayor of Carmel nor the governor of Indiana—nor anyone else acquainted with reality—had any idea what Harris was talking about.

But my favorite airhead in a position waaaay over his head is hairjob Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary, the man most charged on a daily basis with speaking for the President himself to gaggles of reporters.

From today's Editor & Publisher:
At his daily briefing today at the White House, Press Secretary Tony Snow fielded a barrage of questions related to the recent upsurge in U.S. deaths in Iraq and worries that the Iraqi government is failing to stem the tide of violence. Suddenly one reporter put the issue squarely: “Sorry. Just the simple question: Are we winning?”

Snow punted.

“We're making progress,” he replied. “I don't know. How do you define ‘winning’?

Hey, clueless, I'll buy you a vowel.

We've lost.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Back in the mid-to-late 1970's popular music was in a very bad place. Rock 'n Roll had gotten so bloated from success, the righteousness of 1960's youth now drug-tolled rock star entitlement. God bless the art rockers, but by the millionth concept album and noodling perversion of Chuck Berry into "Rock" without the Roll opened the door to two new forms whose success wasn't, for the first time, made on the radio.

On one side you had Disco, a wealth of independently made dance records breaking out in the clubs, those Friday and Saturday nights fevers. On the other side you had the singles, more than half of them imported from England, and LP's bought at those satellite independent record stores that disseminated Punk Rock in America.

At the heart of it all, including the bands like The Ramones that toured England starting July 4, 1976 and directly inspired the future Sex Pistols and Clash in their audiences, was that skankhole of a club in the then threatful heart of New York City, The Bowery.

Tonight, CBGB closed.

For 33 years legendary owner Hilly Kristal, now 75 years-old, has managed to keep the place open, but it's gentrification City now and The Patti Smith Band, the first act to make it big out of the 1975 ignited scene, played out the last night. It's painful not to have been there, or for Deborah Harry and Chris Stein's solo acoustic set last night. Those two are, 'course, the core of Blondie, which was the group to make it the biggest from the original gang, and the act to first get the notion that Punk and Disco were on Parallel Lines.

Richard Hell, best known for his name fronting The Voidoids ("Love Comes in Spurts") but originally in the 5-man starter version of Television, the officially first band to play the new sound at the venue, has a nice elegy in the NY Times. He writes:
On practically any weekend from 1974 to 76 you could see one or more of the following groups (here listed in approximate chronological order) in the often half-empty 300-capacity club: Television, the Ramones, Suicide, the Patti Smith Group, Blondie, the Dictators, the Heartbreakers, Talking Heads, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Dead Boys. Not to mention some often equally terrific (or equally pathetic) groups that aren'’t as well remembered, like the Miamis and the Marbles and the Erasers and the Student Teachers. Nearly all the members of these bands treated the club as a headquarters --— as home. It was a private world. We dreamed it up. It flowered out of our imaginations.

The behemoth pop record industry didn't make Punk, it was a bunch of outsiders in their teens and twenties.

I'll never forget the day I took my earnings from dishwashing at The Honeybee Diner next door to Recordtown at Delaware Shopping Center in Delmar, NY, and bought two new records. The first was Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Works Vol. 2.

The other was Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols.

Guess which record I sold used a year later.

Guess which record changed history.

Back then we never imagined the impact what fast became "our music" would have on global culture. Or, more correctly, we originally imagined every kid in America would instantly hear the call and, like was happening in England, instantly upend the rock industry hegemony, toss out the dinosaur bands and make way for the new tunes, the truth.

It didn't happen that quickly. Patti Smith found the Punk/New Wave ceiling on the charts at #14 with "Because the Night" (and this co-written with Bruce Springsteen). FM stations that sufficiently, even enthusiastically aired the first breakthroughs like Talking Heads and Elvis Costello switched formats reactionary style after the six months when the first records first were rolling out at the big labels, if even. In my high school, Punk Rock was called "Fag Rock" by the jocks who turned up their Led Zepellin.

It took half a generation for the movement to percolate through the culture. In 1991, Nirvana's Nevermind became ostensibly the first legitimate "Punk" album to hit #1, and in 1994 Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction became the first Punk sensibility-infused movie everybody went to see. Both works were D.I.Y. and carried on the trademark edge. If I have to define it for you, you won't understand.

I count myself fortunate enough to have seen so many of those seminal CBGB bands, some multiple times -- Patti Smith, Ramones, Talking Heads, Television all different places from Albany, NY in 1978 to San Francisco 2001 -- and, having run to Manhattan straight after college, spent a number of memorable nights at CBGB in the 1980's, maybe the third wave.

