Saturday, December 17, 2005

In remembrance of Jack Anderson

Former columnist and muckracker Jack Anderson has died. He was 83, and suffering from Parkinsons.

From Joe McCarthy to Richard Nixon, he took on all of them, and was, despite all his shortcomings, when it came to his journalism, fearless. In the current day as the public has pushed back against insider, access journalism-- whether it be that of Bob Woodward, Judith Miller, or Robert Novak-- Anderson understood it was his role to be an outsider, not just in regards to the politicians he covered, but also to the established order of journalism, which has always been part of the problem.


It's a great day for America

The LA Times has a good article about the Late, Late, Show with Craig Ferguson, a show I usually enjoy, and specifically about the hosts's unique way of delivering a monologue.

My word!

So. Apparently, there's a Pitcher for the Mets named Kris Benson. I say "apparently" because, as is well-nigh legendary amongst my friends, I am almost completely ignorant of sports figures. Someone in that field has to be pretty famous for me to know who they are. It can be safely assumed, then, that Kris Benson is not really all that famous.

This lack of fame is presumably why the Mets are trading him. This seems to upset his wife, Anna, no end.
"We would never, ever have signed with New York if they had said they were going to trade us," said Anna Benson, 29. "I was Miss [Politically Correct] for the Mets the entire time I was there.

She's apparently now freed from the shackles of political correctness that so constrained her while "they" were under contract with New York. Mrs. Benson, on whom the only thing lower than the cut of her neckline is her brow, had this to say about Michael Moore recently.
"...Forget about how un-American you are, how politically retarded you are, or how fat you look while slobbering your political garbage all over everyone, mainly, I despise you for the fact that you make money off of influencing the young minds of America to be Bush-haters."

"You are a selfish, pathetic excuse for an American, and you can take your big fat ass over to Iraq and get your pig head cut off and stuck on a pig pole. Then, you can have your equally as fat wife make a documentary about how loudly you squealed while terrorists were cutting through all the blubber and chins to..."

Gad, how I wish the Democrats would stop lowering the bar for civilized political discouse in this country.

We really liked it...we wished we'd seen the first two

In firedoglake, Redd Hedd has the clearest piece I've found yet about the president authorizing spying on Americans without providing good and sufficent cause. Here's how it begins. See if you can read this and not want to read more.
How does one sit down to write about the deliberate circumvention of law in a nation of laws by the Chief Executive? Especially, when the actions taken by that executive ignore the lessons that were hard learned and codified into law for the express purpose of preventing the very actions taken?

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (or FISA) provides the framework for how surveillance by covert agencies may or may not be done. The Bush Administration has put forth the argument that FISA had to be circumvented due to immediate need for surveillance of subjects in the aftermath of 9/11 due to urgent national security concerns. But this is a lie.

ETA: And Josh Marshall adds this little wrinkle:
Setting aside all the particulars noted below about the NSA wiretapping story, the most dangerous aspect of this case is the legal theory on which the president was reportedly acting.

According to the original Times article and subsequent reports, the president's authority to override statute law comes from the 2001 congressional resolution authorizing the force to destroy al Qaida.

By that reasoning the president must also be empowered to override the new law banning the use of torture, thus making the McCain Amendment truly a meaningless piece of paper.

John Spencer: NY and LA Times obituaries

NY Times:

By the late 1990's, Mr. Spencer had so deeply ensconced himself as a sharp-witted public servant that he was cited as a model for the chief of staff on "The West Wing." Aaron Sorkin, creator of the series, recalled last night: "I said to the casting director, 'We need someone like John Spencer.' And the casting director said, 'What about John Spencer?' And I said, 'We will never get John Spencer.' " But Mr. Spencer said yes.

LA Times:

"We're shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden death of our friend and colleague," Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme, executive producers of "The West Wing," said in a statement. "John was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a brilliant actor."

David E. Kelley, a writer and executive producer on "L.A. Law" when Spencer joined that show in 1990, was too upset to speak but issued this statement: "We are all deeply saddened."

Aaron Sorkin, who created and wrote most of my favorite TV series ever. David E. Kelley, who created and writes most of one of my favorite shows right now ("Boston Legal"). One actor.

Are you beginning to get why this is a big deal?

It's awards season

The Kippies. Go vote. This blog supports:
  • Jonah Goldberg for Chickenhawk of the Year
  • Harriet Miers for "The Fluffy"
  • Bill O’Reilly for The Purple Teardrop with Clutched Pearls cluster
  • War on Christmas for the Soggy Biscuit Award
  • Ann Coulter for Wank of the Year
  • O'Reilly again for The Coveted Palme d’Hair

What John said

First fire Karl, then get back to us about your "outrage" over people leaking
by John in DC - 12/17/2005 11:59:00 AM

Your top aide is a leaker, so shut up.
"As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have," [Bush] said. "The unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk."


Friday, December 16, 2005

John Spencer update

Thanks to Deborah Lipp for linking to my obit. She has her own kind words about the actor here, and also talks about the oddity of being so affected by the death of someone we never knew or even met.

In my case some of it is certainly because I loved "The West Wing" so much. But it was also because Leo, as a character, was such a survivor. As Martin Sheen says of him in one episode, "Leo's made of leather. Leo comes back." I guess I unconciously assumed it was true about the actor, too.

