Thursday, February 28, 2008

On The Road

I'll try to post whenever possible. In the meantime, there's always music.

I tend to get hung up on specific songs. Really hung up on certain songs. Sometimes it's for days or weeks. Sometimes it's for decades. "Temptation" is one of my "decades" tunes. I recently ran across my original 7" while going through my old vinyl.

I had quite the Love/Hate relationship with New Order. Love their music. Absolutely hated their live show. I had a serious case of bias based on my initial experience.

My first, and nearly last, New Order "concert" was the infamous August 2, 1985 gig at Boston's Opera House. It the band came on-stage over an hour late. New Order played 10 mostly obscure songs* -- not just refusing requests shouted out between songs but also taunting the audience too i.e. "We're not gonna play that one". Bernard went so far as to blow his nose into his mic repeatedly during "Everything's Gone Green."

The sound was awful. The "hits" nearly unrecognizable. No "Love Vigilantes." No "Your Silent Face." No "Dreams Never End." No "Confusion." No "Temptation." No encores. The band couldn't have cared less.

I left as the crowd began their riot. In '85, $18 was an exorbitant price to pay for such abuse. A decade later I worked with a surprisingly charming Peter Hook who was genuinely ashamed and appalled when reminded of this incident. (Apparently the New Order Opera House show had interrupted a bit of a band drug binge). In my experience, Hooky's shows with Monaco were professional affairs. A few nights bordered on the sublime.

A stellar studio group and consummate singles act, New Order should be forgiven for their past on-stage sins. (I know I would line up for a reunion gig). "Temptation" was their first great A-side. This "Temptation" has New Order live at the Beeb's Radio One.

Nice shorts Barney!


*New Order Opera House Boston, MA-- August 2, 1985 set list:
The Perfect Kiss
Sooner Than You Think
Everything's Gone Green
As It Is When It Was (obscurity with a version available on Retro)
Leave Me Alone
Thieves Like Us
Weirdo (early pre-Brotherhood version)
Face Up
Age Of Consent
Blue Monday

John McCain Hates Children

Think Progress has the skinny.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Juan Cole's Vital Read

Damn. The biggest challenge I face in blogging is writing quickly while still meeting my standards. I have a habit of agonizing over every word. It's maddening and it makes me fall behind on my reading. That's my shitty excuse for not visiting Professor Juan Cole's blog more often.

Juan makes a crucial point today taking to task those seek to belittle and smear Barack Obama and question his "Americaness" on the basis of his name. Dig these excerpts from Barack Hussein Obama, Omar Bradley, Benjamin Franklin and other Semitically Named American Heroes:

I want to say something about Barack Hussein Obama's name. It is a name to be proud of. It is an American name. It is a blessed name. It is a heroic name, as heroic and American in its own way as the name of General Omar Nelson Bradley or the name of Benjamin Franklin. And denigrating that name is a form of racial and religious bigotry of the most vile and debased sort. It is a prejudice against names deriving from Semitic languages!
Prof. Cole continues...
Barack and Hussein are Semitic words. Americans have been named with Semitic names since the founding of the Republic. Fourteen of our 42 presidents have had Semitic names (see below). And, American English contains many Arabic-derived words that we use every day and without which we would be much impoverished...
Barack is a Semitic word meaning "to bless" as a verb or "blessing" as a noun. It is found all through the Bible. It first occurs in Genesis 1:22: "And God blessed (ḇāreḵə ) them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth."

Here is a list of how many times barak appears in each book of the Bible.
Yep, that evil scary word Barak appears in the bible 285 times. More Cole:
Barack Obama's middle name is in honor of his grandfather, Hussein, a secular resident of Nairobi. Americans may think of Saddam Hussein when they hear the name, but that is like thinking of Stalin when you hear the name Joseph. There have been lots of Husseins in history, from the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, a hero who touched the historian Gibbon, to King Hussein of Jordan, one of America's most steadfast allies in the 20th century. The author of the beloved American novel, The Kite Runner, is Khaled Hosseini.

But in Obama's case, it is just a reference to his grandfather.
Prof. Cole notes that John McCain's adopted daughter is from Bangladesh:
Since Hussein is a very common name in Bangladesh, it is entirely possible that her birth father or grandfather was named Hussein. McCain certainly has Muslim relatives via adoption in his family. If Muslim relatives are a disqualification from high office in the United States, then McCain himself is in trouble. In fact, since Bridget is upset that George W. Bush doesn't like her "because she is black," and used her to stop the McCain campaign in South Carolina in 2000, you understand why McCain would be especially sensitive to race-baiting of Cunningham's sort. The question is how vigorously he will combat it; he hasn't been above Muslim-taunting in the campaign so far.
The Senator has already proved his willingness to subvert his principles as well as flat-out lie to bolster this his last, best shot at the Presidency. Facing a charismatic challenger McCain He'll protest just enough to give the perception that he is above this sort of thing and no more.



