Monthly Archives: January 2011

Friday Ferretblogging: Claire vs. The Evil Paper Tube

Most of the ferrets we’ve had haven’t nibbled much of anything, though Riot does like to sharpen his teeth on a pair of my shoes once in a while. Claire, however, is a chewer, and her snack of choice is cardboard, so we have to watch her carefully when she plays with boxes to make sure she’s not, you know, actually ingesting anything. Much as the Best Vet Ever is quite awesome, I’d really like to avoid vising her for a while.

In this installment of Ferret TV, Claire gets mightily angry at a paper tube for resisting her efforts to hack it to pieces with her itty bitty teeth:

A.

We Were Right, You Assholes

Now this is awesome. This is how it ought to be done.Have a little pride, for chrissakes:

The news media have been, if anything, even more craven than the administration has been in defending its failure to investigate Bush’s case for war in Iraq before the war.

Here’s ABC News’ Charles Gibson:“I think the questions were asked. It was just a drumbeat of support from the administration. It is not our job to debate them. It is our job to ask the questions.”And “I’m not sure we would have asked anything differently.”

Really?

Or this from NBC’s Brian Williams:“Sadly, we saw fellow Americans — in some cases floating past facedown (after Katrina). We knew what had just happened. We weren’t allowed that kind of proximity with the weapons inspectors [in Iraq]. I was in Kuwait for the buildup to the war, and, yes, we heard from the Pentagon, on my cell phone, the minute they heard us report something that they didn’t like. The tone of that time was quite extraordinary.”And this: “”It’s tough to go back, to put ourselves in the mind-set. It was post-9/11 America.”

So the Pentagon tells the media what kind of reporting is in- and out-of-bounds?

Hogwash.Hogwash!HOGWASH.

We confess that here atMcClatchy, which purchasedKnight Riddertwo years ago, we do have a dog in this fight. Our team – Joe Galloway, Clark Hoyt, Jon Landay, Renee Schoof, Warren Strobel, John Walcott, Tish Wells and many others – was, with a few exceptions, the only major news media organization that before the war consistently and aggressively challenged the White House’s case for war, and its lack of planning for post-war Iraq.

Journalists think of themselves like the Catholic Church does. They have these internal rules and structures and habits they’ve formed, and they think that, like church Canon Law, that this Journalism Law is something that everybody else has to follow, too, and that it must be obeyed. And so when the five guys at the top, of whom I think Brian Williams is unquestionably one, say something was inevitable, everybody else is expected to just go along. Good for McClatchy for telling them to fuck themselves.

And hey, Brian? The Pentagon’s on your phone telling you your story sucks? Buddy, I don’t know where you went to school but where I went, when an official asshole is on your phone bitching you out, you put that guy on speaker so everybody in the newsroom can hearwhat a fucking great job you’re doing. It’s hard getting yelled at, I get that. I don’t like it either. But lots of people in this war got DEAD, and so maybe you could have put up with some rudeness on the phone. You know, as a sacrifice. For your country.

A.

Friday Catblogging: Couch Potatoes Edition

It’s a classic Della and Oscar pose after waking up. She’s all “I’m awesome” and he’s all “Let me sleep, man. I’m very beautiful so I need my beauty rest.”

Waking up

Precious Time

Tonight on Adrastos’ obsession with the Jayhawks:

This time it’s Mark Olson and Gary Louris with Maria McKee. This is dedicated to Robert and Kevin who brought up Maria’s great ’80’s band Lone Justice whilecommenting on the Los Lobos post.

http://www.youtube.com/e/jsUTOXEcbOs

Malaka Of The Week: Rick Santorum

I’ve missed having former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum to kick around. He was stupid and crazy before it was fashionable. He’s best known for his comparison of gay sex to “man on dog sex.” Those were the days, my friend. Arf, lick, woof.

Santorum was defeated for re-election by Bob Casey in 2006 and he’s mostly kept his head down since then. But with the advent of the Tea Party, Rick has poked his head out of his hole, so it’s time for me to play a bit of whack-a-mole and make him malaka of the week.