And personally, he was one of those actors I sometimes fantasized about meeting and working with...writing for. I allowed myself the daydream of his playing Ian Colley if I ever got this damn story of mine made.

He was just so good.

Not a bad day for truly patriotic acts, really

The Senate blocked an extension of The Patriot Act. It probably didn't hurt that the day of the vote, it was reported that the Bush administration has been secretly spying on Americans without having to present good and sufficent cause.

Russ "Foresight" Feingold, the only Senator to vote against The Patriot Act after 9/11, when even I was giving Bush the benefit of the doubt, had this to say to his fellow senators just before the vote:

I don’t want to hear again from the Attorney General or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care. This shocking revelation ought to send a chill down the spine of every Senator and every American.

Makes you want to spit in the face of anyone you know who voted for Bush, doesn't it?

Oh, no, this is terrible

The actor John Spencer, who played chief of staff Leo McGarry on "The West Wing", has died at 58 of a heart attack. Most of you know that the first four seasons of that show stand as my all-time favorite dramatic television series, and Spencer was responsible for so many moments...

Moments that were given to him by Aaron Sorkin & the writing staff, and that he was helped with by Tommy Schlamme & the directors. But what he gave back was the kind of pure acting they give Emmys for.

He received five nominations for his work on the series. And won for the episode "Bartlet For America," which tells (in flashback) of his character's relapse into alcoholism during the first Bartlet campaign. At the conclusion of the actor/writer/director commentary for that episode on the third season "West Wing" DVD set, you hear him saying, his voice choked with emotion, "That's the kind of writing and directing an actor waits most of his life for."

So many moments. So many moments that prove that as much as Spencer thrilled, as most actors would, to be speaking Sorkin's unparalleled dialogue...he didn't always need it. As a writer with a gift for dialogue myself you will not often hear me saying an actor doesn't need it-but John Spencer didn't. Not always.

I'm thinking of Leo quietly watching his friend the President almost have a breakdown when he learns that American solders have walked into a trap, on his order, and been killed. Leo grinning and turning his face away when Charlie subtly zings the President. Leo's face when he first sees Bartet in the hospital after the President's been shot. Leo when he learns that without being aware of it, he had committed a war crime while serving in Vietnam.

Of course, when he had that dialogue tossed at him, Spencer knew, like every single member of that fine ensemble cast, how to hit it out of the park. Possibly my favorite:
"I'm tired of it. Year after year after year, having to choose between the lesser of who cares. Of trying to get myself excited about the candidate who can speak in complete sentences. Of setting the bar so low I can hardly stand to look at it."

Aaron Sorkin has spoken of Spencer's face having a map of the world on it, and he gave that line to Martin Sheen in the Leo's flashback episode as well. His face was extremely memorable and expressive.

I'd stopped watching "L.A. Law" before Spencer became one of the stars of that series, but I tuned back in one night because they were going to deal with the Rodney King verdict riots. Spencer, playing a character I'd never seen before and in whom I had no investment, had a moment that I've never forgotten, when a woman showed him the scar from where, IIRC, she'd been shot. Just his face as he gazed at her. It was amazing.

Like others in the "West Wing" cast, Spencer was one of those actors who once you're made especially aware of him, you see him in a lot of old movies you never realized he was in. He played a lot of cops in movies of the '80s and '90s, from "The Negotiator" to "Hiding Out."

I don't know what else to say except that this is a terrible loss to those of us who admired him. I hope his friends and family take at least some comfort and solace (someday) in the knowledge that he died having done great work, and acknowledged by his fans, critics, and his peers as among the best of the best.

He also spoke the last words of any of the "West Wing" regulars in any Aaron Sorkin-penned script. They were, after Bartlet has invoked the 25th Amendment, stepping down rather than let his country suffer while he is in a personal crisis-his daughter has been kidnapped:

"You're relieved, sir."

You're relieved, John.

2005 Weblog Awards-Results

Like it says up there, the votes are in for the 2005 Weblog Awards. Let's see how yours truly did in picking favorites.

Best Blog-Daily Kos. Not much of a surprise-pretty much the "King Kos" of blogs.
I voted for-Talking Points Memo, which came in fourth, after Kos, Atrios and (grimace) Michelle Malkin.

Best New Blog-Yellow Dog Blog.
I voted for-Yellow Dog Blog. Hey, I picked a winner!

Best Group Blog-Hit and Run. Never heard of them. I'll get back to you. Ok, just glanced at it. It's the blog of the Reason Magazine staff. Doesn't look like much.
I voted for-the women of Pandagon, who came in fifth, after H&R, RedState, Think Progess, and TPM Cafe.

Best Humor/Comics Blog-Jesus' General.
I voted for: Jesus' General! Another winner.

Best Liberal Blog-AmericaBlog
I voted for: AmericaBlog! I'm three out of five!

Best Media/Journalist Blog-Michael Yon. Another one I seem to have missed.
I voted for-James Wolcott, who made number three after Yon and The Raw Story.

Best Technology Blog-Engadget.
I voted for Slashdot, the only tech blog I read even though I understand less than 10% of the items posted on it daily.

