Is the US really the world's sole superpower?

I hear this all the time on talking heads shows, hear it from the pundits, read it in the papers, but the longer the Iraq situation continues, I have to wonder if we really are the world's superpower.

In one large way, we certainly are--we have more nuclear weapons than anyone else. We could destroy human life on earth several times over, and there's not a thing any other country earth, alone or in conjunction with others, could do about it.

But is that enough to make us a superpower? Is the possession of weapons that no reasonable human would ever use, even in a limited sense, really power? For all the blather from hawks about "never taking options off the table," the fact is that any politician who openly suggested using conventional nuclear weapons in either a tactical or strategic manner would be yanked from the public stage in a heartbeat.

So by what other standard is the US a superpower? It's true we have the most technologically advanced military in the world. Our tanks are the best, our fighters and bombers the fastest and most manueverable, the list goes on and on.

And yet we hear again and again that our military is stretched to the breaking point. Our military issued stop-loss orders months ago, and just yesterday, the news broke that the military is activating the Individual Ready Reserve. The next step, literally, is the draft.

Last year, when we were asked to send troops to Liberia, we could only send a token force and that took time. There's a call to send troops to the Sudan to stop genocide, and we don't have any to send. And forget about it if North Korea decides to get frisky. Or Iran. Or any of the other hot spots around the world.

So just how super are we? Are we just riding our reputation now? Is our superness based simply on our nuclear arsenal? And if so, is it enough?

I don't think so, and what scares me is that I can't be the only one who's come to this realization.

My sister's step-daughter is dying.

My sister, two years younger than me and in her early 30s is sleeping in a hotel room in Baton Rouge while her husband's oldest daughter, mother of the child my sister now raises with her husband, is in intensive care as a result of a night of alcohol, valium and crystal meth.

The daughter has already survived longer than the doctors' expected, but they still only give her about a 5% chance of making it. She has liver, pancreas and kidney failure, and even if she survives and gets some organ function back, she's permanently damaged her heart and likely has kidney, liver, and pancreas transplants in her future. She survived dialysis this evening, but had to have a blood transfusion because since her organs have shut down, her red blood cells are dying as well.

There's no moral to this story, and while it's unbearably sad, I don't think it's a tragedy. But when I talked to my sister yesterday, I couldn't help but think that five years ago, that could have been me.

When I left the church--I was raised a Jehovah's Witness--I left behind pretty much every moral code I had ever lived by. I drank to excess. I smoked weed. I tripped on acid. I had unprotected, indiscriminate sex as often as I could.

Augustine once said "Give me chastity and continence, Lord, but not yet"--I was the opposite. I'd lived chastity and continence and I'd had my fill of it. One night while I was out with a friend, I ate some mushrooms he gave me, took a pill (I have no idea what it was), drank a lot of cheap vodka out of a plastic cup and ended the night by smoking weed through an army-issue full-face gas mask. My memory of the next two days is hazy.

I got lucky. I had just enough fear of the extraordinarily dangerous drugs that I never tried them. Never tried meth, or X, or coke, or heroin. And I'm certainly no prude now--I'll knock back Black Bush like a champ and wake up in the hallway on occasion, and don't try to skip me in the puff-puff-give rotation.

I rebelled against the code of conduct I had been raised with and it took me a couple of years to reformulate one. My fear served me well during that time, and I can't help but think it kept me alive.

But this isn't about me--it's about that girl sleeping in ICU in Baton Rouge tonight. I hope she pulls through. For my sister, for their son--I hope she makes it.

More fun with Newsmax

The emails I get from Newsmax--at least the ones that aren't offering to sell me insurance or let me in on some super deal in the commodities market--are usually just dumb and full of falsities. The one I just got, though, is just ridiculous on so many levels that I felt honor bound to call bullshit publicly. So here are the headlines:

1. Congressional Staffers Sell Reagan Flags on eBay

Is it a fitting tribute to Ronald Reagan's victory of capitalism over communism, or a disgraceful show of disrespect?

Either way, some entrepreneurial congressional staff members didn't wait for the former president's body to get cold before profiteering from the flags that flew over the U.S. Capitol while his coffin lay in the Rotunda.

Bidders on eBay are offering hundreds and thousands of dollars for the historic flags.

"This flag comes with a certificate issued by the Flag Office of the Capitol verifying that the flag was flown June 10, 2004, even as the crowds were paying their last respects to 'Dutch' Reagan," said the Web site's description.

"As a bonus, you will also receive one of the cards given to each person as they leave the Capitol Rotunda. You may have seen these cards being handed out while watching the televised tribute."

Also available are photos and a jar of jellybeans that Reagan reportedly flew with on Air Force One.
Now as I noted here, Newsmax doesn't really have room to talk about selling Reagan memorabilia. Here's a partial list of what they're hawking now and were pushing especially hard during the weeklong Reagasm.

