Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sworn to Secrecy

Dick Durbin, loser:

Senator Dick Durbin, who was on the Senate Intelligence Committee during the lead up to the war, fills us in on what was going on behind the intel scenes in 2002-2003 and how accurately it matched up with what we were being told publicly. Unfortunately for all of us, he was sworn to secrecy back then…


I wonder if, when he took his vow of silence, he had to cross his heart and hope to die (stick a needle in his eye), or pinkie swear/double swear, or both.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Invariably Bad on So Many Levels

One of this blog's recurring themes will be right-wing and conservative satires of their opponents. I'll visit this subject often in the days and weeks to come, but for now take a look at these songs available in the "members only" sections of RushLimbaugh.com:



More on this particular item over the weekend. Meanwhile, here's Greg Sargent on the Limbaugh satire/parody songs:

This is hardly a new point, of course, but it still never ceases to amaze that top officials of the Republican Party -- including the Vice President -- go on a show that traffics in this sort of thing.

Step Out of the Bag

Don't miss this post from Josh Marshall. Here's a short excerpt, but the whole damn thing (and it's not long) is worth reading:

It's often been noted that we've had a difficult time explaining or figuring out just who we're fighting in Iraq. Is it the Sunni irreconcilables? Or is it Iran and its Shi'a proxies? Or is it al Qaida? The confusion is not incidental but fundamental. We can't explain who we're fighting because this isn't a war, like most, where the existence of a particular enemy or specific danger dictates your need to fight. We're occupying Iraq because continuing to do so allows us to pretend that the initial plan wasn't completely misguided and a mistake. If we continue to run the place a bit longer, the reasoning goes, we'll root out this or that problem that is preventing our original predictions from coming to pass. And of course the longer the occupation continues we generate more and more embittered foes to frame this rationalization around, thus creating an perpetual feedback loop of calamity and self-justification.

It's a huge distortion to say that this means the war was 'lost'. It just means what the war supporters said would happen didn't happen. The premise was bogus. Like I said at the outset, the whole exercise is like getting trapped in a brown paper bag. You can keep going into the bag and into the bag and into the bag and never get out or change anything. Or you can just turn around and walk out of the bag.

Of course, the damage that's been done over the last four years of denial is immense -- damage to ourselves, to the Iraqis, damage to Middle Eastern security and our standing in the world. So walking out of the bag isn't easy and it won't fix things. But the stakes alleged by the White House are largely illusory. Most of the White House's argument amounts to the threat that if we walk out of the bag that we'll have to give up the denial that the White House has had a diminishing percentage of the country in for the last four years. The reality though is that the disaster has already happened. Admitting that isn't a mistake or something to be feared. It's the first step to repairing the damage. What the president has had the country in for four years is a very bloody and costly holding action. And the president has forced it on the country to avoid admitting the magnitude of his errors.


Here's the whole thing.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Moyers on the Media

If you missed it, you can watch Bill Moyers' documentary on the run-up to the Iraq war here:

Buying the War: How did the mainstream press get it so wrong?

Nobody does it better.

Terrorism, Toilets, and Bees

Some breaking news: Scientists may have discovered the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, which has jeopardized the world's bee population. Of course, this is good news, since we sort of depend on bees for more than just honey.

As far as I can tell, though, we haven't learned our lesson about toilets. I still see just as many of them in our schools, in our workplaces, even in our homes. Forget Sheryl Crow. It's time to turn our attention to America's cans, and fast!

From Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them by John Mueller:

For all the attention it evokes, terrorism, in reasonable context, actually causes rather little damage, and the likelihood that any individual will become a victim in most places is microscopic. Those adept at hyperbole like to proclaim that we live in "the age of terror." However, the number of people worldwide who die as a result of international terrorism is generally a few hundred a year, tiny compared to the numbers who die in most civil wars or from automobile accidents. In fact, until 2001 far fewer Americans were killed in any grouping of years by all forms of international terrorism than were killed by lightning. And except for 2001, virtually none of these terrorist deaths occurred within the United States itself. Indeed, outside of 2001, fewer people have been killed in America by international terrorism than have drowned in toilets or have died from bee stings.


