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Month: February 2006

The Duke Spirit

The Duke Spirit

Every once and a while you come across an album review that makes you want to stop what you are doing and go buy the album.

Like this one from NME online.

Let NME swear on this bible black; nobody in the world is making music as deliciously nasty as these evil fuckers right now.

If the UK pop family has popped out for a jolly evening at the circus, then The Duke Spirit are naughty children left home alone with a box of matches and a drawer full of knives. And if they continue to create such offerings of bedazzling black magic brilliance, may they remain there until they rot.

Infortunately Cuts Across the Land won’t be available in the U.S. until March 7th. Mark your calendar. In the meantime, go here and listen to four songs off the upcoming album. And here is the band’s website.

Armed and Dangerous

Armed and Dangerous

From Lewis Lapham’s essay, The Case for Impeachment:

The Conyers report doesn’t lack for further instances of the administration’s misconduct, all of them noted in the press over the last three years-misuse of government funds, violation of the Geneva Conventions, holding without trial and subjecting to torture individuals arbitrarily designated as “enemy combatants,” etc.-but conspiracy to commit fraud would seem reason enough to warrant the President’s impeachment. Before reading the report, I wouldn’t have expected to find myself thinking that such a course of action was either likely or possible; after reading the report, I don’t know why we would run the risk of not impeaching the man. We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country’s good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world’s evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation’s wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal-known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. Under the three-strike rule available to the courts in California, judges sentence people to life in jail for having stolen from Wal-Mart a set of golf clubs or a child’s tricycle. Who then calls strikes on President Bush, and how many more does he get before being sent down on waivers to one of the Texas Prison Leagues?

Well that would be us through our elected representatives in Congress. So people, get on it. Start asking your congressmen to do what’s gotta be done.

Was Cheney Drunk?

Was Cheney Drunk?

When news broke that Cheney shot someone in the face, I assumed that he must have been drunk, high, or both.

It turns out that in addition to the copious quantities of medication that he takes daily, he did have at least one beer before the hunt.

When old Dick was on Fox last week discussing the tragedy, he admitted having a beer with lunch. One thing that he didn’t mention was how the Secret Service sent away a deputy that came to interview him that evening. They scheduled an appointment for the next day. Did he need to sober up?

Think progress covers his advisors comments with “Meet the Press” here.

Dead-Eye Dick

Dead-Eye Dick

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, spraying the fellow hunter in the face and chest with shotgun pellets.

Harry Whittington, a millionaire attorney from Austin, was “alert and doing fine” in a Corpus Christi hospital Sunday after he was shot by Cheney on a ranch in south Texas, said Katharine Armstrong, the property’s owner.

He was in stable condition Sunday, said Yvonne Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Christus Spohn Health System in Corpus Christi.

Armstrong in an interview with The Associated Press said Whittington, 78, was mostly injured on his right side, with the pellets hitting his cheek, neck and chest during the incident which occurred late afternoon on Saturday.

Armstrong, owner of the Armstrong Ranch where the accident occurred, said Whittington was bleeding and Cheney was very apologetic.

“It broke the skin,” she said of the shotgun pellets. “It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn’t get in his eyes or anything like that.”

“Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been,” she said. “The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came.”


Well? What would you expect from a leaky, gun-toting, dishonest dick?

Update: Go here to take part in Bob Harris’s current poll: How will the White House explain Dick Cheney shooting a guy in the face?

An Elected Dictatorship

An Elected Dictatorship

In his book ‘1984’ George Orwell depicts a nightmarish totalitarian society called Oceania in which neither freedom nor civil liberties exist, and where every aspect of life – communication, behavior, even thoughts – is constantly monitored by a Soviet-style bureaucratic ruling elite. The masses are controlled by means of this apparatus and by the waging of perpetual war with one or the other of two opposing and equally obnoxious authoritarian power blocs in the world. Frenzied patriotism is relentlessly whipped up by the propagandistic Ministry of Truth; the Ministry of Peace, of course, pursues the war. Big Brother knows all.

America in 2006 is not Oceania and George W Bush is not Big Brother – well not yet anyway – but there are positively eerie echoes. I always found it more than a little disturbing that when the administration wanted to push federal agency initiatives or congressional legislation designed to weaken environmental protections, it would choose benign titles that indicated the purpose was the opposite to the truth. So a plan to weaken protections for old growth trees in our national forests and allow more logging became the ‘Healthy Forests Initiative’. Another example is ‘Clear Skies’, a Bush administration initiative designed to weaken tougher existing requirements to reduce pollution by the power industry. Even if GWB hasn’t read Orwell, I bet Karl Rove has.

Most disturbing, however, is this administration’s expansive view of executive power together with a willingness to exercise it – and with barely a contemptuous nod in the direction of Congress and the courts. For example, even after succumbing to public pressure, and the efforts of Senator McCain, and reluctantly signing a bill outlawing the use of torture on detainees by American civilian or military forces, Bush insisted that he was not necessarily bound by its provisions.

