Monday, February 28, 2005
Only Interesting If You're Me

I just got an email from my mother informing me that my grandfather and two great-uncles are mentioned by name in the Warren Commission Report (on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy).

And whaddya know, it's true:

Warren Commission Hearings: Vol. V - Page 429
(Testimony of Robert Alan Surrey)

Mr. Surrey.

Mr. Bryan Snyder is chairman of the board. Mr. Emil Borak is president, and Mr. Lewis C. Owens is treasurer. I believe some stock is held by Oliver Snyder, and I have some stock. And Mr. Fallon Snyder.

The Chairman.
It is a commercial company?

Mr. Surrey.
Yes; it is.

The Chairman.
Is General Walker connected with it?

Mr. Surrey.
No; he is not.

The Chairman.
Or with the other people, as far as you know?

Mr. Surrey.
No, sir.

Mr. Jenner.
Is Mr. Borak the general manager of the plant itself?

Mr. Surrey.
No; he is president of the company.

Mr. Jenner.
I see. Who is the general manager of the plant?

Mr. Surrey.
Mr. Owens.

Mr. Jenner.
Mr. Owens.
Did you acquaint Mr. Owens or Mr. Borak, either of them, with the fact that you had Commission Exhibit No. 996 printed at the Lettercraft Printing Co.?

Mr. Surrey.
I decline to answer on the ground it may tend to incriminate me.

Mr. Jenner.
Did you make either or both of them aware of the fact that some of the copy or all of the copy with respect to Commission Exhibit No. 996 was prepared by way of printing at Johnson Printing Co.?

Mr. Surrey.
I decline to answer on the ground it may tend to incriminate me.

(source)

Apparently it has something to do with this Mr. Surrey publishing a book that suggested that the Warren Commission itself was something of a fuck-around. And Mr. Surrey handled this publication from the same offices where my grandfather and his two brothers worked. Something like that.

What a completely boring way to be connected to the Kennedy assassination, eh?
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CLINT

Oscars... yeah, okay, seeing as this is supposedly a "film blog" now (like, really, who do I think I'm kidding?) I guess I'm supposed to say something about the Academy Awards.

I did slightly better at predicting the winners this year than I did last year -- I got half of 'em right. I maintained my dominance in the off-categories: I correctly predicted the best doc feature award for the third year running, best foreign film, best animated short, all those little ones that nobody ever pays attention to. The big awards are always a matter of luck -- there are general patterns, but they're not regular enough to be relied upon, and obviously it's not always a case of the best picture actually winning Best Picture. (Almost never, in fact.) I haven't seen either of the two big nominees for that one this year -- I probably will eventually, but to be honest neither one really calls to me -- so I can't say whether the right film won or not. But I can say with some confidence that there was probably at least one -- maybe ten, maybe twenty, maybe fifty better films made this last year that went completely unnoticed. Because that's just how things are.

The technical categories are equally unpredictable -- not because the nominees aren't reliably good examples of whatever craft they represent, because they almost always are -- but because they're all so good in their categories that picking which one was "best" is always something of a crapshoot. Either that, or you have to know those corners of filmmaking better than I do to tell any appreciable difference between the nominees.

As for best actor/actress/whatever -- seriously, who cares? Whether the nominees are good or not isn't the point; these awards have as much to do with acting as your high school class-presidential election had to do with politics. I admit being surprised that Scorsese got rebuffed yet again, not because The Aviator was so great (I dunno, I haven't seen it, but I'm guessing it's not his best), but because the guy's been nominated like fifty fucking times*; you'd think they'd quit teasing him and just give him the damn statue eventually.

And I've always thought Clint Eastwood was a bit over-rated as a director; he appeals, however, because if you spell his name with all capitals it can be easily misread for a very dirty word.



*actually only five
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Sunday, February 27, 2005
Red-State Fascism

I followed a link over from Billmon's excellent post, "Seeing the Light on the Right," and ended up at this interesting piece by Lew Rockwell. Rockwell, by the way, is a right-libertarian and "anti-leftist." I disagree with him profoundly on many things, but George W. Bush makes for some strange bedfellows. It's worth spending a few minutes on; you should go read it.

Paul Craig Roberts is right: "In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush. Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush." Again: "Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy."

In short, what we have alive in the US is an updated and Americanized fascism. Why fascist? Because it is not leftist in the sense of egalitarian or redistributionist. It has no real beef with business. It doesn't sympathize with the downtrodden, labor, or the poor. It is for all the core institutions of bourgeois life in America: family, faith, and flag. But it sees the state as the central organizing principle of society, views public institutions as the most essential means by which all these institutions are protected and advanced, and adores the head of state as a godlike figure who knows better than anyone else what the country and world's needs, and has a special connection to the Creator that permits him to discern the best means to bring it about.

(source)

Sane conservatives are not the enemy -- we disagree, but we can disagree respectfully and acknowledge that we're all working in the best interests of our society. The breed of conservatives who are in power now, though, are not sane -- they're dangerous. And those who follow them or fail to speak out against them are equally dangerous. Evil times aren't inevitable, but they are possible, and right now the scene is being set for some serious darkness to settle over America.
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Friday, February 25, 2005
Well Slap My Ass And Call Me Jimbo

Billmon has apparently begun posting again... I had no idea. All of the blogs that mourned his burnt-out passing failed to herald his victorious resurrection.

