Friday, June 30, 2006

Republicans Welcome "Guy from Japan"

One thing Sean Hannity does that I really like is label certain people “Great Americans.” Hank Williams Jr. was on his radio show the other day and was attributed “Great American” no less than three hundred times in about 15 minutes. Well, he seems to love his country. After all he is playing in the Hannity Freedom Concert. For $54 you too can attend a concert honoring the high ideal of freedom. What's more American than that?

Perhaps as a weekly segment on this blog I’ll dish out Great American awards. So, here we go.

The "Sean Hannity Great American of the Week Award" goes to a woman from Memphis, Tennessee. President Bush took Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Graceland today. Koizumi is a self described “big-time” Elvis fan. Locals came out to catch a glimpse of the world leaders.

One enthusiastic, Republican Elvis fan said, “[I’m here] because I love my President, and I love Elvis. Throw in the guy from Japan and I just couldn’t miss it.”

"The guy from Japan"? Oh, that world leader, dude. Yeah.

Did she even know who Koizami was? "Who?" she replied when asked.

When told he was the prime minister of Japan she laughed and said, “I can’t even pronounce his name but he’s an Elvis fan; you have to love that.”

She loves Elvis, that's very American. She seems to love America so much that she can't be bothered to know a world leader's name when he comes to her own city. I'd score her a free ticket to the "Freedom Concert" if I could but for now she'll have to settle for the "Sean Hannity Great American of the Week" award. Congratulations, Woman from Memphis!

Oh, and welcome to America, Guy from Japan!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Activist Judges Strike Again

Conservatives winced on a day when activist judges struck consecutive blows to injustice and bigotry. Proving once again their grave threat to the United States, the Supreme Court ruled today that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees. In a move no-doubt motivated by morality and justice, the court handed down its ruling in a strong rebuke written by Justice John Paul Stevens.

Two years ago President Bush asserted that he had the authority to seize detain terror suspects, hold them indefinitely while denying them access to legal representation, and prosecute them in military tribunals. Today the court baffled and angered conservatives by saying the President of the United States had no such authority.

The court wrote, “We conclude that the military commission convened to try (Salim Ahmed) Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate the international agreement that covers treatment of prisoners of war, as well as US military laws.”

The ruling was concerned with Article 3 of the Geneva Convention which prohibits the passing of sentences and carrying out executions without proper and fair legal proceedings. The administration had previously argued that Article 3 did not apply because terror suspects were not affiliated with any particular nation-state.

But, as Justice Stevens explained, “The D. C. Circuit ruled Common Article 3 inapplicable…because the conflict with al Qaeda is international in scope and thus not a “conflict not of an international character.” That reasoning is erroneous.”

Conservative bloggers were quick to respond.

“Of course what this means, is that the Court has decided that America has a treaty with the terrorists, that they are somehow signatories of the Geneva Convention,” commented Zeropointblog. “We’re kind of fighting a war here, and there’s no time for playing footsie with the enemy.”

He has a point. Did we care about due process during the Civil War? How come Abraham Lincoln can suspend Habeas Corpus and not George W. Bush? Did we care about legal procedure when we rounded up thousands of Japanese-Americans and put them in camps in the California desert? No! And we won both those wars.

The blog JayRedding reasoned, “Applying Article 3 protections to members of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda essentially rewards the breaking of the Geneva Conventions. It destroys any real differentiation between legal and illegal combatant, thereby conferring a horrible sense of legitimacy to terrorist actions. There’s now no downside to being a terrorist rather than a soldier who follows the Conventions as far as the US legal system is concerned.”

Regardless of your opinion, this ruling will no-doubt become a lightning rod for conservatives and evangelicals as yet another example of judicial activism running amok and ruining our country. If those captured in war are granted rights then who is next? Gays? The poor?! It's reported that Pat Robertson leg-pressed 2000 lbs today just out of sheer contempt for the decision.

While many view this as a blow against America, just as many are rejoicing at the ruling. For those, apparently, people have rights, regardless of their national affiliation. I think the idea is that some principles transcend national lines; some rights are simply humane and are not to be restricted by national boundaries. To them, America is a nation founded on those inalienable rights, and is affirmed when they are upheld.

Of course those people are liberal bed-wetters, hippie flower people, pot-smoking, tree-hugging, GLBTQ, east coast, west coast, socialistic, college educated, Dixie Chick fans…easily shrugged off by the tough talking, red-state living, truck driving, hard-hat, over-taxed, aching back, flag waving, fun-loving conservative crowd. After the ruling Bush reiterated his commitment to protect America from “killers” and the 460 people held in Guantanamo without cause. Some breathed a sign of relief. Some applauded the defense of justice from Bush’s commitments. And some won the right to a fair trial.

The very same day a court in Arkansas struck a blow to bigotry by backing gay foster parents. Arkansas can now no longer ban homosexuals from becoming foster parents. The ruling pointed out that there was no link between parents' sexual orientation and a child's well being. This overturns a 1999 ban by the state's child welfare board saying children should be in traditional two-parent homes because they would be more likely to thrive.

"There is no correlation between the health, welfare and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual," the court explained. "The driving force between adoption of the regulations was not to promote the health, safety and welfare of foster children but rather based upon the board’s views of morality and its bias against homosexuals.”

This, unintentionally, strikes right at the heart of the entire "sanctity of marriage" defense employed skillfully by marriage and family experts like James Dobson who believe gay marriage could destroy Western Civilization as we know it. Not only may it not destroy civilization, it may not even be bad for children.

It's Hard Being Rush

OK, it's been kind of a busy week here. Yeah, I could have blogged Rush Limbaugh's Viagra situation but that was just too easy. I don't want to "raise" any issues; drug addiction is no laughing matter. It's "hard" enough being Rush without me "busting his balls." If a guy wants to "go down" to the Caribbean and have a fun weekend of sex what do I care?

