When there's trouble

you can always count on Tom Tomorrow

Bush wins!

This one's for you, Walrus.

President Bush won the worst-actor award for his appearance in news and archival footage of Michael Moore’s satiric documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was voted worst supporting-actor for “Fahrenheit 9/11,” while Britney Spears’ fleeting cameo in the documentary brought her the worst supporting-actress award.

Razzies founder John Wilson said the prizes were not meant to mock Moore’s film, only the statements Bush and the others make while “putting their highly paid, highly skilled feet in their mouths repeatedly and sucking on them.”

For the first time ever, I can say that I think Bush earned this award, as did Rumsfeld and Britney. It may be the only thing he's ever earned on his own, but he certainly deserved this award.

Too much shit going on to keep up

Don't know how I missed this interesting story on how an Indiana woman who adopted her lesbian partner's biological children must now pay child support after the split up. It's an interesting story in that it points up how same-sex couples are still locked into the same responsibilities that married heterosexual couples are locked into, but without the privileges heterosexuals enjoy. (Yes, I know that child support laws also apply to unmarried heterosexual couples--but staying unmarried is an option for heterosexual couples, as opposed to being mandated for same-sex couples.)

But that's not the real point of this post--the real point is to illustrate just how difficult it is to keep up with the news of the day, and with what's happening in the world. I'm a news junkie, aided in my junkiness by the fact that I don't currently have to work full-time. I get to spend an obscene amount of time sitting in front of my computer doing nothing but reading news and political commentary, and I still completely missed this article (and as a guy with a child and a lesbian ex-wife, you'd figure this kind of article would be right in my wheelhouse). I lucked into it really--I was looking at some diaries on Kos, was intrigued by the attitude taken by a diarist and clicked on her name to see what else she'd written, and this was about three stories down. Who has that kind of time? Certainly not any of the people in Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. Hell, I'd say that better than 95% of Americans don't have the time to keep up with even a modicum of the news that comes out in any given day, news that may affect them in some meaningful way.

It's made harder by the fact that most of what passes for news today is opinion--even the veneer of objectivity is gone now, as Greenwald's film Outfoxed showed so well. And while the PIPA studies released last year were informative, I don't think they went far enough. When they noted that Fox viewers were the least informed among television news viewers, they didn't go into detail about what shows those viewers were watching. They didn't ask if viewers were getting their "news" from Hannity or Hume or Shepherd Smith, or if instead they were getting it from the "news department." And this doesn't even get into the potential correlation between FNC viewers and Limbaugh, O'Reilley, Hannity, Savage or other right-wing radio listeners--that would be a terrific study to do, the linkage between being factually misinformed on a subject like the Iraq war and the prevalence of listening to right-wing talk radio.

And there's even more to it than that. Wingnuts like Limbaugh existed long before Limbaugh got popular, but they were derided as wingnuts--why? Partly because the mainline news media was a bit less complacent and tended to call out shills for what they were (unlike their current reaction in re the Gannonball), but also because the average worker had a bit more time to try to keep up, if he or she wanted to do so. One of the things about worker productivity that almost none of my friends know about is that the biggest reason US workers have made such supposed gains in productivity as compared to workers in the EU, for instance, is because we work more hours total. We don't have the six-weeks of vacation that the German worker does, but when calculating worker productivity, that's not taken into account. Sure, the US worker does more work per year than the German worker does--he has more time to do it in. When those differences are factored in, the differences in productivity are negligible.

But the powers that be want to keep Americans working their asses off, for multiple reasons. The first--and most important to my mind--is that the longer they work us, the less time we have to see that they're ripping us off, both in terms of our time and our energy (not to mention money). Another is that the more they keep us busting our collective asses, the more we have to depend on them and their spokespeople for information, and the less time and energy we have to try to ferret out information for ourselves. Still another is that the more they keep us busy trying to make it, the less time we have to combat them politically, intellectually and morally--it's hard to organize a boycott of Wal-mart if you're working 60 hours a week to pay the rent, after all.

I don't have any solutions to all of this, but I figure that recognition of the issues at hand is a good first step. I'm curious to hear what you folks have to say on it.

This is not a partisan issue

Or at least it shouldn't be. The Republican leadership will no doubt try to spin it as a partisan issue, because, well, they won't want to pass it, but the simple truth is that if you really care about democracy and the notion that every person should not only get to vote, but that their vote ought to be counted, recorded, and mean something, and that it ought to be against the law to suppress voting, then you ought to support this bill.

WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today unveiled comprehensive voting reform legislation to make sure that every American is able to vote and every vote is counted. Senators Clinton and Boxer announced the legislation today in a press conference joined by Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), who will sponsor the legislation in the House of Representatives, and voting rights advocates. [...]

The Count Every Vote Act of 2005 will provide a voter verified paper ballot for every vote cast in electronic voting machines and ensures access to voter verification for all citizens, including language minority voters, illiterate voters and voters with disabilities. The bill mandates that this ballot be the official ballot for purposes of a recount. The bill sets a uniform standard for provisional ballots so that every qualified voter will know their votes are treated equally, and requires the Federal Election Assistance Commission to issue standards that ensure uniform access to voting machines and trained election personnel in every community. The bill also improves security measures for electronic voting machines.

To encourage more citizens to exercise their right to vote, the Count Every Vote Act designates Election Day a federal holiday and requires early voting in each state. The bill also enacts "no-excuse" absentee balloting, enacts fair and uniform voter registration and identification, and requires states to allow citizens to register to vote on Election Day. It also requires the Election Assistance Commission to work with states to reduce wait times for voters at polling places. In addition, the legislation restores voting rights for felons who have repaid their debt to society.

The Count Every Vote Act also includes measures to protect voters from deceptive practices and conflicts of interest that harm voter trust in the integrity of the system. In particular, the bill restricts the ability of chief state election officials as well as owners and senior managers of voting machine manufacturers to engage in certain kinds of political activity. The bill also makes it a federal crime to commit deceptive practices, such as sending flyers into minority neighborhoods telling voters the wrong voting date, and makes these practices a felony punishable by up to a year of imprisonment.
My guess? They'll paint this as a "liberal" thing by linking it to Boxer, Jones and Clinton (who isn't particularly liberal, despite what Limbaugh et al like to say). This will be a chance for the Democratic party to frame this issue beautifully, assuming they can get the media to pay the slightest bit of attention.

I feel old now

Not because I'm having my midlife crisis (I think I am) or because my back hurts daily (it does) but because in a fit of solidarity, I just joined the AARP, even though I don't have a real job, much less any way of getting closer to actual retirement (aside from my almost weekly purchases of lottery tickets). I figure, they're fighting for Social Security, and I'd like to have it there for when I get old enough to start collecting it, so this is an investment of sorts. Man, it's gonna feel weird getting that card in the mail, though. And my girlfriend is gonna spaz, considering as she's not even thirty yet.

So does this make me Vanilla Ice?

In one of the dumber pieces written about blogging (and damn are there some dumb pieces out there right now), Josh Levin equates bloggers with rappers, because

For starters, both groups share a love of loose-fitting, pajama-style apparel. Still not satisfied? Bloggers and rappers are equally obsessed with social networking. Every rapper rolls with his entourage; every blogger rolls with his blog roll. Women can't win an audience in either profession without raunching it up like Lil' Kim or Wonkette.

Now, while I fully cop to the first charge--I like to be in loose fitting clothes whether blogging or working at my actual place of employment. But my blogroll is usually just my easy way of navigating around to the places where I like to visit regularly, and of the six people I've developed internet relationships on that roll, four of them are women, and none of them, to my knowledge, raunch it up like Lil' Kim or Wonkette.

Levin makes two, in my opinion, offensive assumptions about bloggers--one, that we're all male (and those who aren't have to whore themselves out to get blog attention) and two, that we're all white, as though black people lack the ability to be media critics. (p.s. I'm white and male, and have a readership of about six on a good day, which is why I figure in Levin's world, I'm Vanilla Ice, or maybe just Ice's second cousin.)
But don't get caught up in those piddling distinctions. Public Enemy's Chuck D once said that rap music was the black CNN. After busting a cap in Eason Jordan's ass, what are bloggers now if not the white CNN?
What is that supposed to mean? I take it back--there are three offensive parts to this column. The most offensive is that Levin actually gets paid to write this shit.

More funny stuff

This is more of the "how does this guy manage to remember to breathe" kind of funny, but it's the kind of shit we need to make sure we don't take too lightly, because the guy it comes from is dangerous. In short, Jerome Corsi, who should be laughed at and humiliated in public whenever possible, is coming out with a new book, and in it, he's accusing the Democratic party of treason in re Iran.

The staff members of prominent Senate Democrats (and potential 2008 Presidential candidates) are already out front on this, but the zinger of the day goes to Joe Biden's aide Norm Kurz, who said "Who's Corsi's co-author this time - Jeff Gannon?"

