Utterly disgusting

Fred Phelps is an asshole, no question, but he never ceases to amaze me with the level of his assholishness. Here's the Westboro Baptist statement on the recent earthquake and tsunami in southeast Asia.

Thanks to Raw Print for the story.

Monkey has gone home again

I took this at the airport before she left using my nifty camera phone. Technology is great. Living 3,000 miles from your daughter sucks.

Good grief

We, as a nation, have pledged $15 million to help with the relief efforts in southeast Asia to help recovery from one of the greatest natural disasters of recent history, and while that's the largest sum pledged by any nation, it's not the largest per capita.

Meanwhile, we're spending more than double that for Bush's crowning ceremony, I mean inauguration, before we even get to security costs. Gotta love our priorities.

Here's some places you (and I) can send your dough to help out.

Red Cross


Medecins Sans Frontieres

India Relief

I get paid in two days, and some of it's going to these places. We as a nation just indulged in an orgy of commercialism, but there's still no reason that we can't as individuals can't shame our government into providing more to help people in dire circumstances than we do on the coronation of King George the Lesser.

UPDATE: The NY Times is reporting that the US has upped its contribution to $35 million, or roughly what we're spending on the coronation before security costs. It's better, but it's still not enough.

One more update: The new $20 million? It's a fucking line of credit. Jesus H. Christ.

Susan Sontag dies at 71

I tried reading Sontag about 5 years ago in the earliest part of my graduate studies and hated it. I realized a couple of years ago that I just wasn't ready for her yet. I'll be looking her up again, if for nothing more than the idea that critical analysis interferes with art's magical, incantatory power. Anyone got a copy of Against Interpretation that I can borrow?

My letter to my Representative

Rep. Pelosi,
I live in your district, and I happily cast my vote for you on Nov. 2, but your reacent actions in the selection of the new DNC chair are causing me to rethink that decision. In the short time I've lived in San Francisco, I've been more pleased than not about your actions as Minority Leader. You've called out the Republican leadership and the President and his administration on important issues, and you've done your best to block some heinous legislation while simultaneously keeping the disparate elements of the Democratic party focused on the necessity to be an opposition party.

But it's time to realize that some of the things that come out of Washington aren't doing us a lot of good as a national party, and the current battle over the DNC chairpersonship is one example of that. The last two times that you and Harry Reid have come out in support of a candidate, he's been a conservative who stands in opposition to many of the core values of the party. We seem to have forgotten who we are in this quest for short term electoral power. And I for one won't abide it.

I'm not a big contributor, either to candidates or to the party, because I don't have much money. I'm one of those twenty dollar donors, but in the last election cycle, between my girlfriend and me, we gave over $2,000 to ether the party or individual candidates, gave money to 527 groups, and raised money from friends and family members as well. And I will make you this promise--if the Democratic party selects a Washington insider for their chair, they'll not see a penny from me or my girlfriend in the next cycle. We'll give our money to 527 groups and progressive organizations and candidates instead.

I'm one of a large group of people who became financially active in the last campaign season, and who are disappointed to say the least in the returns we received. We want change, and we expect it from our leadership. Here's your chance to prove to us that you understand what we're after.

Are you a reform Democrat? Write your own letter.

First Christmas Present of the year

Hell Yeah. Thanks, Matt.

Can't go wrong with Monty Python.

DC Caves

I spoke too soon.

Below, I praised the DC city council for refusing to cave in to the demands of Major League Baseball when it came to financing the new stadium that the Washington Nationals will play in. They backed down today in exchange for--get this--a nonbinding agreement that the Mayor will try to get private enterprise to help finance the stadium. In other words, the taxpayers of the city of DC are going to provide some future billionaire owner (along with the current billionaire owners of the other baseball teams) with land, a stadium, and the revenue that comes out of that stadium in exchange for the privilege of having the team that finished 29 games out of first in their division, second from the bottom in their league, and fourth from the bottom overall play in their city. What a bargain.

Let's play with our twangers

Go watch this. My jaw hit the floor when I saw it. Don't know if it really aired or not, but regardless, it's some seriously funny shit.

Just because

Saw this as a postcard while doing my Christmas shopping today and laughed out loud.

About that reading

I got an interesting email from someone who caught my C-SPAN appearance. He wrote:

I happened upon the last few minutes of your appearance on c span I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses and thru the words of your reading I could tell that you are as well, how heartfelt your words were, how true and telling they were as well, I'm sure any one who's heart was moved by your words will also be moved to listen when a Witness comes to their door or wherever the may meet.
I am glad I found a way to exspress my appreciation for your words.
Your Brother:

I can't tell you how surprised I was to hear this, and how pleased in a way. I haven't been a Witness in over ten years now, and I'll never go back, but when I first started writing about my experiences as a Witness, I found myself lapsing into diatribe more often than not, and while that can be cathartic, it doesn't generally make for good art. I've also long wondered how Jehovah's Witnesses would accept my work--if I would be labeled an apostate or something like that. This is an interesting development.

