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June 26, 2007

Hey, Folks. Away From Computers Till Monday.

I've got just a couple minutes until I have to head out again. Difficult to explain here, and not really that interesting. But I'll be back up and blogging next Monday.

Hopefully, by then, an armed mob with torches and pitchforks will have arrested the Vice President and carted him off to Congress to be impeached and tried by force. It could happen, but probably not. Dick's attempt to establish himself as the fourth branch of government has already been largely successful, simply through the lack of opposition. Nothing has been done about it except for pundits and Jon Stewart to say, "Hey, he can't do that!"

But we all should have learned by now that Dick does whatever the hell he wants, whenever the hell he wants, however the hell he wants, consequences and public disapproval be damned. He's a thug, and he should have been curbed a long time ago. It's already clear that, when it suits his purpose, he claims executive privilege and now that it no longer suits his purpose, he's suddenly a member of the lesgislative branch. Of course, the real reason he doesn't want those records turned over, as the law dictates, is that they'd reveal that he's been the guy behind all these blatantly illegal mandates all along — any idiot who's been paying attention knows his office was behind the outing of Valerie Plame, the secret prisons, the military tribunals, the whole Unconstitutional Enchilada.

Mmmmmm.... unconstitutional enchilada ... the forbidden fruit

Anyway, Vice President C. Montgomery Burns, or whatever the fuck his name is, should have been treated like the war criminal he is a long time ago. If this new round of toxic revelations has any weight, maybe he will be. In an equitable world, he'd already be in chains before The Hague.

OK, see you next week.

June 19, 2007

The Great Palm Beach Boondoggle and Buncombe ... A Modest Phallic Proposal

Apologies for the use of the archaic "buncombe." I've been reading a lot of Mencken. Anyway, Rick over at the redoubtable blog Stuck on the Palmetto hepped me to the bizarre proposal to create a 1,500-foot space needle in downtown West Palm Beach, regardless of hurricanes, sinkholes and other such problems that have given rise to height limits in many cities on the Florida coast of less than a tenth of the proposed space needle.

An artist's rendering of the needle, which would be the third-largest structure on the planet, after the CN Tower and the Taipei Tower

Look, given the machismo, our-city-can-beat-up-your-city thing underlying this proposal; the idea that the top of the needle will include a fine-dining restaurant and a dance club where yuppie larvae can meet and begin the mating rituals; Palm Beach's long history of catering to wealthy residents at the expense of anything even remotely resembling culture or a good time (see Clematis Street); and, finally, the obvious shape of the needle as is, I have a proposal that I think anyone can get behind — instead of a space needle, I propose that West Palm Beach erect a 1,500-foot schlong.

Following the completion of the proposed penis, the city could change it's name to Big Cock, or maybe just make the city's motto "The Dong of America." The quarter-mile-high phallus would feature a working head and, halfway up, hydraulic gears that would allow the penis to bend at the halfway point and, with pinpoint accuracy, urinate on passersby with a force approximately 200 times that of a fire hose. The city manager would be given control of this function, and could use it to keep the streets clean of homeless vagrants, gang members, miscellaneous poor, journalists, and other undesirables.

The head of the erection, which we could dub The Great Dome or something equally illustrious, would feature the same restaurant and club as the proposed space needle, and I think we can all agree that having a dance club in the head of a giant penis is hilarious if you really think about it. Hell, that's just the sort of sense of humor that Big Cock: The Dong of America will need in the coming days.

June 14, 2007

BREAKING: Lou Pearlman Arrested in Indonesia, Extradited to Guam ... My Own Recollections of the Man

When I first heard the news, from this brief Miami Herald story, I nearly raised my arms and cheered. Not because a man who defrauded about 1,000 investors out of some $300 million would face jail time, but because this corpulent pile of man-flesh gave us the Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, and O-Town. For that alone, the man deserves to be flogged and then have his name forcibly changed to Our Nation's Shame.

The whole story has been slowly unraveling over the last few months. Even Beloved Governor Charlie Crist may catch heat from it, as dark allegations have surfaced that, as attorney-general, he inhibited investigations into the despicable Pearlman's fraudulent activities.

Sure, at first, Pearlman may look like Philip Seymour Hoffman's morbidly obese brother:

But don't let the jolly exterior fool you. If the allegations are to be believed, while Pearlman was unleashing the boy-band crime against humanity upon the world, he was also losing millions, and his start-up company that sold a savings account scheme was essentially a money funnel, from which he would take money from investors and use it to pay off his debts.