I'm thinking that the best way to deal with Corsi and his ilk is the way that Charles De Mar treated Roy Stalin at the high school dance in the classic film "Better Off Dead". After Stalin made some lame ass joke, De Mar followed him around laughing hysterically, as if it were the funniest thing he'd ever heard. He was merciless, and we need to act the same way. We need to irritate Corsi so badly that he vanishes into the slime pit from whence he was spawned, and we need to do that to Coulter and Limbaugh and Hannity and all the rest of them as well.

More funniness

This time from The Rude Pundit. A sampling:

Now the Rude Pundit knows: Grandma must be in hell. Because, apparently, when Grandma was in her retirement years and a card-carrying member of the AARP, her quilting circles were actually excuses for hot lesbian action. Whenever she went on cruises with the widow next door, AARP discounted cruises, it meant that Grandma and the widow would carefully open their tired hips, slowly, lest a nasty break occur, and reveal their withered flowers of orgasmic paradise to hungry tongues and mouths. Oh, how the sweet rocking of the oceans around Bermuda must have enhanced their moans, their pleasures, to and fro, to and fro, ah, Grandma. And let's not even think about Grandpa and whatever went on at the American Legion Hall on Friday nights. But let's just say perhaps AARP stands for the "Association of Anally-Rogering People."

I've needed to add him to the bloglist for a while now. No better time, I suppose.

The return of the Duke boys

I've been fiddling with this off and on in my nugget for a couple of weeks ever since I heard that it was coming out--the movie return of The Dukes of Hazzard--and I can't for the life of me see how anyone with an iota of empathy could think it's a good idea.

Full disclosure time here: I loved The Dukes of Hazzard tv show when it ran in the late 70s and early 80s--when I was 11-13 years old (I never really watched it after the Coy/Vance experiment). What I didn't understand in my pre-teen years was just how disgusting the Confederate battle flag, the name of Robert E. Lee, and the idea that these "Good Old Boys" who reveled in their southernness while seeming to not be racist actually was to my black friends--of whom I had a great number. One thing about the Jehovah's Witnesses--racism is absolutely foreign to them. They have tremendous faults as a religious group, but racism is not one of them.

So I can look back at my fondness for that show and discount it to some degree by saying I was a stupid kid who didn't know any better and who didn't realize just how much of a favor that show did for redneck, cracker, Confederate-flag-waving-nigra-hating southerners by making them look like good-hearted wild children (with a hot cousin). I don't think it's a stretch to say that The Dukes of Hazzard gave serious cover to the argument later made by David Duke and other white supremacists that they weren't out to hate blacks as much as they were trying to express love for their "heritage."

Let me tell you something--I grew up with that heritage. I grew up with people who sported the Stars and Bars, and who had a horn that played "Dixie" and who thought General Lee was the model for southern manhood (and not in the sense that he was both a traitor and a loser). These guys were not the Duke boys--they were people who bemoaned the loss of the Civil War some 100+ years after their ancestors lost it. They were openly members of the Klan. They used the words "nigger" and "boy" easily and with relish, even when they thought they were being complimentary as in "That boy ain't bad for a nigger."

The Dukes of Hazzard gave some of these people--the smarter ones--political and social cover. Suddenly, it wasn't so bad to sport a Confederate flag anymore--it was being done on a hit show, after all, so there was a sort of social acceptance. It was stupid then, but it's worse now.

There's no excuse anymore. If this movie comes out and the car is still sporting the Stars and Bars and is still called the General Lee, then somebody at that studio needs to be smacked. It ain't funny.

Right wing strategy in a nutshell

Publius explains it all for you, Harrison Bergeron style.

They respect nothing.

Ever since I read this op-ed piece this morning, I've been trying to come up with some way to describe the sickness I'm feeling in the pit of my stomach, the dread that makes me wonder if we're already too far gone and the only option is to abandon the country that I've never left. This isn't hyperbole. This isn't a case of making a mountain out of a molehill. This is, to my mind, proof positive that this administration and the people they have placed in charge of the criminal justice system have no respect for the very tenets that this country was founded on. This is despicable, in the truest sense of the word.

ATTORNEYS FOR the Justice Department appeared before a federal judge in Washington this month and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit over the detention of a U.S. citizen, basing their request not merely on secret evidence but also on secret legal arguments. The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court. This position is alien to the history and premise of Anglo-American jurisprudence, which assumes that opposing lawyers will challenge one another's arguments.