Best Culture/Gossip Blog-Oh No They Didn't! Which I'll be checking out shortly, I assure you.
I voted for-Dlisted, which made it seventh, but that's ok, I was already over them. Blogs that beat them include Pink is the New Blog, Conv. Famous People, Go Fug Yoursels, Perez Hilton and The Superficial.

Best LGBT Blog-Pam's House Blend
I voted for-Pam's House Blend. I'm back in the saddle again!

Best Video Blog-Crooks & Liars
I voted for-Crooks & Liars! Was there ever any doubt?

Best UK Blog-normblog. Don't know it.
I voted for-Tim Worstall, who scored worst of any of my choices with a dismal ninth place, after normblog, The Daily Ablution, Samizdata, Biased BBC, Harry's Place, Melanie Phillip's Diary, Slugger O'Toole and London Underground

Cato! You imbecile! Not now!

I have a friend who really likes and respects the Cato Institute. And even I've been known to call it one of if not the only conservative "think tanks" worth a damn. "One of the good ones," in other words.

There are no good ones:
A senior fellow at the Cato Institute resigned from the libertarian think tank on Dec. 15 after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing op-ed articles favorable to the positions of some of Abramoff's clients.

I guess this is what happens when you name a "think tank" after Clouseau's ever faithful and attacking manservant...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What's your favorite color, baby?


You are a very calm and contemplative person. Others are drawn to your peaceful, nurturing nature.

Find out your color at Quiz Me!

The description sounds all wrong, but that is my favorite color...

This can't be right

American Cities That Best Fit You:

65% Atlanta

60% Portland

60% San Diego

55% Honolulu

55% Las Vegas

Atlanta? And San Francisco isn't even on the list? On the bright side, niether is Seattle. And if any city in Tennessee had come up I would, of course, have had to kill myself.

Things that make you go hmmmm...

About that business of douche bag for liberty Robert Novak saying we should ask Bush who the leak is...Jane at firedoglake and one of her commenters sniffed around and came up truffles:

Number one—Novak does not lob a grenade like that casually, despite Kate O’Bierne’s protestations tonight on Hardball to that effect...Number two—Novak knows who he works for, Karl Rove. Why would Rove want that out there and Bush on the hot seat like that? Well the answer of course is that I have no idea. But the best guess came from Frank Probst today in the comments:

I think Rove is nervous, and he’s prodding Bush (via Novak) into saying something like, “I don’t know who the leaker was.” Or “Karl Rove has my complete support.” Bush knows damn well that Rove leaked this. This is Rove fishing for a public defense from Bush. He has to tie himself to Bush in order to save himself. Because he knows that if he doesn’t, his career—and possibly his freedom—is about to end.

And—voila!—today, like a trained monkey:

In an interview with Fox News, Bush said his relationship with Cheney had “only gotten better,” and he remained “very close” to Rove, who could face charges in the criminal investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.

“We’re still as close as we’ve ever been,” Bush said of Rove, brushing aside reports he was angry at his deputy chief of staff, who initially denied any role in the Plame leak. “We’ve been through a lot. You know, when we look back at the presidency and my time in politics, no question that Karl had a lot to do with me getting here, and I value his friendship.”

Update: What Kevin said.

CONTEXT....George Bush gave a speech Wednesday in which he acknowledged that we got lots of bad intelligence about Iraq's WMD before the war but failed to take any personal responsibility for demanding that very intelligence in the first place and ignoring all dissenting views. Of the major news outlets, only Knight Ridder bothered to point that out:

"It's true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong," Bush admitted — omitting that he and top aides had ignored warnings from midlevel intelligence agents that some of the evidence was suspect....

See how easy that is? Why can't they all do this?

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that when George W. Bush dies, Lincoln, FDR and Jefferson are going to be waiting on the other beat the hell out of him?

ETA: And speaking of when Bush's how he sees his legacy:
I hope that first, as a person, I'll be remembered as a fellow who had his priorities straight: his faith, his family and his friends are a central part of his life.

"Secondly, I hope to be remembered, from a personal perspective, as a fellow who had lived life to the fullest and gave it his all. And thirdly, I'd like to be remembered as the president who used American influence for the good of the world: bastioning freedom and fighting disease and poverty, by recognizing to whom much is given, much is required and that -- that I wasn't afraid to make a decision."

For the good of the world? Really? Have you told the world? Not afraid to make a decision? Well, maybe not...even when it's a dumb one. But this reminds me of one of the dozens of things I will never understand about the way the Democrats ran their last campaign. Why didn't they simply buy air time to run the footage of Bush frozen in the classroom, reading along to My Pet Goat, when America was under attack?

Not afraid to make a decision? Right, George. When Karl the organ grinder plays and you know what dance to do. Dance, monkey, dance.

ETA, again: What? Also from The Washington Monthly...

Asked about the idea that our soldiers would be 'welcomed as liberators' in Iraq, President Bush said:

"I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome."

"That girl liked that I was raping her, your honor. Oh sure, you couldn't tell from the way she was kicking and screaming, but..."

Vote for me, I'm greedy

It's time for the Wampum blog's annual Koufax Awards again.
At the core, the Koufax Awards are meant to be an opportunity to say nice things about your favorite bloggers and to provide a bit of recognition for the folks who provide us with daily information, insight, and entertainment.

I'm eligible in several categories, so if you've a minute to spare, why not stroll over there and vote for me a couple of hundred times? You know I'd do it for you.

