Sunday, July 30, 2006

Technology: Now We Know The Truth About Who We Look Like

Well, just as soon as I got through denouncing millions of my fellow Americans for being shallow and celebrity-obsessed, the top story on the Internet turned out to be the incredible popularity of the new “Celebrity Look-Alike” Facial Recognition software at the website.

Now I’m not going to give you the website listing quite yet. I know how you people are and I know that you’ll all go charging off to that website as soon as I give you its address, so you can see “what celebrities you most resemble.” Giving you the website right away would indulge your vanity, and that is not what we are all about here at the Stillwater Tribune.

So instead we will begin with a presentation about what celebrities I most resemble. To obtain this information, I uploaded a snapshot of myself to the website. In the interest of accuracy and fairness, I did not submit any “glam” shots of myself; no special effects, no touching up. I just used my regular file photo; the same picture of me that accompanies this blog and appeared with my weekly newspaper column for two years. Here is that photo:

Using state-of-the-art computer technology, this digital image was processed and points of facial similarity with celebrities were objectively identified. The results—the names and photographs of celebs I most resemble--are inarguably scientific and not subject to human errors of prejudice or judgment. So I do not want to hear howls of derision; this list of Bill Prendergast celebrity look-alikes was compiled by a state-of-the-art computer; not by yours truly.

Here is the first celebrity that the computer identified as most resembling me:

Yes, that’s right; it’s Angelina Jolie. Now some of you may find that shocking. I know I did. If you are a regular reader here, you know that I have a little “thing” for Angelina. In fact I consider her to be the most beautiful woman in the world, except for my wife. It gave me a warm feeling to finally receive scientific confirmation of the fact that Angelina and I are “facially linked.”

But it’s not all good news. Take a look at this geezer, whom the computers also identified as a Bill Prendergast look-alike.

This is Karl Jaspers, philosopher and theologian. Eeyew! He may have been a bright boy, but he's no Angelina Jolie. (Don’t feel bad if you didn’t recognize Jaspers straight off the bat; I didn’t either and I’m unusually well read for an American.) I don’t see the resemblance here the way I did with Angelina, but I defer to the findings of our scientific research community.

Next we have:

Now that's more like it. Yul Brynner. I was pleased with this result—Brynner was a powerful, masculine presence and I like to think I give off the same sort of aura. But why is he wearing Ava Gardner’s wig in this photo? I have never worn my hair like that.

Finally, the last of our “the computer says this celebrity looks like Bill Prendergast” look-alikes:

That’s right, it’s thirties blonde bombshell Jean Harlow. No surprises here; I get that a lot when I’m shopping down at the supermarket—“Excuse me, sir, but has anyone ever told you that you look like...” “Yeah, I know, Jean Harlow, Jean Harlow, I get that all the time. Excuse me please, I’m trying to shop here.” Frankly I’m sick of it, and I don’t need a computer to tell me the same thing.

And I also look like Kate Moss, according to the computer, but her picture was too skinny to post here. Now I’m off to run fundamentalist congressional candidate Michele Bachmann’s photo through the same machine. The website, by the way,is:

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Media: Too Many Americans Just Don't Know The Score

My brother-in-law sent me this:

Editor and Publisher reports: "Despite several years of official and press reports to the contrary, a new Harris poll finds that half of adult Americans still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when the United States invaded the country in 2003.

"This is actually up from 36% last year, a Harris poll finds. . . .

"In another finding wildly diverging from most expert opinion and media reports, Harris found that 64% said Saddam Hussein had 'strong links' with al-Qaeda, up from 62% in October 2004."

Clearly, there is something wrong here.

I mean, I expect the hardcore right wingers to go to their graves insisting that 1) Saddam was somehow partnered with Al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks, and 2) we were threatened by Iraqi WMDs when Bush invaded. I expect them to believe these lies to the end of their lives, because that’s the kind of people hardcore right wingers are. Acknowledging that their beloved conservative government and radio pundits misled them--and acknowledging that they were in the wrong--would cause their fragile glass menagerie brains to shatter.

But these poll numbers are not drawn exclusively from the hardcore right. They’re drawn from the great unwashed mass of Americans—not just the conservatives, not just the Rush Limbaugh audience. We're talking about what the general population thinks, here. Years later, after it’s been all over the headlines, after it’s been accepted by the White House and their investigators—these people still don’t know that Saddam wasn’t behind 9/11 and they still don’t know that Iraq posed virtually no threat to the US when we invaded.

These people, these tens of millions of Americans, are certainly “ignorant” (ill-informed.) But are they also “stupid” (incapable of being informed)?

I don’t know and I don’t care. But I do know the solution to this. It is not pretty. Prepare yourself.

The problem: at least half the people in the country are ill-informed idiots who no longer listen to or pay attention to the news as it is reported by the professional news media. If we want to reach these idiots, we will have to send envoys to the sort of folks that these idiots DO believe in. Yes, I’m talking about celebrities, goddammit. And I’m not talking about old-timer “B” list celebs like Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda and Barbra Streisand, old Hollywood liberals and leftists who are overtly political and haven’t had a hit in years. Idiot interest in the opinions of celebrities like that is mild at best.

