Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I wanted to get a picture of these with some cool extreme evening shadows on them, but there was a building blocking the sunlight. Bugger.
But, on my way back home, I did meet this very sweet and affectionate tuxedo kitty:
I'm calling him "Gollum."
I seriously thought about taking Gollum home, but I just couldn't get around all the logistical questions, especially without a car. I feel pretty crappy about it, but I really don't think I can give a kitty much of a home without at least some prep work beforehand.
I'm... not impulsive.
Juan Valdez is retiring. Long live Juan Valdez! Colombia's coffee ambassador to the world, Carlos Sanchez, is finally quitting after four decades of playing the role of Juan Valdez. And the national federation of Colombian coffee producers is searching for a man to inherit his poncho -- as well as his trusty mule, Conchita.Respect. And I don't even drink coffee.
Sanchez has promoted Colombian coffee since 1969 with a leather bag, bushy mustache and straw hat typical of rural Colombia. He inherited the role from Jose Duval, a Cuban, who became the first Juan Valdez in 1959.(snip)
''I feel like a flag. I feel like I've represented the country,'' Sanchez said Tuesday at a news conference where he struggled to hold back tears. ''There is a big sense of gratitude from Colombians abroad for this.''
Sanchez, 71, said his advancing years made it hard to keep up a strenuous schedule traveling the globe promoting coffee.
Weekly World News asks: Are James Carville and Bat Boy kin?
BAT BOY has hundreds of living relatives in America -- and famed Democratic strategist James Carville is probably one of them!God, I love these people. This sort of thing is why I used to have a subscription.
While outspoken Carville -- nicknamed the "Ragin' Cajun" -- is famous for being hyper-aggressive, no one has questioned his place in the human species before.
"This news is bound to rattle Carville," says a Democratic party source. "If he and his wife Mary Matalin -- a staunch Republican -- weren't worried about how their kids would turn out before, they've got to be now."
HERE, from the expert, are 10 traits Bat Boy appears to share with his human kinfolk:
1. Bald, misshapen head.
2. Frightening, sharp toothed grin.
3. Comes from the South. "Like Bat Boy, who first surfaced in West Virginia, most of his relatives are found in the South," notes Dr. Hensky. "Mr. Carville was born in Louisiana."
4. Flails arms wildly when excited.
5. Combative. Like Bat Boy, who's bitten dozens of people, Carville relishes a good fight.
6. Weird, cackling laugh.
7. Super-acute hearing. CNN staffers have learned not to bad-mouth Carville behind his back.
8. Physical agility.
9. Dog-like loyalty. "While other Clinton cronies ducked for cover during Monica-gate, Carville stood by his man," Dr. Hensky observes.
10. Navigates in dark. Carville often wears sunglasses at night.
Belated hat tip to the shadowy and mysterious Codename V. for tipping me off to the WWN online.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I will donate $50 and a free print to the first Democratic congresscritter who can tell me what these objects are.
Cute, but maybe also a little creepy if your mindset is sufficiently warped...
Monday, May 29, 2006
After seeing this picture chez Hecate and referenced chez driftglass, the thought occurred to me that this photograph is really quite symbolic. Although the official intent of the flag here is to honor the sacrifice of the dead, it also has the effect of obscuring them from view. Instead of seeing coffins with dead soldiers in them, we see the American flag.
Republicans wave the flag in our face to distract us from looking at the deaths they have caused; of Americans, of Afghans, of Iraqis, of American democracy itself. Let us take this Memorial Day to push the star-spangled curtain aside and mourn all that has been lost.
This seems... ominous.
Checking for blisters after the Perilous Smoke Exposure.
Bring the whole family! And, um, your Gary Coleman "BLING BLING" shirt.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
It being Memorial Day weekend, we had a cookout and some light batting practice after the game, although it was a bit disorganized (no plates, hot dog buns, or utensils). Tasty!
Current Stats: 7 games, .611 BA (22-36), 6 2B, 4 HR, 13 runs, 16 RBI.