But seriously, when I heard this story the first thing I thought of was: how'd security know? Why'd they check the pill bottles in his bag? What "tipped" them off? Maybe it was that pesky 48 hour erection.

"Ladies and gentlemen, isn't that always the way? You take an entire bottle of Viagra to an exotic Caribbean island and you end up with one of those 48 hour erections and you have to get on a plane and try walk past security..."

On his radio show Rush did ponder how Bob Dole's pills got in his bag and told customs that he bought them at Bill Clinton's Library gift-shop. Though detained for three hours Rush "got off" clean and was not charged.

I found out Al Gore is really, really hated. Wired magazine's article about him received a ton of hate mail--stuff like defaced pictures of Gore and sending back the magazine cover shredded. Wow. I could see regarding him with pity or contempt, but hatred? I thought hatred is reserved for people like George Bush, Karl Rove, and Subway's Jared. Eh, what do I know?

Speaking of Jared, did you notice John Lovitz ("Subway, eat fresssh!") is moving in on his turf? I feel an old fashioned East Coast / West Coast gang fight coming on with Jared taking it in the end. He just has way too much to "lose.” Et tu, Jared?

Have you seen the new Superman commercials replete with thrash rock music? I'm not into it.

I saw Pearl Jam and Tom Petty in concert the other night, that was pretty cool. Petty pranced around like a blue-jeaned pixie, and Eddie Vedder looked like a homeless guy they brought in through the back door. The dude can sing though, wow. Advantage? Vedder.

The DJ on the radio was talking about famous National Anthem / Seventh Inning Stretch bombs. Of course this is right up my alley. What discussion of "worst national anthem renditions" could be complete without Rosanne Barr's crotch-grabbing number? Alanis Morissette’s 2005 NBA finals performance was also mentioned due to its extreme length. I went to youtube to rummage for a clip but I couldn't find it. I did, however, find this, one of my all-time favorites.

I hope everyone has a great 4th of July. Fireworks, while cool, can also maim. Don't light them off in your hand, no matter how much you've had to drink. My friend, Dave, learned that lesson the hard way.

Friday, June 23, 2006

WMDs, Rick Santorum and Me

Pennsylvania has had to deal with Rick Santorum as a congressional representative for a long time. Emboldened by President Bush's kindling of religious fervor, Santorum has come out of the spiritual closet during the last six years to take his place among other evangelical guiding-lights. In the process he has established himself as a defender of conservative virtues on The Hill.

But things are getting dire for Rick Santorum. The outspoken Senator is currently down 18 percent to challenger Bob Casey. While Santorum should have been riding high (last year he released a book on-top of his autobiography Rick Santorum -- think: Cash by Johnny Cash), he is in danger of losing everything. And so while Casey has been criticizing the Republicans and saying that the decision to go to war was a mistake, Santorum thundered back yesterday by holding a press conference declaring "we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

See for yourself from "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," thanks to youtube.

It was a nice attempt to take the wind out of Casey's sails except for the inconvenient truth that the WMDs in question are 15 years old and largely inoxuous. Santorum was referencing a de-classified document like a minister who has the verse memorized but delivers an interpretation far less than divine. The Defense Department had to step in and explain the pre-1991 origin of the munitions in question, the fact that these munitions were well-known, the fact that we have been collecting these muntions in Iraq for three years, and, in summary, that these are "not the WMDs for which this country went to war." The devil is indeed in the details.
Well, what can we expect anyway? Can a grapevine bear figs? This is the same wellspring that gave us statements like:

"I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts."
and

"While it is no excuse for this [Priest] scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm?"
Yes, Santorum is a well-known champion of Compassionate Conservatism; his philosophy was detailed in his book It Takes a Family: Conservativism and the Common Good. And this compassion was displayed when regarding hurricane Katrina victims in this way: "people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings ... There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving."

His handlers quickly reined him in and a few days later he decided that most people who did not leave New Orleans literally did not have the means to leave. I guess Santorum, one of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" (according to Time magazine), has a hard time understanding the poor or at least how poverty limits people's freedom. What do the poor have to do with Jesus anyway? They're certainly not lobbying very hard.

While Santorum made Time's "Evangelical" list, he was being placed on other lists as well. Lists like the "13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress" by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. In fairness, it's really hard to stay off that list when you surround yourself with evangelists whose goal is to raise money and votes for you via well-meaning believers sitting in church. That combination is just rife with ethical implications and always has been.

But don't be too hard on guys like Santorum. They have a lot to lose, and important work to continue. God's work. And that's why he simply has to stand up in front of you and stretch the truth. Or believe really, really strongly what he's saying to you is true. Or hope you're not paying too close attention. He's a crusader in the same mold as Tom DeLay or Karl Rove or anyone else who will do what ever it takes to continue their cause even at the sake of principles.

Religious leaders acquire power by being organized and preying upon people's desire to have meaningful and positive lives. They carry a torch of principles and draw people to them. But once they have that power a pesky thing happens:
the cause to defend the principles often becomes more important than the principles themselves. 2000 years ago a rabbi threatened contemporary conventions and he was killed by the most religious people around. It was no problem for them to overlook the very rules they were trying to safeguard, in an attempt to safeguard their cause. In the same way you and I get snuffed out while power players break their own rules to keep those very rules in place. Ironic? Hypocritical? Oh, just details.

When you or I get seen with "tax collectors and sinners" people like Santorum can't wait to drop the hammer. But what about when he aligns himself with the Pharisees and the Sadducees? All of those who love the seat of power so much should be worried--one day the first shall be last. This eschatological preview seems to have come early for Santorum. The people of Pennsylvania have had enough, but don't expect him to go down quietly. Look for him to take another page out of God's playbook and begin creating, ex nihilo, reasons why he should be re-elected. God may have given us light but his representatives do a far poorer job. To listen to them continually keeps me in the dark.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Connie Chung Vaulted to Internet History

One time nightly news anchor and respected journalist Connie Chung ended her short-lived MSNBC show "Weekends with Maury & Connie" in style. From atop a piano, and in a sheer white dress, she worked her way through a self-deprecating version of "Thanks for the Memories." Yeah, it was a joke, but it's still odd to watch.

view the clip here on YouTube.com

Rest assured bloggers were on the internet within minutes elevating the event to legendary status, "The Daily Show" lampooned it, and, thanks to sites like YouTube.com, the video clip is rocketing its way through cyberspace. All while you slept! Ironically, Connie has reached a kind of overnight infamy in her show's death, and the kind only the internet can issue. Had she harnessed the power of the web like this when the show began it might have had a much longer shelf life. Ah, well, that's cyberspace for you. One minute you just a guy working in a box factory, the next your star is streaking to epic heights.