Earlier this year I was in NYC, having heard of their imminent demise, and had enough time to beeline by CBGB during the day. The doors were open (Hilly was out) and while there were a few changes in the sixteen-odd years since my last encounter, it couldn't have been more the same place. There was an undermanaged coffeeshop/t-shirt and fashion items store next door, and in the joint itself several hundred additional layers of graffiti and dried sweat. The same almost non-existent backstage (the green room is just three walls open on the narrow hallway) and long, woody bar. The same small, half-elevated stage and long, ungenerous audience pit. The same odor of beer, beer, beer.

I was in a sportscoat and slacks, dressed for some biz meeting and, fittingly, on the way front from backstage I ran across a family from Austin, TX doing the same memory trip as me, dad and mom and two tween boys in shorts. Turns out the father, maybe a little younger than me, was a huge Ramones fan, his wife told me first. I stepped onto the stage on my way through and their two towheads did the same. The guy and I reminisced about great bands, a little on Austin where Punk Rock also helped propel me for six months in 1984, all good stuff, but we were feeling eulogy.

It's a safe bet everyone feels some sort of bittersweetness for their youth; bitter for it being gone, sweetness for having experienced something worth a pine or two. I hate to valorize our moment over any other, but it was the last time a newly infectious rock & roll form was a threat. Now bankers blast Green Day and my 3-year-old isn't the only one with a Ramones shirt. Their catalog generates more royalties than ever, with "Blitzkrieg Bop" licensed all over TV and Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" used in two separate TV commercial campaigns. Punk has obviously influenced fashion, motion pictures, critical thinking, political activism. Most of the bands are gone now, but their sound is more contemporary than ever, because back then they were clamoring to blast out of the past and invent the future.

Owner Kristal is salvaging as much of the interior as he can, including the urinals (nice!) in a plan to reopen CBGB in Las Vegas, where he's already receiving the help of the L.V. Mayor, something about a new walking district, probably a brilliant idea. Vegas' wealth is making it America's museum of choice anyway, and I can't imagine it couldn't book bands, do a profitable business, and smell a hell of a lot better than the original.

But until proven otherwise, it's tangential to the movement, to core of which is an attitude for which everyone owes Hilly so much for opening his doors to, an attitude that hopefully infuses Nettertainment and to which we do no disservice.

Yes, times have changed, but what seemed revolutionary then seems necessary now. Hell, if Hilly makes good on his promise to reopen in Vegas with the original urinals, and I have some godforsaken reason to be in that town, I'll make a beeline.

After all, as the Ramones told us right at the start:

"Hey! Ho! Let's go!"


The BushCo smears of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA),ranking member on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee who served 37 years in the Marine Corps, for his speaking out against the Iraq War is a shanda on all of America. In today's Washington Post, Murtha shows how well he can handle himself, turning around the "Defeatocrat" label on the GOP with chainsaw. Excerpts (and the whole piece is thrilling):
The administration's use of Rovian catchphrases is nothing but propaganda designed to stifle the loyal opposition. We Democrats are determined to restore our nation's military strength, refocus on the real terrorist threat, bolster security safeguards at home and reestablish the credible standing we once had in the world. That is not defeatist. It is a call to formulate and execute a winning game plan for the War on Terror.

He goes into his regretted vote to authorize Bush on the War and gets to:
In the past nine months alone, $962 billion has been appropriated for the Defense Department, $190 billion for the war effort. A vast majority of Democrats voted for the funding. Democrats also identified shortfalls in body armor, armored vehicles and electronic jammers to defeat roadside bombs. Democrats uncovered problems with the military readiness of our ground forces in the United States and fought for measures to restore it. That's hardly defeatist.

After going through a list of all the retired generals speaking out against the war, Murtha reminds us:
The United States is about to begin its fifth year of occupation and fighting in Iraq. That makes this war longer than U.S. participation in World Wars I and II, and longer than the Korean War and our own Civil War. With every year of occupation, our efforts to fight global terrorism and our military's readiness to fight future wars have further deteriorated, along with our standing in the world. Meanwhile, the radical Islamic cause wins more and more recruits.

He goes through the nightmare statistics, some of which we've been sharing on Nettertainment, and then takes the battle right back to Bush's Brain himself:
Now, Karl Rove may call me a defeatist, but can anyone living in the real world deny that these statistics are heading in the wrong direction? Yet despite this bleak record of performance, the president continues to stand by his team of failed architects, preferring to prop them up instead of demanding accountability.