Think about what this means, about what they're trying to get a judge to go along with. It's note enought that they want to be able to imprison citizens based on evidence that those citizens are not able to examine, much less challenge the validity of--they want to rig the system so greatly in their favor that those citizens can't even mount a defense.
...it [the Justice Department] urged that the case be dismissed on the basis, yet again, of secret evidence -- this time supplemented with what a Justice Department lawyer termed "legal argument [that] itself cannot be made public without disclosing the classified information that underlies it."

So answer me this--if you don't know what the evidence against you is, or even what the legal argument that you committed a crime is, how in God's name are you supposed to be able to defend yourself in court? If this is allowed to stand, how is the US any different from the totalitarian states we have the hubris to criticize?

Short answer--we aren't. In fact, I'll go a step farther--regardless of whether or not our courts disallow this treatment of one of our own citizens, our administration has crossed the line. We are Saudi Arabia. We are Saddam Hussein's Iraq. We are Communist China, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Uzbekistan, and a dozen other freedom-raping regimes rolled into one big fat fucking capitalist-empire ball.

Thanks a whole fucking lot, red America. Thanks for deciding that your shitty little tax cut and your fear of gay marriage was worth the destruction of a nation founded on ideals instead of on a shared culture. I was getting to the point where my middle finger didn't automatically flash up when I saw a Bush/Cheney bumpersticker, but this has got it going again. Thanks a lot.

The Take

We really are in a golden age of documentary (not to mention non-fiction writing). Last night, we went to a terrific theater in the city, the Red Vic, a worker-owned coop and part of the No Boss Network, and saw a film entitled The Take. It's about the burgeoning occupied factory movement in Argentina. Facinating piece.

Here's the basic breakdown. During the go-go 90s, Argentina's president Menem was doing everything the IMF asked him to do--privatize, privatize, privatize. They ran up massive debt and had nothing to show for it, and their economy went into a free fall it has yet to recover from completely. At the end, when the currency was on its way to becoming worthless, everyone who could get their money out, did so, and Menem locked the doors on the banks, fueling a further run and panic. Then the people took to the streets, and Argentina really got chaotic for a while.

The story of this film is the story of workers who refused to take their unemployment as a fact of existence, and refused to let the bosses dictate when they would have jobs. When factory owners closed the doors, the workers re-opened them, and expropriated the facilities. It isn't easy, but it is working on a small scale, and it has become a part of Argentina's economic recovery. The film is wonderfully done, and I highly recommend it.

My letter to Cox

Imagine my surprise to discover that, despite the clear findings of the Kay Report, as well as voluminous news reports, that the US had found chemical and biological weapons, as well as the facilities to make thoise weapons, in Iraq. That's what you said in a recent speech to CPAC, according to a news report published on Salon.com, and you wouldn't be lying to the American people, would you?

In case you haven't figured it out yet, that opening paragraph is dripping with sarcasm. So to be clear about it, here's my point: You're a liar and a fraud, plain and simple, and you're a disgrace to both the Congress and to your party. The honorable thing for you to do would be to retract your statement and tell the American people the truth about the lack of WMD in Iraq, as well as resign your position as Representative, but as you obviously have no honor or shame, I fully expect you to continue in your position.

If anyone else sends a letter and would like it published here, you can post it in the comments or you can email it to me at incertus_rex@yahoo.com.

Chris Cox (R-Wingnut)

In case you're still wondering why so many people believe that we found WMD in Iraq, here's a possible answer--Republican politicians are telling them we did. No, I'm not making this up. At CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) this year, Rep. Chris Cox said the following in his introduction of Dick Cheney's (VP-Halliburton) keynote address.

"America's Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame-America-first crowd," he crowed. Then he said, "We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq."

Before you ask the obvious question (Have they no shame?), be assured, they don't. It really is that simple.

In case you want to let him know how you feel about the fact that a member of the US House of Representatives is a filthy fucking liar, you can contact him here.

What's the real reason for the Social Security anal rape?

Okay, so this is only a theory, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to come up with it, but bear with me and see what you think.

Part of the reason the economy is shaky is because we're running these huge-ass deficits with no end of them in sight. China et al are going to get tired of lending us trillions of dollars at low interest rates unless we get our shit together--like any lender, they're going to start demanding a premium from us because we're becoming a higher risk. Any attempt at raising income taxes on the wealthy or on corporations will be DOA in Congress--too many of the wingnuts in control of the House actually believe the supply-side rhetoric or are willing to risk their seats, especially since the Club for Growth and Norquist will ratfuck them publicly if they try it.

