Wednesday, August 29, 2007

6 Degress of Larry Craig

In addition to being a 'tearoom cruiser' (I now know more about this stuff than I ever thought it healthy t do), Senator Craig is/was a member of The Singing Senators - a quartet of Republican crooners: (1) John Ashcroft (R-MO) Baritone, (2) Larry Craig (R-ID) - Lead, (3) James Jeffords (R-VT) - Tenor, (4) Trent Lott (R-MS) - Bass.

Now, I am not saying there's anything wrong with being the lead in a male a-capella group. I'm certainly not saying it's in any way gay.

The Wiki explains the origin:
"In 1995, at New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith's birthday party, Ashcroft, Jeffords, Lott, and Connie Mack of Florida sang 'Happy Birthday.' Later, when Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon was having a birthday party, Jeffords called Lott and suggested that the four of them sing at the party. Mack declined, but Larry Craig joined. "
How nice of Larry to join! And all for Bob "Mr. Morals" Packwood. If anything, this explains that Larry has some important friends (e.g. Lott has so far been holding off from calling for his resignation).

The funny thing about the GOP is that they want him to resign for his sin of being gay; I would want him to resign because, uh, he was arrested (and plead guilty) for public lewdness.

I read on some blog that we should feel compassion for Craig. I guess because he's embarrassed. OK. Sure. But our standards are pretty low if we have such compassion for a ranking Senator who was arrested in a public bathroom.

We should have compassion for the victims of Katrina - many of whom have still been left homeless two years after Bush's Hurricane. Give them sympathy, give Craig ridicule.

New Pringles

OK, I realize this is meaningless, but recently I performed a taste test of three of the new, kosher, 'reduced fat' pringle flavors: (1) Sweet Mesquite Barbecue, (2) Tomato Mozzarella, (3) Savory Cheddar (the last two are OU-D).

(1) Sweet Mesquite Barbecue - this title is marketspeak for just plain ol' Barbecue. The 'sweet mesquite' may explain why barbecue potato chips of all prices, sizes and sophistication taste the same and taste nothing like actual barbecue. Why not call them Orange flavor? That's the color they all sport and the taste is much more similar to the round fruit than to grilled meat.

That said, a low-fat pringle BBQ chip isn't a bad thing to have around. Good with hot-dogs.

(2) Tomato Mozzarella - These are nasty. It's hard to imagine why anyone would want to eat a chip that tastes - strongly - like a sweet tomato. I'm getting a taste-headache just thinking about it. This has been a popular taste option outside the US (I remember eating tomato chips in England back in 1981) and that's probably why Pringles wanted to introduce them into the US: doubtless because there's a massive stockpile of 'tomato flavor' somewhere in Mexico that Procter & Gamble bought sight-unseen and now they need to unload it on unsuspecting fat people.

(3) Savory Cheddar - another marketing title. The first few chips didn't taste any different from a regular pringle but I realize now that was because of 'package settling' or somesuch. This is the best of the new flavors because each chip is (or should be) sprinkled with the orange "cheeze" substance they put on The Doodles. It's still not as good as eating an actual doodle, but ya take what you can get in my snacking world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Travesty of Justice

TPM's Paul Kiel gives a rundown of who has resigned at the Dept. of Justice recently. The following is my editing of his data:
  1. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, 8/27/07.
  2. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, 5/14/07.
  3. Acting Assoc. AG, William Mercer (the Dept. #3), withdrawing from the nomination 6/22/07
  4. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff, 3/13/07.
  5. Department White House liaison, Monica Goodling, 4/6/07
  6. Michael Elston, McNulty's chief of staff, 6/15/07
  7. Executive Director of the Executive Office of United States Attorneys Michael Battle, mid-February.
  8. Bradley Schlozman, an attorney in the Counsel to the Director staff at the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, formerly the U.S. attorney for Kansas City and a former acting assistant attorney for the Civil Rights Division, mid August.
  9. Assistant AG for the Civil Rights Division Wan Kim, 8/23/07
To recap: The AG, his chief of staff, his 2 senior deputies, and other heads of offices. Resigned. Their families must have been lonely, eh?

While the morons of the world still think that the Attorney Scandal is just an 'overblown personnel matter' - and it's not - the scandal did reveal that the DOJ is filled to the gorge with incompetents, blind ideologues, and scoundrels.