(Here's a longer excerpt from the book.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Talking Tough

Here's Josh Marhall on the gutless Democratic response to White House flack Dana Perino's absurd claim that no one in the White House has ever played the patriotism card to criticize opponents:

Make no mistake: complaining that the other side is questioning your patriotism telegraphs weakness.

Democrats should just hit right back on how President Bush has been helping Osama bin Laden for almost six years. Sounds harsh. But it's true. Consider the facts. President Bush had bin Laden trapped in the mountains of Tora Bora. But he let bin Laden get away because Bush wanted to focus on Saddam Hussein instead. The president and the White House tried to lie about this during the 2004 election. But since then the evidence has become overwhelming. President Bush decided to let bin Laden get away so he could get ready to attack Saddam Hussein. So pretty much anything bin Laden does from here on out is on President Bush. And how about Iraq? President Bush has screwed things up so badly that he's created a whole new generation of recruits for bin Laden. He's created a whole new army for bin Laden. Not by being tough but by being stupid. And by being too much of a coward to admit his mistakes once it was obvious that the occupation of Iraq was helping bin Laden specifically and the jihadist agenda in general.

After half a decade, the verdict is pretty clear: President Bush has been the biggest ally Osama bin Laden has. He's helped bin Laden at pretty much every turn -- even if only by his own stupidity, incompetence and cowardice. And when the next big terrorist attack comes, we can thank President Bush for helping make it happen.


And why, oh why, are Democrats afraid to say these things? Would Republicans hesitate if the tables were turned?

Ankle Biters Eating Crow

The other day I spoke with my dad (Roger Bosse, the former co-editor of BushWhackedUSA and esteemed sole proprietor of the sadly also defunct Political Kabuki) about the rise of the Colbert Report and the Daily Show (though I'm not entirely sure the latter deserves mention in the same breath as the former). My father mentioned that in the nineties there were numerous occasions when those on the right accused those on the left of lacking a sense of humor. This was in the context of debates about Rush Limbaugh's show, among others. Right-wingers would shirk off criticism by pointing out that these shows were purely for entertainment--and that whenever someone was offended by them, well, that person clearly lacked an appreciation for the hilarity of Rush's particular brand of entertainment. This went right along with the anti-political-correctness movement, I'm sure. Dad offered up Colbert as just one example proving that criticism wrong.

(For another interesting counter-example, check out this piece by Justin P. B. Gerald of Nassau Weekly on Fox News's disastrous attempt to counter Colbert with "The Half-Hour News Hour." Gerald writes, "Indeed, The Half-Hour News Hour is not a clever response to The Daily Show, or a clever anything at all. In addition to its cheap, mean-spirited humor, the show actually features a boisterous, obnoxious laugh track, a tactic that, devoid of irony, hasn't worked since the middle seasons of Seinfeld. Yet, though it does feature several (unknown) actors -- who [sic] I don't blame for accepting a paycheck -- The Half-Hour News Hour is not, in its own mind at least, a sitcom.")

Anyway, the right's blustering response (not to mention the mainstream media's) to Sheryl Crow's toilet-paper wisecrack the other day is a perfect case in point. Here's "Bull Dog" of Ankle Biting Pundits foaming at the mouth, apparently unable to control his exclamation points (nor his shift key, when it comes to two-letter prepositions):

Stay Out Of Our Bathrooms!!!!!

Sheryl Crow, who I think is a pretty good singer, and yes, pretty darn hot, just proved 2 things to the world. First, is that she’s as smart as a box of rocks. Second is that she basically showed everyone the mindset of environmental whackos in terms of how much they want the government to regulate our lives all in the name of “saving the Earth”....

I’m not even going to get into how utterly impractical it is to only use “one square”. And if that ever happened, wouldn’t we have an water emergency given the extra amounts of water that would be needed to wash our hands afterwards over and above what we already use. (Update: Michelle Malkin, proving that great minds think alike, said the same thing just before I did.)...