But the fact is that Bush needs money from somewhere to keep up his plans for creating a secret lair in a hollowed out volcano. Which brings us to Social Security.

Ever since 1983, when Social Security really was in serious trouble and Reagan/Greenspan/Congress made the pledge to raise rates on payroll taxes to stabilize the system, the Social Security system has been running a surplus--a pretty massive one, as a matter of fact--and Congress has been using that surplus to fund their pet projects and regular government spending. It's no secret that payroll taxes hit the poorest the hardest, but since the securing of Social Security was supposed to be the end result, most people went along with it.

Fast forward to 2004, and all of a sudden, we have another so-called crisis--only this time the "crisis" won't actually come for forty years, if it comes at all. So why now? And why the sudden willingness to consider raising the income cap, when up till now Bush has been adamantly opposed to any type of tax raise?

Short answer--it's an easy way to get a cash infusion while "moderate" Democrats give him cover in the name of saving Social Security, and he'll be able to do it on the backs of the upper middle class without substantially hurting his financial base (the haves and the have-mores), all the while doing nothing to help resolve the crisis that isn't. After all, it's not like any larger surplus that Social Security would run would go into a lockbox any more than previous surpluses have--it'll go into the general fund and we'll issue bonds for it just like we have for the last 20 years. The one difference is that Bush will have more money to pass along to his buddies and the working poor will have less, because we'll be paying more to secure a system that doesn't need it. In a Republican administration, this is called a win-win situation.

I guess my main question is whether this was what Bush and his cronies had planned all along--talk up a crisis, act like they wanted to get rid of the system, and when that failed, have blowing the caps as a backup that everyone would go along with. They've gone at it obliquely, but they just may get it--if it didn't piss me off so much, I might admire the sheer brilliance of the plan.

The Jim/Jeff/JD story distilled.

Whether or not you like Maureen Dowd's column--and I often don't--you've got to give her this much: she's a twice-weekly columnist for the NY Times and spent considerable time earlier in her career as a straight-up journalist. She gets to the heart of the Gannon/Guckert story in today's column:

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

And that's it in a nutshell. The gay prostitute thing, as so many others on the blogosphere have put it, is just sauce for the goose, a bit of delectable hypocrisy from the party of "family values" (read "homos are sinners destined for hellfire). The real issue is one of security--if the White House didn't know that JimmyJeffJD wasn't who he said he was (and remember--all of this stuff about Guckert's personal life came basically from google searches), then how can they be expected to know personal information about anyone, like, oh, I don't know, the people being held at Guantanamo Bay? I'm guessing the background check to get into a White House press briefing is generally a little more stringent than the one that gets you tossed in a US prison camp without legal representation and barred from contact with the outside world.

Fuck Hinderaker

Hinderaker isn't a worthy enough human being to eat the dingleberries off Jimmy Carter's ass and he's going to accuse the Nobel Peace prize winner of treason? Fuck him, and fuck all his shitty little Freeper tough-talking-but-don't-do-shit-when-the-chips-are-down wannabe hangers-on. Fuck them all.

Favorite new blog

Or perhaps, new to me is the better way to put it. It's not Ezra Klein's new joint, nor is it Legal Fiction, where Publius plies his trade. It's not even Here's What's Left, where I spend a good bit of time in the comments section.

Nope, it's Keith Olbermann's new place, Bloggermann. I've always liked him, from his days at ESPN to his ill-fated FNC attempt, and to his current MSNBC stint (although I never get to watch him anymore, because I don't have and refuse to get cable). He was the only tv personality that I saw giving any credence to the Ohio voter fraud issue, and he's taken the recent brouhaha over SpongeDob Stickypants with his usual sarcastic tone.

But he really goes after Brit Hume in today's installment. Sorry for the length of the quote.

Hume, and others like those bastions of public conduct John Fund and Bill Bennett, have taken a bunch of 70-year old quotes out of context to make it look like Franklin Delano Roosevelt is endorsing President Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security....

The syntax is a little ancient but the message is pretty straightforward. For 1935, people who would only take money out of Social Security and not put any in, should have their contributions covered half by the federal government and half by the states. Later on, those contributions should be replaced by the “self-supporting annuity plans” — which Roosevelt has already defined (“Second…”) as the actual Social Security system. Buried in the formality of his third point, FDR is talking about things we would later know as IRA’s and Keoghs and 401k’s.

But look at how Hume mixed and matched the original Roosevelt quotes on February 4th (and we’re quoting this verbatim from Fox’s website) “…it turns out that FDR himself planned to include private investment accounts in the Social Security program when he proposed it. In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, ‘Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,’ adding that government funding, ‘ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.’”