Whiskey Bar is the blog that inspired me to start blogging -- not that this blog is even remotely as good as that one; I would not presume to encourage the comparison. Blogging is addictive, and obviously Billmon didn't get far enough away from his user friends to kick the habit.

Go have a read. It's one of the best liberal blogs out there.
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Generic Blog Entry

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(symbol indicating part of text has been skipped over)

"Quotation from a government or media official, or somebody else who may have publicly said something of interest." Context relating to quotation.

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Statement of disbelief or revulsion in response to text just cited. Expression of personal belief or opinion relating to subject statement and refutation of those who hold opinions or beliefs to the contrary. Effort to bring balance to counterpoint statement by acknowledging existence of moderate stance, followed by implication that moderate stance is insufficient response to subject.

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Snarky concluding statement.

indication of additional thought: further evidence relating to either subject or argument against subject.

indication of second additional thought: still more evidence relating to either subject or argument against subject. Self-deprecating comment and promise againt any further additions to entry.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2005
The Story So Far

On June 17, 1972, Frank Wills, a security guard working at the office complex of the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. noticed a piece of tape on the door between the basement stairwell and the parking garage. It was holding the door unlocked, so Wills removed it, assuming the cleaning crew had put it there. Later on, he returned to discover the tape had been replaced. Upon seeing this, Wills contacted the D.C. police.

(source)

Thus began the scandal that, two years later, led to the resignation of Richard Nixon from the presidency, even though there was never any direct link to the "third-rate burglary" at the Watergate and the Oval Office. An out-of-place piece of tape felled a twice-elected president. Such a seemingly small thing, such a big scandal.

But what's that got to do with anything now?

Well, here's the situation as it currently exists: a "former" male prostitute with no journalistic experience or training was granted a continuous stream of daily passes into the White House press briefing room by President Bush's own press office, enabling him to handily bypass the background searches that might have unearthed his professional history, and he was given this blatantly favored treatment while he was "reporting" on behalf of an organization called "GOPUSA" -- not Talon News, which didn't exist at the time. GOPUSA and its eventual "news department" are both owned and operated by a Republican activist and delegate to the 2004 Republican Convention. That same Republican activist even thanks Karl Rove (and, amusingly, G. Gordon Liddy) on the GOPUSA website.

All of this, of course, is occuring in front of the backdrop of recent revelations that the White House has been paying journalists large sums of money in return for favorable columns, and has at times produced honest-to-god fake news reports to boost its agenda. And none of this even touches on the massive security flaws revealed by this incident -- a man about whose personal background the White House obviously had no clue was regularly allowed to sit within twenty feet of the president. This doesn't bother any of you, conservatives?

Then there's the gross hypocrisy of Gannon's gay-bashing writings, the minor fact that prostitution is illegal in all of the states in which Guckert solicited, the point that he apparently never paid his taxes (very Republican of him), his possible connection to the Rathergate scandal and the point that he may also have some ties to the Valerie Plame outing -- itself a federal offense. So many threads, so many interesting connections. None of them, as yet, lead back to the Oval Office, but we're a mere few weeks into this; Watergate took years to come to fruition. Who was paying for Guckert's salary? Who helped him get into the press briefings? Who let him get within spitting distance of the president? And why? We intend to find out... oh yes we do.

I'll leave the almost-last words to the deeply right-wing WorldNetDaily:

Who knows why this symbiotic relationship succeeded for as long as it did? Perhaps Gannon-Guckert knew something about people in the Bush administration. Or, perhaps some inside the Bush administration knew the truth about Gannon-Guckert. We may never know the full truth.

But the whole sordid affair illustrates just why a truly free and independent press is so vital to watchdogging government.

(...)

What the pretenders did backfired. They have hurt their own ideological cause more than they know. They have tarnished the image of the administration they championed. They have undermined the cause of the responsible New Media and the free press in America.

You might remember the two-year fight WorldNetDaily waged to become credentialed by the Senate Press Gallery. Meanwhile, an activist organization -- pretending to be a journalistic one and ensnared in personal scandal -- pranced into the White House and secured access to the president of the United States.

It raises serious security questions. It raises questions of propriety. It raises questions of judgment. And it raises questions about the role of a free press in a free society.

That's what we've been saying.
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Monday, February 21, 2005
Jimmy Carter = Zacarias Moussaoui

What? Am I comparing a former president of the United States and a war veteran to a militant Islamic terrorist?

No, I'm not. This fuckhead is. And not just Carter, but also Howard Dean, Barack Obama, Betty Friedan, Danny Glover, Cynthia McKinney, and a host of other liberal Americans, who are accompanied cheek-by-jowl with 9/11 hijackers, mullahs, and dictators.

This is one of the most explicit statements from the right wing that, in their minds, all liberals are traitors. And those, my friends, are fighting words.

What say you, Republicans and conservatives? Do you agree? Say it to our faces.
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One Less American Hero



We're on our own now

Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counter-culture author of books such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself Sunday at his Aspen-area home, his son said. He was 67.

Thompson "took his life with a gunshot to the head," Thompson's son, Juan, and wife said in a statement released to the Aspen Daily News. The statement asked for privacy for Thompson's family and added, "He stomped terra."

(...)