The eb and flow is not isolated to the internet either. In televisionland as one show dies another rises from the glames to take its place in the arena. And you know I'm talking about “America’s Got Talent” which premiered tonight on NBC. This show has it all. The “talent” includes everything from drag queens to acrobatic basketball dunkers. At one point a dancing cow was on stage. Now that’s good television! Regis Philbin hosts and David Hasselhoff is a judge. A loud buzzer (think: wrong answer "X" on “Family Feud”) signals that the contestant has essentially been eliminated. It's like a modern-day "Gong Show."

What exactly qualifies David Hasselhoff to be a judge of talent? This does. But, Unlike Connie's song, this is not meant to be a joke. Or is it? Thanks again, youtube.com.

Getting Your Dose of Talk Radio?

Sean: Welcome back everyone. We're going to continue to take phone calls now. Who do we have next? It’s Chris from Seattle. Hello, Chris, you’re on.

Chris: Thank you, Sean. I just want to say that I am sick and tired of these liberals bashing our troops in Iraq. I think it’s disgraceful what they are saying about them.

Sean: I couldn’t agree with you more, Chris. There’s something disgraceful about the way the Democrats are treating our troops. I can’t think of anything more dangerous to this country. I can’t think of anything more demoralizing for our men and women deployed. It just goes to show you what how moronic those liberals are, and how negative they are, always cutting everyone down. They just can't wait to jump on the bandwagon and find the dark side to everything. I don't understand it. Next up we have Sarah, from Jacksonville. Hello, Sarah, you’re on the air.

Sarah: Hi, Sean, I’m so excited to be on the air.

Sean: Well, Sarah, we’re happy to have you. How old are you anyway?

Sarah: Oh, I’m few years your junior.

Sean: Well you sound healthy and effervescent. Please go ahead.

Sarah: I just want to say that I love Ann Coulter. I think there’s a total double standard about the way she is treated. When liberals degrade someone the press never says anything. Ann Coulter gets ripped.

Sean: You’re exactly right, Sarah. Ann Coulter gave four specific examples rather than these liberals who just lump everyone in while they try to ruin this country. It’s just disgraceful. The press didn’t seem to care when that professor from Colorado called all of those who died in the Twin Towers “little Eichmanns” did they? I don’t remember the press coming down on that guy. Thank you for your call. See more of Anne Coulter tonight at 9:00 pm on my TV show on Fox. Next we have Rob from Minnesota. Go ahead, Rob.

Rob: Sean, it’s good to be on.

Sean: Good to have you. And, before you start, let me say that I will do everything in my power to make sure you never have to say the word “senator” in front of Al Franken’s name.

Rob: God bless you, Sean. God bless you! You know, I think it’s terrible what these liberals are doing to our troops.

Sean: Rob, you’re exactly right. It’s degrading and demoralizing. But let’s face it, these Democrats don’t know how to fight a war. They don’t understand the nature of this conflict at all. The military is doing it’s job. Abu-Gharib was a terrible thing. It was three soldiers and they have been prosecuted. And the rest of these fine soldiers and marines, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. They are innocent until proven guilty. Next, we have Alison from Charlotte. Go ahead, Alison.

Alison: I just want to say that I love Ann Coulter. America needs more people like her. The liberals are scared of her and you because they know you guys are right and they have no answers.

Sean: She’s a true American. She says what’s on her mind and the liberals can’t handle it. They can’t stand it. They can’t stand the truth. It’s as simple as that. Don’t you agree?

Alison: Yes, I do, Sean. I couldn’t agree more.

Sean: Well, you can catch more of Ann Coulter tonight at 9:00 pm on my television show on Fox. It’s always fun to have her on. Up next we have Lou from Los Angeles. Lou, you’re on.

Lou: Sean!

Sean: Uh, oh, it’s our old friend Lou the Lip!

Lou: Sean, I thought you loved America.

Sean: I do love America, sir.

Lou: What conservatives did to John Kerry is not good for America.

Sean: I’ve read that book by the Swift Boat Veterans and I haven’t found any of it to be false. My advice is to my listeners is to get the book and judge for yourself.

Lou: He went to Vietnam and served his country. He said he went to Cambodia. Most of what he said was true.

Sean: You’re just upset because you guys lost the election. That was two years ago. Let it go already.

Lou: Fine. How can you support these conservatives who run up big deficits?

Sean: I’ve bashed those Republicans responsible for running up the deficit, sir. And the economy is thriving! Employment is up all due to tax cuts. The President got that one right. The only thing better would be to make them permanent. Oh, Lou, when will you learn? I don't mean to dunk on you but you make it so easy. OK we’ve got to take a break but stay tuned for my interview with Alberto Gonzalez.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Who's Your Daddy?

My father was such an interesting man. I wish I had gotten to know him a little better when I had the chance. He was a big man, like a major appliance, moving perceptibly through the house, usually from the garage to the kitchen and back again. In his later years he grew a beard and a Harley and a jean jacket and he looked like some wild hybrid of Robert E. Lee and Saddam Hussein.

He loved that garage. Inside he was surrounded by all manner of noisemaking power tools. As we tried to watch TV he would fire up the band saw or the lathe. Most of his attention was focused on classic cars which he restored with an intense, loving care. If I even so much as got in range of it he would demand to know what I was doing in the garage. But I couldn’t blame him for paying so much attention to those cars. Even flesh and blood can not compete with classic internal combustion.