The USS Ronald Reagan navy cap
The Oval Office portrait of Ronald Reagan
The Greatest Speeches of Ronald Reagan coffee-table book
Ronald Reagan's Greatest Laughs audio program
Reagan Country - the portrait President Reagan loved
The USS Ronald Reagan fleece jacket
The Deck of Reagan playing cards - you'll love them
Ronald Reagan presidential coffee mug
...And many more items in NewsMax's Reagan Collection...

What's the matter, Newsmax? Upset that your Washington connections couldn't corner the market for you?

2. Why Mexico's Leader Campaigns in U.S.

Mexican President Vicente Fox can't run for re-election, but he is on the campaign trail ... in the United States.

Fox has been traveling through Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis asking Mexican migrants to vote. Calling them "heroes" because of the $13.3 billion in U.S. dollars they sent back home last year, that country's second-largest source of foreign revenue, Fox is asking his congress to let millions of Mexico's citizens abroad vote for president in 2006.

Under Mexican law, those living in foreign countries must return home to vote. The law Fox proposes would allow them to vote outside the country. Nearly all 10 million of them live in the U.S.

In view of the human tsunami spilling over the border as you read this, many would argue that Mexico's election is not a priority for America.

The real question is how Mexican Americans will be integrated into our society if they are busy voting in a foreign election.

"One citizen, one vote -- it's the basics of democracy," said Fox.

But it's not the basis of the Democrat party in America. How many of these Mexicans in the U.S. will be double dipping? Democrats are already notorious for registering illegal aliens and other foreigners to vote illegally.

If only legal votes were counted, Al Gore could never have claimed to have won the "popular vote" in 2000.

Two simple points to make here. First--is Newsmax suggesting that US citizens living abroad--military personnel and Halliburton employees for instance--shouldn't be allowed to vote in the November elections? Why does Newsmax want to disenfranchise the brave men and women overseas?

Point two: the claim that the Democrats registered illegals and got them to vote illegally is bullshit, and if anyone can come up with independent proof claiming otherwise, I'd like to see it.

3. Bremer Stymies Probe of U.N. Scandal

U.N.We are disappointed to learn from Fox News Channel that L. Paul Bremer, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, has not fully cooperated with efforts to unfold the U.N.'s oil-for-food program.

Fox News' Jonathan Hunt has been at the forefront of this story and this week reported that Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., wrote Bremer a letter in May requesting answers to questions about Bremer's handling of the oil-for-food investigation.

Bremer recently responded to that letter and, according to Shays, there are many questions left unanswered.

Hunt says that one reason Bremer might not be helping in the inquiry is the major embarrassment Iraqi documents will offer U.N. officials. Appearing on "Fox & Friends" Thursday morning, Hunt said that one reason for the roadblocks by Bremer was that the U.S. needed U.N. support for the turnover of power to the Iraqis and had no interest in rocking the boat.

Meanwhile, Hunt said that he recently interviewed Paul Volcker, the former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman who is heading the inquiry of the U.N.'s latest scandal. Volcker told Hunt off camera his investigation had already found evidence of massive Iraqi bribery of U.N. officials.

Editor's Note: UN employees expose UN corruption -- Full Details Here.


Assuming this is accurate (and I've no reason to believe it is), who was it again that appointed Bremer? And at whose leisure does Bremer serve? And who is it that has the power to fire his ass if it turns out to be true?

4. Women in Combat: the Risks in Iraq

Pentagon sources tell NewsMax that political correctness continues to rule over sound military practices.

We hear that the shortcomings of women in combat and support roles already have been demonstrated by the story of Pvt. Jessica Lynch, who was tortured and brutally raped by her Iraqi captives.

And then there's Lyndie England, whose sexual antics and use of a leash with Iraqi prisoners set off a wave of embarrassment for the U.S.

The integration of women has been unprecedented, and many units in Iraq no longer even keep separate sleeping quarters for the sexes.

Military sources tell us that the Pentagon worries that terrorists in Iraq are said to be eager to capture a female soldier in Iraq.

Female personnel are said to becoming increasingly vulnerable in Iraq. For example, civilian contractors are no longer willing to undertake truck convoys without heavy military protection or be involved at all.

The task for the convoys has fallen to National Guard units in Iraq, which long ago were integrated with women. The convoys are considered the most risky of assignments -- and new military rules allow women to participate.

I'll just say that any story that continues to push the bullshit line that Jessica Lynch was tortured and raped by her capturers is beneath contempt and leave it at that.

Congrats time!

Congrats to Michael Moore! Fahrenheit 9/11 broke the record for highest grossing documentary ever in its first weekend, grossing nearly $22 million while appearing on only 868 theaters. His film was also the highest grossing film of the week, nosing out White Chicks by $2.2 million while appearing in fewer than a third of the theaters, and boasting a per theater average of $25,515 (compared to the $7,190 per theater for the number two film). The big question will be how many more screens Lions Gate can get the film onto, considering the mammoth opening Spiderman 2 is expected to have next week.