It's hard to explain to the detached American voting public - whose brains seem stuck on an endless TiVo loop of monkeys in clown suits - that this is a bad thing. But the department of Justice is important. More important than American Idol and Paris Freakin' Hilton, if you can imagine.

Monday, August 27, 2007

NYTimes Editorial about Gonzales

I hate to admit it, but they wrote a durn fine editorial. The choice quotes:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally done something important to advance the cause of justice. He has resigned. But his departure alone cannot remove the dark cloud that hangs over the Justice Department. President Bush needs to choose a new attorney general of unquestioned integrity who would work to make the department worthy of its name again — and provide the mandate to do it. Congress needs to continue to investigate the many scandals Mr. Gonzales leaves behind.

When Mr. Gonzales was appointed, it seemed doubtful that he would be able to put aside his years as Mr. Bush’s personal lawyer, which stretched back to the Texas governor’s office, and represent the interests of the American people. He never did.

In many ways, Mr. Gonzales turned out to be the ultimate “loyal Bushie,” a term his Justice Department chief-of-staff used so incredibly inappropriately to describe what his department was looking for in its top prosecutors.

It was just that kind of craven politics — the desire to co-opt the power of the government to win elections — that was the driving force in Mr. Gonzales’s Justice Department. Dedicated and capable United States attorneys were fired for insisting on doing their jobs with integrity — for refusing to put people in jail, or shield them from prosecution, simply to help Republicans win elections. Lawyers were hired for nonpolitical jobs based on party enrollment and campaign contributions, and top members of Mr. Gonzales’s staff attended pre-election political briefings at the White House led by Karl Rove and his aides.


There was a more basic problem with Mr. Gonzales’ tenure: he did not stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law, as an attorney general must. This administration has illegally spied on Americans, detained suspects indefinitely as “enemy combatants,” run roughshod over the Geneva Conventions, violated the Hatch Act prohibitions on injecting politics into government and defied Congressional subpoenas. In each case, Mr. Gonzales gave every indication of being on the side of the lawbreakers, not the law.

Mr. Gonzales signed off on the administration’s repugnant, and disastrous, torture policy when he was the White House counsel. He later helped stampede Congress into passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which endorsed illegal C.I.A. prisons where detainees may be tortured and established kangaroo courts in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to keep detained foreigners in custody essentially for life. He helped cover up and perpetuate Mr. Bush’s illegal wiretapping programs, both in the counsel’s job and as attorney general. The F.B.I. under his stewardship abused powers it was given after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the name of enhanced national security.

Mr. Gonzales will hardly be a tough act to follow, but the standard for the next attorney general should not be set that low.


The next attorney general will have two critical tasks. First, he or she must get to the bottom of the scandals hovering over the department. Mr. Gonzales played defense, as if it were Congress’s job to discover what laws his department may have broken, and his job to thwart it. The next attorney general should appoint a credible, independent investigator to look into the prosecutors’ firings and likely Hatch Act violations and make clear that the investigation will be permitted to follow the facts where they lead — including, as appears likely, to the White House.


Mr. Gonzales, for all of his undeniable deficiencies, merely reflected the principles of this administration. His resignation is a necessary but hardly sufficient step in restoring the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

Gonzales & Rove

So Gonzales has tendered his resignation. It's a surprise. But it shouldn't be. It's a surprise because - like with Rove's resignation - it's both the smart and moral thing to do. And Bush doesn't do smart and moral. It's that simple.

More later.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Blog, Wiki, and Youtube

I forget if I've made this point before but my resumption of intermittant blogging has reminded me of the interplay of these three devices: Blogs, Wikipedia and Youtube. All three are democratic: anyone can create a blog/edit wiki/upload a pic. Blogs allow the most freedom of expression (content can be cheezily G rated or nasty nasty nasty). And when I blog I usually keep two windows (tabs) open on my browser to allow easy referencing access: Wiki for words and Youtube for images/movies.

We'll see how many of these devices are around in 5, 10, 50 years. I have a feeling that all three will grow stronger and more present as long as we continue to be free. They may not have the same names, but the media form will be around.

Cheney in 1994

Many people are linking to this clip of an April 15 1994 American Enterprise Institute interview with then ex-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney about what a war in Iraq would wreak.

Editor and Publisher, gives this transcript (but you should also see the clip if you have not done so):

Q: Do you think the U.S., or U.N. forces, should have moved into Baghdad?