The kind of celebrities that we’d have to use to get out the truth to these idiots are the “celebrities of the moment”—the celebs that fools really do care about and listen to; the celebs that these idiots think are “cool.” I’m talking about celebs who are on the cover of those trashy little newspapers you see at the checkout line in supermarkets. Like that guy, that ‘N Sync kid who’s dominated the headlines for the past few days just because he’s come out of the closet, as if people ought to be following that “big story.” Let’s get him. Instead of just saying “I’m gay,” he could say “Yes, I’m gay, and not only that, there were never any links between Saddam and the guys who did 9/11.” Get celebs like him to say things like that NOW, while the cameras are on them and while stupid folks still think they’re cool—and then we stand a chance of getting the news out to the public.

You think I'm being facetious, proposing this strategy? Look who’s governor of California, chump.

And yes, goddammit, I’m talking about co-opting leading sports personalities, too—white male idiots will listen to them. If some superstar relief pitcher has two great innings and wins the game and then shows up on the post-game show for an interview and says “I was surprised by that win as I was when I found out that Iraq never posed a weapons-of-mass destruction threat to the US prior to the war—“ then the idiots will listen; they’ll have to, he’s their hero of the moment, and it’s on TV, and they’re watching.

They’ll be angry at first--but at least they’ll hear the truth, even if they won’t accept it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Condoleeza Rice: I Will Go To The Middle East--If They Need Me

I had to laugh (grimly) when I read these two headlines; headlines from wire stories that were filed by the same reporter. It seems the second story was written mere minutes after the first:

07 28 06 Rice ready for new Mideast trip if needed
By Lin Noueihed
34 minutes ago

07 28 06 US sends Rice to try to end Middle East war
By Lin Noueihed
23 minutes ago

Hezbollah is kidnapping and murdering Israeli soldiers, Israel is invading Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah, and Syria may come in as the situation continues to deteriorate. The first response to the crisis by our conservative leadership? Bush’s Secretary of State’s tells the world that she will go over there and try to straighten things out “if they need her.”

“If they need her.” I mean, a remark like that, made in public by a top state official and leading conservative—it sort of gives you the impression that the conservative leadership isn’t following the Middle East situation very closely.

But still, Condi has a point—why should she go? What possible need could they have for her, in this crisis, even if she is (technically) the American Secretary of State? Why send Condleeza Rice, of all people, to try to resolve a complex foreign policy crisis? She’s really more an “office helper” type. The Arabs and Israelis already have plenty of office helpers over there; people who get the coffee and tell their bosses what they want to hear. They don’t really need another one; strictly speaking, Condi’s right.

It’s not as though she’s ever shown any sort of knack for this "foreign policy" thing. It’s not like they’ve got a string of “foreign policy” and “international security” trophies on display, know what I’m sayin’? She got promoted despite her stint as National Security Adviser, during which time she lost the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon to terrorists. You can see why she wouldn’t see herself as a necessary player in solving a world crisis.

But then, ten minutes after she says she’ll only go if they “need her”—a call comes in from the White House:

WH: Condi?
Condi: Speaking.
WH: What you said there just now… That sounded a little…
Condi: What?
WH: That thing you said about being willing to go over there and work on the Israel/Lebanon thing “if they need you”… it sounded…
Condi: What?
WH: It sounded a little…I don’t know…cavalier… a little too casual…
Condi: Did it? I didn’t mean it that way—
WH: Yeah, well—people have this sort of image of a Secretary of State, they think of George Schulz or Henry Kissinger or Dean Acheson, they have this image of a Secretary of State as being sort of—actively engaged in world affairs, you know?
Condi: Yes. So?
WH: Well, that doesn’t sound so good if they’re at war over there and we’re supposed to be a force for peace in the Middle East and you’re up there saying that you’ll go over there, but only if they really need you—
Condi: I didn’t say “only if,” I said “if” they need me--
WH: Yeah, well, it sounded a little funny and now it’s a headline, it’s out on the newswires—it’s kind of like if you were a cop and there was a domestic violence situation going on and you told the press you’d head over there and try to stop it, but only if they need you—see what I mean?
Condi: Oh…
WH: Yeah, it makes it sound like we don’t really care what the hell happens over there. We think you better get your ass on a plane out to the Middle East, right now.
Condi: Oh, come on! You’re not going to send me all the way over there again just to kill a news headline you don’t like!
WH: Well, it sounded really bad, Condi, “I’ll go if they need me.” We’re trying to convince everybody that you’re on top of the situation--
Condi: Oh, I don’t believe this! And if I do go over there again, what exactly am I supposed to do once I get there?
WH: Do?
Condi: I don’t have a clue about how to straighten that mess out, do you? I mean, it’s not like we have any kind of a plan or anything.
WH: Well…no, but maybe you could think up something on the plane—
Condi: ME?
WH: Well, you could try, I mean, you are the Secretary of State—
Condi: Look, I just do what you guys tell me, if you guys don’t know what to tell me, then why should I have to go? What could I possibly contribute? And I don’t want to go all the way over there again and have things not work out again—that’s what happened to Colin Powell when the President sent him that time, and he looked like a fool. And I think I’ve got theatre tickets, too.
WH: How about if you just go over there and do what you always do, just go over there and say “hi” and get your picture taken, and read something about how committed we are to the cause of peace—
Condi: (groans) Do I have to?
WH: Well, yeah. You have to. You’ve got to make it look as if they do need you. For something.
Condi: Oh, shoot. And how’s that going to make me look, I just told them I’d go if they needed me, and now ten minutes later I’m telling them I’ve decided I’ve got to leave right now--
WH: It’ll make you look decisive.
Condi: (groans)
WH: Condi, it’s your job. I hate to be the bad guy here, but really, it is part of the job and you knew that when you took the promotion.
Condi: Can I talk to the President?
WH: He’s busy. You’ll see him in the gym when you get back. Now be a good girl and tell the reporters you’re going, before this “I’ll go if they need me” thing gets to the editorial pages.
Condi: (groans, hangs up.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

National: Rove Likes Bachmann!