Congrats to the Green Party! You nominated David Cobb for President at your convention in Milwaukee, consigning Ralph Nader to the dustbin of Presidential politics. Nader will now likely only have ballot access in the seven states the Reform Party nomination has gotten him, perhaps getting on a couple of others besides, but his effect on the November election will be minimal at best. Can we please stop talking about him now?

Congrats to Zell Miller! You've got a speaking gig at a major party's national convention--the Republican's. Think of it as the last hurrah of a pathetic excuse for a Democrat. Go back to Georgia and fade into the obscurity you so richly deserve.

Congrats to Dick Cheney! Your well-timed f-bomb on the floor of the Senate managed to overshadow the very real news story that your boss was questioned for over an hour by federal investigators on the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Nice way to deflect the attention of the media (not hard, considering they've got the attention span of a 2-month old retriever, but good show just the same).

And last but not least, congrats to the Supreme Court for telling the FCC to do their freaking jobs the right way instead of just giving big media what it wants--and for stopping the new media consolidation rules in the meantime.

How's this for a weekend?

Saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. Waited in line just to enter the screening room--already had tickets--for almost an hour and a half just to get good seats. Let me tell you something--for this movie, there is no bad seat.

Today we drove south to get some free dirt from a guy who was installing a new sprinkler system in his yard. Dirt, you ask? Yes--dirt so we could repot the tomatoes we've been growing in our pseudo-atrium. I tell you, if even a quarter of these babies come in, we'll still be giving a ton of them away.

And tomorrow we tour Alcatraz. Hell yeah.

Michael Moore and the R-word

R as in Riefenstahl.

It's not the first time Michael Moore has been compared to Riefenstahl--that happened during the release of Bowling for Columbine--but it's become the calling card of the right wing over the last two weeks. Mention Fahrenheit 9/11 to a right-winger, especially one with a radio show, a newspaper column or even a blog and they spit the R-word at you with hurricane force. Do a google search of their two names and you'll get nearly ten thousand hits.

It's crap, but even more so, it's offensive to anyone who suffered under the Nazi regime.

Right-wingers got in a twist when some folks entered a couple of ads that compared King George the Lesser to Adolf Hitler into Moveon.org's "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest. They got mad at the wrong people--Moveon didn't sponsor the ads and pulled them from the contest pretty quickly--but they did have reason to be angry. Bush is an asshole of the highest degree, but he hasn't led the US into a world war (yet) and hasn't advocated the wholesale slaughter of a group of people based on their ethnicity or religion (also yet). Bush is no Hitler.

And Moore is no Riefenstahl either. If anything, he's the anti-Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl made films glorifying the state, glorifying Naziism, and parroting the state line. Moore's films are not subsidized by the state, are not glorifying the state, and are certainly not parroting the state line. He pounds the administration at every opportunity--no matter which one it is. He's hammered Democrat and Republican alike.

But more to the point, Moore doesn't glorify a state that commits genocide and plunges the entire world into chaos and destruction. If anything, Moore is trying to show how we've gotten this close to the current precipice, perhaps so we can stop before we go over the edge.

Not political, just nasty.

From the Smoking Gun:

JUNE 24--While seated on the bench, an Oklahoma judge used a male enhancement pump, shaved and oiled his nether region, and pleasured himself, state officials charged yesterday in a petition to remove the jurist. According to the below complaint filed by the Oklahoma Attorney General, Donald D. Thompson, 57, was caught in the act by a clerk, trial witnesses, and his longtime court reporter (these unsettling first-hand accounts will make you wonder what's going on under other black robes). Visitors to Thompson's Creek County courtroom reported hearing a "swooshing" sound coming from the bench, a noise the court reporter said "sounded like a blood pressure cuff being pumped up." Thompson, the complaint charges, even pumped himself up during an August 2003 murder trial. The AG's petition quotes Thompson (pictured above) as admitting that the pump was "under the bench" during the murder case (and at other times), but he denied using the item, which was supposedly a "gag gift from a friend."


I don't even want to know what he was thinking about doing while that murder trial was going on. Ewwwwwwww.

Nader-Camejo

The news broke way earlier today that Ralph Nader had chosen Peter Camejo as his running mate. Speculation is rampant that he chose Camejo in hopes of snaring the Green Party nomination (the same nomination he announced he wouldn't be seeking months ago, but whatever) and gaining the ballot access they can provide him, ballot access that's been more difficult to gain than he probably imagined it would be back when he announced.

Nader has come in for a lot of criticism from members of the Democratic party over the last few years, some of it justified, most of it not in my opinion, but the anger so many are tossing his way these days really is unjustified, and here's why.