Now big John really has something to cry about...

GOP fund raising has stalled big time.
Politico (via Raw): Boehner tells GOP to get off 'dead asses'. This could be due to:

  1. The nosediving economy
  2. The lack of appealing Republican candidates
  3. The Republicans' initiation of and continued support of an unjust & unpopular war
  4. Republican obstructionism in Congress and by The White House.
  5. A Republican President and VP who rank among the worst ever.
  6. Staggeringly obvious Republican hypocrisy
  7. Citizen disgust with Republican contempt for The Constitution.
  8. Insert your fave beef here _____.
Maybe people are plain tired of giving money to Republican legislators who do not serve the public and whose party is rotten to the core. What do their campaign contributions pay for anyway? That's a very good question. C&L's Steve Benen summarizes the dangers inherent in the National Republican Congressional Committee's fast & loose financial practices: And wouldn’t you know it, the lack of oversight led to abuse — and apparent felonies. More deets at Politico.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kill For Cash

My boys Kraut with a prime slice of vintage NYHC.

"KFC" dedicated to KBR whose Q4 earnings are up 65%. 'Cuz there's no more potent profit pairing than crime and war.


(HT: Raw Story)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Intel Hurt W/O Telecom Immunity?

WH sez "Um, No."

White House Backtracks On Claims...:

A day after warning that potentially critical terrorism intelligence was being lost because Congress had not finished work on a controversial espionage law, the U.S. attorney general and the national intelligence director said Saturday that the government was receiving the information -- at least temporarily.
"Temporarily" is a White House weasel word if I ever heard one.

FISA has served this country well for 30 years. The only true weakness in FISA lies with those who administer the programs and those who read the results. Bush doesn't want us to focus on that. Their failure to anticipate and stop the 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with our intelligence services being handcuffed by faulty legislation. This failure occurred, as we have learned from the August 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing Memo to Sibel Edmonds, because the Bush administration wasn't listening!

I'll keep screaming it until I'm blue in the face (not a pretty sight): Retroactive telecom immunity has nothing to do with improving US intelligence capabilities. Under the current program, the telecoms have no choice but to comply with lawful requests. The FISA courts allow our intelligence services enough latitude to avoid constraining
in any way needed surveillance. Saturday's WH statement confirms this point. They simply want us to believe otherwise.

To that end lil' Georgie caps off his month-long super-tantrum with a "We're all gonna die 'cos there ain't no retra 'munity" rant. Mukasey & McConnell's Friday night letter to Congress was naught but a great gnashing of teeth. Bush put the GOP Reps up to their silly kabuki theatre House walk out stunt. The House GOP release a scary web ad too.

This renewed bonding between this most unpopular of Republican Presidents and GOP Representatives (during an election year no less) isn't about national security. There would be no need for retroactive immunity if both our government and the telecoms hadn't broken the law. Telecoms would not fear liability from class action lawsuits from those citizens whose Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights they violated.

This is pragmatic politics for our new age. Retroactive immunity for their telecom campaign contributors is immunity for the Bush administration. Retroactive immunity for the Bush administration immunizes the Republican Party from further damage caused by full disclosure of this illegal wiretapping program's extent. Like tomato juice and the skunk-sprayed cat, immunity would clear up much of the stink but still leave you with ugly looking animal.

Retroactive immunity is a win-win-win strategy for the GOP. It's a losing proposition for the Constitution, the American people and all that we hold dear. Please take the time right now to write or call your Representative to let them know you support the continued efforts to keep retroactive telecom immunity out of the intelligence bill.

It's the American thing to do.


Everything Old Is New Again

And that makes it new in and of itself to those who, for whatever reason, missed it the last time around. To those who appreciated it in any previous cycle(s), it can be either a comforting or off-putting experience. As I mentioned earlier, there are few genuinely new ideas...
America Adam: Obama and the cult of the new.


(ht: Laura Rozen)

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Change We Can Xerox": The Pot Calls The Kettle Black

Last nite Hillary misfired going all super-stupid on us with a weak, poorly timed Obama "Xeroxed change" bash. She topped her gaffe liberally borrowing from John Edwards for her eloquent closing (see above vid). Obama wisely refrained from listing Hill's own obvious snatching of bits from John Edwards (health care well, hello?), her husband and others. This is what politicians do. People do it too.