Wow. I can’t believe the number of people who tuned in to this page to read the “Bush cursing like a madman” piece I posted last week. What is the lesson there? I usually try to maintain high standards of good taste for this publication, but when I write up a foul-mouthed rant for the President and post it the customers all come in droves. I guess that is part of the secret of the man's extraordinary popularity; he is the born-again Christian with the potty-mouth and folks just love that, for some reason. Maybe that’s how he tries to appeal to the kids; who knows.

Anyway—my day at the Rove-Bachmann fundraiser. I was not actually admitted to the building, of course (since, by the grace of our local powers-that-be, I am no longer a “credentialed member of the press.”) But I did get down there with a camera to take a few pictures outside the building.

You can learn a lot about the nature of the Republican beast by studying these images. First and most importantly: no pictures of Bachmann. Didn’t see hide nor hair of her the whole day—apparently she stayed holed up within the fastnesses of the Water Street Inn the whole time; keeping well away from the questions of her troublesome constituents. She clearly did not want to be seen with Rove out on the streets of Stillwater. The Gazette, our local daily, was forced to run separate file photos of Bachmann and Rove in their coverage of the event.

“No public photos with Rove” was probably a wise decision on Bachmann's part. It would have led to public domain images of Bachmann posing with Bush’s “politics of dividing America” mastermind. Such pictures would end up posted on blogs and in opposition campaign literature and maybe in TV ads, too. This day was about giving Michelle another crack at the big money; not about providing voters with more evidence of her commitment to divisive, wedge-issue politics.

So my guess is, her Congressional run will be a tightly controlled, big money "TV camera" candidacy; at least it will be when Bachmann’s on her supposed home turf. Her record of representing Stillwater on local issues is pretty crummy, so it is likely that grass roots opposition in her own district will remain unacknowledged and she will continue to avoid local constituents who deplore her political extremism.

Thus: the first time I saw Bachmann all day was on the evening TV news. She could be heard off-camera during the Rove sound byte, laughing hysterically at a memorably unfunny reference Rove made to the Stillwater Bridge. That seems to be one of the unwritten rules for an ambitious Republican--laugh hysterically at the “jokes” of the most powerful person in the room; it shows you have the right sort of character.

Next: Rove’s entrance and exit. The most tightly guarded I’ve ever seen in small town Minnesota. He had front men and flak catchers, local police, etc. covering his entrance and exits from the building. Didn’t want anybody taking his picture for free. He came in through the back door and he left through a different back door, carefully avoiding all the Americans outside who’d shown up to catch a glimpse of him. You wouldn’t know this was a public relations event from the “heavy security” approach applied to his arrival and departure. A very “South American dictator” style entrance-and-exit, considering that he was appearing here in the heartland and in a Republican-trending district.

It is true that Rove took a little verbal abuse as he attempted to sneak out the back way (“Benedict Arnold!” yelled one guy in the crowd; a reference to Rove's alleged security leak.) But he took it smilingly as his people made a corridor for him though the crowd. Security volunteers kept them from getting close enough for questions or taking a really good photo.

But see; there he is in his rented car, smiling, headed out of town, didn’t stop to say hello or goodbye to us folks outside (we weren’t paying the big bucks to talk to him.)

The protestors also took a little verbal abuse too, while Rove was inside. A dad passing by with his two young children called demonstrators “pot smokers” and “lesbians.” (I didn’t see any; but it’s so hard to tell just by looking at someone.) Demonstrators also drew some applause and some yells in support from folks driving or walking by.

Do not believe what you read in the local paper about the size of the crowd; there weren't a mere twenty people there—I would say there were about fifty. Some people seemed to have come down as part of an organized group--other locals (like my wife and I) just showed up. I guess the local reporter was only counting the people who stood in front of the building and carried signs--there were others all around the building trying to catch Rove as he made his secretive entrance and exit. These included some seniors who showed up but preferred to stay seated.

According to those inside, Rove’s remarks were unremarkable and rather disappointing to people who hoped to hear him denounce someone or something. That, too, is probably by design; Bachmann’s Sixth District run is going to be another one of her “stealth candidacies.” It’s probably been decided that in order to win this election she needs to downplay her right wing Christian fundamentalist politics; her fundamentalist base is already “in the bag,” so she can only attract more votes by trying to deceive people who don’t know who she really is and what she really stands for.

And so, she strikes the “mainstream” Republican pose--again. So far she has been quite successful with this; the biggest newspapers around simply refuse to identify her as a Christian fundamentalist politician. I can only guess why they won’t acquaint their readers with her very public fundamentalist rhetoric and policy proposals (e.g. when she suggested that creationist theories be taught in public schools along with evolution, etc. etc.) I suppose the big papers are afraid of alienating powerful Republican advertisers and a large number of Christian readers by identifying Bachmann for what she is. One more reason why I continue to get my news directly off the wire instead of subscribing to the Strib or PiPress; I don’t like people editing reality to make extremists seem more mainstream.

In the papers she claimed her top priority was education (even though her record on funding public education is abysmal.) Another example of the “stealth fundamentalist candidacy;” claiming education as a top priority sounds more mainstream than her notorious top priority for the last few years--when she was publicly identifying gay marriage as “the” issue of our times, a threat to our civilization, and the reason she stopped the work of the state legislature for a session.