And how exactly does Crow propose to enforce this new regulation? About the only way I could see is cameras in every restroom, public or private. Except of course in certain areas of the country where the government employee unions will demand that people be hired to stay in the toilet and watch you - and of course be paid $20/hour with free health care and generous pensions.

But as kooky as Crow’s ramblings are, the idea behind them isn’t so crazy to those like her who think that we only have a few years left before global warming ruins the earth. I forget who it was, but someone said modern day environmentalism was more like a religion - in which the central tenet is the government regulating almost every aspect of your life - from the kind of car you drive, to the kind of light bulbs you use, to telling how much toilet paper you need to use.


With panic like this, I'm surprised the Homeland Security Threat Level wasn't bumped from Orange to Diarrhea.

Well, for those too dense to catch on, Crow made the following revelation in a major press release today: SHE WAS JUST KIDDING.

Mighty though the Bull Dog's roar may be, however, my personal favorite rejoinder to Crow's modest proposal was Rosie O'Donnel's: “Has she seen my ass?!"

VIEWER WARNING: The following video clip is, uh, not for the faint of heart (or the feint of heart, for that matter):

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Cost of Stamps

Time Warner has proposed a rate change for the U.S. postal system that would lock in lower rates for bigger publishers and saddle smaller publishers with a 21% rate hike. This could potentially drive any number of independent magazines (The Nation, The American Prospect, Mother Jones, The Sun, etc., etc., etc.) out of business.

Hundreds--possibly thousands--of magazines and journals, many doing important work in a vast number of fields, would be affected by this rate change. Please take a few minutes (it's easy!) and send your thoughts to Congress and the Postal Board of Governers:

Stamp Out the Rate Hikes

Meanwhile, I propose my own postage rate change: all publishers should be charged according to the degrees of integrity, quality, ingenuity and evocative power of each publication. This will require a Board of Evaluators, as well as support staff including Integrity Inspectors, Quality Monitors, Ingenuity Assessment Technicians, and Evocation Prognosticators. The latter should attain the status of oracles.

Ooh, right when I typed that, it thundered.

The King's Courtiers

I mentioned the other day that my favorite work of satire from the first six and a half years of the Bush administration is Stephen Colbert's roasting of the President at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner. (If you haven't seen it, you ought to! It's brilliant, and bold, and well worth your time.) Well, my current favorite blogger, Glenn Reynolds, is waxing nostalgic realistic on the significance of Colbert's bold speech:

Being subjected to reports of the White House Correspondents' Dinner provides a vivid reminder of just how piercing and subversive Stephen Colbert's speech was at last year's dinner (transcript is here). At their most prized event, he basically appeared and -- in the most unrelenting and merciless manner possible -- described exactly what they are and what they do. It really was one of the most superb political speeches of the Bush presidency.

Here is one passage that I was reminded of this week:

As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side.

But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished.

Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home.

Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction!


Compare Colbert's description of the function of our national press corps with the explanation this week from Boston Globe editor Martin Baron as to why the Globe's Charlie Savage won a Pulitzer Prize: "What Charlie does and the reason he won this richly deserved Pulitzer is because he covered what the White House does, not just what it says."

In essence, Baron pointed out that Savage won a Pulitzer because (unlike most political journalists) he actually goes beyond what Colbert described as the proper role of journalists ("you people of the press type those decisions down"). In retrospect, Colbert's speech was far more literal than satirical. It only seemed satirical because the reality of what he was describing is so absurd.

The only thing more entertaining -- and more revealing -- than the Colbert speech itself was all of the confused, petulant and angry reactions from Beltway journalists, explaining how it was so unfunny and so inappropriate because of how disrespectful it was to the defenseless Leader (and, more importantly, to the royal court's press corps).


You can see photos of this past weekend's celebrity-drenched glamourfest here.

Disgusting. And so, so fun!