In my perfect twisted little world Obama's response to Hillary's "Xerox" charge (with apologies to Mel Brooks) would be:

Obama: Come on, you do it. You love to do it. We all do it. You do it...
Hillary: No, I don't!
Obama: I do it, I love to do it. I just did it and I'm ready to do it again, don't tell me you don't do it!
But seriously folks...I like Hillary Clinton. With a few exceptions the Hillster has done an outstanding job representing the Empire State. She should have realized it's a far too late in the game to so lamely attack Obama's strongest point, public speaking. It's not as if Obama was lifting whole passages of Thomas Jefferson, René Descartes, The Dali Lama, Thomas More, mon héros absolu François-Marie Arouet, Frances Hutcheson or James Patterson without attribution.

Barack is a wordsmith (or wordsmythe in OE). He incorporates words into his speeches suggested by trusted advisors. Obama modifies others' tried and true phrases making them his own. No need to dial 911 -- This is what orators, musicians, painters, authors and other artists do. They have done so since the fucking dawn of language.

Let's use music as an example. One of these things is a lot like the other:

The VU's "Sweet Jane" lent its chords to The Who's "Baba O’Reilly"

The Chiffons' "He’s So Fine" begat George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"

The Who's "I Can’t Explain" inspired "Clash City Rockers"

ELO's (and The Move's) "Do Ya" was lifted for It's Too Late by Bob Mould

Bob Marley copped the Banana Splits Theme "Tra La La" for "Buffalo Soldier"!

Without Iggy's "Lust For Life" there would be no "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" (Jet)

The Beatles' "Lady Madonna" imbues "What I Got"'s Sublime melody.

Oasis’ greatest songs are chock full o’ glorious melody & riff rip offs.

That's just off the top of my head on this mad snowy Friday. I'll try to slip some music links later. Other than George Harrison and Led Zep (who were repeatedly popped for their shameless plundering of the criminally under appreciated Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Hownlin’ Wolf, etc.) artists rarely confront other artists over it. This is what artists do. People do it too. It's human nature.

In Obama's case plagiarism is a serious unwarranted charge. Methinks this is the last we'll hear Hillary speak of Obama's "Xerox." But you can bet your bippy John McCain and the GOP are already taking notes.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Own Personal Jesus

Christ was very punk rock -- a complete revolutionary out to smash the status quo. I dig J.C. (I love the Baby Jesus too). In typically strange fashion, I didn't relate to Jesus much at all until I read Mikhail Bulgakov's magnum opus The Master and Margarita and, much later, saw The Last Temptation of Christ. (The obvious corruption of Swaggart, Robertson as well as the St. E's priest who slept with my friend's sister didn't exactly encourage me breach the Jesus gap). The Jesi of these"heretical" works rang true to me in a far more vital, visceral and human manner than the King James version ever did.

I have reservations about Deepak Chopra. Part huckster, part spiritual advisor and part snake-oil saleman, Chopra is a very smart and persuasive fellow. He's out hawking his new book The Third Jesus. Here Deepak prods us to greet the new Jesus (same as the old Jesus?). This bit slamming the winger evangees grabbed my attention:

Many believers are satisfied with one or the other Jesus, and yet millions are not. They have witnessed their faith being hijacked by rigid fundamentalism. A teaching of love and peace has been perverted to justify war and bigotry.
Chopra may not have the ear of Dobson, Phelps, Perkins, Wilmon and the rest of the flock but his message will reach viewers of Oprah, The Today Show, The Daily Show, Steven Colbert, etc. He also counts Madonna, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Blythe Danner, Goldie Hawn, and Debra Winger among his show biz friends.

Anything that yanks the concept of Jesus back to the actual teachings of Jesus is just alright with me.


Another Sign of the Impending Economic Apocalypse

It's more popular than ever yet More Americans Are Giving Up Golf. 'Cuz when the average Joe is unemployed or underemployed and looking for work, it's not possible to come up with the scratch and find a stretch to shag some balls.

Concurrently, the income gap between the "haves" and the "trying to keep what we haves" has never been wider. As Economy Slips, Yacht Sales Skyrocket. The money quote:

It's not that significant to them whether we're in recession or not, because they're so wealthy," said Tork Buckley, editor of The Yacht Report, a trade magazine based in London. "The business appears to be recession proof."
The piggier they are the biggier their skiff.


(HT: Raw Story)

Mr. McCain Not So McSqueaky Clean: Close Links to 3 Telecom Lobbyists

Everyone's all a titter about this NY Times story alleging that Sen. John McCain has had an "inappropriate relationship" with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. Her un-scrubbed lobby firm bio is here. Per Raw Story, the Times had held this story for months publishing it only after The New Republic (sub. required) starting nosing around 229 W. 43rd St. for their own story. WaPo was treading water on this one too.