Democrats are fighting a war on two fronts: One is combating the spin and intimidation that defines this administration. The other is fighting to change course, to do things better, to substitute smart, disciplined strategy for dogma and denial in Iraq.

That's not defeatism. That's our duty.

That's one older tough Dem. Here's what's coming down the pike, the type of newly minted Democratic candidate that gives me hope this election cycle.

John Tester is running against Sen. Conrad Burns in that supposed red-state Montana, where Democratic Governor Bill Schweitzer is earning the citizen's widespread approbation. Tester is currently leading Burns in the polls. It doesn't help Burns that he is under investigation now, or that he's a batshit crazy old coot, but check out this video excerpt from their recent debate and see if Tester gives you the goosebumps like you haven't had in awhile with a Dem candidate.

Murtha and Tester -- clear-thinking, clear-speaking, tough guys on a mission.

Bring it home on November 7th.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


From The Cook Political Report -- "Charlie Cook's National Overview":
Let's get the disclaimer out of the way: there are 25 days between now and the November 7 election and things could well change, making what follows obsolete.

That said, this is without question the worst political situation for the GOP since the Watergate disaster in 1974. I think a 30-seat gain today for Democrats is more likely to occur than a 15-seat gain, the minimum that would tip the majority. The chances of that number going higher are also strong, unless something occurs that fundamentally changes the dynamic of this election. This is what Republican strategists' nightmares look like.

As always, follow the money:
On a conference call today, James Carville suggested that the Democratic Party should expand beyond just the top targeted races. He believes the party should help fund previously ignored Democratic challengers in second- and third-tier districts--the next 30 to 50 Republican-held seats--to fully capitalize on this environment and help those candidates maximize their chances of winning. Carville went as far as to suggest Democrats go to the bank and borrow $5 million. If I were them, I'd make it $10 million and put $500,000 each of these 20 districts.

Meanwhile, on the GOP side, according to The Washington Post:
Faced with a deteriorating political climate, Republican Party officials are hoping to keep control of the House and Senate with a strategy aimed at shoring up enough endangered incumbents to preserve their majorities, while scaling back planned spending on races that now appear unwinnable.

They aren't giving hard-right Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) any more dough now that he looks helpless against the Dem challenger. Per TPM Muckraker:
The national GOP isn't giving any money to help GOP Senator Rick Santorum hang on to his seat against Dem Bob Casey, raising questions about whether national Republican strategists have privately given up on the incumbent's campaign. Today's Patriot-News reports that neither the RNC nor the NRSC has reserved any air time at Pennsylvania TV stations for "independent expenditure ads for Santorum or against Casey.

Where is the national Republican operation moving its dollars? Talkingpointsmemo reader DK reports they spent $9.3 million today on races they shouldn't have to be fighting -- but because the Dems in each are coming on strong:
A whopping 99% of today's expenditure was for negative advertising.

What the heck, they've got nothing else to run on. Literally.

Look, I'm with Charlie. No chicken counting yet, not with their vaunted Get Out the Vote operation and their Diebold machines everywhere and their warships headed to Iran.

But it can't be a great run-up to an election when a month before the election your Party's headlines are investigation, investigation, conviction, insanity and failure.

My advice for the Dems is to take nothing for granted, but if your foot is on the GOP neck, start pressing.


Thursday, October 12, 2006


How do you spell A-B-J-E-C-T F-A-I-L-U-R-E?

Would it be an surging deathrate of American soldiers so long after "Mission Accomplished"?
At least 44 U.S. troops have been killed so far in October. At the current pace, the month would be the deadliest for U.S. forces since January 2005. After falling to 43 in July, the U.S. toll rose in August and September before spiking this month. The war's average monthly U.S. death toll is 64.

The number of U.S. troops wounded in combat also has surged, with September's total of more than 770 the highest since November 2004, when U.S. forces launched a ground offensive to clear insurgents from Falluja.

Or maybe it would be in murdered journalists?
Suspected Shiite militiamen, some dressed as police, broke into a television station and gunned down 11 Iraqi executives, producers and other staffers Thursday — the deadliest attack against the media in this country, where at least 81 other journalists have been killed in the past three years.

The station, Shaabiya, was new and had not started full broadcasting.

Ninety-two (92) dead Iraqi newspeople since our "Mission Accomplished" party. And this batch not even all on-air yet.