And in response to the comments a couple of posts down, here's one of the poems I read on that appearance.
Learning to Preach

It is my turn. Until now I have
only walked beside my father
on Saturday mornings while he brings
The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life
to those with ears to hear. But now
I have a truth to tell, a scripture to read:
They will have to know my name is Jehovah,
and I am wearing the special tie Mom bought
for the day I joined the ranks of the faithful.
Last night, I stood before the bedroom door,
knocked like a trembling drum roll—
Mom opened the door and Dad introduced us
and I read the words of Ezekiel the prophet
from a page grimed by sweat where my finger
had marked the page, but when I reached
for my Watchtower, Mom said
No thank you and closed the door.

Good for them.

Washington D.C. has given Bud Selig and Major League Baseball the big fat finger when it comes to their latest attempt to gouge the public for a new stadium. Special props to Council Chair Linda Cropp, who made partial private financing a requirement for her vote.

I don't like the idea of public financing for any ball stadium, no matter the sport. It's not like any of the team owners is going to miss a meal if they have to foot the bill for a new stadium. They may have to defer their second or third private jet, but they're not going to be in financial pain if they have to come up with the cash for a new joint to play in, no matter what they claim.

It's been said before by people far more experienced than me in this field, but it's worth repeating: baseball team owners didn't get rich enough to own teams by being idiots in business. These are smart people, and they know that every penny they don't have to put in the team is one more in their pockets. And when we're talking about publicly funded stadiums, it's coming out of our taxpayer pockets, both in cash form and in the sense that we're giving already rich people money that could be used on schools, on police, on homeland security, on virtually anything else. And for what? The pride that comes with having a home team thatcan be moved the minute the local government doesn't bend over and spread 'em? Give me a break.

And it's not like there's no precedent for a privately financed stadium. SBC Park in San Francisco is an absolutely gorgeous stadium, and it's got a pretty serious debt load (which we get to hear about every year when the Giants don't get a no. 1 pitcher for the stretch run). But the person servicing that debt load is the person who will reap the benefits in the future when every penny that puppy brings in is his.

Bud Selig wants any city who wants a baseball team to pay for the stadium and then give the team all the revenue that the stadium generates. That's a sucker's game, but unfortunately, all too many cities are willing to play it. D.C. is playing, but only partly for now. For a city with the social problems they have, something is better than nothing. Especially when we're talking about the Expos.

Buying Blue

A lot of blogs have been weighing in on this issue lately, and BuyBlue.org is a good resource if you're looking for a simple breakdown of which party some major companies sent their political lucre out in search of returns. It's a pretty simplistic way to look at it, which means it's got some potential (or real--I haven't done the research yet) flaws.

There are some no-brainers--I'm joining Costco this year, but for more than their political stance. I like the way they do business. I like the fact that their CEO gives stock analysts the fat middle finger when they suggest that he's fucking over stockholders by not treating his employees like serfs. I like the fact that he doesn't want a high employee turnover rate, even if it means his employees get a gasp! raise from time to time. I like that he's not union hostile. So I'd be joining Costco even if they didn't give the vast majority of their political contributions to the Democratic party.

Wal-Mart is another no-brainer. For the opposite of every reason I noted why I will go to Costco, I will never go into another Wal-Mart, even if they give Democrats huge campaign contributions, not unless they change their filthy business practices. They could personally finance the campaign of every single Democrat in 2006 and I wouldn't go in there unless they start treating their employees like they're more valuable than used disposable diapers.

I'll admit--in a pinch, looking at where a company puts its political capital is better than nothing, but it's hardly the entire answer. And I'm not asking for a boycott of any company that doesn't show overwhelming loyalty to the Democratic Party. Hell, I'd be satisfied if they split their donations equally, or even better, if they got out of the political donation game altogether. In fact, I'll swear undying loyalty to any company who does just that--stays the hell out of politics and leaves it to the individual citizens. Deal?

Doing unto the opposition

Atrios is suggesting that we on the left ought to do what Brent Bozell and the PTC has been doing to the FCC and is asking for suggestions about who to target. I've got a problem with that.

First off, filing FCC complaints won't hurt the PTC. In fact, I think it will only help them, both in the short and the long term, especially since the groups most of the people in the comments are suggesting targeting (Fox News, anything with Ann Coulter on it) aren't broadcast outlets, but cable outlets. Secondly, as this article from the Washington Post shows, we can't outstupid these people (and we shouldn't want to, either).

Besides, aren't we the side that favors the greatest amount of free expression? Aren't we the side that thinks hypocrisy is a bad thing? Wouldn't we be better off sending emails of support for shows the PTC has targeted to the FCC rather than trying to find our own people to persecute? Just a thought.

C-SPAN appearance update

Got an email from Stephen Elliott today and he told me the BookTV appearance has been scheduled for this Sunday morning at 7:00 EST. No guarantees that I made it past the cutting room, but if you want to tape it or TIVO it and I'm on there, you'll get to see me reading 4 of my poems.