I personally could care less whether or not the self-confessed Senior Adulterer from Arizona and Iseman are romantically entangled (other than the mere thought of McCain entangling anything with anyone completely creeps me out). It will be enough to give some so-called "values voters" pause.

But as the Amazing Digby points out It's Not About The's about the favors. McCain's unswerving support of Iseman's telecom clients included championing bills to end big time evangelical Bud Paxson's (Ion Television formerly Paxson Communications) and others' fight to force cable to run his broadcast stations or to provide minority ownership tax breaks for Cunningham Broadcasting (née Glencairn, LTD -- the shell corp. owned and operated by the evil John Kerry-swiftboating Sinclair empire to avoid FCC ownership regs). McCain not so coincidentally spearheaded a ton of broadcast industry deregulation that contributed to the MSM mess we now endure.

However, this goes deeper than McCain's favoritism and reciprocal of use of their corporate jets and other stuff. The aforementioned NY Times piece points out just how far Johnny Boy's super-cozyness with lobbyists goes:

Like other presidential candidates, he has relied on lobbyists to run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several of them — including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies before Mr. McCain’s Senate panel — have been working without pay, a gift that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has hired another lobbyist, Mark Buse, to run his Senate office. In his case, it was a round trip through the revolving door: Mr. Buse had directed Mr. McCain’s committee staff for seven years before leaving in 2001 to lobby for telecommunications companies.
(my emphasis)
Shee-it! As HuffPo noted last year John McCain's 2008 team is fucking riddled with lobbyists! Forget about a rumored romance with Iseman, even at work Johnny's in bed with lobbyists! Mark Buse is notorious as one of the two lobbyists secretly hired by former CPB Chair/Karl Rove amigo/Republican tool Ken Tomlinson to quash attempts to seat more actual broadcasters on the PBS board.

It turns out McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis is even more controversial. The WaPo hits Rick Davis for setting up a McCain meet with gangster-linked Putin-pal billionaire Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska. At the time Davis was still at his own lobby firm Davis Manafort where his biggest clients were telecom giants SBC Global AT&T and Verizon. According to Open Secrets between 1998-99 & 2003-05 Davis Manafort raked in at total of $670,000 SBC Global AT&T bucks. From 2003-2005 Verizon tossed him a cool $540,000.

While Iseman and Buse do not seem to have any vested interest in telecom immunity, his Campaign Manager Rick Davis sure does. "Straight Talk" McCain's recent vote to keep telecom immunity in Bush's wiretapping bill appears not like a vote to keep us safer but a vote for Davis' once and future clients. McCain's continued support of telecom immunity is a fait accompli or Davis wouldn't be working for him for free.

This raises the question: In what other ways would "Honest Johnny" McCain favor the special interests he used to rail against once he's President and at what cost to the average citizen?

Let's all agree right now to not find out. Please.


**Update: Firedoglake has more dirt on Davis.

**Update #2: TPM's Josh Marshall harks back to his days at TAP for a Paxson-led mega billion dollar tax payer boondoggle.

**Update #3: Stroke Girl waxes philosophic on the rise & fall of the heroic John McCain.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Accuracy In Media" Turns Its Racist Sights On Obama

Via Crooks and Liars The Corner's Lisa Schiffren carries AIM's water. Obama **gasp** possibly knows somebody who may have once known somebody who accidentally brushed up against a Communist in 1952. Why is this true? "Cuz Barack Obama was born to a white mother and a black father in 1961. In those days, the only way that could have happened is if one or both parents were Jesus-hating-baby-eating-Communist-
Muslims from Antartica.

Ms. Schiffren has proof:

Obama and I are roughly the same age. I grew up in liberal circles in New York City — a place to which people who wished to rebel against their upbringings had gravitated for generations. And yet, all of my mixed race, black/white classmates throughout my youth, some of whom I am still in contact with, were the product of very culturally specific unions. They were always the offspring of a white mother, (in my circles, she was usually Jewish, but elsewhere not necessarily) and usually a highly educated black father. And how had these two come together at a time when it was neither natural nor easy for such relationships to flourish? Always through politics. No, not the young Republicans. Usually the Communist Youth League. Or maybe a different arm of the CPUSA. But, for a white woman to marry a black man in 1958, or 60, there was almost inevitably a connection to explicit Communist politics.
Time for some investigative journalism about the Obama family’s background, now that his chances of being president have increased so much.
Schiffren kicks off her ham-fisted attempt at political assassination with this laughable opener:
Until I came across this article by Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media, which I regard as factual — with all that that implies — the questions about Obama's background that should have come naturally never quite rose to the surface of my mind.
AIM's "Accuracy In Media" is about as accurate as Fox News is "Fair and Balanced." And anything they write Ms. Schiffren regards as "factual." That tells us all we need to know about Schriffren's biases. AIM is another group folks funded in part by Richard Mellon Scaife. AIM still claims Bill Clinton’s Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster was murdered. FYI Lisa, even uber-partisan Special Prosecutor Ken Starr ruled Foster's death a suicide.