Once restored he would buff the car to a high gloss shine and drive it to car shows where he would win plaques and ribbons. Soon our family room was lined with these major awards. He hung them around the room like other men hung moose heads. And when he would finally come inside, sometime after we had all gone to sleep, he would sit in his chair, surrounded by this cloud of witnesses. They whispered into his ear and kindled his passion all the more.

There are things I’ll never forget about him. Like the time I sat in the back of his 67’ Ford Mustang at a stop light while a Chevy Camero rolled up along-side us. As the light turned green the Camero burst off the line with animalistic fury, its tires screaming as they attempted to gain some traction. It was barreling down the street ahead of us but my dad hadn’t even moved. It was like he hadn’t even noticed. And then he did it. He mashed the pedal into the floorboards and my body was thrown against the back of the car. The Mustang jumped to life, charging down the street faster and faster. I peeled myself from the back seat and peered out the window just in time to see the Camero to our right and falling behind. We flew through the next intersection and my dad slowed the car to a respectable speed. All I could do was look at him in wide-eyed wonder. “I always give them a head start,” he informed me, and we drove home.

He was a proud man, very sensitive. His Italian emotions were always just below the surface, held fast by efficient German logic. He also could not hear out of one ear, thanks to an explosion in Vietnam. All of this combined to produce what our family will always remember as “the incident.” After a day of fishing, dad was backing the boat into the drive way. My uncle Denny was guiding him in and telling him how much farther he had to go. “OK, that’s good, stop right there,” he said. But dad kept backing up. “Stop, OK! OK, OK!! Stop the damn car..!” But dad couldn’t hear him because Denny was outside on the side of his bad ear. The boat’s outboard motor rammed into the back of the garage with a sickening sound. The aluminum of the garage door buckled and moaned for a moment, while dad abruptly stopped the car and pulled forward. It was bad enough to have crashed the boat into the garage door on dry land. But worse, the motor left an imprint on the door that neighbors could see. We never mentioned the incident in his presence.

Now we are free to recall those moments whose remembrance is heightened by the pride they wounded, like the time dad came crashing through the screen door coming in from the yard. He didn’t see it and simply walked right into it, his mass carrying the screen door off its track and into the middle of the kitchen.

“Who put that damn door there?” He snarled. “Who closed that door?”

There was always a conspiracy afoot. Someone was always trying to take his pride away. But really, nothing could have been further from the truth. We gave him room and steered clear while he worked on cars, mowed the lawn, and parked the boat. We just hoped to god he wouldn’t break anything in the process, because if he wasn’t happy no one was happy. We were just codependents in his life, and our best strategy was just to stay out of the way.

Perhaps the greatest mystery is how a man who loved guns, explosions, and combustion, could produce a son who hated all of those things. As such, I’m sure he regarded me with suspicion and I was never included in those sacred activities because I couldn’t appreciate them from the start. Oh well. We had baseball and snowmobiling, and that’s better than nothing. He had a lot of talent and skill but he was just too scared to share it. He grew up with a father who regarded him with contempt, and so he learned to keep his simple pleasures all to himself. Better to do that then to cast pearl before swine. And now, all of it, from beginning to end, everything he knew, is locked up safely in his head, silenced forever. I wish I had coaxed more of it out of him when I had the chance. Or, better, I wish we had trusted each other enough to share.

But I'm not bitter at all. His heart was in the right place and he put a roof over my head and I knew if anyone did anything to me he'd be there with his shotgun. He was from a different time, for sure. They say dad's are evolving. They can cook and clean and they listen to their kids. I too vow to be different. If I crash into my own garage door I hope my kids get a good laugh out of it. I hope I take the time to explain to them everything I know. It should take about six months, I figure. After all, how long does it take to explain baseball?

Half a Tank of Stupid

I’m that guy behind you on the road. Right behind you. You can’t even see my headlights. It’s 6:30 in the morning, and I’m pinned to your bumper. Oh, there’s nothing you can do about it since you too are stuck behind a car but I’m in a bigger hurry than all of you. What this. I’ll forcefully slide my car into the next lane and blow past everyone. I’m insanely great! Oh, crap, there’s a car in that lane too? Behind another car? Obviously nobody is going anywhere because it’s two rows of cars bumper to bumper for miles but I’m too ridiculously stupid to draw that conclusion. Everyone’s crawling along at about 30 mph but I’m shifting my car back and forth, causing people behind me to brake and let me in. I’m a fired-up ball of male testosterone. I am a animate mass of sexual and vehicular repression.

I didn’t want this Nissan Sentra. My last car was a Pontiac Firebird. It was, before I wrecked it. What the hell is going on here? I have to get to my job down at the factory. I’ve already been late three times this month, and the boss has been riding my ass about it. And, in turn, I ride your ass, and keep my license plate about twelve inches from your bumper. Yeah, I’m pissed at you. I know you can see me back here. It’s like I’m sitting in your backseat, breathing down your neck. Why can’t you just move your car over to the side of the road?

Why can’t driving be more like NASCAR? Why can’t we all just go 150 mph and let the best car win? Because I’d show all ya’ll what’s up, that’s why. There’s an opening! Watch me knife my car right into that spot, right where I was a minute ago. All I need is one car length. Yes, there. Oh, shit, I am good. Christ, I made such a sweet move to get into this lane and there’s a car right in front of me? Didn’t you people see that move? Can’t you give a brother a brake? Move over!

I just can’t plan more than one move ahead. I’ve got so much on my mind. My job, sucks. How’d you like to work down at the plant? Huh? You yuppies. And my girlfriend is thinking of leaving me. Whatever. I think if I keep darting my car from right lane to left, eventually I’ll be at the front of this herd. Maybe all of my problems will vanish like your cars in my rear-view mirror. You’re all followers. Feel my repressed rage. I’m the soul of a firebird, trapped in the body of a sedan. That’s all it is.