Roosevelt said no such thing. The “voluntary contributory annuities” are the IRA’s and Keoghs and 401k’s. What “ought to ultimately be supplanted” was the special government contributions to Social Security on behalf of people born in the 1870’s and earlier, and the “self-supporting annuity plans” constitute Social Security itself.

It’s premeditated, historical fraud, but you will not see Hume nor Fox News backpedal from it (as Jordan did for his misdemeanor), nor apologize for it (as Jordan did), nor save their masters from its shame (as Jordan did — of course there is no shame at Fox).
He pulls no punches, which is as it should be. If Hume had a shred of decency, well, he wouldn't have made the statement in the first place, but if he had even a shred of a shred, he'd have backed off this already. How's that corporate dick taste, Brit? How much did you get for your soul?

Sweet freaking Jesus

I thought I'd seen everything when it came to psychotic food choices, but thanks to the Chicago Tribune, by way of Steve Gilliard, I've been blown away.

DECATUR, Ga. -- When Becky Cleaveland is out with her friends, they all pick at salads except for Cleaveland. She tackles "The Hamdog."

The dish, a specialty of Mulligan's, a Decatur bar, is a hot dog wrapped by a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions and served on a hoagie bun. Oh yeah, it's also topped with a fried egg and comes with two fistfuls of fries.

Just reading that makes my chest hurt. Don't get me wrong--I love to eat, and I really love to eat rich food. In fact, to celebrate my girlfriend's recent poetry prize, we went to dinner at a place called Cote Sud, and had a dinner that was absolutely decadent. Rock Shrimp Risotto, Escargot, Foie Gras, Filet Mignon, Seared Ahi Tuna wrapped in Prosciutto, Coq au Vin, Chocolate Mousse, and a poached pear in port wine with cinnamon. I didn't eat all that myself--there were three of us there--but it's pretty obvious I'm no prude when it comes to chowing down.

But a burger wrapped around a hot dog, deep-fried, and smothered in chili, cheese and onions? That sounds like drunk food, and not even good drunk food. That sounds like "been at the $5 all-you-can-swallow followed up with a couple pitchers of Natty Lite going to the Waffle House" drunk.

And yet, the hamdog may not be the worst.
At Mulligan's, owner Chandler Goff is quick to point out that the bar also offers healthy alternatives, such as salads. But he acknowledged the Hamdog and the "Luther Burger," a bacon-cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut, are what draw attention.
I only say "may" because I'm still shuddering at the comparison.

Time to dump the dollar?

What I know about world economics and currency speculation could fit on this page, and there's be plenty of room to spare, so please realize that what I'm saying here has nothing to do with any personal expertise on this subject.

That said, it doesn't take a PhD in economics to know that our economy is looking pretty hazy right now. Historically speaking, our balance sheet looks a lot like Argentina's at the end of the last century, and we all know the meltdown they went through before they told the World Bank and the IMF to piss off about their debt repayment schedule and got their economy back on track thanks to some good old Keynesian government regulation. (By the way, I got all that info from Greg Palast and Paul Krugman).

But even though I don't know a lot about economics per se, I know to watch very wealthy people and see what they do with their money, so when both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett think the dollar hasn't hit bottom yet, and are moving their personal wealth from the dollar to the Euro, I can't help but think that something's up. Buffett, you may remember, managed to dodge the bursting of the dot com bubble simply because he noticed that so much of what was supposed to be there, simply wasn't. And Gates, well, he's not the richest man in the world because he's lucky. They know how to read a balance sheet, and they see just how shaky the foundation of the US economy is right now.

I don't have any money to move out of the country, but were I to say, win the lottery, I wouldn't be able to divest quickly enough.

It's time.

Dean's officially the man, now, and it's time for us to show that we back him. I expect that everyone who'll be giving to the DNC will be doing so from one of the big boys like Kos or Atrios, so this is more a show of solidarity than anything else, but I'm doing it anyway, and I'll be sending a few dollars on Tuesday, once I get paid.

Contribution amount:

The contribution link takes you to Act Blue, by the way. Thanks.

In case you were wondering why I like this guy so much, here's the reason. From the Salon War Room:
Dean said that Democrats can't make progress in more conservative states until they start talking to voters one-on-one. "It is going to take a lot of work, and I'm going to be asking for a lot from all of you," Dean told Democrats in his acceptance speech. "We can't run 18-state presidential campaigns and expect to win. We have a strategy for every state and territory, and it's very simple: Show up. People will vote for Democrats in Texas and Utah and West Virginia if we knock on their doors, introduce ourselves, and tell them what we believe. That's what organization allows us to do."