Thompson was a counterculture icon at the height of the Watergate era, and once said Nixon represented "that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character."

Thompson also was the model for Gary Trudeau's balding "Uncle Duke," named after Raoul Duke, a character in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." He was portrayed on screen by Bill Murray in "Where The Buffalo Roam" and Johnny Depp in a film adaptation of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

That book, perhaps Thompson's most famous, begins: "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."

Other books include "The Great Shark Hunt," "Hell's Angels" and "The Proud Highway." His most recent effort was "Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness."

(source)

PS: HiFlyer at Daily Kos has assembled a page of quotes in homage to the man.
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Sunday, February 20, 2005
The Many Faces of Jeff/Jim Gannon/Guckert

Somewhere between Gomer Pyle, a constipated old lady, and a whiny little child lies the true face of America's favorite male prostitute.

He wants to be a Gannon, but he's really just a Guckert.


click image for larger version


PS: Yes, this is a Sister Novena original. Yes, this is how I spend my time. Yes, it's a little sad.
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Gann-on And On And On

"My God, the White House has ties to gay prostitution." ~ Bill Maher

I've been completely useless this weekend, I haven't accomplished a damn thing. I haven't read anything, I haven't written anything, I've just done my van runs and napped in between.

Anyway, since this Gannon story is finally starting to heat up outside the blogosphere, and since I personally just can't get enough Guckert, here are a few video clips. (They all require a fair amount of bandwidth, but they're worth it.)

First up, Bill Maher does a few riffs on the subject -- look for Biden making a good point towards the end.

Funnier than that is the Daily Show report on Gannon by Jon Stewart and Ted Hitler. (For the full Daily Show experience, don't miss the Moment of Zen -- not 100% work safe.)

And best of all -- far and away the most satisfying clip of the three -- is this Gannon/Guckert interview with Anderson Cooper,, who gently, delicately opens him up a new orifice.

For the record: I have not a whit of sympathy for the blogosphere's delving into Gannon's "personal" life. Advertising one's paid sexual services on the internet is hardly part of your private life. The internet is a public forum, and posting anything there is equivalent to standing on a street corner and yelling, with the difference that on the net everything you yell can potentially hang around forever. Once you put it on the net, you get to live with it. Furthermore, given that some of those profiles are active to this very day rather undermines the argument that this is all part of your "past." We're not buying it.

But the thing that makes this interview so great -- aside from Cooper's finding the journalistic balls to actually, y'know, ask the right questions and not let the guy off the hook with an evasive answer -- is Gannon/Guckert's obvious, wild flailing. This guy is so obviously in over his head it's downright comical... the rapid-fire blinking, the stammering, the verbal choking, the classic "I'm lying my ass off" eyebrow lift; it's all here. It's a tour de force demonstration of the art of looking like a complete twat on television.

The thing that JimJeff still doesn't realize -- and the thing that most of the media-viewing public still doesn't realize -- is that as amused as lefty bloggers are about the Gannon story (because it's just too delicious for words), we don't actually care much about the man himself. Guckert's a pisher, a pawn, a nobody up to his eyebrows in a tempest that he should've seen coming. The reason the bloggers are pushing so hard is because, in Watergate terms, we want to know where we end up if we follow the money. It ain't about Gannon, it's about the people who brought him in.

Having said that, we are enjoying watching the right wing choke on having to leap to the defense of a gay prostitute. I think the term "poetic justice" is apt. Maybe someday they'll find it in themselves to defend all gay people, not just the gay-for-hire.
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Friday, February 18, 2005
These Damn Kids Today

I'm going to vent. If that's not what you're here for, you've been warned. My mother will doubtless find this one particularly entertaining.

I'm getting pretty fucked off with 20-year-olds. The kids on this campus are, for the most part, pretentious, spoiled, irresponsible, overconfident in their all-knowingness, have lousy taste in music, don't know jack shit about anything that happened before 1988, and won't do a goddamn thing without being asked or reminded.

I'm getting sick of people who throw French words into mundane conversations -- invariably also liberally sprinkled with "like" and "you know?" (eg., "I thought, you know, that she wouldn't, like, be offended by my nudité, but she just, like, so freaked out.")

I'm getting sick of people who won't wash their fucking dishes. My dishes -- yes, mom, it's true -- are clean and put away within minutes of my finishing with them (or else end up in my room, where at least they're not in anybody's way.) These kids leave gross, stinking dishes sitting in the sink for days on end.

I'm getting sick of having to get out of bed at midnight to ask the girls in the next room over to turn their goddamn Eminem down so I can study and/or sleep, when they know perfectly well that midnight's the cut-off point for noise. I do my part, being patient until the agreed-upon hour comes; is it so much to ask for them to keep their end of the bargain without my having to go over and pull a mommy routine and remind them of their obligation?

I'm getting sick of people who don't realize how much they don't know about life beyond college. Kids who've had Mexican maids cleaning up after them their whole lives pretend they know how the world works; kids who've broken up with their first boyfriends or girlfriends after six weeks think they know all about relationships gone wrong; kids who've never held a job of any description presume to tell the staff and faculty what they're doing wrong. It's deeply annoying.