Maybe you'd measure it in bodies by the dozen:
Most of the victims found dumped in Baghdad's streets had been shot in the head execution-style and bore signs of torture, typical features of sectarian death squad killings that the Interior Ministry says claim about 50 lives a day. A ministry official had earlier reported the discovery of 60 bodies in the 24 hours leading up to Tuesday morning, but a further 50 were found during the day, officials said.

Ah, that Mission, what was it again? Per David Ignatius:
The situation is deteriorating so fast that even radical militia leaders are said to be complaining about the anarchy. Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite firebrand who heads the militia known as the Mahdi Army, recently told a top official of the Iraqi intelligence service that "an increasing number of Shia death squads, operating under the name of his Mahdi Army, are Iranian pasdaran [Revolutionary Guards] staff officers and Hezbollah fighters, who are executing operational activities that he is not aware of, nor can he control," according to one U.S. source.

I think we can all agree, you're in a real-life horror movie when even Moqtada al-Sadr is worried.

Maybe your Mission ends with you leaving behind some semblance of a democratically elected government, maybe you have to accept de-facto partition, maybe the country you decimated goes through it's little civil war and the government comes out intact. Mission...sort of...oh can't we just leave and call it Accomplished?

Or maybe the government you shed so much blood to establish is overturned before you even leave:
Bush administration officials have been puzzling over why the coup rumors have become so widespread in Baghdad. One reason is that Iraqis remember the country's history of coups, including the 1958 putsch that overthrew the monarchy and the one in 1968 that brought the Baath Party to power.

Or maybe it's just in pure human slaughter:
Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.

The survey was done by Iraqi physicians and overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings are being published online today by the British medical journal the Lancet.

It's hard to take. Although I may write every day against the bloodthirsty criminals, traitors and enablers who allowed us to reach this diminished place in the world, this nadir of moral authority, it's no fun being a citizen of the country responsible for all this human slaughter, with our bombs, guns and what we've triggered in our recklessness.

Now's the time to show we're committed to a new direction, and hope God and the rest of the world eventually forgives us.

There's only one mission that needs to be accomplished over the next twenty-six (26) days.

Your move.


Yep, I'm late to the party but the timing seems right. Battlestar Galactica on the SciFi Channel before Friday, seems to me the other really serious show on television right now, and like The Wire when I say serious, I mean politically riveting.

If you've never seen it, you should give it a shot. It's Fridays at 9PM but they repeat it a bit all week and you might even be able to catch this season's 2-hour opener before this Friday's new episode.

Based on what I, as a teenager, considered a lame 1970's Star Trek wannabe starring Lorne Green of the mega-long running series, Bonanza, the current storyline picks up forty years later and looks like tomorrow's television show.

The gist is that the Cylons, artificial intelligence-powered robots which humans created to make life easier on the colonies but ended up fighting to a draw, are back. While there's still a stripped steel robot-looking series used to guard and slaughter, the new Cylons are humanoid, in a limited series but a lot of each one, meaning very often the actors playing Cylons have multiple versions of their character in the same scene, even disagreeing with each other. When one of these new (and in some cases highly attractive) Cylons gets killed, it's consciousness transfers memories and all right into just another one of the same, which is born in a sort of primordial spa.

This new series opened with the Cylons returning after forty years to destroy all humankind, mainly on our home planet of Caprica. The Battlestar up in space and some others are all that's left of humanity, in the tens of thousands if that. We lost the war in a matter of minutes, really.

The issue is always survival, how to keep our species alive, and from the start a tension developed between the Secretary of Education suddenly turned President (Mary McDonnell) and the Commander of the fleet (Edward James Olmos). Fight or flight? Search for that mythical "Earth" or not? How to avoid complete genocidal annihilation by the relentless, militarily superior Cylons?

You don't have to watch all the previous seasons on DVD to catch up (I've only seen a handful), and they tell enough of the set-up in the intro each week. What makes it particularly fascinating right now is that the humans have settled (during last season) on a harsh newly-found planet they dubbed New Caprica, only to be found by the Cylons and put under occupation.

The Cylons, it appears, have developed their own religion, and with it a need to find "love" as we humanfolk experience it. They admit to each other that it was a mistake to try to kill everyone (perhaps they wouldn't have voted for the war if they knew then what they know now?)but are still self-deluded into believing theirs is a benevolent dictatorship.

In the Season Three opener, the main rebel underground group began detonating suicide bombs, killing humans collaborating as police officers for the occupying force, which already mixes Israeli-occupied Palestine and Nazi-collaborator metaphors. The Cylons actually refer to the rebels as "insurgents," and you kind of do a doubletake when you hear it, like maybe freedom of speech is back on the airwaves in America.