Let's start with a couple of questions--are the people who normally vote Green happy with the choice of John Kerry happy with him as the nominee? Probably not. Hell, I'm a Democrat and Kerry was fourth or lower on my list of choices.

Are those Greens who voted for Nader back in 2000 going to vote for him this time around if Kerry doesn't adopt some sort of ideologically pure stances before November? Maybe--but I'm guessing that after four years of Bush/Cheney, they, like many other Democrats will suck it up and vote against Bush instead of for Nader. And make no mistake about it--for the Progressive wing of the Democratic party, this is indeed a vote against Bush, not for Kerry.

We have a choice this November--a continuation of the current administration, one that seeks to destroy the wall between church and state; that wants to eliminate many civil liberties; that starts wars because it wants to, not needs to; and that seeks to make the executive branch supreme and unaccountable to either the Congress or the courts; or we have John Kerry, who ain't great, but he ain't evil (at least he doesn't seem to be yet).

Like it or not, them's the choices. Most Greens, I suspect, realize this, and will suck it up and do what they feel they must this time around, and for that, I will thank them profusely and will support their candidates for other races when I think they're the best people for the job.

It's generally poor political strategy as a voter or advocacy group to acknowledge that a particular politician has your vote even if he/she shits in your cereal. Kerry's just the lucky recipient of this particular place and time.

He reminds me of Edwin Edwards in 1991 when he got lucky enough to run against David Duke for the Louisiana governorship. Bush raises Duke-like ire in the hearts of many progressives, and whether we like Kerry or not, we're voting for him because the alternative is too horrible to conceive.

I started out talking about Nader and Camejo and wound up deserting them. There's a reason for that--regardless of ballot access, regardless of media speculation, regardless of poll numbers, when the time comes Nader and Camejo will not be an issue. The stakes are just too high this time around.

Saved!

Saved! opened way back on May 28, a lifetime ago in terms of the summer movie season, but if you're disenchanted with the current crop of craptacular films and are jonesing to see something between now and Friday (when Fahrenheit 9/11 opens), see if this one is still playing at the movieplex.

Saved! is a movie is that is neither as straightforwardly anti-Christian as its detractors claim nor as subversive as its advocates claim, and that's what I loved most about it.

Much like Dogma, this movie has a deep and abiding affection for Christianity, but hates what it has become, and it skewers the most obnoxious and self-righteous parts of modern evangelical Christianity with a touch more punishing than deft at times. But considering that modern evangelicals hit you with the subtlety of a Mack truck, their treatment in this film is not only fair, its dead perfect accurate.

The main character and narrator is Mary (Jena Malone), a soon-to-be senior at a Baptist high school, who in an attempt to save her good Christian boyfriend (Chad Faust) from the sin of homosexuality, sacrifices her virginity. Like many young people who have been sheltered and don't understand human reproduction (a problem not limited to evangelical youth, I might add), Mary doesn't realize that she can get pregnant from a single sexual episode and winds up, you guessed it, pregnant.

Mary is also a member of the popular clique, the Christian Jewels, led by Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore). Hilary Faye (she is always called both names) is the holiest of the holier-than-thou's, and Moore camps it up in this role to wonderful effect. She combines the "queen bitch" character of teen movies with an irritatingly obsequious holiness without dropping a step. She's pitch-perfect.

There are a couple of side plots that help the story along--Cassandra (Eva Amurri) is the lone Jewish girl in the high school, and of course, she's the hell-raiser who needs to be saved; Roland (Macaulay Culkin, who is far too old to be playing 19 years old) is Hilary Faye's brother, a paraplegic and Cassandra's love interest. Lillian (Mary-Louise Parker) is Mary's mother, a widow who seems to have an interest in Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan), the principal of the Baptist high school where this all takes place. And finally, Patrick (Patrick Fugit) is Pastor Skip's son, a skateboarder "for Christ" who splits time between his undivorced yet utterly estranged parents, his mom in South America and his father the principal, and who falls for Mary early in the film.

But where this film is at its best is where it deals with the dangers of outward holiness. In every case but Mary's, a need to continue to appear holy drives these characters to commit acts they would condemn loud and long were someone else the perpetrator. Hypocrisy is the evil being hammered by this film, and it gets the full treatment.

Vocal christian groups have been dismissive of this film since before it opened, and that's unfortunate because it deals with one of the fundamental qualities that Jesus harped on in the New Testament--modesty. Jesus condemned the Pharisees in Matthew 6 and Luke 18 because of their ostentatious public prayers and their willingness to condemn others as sinners and claim the mantle of righteousness for themselves. It's a lesson many in today's evangelical movement would do well to reacquaint themselves with.

Write your own letter.

Mediamatters.org has a mission for you should you choose to accept it.

David Bossie, nutjob and asshole best known for turning Clinton hating into a cottage industry, has a group--Citizens United--that's buying airtime during Clinton's "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday June 20.