Hey, I’ve seen that black SUV before. It was in my rear-view mirror a few minutes ago. How did I get behind it? Damn! What is going on? How come the lane I’m in is always the slowest? It was moving two minutes ago and I wedge my car into it and now I’m sitting here watching cars in the other lane drive by. The right lane is flying past me. I’ve got to find a way to get back into it.

Wait, what’s that? A McDonalds? Oh, God, I could really go for a McGriddle. I didn’t even have breakfast. That damn alarm. What a piece of shit. I don’t even think it went off this morning. It’s a good thing I left the TV on last night, which woke me up. Who has time to even shower anymore when you have to face traffic like this every morning. I’ve got to get one of those McGriddle’s. My boss wont even notice I’m not there if I sneak in through the back door. The rest of the guys on my line will cover for me, wont they? Yeah, they will. I need that McGriddle…it’ll just take a minute.

Wow, what a great move to get back into the right lane, and just-in-time too, I almost missed the McDonalds. I basically just cut over two full lanes to exit, in full traffic! That takes some skill, boy. Why can’t people get paid by how great they drive? Who the hell are you honking at? Motherfucker. It's a good thing this isn't "Grand Theft Auto" or I'd pull you out of your car. Yeah, you. I'm trying to get some breakfast here. So I don't pass out at work. See?

Oh, I can smell that greasy breakfast food. I’ll just get it to go and….Jesus Christ this drive-through line is not moving. What are you doing up there? Order! Let’s go! Are you actually reading the menu? You don’t know what McDonalds has for breakfast? They need a special line for you people. All of you. Everyone. Well, nothing I can do now. I'm stuck. It looks like we're all stuck. I’ll just blast some Toby Keith out of my kick-ass great stereo system while we all sit and wait. Who doesn’t like Toby Keith? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Paul, They Say It's Your Birthday

Born James Paul McCartney in London on this day in 1942, you helped rewrite music history as a member of the Beatles. You combined forces with John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Star to form what would become the greatest musical force of the 20th century. Though the Beatles started playing small clubs in Liverpool in 1960, by 1964 they were a juggernaut, landing in America and playing the Ed Sullivan show to 74 million viewers. Beatlemania quickly went global. But amazingly you and your little band continually exceeded the hype, producing landmark singles and albums. The catalog produced from 1962 through 1970 is incredible to say the last, with hits covering musical ranges of pop, rock, folk, and psychedelic, all before you were 30.

In 1972, after the break up of the Beatles, you went on to form the group Wings with your wife Linda McCartney as a member. Your solo career continued through the 1980s working with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. In 1996 you received knighthood by the Queen of England. That, however, was overshadowed by Linda’s death at the age of 56.

Though your work has often been cited as being light, your contributions to music are without question and many of your songs form a type of soundtrack for many of my younger years. In 1967 the Beatles released the landmark album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band.” On that album, 39 years ago, you asked rhetorical questions about your life in the song “When I’m 64.” Now, today, you are 64. Happy Birthday.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Gloomy Life of a Terrorist

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had plenty of answers, before he died from a US air attack. Found in his hideout was a blueprint for how to wage a war between the United States and Iran and a strategy on how to destroy relations between the United States and Shiites in Iraq. A document found there also shed some light on the outlook of today's terrorist--guess what, it's gloomy.

“Time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance,” the document said “Generally speaking and despite the gloomy present situation, we find that the best solution in order to get out of this crisis is to involve the U.S. forces in waging a war against another country or any hostile groups.”

The document also said that the insurgency was failing to attract more recruits. The United States suffered a similar problem a year ago when recruitment levels fell alarmingly low. How did the military turn things around? By increasing the number of recruiters and upping enlistment bonuses. Soon, men ages 18-35 just couldn’t say no to the idea of strict discipline, deployment and warfare.

Terrorists have no such elements in their favor. Their recruiters have died at an alarming rate, blowing themselves up with improvised explosive devices. The terrorists can also offer no monetary bonuses because those they recruit often have no reason to buy anything ever again. It's almost as if the allure of death and mayhem is losing its appeal to would-be insurgents.

Ahh, the gloomy life of a terrorist. Maybe they are finally starting to realize that when you spend all your time plotting how to kill yourself and others, it leaves precious little time for friends and loved ones. That said, my plan to save Iraq would be to plant Victoria’s Secrets all around. I think we've taken the first step by wearing the terrorists down, now it's time to offer them things worth living for. It's a stepped plan: 1) plant stores all around, 2) women like feeling sexy, 3) men get distracted.

Girlfriend: honey, where are you going?
Terrorist: baby, you know I have that meeting tonight…uh, with the guys.
Girlfriend: ohh baby, no. You promised you’d stay home tonight.
Terrorist: you know Tuesdays are our big night...erm, poker night!
Girlfriend: but if you go you won’t get to see what I bought at VS this afternoon.

*cue raunchy music*

See? We’re only human. And yeah, guys will be guys. It's no accident that most fanatics are young men, before they've mellowed out a little. Most guys love explosisons, loud noises, and team sports. So, you can see how young males could be succeptable to the seductive call to be a martyr, can't you? We need to fight fire with fire. What's one thing guys like more than explosions and loud noises? You guessed it. See, there's more to life than acting like a jerk. The sooner fanatics around the world realize this the better. You don’t build a better world by living a gloomy existence. I think tomorrow’s terrorists are figuring that out. While strapping yourself into a truck full of explosives and plowing into a building might be some guy’s idea of fun, I’d rather wake up in the morning and thank God for another day of life.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Escape from Poseidon

OK, listen, it’s been a stinker of a summer movie season so far.
They're bad and they seem to be multiplying. There's only one thing to do: grab your 12 gauge and blast them while they come through the door. Or, as I do, get on the internet within minutes and register your digust through-out the world. Here are my reviews and predictions for the 2006 summer movie season.