**Check it: ASIAF fave blog The Edge of The American West's strikes back at the First Black Communist President meme.

More Bad News About The US Economy

Economist Jared Bernstein has this post up at TPM Cafe. It's well worth reading. Here's the first few paragraphs:

Based on inflation data released this morning, a combination of slower wage growth and faster price growth has led to falling real hourly and weekly earnings for most workers.

The Figure shows the yearly change in real earnings for the approximately 80% of the workforce that are non-managers in services or blue-collar factory workers. After handily beating inflation last year, wage growth began to slow as the economy lost speed in the last quarter of 2007. A year ago, annual hourly wage growth before inflation was 4.3%; this year—Jan07-Jan08—it was 3.7%.

Inflation, conversely, driven up by higher energy prices, is growing about twice as fast as was the case one year ago.

Bernstein is the very same economist quoted by McClatchy News in Monday's story about chronic unemployment that I referenced in A Closer Look At Bush's BS Job Stats... yesterday.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Can't Quit You

Last night on Countdown...

Bush's Brain author Jim Moore:

McCain wants his help, he wants his money, but he doesn‘t want his stink. And this president has political stink on him and he is going to have to be kept at a distance.
Not unlike pheromones it's the "political stink" that keeps bringing these two together despite their tempestuous relationship.


A Closer Look At Bush's BS Job Stats & The Economy

Whenever he issues denials of our country's economic troubles, President Bush invariably points to the latest unemployment and/or job creation figures as proof of his policies' efficacy. McClatchy's Kevin G.Hall crunches the numbers and uncovers what blue collar and middle class America has known for a couple of years now, the low unemployment rate hides rise in long-term jobless. (All emphasis is mine):

The latest employment figures, released in late January, showed a 52-month streak of job creation ending with a loss of 17,000 jobs in January. The Bush administration acknowledged the contraction, but pointed to the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent to say that the labor market wasn't a harbinger of recession.
Right. No recession to see here, people. Look straight ahead and keep on truckin'.
A closer look at unemployment data by McClatchy, however, found that jobless Americans are spending more time looking for work and that those who can't find work now make up a greater share of the unemployed.

Several measures of unemployment, in fact, show that the workforce is under the kind of stress not seen since March 2001, when the U.S. economy entered a nine-month recession, followed by a so-called jobless recovery.
The White House hauled out its biggest gun, Ed Lazear, to rebut this analysis. Lazear is notable as one of the fathers of personnel economics -- a field Lazear and others seek to explain (I prefer justify), among other things, wage gaps due to gender, sociological and other differences. Predictably, Mr. Lazear has a different read on the numbers:
The Bush administration points out that the percentage of workers unable to find work for 27 weeks or longer was only 0.9 percent of the overall workforce in January.

"So in terms of proportion of individuals who are facing long-term unemployment, it's about the same as it was in the mid-1990s and actually lower than throughout most of the past few years," said Edward Lazear, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
There's a reason why the White House studiously avoids counting people still looking for work 26 weeks after they cash that first unemployment check. If you know anyone who's lost a job in the past coupla years, 4 1/2 months is not a very long time to be unemployed. Lazear uncovered an equation where "Clinton" numbers are "about the same" as these current "Bush" numbers. Too bad it's a crap equation:
But when Americans unemployed for 27 weeks or longer are measured as a share of the total number of unemployed, the story is very different.

The long-term unemployed amounted to 18.3 percent of all the unemployed in January. That means that while overall unemployment is low, almost one in five unemployed workers has been jobless for six months or more.
It's no small wonder that Bush, Lazear and friends want to bury this trend. Chronic unemployment stats contradict everything they've been selling us about American jobs:
"Long-term unemployment is really very interesting and in some ways a more telling indicator," said Jared Bernstein, a labor economist with the liberal Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "It basically says that given the particularly low level of unemployment, you'd expect a much lower share (of long-term unemployed) on the jobless rolls. Job creation has been anything but robust."
Here's how the stats compare to other periods in Bush's reign two terms:
When the U.S. economy last went into recession, in March 2001, the unemployment rate was 5.7 percent and the long-term unemployed made up 11.1 percent of all unemployed. That number reached the 18 percent range 14 months later and peaked at 23.4 percent during a single month in both 2004 and 2005.