What's worse, of course, is that I was essentially just like them at 20, I'm sure. Maybe better about some things, worse about others -- I was the queen of dirty dishes in the sink when I was 20 (and I still like doing dishes least among household chores, with the exception of scrubbing the bathtub), and I was pretentious and full of much pseudo-intellectual bullshit, too. The problem here isn't that these kids are bad people -- they're not at all. The problem is the ten-year age gap between me and them. There don't seem to be any students my age here now; it's a bit sad, as this college was founded by students just back from WWII, and has traditionally been a haven for "non-traditional" (ie, 26-and-up) students. It seems like a bit of a loss... this was once a pretty diverse campus, at least in terms of age and socio-economic background. Now it's all well-off white post-adolescents. How dull is that?

That felt really good, though... I'm beginning to suspect that being irritable and curmudgeonly about people younger than you is one of the great benefits of getting older. Bitching about Gen-Yers is even more fun that bitching about Boomers.
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Insight Du Jour

The guy's right:

I came away from the whole thing with a small insight. Its not the Daddy party vs. the Mother party. It's the cokehead party vs. the pothead party. It is no coincidence that I can't stand people on coke and I can't stand Republicans. Potheads? Some of the best people I have met are potheads. One party is all about belligerence, overconfidence, and it hates nuance. The other is about reflection, introspection, and making sure there is enough food.

demokerryat's diary

I've never been crazy about cokeheads, either... potheads are cool (if sometimes a little too saturated with incense fumes), but cokeheads tend to be assholes and bastards. Which is to say, just like Republicans.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Hey, I Know This Song...

Here we go again, folks!

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 - Top intelligence officials said today that they remained concerned that terrorists were regrouping to attempt another major attack on the United States and also said that Iran posed a rising threat in the Middle East.

"It may be only a matter of time before Al Qaeda or other groups attempt to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons," Porter J. Goss, the director of central intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in an annual report on threats to the United States.

source

Sound familiar? A bit, y'know, late-2002-ish? Boy, if you love war, the next few years are going to make you jizz in your pants. Never mind that we can't afford it, we haven't got the soldiers to fight it (unless we start up the draft), the rest of the world would turn its back on us utterly (at best), and that the Iraq war has been a ceaseless, unmitigated disaster... fuck it, Bush's numbers are dropping and that Social Security scheme just ain't flyin', so it's time for MORE WAR!

When are we going to wise up? (The other half of "us," I mean. The suckers.)
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Feeling Uneasy

Yeah, what Mat said. I'm not feeling too confident at this point, I'm afraid. (And, uhhhhh... is it just me, or does Zaphod only have one head?)

Anyway, new posts are coming shortly... I've got something planned, it just takes a little while to do it properly. I'll try to get the first installment posted tomorrow, but since Thursday is the day I generally reserve for aggressively not doing anything, it might be the day after. Watch this space for something completely uninteresting!
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Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Gannon = Whore

I'll say it again... WHORE! Jim "Jeff Gannon" Guckert is demostrably a prostitute. See for yourself.

This isn't an issue because Guckert has sex for money -- liberals have varying opinions on prostitution, but we're tolerant of the idea that what Guckert does with other people is his own business. This also isn't an issue because Guckert had sex with men -- liberals believe that the genitalia attached to one's partner are irrelevant, and that all preferences are worthy of respect.

This is about lying. And lying about sex. (Remember that, those of you who condemned Clinton?) And about the White House planting a ringer in its press core, and bizarrely choosing someone with such an obviously dubious background -- and utterly no journalistic training or experience -- to do the job. This is about ethics and hypocrisy. Where's your outrage now, conservatives? Where's your condemnation now? You're the ones who spout about "family values," you're the ones who decry homosexuality and promote chastity... so where's your fucking moral offense on this one? Eh?

I'll be waiting for your answer. You can put it in the comments. For extra credit, explain away his involvement in the outing of Valerie Plame.
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Monday, February 14, 2005
V.D.

For a syrupy day -- song lyrics!
coin operated boy
sitting on the shelf he is just a toy
but i turn him on and he comes to life
automatic joy
that is why i want
a coin operated boy

made of plastic and elastic
he is rugged and long-lasting
who could ever ever ask for more
love without complications galore
many shapes and weights to choose from
i will never leave my bedroom
i will never cry at night again
wrap my arms around him and pretend....

coin operated boy
all the other real ones that i destroy
cannot hold a candle to my new boy and i'll
never let him go and i'll never be alone
not with my coin operated boy......

this bridge was written to make you feel smittener
with my sad picture of girl getting bitterer
can you extract me from my plastic fantasy
i didnt think so but im still convinceable
will you persist even after i bet you
a billion dollars that i'll never love you
will you persist even after i kiss you
goodbye for the last time
will you keep on trying to prove it?
i'm dying to lose it...
i want it
i want you
i want a coin operated boy.

and if i had a star to wish on
for my life i cant imagine
any flesh and blood could be his match
i can even take him in the bath

coin operated boy
he may not be real experienced with girls
but i know he feels like a boy should feel
isnt that the point that is why i want a
coin operated boy
with his pretty coin operated voice
saying that he loves me that hes thinking of me
straight and to the point
that is why i want
a coin operated boy.

coin operated boy
the Dresden Dolls
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Sunday, February 13, 2005
Balzac

What could be better evidence of the truth behind the Freudian concept of sexual compensation than a guy driving a huge car? Why, that guy attaching fake balls to said huge car, obviously. Yes, red-blooded, patriotic American men want every single thing in their lives to have fake testicles attached to them... their cars, their pets, even their presidents.