Career Stats: 34 games, .580 BA (134-231), 23 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 74 runs, 56 RBI.
Keep Your Eye On The Ball, Part I.
Keep Your Eye On The Ball, Part II.
Keep Your Eye On The-
Oh. Oh, dear.
Mr. Kerry, accused even by Democrats of failing to respond to the charges during the campaign, is now fighting back hard.
"They lied and lied and lied about everything," Mr. Kerry says in an interview in his Senate office. "How many lies do you get to tell before someone calls you a liar? How many times can you be exposed in America today?"
His supporters are compiling a dossier that they say will expose every one of the Swift boat group's charges as a lie and put to rest any question about Mr. Kerry's valor in combat. While it would be easy to see this as part of Mr. Kerry's exploration of another presidential run, his friends say the Swift boat charges struck at an experience so central to his identity that he would want to correct the record even if he were retiring from public life.
Mr. Kerry has signed forms authorizing the Navy to release his record — something he resisted during the campaign — and hired a researcher to comb the naval archives in Washington for records that could pinpoint his whereabouts during dates of the incidents in dispute. Another former crew member has spent days at a time interviewing veterans to reconstruct every incident in question.
I wonder if Kerry really thinks this clears the way for him to run in 2008. If so, he's deluded. Voters will be asking, "If he knew the Swifties were lying, why didn't he prove it? Or at least say something?" He thinks he's proving that he really is a courageous war hero, but the reality is that he held his fire until after the battle was over.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Foser basically says that this is the single most important thing in our country right now, and he's absolutely right. None of the many Republican disasters we have had (and the lack of consequences for same) would have been possible without the media consistently pushing the Republican narrative.
I believe that Foser did, however, miss a few opportunities:
1) While he debunked the idea that not all Clinton/Democratic scandals are sex-related, he neglected to mention that some Bush/Republican ones are, i.e., the Jeff Gannon and "Hookergate" stories. The collective media shrug over a male prostitute being waved into the White House press corps was what convinced me beyond all doubt that the media is actively complicit, rather than merely buffeted by Republican pressure and the quest for ratings and profits.
2) This one is nitpicky, but Foser didn't speculate on motive, didn't say anything about how most media outlets are owned by corporate conglomerates and/or right-wing lunatics. He might have just been taking that as a given, and focusing more on the methodology.
3) I would have liked to see Foser talk about the media's significance a little more. Because most people get all their news from them, the mainstream media effectively define and control reality itself. And the fact that Bush's approval ratings ever go up, and that he has gotten away with such baldfaced lies as denying that he ever said he didn't care about bin Laden, suggest to me that far too many people rely on the media more than their own memories to tell them what happened in the past. The media have far more power than people realize, and they abuse it mercilessly.
4) This is really out of the scope of Foser's article, but it's something I'm desperate to hear: How do we fix the media? Can it be fixed directly (i.e., Fairness Doctrine - which I think can be easily gamed) or indirectly (i.e., ownership rules - which I think would just nibble at the edges of the problem)? My personal belief if that it can only happen through a media crisis/scandal that both forces them to clean up their act, and exposes their true bias for all to see. Media control over reality is not as effective if everyone knows that they're being fed pure right-wing propaganda, and adjusts accordingly.
Friday, May 26, 2006
The Bush Administration has a daring new plan to house the growing number of homeless people in the country -- clown cars!It's very, very difficult to parody the Bush administration, but I think they've done a fine job here.
"Did you ever go to the circus and see how many clowns come out of a single car?" Bush asked his Cabinet at a meeting last month. "There's like, tons! From one little car! What if we got a bunch of these cars and let homeless people live in them. Wouldn't that be great?"
According to a Cabinet official, Bush went to the circus last month and was impressed with how the clowns looked when they emerged from the cars.
"The President said, 'They're healthy. Energetic. So it must be pretty comfortable in there. And what's more, they can all drive around together and look for jobs! Talk about car pooling!'
"When the President gets really excited about an idea like this, there's no point telling him that the clowns don't really live in the car, and that it has a false bottom," the official said.