Mission Impossible: 3 (aka: M:I:III) -- So far this was the best movie I’ve seen this summer, but that’s not saying much. Points added for nice pacing, Lawrence Fishburne and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Points taken away for five (count ‘em) Tom Cruise running scenes.

Poseidon -- I haven’t seen it. That’s my review. I read somewhere you could put an eye patch on Kurt Russell and call it “Escape from Poseidon.” Cool.

The DaVinci Code -- You know, I really didn’t have too much of a problem with this movie but it certainly was not to be taken seriously. I think alarmed Christians should be embarrassed or ashamed of themselves. Points added for finally ending all the Code hype. Points taken away for Hanks’ hair, Sir Ian McKellan, movie length.

Over the Hedge -- Haven’t seen it; going to rent it someday…maybe. It’s supposed to be decent but the idea of little animals running all over the screen, yelling and screaming makes me nervous. I saw “Chicken Little” and hated it for the same reason. Some people are afraid of clowns. I’m afraid of computer animated rodents voiced by Steven Colbert and paced double time and stuffed with as many clich├ęs as possible.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand – Saw it and it was a real stinker if you ask me. Pretty dark and serious and just didn’t create a convincing atmosphere for me. The “protest” scenes seemed ridiculous. Even liberals do a better job at expressing angst.

Cars – Haven’t seen it, yet but I’ll go. It’s Pixar, come on! The previews haven’t done anything for me. I understand children / family movies often revolve around life lessons but this movie seems to come right out and say them rather than let you just naturally “get” it.

Nacho Libre: Ummm…I just don’t think so. Sorry. Yeah, Jack Black can be funny. Yeah, he can sing. Yeah, he’s probably insane. Throw in some wrestling and some kids and you’ve got a great movie, right? I guess I have a principle that says if Hollywood is banking you’ll go see a movie for all the obvious reasons they probably haven’t given it too much thought.

Superman Returns: I predict only Kevin Spacey will determine if this movie soars or dies a slow death. Personally, I’m hoping it works. But there’s more to the Man of Steel than flashy special effects.

Pirates of the Caribean: Dead Man’s Chest: It’s probably going to be cool. But it might also be high on itself. I’m predicting it’ll be a winner.

Miami Vice: In this 80s this show was synonymous with cool. So far the trailers look greasy.

Snakes on a Plane: THE big hit of the summer. I’m not joking here. I think everyone should go out and see it, as a vote of disgust about the movies that have been unleashed upon us this summer. At least this movie doesn’t ask to be taken seriously and for that, at this point, it has my thumbs up.


Side note: Technically, not a summer movie, I watched "Munich" the other night. It was terrible. I can't believe that thing was nominated for best picture. First of all, it was long. Can I get a movie that isn't three hours long anymore? (A three hour movie now automatically signals a film full of self importance, unable to control even its own footprint.) Secondly, the word "sweat" kept coming to mind as I watched it. The actors seemed to really be working hard to make this movie a great fim. I just found it hard work to sit through.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Conservative Eats Liberal on Sunday Morning Show

All I want to know is: what happened? Ten years ago I used to watch “Politically Incorrect.” Host Bill Mahr would invite four guests to his round table to chat about current issues. There was always a token conservative or Republican at the table to give the debate some balance. Invariably these Republicans were crusty, wooden, sheepish, and squeamish. “My God,” I thought, “Can’t they find a Republican that can put a decent sentence together?” Most of the time they seemed completely lost or out of touch.

Of course that was 1996, and the most powerful person the Republicans could find was Bob Dole. Imagine that! Now Bob Dole wouldn’t even make it in the front door of a Republican controlled congress. The average Republican on TV is fatter, stronger, louder, more confident, and more patriotic than ever before. They are simply faster, smarter, and better; grown on a scientific diet of patriotism and vague Christian values; trained in the vast underground complexes of the RNC.

On the flip-side, Democrats seem to be getting wirier, whinier, and weaker all the time. What is going on? Their arch-lord Howard Dean looks like he could take a bite out of plywood, or tear a man’s tongue out with his bare hands. By contrast most Democrats on TV look like they just left the big game after pulling up limp.

Sunday on “This Week” a large Republican completely dominated a talking-points Democrat. Not only had the Republican seized a place at George Stephanopoulos’ table while the Democrat watched from a TV screen, but he handled the entire interview with a sublime combination of gung-ho patriotism and quarterback cockiness. The interview could be summed up in one phrase by the Republican, referring to the recent special election in California, “We got a win.” Simple as that. Need to know more? Please see the scoreboard.

Republicans were once a verbose bunch of old-timers who sounded completely out of touch with America. They were kind of like your grandfather at a holiday dinner. They’d tell you stories about the great war, about the depression, about the great Teddy Roosevelt. Now? The party simply hasn’t started until they arrive. And, over the course the evening, they’ll call you a coward if don’t agree with them. They’ll question your walk with God if you don’t vote with them. They’re building fences and invading countries and taking prisoners who eventually hang themselves rather than live another day captive without cause.

Ironically, the Democrats are right on many issues. They’re in-step with most Americans. Most Americans don’t want the government to have any say in their bedroom, or how they spend the last minutes of their lives, or what they do with their bodies. Most Americans just want the government to keep them safe and provide essential services. The Democrats are right on regarding these issues, but they just don’t know how to convey it. I knew once Bob Dole gave caughed up his URL during the '96 presidential debate he was going down in flames. In 2004 John Kerry seemed saddled with that same tongue-tying weight. I liked the man but, God bless him, he was a sour puss and out of step.

George W. Bush has, among other things, has started a revolution. I believe his legacy will be simply that he emboldened the Republican party. He is almost completely opposite his father who fumbled the keys to the fierce political machine Ronald Reagan had fashioned to Bill Clinton in 1992. Now, thanks to his son, Republicans walk around like giants, crushing opponents who appear to be any where near thoughtful or rational. People may make fun of his wincing grammar, his podium leering, his simplistic view of reality, but at the party he's the guy whose approval you want. Not that liberal in the corner boring anyone who will come within earshot. Oh, is he evoking JFK again? That was 50 years ago, pal.