You'd think we'd have moved beyond aggressive phallic displays as a means of establishing dominance in the social hierarchy... but apparently some things never change no matter how much we evolve.
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Friday, February 11, 2005
Mad, I Tell You, Mad!

I think I'm losing my mind. It's The Paper Chase meets The Shining, except without the romantic angle or the elevator full of blood. But the academic pressure, the blank page (screen), the snow, the isolation, the conversations with people who aren't there... it's only a matter of time before I'm hacking through my own bathroom door with a hatchet and terrorizing my shower curtain.

I caught myself in the midst of a quiet but emphatic rant at Jean-Luc Godard this morning... "Why do you always have to be so goddamn obtuse? You go on and on about how so-and-so doesn't understand images and so-and-so is a traitor to the cinema, but when do you ever just explain what the fuck that actually means? Why can't you be more like Truffaut, huh? At least he's clear about his meaning..."

But Godard really pisses me off sometimes, y'know? I always feel like he's got something important to impart, but bugger if I can figure out what it is. Maybe I'm just too American. Or not French enough. Or something. But 150 pages of interviews later, I still can't figure out what the hell he's talking about.

Anyway, as the PortaPulpit is now very, very close to its first blogoversary, it's time to make an announcement:

Whereas in its first year, this blog focused primarily on liberal politics with occasional forays into movies and truth, in its second year that emphasis will be reversed. This is going to become a blog mostly about film, with occasional forays into liberal politics. It's just the way things are evolving. There'll always be a place here for anti-Bush snark, but you may find that there's a good deal more anti-Tarantino snark in the mix soon as well.

There, that should screw my demographic profile right and proper.
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Thursday, February 10, 2005
Why Gannon Matters

From BRUCE BARTLETT: Having worked in the White House, I can assure everyone that not only would it be impossible to get a White House pass using an alias, it is impossible even to get past the gate for an appointment using an alias. Thorough FBI background checks are required for the former and a picture ID is necessary for the latter. Therefore, if Gannon was using an alias, White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover.

(From Poynteronline; no permalink available, scroll down to "WH helped Gannon maintain his cover, he says")

The administration directly, consciously plants a partisan questioner -- an unqualified non-journalist with a highly questionable personal background -- into the daily briefings to help steer the direction of the questions and provide a launching platform for the day's party line.

Now imagine if Bill Clinton had done it.
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Mud Slurpee

A non-political post to make it up to my dear mother for implying that she might be a sucker -- though without taking it back.

I told her when I last spoke to her that my new snow boots were magical -- I bought them on the very last day of the last big snow, and that since then not a single flake of snow had fallen; my snow boots were miraculously transformed into mud boots. Of course, as everyone knows, speaking the name of a magical phenomenon destroys its power, and this week it has predictably begun to snow again. (Some would say that snow in Vermont in February is only to be expected, but I know uncanny influence when I see it.) So my snow boots-cum-mud boots are snow boots once again.

Except that it hasn't gotten cold enough to re-freeze the ground, so the mud's still there underneath. This, helped along by boots and tires and snowplows, generates an ungodly snow/mud mixture which I personally have always referred to as "mud slurpee." (For those who don't know, a Slurpee is a delicious slushy beverage sold at 7-11, of almost exactly the same consistency as the sloppy stuff all over the ground here.)

So everything is quite stark and white here today (except the ground, obviously)... the drive to campus was very pretty in a blank sort of way. The trees are all weighted down with snow, so they lean in over the road like the roof of a tunnel. The only living vegetation I can see from the window of my room are the five tulips I bought yesterday. I've taken to buying flowers every week -- entirely my mother's influence, food for the soul and all that. Last week I had Statice, as she correctly identified over the phone; this week, brick-red tulips. My mother is a florist by trade (basically), and a very good one... she's got impeccable taste and a good eye for design and she's very skilled at producing those elaborate flower arrangements that contain half-a-dozen or more varieties; her arrangements always turn out beautifully. She's attempted once or twice to show me the basics -- the ability to throw together a bud vase can be useful for getting some extra cash around Valentine's and Mother's Day -- but, to be honest, I'm just not very good at it. She can chuck some garden cuttings in a vase and it looks great; I can carefully, consciously arrange flowers according to core design principles at it comes out awkward and lumpy-looking. I can handle composition in two dimensions, it's just that third one that gives me trouble.

But when it's just a few of a single kind of flower, I seem to be able to manage okay. My five tulips would probably look better in their vase if there were ten of them instead, but I think my five still possess a pleasantly minimalist quality. Sort of Swedish.

Anyway, getting back to the boots -- because obviously that's where I was heading narratively -- I can't help but think that my gait becomes more natural (for me) in boots. My not-too-fast-but-determined pace mellows into a sort of laid-back amble in boots, and I've always taken a certain pleasure in the sound that boots make on bare earth -- kind of a hollow sound, as if you were walking on an enormous man's chest.