"60 Minutes" airs on CBS--the same CBS that wouldn't run ads for PETA and Moveon.org during the Superbowl because it claimed that they didn't run advocacy ads or ads that dealt with controversial issues of public importance." Well, Bossie's ad will apparently claim that Clinton was responsible for leaving us vulnerable to terrorist attack. That sounds like it deals with a controversial issue of public importance to me.

So write them a letter detaling your irritation with their inconsistency. You can do it here.

Meanwhile, here's my own letter to them:

Hypocrites.

That's what you are--hypocrites. You say you'll air an ad by Citizens United, a group headed by a confirmed liar who was fired by a Republican congressman for releasing doctored statements during the run up to the Clinton impeachment, even though you said in your refusal to air ads by groups like Moveon.org and PETA that you don't run "advocacy advertising of any kind" or ads that deal with "controversial issues of public importance."

I've had issues with your network before, and I'm tired of your hypocrisy, quite frankly. If you don't want to run advocacy ads at all, fine--it's your business. Just be fair about it.

When you decide to be evenhanded in this manner, then I'll start watching your network again.

The Keystone Kops are in charge.

I swear to God these people are idiots. You would think that after all the recent smacking around the President has been receiving at the hands of a less docile media recently that his people would check the backgrounds of the people who are appearing with him at campaign stops.

This time the subject was medical malpractice reform, and the person appearing with the President was " a local doctor, Compton Girdharry... Dr. Girdharry, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said he had been driven from a practice of 21 years by the high cost of malpractice insurance."

Problem is, Dr. Girdharry was driven from practice for good reason--he's apparently incompetent.

Since the early 1990's, he has settled lawsuits and agreed to the payment of damages in a number of malpractice cases in which patients suffered horrible injuries.

"It's been four years since my son passed away, and I don't feel any stronger or any happier than the day I lost him," said Lisa Vitale, whose suit against Dr. Girdharry and a hospital was settled out of court.

During an interview in her home in Alliance, Ms. Vitale said she went into Alliance Community Hospital on the morning of Aug. 17, 1993, for the delivery of her second child.

Her first delivery had been by Caesarean section, but Ms. Vitale said she was told that a vaginal delivery this time would not be a problem. While she was in the delivery room, however, the fetal monitoring strip was not properly checked and, she said, she was left alone and in pain for long periods. Dr. Girdharry stopped by around 6 p.m. and then went to dinner.

No one noticed that the baby was in serious distress.

Dr. Girdharry blamed the ensuing tragedy on the nurse. Ms. Vitale, he told me, "was being monitored by a nurse who was what they call a casual part-time nurse, who was not very well trained in reading fetal monitor strips."

By the time he was called back from dinner, he said, it was "too late" to take the steps, including a Caesarean delivery, that might have prevented permanent injury.

The baby was born with severe brain damage. He was unable to even drink from a bottle. He lived six years and four months, requiring nursing care the entire time.


And then there's this example.
Judy Mays, another patient of Dr. Girdharry, delivered a son by Caesarean section on March 26, 1999. The baby was fine. But, as alleged in a suit filed by Ms. Mays, when the incision was closed, a sponge with a cord and a ring attached to it was left inside....

Dr. Girdharry told me he began operating to remove the sponge but found the damage was worse than he had expected. Another surgeon was called to complete the surgery.

Ms. Mays said she learned after the surgery that part of her large and small intestines had been removed, and that she probably would have died if the sponge had stayed inside her for another month. The surgery, she said, has left her with a variety of permanent ailments.


A White House spokesman told Herbert later that had Girdharry informed them of his past, he wouldn't have been on the podium. You'd think that in this period of heightened security--not to mention potential political embarassment--that the backgrounds of the people doing a photo-op with the President would be fully run.

After all, I'd be willing to bet a significant amount of money that no matter how hard I tried to get a photo op with Bush, it would never happen. I've written too much about him and don't have that kind of money anyway.

We got ours

3 tickets to see Fahrenheit 9/11 on opening night. There's a surcharge for using Fandango, but in this case, it's worth it to make sure we see it opening night.

And the third person? My daughter, flying in this evening to visit for a month. I don't know how that will affect the blogging schedule, but if things get slacker than normal, you'll know why.

They're the biggest whores in the world.

Newsmax, that is.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that someone, no doubt in an attempt to piss me off, signed me up for the Newsmax update. They're humorous in their utter ignorance and singlemindedness, and they only spam me a couple of times a day, generally with special offers for health insurance from companies I will now be sure never to purchase from.