Can't Get Enough of This Video

Feist "1 2 3 4" -- shot in a single take, allegedly without special effects:

Monday, April 23, 2007

Help Fund Autism Research

Click on this link and watch the videos. Doing so will raise "up to 49 cents" for autism research.

Turn down the volume if you have to, but go on. Do it.

Professor Fired for "Re-enacting" Virginia Tech Massacre

As a professor who has discussed the Virginia Tech killings with my students several times (in the context of identifying emotional, ethical and logical appeals within arguments) I find this story quite chilling on a number of levels:

An adjunct professor at the Emmanuel College in Boston was fired last Wednesday, two days after the tragic Virginia Tech shootings, for leading a classroom discussion about the incident.

Professor Nicholas Winset, who taught financial accounting at the Catholic liberal arts school, was reportedly fired after pointing a marker at some students and pretending to shoot them during a discussion about gun rights and the public's "celebration of victimhood," in the wake of the Virginia Tech campus shooting that killed 32 people.

Winset said he held the discussion after administrators asked faculty members to engage students on the issue, but was sent a letter on Friday saying he was fired and ordering him to stay off campus.

The college issued a statement saying, "Emmanuel College has clear standards of classroom and campus conduct, and does not in any way condone the use of discriminatory or obscene language."

However, Winset argued that the college's actions would have a "chilling effect" on open debate and was stifling free speech by firing him. The 37-year-old professor also posted a video on YouTube.com defending his actions. According to a Boston Globe report, most students claim they did not find Winset's discussion offensive, despite the backlash.


CNN has video.

UPDATE: Here is the first of four videos Professor Winset posted on Youtube:



And here's the second of four:



Click through for numbers three and four.

This Modern World

It's Monday! Time for the new Tom Tomorrow. (You'll have to click through an ad, unless you're a Salon subscriber or have already visited the site earlier today.) Here you go:

ANOTHER GUN MASSACRE...

UPDATE: I'm not too terribly fond of that one, but I plan to make a habit of linking to This Modern World every week. Here's a recent favorite: Right Wing Brain Glitch

"As Honestly as He Could"

Bush, today, on the abundant honesty in Alberto Gonzalez's Senate Judiciary Committee testimony last week:

(via Talking Points Memo)

And, while we're on the subject, here's a rundown of Bush administration officials forced to leave office under the clouds of scandal, corruption and incompetence.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Highlights of the Bush Administration

Someone asked me the other day (no, wait, that was three weeks ago--well, whatever, anything to get a post rolling...) what my favorite piece of satire from the Bush administration's current reign would be. I hadn't given the matter much thought, and I'm still not sure. However, this is the first thing that came to mind:

Stephen Colbert's roasting of the President at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner.

That one caused such a stir (though not as much as I'd have liked) that the organizers this year's dinner, which occurred last night, resorted to none other than Rich Little.

Here are Bush's remarks from last night (if you can stand watching):



This from Letterman:



And, for the hell of it, here's Laura Bush's resonse to Stephen Colbert's skewering of her husband last year:



I think she says, "Very funny," myself.

Relics of the Saints

Apparently, even Bono's old sunglasses can save the world.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vast, Unified, International Conspiricy Uncovered

All too often, "news" may as well be its own satire. This just in:

Saddam's nuclear research, scientists and equipment...have all been relocated to Syria, where US satellite intelligence confirms that uranium centrifuges are now operating — in a country which is not supposed to have any nuclear programme. There is now a nuclear axis...between Iran, Syria and North Korea — with Russia and China helping to build an Islamic bomb against the West. And of course, with assistance from American negligence.


Apparently those on the left, right and center in the U.S. and U.K. have conspired to keep this mortal threat to the Western world under wraps, all out of fear of embarrassment. Thank you, Melanie Phillips!

More from Glenn Greenwald here.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Good News, Bad News, Fake News

According to a new survey just out from the Pew Research Center, viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report know a hell of a lot more about current events than the viewers of Fox News. No surprise there.