I really do adore a good pair of boots.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005
The Bush Administration's Journalistic Standards

I have been dying to post about Jeff "Not My Real Name" Gannon all day, but time constraints (free dinner on campus tonight, Vietnamese in honor of the year of the Rooster) have left me unable to find the time to pull all these sticky little threads together. It's an especially pleasing case in the Bush WH payola scandal since in this instance -- unlike Williams, Gallagher (not the prop comic, the other one), and McManus, who were merely figurative whores -- this Mr. "Gannon" is quite possibly literally a whore. As in, someone who engages in sexual acts for money. The depth to which the Bush administration will willingly descend is really quite majestic to behold.

Anyway, it's all a bit complicated and still in the process of being worked out (see Daily Kos and AmericaBlog for oh so much more), but here's a quick version:

Dear Mr. President:

In light of the mounting evidence that your Administration has, on several occasions, paid members of the media to advocate in favor of Administration policies, I feel compelled to ask you to address a matter brought to my attention by the Niagara Falls Reporter (article attached), a local newspaper in my district, regarding James "JD" Guckert (AKA Jeff Gannon) of Talon News.

According to several credible reports, "Mr. Gannon" has been repeatedly credentialed as a member of the White House press corps by your office and has been regularly called upon in White House press briefings by your Press Secretary Scott McClellan, despite the fact evidence shows that "Mr. Gannon" is a Republican political operative, uses a false name, has phony or questionable journalistic credentials, is known for plagiarizing much of the "news" he reports, and according to several web reports, may have ties to the promotion of the prostitution of military personnel [...]

And just this morning we have learned that "Mr. Gannon" has resigned his post at the, so called, Talon News amid growing concerns over his controversial background and falsified qualifications. In fact, it appears that "Mr. Gannon's" presence in the White House press corps was merely as a tool of propaganda for your Administration.

(From NY Rep. Louise Slaughter's call for an investigation)

Republicans, you have two choices here: 1) the Bush White House is so sloppy about its security measures that it's letting literally anyone into its press briefings; or 2) "Jeff Gannon" is (further) proof that the Bush administration is made up entirely of lying sacks of shit.

Once again, as I always do in these situation, I invoke Ockham's Razor. (Granted, in view of that ugly Bernie Kerik incident, the case that the Bush administration simply doesn't bother checking backgrounds anymore can be made.)

PS: Also, you might want to know, there's a bill before congress that would make the Secretary of Homeland Security entirely above the law. (Via Mat and Denny.) Republicans, this is why we can't help calling you fascists: you keep acting like fucking fascists. This will sound harsh, but this is just further illustration that at this point in history there are only two kinds of Republicans: liars and suckers.
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Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Plus, It Fills The Empty Hole Where My Social Life Used To Be

The ol' blog's not getting quite as much action these days, eh?

Apologies for the lack of posts... I guess it's all just part of the transition from one lifestyle to another. Most of my writing efforts are going to academics, as is most of my time. The junker desktop I brought up with me -- hoping to do most of my paper-writing, if not my blogging, from my room -- punked out late last week, so every bit of writing I do is now limited to the college computer labs. The atmosphere is okay, but it's not so comfortable so I'm often hesitant to spend any more time in there than I have to.

The other thing I think is inhibiting my blogging-related-programs-activities is this problem I'm having with being required to radically shift intellectual tracks just as I'm working up some good momentum. My thought processes are such that, at my best, I get into an intellectual groove and try to ride it out to the end. I can tolerate being pulled out of it, but I definitely do my best work in the groove, and it can't just be created at will. The groove comes at the time of its own choosing, and all I can do it try to be in a position to climb aboard when it arrives. Sometimes I can manage a little bit of a rolling start, but it's never guaranteed; the best bet is to be ready for it. My daily schedule -- as loose as it is -- doesn't always accomodate the groove well, asking me to go to class or to work just when things are really getting good (nothing kills the groove faster than having to interact with others, unless they're people I'm quite close to who might be willing to ride the groove with me.) So what I end up with is a situation where the groove, if it comes at a time when I can make use of it, supercedes everything else, this blog included.

It's an ethereal thing, I know; I only ask your indulgence. (I'm so gonna lose my average daily hit count at this rate.)
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Sunday, February 06, 2005
Well Well Well

He wanted an election, and he got an election. The people of Iraq voted, and guess what they chose?

Where once Iraq was a stable, secular, unarmed nation (albeit led by an asshole), now it's going to be a pro-Iranian militant Islamic country (probably eventually led by another asshole).

The national assembly formed after last month's historic elections is to oversee the drawing up of the new constitution and Sistani is the figurehead of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance expected to become the largest single bloc.

(...)

The surprise statement was released by Sheikh Ibrahim Ibrahimi, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Ishaq al-Fayad, another of the marja.

"All of the ulema (clergy) and marja, and the majority of the Iraqi people, want the national assembly to make Islam the source of legislation in the permanent constitution and to reject any law that is contrary to Islam," said the statement.

A source close to Sistani announced soon after the release of the statement that the spiritual leader backed the demand.

(source)

Yep, the ruling Shia are pissed off and we're one step closer to re-establishing the Caliphate. Smooth move, Mr. Slick! (I mean Mr. President.)
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Saturday, February 05, 2005
Felt Pelt And Sister Novena Duel At Dawn

Congratulations to my buddy Morgan, whose second (or is it third?) feature, awayAwake, premiered last night in Memphis. Mat has supplied some blurry, pseudo-artsy-fartsy (or more likely, just drunken) photos of the event, which I sadly had to miss. I was driving the van last night, y'see...