A: No.

Q: Why not?

A: Because if we'd gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.

Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.

It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.

The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families -- it wasn't a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?

Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.

People have wondered - what could have happened to Cheney. If he was 100% correct back then, why was he a moron now? Some have suggested that he changed; either 9/11 profoundly shook up his mental state, making bold irrational moves seem acceptable, or its a physical change - parts of his brain have been destroyed through micro-strokes.

Both answers are possible but I think overstate the case. I don't think he has changed at all. His speech pattern is the same in 1994 as it was in the 2000/2004 VP debates and this great interview from Nov 4 1976 when he was Chief of Staff to Pres. Ford and was beaten by (gag) Jim E. Carter.

I claim that Cheney, the unhinged greed-hound hasn't changed at all. What changed from 1994 and 2000-2007 are two things:

1. In 1994 he was defending a decision he already had made. He was trying to explain the war policies of his employer, Bush Sr. That administration didn't go into Iraq, so he'll do his Cheney Act - using his calm, reasonable, authoritative voice and his steadfast gaze - to defend his behavior as the only smart rational thing to do. I believe that had Bush Sr. decided to attack Iraq then Cheney would say the same things he's saying today.

2. However, one still needs to ask why Bush Sr. didn't go into Iraq and why Cheney in 1994 was saying things that we now know are correct. My theory is that the fact that Bush Sr. was a major loser (proof: Quayle), his war staff was obviously talented. The decision to not go into Iraq was probably made by smart people (like Powell) and Bush Sr. listened to them (possibly, also, since he himself had been in a war he didn't think it was all playtime cowboys and Indians unlike his draft-dodger son). Cheney was the same but the rationale was being provided by someone else.

As we know, nobody has made Bush Sr. look quite as good as his reprobate loser son George Jr. This is the opposite of effective parenting; my job is to make sure my kids have a better life than I have had. The Bushes take the other parenting view, I guess.

Cheney could very well have not been in charge of decisions back in 1991. Either that or his crackpot idiocy was being routinely shot down by smarter people. Or even that Bush Sr. was not quite as much a milquetoast pushover as his son. Or even that almost every human in history has more of an interest in what is done in his name than George W. Bush. He seems to allow the most horrible things to be done in his name whether it's torturing American citizens or shotgunning puppies.

In any case, Cheney hasn't changed. He's always defending his behavior: in 1976 it was to make Ford look good, in 1994 Bush Sr, and 2000-2007 Bush Jr.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Because Shotgunning Puppies Takes Too Long

That's the answer to the question: Why does the Bush Administration persist in trying to take money away from a federal program to give poor children health insurance.

I mean, we cynics joke about how all politicians need to claim that they support mom, family, baseball, etc. But here we have a case of a president who actually hates children and wants them to die.


Rules May Limit Health Program Aiding Children - New York Times:
"The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for New York, California and others to extend coverage to children in middle-income families."
Aug 21 Update

I just saw this Aug 5 Tom Toles editorial cartoon that carries my point well.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Block Picture Game

Like any good cheapskate, I enjoy off-beat mail order catalogues. The big mama of the recent catalog craze is Harriet Carter. My wife will, until my dying day tell the story of how I purchased the toilet-paper tube tower from HC. Ya see, it looked pretty good in the catalog, and one of the worst human fears (as categorized by Carl Jung in 1912) is the Fear of Running Out of Toilet Paper. The tower, as I figured it, would provide a stopgap of toilet paper in the event of a sudden empty roll. I'd link to the item in question, but thankfully they no longer make it. When it arrived in the mail, we saw that it was a cheap piece of wobbily plastic that was actually too small in diameter to fit an ordinary roll of toilet paper. Hence why I will never live that item down.

Ahem. Now, even after that disaster, whose lesson I affirmed to learn from well, I decided that while they may botch up bathroom accessories surely Harriet could be trusted when it comes to children's toys! Hence, my purchase of The Personalized Letter Blocks.

Note that this actually turned out to be a pretty good gift. The picture of the gift, is pretty accurate. And my son enjoys them. However, only four of the surfaces have shiny color letters. Another two surfaces have letters etched onto the wood (in 'black and white' as it were). And the last two surfaces have whimsical child-friendly pictures of items that children like. Like cars, or boats, or birds.