Now these next photos are downright creepy, and you won’t see them in any of the papers. Prior to the rally, when the demonstrators began to arrive, this hefty fellow in a suit and tie was videotaping them from inside the Water Street Inn, so I assume he was somehow associated with the Bachmann event.

Later he came out and started photographing them outside the building, too—didn’t seem interested in recording anything except the people who were protesting the Bachmann/Rove event. I asked him who he was, whether or not he was with the Bachmann/Rove event, why he was videotaping the people who were protesting—and he refused to say! Refused to even answer me; just stared straight ahead and frowned. Isn’t that weird? Does anyone recognize him? Heavyset guy; in his twenties; a little Van Dyke beard?

Very KGB for a small town America political event, I think—recording the faces of people who protest, and refusing to say who you are and why you’re doing it. What, are they making some kind of “list” for future reference? Welcome to Karl Rove’s America; Michele Bachmann’s Minnesota.

Monday, July 17, 2006

International: Bush Still Doesn't Get The Microphone Concept

Bush curses Hezbollah during G-8 luncheon
By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer
Mon Jul 17, 9:49 AM ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - It wasn't meant to be overheard. Private luncheon conversations among world leaders, picked up by a microphone, provided a rare window into both banter and substance — including President Bush cursing Hezbollah's attacks against Israel.

Bush expressed his frustration with the United Nations and his disgust with the militant Islamic group and its backers in Syria as he talked to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the closing lunch at the Group of Eight summit.

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it's over," Bush told Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll…

…The unscripted comments came during a photo opportunity at the lunch. The leaders clearly did not realize that a live microphone was picking up their discussion.

Bush also spoke to other leaders, and his unscripted comments ranged from the serious topic of escalating violence in the Mideast to light banter about his preference for Diet Coke and a gift he received from another leader.

…Bush also remarked that some speakers at the meeting talk too long.

“Christ, Tony, is this fucking conference ever going to end? Who’s that shithead up there on the podium now, and what the fuck is he droning on about? Is that a real language he’s talking in or is he just making that shit up as he goes along? Does he think anybody’s even listening to him? And what is this piece of shit he gave me for a present, what is it, a salt shaker or something, what the fuck am I supposed to do with this?”
“I say, George—“
“Jesus, I hate these fucking meetings. Eight hours on a fucking plane just to hear this endless bullshit. Hey, waiter! How do you say “Diet Coke” in Russian, Tony? Waiter, Comrade Waiter, whatever the hell you call yourself, can I get a Diet Coke here? For Christ’s sake, I’m dry as Margaret Thatcher’s snatch, how about a Diet Coke, have you got a Diet Coke in this fucked-up black market country of yours? Anyway, Tony, we’ve got to get the U.N. to get the Syrians to get Hezbollah to cut this shit out, pronto, or we can just wipe our asses with my ‘Road Map To Peace’—“
“George, old chum, have you noticed there’s a bit of an echo or reverberation or something in this conference room? Your words seem to be--”
“Fucking U.N., my ass. And I wish someone would tell Kim Chee or whatever his name is, that dickhead who runs North Korea, to stop fucking around with nuclear missiles. I wish somebody would use his fucking brain for once and do something about that.”
“I say, George, you might want to—“
“Mexico, that’s another fucking disaster. We got some left-wing Commie cocksucker down there who wants another fucking recount, what kind of bullshit clusterfuck elections do the Mexies run down there? And where the fuck is my Diet Coke? I’m choking on this fucking roll, for Christ’s sake. Shithead Russian waiters--”
“I believe there’s a bit of a little switch-thingie on your microphone that you might want to—“
“And it’s not like my country’s perfect either, you know. Six years of my motherfucking tax cuts and the economy’s still in the shithouse, we’re gonna run a nine trillion dollar national debt and I have to go on the radio and tell a bunch of fucking idiots how great things are.”
”Yes, yes, that is very troubling. I say, do you mind if I just reach over you for a moment and flick this little switchie thing on your—“
“For Christ’s sake, Tony, keep your fucking hands off me, what are you, a fucking queer or something? Don’t you know there’s TV cameras on us right now, asshole? If you want a fucking roll ask for it and I’ll hand it to you, what were you born in a fucking barn or something? Here, here's the butter, too. And wipe your forehead, you’re sweating like a pig, you’re the fucking British Prime Minister and you’re sweating like you're shitting your pants, wipe yourself off, for Christ's sake.”
“The problem in my country is that people don’t have respect for traditional fucking Christian values anymore, and you know why that is? Cause the majority of Americans are a bunch of ungodly shitheads,” he added. “If you can’t respect Jesus fucking Christ, who can you respect? Hey…What’s everybody looking at me for? Oh fuck, Tony, have I got some shit stuck between my teeth again?"

Saturday, July 15, 2006

International: Why US Economy Is The Envy Of The World

Bush says US economy remains envy of world Sat Jul 15, 10:26 AM ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - President Bush, in Russia for a meeting of the world's economic powers, on Saturday credited his "pro-growth policies" for new U.S. budget deficit figures that are lower than earlier estimates.

"By pursuing pro-growth policies and restraining government spending, we will keep our economy the envy of the world," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

The 38th Annual Congress of Envious World Leaders had gathered together in the bar after a particularly depressing meeting. Once again, the United States of America had swept “The Most Envied Economy” category.