"I'm dead, but I like it."
And, of course, there'll be other people's spiders...
I was taking some pictures of the lightgrapes on my way back from Wednesday night softball, and I decided to see if I could get a closer shot of the spiderweb. Imagine my surprise...
(Click on the pic for a larger view)
I might have to go back after this one with a tripod some night.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Two senior Republicans want to set up an independent watchdog over the federal judiciary to police judges' acceptance of free trips or their possible financial interests with groups that could appear before them in court.
Dick Carelli, a spokesman for the federal courts, said Friday that the judiciary already is subject to congressional oversight and has internal mechanisms for policing itself.
Establishing an inspector general responsible to any entity outside the judicial branch, such as Congress, "would be a serious incursion into judicial independence," Carelli said.
The policy-making Judicial Conference of the United States, a 27-judge body whose presiding officer is the chief justice, went on the record in 1996 as "strongly opposing the creation of an IG in the judicial branch."
An unusual FBI raid of a Democratic congressman's office over the weekend prompted complaints yesterday from leaders in both parties, who said the tactic was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.Sucks, don't it.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) expressed alarm at the raid. "The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case," he said in a lengthy statement released last night.
"Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress," he said. "Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years."
Fielding was... erratic. Not sure if it's something about the field or the lateness of the hour, or if I just can't get a good read if I'm too far towards centerfield. I caught a few and lost a few, but I did make some strong throws which my arm is now paying for.
Wednesday players don't keep score, so I can't tell you who won...
Current Stats: 6 games, .517 BA (15-29), 3 2B, 2 HR, 9 runs, 12 RBI.
Career Stats: 33 games, .567 BA (127-224), 21 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 70 runs, 52 RBI.
From the knees! I can't remember if he got the out or not...
Attempting to salvage a bobble and drop.
Something tells me she's gonna be taking another base...
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
o 59% of respondents have a negative view of the current state of honesty in the US.
o 75% say they have less trust in their government than they did five years ago, and only 8% say more. (Interesting choice of timeframe there)
o 24% give the President a favorable rating for trustworthiness. The courts get 29%, the media 11%, and Congress... 3%. Ouch.
o This one is mystifying. Favorable ratings for various types of media, in ascending order:
Broadcast TV: 25%
Cable TV: 65%
What. The. Bloody. Hell. I was starting to feel, well, kind of optimistic up to that point.
Very dramatically lit clouds. Pretty much blind luck on my part...
More dramatic clouds. Maybe a little blown out by the sun, but still pretty cool.
This was really more about the spiderweb than the clouds. Who knew spiders liked grapes?
...And a Mysterious Bucket Of Peril, for no apparent reason.
Monday, May 22, 2006
One consultant who will not be back if Kerry runs again is Bob Shrum, who served as the lead strategist during the '04 race. Shrum says he has retired from American politics and currently serves as a senior fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.Oh God, I hope this is true. I'm sure the Republicans will do everything they can to entice this professional albatross to hang himself around the Democrats' necks once again. I'm thinking maybe something like: "Prominent Republican spokesmen expressed confidence in their party's ability to retain control of the White House with wily master tactician Bob Shrum out of the picture. 'It will be a tough fight, but we will prevail as long as Shrum stays on the sidelines. Quite frankly, we're all scared to death of him. The man's a beast,' said chief Republican strategist Karl Rove, unable to suppress a smirk of sheer animal terror."
Right now, Bush and the Republican party are wallowing in approval ratings in the 20s and 30s, based entirely on their actions and inactions, such as Iraq, Katrina, Plame, and all manner of illegal spying. But come election time, they will attempt to sweep it all away with "Ohmigod! Gays/immigrants/terrorists/abortions/activist judges/liberals are coming to take your bibles away!" And Democrats will dutifully engage them on that ground, and attempt to explain how they really are tough on terror Christians, and really not such a big threat to the American way of life after all, and oh-by-the-way, the war in Iraq was rather ill-considered, was it not?