Former Senator Man On Dog Sex (as I and many others lovingly called him) has decided to dip his toe into the 2012 Presidential race. Since it’s mandatory for Goopers to say stupid and inflammatory things about Barack Obama, Rick fits right in.Here’s his latest:

The question is — and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well if that person — human life is not a person, then — I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, “We’re going to decide who are people and who are not people.”

The so-called right to lifers have long compared abortion to slavery but very few of them have used this as a cudgel to beat up Obama. But Rick Santorum, like a demented Captain Kirk, is willing to go where few have gone before and claim that Obama should oppose abortion rights because he’s black. I guess Rick forgot that whole “color blind” thing that wingers are forever going on about.

Hypocrisy and opportunism are crucial components of political malakatude and Santorum is good at both. Since he’s allegedly a constitutionalist, I’m surprised that little Ricky didn’t invoke thethree-fifths rule and insist that Obama should, at the very least, apply it to the “pre-born.” Not that Mr. Man On Dog Sex would get that reference but he could always call Ginny Thomas and ask her. She could always interrupt Clarence’s porn viewing and, uh, solicit his views…

Finally, here’s the clip of Malaka Santorum opening his mouth and inserting his foot:

YOUR Poverty is Virtuous

You should labor mightily and for little money, so that I can admire your picturesque and quaint industry from my well-appointed sitting room:

Seven months into its bid toreinvent the metro newspaper, The Bay Citizen, the San Francisco-based nonprofit news site, has so farraised a total of $14.5 million in philanthropic gifts, rolled out daily online news and culture coverage with a 26-person-staff, and, during November, attracted a monthly audience of approximately 200,000 unique visitors. It’son track to spend $4 million during its first year.

[snip]

In a world where many local nonprofit startups are shoestring operations run by refugees from downsized or shuttered metro papers, The Bay Citizen’s relatively large budget continues to attract scrutiny — and some hostility. (As a quick comparison, the national investigative nonprofitProPublica spent approximately $9.3 million last year, and the local civic news outletVoice of San Diego spent approximately $1 million.)

“I’m honestly mystified as to why so many journalist-commentators seem to think that spending real money on journalism is a bad thing,” Weber told me. “I’ve been there, and there is nothing especially virtuous about being broke.” Moreover, he said, “I would challenge anyone to take a hard look at what we do — and I mean really dive in in a serious way over a period of time — and tell me that we are wasting money.”

Right. Just for comparison’s sake, here’s what a for-profit newspaper company thinks is appropriate spending:

Mr. FitzSimons, 57, who has been with the company since 1982, became president in 2001, chief executive in 2003 and chairman in 2004.

He leaves with a total of about $15 million, which includes severance, a “gross-up” to cover taxes, and a bonus, in addition to retirement, deferred compensation and other benefits worth more than $4 million, according to an analysis by James F. Reda & Associates, a compensation consulting firm. In addition, he will cash in $19 million in stock, restricted stock grants and stock options that he would receive even if he were not leaving.

But oh, these little non-profit startups are supposed to be scrappy and poor and not at all a reasonable competitor to an actual for-profit company! They can’t have a budget that looks REAL! We can’t have that!

And before anybody goes on a wank about NONprofit, that nonprofit status doesn’t mean they don’t make any money or pay anybody. The heads of some 501c3s make and spend obscene amounts of money.

Mostly, though, I agree with Weber and it’s the attitude that everybody ELSE should be poor that makes me annoyed, and it’s a thing you see in major news commentary all the time: Rich assholes bemoaning the dearth of examples of noble poverty for them to point to in their columns. People doing a job are not your goddamn scenery, and authenticity is not conveyed by holes in one’s shoes. Romanticizing the poverty of others is just as bad as ignoring it; in neither case are you actually seeing the poor, just what they represent to YOU.

Your poverty is only a morale-building, toughening, valuable life lesson after you’re rich, and telling the story about how you used to scrounge the day-old bagel bin at the coffee shop to get through the week is either a coping mechanism or a distancing one. Either way, it doesn’t actually do shit to improve anybody else’s lot, not when you’re surviving on comparative pennies and dickheads like FitzSimons are walking away with the bank.