“Wow! From a balanced-a budget under Clinton to trillions of dollars inna da hole in just-a six years!” said Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy. “And dey brag about da economia, and Bush, he get-a re-elected! How do-a Americano conservatives do it?” He raised his Campari: “To da Americano conservatives! Dey make-a da Italiano bankers look-a like-a amateurs!” He dashed his empty glass in the fireplace and put his head down on the bar, sobbing.

“In America, the price of a gallon of gasoline doubled in just a couple of years, it’s still rising,” muttered Kim Jong-Il, staring into his gin and tonic. “The conservatives who rule do nothing to help their people—and millions of voters still support them! I wish I knew their secret, man. When I screw up North Korea’s economy, I have to lay out millions for secret police protection just to stay in power. I wish I had an economy like America’s, where people still support me when I double the price of gas.” He shook his head sadly.

“Last year US go three hundred billion dollars in the hole. They gonna go another $296 billion dollars in the hole for this year, too--and Bush on radio bragging about it?” complained Prime Minister Aziz of Pakistan. “If I go $296 billion dollars in the hole at the end of the fiscal year, generals come to shoot me. How come big dummy like Bush get economy where it okay to go $300 billion in the hole every year, and I get economy where if I go twenty dollars in the hole, wife send me out to sleep on couch?”

“Ha! That nothing!” said Koizumi of Japan. “Don’t get me started with American conservatives, man! You get me started, I go all night long! And people vote for dese guys cause dey say they gonna BALANCE DA BUDGET.”

“Bush just raise their debt ceiling to NINE TRILLION DOLLARS!” shouted General Than Shwe of Myanmar, dancing around the bar in anger, shaking his fist. “Claim no tax hike, but American taxpayer got to pay nine trillion back with taxes, like under Bush daddy and Clinton! How come Bush and conservatives get away with that, me can’t even get check cashed at Bank of Nyaypyidaw drive-through window without two pieces photo I.D.!”

“Problem relatively simple,” said President Hu of the People’s Republic of China. He said this quietly, after taking a sip from his Tsingtao.

“Ah, you always say problem simple, goddamn Communist--” snarled Koizumi, reaching for peanuts. “What you at this conference for? You not envious of America, American conservatives borrowing all the money from your country! American conservatives borrowing hundreds of billions from Communist China, you not envious, you sitting pretty, got USA by the balls--and Bush say is great conservative economy, ha!—“

“Nevertheless, we are envious,” said Hu. “Problem is that in our nations we do not have large numbers of citizens so stupid and angry so as to support insane conservative economic policy. But plenty of stupid angry people in America; millions in fact. American conservative leaders very clever; find stupidest of Americans, “educate” these to think that whatever crap conservatives produce is “great economy.” Never mind that tax burden shifted from rich to working families. Never mind fact that stupid people will be taxed hardest to pay back for what conservatives borrow today.”

“Will not work in my country! No Japanese so stupid as to buy that!” snapped Koizumi.

“But plenty of Americans that stupid,” replied Hu. “Millions and millions of stupid, angry Americans support Bush while he fuck them. Continue to vote for Republicans, listen to Rush, vote to bankrupt own country—and call this ‘patriotism,’ ‘conservatism.’”

“And that is what I envy,” Hu sighed, peeling at the label of his beer bottle. “To rule a nation with such a large number of stupid people! So many stupid people that one could go on the radio, nine trillion dollars in hole, gas price doubled, and brag about how great my economy is!”

Hu sighed. “That is truly enviable.”

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bachmann: I Like Rove!

On July 14, 2003, conservative columnist and longtime Bush administration supporter Robert Novak wrote a column that publicly identified Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative. The column set off a criminal investigation that resulted in the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby. Libby faces trial next year on charges of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI.
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has been conducting an investigation into who leaked Plame's identity to the news media. Plame says her covert status was leaked by the White House to destroy her career, because her husband wrote an article in the New York Times claiming that the Bush administration distorted intelligence to persuade Americans that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Top Bush administration officials have been implicated in Fitzgerald’s investigation, including Vice President Cheney and Bush political adviser Karl Rove.

The message the Plame affair communicated to the American intelligence community was clear: if you expose a deliberate lie by the Bush administration publicly, the President’s men will do their best to destroy your career or even that of your spouse—even if it means breaking the law, breaching national security, and betrayal of our own agents to do so.

A month ago, prosecutor Fitzgerald announced that he didn’t anticipate seeking criminal charges against Rove. But this Wednesday conservative columnist Novak confirmed that conservative hero Karl Rove was indeed one of the secret Bush administration sources who blew Plame’s cover as a CIA operative.

If you'd get your picture taken with Karl Rove, come to the Michele Bachmann for Congress fundraiser at the Water Street Inn on July 21 in Stillwater, Minnesota with a check or money order for $1000. For only one thousand dollars, Rove will pose for a photo with you. (Rove may want more than that if you don’t want him to tell the press who you are.)

This will be a tasteful fundraising event that will underscore the sincerity of Michele Bachmann’s commitment to America, national security and conservative “moral values” as understood by Rove and Bachmann. (Please do not come to this photo op in costume. For example, Mr. Rove will not pose for gag photos shaking hands with donors dressed as Osama bin Laden; not for $1000, anyway.)