This was pretty much the Democratic gameplan in 2004 (well, except for the part about Iraq being a bad idea), and it didn't work. All the burgeoning dissastisfaction with Iraq was trumped by the ridiculous fear that Democrats would let terrorists and gay marriage destroy America unless they were stopped, and by bogus accusations that Kerry's military honors were phony. I see no reason not to expect the same scenario to play out in November and 2008, although the dissatisfaction will be harder to overcome this time around. The Democrats will make gains, but not nearly as much as they should.
What I want to see the Democrats do this time is refuse to play the Republicans' game, but call them on it instead. Rather than simply saying, "We do too hate terrorists and gay people just as much as the Republicans! More, even!", call the Republicans on what they're doing. Say, "The Republicans have failed and dishonored this country in every way imaginable, and all they can do is campaign on hate and fear. Do they think you're that easy to distract? Is this all they think you care about?" Americans love to congratulate themselves on their bullshit-detecting abilities, and therefore hate being played. Unfortunately, they hate admitting that they've been played even more, which is why so many still cling to the idea that the Republicans actually want what's best for America, and why the Democrats have to make it very explicit and impossible to dismiss or ignore.
Ultimately, what I want to see is the Republicans' distraction-and-boogeyman strategy blow up in their faces. I believe that the day that Americans see it for the sham that it is and reject it, is the day that we finally start to get our country back.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Current Stats: 5 games, .545 BA (12-22), 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 runs, 8 RBI.
Career Stats: 32 games, .571 BA (124-217), 20 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 69 runs, 48 RBI.
Sadly, I don't think Out-Of-Focus Redhead makes it.
Just about to tag the batter out...
Here, bally bally ball...
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Finland was the surprise winner of the 51st Eurovision song contest on Saturday with the monster-themed hard rock band Lordi beating 23 other competitors.
Lordi scored 292 points from telephone voters in 38 countries with its song "Hard Rock Hallelujah" in a performance in Greece that both shocked and amused viewers.
In Finland, young people on the streets of the capital Helsinki welcomed the news of their country's Eurovision triumph enthusiastically, although no big celebration was being planned.
"It's amazing that Finland has finally won something. Though I don't like Lordi myself, it's great! We don't win anything," said Mari Pelli, an 18-year-old childminder.
"I don't like the band but I'm very happy that they won. Eurovision is a show for entertainment, not for music," said Mikko Mattila, a 30-year-old student.
"It's not Sibelius, but they have their own way. Lordi is the best," said Satu Puolakka, a 19-year-old student.
This is, like, the most awesome thing ever.
My attempt to read the tree leaves was woefully unsuccessful.
Mutant Leaf #1: Bit early in the year for this, innit?
Mutant Leaf #2: Looks a bit like a clownfish, actually...
Randy Williams, 2000
Friday, May 19, 2006
"Some days it's a good day to die, some days it's a good day to have breakfast."
And, of course, there'll be other people's cats...
Graveyard Kitty still doesn't like me.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
The selection is a bit erratic and the clips appear to have been edited by poorly trained monkeys with egg timers, but there's still a lot of good stuff on there, some of which I had never seen before. I find myself curiously amused by the Robot Repair sketch from '88-89...
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter is backing off tongue-in-cheek comments that he plans to tell President Bush next month that he dislikes how the country is being run.Sigh...
The Pro Bowl linebacker issued a statement Wednesday saying he regrets making comments that some apparently construed as serious.
"I regret that my quotes about our team's upcoming visit to the White House were taken out of context," Porter said in a statement issued by the team. "I am very excited to have an opportunity to visit the White House and meet the president of the United States."
Porter also said his comments were not meant to suggest he disapproves of Bush or the job he is doing.
On the other hand, if the inspector were truly nonpartisan, he'd be looking at Scalia's junkets and hunting trips (wherein he miraculously managed to avoid getting shot in the face despite his striking resemblance to a wild boar), and Alito's refusal to recuse himself from cases involving his own stockholdings.