Not that I'm surprised

There's a hell of a good article about fundamentalism around the world and throughout history over at UU World (not exactly on my daily reading list, admittedly--I got the link from Digby over at Hullaballoo). Very indepth, very detailed and very good. Go read it.

The Barry Bonds story

So Barry evidently used steroids over the past few seasons, and all the holier than thous out there are going spastic over it. Get a life, people.

In the seventies, when I was first coming to the game of baseball, everybody and their grandfather was using speed, if not cocaine, in an attempt not only to get high, but to get better, and I have no doubt in my mind that the great St. Babe Ruth would have (or may have, what the hell do I know?) have taken a swig of Highpoppalorum or Lopoppahirum before the game if he wanted a little extra pop in his bat that day.

Look--taking steroids is a stupid thing to do, no question about it. It fucks your internals up, damages your long term health, and may well shrink your cock to maraschino cherry stem proportions--you have to ask the Governator about that last one, since he's long been open about his past use of anabolic steroids. But in the end, it ought to be a personal choice what you do to or with your body. If you want to get a third arm grafted on so you can use two gloves, hey, it's your body and I don't have to deal with the consequences.

And John McCain? If you're going to pontificate on something, how about it pertain to something important, like the snafu in Iraq that the President you so avidly supported--to your eternal shame, I might add--has gotten us neck deep in. Otherwise, just shut the hell up and try to regain some of your "independence" in time to run for President in 2008.

And personally, I hope Barry smacks both number 715 and 756 next year, and I hope I get to see both of them, just like I saw 700.

Weighing in on the DNC chairmanship

Okay, so no one in the halls of power is waiting to hear what I have to say about this, but hey, I have a blog and I have an opinion, so why hold back?

Many people with a far larger readership than I have have already made far more eloquent cases for Howard Dean than I could hope to make, so let's just say I echo their sentiments and leave it at that.

Here's what I really wanted to say. Word is that the Clintons (no specifics on which one or whether they're doing this together) have said that they'll do whatever they can to ensure that Dean doesn't get the chairmanship. How true is it? No way of telling--after all, the conspiracy theory all during the Kerry campaign had Hillary trying to sabotage it so she could make her 2008 run. Who knew that Kerry would save her the trouble?

But whether they want their own guy (Ickes or now, Lockhart has been floated) because they want to be closer to being in charge or if they just don't like Dean or whatever the reason, here's all I have to say. Stay out of it.

Bill Clinton, I respect the job you did as President. Hillary Clinton, I respect the place you hold as Senator from New York, and I agree with you more often than not, but let's be frank here--your brand of New Democrat/Third Way politics hasn't yielded much electoral fruit outside your personal successes. That's great for you, but not so great for the rest of us. So if you're supporting the same people who have been making decisions for the party for the last few years, then thanks but no thanks.

I said it before and I meant it: if the Democrats pick a chairman from the old school, then they get nothing more from me. All the money I can put toward this sort of thing will go to places like Democracy for America, Moveon and the New Democratic Network. You guys can forget it.

Can You Say Escalation?

It's the top story on MSNBC.com, but it still bears discussing, I think. We're sending more troops to Iraq. We're also extending the tours of four units--over 10,000 soldiers, of whom 3,500 are being extended a second time. I thought we'd broken the back of the insurgency this time--it would be what, the tenth time or so that we've done this?

Yeah--I'm snarky about what the Bush administration calls progress in that unnecessary hellhole. Bite me if you don't like it.

So here's the deal, according to the above-linked article:

The increase of 12,000 troops, which is to last until March, reflects the strength and resiliency of an insurgency that U.S. military planners did not foresee when Baghdad was toppled in April 2003.

Much of the build-up will be accomplished by extending tours for more than 10,000 soldiers who had been due to leave Iraq in the coming months, Army Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, deputy operations director of the Joint Staff, told reporters Wednesday. The extension means those troops will now serve an average of 14 months in Iraq, two to four months longer than originally expected, officials said.

The military generally is reluctant to extend soldiers’ combat tours because of the potential negative effect it could have on their families, and thus on their willingness to remain in the service. In this case, Gen. George Casey, the most senior U.S. commander in Iraq, decided it was necessary to keep up pressure on the insurgents while also providing security for the elections, Rodriguez said.
Just how many Bush voters--assuming they even read the article in the first place--will catch the bit that I bolded there? There's no excuse for this--the Bush administration was warned by more than one military person that we were getting into more than they thought they were, but they had to listen to their buddy Chalabi and the fucking neo-cons who were smarter than the rest of us.

As I said right after the election--every soldier and every Iraqi who dies after January 20, their blood is on the heads of not only the Bush administration, but also on the heads of every person who voted for their re-election. Don't like the taste of collective guilt? Tough shit. It's not like you didn't know what these assholes were all about. You'd had four years to figure it out.

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