A.

Deep Holy Joe Thought

Joe Lieberman is the most pompous man in the world. He’s even more pompous than your average United States Senator and that’s pompous. He also seems to confuse himself with JFK. Nobody else does…

Don’t Let the Door Hit You, Joe

FromAlbum3

Andthus ends the Lieberman era, not with a bang, but an extended, two year, droopy whimper.

I’m embarrassed to admit that, all those years ago, after voting for the first time in Wisconsin at the fire station on Willy St., then gloomily reading the next day’s newspaper (ooooh — pre-internet even)…I took small solace in seeing something about the Dems picking up a seat in Connecticut. I didn’t realize at the time it was Joe knocking offLowell Weicker … well, live and learn.

Anyway, good riddance…some credit for working to repeal DADT, though that’s heavily offset by Joe’s ADAMENT refusal to look into the reasons behind Team Bush’s epic Katrina/Flood fuckup and otherwise being an utterly annoying prick to liberals.

Wednesday Night Music: Burn It Down

I’ve been listening to Los Lobos for a long time. Their albums are a bit of a mish mash; especially during their tiresome Mitchell Froom/Tchad Blake “experimental” phase. These guys from East LA, however, have *always* been a stellar live act. This is a tune from their latest CDTin Can Trust, which doesn’t have too much of the clanking percussion that marred efforts such asColossal Head.

Dope on the table

Okay, so someone at a conference asked Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld what he thought ofThe Wire. Watch the video below and see if you can tell exactly when the Commissioner makes his first mistake:

If you answered “As soon as he opens hisfuckmook mouth,” you’d be right.

Bealefield says heknows David Simon. If so, then he was probably not surprised by this:

Publicly, let me state that The Wire owes no apologies—at least not for its depiction of those portions of Baltimore where we set our story, for its address of economic and political priorities and urban poverty, for its discussion of the drug war and the damage done from that misguided prohibition, or for its attention to the cover-your-ass institutional dynamic that leads, say, big-city police commissioners to perceive a fictional narrative, rather than actual, complex urban problems as a cause for righteous concern. As citizens using a fictional narrative as a means of arguing different priorities or policies, those who created and worked on The Wire havedissented.

Commissioner Bealefeld may not be comfortable with public dissent, or even a public critique of his agency. He may even believe that the recent decline in crime entitles him to denigrate as “stupid” or “slander” all prior dissent, as if the previous two decades of mismanagement in the Baltimore department had not happened and should not have been addressed by any act of storytelling, given that Baltimore is no longer among the most violent American cities, but merely a very violent one.

Others might reasonably argue, however that it is not sixty hours of The Wire that will require decades for our city to overcome, as the commissioner claims. A more lingering problem might be two decades of bad performance by a police agency more obsessed with statistics than substance, with appeasing political leadership rather than seriously addressing the roots of city violence, with shifting blame rather than taking responsibility. That is the police department we depicted in The Wire, give or take our depiction of some conscientious officers and supervisors. And that is an accurate depiction of the Baltimore department for much of the last twenty years, from the late 1980s, when cocaine hit and the drug corners blossomed, until recently, when Mr. O’Malley became governor and the pressure to clear those corners without regard to legality and to make crime disappear on paper finally gave way to some normalcy and, perhaps, some police work. Commissioner Bealefeld, who was present for much of that history, knows it as well as anyone associated with The Wire.

Children Have Always Lived in Cities

Part of my problem withstories like the one linked in this post, and with discussions that begin with “you can’t raise a family in the city” anyway, is that they’re essentially classist and are about people who have a choice one way or the other, but never ever ever acknowledge that.

The other thread is the “people want to live in cities until they have kids then it’s too hard.” I get that quality of local schools is a genuine issue, but otherwise I’m rather confused by the “can’t raise 2 kids without a minivan in the suburbs” attitude I see from lots of people. People can and do raise kids in the city and manage just fine. Really not sure what the difficulties are.