Frosty, the snow-

"We got some calls that people thought it was offensive," said New Windsor police Chief Michael Biasotti. "We assumed it was some kids who did it."

Officers found no one home. Assuming the snow sculpture was more prank than nod to Christmas' pagan roots, the police knocked it down. Beat it down with shovels, actually.

"We probably weren't 100 percent correct in going on the property and knocking it down," New Windsor Town Supervisor George Meyers said. "But our intentions were pure. Some people were offended. There are school buses going by there all day."

Many scholars, of course, trace the origin of the modern-day yule log to ancient pagan totems to virility and sun-god worship. Is that what [19-year-old scuptress Jessica Sherer] was going for?

"We just did it because we were really bored, and we thought it'd be funny," she said. "It was huge."

Happy birthday!

Via Shakespeare's Sister, who adds,
Seriously, I can’t remember a time in my childhood I would have been traumatized by a snowpenis. Collapsing into a fit of giggles, maybe.

I'm guessing Shakes didn't grow up in Ohio.

All right...

Accuracy in Media editor Cliff Kincaid is the fella who decided the reason why Tucker Carlson's show wasn't getting the ratings was because they regularly feature a short-haired lesbian.

Now he has a new campaign, for the good of us all. From Media Matters via AmericaBlog...

"Quit Gay Sex" Campaign
By Cliff Kincaid December 14, 2005

It appears that the homosexual lifestyle is as addictive as smoking.

Have you noticed that many news organizations, in honor of former ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings, have embarked on a quit smoking campaign? So why don't our media launch a campaign advising people to quit engaging in the dangerous and addictive homosexual lifestyle?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

You know who I don't love as much as some people?

Margaret Cho. In the media and most liberal web sites Cho is quite well-loved; the following quotes come from her website:

Brilliant. One of the funniest comedians in America. - NY Times

Not since Richard Pryor..., has a comedian made me laugh through the tears the way Margaret Cho has.

The most hilarious movie - the most hilarious thing - on planet Earth. - The Bergen Record

Gut-bustingly funny. - Variety

Surely every one of Cho's blow jobs is a blow for freedom. - Toronto Eye

...and I'm sorry, I just don't see it. Almost every time I've seen film of Cho's stand-up, she seems to me to be essentially just telling her audience what they want to hear: Right wing conservatives should be bitch slapped, racism and homophobia is bad, she shouldn't have been made to feel fat. It's not that I don't agree with any or all of that-which I hope is obvious-but I don't remember seeing her doing that many jokes about them.

I've probably said this one or two many times too many. But one of the reasons, I feel, that The Daily Show and Doonesbury have justifiably won so many awards and grabbed so many viewers/readers, is that they don't just tell their audience what they want to hear; they flame-broil sacred cows from the right or left.

It's easy (relatively) to get laughs hitting the other person's gang, can you get laughs hitting your own gang? In the films that I've seen, Margaret Cho's loving audience responds not with laughter, but with applause.

Well, shit, I could get applause going onstage and taking a few cheap shots at the approved targets of a self-selected audience of liberal weenies too. (Jeff Foxworthy says you shouldn't make fun of rednecks unless you are one. About the term "liberal weenies"...I are one.)

To me, truly brilliant comedians don't seek applause. You'll rarely see Jon Stewart more uncomfortable than when the studio audience reacts with applause rather than laughter. And I don't recall Richard Pryor's concerts being interupted by it too many times either.

It's not that nothing Cho has ever said has struck me as funny, it has. And as an actress she was part of the fine ensemble cast of one of my favorite movies, It's My Party. It's just that the hype of her as a social commentator/comedian seems to me way out of proportion to her actual gifts.

If you're wondering what brought this on, tonight I picked up the new issue of Bust magazine because I'd heard there was a profile of Samantha Bee of The Daily Show in it. Quick sidenote: The profile is excellent, and recommended to fans of Bee/TDS. Plus, I don't know about you, but I like a visibly pregnant woman-Bee-who poses for magazine pictures with a cigarette and glass of wine in her hand. (Feet on a heels, yet...can of beer on the top step, other cans strewn on the floor and counters of a sloppy kitchen.)

But anyway, elsewhere in the issue there's a short review of Cho's new book. The reviewer says Cho is "brutally honest" and "absolutely hilarious." And as I say, she's hardly alone in thinking that. But the first example she quotes is:

"Strange, there's so much religion in the world, but only enough to make us fight over who's right, not enough to make us love one another."

Funny, insightful, and clearly the work of one of the foremost satirists in the English language, yes? You're so right. It was even moreso when Jonathan Swift said it in 1711.

That's just one small fraction of the main attraction

According to a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the Terry Gilliam bomb "The Brothers Grimm," Gilliam clashed with the infamous Harvey Weinstein about many things. Especially what actress to cast in the female lead of the picture.

It seems that Gilliam, along with his stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, wanted Samantha Morton, but Weinstein forced Lena Headey upon them on grounds that Morton wasn't "fuckable."

Charming, no? Ironically, perhaps, when I saw the movie last August, I said of it here:
The main thing I came away with is a desire to see more of one of the supporting players, Lena Headey, an actress whose face is new to me...she seems, inasmuch as you can tell, to have the chops to embody a better character than this one. But although she starts out well and strong, in the end the film forces her into a box.