Democrats are hoping to win seats in congress due to sagging Republican numbers. Rep. John Murtha is already eyeing the prize. He’s talking about being the majority leader in the House of Representatives this November. The only problem is that the liberals haven’t won anything, yet. And, after California’s special election loss to the Republicans, they still haven’t proven they can win anything. They’d better keep their eye on the ball and figure out how not to be a buzzkill. They don’t even know they’ve turned into yesterday’s desperate Republican.

Bush Makes Contact with Cabinet

President Bush is holding conference to decide what to do about Iraq, and all his advisors are invited. In the wake of recent successes in the war ravaged country Bush has planned two days of meetings at Camp David to decide which way to proceed next. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman was as surprised as anyone to find an invitation to the conference.

“’Stunned’ is the word I would use,” he commented. “At first I thought some of Rumsfeld’s mail had fallen into my box. But no, the form letter had my name stamped across the top of the page! I can’t believe it! I’m happy to go to the meeting to help try to fix Iraq. It’s everyone’s problem. Besides, it’ll be nice to meet Condoleezza Rice.”

Other inconsequential cabinet members echoed similar thoughts. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson was also invited. “I’ve never been invited to a cabinet meeting,” Jackson admitted, “But I’m going to make the most of it. I’ll make sure to grab a souvenir or get an autograph.”

Bush’s presidency has been marked by a high turnover in cabinet members—mostly attributed to the President’s resistance to accept advice from anyone outside his inner circle.

“It kind of works like this,” one Washington insider informed me, “The president has his ‘inner cabinet’ and then there is the rest of the cabinet. The ‘inner cabinet’ consists of Rumsfeld, Rice, and Cheney. The rest of the cabinet members just grease the wheels at this point. And if anyone needs to get thrown under the treads, who do you think gets tapped?”

Bush’s White House has been notoriously hard to crack, not only for those on the outside, but for those on the inside as well. A famous casualty was former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“We all know about Secretary Powell. Sadly, he just wasn’t a political animal,” one pundit commented. “Sure, he had the wisdom and the foresight, but he just didn’t know how to play the game. Condi Rice? She knows how to play the game and now she has his job.”

In the past the only way for cabinet members to vault themselves into the inner circle was to initiate some kind of disaster. No one has risen farther than Condoleezza Rice who has gone from being a professor to Secretary of State in a few short years. How did she do it? In 2001, as Bush’s National Security Advisor, she missed all signs of the impending attack on 9/11. After that she in no way quelled the President’s march to war, which was ultimately based on faulty intelligence findings.

“Technically, the National Security Advisor is supposed to inform the president of national security matters,” one intelligence expert noted. “I would say without a doubt a complex and coordinated terrorist attack involving hijacked airliners qualifies as a national security issue. I would also point out that she was the one claiming Iraq posed an imminent national security issue to our country.”

Rice’s woeful job performance was easily overlooked because of her affability and the vague nature of the position she held. To many it wasn’t exactly clear what Mrs. Rice’s duties were, if any. She was tapped to be Secretary of State after Bush's re-election.

Another example of rising to promenence amid self-made disasters is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “Who, except Cheney, has more power than Rumsfeld?” One policy expert pointed out. “And think about it: the man sent in troops to Iraq, with little exit strategy, and almost zero body armor. And he’s probably one of the top ten most powerful people in the world right now. He tried to resign, and Bush wouldn’t allow it! That’s power and job security.”

Many experts felt that Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff was making a similar power play by shocasing how terribly prepard his Department of Homeland Security was during hurricane Katrina. FEMA was found to be totally ill prepared and led by a former horse show administrator. Chertoff guided the bloated department to utter failure during the nation’s largest natural disaster. Since then he has become a household name.

The recent request that all cabinet members attend the Camp David meetings has sent shockwaves through the Beltway. Many feel it may signal a move to a more inclusive executive policy. Perhaps it is a move to better involve more of our government’s top minds to solve problems; a more ‘boots on the ground’ approach to future decisions. The announcement that Bush was going to invite and meet all of his cabinet members was made during a Saturday morning press conference.

"The president has recently uncovered an entire 'cabinet' of highly trained and well-educated government policy experts," said press secretary Tony Snow. "He is very excited about the opportunity this presents. He is ready to bring them all to bear on this problem of Iraq and, possibly, other issues of national interest. "

Snow went on to say that the administration is going to test out the disparate cabinet members during a 30 day trial period to see how effective they are. "So far they have done very little to inform us that they even exist," Snow joked. "If they prove just as inconsequential in meetings we'll just send them back to their dingy, windowless offices in the bottom of the White House."

Will the various fringe members of Bush's newly discovered cabinet make any difference? Time will tell. But, in the words of one cabinet member, “I’m just happy to get out of my basement office for a few days. I feel like Cinderella finally going to the ball. What shoes should I wear?”

Monday, June 05, 2006

Superman Returns With Endorsements

After a 19 year hiatus, Superman has returned with super endorsements! In these disconcerting times everyone is happy to have our greatest hero back. Today I saw the Son of Jor-El in a Diet Pepsi advertisement. I suppose you can't really stand for truth, justice, and the American way if you're not willing to lend your name to a product. Even Superman can’t turn down a dump truck of full money, right? He’s not made of stone. So, what's the next pitch for the Man of Steel? Viagra?

See the advertisement here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Movie Ushers in Awaited Age of Dan Brown Bashing

Yeah, you know who Dan Brown is, don’t act coy. Suddenly finding people who have actually read “The DaVinci Code” is like locating Atlantis. Thanks to a lackluster movie and years of sensationalizing, anyone with even an pinch of angst about the “DaVinci” franchise is now empowered to speak up about it. Dan Brown’s book has become the “Cracked Rear View” of our decade.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? I’ll bet you do but you’re going to play cool now.