When Democrats start those conversations, Dean said, they'll begin the work of framing the political debate on their own terms. "We frame the issues," Dean said. "The Republicans will not tell America what the Democratic agenda is. We will do that."
It's simple, really. He gets it.

About Social Security

I've stayed away from this topic, mostly because it's way more complex than I fully comprehend, and because so many other people have been doing a bangup job on the topic, especially Publius from Legal Fiction here and here.

But this is the most salient point to make about any Social Security discussion, in my view. Whenever Bush says, or even hints at, the idea that Social Security will be bankrupt, he's lying. Lying. Not confused. This is not a difference of opinion. He's lying, pure and simple.

Because anyone who knows the first thing about Social Security knows that it cannot go bankrupt, not unless the Federal government stops collecting payroll taxes. What it can do is reach the point where it can't pay out the full amount of promised benefits, but that's not the same as bankrupt.

Now here's the second most important point: the only way that there's anything resembling a crisis is if the economy does a good bit worse over an extended period of time, namely, between now and 2042. Now, with the way Bush is running the economy, there's certainly a possibility that we'll be faced with just that scenario, but should we come to a crisis of that magnitude, we'll be in such deep shit that the Social Security problem will just be sauce for the goose. I'll let Publius explain it:

All the predictions you’re hearing about Social Security’s long-term health are based on predictions from the annual report by the Social Security Board of Trustees. These predictions are based on a number of assumptions such as average lifespan, economic growth, etc. With respect to SS's long-term fiscal health, the Trustees offered three different scenarios based on three different assumptions about economic growth – one “optimistic”; one “pessimistic”; and one “intermediate.” The “intermediate” assumption is the basis for the claim that Social Security will be “bankrupt” by 2042.

Under the “intermediate” assumption, the economy grows at a rate of about 1.9%, and Social Security will, in 2042, not be able to pay out all of its promised benefits (in other words, there will be a gap under this assumption). But even if this is true, SS can still pay over 70% of its promised benefits, so the “bankruptcy” claim is bogus. However, under the “optimistic” assumption that the economy will grow at 2.6% (not 1.9%), there is no shortage until 2080. But here’s the kicker. The most “optimistic” growth assumption is less than the historical rate of growth. In other words, if the economy grows at the same rate as it always has, there is no crisis at all. Don’t get lost in the numbers, it’s the general principle that counts.

And more importantly, don’t be fooled by the things you will hear such as fewer workers are supporting more people, or that the population is getting older. That’s all true, but it’s already been factored in. If the economy grows the way it always has, there is no crisis even though all this stuff is happening.

Here's the root of it all. The only way there's a crisis is if we have a major-league economic meltdown that we can't pull out of for a decade or longer, or if the government defaults on the loans it has made from the SS trust fund. We still have to beat this thing into the ground to keep the Republicans from making their Wall Street buddies even richer on the backs of the working class, but at the very least, we've got the information necessary to make it happen.

Survivor: Guantanamo Bay!

When I first saw the main page headline for this article, I was immediately angry. "Reality TV to test 'Guantanamo' techniques" made me think of "Extreme Fear Factor!!!!!" something that would gloss over the actual techniques that the military has been using (and for all we know, may still be using) in the Iraq War and at Guantanamo Bay. The fact that the show is being produced by the same people who originally created "Big Brother" only adds to the aggravation.

And from what I can glean from the article, the producers are glossing over the actual torture in the sense that they're using a) declassified techniques, b) only mild physical contact and c) are using volunteers who were rigorously screened and who received intensive medical and psychological attention during and after the show. Now, if volunteer contestants in good health required "intensive medical and psychological attention" during and after the show, imagine what kind of shape the actual Guantanamo detainees are in.

On one hand, it's possible that people will watch this program (assuming it ever makes it to the States), extrapolate out what actual torture might be like, and be horrified enough to start kicking the asses of people who are responsible for it. On the other hand, (especially if US producers decide to make their own show and offer a cash prize), it could turn into a "those rag-heads are just a bunch of pussies and need to suck it up" jingoistic bloody shirt waving pukefest. I'm betting on the latter.

Happy Mardi Gras!

It's been a little surprising to me, living in San Francisco, that this city, so seemingly dedicated to hedonism and openness about sexuality, does next to nothing for this holiday that is the embodiment of hedonistic and sexual behavior.