It drives me wild when people say, “you can’t raise a child in the city,” because, um, POOR children have always grown up in cities. But screw them, they’re poor, and probably their parents could have saved them from the horror of not having a yard if they’d just bought cheaper groceries, so we don’t care about them. We mean OUR children, the nice ones, who are most likely white and made the virtuous choice to be born rich. For fuck’s sake, if a city is such a toxic environment in which to raise your child, then it’s a toxic environment in which to raise ANYONE’S child, but things only become trend stories when rich people do them, after all.

(Obligatory middle-class disclaimer: I can totally see where you want space and a yard and such with children. “Go outside and play” would be a lot easier if there was, you know, outside that wasn’t infested with people who don’t know how to drive and speed through alleys WHO DOES THAT I ASK YOU. Living in the city with any dependents or none at all is a pain in the ass sometimes. Right now I would commit murder for a heated garage. I HATE scraping off the car. I hate moving the car around based on street cleaning days and I hate, in general, the snowblowing goatfuckers who start up their horrible machines at 9 p.m. and sometimes I really hate hearing the neighbors’ TV. And in the summer I long for central air. But if I had a lawn to take care of and a roof to worry about, I’d hate that too and bitch about it all the time. Bitching about our living situations is what human beings do.)

I’m not saying you then have to stay in the city or should even want to stay there, I mean, do whatever the hell you want, but at least acknowledge that fact in the conversation. “I didn’t want to raise my kid with crackheads in the alley” is a different thing than “You can’t raise a child with crackheads in the alley.” One’s a statement of preference (shit, people rasie their kids with crackheads in the next room), the other’s acting like your own situation wasn’t a choice you made.

Which ignores a whole swath of the population we really shouldn’t be ignoring when we talk about how to make decent lives for kids.

A.

Today in Total Asshole Digest: Mark Halperin

Mark Halperin, everybody:

What political good has come out of the tragic Arizona shooting so far?

Yes, by all means, let’s make sure we know the answer to THAT question.

Amoral jackass.

Who has failed to rise to the occasion?
Those liberals (particularly on the Internet) who instantly blamed the right for effectively instigating the assault and those conservatives (particularly on talk radio) who turned cherry-picked examples of liberal overreach into sweeping generalizations.
Liberals on the Internet, most of whom are just that guy who types stuff occasionally onto a message board, and talk radio conservatives who have billion-dollar businesses and books to their names and tables at wherever they want and invites onto talk shows and profiles in the New York Times about how they’re “controversial” and cover stories in Time about how maybe they’re just kidding with the genocidal rhetoric. Those are totally equivalent groups. Absolutely. Why, I deplore them completely equally.

What should an optimist hope for next?
That politicians will move from denouncing hostile rhetoric broadly to the steeper step of calling out members of their own clan. Bipartisan cooperation on real issues like jobs, taxes and trade. And a respite from tribal and unforgiving new-media politics.

Guys, if anybody needs me … I mean, a respite from tribal and unforgiving new-media politics? Yes, by all means, let’s return to the hallowed days of old-media politics, in which Richard Nixon was gleefully ratfucking his political opponents and most of official Washington couldn’t be bothered to give a damn.

Let’s go even farther back than that and yearn for the gloriously civil broadcasts ofRev. William Coughlin, who used that venerable instrument, the wireless, to downplay Kristallnacht and talk shit about FDR and his “Jewish conspirators.”

Let’s go even farther back than that, and model ourselves upon the supremely civil discussion of our founding fathers, who may have called one another crooks and whoremongers, but they did it on rag paper with those funny characters that made s look like f, so it was all fine.

Halperin gets invited to parties where they introduce him to impressionable youth as a political journalist, so I think it should be pointed out here that he has no idea what he’s talking about on either subject. I get everybody gets to be a little history-ignorant, I mean, I had to look some stuff up for this post after all, but COME ON.

Though he did phrase all of his misconceptions, false premises and dubious equivalencies in nice civil language without saying fuck once, so I’m pretty sure that means he wins the morning and the afternoon.

Schmuck.

A.

Baby Doc In The Dock?