The show has such great buzz right now that there's even rumors of the series moving to NBC (SciFi is a division of NBC-Universal). Hardcore fans I've talked to decry such a move, fearful that the gritty shooting (at times almost documentary style) and thought-galvanizing political edge with be smoothed out or censored. SciFi is a great home because it's just under the radar, like, "How the hell could anyone get worked up about the loser nerds that watch that network?"

The moral conundrums and dark worldview are sparking discussion in unusual venues, like progressive blogger Matthew Yglesias' site, where he writes:
It's pretty bold of them to have gone down the path of offering up such a straightforward Iraq analogy. In particular, they've done what really nobody's been willing to do in American politics which is try to cast a sympathetic eye on the insurgency. Of course, this is easier to do allegorically where you get a chance to paper over the fact that the Iraqi insurgency's substantive ideas about the nature of a just Iraqi state are rather repugnant. Nevertheless, I think it does do a good job of capturing the basic logic of occupation and rebellion. The cylons say they're seizing control of New Caprica for humanity's own good.

But who on the human side is going to believe them, especially given their past history (and note the USA's previous support for Saddam's regime, betrayal of the '91 intifada, decades-long indifference to the question of Arab democracy, view of Israel-Palestine universally regarded as anti-Arab by Arabs)? So people fight back. So the cylons fight back in turn. But cylon efforts to tighten their control merely reinforces their pre-existing bad image. The insurgents have much more leeway in adopting extreme tactics because they're not an alien force. They have a presumption of legitimacy while the occupiers have a presumption of illegitimacy. That Baltar is, in fact, the democratically elected leader of the Colonies is neither here nor there, for the simple fact of collaboration with the occupiers trumps the legitimacy of elections.

To top it off, they do one thing that science fictions space operas always cheat on. No sound in space. No whooshes or crashes like you would never really hear in the vacuum of space but somehow even get on Star Trek, bless it's pointy ears, always phoney-baloney, always the compromise to enhance the action.

Ron Moore is the Executive Producer with the reins, and he's making great decisions. I think that one recurring detail speaks to Battlestar's fundamental integrity. Saying it's the best frakking science fiction show in ages doesn't do it justice. It's engaged in the larger debate we're living through right now, and worthy of the challenge.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Politi-flicks: All Apologies

One of the strange twists of this topsy-turvy election season is that the scandals slamming the GOP are leading to actual apology ads. Nothing says, "I'm sorry," better than a campaign video saying..."I'm sorry."

First up is Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Per Reynolds' hometown paper, The Buffalo News, "The committee has received $330,000 from (disgraced Rep. Mark) Foley in less than three years. That includes $100,000 this summer, after Reynolds learned of the messages."

Hush money, perhaps?

Not according to Reynolds, who claims he did his job by reporting Foley's transgressions against underage Congressional pages to his GOP and House superior, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), in this highly unusual apology ad, entitled "Facts".

Check it out for yourself to see if you think the defense works (Hey, he told his boss, lay off!) or hurts (Someone at Reynolds' level didn't actually do anything or follow up?)

As a rule, apologies of this sort are a sign of weakness, but done right they can sometimes put a nasty issue behind you. They key is usually believing the sinner has actually repented. But what if the sinner admits to one transgression, while denying another?

Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA)is accused of not only having a mistress, but having attempted to strangle her. The somewhat tricky reporting of this is actually a case study for a Penn State communications study course, details here.

While Sherwood has somehow made the lawsuit by the mistress go away, the taint hasn't, prompting the 64-year-old Congressman to make this apology ad "Count on Me", with staging reminiscent of Reynolds' spot.

Watch Sherwood admit to the affair, but absolutely deny the "allegation of abuse." Then decide, if you were a voter in Pennsylvania's 10th, if you'd give him a -- er -- pass.

Funny thing is, with USA Today/Gallup reporting a staggering 23% lead by Democrats in the upcoming Congressional election, maybe voters want Republicans to apologize about more than just some sleazy sex scandals.

Then again, sometimes an apology just won't do.

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

Monday, October 09, 2006


A whole load of polls came out this afternoon, and both the GOP Congressional candidates and their Presidente are losing, badly. Karl's gonna need a whole lotta Diebold to pull this one out. I'm not even sure nuking Iran with help them now, not with this astonishing figure from the New York Times/CBS News Poll:
Mr. Bush clearly faces constraints as he seeks to address the public concerns about Iraq that have shrouded this midterm election: 83 percent of respondents thought that Mr. Bush was either hiding something or mostly lying when he discussed how the war in Iraq was going.