Far be it from me to take the side of Harvey Weinstein over Terry Gilliam; I just agree Headey is a very attractive woman. But there can be virtually no argument that Morton has more, or at least more proven, "chops." And not to put too fine a point on it...I would.

Would she have saved the film? I'm inclined to think not; it had more problems than just the director and stars second choice being cast in a key role.

But this definitely leaves me anxious to read the book, which has so far been published just in the U.K.

Personally, I preferred the "naked party" rumor

...when it comes to rumors about Jenna or Barbara Bush. But that's just the kind of cat I am, I'll always take sex over drugs...or for that matter, rock and roll. But this is pretty cool, too:
White House may have trouble explaining how a NYC coke dealer wound up with Jenna Bush's ID.

Jenna Bush’s infamous ID-gate videotape is raising more questions than the Zapruder film. According to a source who has seen the footage—which features a self-described downtown coke dealer relating his late-night run-in with the First Daughter, and brandishing her college ID as a souvenir—the man insinuates that the two shared more than just drinks.

By the way, if you missed the "naked party" rumor a couple of years ago, here it is.

She blinded me with science

There's a lengthy but well-worth reading essay by someone named Chris Mooney at the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal site. It takes as its starting point a review of a book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, by Tom Bethell, and goes on from there.

Here are a few of my favorite paragraphs.

...Bethell's more general science policy arguments are...problematic. For instance, there's his concept of a "priesthood of science," an elite caste of scientific leaders whose words are taken as gospel and whose received wisdom never challenged. Alas, this mythic priesthood does not exist. The scientific process is inherently a contentious and antagonistic one, in which vast incentives exist for scientists to publish research that undermines what everyone thought was known and well established. In essence, the scientific process represents the institutionalization of doubt and skepticism. It is nothing like a priesthood.

Finally, Bethell sneers at scientific "consensus," noting that even if 99 percent of experts in a field accept a given theory, that doesn't make it automatically true. But this fact notwithstanding, consensus plays an important role in the scientific process. It is how our knowledge progresses. Scientific conclusions are eternally subject to revision, but when consensus develops, it is based upon repeated testing and retesting of an idea or theory--and that's hardly something to be taken lightly. In fact, when it comes to pressing matters of public policy where decisions depend upon a clear understanding of the underlying science (such as global warming), we ignore scientific consensus positions at our own peril.

All of these arguments made by Bethell--the scientific ones as well as the science-policy oriented ones--are very problematic. But what's most disturbing about The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science book is not the lack of scientific accuracy or its poor arguments. Rather, it's the overall message that it preaches to conservative readers--in essence the following: "Don't trust the nation's scientific community, they're a bunch of politicized liberals who are hooked on government funding."

As visions of sugarplums dance in our heads...

...firedoglake brings us the latest on just how deep is the black hole of law Karl Rove is probably in.
And the next time you hear some empty head on TV talking about how Fitzgerald will think twice before indicting someone as powerful as Karl Rove, don't believe it. I've spoken with people he's worked with in both the FBI and the justice department who say that while some US attorneys are reluctant to prosecute the high and the mighty for fear that as political appointees they'll ruin their careers, Patrick Fitzgerald is not one of them.


Update: If you want to see what Jon Stewart had to say about Ford on The Daily Show last night (and if you haven't, you do), Crooks and Liars has the video.

4 Dec 2005. Ford apparently caves in to a threatened boycott by the American Family Association (that's Donald Wildmon), pulling ads from gay-market publicatons like the Advocate. John from AmericaBlog is all over this like I'd like to be all over Reese Witherspoon.

He starts slapping the Ford Motor Company around and basically making them his bitch, and I write:

You longtime readers of my old blog may remember last April, when another major American corporation got John's dander up.

It took John just over a month to force that corporation to its knees. They reversed their position of abandoning gays and terminated the employment of Christian Coalition, "pro-life" homophobe Ralph Reed.

And that was Microsoft.

14 Dec 2005. John blogs:
Regarding that Ford thing? We just won.

The Ford Motor Company today released [a] letter...clarifying that whatever did or did not happen behind closed doors with the American Family Association (AFA) two weeks ago, the company is NOT backing off of its support for the gay community or gay advertising (in contrast to what was reported over the past two weeks).

10 days, and...boom.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A baker's dozen of CDs I've enjoyed in 2005

These are in completely arbitrary order and not limited to CDs actually released this year. Links are to reviews or old blog postings I've written about them.

Love Rocks

This two-CD set is in benefit of the Human Rights Campaign, “the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country.” Inasmuch as the music “rocks,” as per the title, it’s a gentle kind of rocking, with a handful of exceptions.

But there's enough new discoveries and old favorites, coupled with the good cause, to make it worth your while. Or mine anyway. But I still resent this CD for making me like a Mandy Moore record...

Piney Gir-"Peakahokaboo"

Swinging and simple.

Soft Cell-"The Very Best Of"

My Mann James sent me this off my wish list, although, he assured me, normally it would be against his principles to further the spread of Soft Cell in any way. I felt like such a failure as an "eighties man" without at least one of their CDs in my collection.

But I had also always felt as though I should like Soft Cell more than I did...and now I've done a complete 180. I fucking love this album.