For precisely this reason, I assume that this bill gives Congress a very limited role in confirmation and oversight, or else its authors (Sensenbrenner and Grassley) are awfully confident that they will hold on to their majorities this fall.
Even so, what would happen if the Democrats retook the White House? This is potentially an even bigger weapon to hand to President Gore/Feingold/Clinton than the "nuclear option." After all, the filibuster can only be invoked against new nominees, but an inspector general can investigate anybody. In fact, if his powers go far enough for him to remove judges, an inspector general would be an excellent mechanism for negating lifetime appointments (intended to eliminate political pressures on judges, remember).
Of course, a Republican president is probably much more likely to stoop to using an inspector general as a political hitman than a Democratic one, so maybe that's why they're not worried...
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
For us Angry Gore fans, it goes without saying that a bracing jolt of straight talk about the magnitude of the Republicans' crimes would have a galvanizing effect on the Democratic and Dissatisfied Independent electorate, but I'm hoping that Angry Gore would actually go beyond merely trashing the Republicans. What I am fervently wishing for is that Gore hires some liberal media critics like Peter Daou or Atrios or the Media Matters folks to staff a "media war room." It is high time that the Democrats acknowledge that the mainstream media is every bit as much their enemy as the Republicans are, and start alerting the American people to it as well.
Why Gore, and why 2008? Gore, because I think he has the best understanding of the media out of all the presumptive candidates (I'm assuming that Dean stays put as DNC Chair). And 2008, because I believe that the only way a Democrat can get significant media coverage of media factchecking or anything else is if they're the Democratic candidate for president, or if they kill someone (Note to Gore: Not that Angry).
Of course, the risk here is that the media would spin any such criticisms into a "Gore's a whiny crybaby who can't bear the intense scrutiny of a presidential campaign" narrative. Certainly it would behoove them to do everything in their vast reality-controlling power to discredit anyone who shines an unflattering light on them. I believe that the key would be the focus and talent in Gore's media war room. They shouldn't cry foul every time the media says anything merely unflattering about Gore, but instead limit themselves to conclusively debunking blatant falsehoods, i.e., "Al Gore claims he invented the internet," or pointing out any occasions where a media outlet contradicts itself or demonstrates a clear IOKIYAR (It's Okay If You're A Republican) double standard. The practical difficulty here lies in presenting the case in a way that is both definitive and sound-bite compact, as well as the risk that every time they let an unflattering-but-not-flagrantly-inaccurate story pass unchallenged, it would be spun as a plea of no-contest. They would also need to work out where to draw the line between major, Swift-Boat-level lies that Gore should address personally, vs. smaller fibs that could be handled by a spokesperson ("Al Gore said he and Tipper were the inspiration for Love Story!").
I understand that the risk in confronting the media head-on is enormous, but they have so much control over our perception of reality and history, that it is suicidal to allow them to continue infusing that reality with Republican narratives and outright lies. Ultimately, the media must be forced to choose between either taking their journalistic, watchdog responsibilities seriously, or else become a Pravda-esque laughingstock that everyone knows is just right-wing propaganda. My preference is for the former, as more Republican crimes would be exposed that way. I will also observe that the media crisis could also be brought about by some form of media scandal, wherein it is discovered that the media conspired to cover up some sort of major Republican wrongdoing. (But who would report it?) Finally, note that there may be no other way to reform the media - I believe that the Fairness Doctrine could be easily gamed and used as a figleaf, and reform of ownership rules would just kind of nibble around the edges. Any serious media reform would have to come from within, and would require some pretty intense motivation.
What about the bloggers? some of you may ask. I don't want to sell my more-talented bloggy brethren short, but I think the sad truth is that there just aren't enough people reading them to make much of a difference, and most of the people who are reading them are already convinced. It's possible that this could change, or that the left builds a noise machine of its own by the time 2008 rolls around, in which case Nominee Angry Gore probably wouldn't need a dedicated anti-media strikeforce (no elite motorcycle commandos, please), but I'm not counting on it. As my Cliche-A-Day calendar says, Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Liz Bumiller's "news analysis" of Bush's address on immigration:
The headline news from President Bush's immigration speech on Monday was troops to the border, but in substance and tone the address reflected the more subtle approach of a man shaped by Texas border-state politics and longtime personal views.(Oh yeah, Bush is Mr. Nuance.)