Haiti has been a tragic and afflicted country for its entire history so good news out of there is exceedingly rare. Baby Doc Duvalier returned to the country this week for obscure reasons: hubris? delusion? stupidity? He arrived broke, hoping to arose sympathy and/or support, which in some quarters he has.Here’s the good news: he was dragged off to court earlier today and is facing corruption charges.

The Duvalier family regime in Haiti was one of the most oppressive, brutal and crooked governments imaginable. The were racketeers, not rulers. The Duvaliers relied on terror both physical, in the form of the tonton macoutes, and psychological, via Papa Doc’s use of voodoo imagery, to keep the Haitian people scared shitless. I hope Baby Doc will also be charged with murder and crimes against humanity. He’s an odious little toad of a man who should pay for the crimes his family committed over decades of bloody misrule.

Finally, a plug for what I think is the best book written about Haiti in Papa Doc’s time:The Comedians by Graham Greene. If you’ve never read it, rush out and get a copy. You won’t be sorry and if you are, blame me. I can take it.

Okay, One Last Caprica Post

Because the Jacob recaps are all up, and as usual they’re better than anything:

This is what Shakespeare has to say about it:

…[T]he fixed sentinels almost receive
The secret whispers of each other’s watch.
Fire answers fire, and through their paly flames
Each battle sees the other’s umbered face.

…But I think we can do better. How about Churchill?

You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.

Who painted the sky? You did. Who brings the sun up over the horizon, every day? With a fresh breeze, just at the darkest time of all? It is only necessary that you see it. We spent every day of that flight praying for more light. The dawn is your responsibility, every single day: Your only duty is to wake up tomorrow.

This isn’t going to make much sense, but I didn’t know how much I needed to read that until I read it, you know?

A.

Sargent Shriver, RIP

Sargent Shriver died today at the age of 95. He was best known to the world as a second banana: JFK’s brother-in-law, Ahnuld’s father-in-law and McGovern’s 1972 running mate after Eagleton crapped out and everybody else turned the hapless nominee down. But Shriver was the first Peace Corps director and one of the leaders of the Great Society’s war on poverty. He was also a stand-up guy and, according to one of my relatives who met him, a helluva ballroom dancer.

National Short Attention-Span Theater

This, okay:

People mostly remembered that Bill Clinton once had made a passing mention of what he called “the purveyors of hatred and division… the promoters of paranoia” on the airwaves. (At the actual memorial service, Clinton quoted Scripture and talked about healing.) This time, many people struck pre-emptively; Rush Limbaugh may be self-medicating his wounded ego for the rest of his life over what he imagines Clinton said about him. There was a lot of what was called “defensiveness” on the activist Right, but it was nothing of the sort. They were on offense, just the way they have been since they took that heat in 1995. They abide by the order Stalin gave to the Red Army when the Germans invaded in 1942:Ni shagu nazad.

Not a step back.

The activist Right wants this rhetoric for 2012. It wants the same dark energies that helped it win the House last fall. It wants to be able to say the same things with impunity that it’s been saying since 2009, as though Tucson never happened. Oklahoma City might as well have happened to the Hittites.

Which is how nothing ever changed. Which is why Oklahoma City wasn’t enough.

This is why all our proclamations of unity post 9/11 were bullshit. This is why anyone who had been fundamentally awake in the last 20 years knew they were going to be bullshit. We were no more new men made of moonbeams than we ever were, and none of these things are that long ago. We just tell ourselves they were, so that we can get on with business, because somehow in all our moving around, we decided a cultural memory was something we could cast off without consequence.

And not for nothing, but no small part of how easily we forget is how easily the Democratic Party let everybody forget all the nasty shit that happened during Clinton’s term, and Bush’s, and who was behind it all. So eager to work with those nice Republicans, so reluctant to offend anybody by saying something loud or possibly rude which might cost them votes from peoplewho were never gonna vote for them anyway. So afraid of being calledpartisan on the Sunday shows, partisan being the new liberal or something, partisan being a bad thing to be as a leader of a politicalparty. At every point they could have pressed an advantage, they stepped back out of concern for their own vanity. And this is what happens.