Book Of Love-"Candy Carol"

I've been wanting to hear this 1991 CD ever since I read a review of it in The Trouser Press Record Guide:

The synth arrangements run from trite ("Butterfly") to subtle ("Candy Carol," which makes cute use of a melody that comes pre-programmed on every $30 Casio), as do the lyrics: "Quiver" is simple and dumb, while "Flower Parade" consists of an a cappella list of floral species, and "Orange Flip" is a kicky little ode to lipstick colors.

Yeah! Finally found it in a Half Price store for three bucks this year.

Mary Had A Little Amp

This is one of those "grownups doing songs from their childhood for other grownups" CDs. It's in benefit of a preschool education division of People For The American Way, a fine organization. Four words: "Rainbow Connection." Dixie Chicks. Music to my ears...

Lesbians On Ecstasy

On band name alone, I pretty much had to, didn't I?

Leonard Cohen-"Dear Heather"

I don't revere Mr. Cohen as some do, but I do like him, especially when he doesn't sink so deep into his depressions.

Dixie Chicks-"Top Of The World Tour Live"

I became an unabashed fan of the Dixie Chicks music in 2004, after seeing the "Concert For Change" on TV. Which I still hold is one of the best concerts you'll ever see, regardless of your musical taste or political beliefs. Pray god it'll be released on DVD or CD soon.

Prior to that, I was admittedly more of a fan of their cute, and their political feelings.


Vince Clarke and Andy Bell are the Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of techno-pop, in both the good and bad ways. Genre pioneers who made some of the most definitive singles of a decade, and whose last albums haven't been much to go wild over.
But one or two of the melodic, gently rocking singles on this CD have really grown on me. Plus, check out that cover-is that lovely or what?

Pitty Sing-"demons, you are the stars in cars 'till I die"

Possibly the greatest hook of the year: "We'll fuck on the radio."

Maria Marquez-"Natures Princess (Princesa de la Naturaleza)"

A voice like the ghost of Billie Holiday living in the sax of a skillful player, lending the songs an ageless quality.

Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason-"Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

I won't kid you-I never watched the movie, and I don't even like most of the songs on this CD. But it's how I got Kylie Minogue's "Can't You Out Of My Head." All together now: La la la, la la la la la la, la la la...

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult-"Confessions of a Knife"

This was just replacing on CD a tape by a band of which the aforementioned Trouser Press said, "There's house music...and then there's Amityville Horror music."

Again: I suspected as much

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!

You drink everyone under the table.

Top of the morning to ye!

Just a quick shot

Quoted verbatim and in toto from Think Progress:
Don’t call it a comeback. President Bush’s job approval at 38%, according to a new Zogby poll. (Via Political Wire)

Monday, December 12, 2005

There's no denying it, they've got me there

Virile Amorous Romeo Kindly Exchanging Naughty Touches and Intense, Natural Embraces

Feh. It's a doddle.

You'd think they'd at least try to make it difficult.

Um...thanks...I think...

According to this quiz, my inner supermodel is Elle Mcpherson.

I don't believe in Beatles

As you may have noticed, a lot of people have been marking the 25th anniversary of the shooting of John Lennon. Mostly this takes the forms you would expect. Vaguely nauseating essays about "What John Lennon Taught Me."

Look, Lennon is a hero. He's one of my heroes. And I understand his place as an icon of the '60s. But what I can't stand is the Ono-approvoved, "Imagine"-documentary and "Rolling Stone" style deification of the man.

You may say he was a dreamer, I say he was also a woman-beating, family-abandoning drug addict. How do I know that? Because he was quite open about it in interviews and his own songs. I may be wrong, but I believe that a man who talked so much about insisting upon the truth would want the whole truth told about himself.

Those parts of the truth seem to get left out in all the attempts to enshrine Lennon and declare his songs "hymns" and "anthems". Even though that truth doesn't, to me, lessen his creative or personal accomplishments.

When I say he was and is a hero, I mean it in both senses. Artistically, obviously. If I could write one thing that meant as much to somebody as "Strawberry Fields Forever" has meant to me, I'd be a happy man.

But personally, too. This was a man who saw where his thinking was screwed and his behaivor was bad, and strove to correct them. That's fucking impressive. To paint a picture of his life with nothing bad or nasty in it, that's what lessens his creative and personal accomplishments.

And that's what seems to get lost in all the glory and tribute, as though he were placed on earth by angels, a Liverpool urchin whose feet never quite touched the ground.

Oh, come the motherfucking fuck on!

From Bush's speech in Philadelphia today:

Not far from here, where we gather today, is a symbol of freedom familiar to all Americans: the Liberty Bell. When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public, the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration and a witness said, It rang as if it meant something.

From Suburban Guerrilla:

It’s believed highly unlikely that the Liberty Bell was rung at the reading of the Declaration, because the steeple was in such poor condition. But BushCo never lets a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good story, now, do they?

The man lies about everything. Somebody remind me: What is it that people who didn't like Clinton claimed was their reason for being upset about the Lewinsky affair? Oh right, he lied. Boy. I expect those self-same people will be starting an "impeach Bush" movement any day now.

Because otherwise, it would be like saying they just didn't like Clinton and were looking for any excuse to push him out, however threadbare. And I know they would hate anyone to think that.