The DaVinci code has sold, to date, 40 million copies. Excluding old people who can’t see and kids who can’t read, that represents a sizeable chunk of the literary populace. I’m sure you’ve read the book, and you’re probably starting to feel ashamed. I’ll bet you say “Yeah, I read it…” a little sheepishly now that 40 million other people have joined you. This is exactly the angle critics are trying to latch on to.

Critics are lining up to pan the movie and now the book. They call the prose clunky, the plot contrived, and the sentences forgettable. I just read an article called “DaVinci Code's last secret: how did it succeed?” People are now actually asking: since the book was so terrible how was it popular? People are denying the book faster than Peter denying Christ.

“Didn’t you read the book?”
“I never did.”
“I think I saw you reading the book.”
“Not me, never.”
“Didn’t you recommend the book to me in 2003?”
“I’m telling you I never read it!”

Somewhere, a rooster crowed.

Ah, but don’t you listen to their newfound emboldened rhetoric about how bad the book was. What they want you to think is that they’re smarter or more sophisticated than you. A month ago to have read the book was to be part of some unspoken club. Now it’s a sign of slavishness. You’ll never get that time back! Did you actually like that trash? You call that a “novel”?

The movie revealed a chink in DaVinci’s armor, and critics are rushing to fire their poisoned arrows through. I’m not really sure why, because I didn’t think the movie was that bad. But, I also haven’t read the book. I think it shows that this franchise jumped the shark at some point and critics are now ready to feed off it.

This type of thing seems to happen all the time. In 1994 “Hootie and the Blowfish” released “Cracked Rear View” and it promptly went on to over 13 million sales in its first year of release. Rolling Stone said lead singer Darius Rucker’s voice was a “thrilling discovery and gave the album three and a half stars out of five. A few years later they were headed down the “Peter Frampton Memorial Highway.” Sad, really. Now you can’t even find someone to admit they owned a Hootie album or saw them in concert. But you’re out there, and you can’t escape your past, and you shouldn’t have to.

Hootie fans may have gone into hiding, but I hope the same doesn’t happen for DaVincians. Did you like “The DaVinci Code”? That’s all that matters, not what some intellectuals have to say about it in hindsight. They just start to sweat when they realize no one really takes them seriously anyway. I just think it’s funny that Dan Brown is now fodder for writers who are so much more adept at the craft, and probably spent a good weekend absorbing his book.

I’ll bet when you were reading it you thought it was a great book too. I’ll bet you knocked it out in a few days. I’ll bet you recommended it to friends and proclaimed its entertainment value. Just like a young fanatic, you spread the good news, but don’t deny the book now. Don’t do as Peter did, under pressure. Hold firm as you did when you first believed! There’s going to be a DaVinci Diaspora, I can feel it, a great scattering. Soon you wont see the book deftly placed on coffee tables, or it’s title obligatorily planted on every Myspace profile. Is that the type of person you are? You’re going to turn with the wind? I command you: don’t do it!

Instead if I ask you if you’ve read the book say “Yeah!” loud and clear. Tell me you loved it, just like we’re back in 2003. Just like 40 million other people who wanted to tap into a good plot mixed with religious and historical speculation. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But, happily, I’ll always be able to say I thought it sounded like crap from the beginning. I don’t want you guys watering down my right.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

You Don't Burn Me CDs Anymore

I don’t have much time but I wanted to post something sometime this week. Unfortunately this is not my full-time job. You guys aren’t clicking enough of my banner adds to support me.

Anyhow, it looks like US Troops are in for some ethics training after a few bad apples killed 21 unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha. I was working on long, drawn-out essay about torture tactics on detainees and how, ironically, working under those conditions also seems to drive American troops insane. The result is the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. You take a kid with a penchant for aggressive behavior or violence, put him in a war zone like Iraq and tell him or her to guard captives and it’s a disaster waiting to happen. How do you make a person go insane? Torture him? Or put him in a position of authority without the skills to handle it? But I sincerely do feel for all of our men and women in Iraq. Under that kind of pressure, it’s a wonder people don’t snap every day.

I suppose ethics training for Marines and soldiers can’t hurt, but when your job is to blow things up and fight for your life I’m not sure how far training will go. I have a suspicion the conditions will always win out over higher moral and ethical training. Besides, isn’t anything going to happen to the officers who tried to cover-up the Haditha massacre? Don’t they too need some kind of training?

Anna Nichole Smith has announced she’s pregnant proving true the Jimmy Eat World lyric, “only stupid people are breeding.” Of course she’s “very, very excited” because being preggo is all the rage these days—from sixteen year old girls to old, washed-up celebrities. Personally, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Even farm animals can reproduce.

In a British poll, the debut album by Oasis, “Definitely Maybe” has beaten the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” as the greatest album of all time. One album changed pop-music history while also establishing a sound for an entire generation, the other—if you own it—has probably vanished under your car seat or sitting under a drink on your coffee table. And, if you don’t know which is which, you’ve probably been too busy breeding. This proves voting is a poor idea. Homer (Simpson) was right, democracy just doesn't work.

Did you hear about the tragic mix-up of two girls after a fatal car accident? One died and the other was in a coma. Even worse, the hospital got confused and told the wrong families the wrong information. Can you imagine when your daughter wakes up but it’s not her, your real daughter has died? This story bums me out big-time.

“The DaVinci Code” has been out for two weeks and by all my reckoning it has not shaken the foundations of Christianity. It makes me wonder what all those religious leaders were scared of in the first place. Tours of various European churches featured in the movie have increased. I know how they feel. Every time I drive down Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago I think “Wow, the ‘Blues Brothers’ was filmed here!”

The compilation CD has taken over as the gift of choice among young romantics. Nothing says I love you like 19 songs burned onto a compact disk. Barbara Streisand once lamented to Neil Diamond, “You don’t bring me flowers anymore.” The times, they are a-changin’. Ladies, when’s the last time your man burned a disk for you?