What was remarkable to people who knew Mr. Bush in Texas was how much he still believes in the power of immigration to invigorate the nation.
"He's always had a more welcoming attitude," said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas. "He always spoke well of Mexican nationals and regarded them as hard-working people. So his grace notes on this subject are high."(snip)
"He understands this community in the way you do when you live in a border state," said Israel Hernandez, an assistant secretary at the Commerce Department who traveled with Mr. Bush as a personal aide when he first ran for governor. "Philosophically, he understands why people want to come to the U.S. And he doesn't consider them a threat."
Today's NYT lead editorial:
President Bush's speech from the Oval Office last night was not a blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform. It was a victory for the fear-stricken fringe of the debate.Suddenly, I'm hearing the "fight theme" from Star Trek (Brrr-AH!)...
These are the people who say illegal border crossings must be stopped immediately, with military boots in the desert sand. Never mind the overwhelming burdens of Iraq and Afghanistan, the absence of a coherent and balanced immigration policy, and the broad public support for a comprehensive solution. America must send its overtaxed troops to the border right now, they say, so a swarm of ruthless, visa-less workers cannot bury our way of life under a relentless onslaught of hard work.
Rather than standing up for truth, Mr. Bush swiveled last night in the direction of those who see immigration, with delusional clarity, as entirely a problem of barricades and bad guys. His plan to deploy "up to 6,000" National Guard troops to free the Border Patrol to hunt illegal immigrants is a model of stark simplicity, one sure to hearten the Minuteman vigilantes, frightened conspiracy theorists, English-only Latinophobes, right-wing radio and TV personalities, and members of Congress who have no patience for sorting out the various and mixed blessings that surging immigration has given this country.
Monday, May 15, 2006
This is pretty much how Joey Porter plays football as well - lots of energy and lots of trash-talk. I would love to see the expression on Bush's face with Porter up in it.
Joey Porter has a gripe to pick with his head coach and the president of the United States and, as usual, he isn't bashful to speak his mind.
First, the Steelers' linebacker wants to talk with George Bush when the team visits the White House June 2.
"Yeah, I got something to say to Bush, I'm going to have a swagger when I walk in there, too," Porter said, laughing loudly. "I'm looking forward to it. I have something to tell him, too. I don't like the way things are running right now. I feel like he has to give me some of my money back, so I got something to tell Bush."
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Update: NBC forced YouTube to pull it, but you should still be able to get it here at Crooks & Liars.
U.S. military troops with severe psychological problems have been sent to Iraq or kept in combat, even when superiors have been aware of signs of mental illness, a newspaper reported in its Sunday editions.So, basically, the only thing that can disqualify you from military service is The Gay. Age, intelligence, aptitude, mental stability, none of that matters. Come on, stop worrying about whether the gay troop is staring at your back - at least he's watching it.
Twenty-two U.S. troops committed suicide in Iraq last year. That number accounts for nearly one in five of all noncombat deaths and was the highest suicide rate since the war started, the newspaper said.
The paper reported that some service members who committed suicide in 2004 or 2005 were kept on duty despite clear signs of mental distress, sometimes after being prescribed antidepressants with little or no mental health counseling or monitoring. Those findings conflict with regulations adopted last year by the Army that caution against the use of antidepressants for "extended deployments."(snip)
Ritchie acknowledged that some deployment practices, such as sending service members diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome back into combat, have been driven in part by a troop shortage.(snip)
Maj. Andrew Efaw, a judge advocate general officer in the Army Reserves who handled trial defenses for soldiers in northern Iraq last year, said commanders don't want to send mentally ill soldiers into combat.
"But on the other hand, [the commander] doesn't want to send a message to his troops that if you act up, he's willing to send you home," Efaw said.