I'm sorry, this still seems really stupid to me

As The Adventures of the Sisterhood of the Irritating T-Shirts continue...

The local teen organizers of a "girlcott" that led Abercrombie & Fitch to pull two T-shirts from its shelves will visit the company's headquarters today to pitch their own designs.
Fourteen girls from Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers will take a bus this morning to the clothier's headquarters in New Albany, Ohio, near Columbus, for a 90-minute afternoon meeting with company executives and managers.

The young women are keeping mum about what designs they have in mind until they can make their pitch, and there is no guarantee Abercrombie & Fitch will use their designs.

And even less of one that their designs will be funny, which at least the irritating t-shirts were, in my opinion and that of a couple smart women I know. It's hard to be funny if you're trying to send a message.

I'm sorry, I'm just not as excited as, say, Feministing about what looks to me like an obvious attempt by A&F to exploit the young women for PR purposes.

Schenley High School junior Emma Blackman-Mathis, 16, said she is nervous and excited that her group might have a chance to spread its message through fashion.

"I'm really, really excited to think about the fact that in a year these empowering T-shirts will be in pop culture mainstream stores, and that's mindblowing," Blackman-Mathis said.

And maybe it's just me, but I don't think I've ever, ever felt empowered by a t-shirt that either I or anybody else was wearing. Is it a girl thing? And I ask that semi-seriously, from my position as a pro girl-power kind of guy.

But this whole thing continues to look to me like an example of women caring way, way too much about fashion.

Honor thy father

Okay. You know "60 Minutes" newsman Mike Wallace. And you may have seen elsewhere that, in an interview last week to promote his new book, Wallace suggested that maybe, just maybe, George Bush's presidency might have something "to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up."

Strong words, to be sure. And you would expect people of differing political belief to take exception to them. What you might not expect is for the man's own son, a Fox News anchor, to say that his father is a drooling idiot.

From AmericaBlog:

"He's lost it. The man has lost it. What can I say," the younger Wallace lamented to WRKO Boston radio host Howie Carr on Friday.

"He's 87-years old and things have set in," the Fox anchor continued.

Y'know, agree with him or not, the elder Wallace has won every major award in journalism. I saw him on "The Daily Show" not long ago, and he sure didn't come off like Grampa Simpson. He seemed fully in command of his faculties, and he made me want to read his book. I'm in the "hold line" for it at my library right now.

Surely he deserves better. How sharper than a serpent's tooth...

Jeepers Creepers

According to MyDD, Republicans are now saying that if Teddy Kennedy questions Alito's ethics during his confirmation hearings, they'll bring up Chappaquiddick. Gosh, I just love the way this White House has restored civility to the public debate, don't you?

Look, I'm not here to defend Kennedy's actions (or lack of same) in the Chappaquiddick incident. I've been skeptical about it for years, and have even been known to make dark-humored jokes about it once or twice.

But here's the thing. That event has been public knowledge since 1969. Whatever mysteries remain, the people of Massachusetts have seen fit to keep sending Kennedy to the Senate. I'm not expecting him to say if it doesn't bother them, it shouldn't bother anyone else, but at least he can say that it's out there.

Kennedy has been a very public figure for over 35 years, people know who and what he is and isn't. The trouble with Alito, though, is that his supporters are trying to slide him through with a sideshow rather than allow an honest debate about his beliefs, judical or otherwise.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Or they might have just said "you are a blogger" and left it at that

You Have a Melancholic Temperament

Introspective and reflective, you think about everything and anything.
You are a soft-hearted daydreamer. You long for your ideal life.
You love silence and solitude. Everyday life is usually too chaotic for you.

Given enough time alone, it's easy for you to find inner peace.
You tend to be spiritual, having found your own meaning of life.
Wise and patient, you can help people through difficult times.

At your worst, you brood and sulk. Your negative thoughts can trap you.
You are reserved and withdrawn. This makes it hard to connect to others.
You tend to over think small things, making decisions difficult.

National Treasure

Roger Ebert eulogizes Richard Pryor:
Although the obituaries will make much of his nearly fatal accident and his long battle with multiple sclerosis, the most significant entry may be this one: In 1998, he won the first Mark Twain Prize for humor from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He said in his acceptance speech he had been able to use humor as Mark Twain did, "to lessen people's hatred."

When you look again at his three great performance films, you realize that was exactly what he did: It was when he was live in front of an audience that the full range of his gifts was seen most clearly. Drugs muddled some of the early stages of his career, and his disease finally silenced him, but in the early 1980s, after he was clean and sober and before he fell ill, there was a flowering of genius. In 2004, Comedy Central placed him first on its list of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time.

He had about 25 starring roles, often opposite Gene Wilder, who would play the straight man when they did interviews together. This is from their visit to Chicago to promote their biggest hit, "Silver Streak" (1976):

Wilder: "What are you doing next?"

Mr. Pryor: "It's a movie called 'Which Way Is Up?' This Italian director, Lina Wertmuller ..."

Wilder: "No! Oh, my God! I'll kill myself!"

Mr. Pryor: "What you moaning about, man?"

Wilder: "You're going to work with Lina Wertmuller? She passed right by me and saw you and said 'I must have that young man'?"