While googling for information on the film, I found this brief mention on Ain't It Cool News, and I am not amused to see that someone has co-opted my patented "Memphis, crown jewel of Mississippi" line. You shall be hearing from my attorney, sir, Mr. so-called "Felt Pelt"!

PS: Oh yeah, also, I worked on this film. You can find many words about the production here.

PPS: Fixed that link. Sorry.
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Friday, February 04, 2005
Academic Update pt. 1

Okay, since I've done four snarky political posts in a row, I'm going to indulge in personal stuff that doesn't interest anyone who doesn't know me personally. I figure if I keep a four- or five-to-one ratio, nobody can hold it against me.

My brain hurts.

Okay, not exactly "hurts," but it definitely feels a little raw and swollen. I've been cramming so much into lately; three weeks in, I've put away four books and two dozen long articles, and I'm the process of turning out my first twenty pages of writing. I have pages of notes, and I spend roughly three-quarters of my waking life thinking about independent film and only independent film. It's a good thing, a productive thing -- my perceptions are changing, my theories are gradually coming into focus, and while I have a long way to go, I think I'm really, truly onto something potentially very important. I'm thinking about ultimately adapting this plan into a book, I've begun the process of hoarding sources, I've got 50-some-odd films queued up in my rent-by-mail service... I'm in with both feet, y'know?

But the difficult thing is that I really don't have anyone immediately around me to provide that so-necessary sounding board, nobody to vent all of this to, nobody to let me rant and work my ideas out verbally. I end up talking to myself -- which I guess is okay, but definitely adds to my general aura of final-year-student-slowly-going-mad.

Some would suggest that it's more productive to have no other outlet but writing -- that the sheer force of pent-up ideas will eventually lead to everything splattering out onto the page in a great intellectual purge. That sounds messy, but if it works, that's fine. But I'm definitely feeling a little mentally over-inflated right now, if you know what I mean.

Yes, I've got people around who are willing to read whatever I spew forth onto my computer screen (poor, hapless souls, you have my gratitude), but it's not quite the same as having somebody to argue and explore with. If a student expounds brilliantly and at length about the inherent preference of the film industry for the majority view, and nobody's around to hear it, does she actually make a sound?

Jesus, this is going to be a long year.
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Christians Against Christ

Hey Republicans... isn't this sorta like, y'know, religious descrimination against Christians?
A Cookeville (Tenn.) High School administrator said Veterans for Peace and a Quaker group can't come back into his school with materials considered ''anti-American'' and ''anti-military.

(...)

The war veterans, some who also belong to the Quaker group, were allowed into the school during a September fair for organizations. They set up a table with books about U.S. wars and offered photocopied fliers and pamphlets from both organizations about the war in Iraq and military careers and alternatives.

(...)

''The information was brought to the attention of administrators because of the influence it may have had,'' said Shank, who restricted future visits by the groups. ''I felt, from a principal's viewpoint, that the students were being put into a position that they shouldn't.''

Black said Shank specified some quotes in the literature that he objected to, including one from a 1953 speech by President Eisenhower that said, ''Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed. Those who are cold and are not clothed.''

Damn that Republican former-president Eisenhower and his anti-American ideas!
The principal also said their literature could be shown only in a classroom setting that would allow an opportunity for a ''balanced'' presentation. Military recruiters and other groups don't face that restriction, the peace activists said.

(source)

Now, just go along with me on this for a minute...

Quakers (or more correctly, the Society of Friends) maintains pacifism as one of their core religious beliefs. This is central to their faith. Quakers are also Christians. Now, right-wingers piss and moan almost incessantly about how downtrodden Christians are in the public schools, but here we have a case of Christians being marginalized in a school by conservatives.

Conservatives like to say that liberals don't want freedom of religion, we want freedom from religion. But apparently, what conservatives themselves really want isn't freedom of religion, but rather freedom from all religions except Christianity... and then only the "right kind" of Christianity (ie, the militaristic, bombing/killing, non-forgiving kind.)

It really is staggering that these fools can keep their own shit straight... they've gotten to the point where they're having to turn their own principles inside out to avoid facing their gross illogic and hypocrisy. It's really quite amazing to watch.
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And Now For Some Good News

The New York State supreme court ruled that gays must be allowed to marry. It's really a pretty obvious argument when you think about it:

The ruling said the state Constitution requires same-sex couples to have equal access to marriage, and that the couples represented by Lambda Legal must be given marriage licenses.

"This is a historic ruling that delivers the state Constitution's promise of equality to all New Yorkers," said Susan Sommer, Supervising Attorney at Lambda Legal and the lead attorney on the case.

"The court recognized that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law. Same-sex couples need the protections and security marriage provides, and this ruling says they're entitled to get them the same way straight couples do."

(source)

Our grandchildren will be appalled that this was ever even worthy of discussion. Equal and civil rights for everybody!
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Republicans Love Torture

Not one single Republican senator voted against the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as the new US Torturemaster General. Not a fucking one. I'm particularly disappointed in John McCain, who, as a former victim of torture in Vietnam, should've know better. Mr. McCain, you have formally lost any respect I ever had for you; I will never again feel the slightest sympathy for the pain you suffered as a POW. Your story is officially worthless, your integrity is irrevocably tainted, and you will never, ever receive another lick of support of any kind, however grudging, from me again. You are truly a king among hypocrites. As for the rest, I didn't expect anything better; the GOP is the party of thugs and scoundrels, so I certainly didn't anticipate any sudden, dramatic outburts of moral integrity or honorable justice. Republican politicians as a whole are inherently incapable of either.