Don’t miss this chance to pay to have your picture taken with another top White House official who may be indicted for blowing the cover of one of our own intelligence agents! Become a part of the Bachmann Campaign tradition of paying exorbitant prices to get a snapshot of yourself posing with Bush administration officials accused of illegally punishing those who questioned the administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

You will also get to meet Republican candidate Michele Bachmann and find out her secret: how she makes “the big money” for her campaign by staging photos of donors who enjoy posing with high White House officials accused of disclosing national secrets for short term political gain.

Come to this event and see how Bachmann and conservative Bush administration suspects are redefining the traditional concept of “patriotism!” You have already missed your chance to get your picture taken with indicted White House official Scooter Libby’s boss, Dick Cheney, for $1000. (That “Bachmann For Congress” fundraiser took place back in June.)

This may be your final chance to pay $1000 to get your photo taken with a man accused of leaking secret US intelligence! You may not have an historic opportunity like this again, unless Bachmann arranges to let you get your picture taken with the bones of Benedict Arnold for $1000 at the next “Bachmann For Congress” fundraiser.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Britain: Her Latest Crisis

Here’s an appalling article from Britain:

"Wear nice pants" - police tell women drinkers Thu Jul 13, 8:07 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Women going on boozy nights out have been warned by police to "wear nice pants" in case they fall down drunk in the street…

…"If you fall over or pass out, remember your skirt or dress may ride up," (says a public safety magazine published by British police.) "You could show off more than you intended -- for all our sakes, please make sure you're wearing nice pants and that you've recently had a wax."

This theory doesn’t sound like it’s grounded in public safety research or scientific data. This kind of advice sounds like the cops in England are now just “shooting from the hip,” making up advice as they go along.

Why, for instance, do the pants have to be “nice?” Why can’t women just wear sturdy blue jeans, or better yet, overalls? Does wearing a pair of “nice” pants really provide all that much more protection, if a woman is passed out in the gutter? Do that many British women in short skirts really fall down drunk in the street? If so, how is “making sure that they’ve recently had a wax” going to help the situation? And if they take the advice and wear the "nice pants"--who cares whether they've had a recent wax or not? It would seem to me that you either wear the "nice pants" or get the wax, it isn't necessary to do both (unless you're some kind of "belt and suspenders" neurotic.)

The waxing thing bugs me. It seems that that advice isn't offered to promote the safety and well-being of the passed out drunken woman-- it is instead aimed at protecting the aesthetic sensibilities of passersby (or cops on the beat) who might suddenly find themselves confronted by the distasteful spectacle of some drunken woman's hairy behind rising from the gutter.

It seems kind of sexist to me. If it’s wearing dresses and not pants that makes these women vulnerable to attack, what are the British cops telling Scotsmen? Are they telling Scotsmen to change out of their kilts and into pair of “nice tartan pants” before slipping out for a wee dram? It would be interesting to find out if they are advising Scotsmen to make sure they’ve “recently had a wax” before heading out for a “boozy night on the town.” And it would certainly be interesting to hear what the Scotsmen told the police in response to that suggestion.

One wonders: what kind of collective experiences have these British cops had that led to them to adopt this “nice pants/regular waxing" policy? Were there several incidents in which British bobbies got so toasted that they left the pub wearing sweatpants or Y-fronts, passed out in the gutter on the way home, and woke up to find their casuals down around their ankles and their persons violated?

I don’t know. And neither do you. But one mystery has been cleared up. I always wondered why policemen’s uniforms inevitably feature “nice pants.” Now I know. It’s because they think if they get plastered and pass out in the street, wearing nice pants will keep criminals from “interfering with them.” I share their contempt for the intelligence of the underworld, but these cops are living in a fool’s paradise if they’re now relying on “nice pants” to foil criminals. The prospect of having to undo an unconscious officer’s belt and fear of ruining the crease in his trousers is no deterrent at all to an angry, horny thug.

Have such outrages dropped off significantly since cops on the beat started wearing nice pants? If so, I’ll shut up and go home. But if the raw data isn’t there to support this somewhat “cavalier” advice to the public—you can be sure that the Stillwater Tribune will revisit this issue.

At the outset of the twentieth century, Britain ruled half the globe; it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire. Now, a scant hundred years later, their Empire has vanished; their drunken women and coppers lay ass up in the gutters with their knickers exposed--and all the British government can do in response is propose wearing nicer pants and waxing more often. This is one more reason not to support American imperialism in this century--is this the future we want for our grandchildren?

I do know this--if you drink to excess, remember to watch out for criminals and keep your trousers on. But this is good advice even if you're sober, so what exactly is the point, here?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Business: The Supple Reed Bends With The Wind, But Old Man Chestnut, He Just Keeps Rollin' Along

From an article a friend sent me:

The Fortune Cookie 500
Why business execs love to quote Chinese proverbs.
By Daniel Gross
Posted Wednesday, July 5, 2006, at 3:59 PM ET

“I just returned from hardship duty at the Aspen Institute/Fortune Brainstorm, an annual conference that brings together CEOs, venture capitalists, policy wonks, elected officials…

…Recurring themes included (China’s impact on the world's economy.) China's influence was especially apparent in the language used throughout the conference. At a panel on alternative energy, Lawrence Bender, a producer of An Inconvenient Truth, opened his spiel with a Chinese proverb: "When the wind rises, some people build walls. Others build windmills." Panelist David Hawkins, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, countered with another Chinese proverb: "When is the best time to plant a tree? A hundred years ago. When is the second-best time to plant a tree? Yesterday."