Or maybe it's just an excuse for San Franciscans to go to New Orleans.

Have a good time, y'all. I spent my Mardi Gras morning at the dentist, and I'm spending the afternoon in class.

Almost forgot.
Dean wins! And by extension, that means the grassroots wins as well. The DLC proved that they could lose elections through triangulation. Now we have to prove that we can win elections by standing on principle.

And keeping with my practice of linking people who visit and comment (as long as they aren't assholes), I'd like to welcome Mushtown Media Corp to the blogroll. Thanks for coming by, Hoosier X.

Today's Letter to the Editor

I've decided--buoyed by my girlfriend's incredible success in getting Letters to the Editor published--to write at least one LTE every week. I've always got something to bitch about, so I might as well try bitching at a larger audience.

Anyway, here's the one I sent to the San Francisco Chronicle just a few moments ago. I'll let you know if they decide to publish it.

Only in Washington could a budget that increases the yearly deficit by $42 billion over the next five years be called austere, especially when that figure is only derived by not adding in any costs related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush would like us to believe that we can cut everything but military spending, Medicare and Social Security (including taxes), and reduce the deficit. That's simply not true. Bush's suggested program cuts will reduce the deficit by 6% according to a report on NPR. A rollback of his ruinous tax cuts from the last two years would cut the deficit in half. It's time to ask ourselves what's more important--overall fiscal responsibility or lower taxes for the wealthiest among us?

I'd have liked to have gone into more detail, like how the budget cuts will wipe out extraordinarily successful programs that help intelligent but poor kids go to college for instance, or even that because the Iraq/Afghanistan money wasn't included, there won't actually be any deficit reduction, but I was limited to 200 words. Any constructive criticism is welcome.

Having fun with the troll.

My resident troll wrote in the comments:

Hey did you hear they captured the those horrible torturing couple. Turns out Abu Ghraib wasn't so bad, was it. But you wouldn't admit it wasn't torture, would you. Becuase that would announce to all the world you have no idea about that which you shoot your mouth off.

I assume that not all Republicans, not even all trolls, actually believe that just because there's a couple of sick bastards in the US who torture their own children, suddenly the actions of the military in Iraq described in the Taguba report and elsewhere aren't so bad. Do I even have to go into the myriad ways in which these two circumstances are different? I really hope that it's only my particular troll who is so stupid as to equate the two--and that he/she isn't allowed to operate heavy machinery.


I mean really funny. My favorite section is the one on Family Policy.

Family Policy

1. I'm a virgin. My twin daughters, Jenna and Jenna's sister, are both virgins. And my wife became a born again virgin after she ran over the last guy who had sex with her. We want all of you to be virgins too.

2. We need to build strong family relationships. I come from very close family. In fact, we're so close, we all look alike (except the brown ones in Florida). My mother looks like Barney and my daughters look like my brother, Neal.

3. Abortions should only be available for your Honduran maid.

4. If you're ever in Thailand, don't open your hotel door.

5. Ny-Quil and aspirin will give you a buzz.

6. Porking your Secretary of State doesn't count as sex. It's one of those diplomatic liaison thingies.

I can't believe I missed it.

No, not the SOTU address--I missed that deliberately, as I can't eat and see/hear Bush at the same time without getting ill. I missed my own blogging anniversary. Hard to believe I've been doing this a year as of the last day of January. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and/or cross-linked me. I have no plans to quit anytime soon.

On a side note, I think it's funny that the troll in the comments seems to think that I'm insulted by his use of John Kerry's name, when it's been painfully obvious to anyone who was here during the election and the primary season that I never liked the guy. Ah, the irony of the ignorant.

Why is anyone surprised?

Atrios notes that Congressional Republicans are apparently planning to show up at the State of the Union Address with purple ink on their fingers to show how they support Iraqi voters.

Let me set aside for the moment that Iraqi voters might be better served by the US having a responsible policy in Iraq (which would include, you know, not torturing prisoners), and just say this. After the "Purple Heart bandaid" incident at the Republican National Convention, why should this kind of crap surprise anyone? Give me a break.

The biggest downside to oral surgery

is not the pain, in my opinion. The pain was never more than moderate, and the Vicodin/ibuprofen cocktail more than handled it. It's the goddamn antibiotics that have largely kept me from drinking for the last few days that are bugging the hell out of me. I cheated this afternoon--I work in a brewery; I'm only human!--but have sheepishly returned to taking them until I finish the bottle. Should only be another day and a half or so, and then I can return to imbibing the sweet water of life.

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