Nowhere do we see this dictatorial proclivity more clearly than in the scandal over National Security Agency eavesdropping of Americans’ communications overseas – well, we think it’s just overseas because the administration refuses to give even the barest details. The fact is we don’t know whose communications might be caught up in this gigantic fishing expedition. The administration legal argument is twofold: that Congress gave the administration authority to do whatever it needed to in order to pursue the war on the terrorists who mounted the 9/11 attack. This, needless to say, has come as unwelcome news to most of the senators and congressmen and women who voted for that authorization. If this unlikely stretch doesn’t work, the fallback position is that the president’s authority derives from his inherent constitutional powers as Commander-in-Chief.

Even setting aside the incompetence of an administration incapable of keeping Americans safe without violating our civil liberties, the scope of this power grab is breathtaking. In effect, Bush is saying that no law can bind his hands if he deems it an impediment to his pursuant of the terrorists. In this particular instance, it is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) but it is difficult to see how, under this reasoning, any law could not be disregarded if he invoked national security. And those who disagree are simply unpatriotic, defeatist dupes who give aid and comfort to the enemy. Bush and his minions had a visceral attachment to and belief in unfettered executive authority before 9/11. They have, nevertheless, exploited that tragedy unmercifully in order to justify it and have been aided by a fearful American public and a supine Congress.

Of course I could be doing Bush a grave disservice. He has said on numerous occasions that the terrorists hate our freedoms and that’s why they seek to destroy us. Maybe his secret strategy is to strip away our freedoms one by one that so that one day it will dawn on al-Qaida that we’re not worth hating anymore. Well who knows?

What I do know is that too many Americans have accepted this home-grown authoritarianism with nary a protest, embraced it even, particularly on the right (as though only Republicans will ever hold the White House). When did we become so craven? When did this wonderful democracy of ours cease to be worth fighting for – whether against the Islamic terrorists or our own government’s overreach? What is the point of sending our soldiers and marines to Iraq to fight for democracy when we allow an incompetent and unprincipled president to weaken it here at home?

If the legislative and judicial branches of our government fail in their duty to curb this presidential power grab, then each of us would do well to reconsider our fundamental and cherished belief in this country as the “land of the free and home of the brave”, in our system of checks and balances and, indeed, in the very institutions that are the bedrock of our democracy. Alas, we may never believe in them in quite the same way again.

Jonesing for Cognitive Dissonance

Jonesing for Cognitive Dissonance

Just a quick update on a previous post about the new study about how we keep our heads from exploding when we receive information contrary to our strongly held opinions and beliefs. The Washington Post also published an article about the study, and you can read it here for free (unlike The New York Times.)


When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats — the scans showed that “reward centers” in volunteers’ brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.

Weird. What this study suggests is that, when you tell a die-hard Bush supporter about what a terrible job the president is doing and you back it up with irrefutable facts, it makes the person feel better.

Sweet Jane.

Story link via This Modern World.

Future Word

Future Word

I was wandering around the neighborhood with my daughter on Saturday and we went into the local bookstore. While she perused the children’s fiction section, I was scanning the shelves of new books and The Future Dictionary of America caught my eye. The back jacket describes the book as “a brilliant, acerbic and provocative imagining of the American language sometime in the future, when all or most of our country’s problems are solved and the present administration is a distant memory.” The book includes contributions from almost 200 writers and artists and also comes with a CD, compiled by Barsuk Records, featuring new songs and rarities from R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, Elliott Smith, Tom Waits, David Byrne, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, They Might Be Giants, Death Cab for Cutie, and many others.

So yes, I bought it. I had to.

The most amusing definition I’ve read so far is:

O’Reilly [oh-riy’-lee]
v. to misstate the truth and refuse to apologize or correct your error. Usually used to refer to the actions of children. Don’t O’Reilly me, mister. I saw your room and it is not clean.

In 2028, in the popular child-rearing book How to Raise Honest Children, the problem of O’Reillying was formally discussed for the first time in academia, elevating the term from its colloquial origins. The authors of How to Raise Honest Children pointed to the dangers of allowing a child to lie without correction, noting that it is not enough to ignore the child or cease listening to the child. Since children who do not receive attention will only find another ear to tell their tales. Children often long for the approval of their audience; when a parent does not pay attention to a child that O’Reillies, it is possible the child will change their lies to meet the pre-conceived notions of their new audience. The danger is when the listeners themselves are uninformed or prejudiced. The authors warned that a child that is still O’Reillying by the time s/he finished secondary school is likely to continue for the rest of their life; it is important to catch an O’Reillier at an early age.

The authors recommend spending lots of time with the child, correcting the child when the child misstates facts and making sure the child understands. They recommend against forcing the child to change their opinions, noting that a healthy society contains many disparate ways of looking at the world. If, for example, the child says there should be more wild animals in the city it is not imperative the adult correct the child. If, however, the child quotes a study on the subject that does not exist, then it is important that the parent explain to the child the difference between reality and unreality. The adult should explain the importance of supporting opinion with fact. The book even goes so far as to state that no facts are better than wrong facts. Suggested punishments include grounding and cessation of television and phone privileges, while noting the importance of positive reinforcement, such as “I love you, but not when you O’Reilly.”

— by contributing author, Stephen Elliott.

Check out the McSweeney’s website for more details and some definitions included in the book. There are more here.