...It's hard to get through any mass gathering these day (an annual meeting, a corporate offsite, a nursery-school graduation) without being exposed to some timeless wisdom from the Middle Kingdom, such as: "As the Chinese blessing/curse goes, 'May you live in interesting times.' " Many a conference call or CNBC interview begins (especially when the company has screwed up royally) with a variant on the chestnut that "in Chinese, the character for crisis is the same as the character for opportunity…"

Oh, boy. I’ve heard a lot of nasty stories about the really rotten times to be had at business conference weekends (“team building” exercises that pit the marketing people and the accountants against each other to see who can build a better canoe out of old newpapers, “Ham Surprise” served for dinner THREE DAYS IN A ROW).

But now they seem to have outdone themselves. A weekend of American Fortune 500 execs bowing to each other in the halls and meeting rooms, and exchanging Charlie Chan-like pearls of ancient Chinese wisdom, while the junior execs nod sagely… Christ, where’s the bar?

I love Chinese proverbs. They’re so wise and pithy; all we’ve got here in America these days are funny greeting cards. And if you're a Fortune 500 exec, you can't go up to someone at a meeting and quote a funny greeting card: "Hey! It's your birthday, so I thought I'd give you fifty bucks! (imitates a chicken sound, "buck buck buck buck buck, etc., fifty times.) That doesn't work; in fact, you'd "lose face."

Any moron can sound wise if he’s got a Chinese proverb handy; even if you completely blew the sales projection for last year you can “regain face” at a meeting by pointing out how the green-headed duck knows not where he flies, but finds the south each winter.

And they’re not hard to make up, either. All you have to do is come up with a paradox and be “elliptical” about it: make sure the second half of the proverb somehow refers back to the first half. If you’re not elliptical, you come up with something like “the green-headed duck knows not where he flies, but the wild wind blows where it will,” and then everyone realizes you’re an insane idiot and you find yourself number one with a bullet on the layoff list. Remember: it’s elliptical, not epileptical.

Still: if this is what the Fortune 500 is paying for these days, I can turn out as much of this pap as they want—more, if the money’s right.

Let’s see: it has to be pithy, elliptical, and yet at the same time incontrovertibly true. Let’s start with something about “the ocean,” that might be a good image for the unplumbed depths of the global economy:

The ocean is deep, and full of fish, but it is also salty. So don’t drink it, or you’ll wind up in the hospital, you--

Nah. It’s true, but who gives a shit? And how does it apply to our business model? Let’s try to save it:

The ocean is deep, and full of fish, but it is best not to swim in it after a heavy meal—no, that sounds like my mother—The ocean is deep and full of fish, but it is not be trusted, like a woman with big—no, too many images there. Just stick with the ocean metaphor:

The ocean is deep and filled with fish--but some of the fish are sharks.

There! That should get the junior execs nodding; it expresses caution about entering the new global markets. That’s good advice, right?

Okay, I’m on a roll now:

The clever squirrel hides his nuts; the fool exposes his to the north wind.

Even the insane idiot can at times speaks words of wisdom, yet it is best to remember that he is an insane idiot.

The wise man plants the best bulb in the greenhouse, but the conservative plants a dimbulb in the White House.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

International: Bush Seen Thinking

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Thursday it is hard to read North Korea's motives in firing a missile with the potential to hit the United States or Canada, but said the U.S. cannot afford to misjudge the situation…

…Asked for an assessment of (Kim Jong-Il) the reclusive North Korean leader, who is variously described as quirky, eccentric or even unbalanced, Bush struck a thoughtful pose. (Boy, I’d have liked to have seen that! Rodin’s “The Thinker?”)…

"It's hard for me to tell you what's on his mind…What we don't know is his intentions," Bush said.

You really don’t know, huh? It’s got you “stumped,” eh, Mr. President? Well--let me tell you the score, let me “clue you in,” sir. Kim intends to build an arsenal of intercontinental nuclear missiles capable of killing millions of Americans. And that’s it, in a nutshell. That’s his intentions, that’s what he’s going to do; he’s going to build nuclear missiles and threaten the US and East Asia with them. Hey, here’s something else you should know, Chief: he’s already threatened a nuclear strike on the United States if we even INTERFERE with his missile program.

How do I know all this, sir? Because it’s all over the fucking news, that’s how I know it. This man’s intentions are no “secret,” Mr. President! I don’t know how much plainer they can be! He’s tested missiles, he’s launched missiles, and he’s probably already got the nukes for the payload. He’s going to threaten the US and the world with a nuclear arsenal. That’s his intention. Kim’s a megalomaniacal dictator who wants his own nuclear arsenal. Yeah, that’s right. He’s one of “those.” Where did we lose you on this “intentions” thing, Mr. President?

Actually, it doesn’t surprise me that Bush finds Kim “hard to read;” Bush finds everything hard to read. Our President has always had trouble grasping the obvious.

For example: if you announce that you will adopt a policy of striking first (“pre-emptive strike”) your worst enemies will rush to create a retaliatory capacity to deter you from doing so. Faced with the possibility of a pre-emptive strike, it becomes a matter of personal and political survival for these bastards. But this logical consequence doesn’t seem to have occurred to Bush and his advisors at the time they changed the rules of American war and adopted the “pre-emptive strike” policy. The North Korean race to secure a nuclear arsenal went into overdrive after Bush announced that pre-emptive strikes were the new policy; ditto the Iranian nuclear program.

Think about it from the viewpoint of cynical murderers like Hitler or Stalin—if your worst enemy announces to the world that he will launch pre-emptive strikes against you—do you end your WMD program, or go as fast as you can to complete it? It’s not a hard question to answer, if you are a megalomaniacal dictator.