But in the last week and a half, the Reagan stuff they've been hawking has just gotten ridiculous. Nothing like cashing in on the death of a man to make a few bucks huh? Here's the list I got today at the bottom of the Left Coast Update:

You can help pass the torch with some wonderful items from the Reagan Collection:

The USS Ronald Reagan navy cap
The Oval Office portrait of Ronald Reagan
The Greatest Speeches of Ronald Reagan coffee-table book
Ronald Reagan's Greatest Laughs audio program
Reagan Country - the portrait President Reagan loved
The USS Ronald Reagan fleece jacket
The Deck of Reagan playing cards - you'll love them
Ronald Reagan presidential coffee mug
...And many more items in NewsMax's Reagan Collection...

Please remember: A portion of sales proceeds from NewsMax's Reagan Collection will be donated to the Navy League to help the USS Ronald Reagan and improve the quality of sailors' lives while deployed. This charity has been supported by President Reagan's son Michael.

Bolding mine.

Only a portion of the proceeds? What percentage of the profits--that's what I want to know. I mean, when Tom Bihn sold their luggage tag tee shirt that so many on the right felt was insulting, they gave all the profits to the Seattle Vet Center to help their Homeless Vet Program. What's wrong with Newsmax?

I guess there's no warmer feeling than making money off the reputation of a dead man.

Peace through blunts

King Kaufman in Salon today talls the story of the brilliant tactic taken by the Lisbon police to stem the potential violence surrounding the Euro 2004 cup.

Now here's the setup. British fans--hooligans as they are so endearingly called--are known for rioting in the streets and attempting to beat the hell out of fans of opposing teams. 50,000 of them followed the British team to Lisbon for the tournament, and police were fearing the worst, considering that Britain was playing France in the first round, and we all know of the enduring love that exists between those two cultures.

So what to do?

But even as an estimated 15,000 people jammed the Rossio, Lisbon's town square, in an impromptu pre-match party, and even as France scored twice in injury time for a stunning 2-1 win, all was peaceful, blissful, friendly, groovy.

The reason? Look no further than the Lisbon police's announced policy that marijuana smokers would be unmolested, the idea being that while drinkers get rowdy, pot smokers bliss out. "If people are drinking they lose control," said Alan Buffry, national coordinator of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, a British political party. "If they smoke cannabis they don't. Alcohol makes fans fight. But cannabis smokers will be shaking hands and singing along together."


Now standup comics have been making this connection for years, most notably the late, great Bill Hicks. And it's about time that "the man" decided it was better that people burn some weed instead of burning, say, cars and local shops in "celebration."

Kaufman has some suggestions about the seemingly impending celebration in Detroit.
Heck, hit the evidence room and flood the streets with the stuff. Paper the town with Zig-Zag. Pump Snoop Dogg and Phish through loudspeakers. Find that Afroman guy and have him sing a public service announcement. "I was gonna start a riot, but then I got high, la da da da da ..."

The governors of California and Michigan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer Granholm, have the usual friendly wager going, with the loser being "forced" to eat delicacies from the winner's home state while wearing the other team's jersey.

Schwarzenegger should forget about shipping the asparagus and Napa Valley wine -- and the In-N-Out burger? Good heavens -- and airlift a few thousand pounds of Humboldt County's finest, stat.


On a semi-serious side note, my girlfriend and I have long thought, whenever the subject of the Middle East peace process comes up, that the best way to calm down the situation would be to drop burning bales of pot throughout the country--one every couple of city blocks--and then follow it up with drops of twinkies and Papa John's pizza. Let everybody get high and munch out for a couple of days, start philosophizing about all the hate and the death, and presto! the problems are solved.

Of course it's not that simple, but it might be a start. Hell, it stopped the hooligans and the French from fighting over a soccer game.

By their fruits ye shall know them

So Bush wants to be the next Reagan, huh? This ain't the way to start.

The White House rejected calls Monday from Ronald Reagan’s family and others to relax President Bush’s restrictions on stem-cell research in pursuit of potential cures for illnesses.


For all the talk about how natural a politician Bush is and how much of a genius Rove is, this is another example of how it's not necessarily so.

After three years of pandering to his hard-right, conservative Christian base, Bush had a chance to pivot back to the political center and link himself with the most popular Republican president since Ike. And it would cost him nothing.

Do you think that those hard right conservatives wouldn't get a heads-up from Ralph Reed letting them know that whatever Bush did would be largely symbolic in order to get elected? Come on.

But Bush passed on it, deciding to stick it to Nancy. As we used to say back in junior high, "Smooth move, Ex-lax."

On a side note, Frank Rich, as usual, has an incisive look at why no matter how much Bush tries to be like Uncle Ronnie, he'll never measure up.

More on contempt for Congress

In the comments below, Cyclopatra notes that Reno was indeed cited for contempt of Congress by the committee although she was never indicted. Another article I read on the Reno incident noted that the threat of a contempt citation is generally used as a lever to get the Executive branch to give up some information it doesn't want to release, and that rarely is it ever followed through on.

That sounds reasonable to me.