Mr. Pryor: "You didn't let me finish. She made this movie called 'The Seduction of Mimi,' and this will be a remake, set among the grape pickers of California."

Wilder: "I would have killed myself out of envy."

Mr. Pryor: "And then I'm in a remake of 'Arsenic and Old Lace.'"

Wilder: "Oh, my God! My favorite play next to 'Hamlet.' All black cast, I suppose, nothing for me."

Mr. Pryor: "And then I'm doing 'Hamlet.'"

In "Silver Streak," they did their own stunts, including one where they hung out of a train at 50 mph, Mr. Pryor holding Wilder by the belt.

"I'm thinking, one slip of my foot, and goodbye, Gene!" Mr. Pryor said.

"What gave me a lot of confidence," Wilder said, "was that Richie promised me that if I went, he went, too. If I fell off the train and was killed, he would throw himself after me."

"Of course," said Mr. Pryor, "they had me wired to the train."

Read more here.

This, of course, comes as a surprise to no one

I wish I could remember who said this, but it's not original to me: Ask yourself how much progress has been made in rebuilding anything where the World Trade Center used to be. That's two buildings. New Orleans was a city.

An editorial in today's New York Times begins:
We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

My brain! My hot, steaming brain!

Okay. You guys remember the classic original run of Ren & Stimpy, and how arguably the funniest parts of any episode were the "Ren goes psycho" moments? Well, sometimes I run across news items that make me feel like a cross between that and John Cleese at his most mad. ("That's just the sort of blinkered, philistine pig-ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage.")

What brought it on now? Well, let me put it like this. I see from USA Today...

Guess who's coming for honey? As part of a barrel-full of Winnie the Pooh anniversary events, Disney is working on a new animated series that will replace Christopher Robin with a 6-year-old girl.

"We got raised eyebrows even in-house at first, but the feeling was these timeless characters really needed a breath of fresh air that only the introduction of someone new could provide," says Nancy Kanter of the Disney Channel.

But some fans no doubt will feel that Winnie's world was fine just the way it was. "This strikes me as a step too far away from the vision of the original books," says Kathleen Horning, who trains children's book librarians at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Besides, growing up, I had no problem relating to Christopher Robin. He almost had a non-specific gender."

Disney's Kanter says the new cartoon represents not an abandonment of an old, familiar world, but rather an alternate universe for Pooh and his crew.

"Christopher Robin is still out there in the woods, playing," she says. "We hope people will fall for this new tomboyish girl. The last thing we want to be is the ones who brought the franchise down."

Okay. As a fan of the books, the original cartoons, and tomboyish girls, I feel the need to say: Are you out of your freaking mind? Timeless characters don't need a breath of fresh air. Thats why they're timeless.

(Deep breaths. Control.)

There is a special place in hell for people like Nancy Kanter. And I note with grim satisfaction and pleasure the Dickensian stature of her name: Kanter. Cant-er. As in: Can't think of any characters herself that would equal the ones people have been falling for since 1925, without her little attempts to "freshen up the franchise."

So she has to fuck up somebody else's. This is the worst slap in the face to generations of fans since the WB's attempt to "revitalize" Bugs and friends.

About freaking time, too, we might add

Prolific and irascible SF author Harlan Ellison has been named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and will be honored at the Nebula Award Weekend in Tempe, Ariz., May 4-7, 2006, the SFWA Web site reported. SF writer William F. Nolan will serve as the 2006 Author Emeritus.

Since his first sale, "Glowworm," to Infinity Science Fiction in 1956, Ellison has shaped and sometimes re-shaped modern science fiction, the SFWA said. As a writer and as an anthologist, his influence, though sometimes controversial, has been vast. Ellison won seven Hugo Awards; three Nebula Awards; many script-writing awards for his television work, which included episodes of the original Star Trek; an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; and various World Fantasy Awards.

Always a champion for writers, Ellison led the legal fight against AOL with his "Kick Internet Piracy" campaign to hold Internet service providers responsible for pirate sites. He also helped to launch the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Actually, as any "Ellisonista" worth his-or-her salt knows, Ellison wrote only one episode of the original Star Trek, the acclaimed "City on the Edge of Forever." And for him, it was such a bad experience (his work was forcibly rewritten by other hands and Gene Roddenberry spent years lying about why) it was never repeated.

As noted here last month, Ellison is one of my favorite authors. It seems safe to make an educated guess that he has mixed feelings about being glorified as a science fiction writer, however high the honor. Given his justified insistence over the years on being identified as a writer, without categorization.

More memories of Richard Pryor

The obits are sure to be piling up-a lot of people loved Richard Pryor, and I hope he died knowing that. I'll be posting more good ones as I find them, so check back if you're interested.

Digby starts out by noting,
If you would like to have a surreal experience akin to the effects of downing ten shots of cheap tequila, tune in to FoxNews as they eulogize Richard Pryor. Apparently he invented dirty words. (It's going to come as a helluva surprise to Lenny Bruce --- not to mention Redd Foxx.) He rejected the comedy of the good comedian, Bill Cosby, and went down the "wrong path" that led us to where we are today with all this R rated badness. One of the commentators said that when he went on TV in the mid 70's he "wasn't ready for prime time." (Actually, prime time wasn't ready for him.) Another said that "every black comic owes him something."

And now for a commercial break