I had an editor, once, used to tear apart my stories because he said I was assuming readers were inside my head, assuming they’d know what I meant and would go where I wanted them to go. Thing he drilled into my head was, you want somebody to go someplace you have to take them by the hand and lead them, and then if they won’t go, you have to get behind and push them, and then if they still won’t go you pick your foot off the ground and you kick them down the road in the direction you want them to head.

People don’t just magically come to the conclusion that everything out of Rush Limbaugh’s and Ann Coulter’s and Sarah Palin’s mouth is a crazy lie because they listen and evaluate and decide why yes, these people are saying douche-y untrue things on a daily basis, possibly I should turn the dial. When there’s no pushback, when nobody in power is willing to stand up and counter this for fear of losing the moral high ground (as if the moral high ground in a swamp isn’tstill a fucking swamp), you’re left with the loudest voice in the room. And I’m human, I get it, it’s hard to drown that voice out after a while.

So you want this not to happen again? You want this not to be the uncomfortable memory we’re bringing up in another 15 years when there’s another Democratic president wingnut radio’s listeners are being told is Satan incarnate? Then you accept that nobody knows anything they aren’t told at top volume, and you open your mouth and you speak.

A.

Caligula Meets Silvio Berlusconi

In news from Italy:

Item-1:The lost tomb of Caligula has been found after an enterprising thief stumbled upon it and tried to smuggle a statute of the mad horse loving emperor abroad:

Officers from the archaeological squad ofItaly‘s tax police had a break last week after arresting a man near Lake Nemi, south of Rome, as he loaded part of a 2.5 metre statue into a lorry. The emperor had a villa there, as well as a floating temple and a floating palace; their hulks were recovered in Mussolini’s time but destroyed in the war.

The police said the statue was shod with a pair of the “caligae” military boots favoured by the emperor – real name Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; as a boy, Gaius accompanied his father on campaigns in Germany; the soldiers were amused he wore a miniature uniform, and gave him his nickname Caligula, or “little boot”.

The statue is estimated to be worth €1m. Its rare Greek marble, throne and god’s robes convinced the police it came from the emperor’s tomb. Under questioning, the tomb raider led them to the site, where excavations will start today.

Item-2: Speaking of sex crazed leaders and boots, even right wing Italian pols may be ready to give my old pal Silvio Berlusconi the boot after this:

Silvio Berlusconi‘s political career is once again in jeopardy after prosecutors today accused him of paying a “significant” number of women to have sex with him at parties he hosted last year.

Investigators also claim to have “ample investigative evidence” that Berlusconi provided flats for the women in return for sex at a Milan housing complex he built in the 1970s before entering politics.

He is already under investigation on suspicion ofpaying for sex with one of his guests, Karima el-Mahroug, a Moroccan belly dancer known asRuby Rubacuori, when she was 17 – an offence under Italian law. He is also suspected of pressuring police into freeing her from custody after she was arrested on suspicion of theft last May.

Berlusconi and an underage Moroccan belly dancer? The mind reels. I think Silvio may have finally jumped the shark. Hmm, the Fonz was Italian in a sort of bland teevee way. Is there a connection? Probably not…

Conscience Clauses: Whose Conscience are We Keeping Clean?

My latest piece for what once was Sirens magazine and is now Sexyfeminist.com:

When pro-life crusaders aim to prevent abortions, they paint a picture in the public mind of the irresponsible, selfish woman, using words like “abortion on demand” and “abortion as birth control.” They don’t talk about the realities of women’s reproductive health, and the full consequences of denying medical treatment in order to discourage sexual indiscretion. They don’t address all the ways in which the process of conceiving and bearing a child can go wrong, and all the measures that must be taken when and if that happens.

Apparently the proponents of such“conscience clauses” as are now applied to pharmacists like the one in the news story above would rather not make those distinctions. But the cost of preserving this black-and-white worldview may be women’s lives. Apparently it’s more important to find outwhy a woman is bleeding to death than to stop her from dying. So as to keep one’s conscience, of course, perfectly clear.

A.