But is Ashcroft in danger? Not a chance in hell. Even if the Senate Judiciary committee decided to charge him with contempt, and that's not likely 1) in an election year and 2) with Orrin Hatch still in charge, then Frist would have to allow it to come to the floor of the Senate, and there's a better chance of my selection as the Republican VP nominee than there is of that happening.

On a side note--the trolls have returned, but as long as they keep the comments non-threatening, they'll be allowed to stay. I don't mind dissent--rude behavior is another story altogether.

Contempt of Congress

It sure looked like Ashcroft was in contempt to me, so I decided to see if I could find out real quickly what the penalty for contempt for Congress was, and here's something I found interesting.

It's a transcript from a 1998 Congressional hearing where Rep. Dan Burton is talking smack about holding Janet Reno in contempt for Congress. Rep. Waxman is defending her position in this section:

WAXMAN: The chairman rejected that offer and has today said that she has not even tried to find a middle ground. Well, what offers have been made by the chairman to the attorney general? Give us that memo, or you'll be held in contempt. I want to remind my colleagues that the penalty for contempt can be a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. Is that what we've come to? We threaten the attorney general with jail time if she doesn't make the decision that the chairman wants?


Now I realize this example hurts my case for holding Ashcroft in contempt, but it's late and I've just started nosing into this. I may change my mind on it or maybe I'll find sufficient differences in the two cases to still argue that Ashcroft better get out his checkbook. I'll get back to you on this.

War Poetry in the NY Times

A few months ago, Nicholas Kristof asked for readers to send in war poems. He's published some of them in tomorrow's column.

I'm a poet by trade, and while these are certainly not the same quality as Wilfred Owen of Siegfried Sassoon, they are certainly worth reading.

Here's the first one he posts.

Tim Johnson of Northville, Minn., wrote:

Outside the city, shivering with dread,
We're Falluja bound.
Can hear the explosions when I raise my head. . . .
Foreign soldiers, invaders from another land;
When I look through the hatred in their eyes,
I almost understand.
R.P.G.'s, mortars, and friends dead on the road.
My youth is gone,
Crushed from sensory overload.
Assaulted yesterday up an Iraqi street.
R.P.G. explosion, a scream,
Seared my face with the heat.
Dragged him through the blood-streaked dust and dirt,
His screams in my ears,
His blood type tagged to his shirt.
Covered with blood, he cried, Don't leave me alone.
Died in my arms;
Now I just want to go home.
Officers yelling, Get out of your holes!
We're Falluja bound;
Please pray for our souls.


There are more in the column and even more at Kristof's blog.

Someone want to ask Limbaugh if he thinks Tim Johnson is a "gentle little [flower] wilting in the breeze"?



When I watch the tv news, I generally catch the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. It's not a continuous commercial like the cable channels are, and the hour-length format allows for more indepth discussion of issues than the networks engage in.

One big reason I watch them these days, though, is for what they call the honor roll--the pictures, names, ages and hometowns of the soldiers killed in Iraq.

I watch for a couple of reasons. I have friends back in Louisiana--guys I went to college with, guys who went into the reserves in order to help out with college, guys I've lost track of who I'm afraid I may see on that list one day.

But more importantly, I watch so as to remember that every one of these people, male, female, younger, older, has died unnecessarily. And I watch to remember who deserves the blame for every one of them, and to motivate me to continue to work toward his defeat in November.

Who are these people?

And how the hell did they wind up in control of the country?

Josh Marshall dissects this WSJ article now available here that deals with the Abu Ghraib scandal and the idea that--and I quote--authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

To paraphrase Jon Stewart, "Wha?" (Imagine me rubbing my eyes in disbelief right here--it's about what's happened.) Authority to set aside laws is inherent in the president? Let's make sure we fully understand what's being argued here--that the president has the power to set aside any law he or she doesn't like and there's nothing that any of the other branches of the government can do about it.

To hell with the 2000 election--this is a Constitutional crisis. If these people are actually going to argue this and get away with it, then the system of checks and balances that has served us well for the last 200+ years is gone. Kaput. Dead as the proverbial doornail.

I've always been loathe to use the word treason--it has a very specific definition in the Constitution and it's overused by loudmouthed Manchurian Candidate wannabes (Ann Coulter, Tom DeLay--make your own list), but I'm ready now. This is the kind of action that--especially in conjunction with the arguments put forth in the Padilla case--borders on treason. It's an attempt to overthrow the current system of government and replace it with a dictatorship--even constitutional monarchs have less power than the Bush administration is claiming here.

I seek the grail

Of beer, that is, and if you're seeking the grail of beer and you live in San Francisco, there's only one place to go: The Anchor Brewing Company.

If you ever do any reading on the world of microbrews, you always come back to Anchor Brewing and Fritz Maytag--and with good reason. When Maytag bought into Anchor Brewing in 1965, the world of small breweries was disappearing, was being overrun with weak, yellow, fizzy beers, the names of which we shall not mention here.