However, a few of the pictures are completely goofy. I have no idea what the pictures are to represent. First of all, after the blocks arrived, I discovered that they were manufactured in China. Naturally this means that we have since disposed of them along with any other brightly colored toy from China in our possession (which means our kids play with the only things that are left: dried up food).

So in puzzling out the meaning of these mysterious glyphs, I hypothesize that they must represent playful items that a Chinese slave laborer would imagine an American child would find interesting. You take a look and tell me what you think these are.

Best Guesses:
1. Flower (sorry, it's upside down; note, I think it's a Chrysanthemum)
2. Boat (festooned with military equipment)
3. Duck (OK)
4. Candles (why?)

OK, those were relatively normal. Now try these:

Best Guesses:
1. hovercraft? monorail? electric shaver?
2. ski-lift? Roosevelt Island?
3. trained seal swallowing a dodgeball?
4. a small house with a big chimney? a bong?

Have fun.

Backpost began 4/18/07 and finished 8/10/07, but I really should just label all backposts April 20. Anyway, I just had the pictures.

More Like the Flops

Two other websites that deal with bad movies from a smart perspective:
  1. Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension

  2. And You Call Yourself a Scientist
Both are good reads but not as astute, or redemptive, as Rabin's stuff.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Flops Update: Schnitzie Pretzelpants

Seriously, Nathan Rabin's blog "My Year in Flops" is one of the best things on the internet. It's so good that even the comments section is readable. Anyway, his review of Exorcist II by my man John 'Zardoz' Boorman has this awesome paragraph:
Perhaps the film’s central miscalculation, beyond not making much sense and being crazier than 2Pac in that flick called Juice, is expecting audiences to fear a villain named 'Pazuzu'. Now Pazuzu is an actual figure from Assyrian and Babylonian mythology and figures prominently in Blatty’s novel, but that doesn’t make his name any less ridiculous. No matter how scary the film makes him out to be, 'Pazuzu' still sounds like a zany sound effect a slide whistle might make or a baggy-pants vaudevillian’s catchphrase. How frightening would Silence of the Lambs be if Hannibal Lector’s name was changed to Schnitzie Pretzelpants? "
And then there's this from his review of Harvard Man:
28-year-old philosophy professor Joey Lauren Adams, who lectures hilariously about Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard in a bored, flat, disconnected baby-doll high-pitched monotone that suggests she learned the script phonetically.
Wa-hoo. Its especially funny when you know who she is.

And, to emphasize how good the comments are, one dude wrote in about another bad movie:
Fellini's Satyricon is like a bad acid trip. You go from, "this is kinda cool" to "is this ever gonna stop?" to "My God, this IS never going to stop, and I'm going to die like this."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Songs to Wear Pants To

Andew Sullivan recommended Songs to Wear Pans To - a guy who pledges to make any song, in any form with any lyrics as a way of drumming up his business as a songwriter. There are some great novelties here.

I read about this site (at the original post date of this entry, 4-23-2007, 4:44 pm) but sadly forgot about it until now... which obviated my desire to hire this guy to make a song for my musicologist wife who recently finished her PhD. Lets see if I can get it done in time for her birthday...

{2009 Update: pants picture not of the website. It's just a pair of pants.}

About Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds beats Hank Aaron's record. Like I care that much.

But, if Hank Aaron gave his bracha [by congratulating Bonds with a pre-recorded message], and if Bonds' godfather - Willie Freakin' Mays - is standing right next to him, I think we can say that Barry is accepted by his heroes and peers and all the wussoid sportswriters and assorted bellyachers should shut up.

I guess I view Sports the same way I view Halacha: if the gedolim say it's fine, then it's fine.

Backpost finished 9/7/07. Pic from August 8th, 2009 from here.

Last Year at This Time

As I wrote below about being on vacation, I'm currently at my parents' home in Maryland. We come here for vacation so my mom can take care of our kids while my wife and I try to relax. My mom is the only one who has the same energy level as my eldest, so it's a good match.

This year has a totally different feel from 2006. Besides the obvious facet of our having a whole 'nother child along (which makes the adult to kid ratio inadequate for a full bore relaxation), I see from this computer (and from the blog template) what I was fixated on 12 months ago: 1. the second Lebanon war, 2. the Connecticut primary battle.