On the other hand, Pew found that "those who watch 'Colbert,' 'Daily Show' or Fox News’ 'O’Reilly Factor,' listen to National Public Radio or Rush Limbaugh, or read major newspapers’ web sites tend to be better informed than the general public, averaging a more than 50 percent knowledge level on current events questions asked in the poll." Fifty percent, huh? Doesn't sound like much, but apparently that's about where either side of the faux news coin average out. Or, in any case, according to this summary of the survey, Limbaugh listeners keep pace with NPR listeners, O'Reillyites with the citizens of Colbert Nation.

Digging a bit deeper into the numbers, however, you find that the groups aren't quite even. Fifty-four percent of Daily Show/Colbert viewers fall into the survey's "high knowledge group," while a mere 51% of O'Reilly viewers and 50% of Limbaugh listeners score in that range. Ah, a sliver of hope, there--and, considering the demographic differences in those categories (26% of Daily Show/Colbert viewers are 18-29, but only 16% of O'Reilly viewers and 12% of Limbaugh listeners are so young), there's hope for the country yet (or for our fragile egoes, at any rate).

Take a look at some of the findings:



NOTE: Blogger cuts off the right side of that image--a shame because that last column shows one area in which Limbaugh listeners excel: tracking the U.S. death toll in Iraq. View the un-Blogger-censored chart here.



Perhaps the most noteworthy finding from the poll is this nugget from Richard Morin, senior editor at Pew:

...There had been no change in the public’s overall knowledge about current events and people in the news between 1989 and 2005.

We thought it was surprising because now we have so many new sources of information, with cable TV and the internet certainly chief among them. The fact that people have more places to go and they’re not learning more we thought was interesting.

Also, while overall levels of knowledge were unchanged, college graduates knew less in 2007 than the average graduate in 1989.


So much for Internet access to 24/7 news and current events. Plenty of stupid to go around: same as it ever was.

Hokey Nation

Am I the only one who thinks there's something bizarre about the nationwide honoring of the Virginia Tech massacre victims by wearing their school's colors? I understand and appreciate the expression of solidarity with those affected by the tragedy. This effort is mostly a good and useful thing.

But somehow, though I want to join in honoring them and dealing with the impact of the massacre (and have done so in all of my classes this week), I'm not the least bit inclined to wear Hokie colors. And it's not just that I find the gesture a little (please pardon the pun) hokey; I find it weird that many of us want to dress like (and, thus, look like) the people who are most affected. It's just ... strange.

I felt this way when people said, "We're all New Yorkers now," too. I'm not a New Yorker. Never have been, probably never will be. I wasn't there, and I'm not as directly affected by the tragedy as those who were close to it. I don't want to pretend anything: I want to feel compassion for them, and to do whatever I can to help.

Does wearking Virginia Tech colors help? Though the act of wearing V.T. colors is arguably "meaningful" in its own right, it's really just a substitute for meaningful action. And it's self deluding. And it strikes me as casting oneself in the role of "victim."

It's almost creepy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt

Since last night, the literary blogosphere has flooded with reactions to the death of Kurt Vonnegut. People are quoting the imminently quotable guy, paying tribute to his genius, sharing memories of their experiences with his books, and generally mourning the loss of a literary hero--if not with the bristle and bustle that followed the death of, say, Anna Nicole Smith, then at least with a great deal more reverence.

I'm going to toast the man myself, this evening, in private. But somehow his passing has sparked me to finally start the blog I've threatened to start for a few months now. I had planned to get things rolling in May, when my academic job ends for the year and summer begins. But why not now? Why not dedicate this blog with a fleeting celebration of the man, the myth, the master of satirical fiction?

Speaking of which, here's what I have in mind for the "focus" of this blog: satire, politics, and fiction--particularly satirical fiction with a political emphasis. I'm sure I'll branch into other topics, some personal, some cultural, many trivial. I'll link to great (and not so great) satirical works, including cartoons. And I'll try to post at least a couple times a week, minimum, just to keep things rolling along.

This blog should pick up steam in May. In the meantime...



...here's to Kurt! May he rest in oblivion.