These statistics suggest that if the United States is in a recession — still a subject of debate among economists — the nation is entering an economic contraction with a much higher rate of chronically unemployed than it did during the nine-month recession in 2001.
In other words, we're fucked. Really, really fucked. In the grand scheme of things the labor market affects the economy thusly:
It's a critically important linchpin because, although we get excited about every bip and bop in the stock market, it's the labor market that matters most to most people. They're depending on their paycheck, not their stock portfolios," Bernstein said. "If the labor market is not producing enough jobs or hours of work, that's going to show up as diminished income growth and less consumption."
This chronic unemployment (and underemployment) combined with the sub-prime crisis, inflation, higher gas & heating oil prices, the real estate crash et al. Without bankruptcy protection and with property values plummeting, people default on their mortgages to pay their credit cards. Consumer confidence erodes. While the average citizen was suffering, Bush and his Lazear-led bean-counters couldn't have cared less. It took Corporate America to feel the pinch and start screaming for Bush to ask Lazear to dial up his new "stimulus package."

Hell, we'll be lucky if Bush's package doesn't make things even worse. You know it's a bad plan when libertarian think tank the Cato Institute can rip it as "a disappointing re-run of the misguided policies of Jimmy Carter." Ouch!

Add our fucked up economy to the long list of Bush Administration legacy land mines left for the next up to negotiate.


(h/t Think Progress)

Monday, February 18, 2008

If The Army Ain't Broken...

Then why are we buying houses to fix it? US taxpayers are laying out $40,000 for a down payment on new recruits houses or to fronting them with seed money to set up their own gig. From August 2004 to April 2005, Army bonuses doubled maxing out at around $20,000. This and other incentives coupled with declining re-enlistment couldn't keep pace with the Army's needs. Especially when the DOD kept lowering quotas to avoid the public embarrassment that comes with consistently missing recruitment goals.

The solution? The Army Advantage FundTMnow being test marketed in Albany, Montgomery (AL), Cleveland, Seattle and San Antonio. (Bad news for residents of these five towns as they are clearly well ahead of the recession curve, no?). The Boston Globe has the deets on the DOD's sales pitch :
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, who was in Albany Wednesday promoting the pilot program, said it will help the Army compete for high school graduates and recognize soldiers in a time of conflict.

"The Army Advantage Fund will ensure that the quality of life of our soldiers and their families equals the substantial quality of service that they give to the nation," said Freakley, who is responsible for recruiting.
Note to prospective recruits: If an officer named "Freakley" ever comes a calling...RUN! Run until you cannot run no more.

Listen, I'm all for giving active duty soldiers the best this country has to offer: the best health care, the best education options, the best future. I'm also all about not talking advantage of people and needlessly putting them in harm's way.

I can't help but wonder how many of these "newbies" will make it back in enough of one piece to enjoy the hard won fruits of their labor.


**Update: Bush gives with one hand and takes away with the other: No Funds in Bush Budget For Troop-Benefits Plan?

Accidents Will Happen

F.B.I. Gained Unauthorized Access to E-Mail


Returning From A Journey*

Short trip. Got back late last night. More words soon come.


*Specimen tune circa 1983. They were the Bat Cave house band.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Friendly Reminder: We Can't Believe Anything These Fuckers Say


Not when our government continues to hold prisoners at Guantanamo for no reason other than to postpone the embarrassment of releasing the innocent (and to set up the next preznit for Republican attacks upon their release i.e. "He's making US unsafe by letting Gitmo prisoners go").

Not when our government tortures to death innocent taxi drivers.

The Bush Administration is so hock full of pathological liars there's at least one new lie every day. While their lies flying too fast and furious to catolog here, Biggest Bush Lies has a nice big list.


LA Times OP-ED Hammers Bush State Secrets Dodge

Shielded by Secrecy:

"The Bush administration has misused the state secrets privilege to stifle legal oversight of its anti-terror policies. Congress must intervene."
That sez it all.


"If That Was True, America Would Torture Too..."

Still playing catch-up: Harper's brilliant Scott Horton has Six Questions for Darius Rejali, Author of Torture and Democracy.


Charles Barkley Goes Off

Former NBA star and TNT b-ball commentator Charles Barkley has never been shy about voicing his opinion. While I don't always agree with "Sir Charles", I'm always interested in what he has to say. Yesterday he appeared on TNT sister network CNN's "Situation Room." Barkley completely went off on Republicans, "fake Christians" and the dearth of role models for the black community sans athletes and entertainers. Not surprisingly Barkley supports Obama.

Raw Story has the clip.


Friday, February 15, 2008

I Wouldn't Waterboard Joe Lieberman If He Had Hot Coals Burning Body

Lieberman says some waterboarding OK but...