It took Maytag 10 years, but he turned the company around by going back to the old ways of brewing and improving them in his own unique way. (P.S.--I learned all this on the tour. And there's a free tasting at the end of it, too. Beat that!)

But here's the essence of it all--Maytag was instrumental in keeping the old ways of brewing alive in the US, and beer lovers are better for it. Word is that many of the more famous microbrews in the country today got their secrets and techniques from Anchor Brewing, and I wouldn't doubt it for a second.

So here are some pictures of my quest. Enjoy--and sorry for the crappy quality in some of them.









On Catholicism and Politics

Kevin Walzer is a poet who runs a publishing company named WordTech. I ran into him over at the Foetry forums a few weeks ago, and followed him to his blog. He's not a daily blogger and I don't blame him--he's running a publishing company while I'm leeching off a fellowship--and I certainly don't agree with his politics in general, but his blog today is about the shameful way some in the Catholic hierarchy are treating John Kerry. Here's an excerpt.

The idea that a bishop can tell those to whom he ministers that their salvation depends on their more or less adopting the Republican Party platform (even if, like me, one agrees with much of that platform) offends me. To consider them sinners for adopting a different viewpoint just appalls me. To suggest that there is no room for prayerful contemplation on one's own, to arrive at an individual vision of morality grounded in Christian teaching based on one's personal relationship with God--that is, frankly, alarming.

I don't plan to vote for John Kerry, but I find public repudiations of him by various bishops--because he supports abortion rights in violation of church teaching--to be sickening. If they want to criticize him, fine. Ideologically, I am far closer to their stance on abortion than Kerry's. But to argue that he should not receive Communion--the holiest sacrament in both Catholicism and Episcopalianism--because of his political beliefs is playing fast and loose with a sacred responsibility, to minister to their flock.

I couldn't agree more.

I was raised in a church that emphasized God's role in judging the actions and heart-motivations of people. I'm not a member of that church anymore, but that has stuck with me. If you're a believer, you've got to think that if someone is breaking the rules, God's going to deal with that person in His own time, and no one is better able to handle that situation better than God.

The priests in this situation with Kerry are stepping outside their designated roles as mediators between the laity and God. They're not supposed to determine who is worthy to take communion--only the supplicant can determine if he or she is worthy, and since it's a mortal sin to take communion with an unshriven soul, it's not something any Catholic would take lightly.

Are you ready for another summer blockbuster?

Michael Moore's got his trailer up and man is it smoking.

He's also got a distributor(Lion's Gate and IFC films) and an opening date, June 25. Doesn't matter to me which one--Fandango or Moviefone--whoever's first gets my credit card number in exchange for 3 tickets on opening night.

Media bias, again

You would think that if there were a liberal media bias anywhere in the US, it would be in San Francisco. Fortunately for all you righties out there who constantly complain about how the left dominates the media, you have the San Francisco Chronicle. This is from yesterday's Opinions page.

I'm not going to deconstruct his article largely because the heavy lifting has already been done by Alterman and the folks over at Media Matters, but I will post the letter to the editor that I just sent off. Here's hoping they'll take it.

To the Editor:
Adam Sparks' 6/1 editorial "Media Bias? What Media Bias?" contains one misrepresentation and more than one bit of faulty reasoning.

In citing the Pew Foundation report, Sparks neglected to mention that in the commentary by by Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel, and Amy Mitchell, the report stated "We would be reluctant to infer too much here. The survey includes just four questions probing journalists' political attitudes, yet the answers to these questions suggest journalists have in mind something other than a classic big government liberalism and something more along the lines of libertarianism." It is worth noting, however, that Sparks'
attitude is virtually identical to the one being posited by noted right-wing commentators Fred Barnes, Brit Hume, and Charles Krauthammer. In other words, his argument smells like conservative talking points.

Lastly, Sparks argues that since journalists are liberal--an argument that he has not proven--that means the media as a whole is also liberal. The problem with that argument is that even if we assume that journalists themselves are liberal, journalists aren't the ones who determine what stories get covered and with what level of ferocity. Publishers do that. And publishers are overwhelmingly conservative.

Most of his article is just a restatement of the same storyline we've been hearing for the last thirty years--the media is liberal and doesn't care about conservative values. As Eric Alterman and others have pointed out time and again, that's simply not the case--in fact, the reverse is true, and Americans would do well to recognize that fact.

How I Spent My Memorial Day

You damn right. Me and the girlfriend went hiking in Point Reyes National Recreation Area, and what a hike it was.

I must give full credit--I'd have probably spent my usual hours in front of the computer, but Amy dragged me out of the house and across the Golden Gate Bridge for a beautiful hike and a wonderful day. So here's another taste of the day for you--enjoy.





Jealous?

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