I would not have predicted 12 months ago that the Lebanon war would go so badly or that once it had been botched that Olmert would still be in power. Nor would I have predicted that after his November win Lieberman would become a hackneyed quasi-Republican stooge. A few comments:


Israel - because it's constantly hanging on the lip of doom - is supposed to take leadership quality much more seriously than we do here. Possibly that holds only for their military and not politicians (and that's possibly the opposite structure in America). The US military could be staffed by high level morons and we regular citizens wouldn't even know until the Russkis/Red Chinese/Cubans have conquered the Midwest. The military just has very little to do with everyday life and the protective redundancy built into our 'Homeland Security' means that we just don't pay attention. But our politicians are constantly in our eyesight - probably because we have so many of them and because we insist on constant elections.

Israel seems the opposite. Their military is integral to the citizenry. Everyone serves (except the ultra-orthodox and anti-Israel Arabs... an interesting set of bedfellows). The military is everywhere and is constantly being tested for its efficiency. If something is broke in the military it will swiftly be fixed because the stakes are so high, the scrutiny is so high, and the participation is so high.

The Israeli political class, however, appears to be held in purposeful contempt. Government doesn't really work in Israel; it's a parliamentary system that has infrequent elections and no direct representation. Taxes are very high but to get anything done you need to use corruption - bribery or nepotism. As such, the politicians in Israel seem to be universally corrupt, contemptuous, and negligible.

Cases in point: (1) Olmert botched a war and is still in power, (2) Chaim Ramon sexually assaulted a soldier and is now deputy prime minister, (3) Peres, second in command during the War is now president.

However, the only politician that may be held to the same high standard as the military is the Defense Secretary. Cases in point: (1) Halutz, army head during Lebanon, is gone; (2) Amir Peretz, defense secretary, is gone; (3) Ehud Barak, despite being a disgraced failure of a PM, is still a talented general and so he was promoted to head of Labor and made Defense Secretary.

Under this analysis, it all makes sense. Olmert is still PM because Israelis don't consider it an all that important job; theoretically if Halutz hadn't resigned, then he would have been forced to.

The other component of Olmert's eerie longevity is that he's probably a stupendous political infighter. How else to explain how he managed to be number 2 in Kadima, the next prime minister after Sharon's incapacitation, still PM after a fiasco *plus* getting his favored candidates as President (Peres, who beat both Labor and Likud candidates and who had never before won an election), head of Labor (Barak, as opposed to Ayalon who pledged to bring Olmert down), and keep convicted pervert Ramon in government (*and* promote him). These are extraordinary political accomplishments and make me frightened of Olmert’s abilities.

Yet, despite all that I took down a picture of me and Olmert from my office wall… maybe I’ll put it back up if he manages to liberate Shalit, Regev and Goldvasser.


This is a more mundane story. Joe started to go wacky before Lamont threatened him. I believe the loss of his mother – who I’ve been told acted as his moral and political gyroscope – made Lieberman do all these politically stupid things. I also think that had the Democrats not tried to throw Joe under a bus last August, he’d be less likely now to betray his party principals. It is said that people suffer a loss of loyalty when their employer unsuccessfully tries to fire them. So too with Joe.

It’s still sad to see a man of integrity defend this criminal presidency. Isn’t it ironic that the two men people considered party mavericks - McCain and Lieberman – have destroyed their public integrity by their staunch support of a detested president and a bald fiasco of a war?

If I figure out how that happened, I will learn a great secret of life.

{2009 Update: cool Lebanon map from Debka. Lieberman doggie pic from here.}

Carter UFO Report

I'm on vacation and I've decided to spend a few in between moments trying to clean out the 'drafts' section on the blog. That said, the computer I'm using for this housecleaning is a seized-up laptop. I hate laptops, and while I appreciate the mobility, the lack of a mouse is driving me buggy. Even an external mouse doesn't eliminate the stiff 'mousepad' that is directly in path of my typin' hands - making for unintended button clicking (e.g. like the one that sent this post to be published long before I had intended it to.)

The following is from a number of months ago.

Evidently, in 1969 Jimmy C saw a UFO. And he filed a report. Yup. He was a full bore loony-toony way before he became president. Check it out: Carter UFO Report

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Great Reading: My Year of Flops

In the past three or four years the number of must read websites has exploded (at least for me). Sometimes I'll stumble upon a series that eerily meets my interests with such focus that I need to absorb the whole corpus. The latest in that string of 'must reads' is Nathan Rabin's Onion AV Club column: "My Year of Flops"