He does not believe the president could authorize having hot coals pressed on someone's flesh to obtain that information.
Good to know, Joe. But there's more:
The difference, he said, is that waterboarding is mostly psychological and there is no permanent physical damage. "It is not like putting burning coals on people's bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological," Lieberman said.
So I'm to understand that because "the impact is is psychological" that "the person is in no real danger." What college did Joe get his medical degree from? What's that? You say he has a law degree from Yale? Never mind.

Despite torture memo co-author/co-conspirator and DOJ official Steven Bradbury's claims, waterboarding of any kind is nothing more than a fancy way of choking someone until they tell you not the truth but what they think you want to hear.

The Bush Administration now claims that their version of waterboarding, which was "only" used on three "subjects", was done so as to avoid "prolonged mental harm." That's supposed to make it OK. So just who defines what "prolonged mental harm" is? We the torturers, natch. If you asked anyone who was repeatedly waterboarded methinks their opinion would differ drastically. Anyone who thinks waterboarding cannot lead to permanent psychological damage is starkers. Thalassophobia immediately comes to mind.

Oh and we're supposed to believe we "only" water-boarded "three" individuals. That's right with:
  1. The check is in the mail.
  2. I won't cum in your mouth.
  3. Kids, I never did drugs.
  4. Dead stripper? What dead stripper? No siree, Bob. There's no dead stripper here.
Bush called these three "the worst of the worst." How exactly does he know? Was there a popularity contest held at Gitmo or Abu Graib? Fuck no. Despite (or perhaps because of) the Bush Administration's use of too clever by far parsing, you can be sure the US has waterboarded and otherwise tortured dozens. If we haven't, we asked others to do it for us.

I'm sorry, George, but that counts too.



While Bush & company try to scare us into supporting an immunity that benefits no one else but themselves, the telecoms flex their considerable monetary muscles by twisting Congressional arms. According to, the telecom/electronics lobby ranks #4 w/$2 billion+ spent since 1998. That’s a heckuva lotta of campaign contributions, free dinners and scotches. My guess it that that a majority of this went to Bush, Boehner, DeLay, “Duke”, Blunt, Stevens, Doolittle, Lewis et al.

No small wonder the Republican Representatives walked en masse yesterday. They had been already paid by the telecoms for their day's work to ignore their sworn duty to serve the American people. Inquiring minds want to know how many Dems voting for this bill also received some sort of past or renewed "support" from the telecom lobby.

Glenn Greenwald examines this fandango's latest developments here. In it he snags the following killer Mike McConnell quote from NPR this morning:

"We can't do this mission without their help," he said."Currently there is no retroactive liability protection for them. They're being sued for billions of dollars."
Yes, McConnell cannot "do this mission without their help." But the telecoms also cannot fail to cooperate in any lawful information gathering activity. Glenn fells this strawiest of the eavesdropping straw man arguments:
The claim that telecoms will cease to cooperate without retroactive immunity is deeply dishonest on multiple levels, but the dishonesty is most easily understood when one realizes that, under the law, telecoms are required to cooperate with legal requests from the government. They don't have the option to "refuse." Without amnesty, telecoms will be reluctant in the future to break the law again, which we should want. But there is no risk that they will refuse requests to cooperate with legal surveillance, particularly since they are legally obligated to cooperate in those circumstances. The claim the telecoms will cease to cooperate with surveillance requests is pure fear-mongering, and is purely dishonest.
If the telecoms committed no wrongdoing, what are they so worried about? After all, the telecoms can afford the very best lawyers. And once one suit is dismissed, the rest will soon follow. Its the complete lack of debate over whether any law has been broken that is conspicuous by its absence. (This from an administration still arguing that water boarding is not torture!)

This urgent need for retroactive immunity stems from the fact that all involved in warrantless wiretapping know that their crimes are completely indefensible. If they succeed in giving the telecoms retroactive immunity, the Bush Administration also immunizes themselves from any related prosecution. That is more important to Bush & Co. than protecting the asses of their generous telecommunications industry campaign contributors or, for that matter, the American people.

That is a talking point worthy of wider dissemination.

Meanwhile the clock keeps a tickin' on Bush's shot at scoring hisself sum immunities.


I'm More or Less Back...

I've come to accept the Super Bowl loss of my beloved New England Patriots. Yes, I'm aware I take this shit too personally. But as one who suffered through the lean years, not to mention the aluminum benches of Schaefer Stadium (Anyone else remember "Shaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one!" or or the much later "Pop! Pop! Sitting pretty. All together in Schaefer City!"?), and personally attended the Patriots' second Super Bowl loss, I reserve and retain the right to take my team's losses to heart. After all, football is one of my few true concessions to American popular culture. (I spend the rest of my life snug and smug with the knowledge that my counterculture/underground/indie-cred coffers are overflowing).