And after Bush ignored the UN and invaded Iraq, development of nuclear arsenals became top priority for these two oppressive regimes—by George, Bush is serious! Look at that, he invaded Iraq, and they didn’t even have WMDs! We’re next, hurry up with those goddamn nukes, for Christ’s sake!

Yes, it’s incredible but true: at the same time White House inadvertently pressured the other two “Axis of Evil” members to put their own WMD programs into high gear, the Bush team destroyed the only “Axis of Evil” government that DIDN’T have weapons of mass destruction.

And even worse—after announcing that he would launch pre-emptive strikes to prevent the threat of WMD programs—Bush didn’t launch ANY against the other two enemy nations! The one that really WERE developing WMD programs! So it’s not only a stupid threat, because it encourages enemies to acquire WMDs as fast as they can; it’s not just a pointless threat, because it was carried out against the only “Axis of Evil” member with no WMD capability—it’s an EMPTY threat, because the very same two powers Bush hoped to discourage are now completing their nukes programs, virtually unmolested.

So this is conservative national security policy, eh? Now my point is not that Bush is a dangerously incompetent ass. That point was made a long time ago, and it has become the prevailing view of the American people. My point is that the conservatives—rich and poor, libertarian and social, neo-cons and right wing fundamentalists—are asses, too. Because they put an ass in office, and kept that ass and a lot of other asses in office, and have never seriously questioned these asses’ judgment on national security issues.

So there is no question about North Korea’s intentions. The real question is: which asses will the conservatives elect next time?

Monday, July 03, 2006

White House On Nuclear War With North Korea: Don't Get All Bent Out Of Shape Over It

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration responded sternly Monday to an annihilation threat from North Korea, saying while it had no intention of attacking, it was determined to protect the United States if North Korea launched a long-range missile.

North Korea vowed on Monday to respond with an "annihilating" nuclear strike if its atomic facilities were attacked pre-emptively by the United States.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House dismissed North Korea's threat of a nuclear strike in the event of a US attack as "deeply hypothetical" and urged Pyongyang to rejoin nuclear negotiations.
North Korea vowed Monday to counter any strike by the United States with its "mighty nuclear deterrent," accusing Washington of raising tension on the Korean peninsula.

"It is a statement about what may happen if something that hasn't happened, happened, if you follow my drift. It is still deeply hypothetical," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Reporter: Hypothetical? They’ve got nuclear weapons, they’ve threatened a nuclear retaliatory strike on the US, what’s hypothetical about that?
Snow: It's hypothetical because it hasn’t happened yet, right? We don’t make statements about what might happen, what might not happen, this, that, who knows. We’ll comment after it happens.
Reporter: After what happens?
Snow: After nothing happens! All we're saying is, something could happen, something happens every day, right? And if this happens, you’ll be the first to know, believe me. But until it happens, it’s all hypothetical—
Reporter: Until what happens?
Snow: Nothing! And it may not happen at all! How do you fasten this--
Reporter: What’s that shiny jumpsuit thing you’re putting on?
Snow: What, this? It’s nothing, it’s just a, a White House jumpsuit, we keep them around the White House in case something happens. It’s nothing, don’t worry about it. Jeez this thing’s heavy, I can hardly move--
Reporter: Hey, is that suit made out of lead?
Snow: Lead, tin foil, whatever, how would I know, I'm not running a haberdashery here… (to Secret Service man) Where's the helmet, I’m supposed to get a helmet with this-- (to reporters) It’s just a precaution in case…
Reporter: In case something happens?
Snow: In case something that’s very highly unlikely to happen, happens. (struggling) Damn…zipper is…stuck—
Reporter: Well, what is it that’s unlikely to happen?
Snow: Look, this isn’t that hard to understand, why can’t you guys follow this? It’s just hypothetical, we don't comment on hypothetical stuff, it’s all hypothetical—(looking at watch, wiping his forehead) Where the hell is my helmet, the thing with the snorkel, the breathing thing?
Reporter: Are U.S. aircraft currently doing flyovers over North Korea?
Snow: What? Now what the hell kind of question is that? We got planes, they fly, that’s what planes do, they fly over stuff. That’s not "news," that doesn’t mean anything--
Reporter: So are you saying nothing’s going to happen?
Snow: No!I never said that--stuff happens every day! Stuff happens, man! You can quote me: “Sometimes-stuff—happens.” They got nukes, and something could happen. MIGHT happen. Maybe. What, you want everybody to run around like a chicken with its head cut off, cause something might happen?
Reporter: But they said—
Snow: (mimicking) “They said this, they said that, wah, wah, wah!” Look—what do you want from me, a written guarantee? There’s no guarantees in this life, people. We could all get killed by a bus tomorrow crossing the street, how about that, you gonna print that in the paper? You gonna stay up all night worrying about it? You gonna waste the last remaining moments of--Just toughen up, for Christ’s sakes. (taking helmet from Secret Service man, puts it on) Oh, thank God, here, help me get this on—
Reporter: So then what you’re saying is--
Snow: (from inside helmet, shouting) Can you guys still hear me?
Reporter: Yeah, we can hear you. Hey,where are you going?
Snow: (muffled shouting from inside helmet) Jeez, it’s a hundred and fifty degrees inside this thing…my little window’s getting all fogged up…Look guys, I think I made my point, I gotta go downstairs now, in case something happens. And if I don’t see you guys tomorrow, happy Fourth of July, okay?