Other sorry examples of this disappointing waste of human intelligence:

(1) Senator Ken Salazar (Colorado).

(2) Senator Joseph Lieberman (Conn.).

(3) Senator Ben Nelson (Neb.).

(4) Senator Mary Landrieu (La.)

(5) Senator Pryor (Ark).

(6) Senator Bill Nelson (Fla.)

All Democrats -- what a shameful display. Of course, we expected no better of Lieberman (who will not win another term as senator, mark my words), and Salazar especially is a shameful disgrace. You are all an embarrassment to the party and the country.

But all of the other Democrats correctly voted against Gonzales. I like where this is going: let the Republicans whine about obstructionism, the more the Washington democrats work against this administration, the happier I'll be. Keep on' obstructin'. We can't win, but we can make it as hard as humanly possible to make even the smallest move-- that's the whole point. Be as deep mud aroung their ankles, hinder their every step, bring the Bush administration to a grinding halt until its crimes can catch up to it. It's patriotic!
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Thursday, February 03, 2005
Sister Novena Becomes Even More Liberal, Vol. 1

You've noticed, I see, that I've been posting less frequently on political topics lately. (The fact is, I haven't even been paying attention. For example, I haven't even heard Bush's SOTU address yet... and I'm not sure I'm even going to bother, since no honest word has yet escaped that man's lips.) That's largely because I've been spending more of my time holed up in my academic world, focusing intently on a narrower set of concerns and trying to engage in the world immediately around me... which was, after all, the reason for coming up here in the first place.

As you no doubt know by now, I have made a transition from life in DeSoto Co., Mississppi -- one of the most solidly conservative counties in the country -- to Windham Co., Vermont, one of the most solidly liberal counties in the country. And do you know what I've discovered?

Windham county more closely reflects "conservative values" than DeSoto county does. This is a small, tightly-knit community, which is surrounded mostly by even smaller towns and old farms, many of which have been in the same hands for generations, some for centuries. As generous as the government support system is here, there's still a very strong sense of people individually working to help and support their neighbors. Families are close, divorces are significantly less common than in Mississippi, and small business is the rule rather than the exception.

Compare this to DeSoto County, where small business are few and far between, and exist under constant threat of going under due to the local omnipotence of Wal-Mart and similar corporate entities. Drive down the main street of Brattleboro and you see that nearly every business is owned by independent owners; drive down the main drag of Horn Lake, Mississippi, and all you'll see is chain restaurants and franchise businesses. The only local charities in DeSoto County are religiously-based, restricting the offer of help only to those who submit to a given set of beliefs. Individuals tend to reach for whatever most benefits themselves personally, brushing off the idea that what is good for the community will -- in the long run -- be good for them as well. Immediate gratification only need apply.

Don't get me wrong: as much as I talk here, I don't believe that liberal economic ideas alone are the answer; I'm not an economic utopian. I understand that fiscal conservatives have some valid ideas and some things to share with us. What the current crop of conservatives seems to fail to grasp, though, is that just as extreme-left ideas alone have never really worked, extreme-right ideas alone won't work any better. Sustainability and some amount of self-sacrifice towards the common good -- ie, spending fifty cents more on apples to support local farmers while getting produce that's healthier -- are also good ideas that really work.

I could argue that Brattleboro represents a much better example of a well-functioning marketplace than does Horn Lake. The people of Brattleboro made a decision about what they value, and while corporate entities still exist in this town, they have not been allowed to overrun the many small, independently-owned businesses that also live here. The people of Horn Lake, having surrendered to every corporate entity that comes to town, would now be hard-pressed to buy their daily needs from locally-owned businesses.

Those conservatives must really hate small business owners.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005
February

I've always had issues with February... I think it's my least-favorite month. It has nothing at all going for it, and has that black pit of despair -- Valentine's Day -- right in the middle. "You just feel that way because you're single," I hear you protest, but I say no, in fact even when I was deeply in love I've never been a fan of Valentine's Day. I like the chocolate, sure, but I can have chocolate any time I want; the same goes for flowers. It might be fair to suggest that I'm not the most overtly, demonstrively romantic person in the world -- when I love, it tends to be in more of a quiet, devoted, undramatic way -- and that would be reasonable. But the whole hearts and flowers and plush animals bearing wuvvy messages thing just leaves me cold. Or at least the idea of doing it on a pre-determined schedule -- a day when you are obligated to display affection, as though that pardons you from doing it any other day -- is one I just can't bring myself to embrace.

But my dislike of February goes deeper than that. January, as bleak as it is, still has some novelty, some sense of freshness about it; by the time you hit February all the parties are over, but it's not yet time for Spring (not by months this far north), and all you've got is barren cold and dark ahead of you. There's even something about the word "February," with its pretentious unsounded R, that seems a bit too up-itself. That and its martyr-like insistence on having fewer days than all the other months -- except for every leap year, when it demands one day more than it usually gets and must be appeased lest it throw the entire calendar structure out of whack -- strikes me as an unpleasant trait in a month.

But maybe I'm just reading too much into it.
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