Truth is that any other year I'd be excited that my adopted hometown's team, The New York Football Giants, won. I'd be excited if any team finally shut up Bob Kuechenberg and the rest of the '72 Dolphins once and for all. C'est la guerre.

Three things fortify me in the face of such a disastrous end to an historic football season:

  1. Former All-World Pats OLB Andre Tippett was finally and deservedly elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tippett was an extraordinary player overshadowed by the play of NYG's Lawrence Taylor. In the 1984 & 1985 seasons he totaled a whopping 35 sacks -- the highest two season tally by a linebacker ever.
  2. Pitchers and catchers have reported. Go Sox!
  3. Come July, football will return giving meaning to our otherwise empty lives.
I'll refrain from complaining too much about how the weather here in the NE has largely blotted out the sun and exacerbated the worst symptoms of my chronic disease. Instead I'll re-concentrate my efforts on witty, acerbic, pithy and off-the-wall observations of the world at large. Or something like that.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Specter Knows Even Less About Football Than He Does About The Constitution

Hard to believe I know. It's strange that Sen. "Snarlin'" Arlen Specter didn't voice his concern about this when it happened last September. It's a transparent bid for publicity. It's a text book case of Republican misdirection. Personally, I think the senior Senator from Pennsylvania is still pissed that the Patriots beat the Eagles three years ago.

Specter's clearly lost his last remaining marble. In today's NY Times, the delusional Republican Senator (Is there any other kind?) claims:

“The N.F.L. has a very preferred status in our country with their antitrust exemption. The American people are entitled to be sure about the integrity of the game. It’s analogous to the C.I.A. destruction of tapes. Or any time you have records destroyed.”
Are you fucking kidding me? Snarlin' Arlen has his panties in a bunch over this when he's actively enabled the worst President in American History to mangle our Constitution in a power grab so bold that it would give Stalin a chubby?

Get a grip, Senator. Get a grip.

The NFL rules were somewhat vague (check out the SportsProf's take) but the intent was clear. Bill Belichick attempted to exploit that gray area and got popped for it. Subsequently, the NFL issued a major clarification of this rule when Belichick's & the Pats' punishment docking them a 1st round pick & $750000 was announced.

Not wanting any more negative attention in this year of Pacman & Michael Vick, the NFL did their best to sweep "Spygate" under the rug ASAP. The league was extremely bent that someone at 410 Park Ave. leaked a clip to Fox. My sources tell me that the tapes were destroyed at least in part to stop additional leaks and to prevent other teams learning anything from the Patriots' methods.

The lack of specifics as to what exactly went down is precisely the reason for so much residual angst. But you really have to know jack all about the complexity of NFL football to believe that someone on the sidelines could effectively steal another team's signals.

When a coach signals in plays, some are dummy calls, some change weekly and some may never be seen again. For this to work during a game, taped signals would have to be transmitted to a crew specifically assembled to interpret the signals. Once the code was broken, the code would have to be explained to spotters with binoculars trained on the opponent’s sideline. These spotters would have about 10 seconds to translate the opponent's signal and alert their sideline for it to be of any use to their team. If the opponent then changes the play at the line of scrimmage, it's all for naught.

The Patriots were certainly recording how long it took each opponent to get their defensive sub packages on and off the field according to game clock, down & distance and score. This explains the Pats' productive penchant for suddenly going to a hurry-up offense in a situation that wouldn't obviously call for such haste.

The Patriots aren't the only team that has ever done this. Jimmy Johnson has freely admitted to doing it during the Cowboys' '90s Super Bowl run. The Pats weren't even the only team do it last year. Regardless, it was a violation of NFL rules and the Patriots were severely punished...but not exactly for "stealing signs."


**Update: Sports Illustrated's Peter King rips Specter and offers his insights on the Phoenix circus.

***Update #2 -- In his annual Super Bowl press conference NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated:
I’m not sure that there’s a coach in the league that doesn’t expect that their signals are being intercepted in some way by opposing teams and that’s why they go to the great lengths. I think it was Coach Parcells that I heard earlier this season who said “Any coach who doesn’t expect his signals to be stolen is stupid.” It’s pretty simple but I think to the large extent teams understand that’s a risk and they have prepared for that.
**Disclaimer: I am a life-long New England Patriots fan. My ass is still callused from sitting on those aluminum Schaeffer Stadium benches all those years ago. This does not prevent me from being critical of the Patriots or objective on this subject.