Holy cow.

Only 17% of Americans believe El Presidente is telling the truth when he opens his pie hole about Iraq? The issue he staked his entire Presidency on and (in polling terms) virtually no one believes him?

I can't remember the last time a President had so little credibility with the electorate.

Oh, wait, yes I can.

What strikes me as a sad comment on human nature is that, according to the same poll, Bush has an approval rating of 34%. If you subtract the percentage of voters who still believe whatever El Presidente says about Iraq (or maybe they're just not engaged in current events one iota, those "low information" voters the Rethugs love?) from his approval percentage, you're left with 17%, exactly half that number, of Americans who seem okay with being lied to.

Is this America's "battered wife syndrome"? "Beat me, El Presidente, we can't do better."

If ever a nation was in need of deprogramming, the time is now.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


I have no certainty how the North Korean nuclear test on Sunday will affect the electoral battlefield this week. If Bush/Rove wants to make it a political issue, they may get some headway, even though it's this Administration's policy -- or lack of the same -- towards North Korea and the invasion of Iraq which has wrought this diplomatic failure.

While I'd like to see Kim Jong Il on a meathook as befits such a fascist dictator, it's hard to see how he would act differently. Bush invades Iraq precisely because Saddam Hussein doesn't have Weapons O' Mass Destruction, which would certainly have been a deterrent to said invasion. Why wouldn't Kim strap up?

Then there's the way the Bush Administration, all too ideologically bent on rejecting any policies of the Clinton Administration (you remember -- 8 years of peace and prosperity?), double-crossed North Korea, per Newsweek International:
On Sept. 19, 2005, North Korea signed a widely heralded denuclearization agreement with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Pyongyang pledged to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs." In return, Washington agreed that the United States and North Korea would "respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations."

Four days later, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sweeping financial sanctions against North Korea designed to cut off the country's access to the international banking system, branding it a "criminal state" guilty of counterfeiting, money laundering and trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration says that this sequence of events was a coincidence. Whatever the truth, I found on a recent trip to Pyongyang that North Korean leaders view the financial sanctions as the cutting edge of a calculated effort by dominant elements in the administration to undercut the Sept. 19 accord, squeeze the Kim Jong Il regime and eventually force its collapse. My conversations made clear that North Korea's missile tests in July and its threat last week to conduct a nuclear test explosion at an unspecified date "in the future" were directly provoked by the U.S. sanctions. In North Korean eyes, pressure must be met with pressure to maintain national honor and, hopefully, to jump-start new bilateral negotiations with Washington that could ease the financial squeeze. When I warned against a nuclear test, saying that it would only strengthen opponents of negotiations in Washington, several top officials replied that "soft" tactics had not worked and they had nothing to lose.

Nice way to anger an enemy without actually taking him down. Nice way to get the opposite of what you really want. Nice way to give North Korea a membership card (#8) in the nuclear nations club.

Even Bush family consigliere, James Baker, is on Fox News and Charlie Rose alike saying of course you talk to your enemies as he promotes his new book. El Presidente and Shadow President Cheney reveal themselves, once again, as foreign relations morons.

So can Bush/Rove grab this and make it a rallying point, crowd Mark Foley off the front page and distract enough voters from our abject failure in Iraq?

My guess is that much of this hinges on China, which is on the record as being against North Korea's nuclear ambitions. The White House released some wussish rhetoric, which you can read bits of here to see if it means we're attacking. It would seem unlikely, since Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld have just sent our naval fleet to Iran for an October 22nd arrival, obviously the set-up for their "October Surprise" -- whether for a provocative attack on Iran or a planned Gulf of Tonkin incident to drum up U.S. warcries, no one outside their circle can know for sure. But thanks to Nixon's grand opening and W's grand mortgaging, China calls the shots where it counts here. Expect to see some U.N. action, and maybe the Rethugs can call that a public relations success.

The options for the Dems are sucky once again. Do they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our acting government, or do they somehow bifurcate and at the same time slam them for how they allowed this to happen on their watch?

The former will allow the criminals to continue bashing the Clinton Admin for being "too soft" and somehow causing this result six years after. The latter could be too complex a story for the already headline battered average voter.

All I can hope is that smarter, more focused, more strategic and well-placed opposition brains than mine have the answer.