For months, Pearlman had been underground, ignoring subpoenas and debt collectors. Most of his possessions were sold off last Tuesday. But that ignores the fact that, in a just world, Pearlman would've been dealt with before any of this happened.

Fittingly enough, Pearlman got his start in business in the blimp industry, and it was on an airship ride that he met the New Kids on the Block and realized he could create completely carbon copies of this cookie-cutter band, then make a mint exploiting them and the tin ears of millions of tween pop-culture aficionadoes who valued looks and buzz far more than talent.

The moment that realization dawned on him, the moment his quivering loins began to sweat at the thoughts of boy bands, he should have been cast from his own zeppelin.

Pearlman was a phony in every sense of the word. He created phony bands, ripped off his friends with a phony savings plan, held a phony doctorate from an online diploma mill, even maintained phony relationships with movie stars in an effort to glom onto limelight. He was crooked in the deepest possible way. Nothing about him had even the most remote whiff of truth. At least, that's what I remember from the one time I met him.

It was at the 50th Birthday party for K.C. of KC and the Sunshine Band fame, back in Jan. 2001. As a music journalist, I had been invited to the soiree, which was held at the old Hialeah racetrack. Ice sculptures, open bars, scantily clad men and women swinging on trapezes attached to the roof of the large tent the party was held in. The whole 99 yards.

I was drinking White Russians, as I recall, and talking with some fellow who claimed to be an R&B saxophonist from Chicago, when I caught a faint whiff of something that can only be described as brimstone. I turned, only to be nearly run over by a shockingly gigantic form — made even more monstrously grotesque by comparison to the rest of the crowd, the obsessively trim and fit of the Miami top tier. Faint drips of moist spittle jellied in the corners of his mouth. He looked at me as if he knew me for a moment, but then, realizing I was no one famous, at least not famous enough to be on the Pearlman radar, he waddled on. But not before I caught his eyes one final time. The friendliness had faded into a sort of baleful malevolence that I took to be his usual gaze.

I looked down at a shattered glass and a milky brown puddle, only then realizing that I had dropped my cocktail. I loosened my tie nervously — it was a formal affair, and I wore a black suit with a splashy Jerry Garcia tie — and said hoarsely, "What the hell was that?"

"Man, that was Lou Pearlman," the saxophonist informed me.

I nodded uncertainly, expecting to see the Backstreet Boys in tow. But while pulchritudinous young men galivanted everywhere, none of them appeared to be in a boy band. Even Pearlman's form was soon lost in the large crowd, and I thought no more about him except to say to the sax player, "It smells like bullshit."

The musician took that to mean I thought he was lying to me about the man's identity, though I was actually trying to explain that my brush with Pearlman, however brief, had given me the impression that he was a colossal con artist. This led to a heated disagreement, as I had had too many White Russians and had a difficult time explaining myself. I left the party and headed to the parking lot, where I was jumped by a trio of Hispanic fellows, who tried to pummel and rob me, and except for my animalistic howling, which drew the attention of security, they would surely have succeeded.

I'm sure that last part is Pearlman's fault as well, I just can't figure out how. Thugs in his employ? But why? And was the saxophonist in on the whole thing? Anyway, the bastards slashed at me with something sharp, cutting one of my pants legs open but narrowly missing flesh. They destroyed a perfectly good $400 suit, though, and if there's some sort of class-action suit against Pearlman, I want in. That fat bastard owes me.

June 12, 2007

Connecting the Dots

Last week's Newsweek included the article The Lady and the Veep. Here's an excerpt:

"A NEWSWEEK investigation shows that Cheney's national-security team has been actively challenging Rice's Iran strategy in recent months. "We hear a completely different story coming out of Cheney's office, even now, than what we hear from Rice on Iran," says a Western diplomat whose embassy has close dealings with the White House. Officials from the veep's office have been openly dismissive of the nuclear negotiations in think-tank meetings with Middle East analysts in Washington, according to a high-level administration official who asked for anonymity because of his position. Since Tehran has defied two U.N. resolutions calling for a suspension of its uranium-enrichment program, "there's a certain amount of schadenfreude among the hard-liners," says a European diplomat who's involved in the talks but would not comment for the record. And NEWSWEEK has learned that the veep's team seems eager to build a case that Iran is targeting Americans not just in Iraq but along the border of its other neighbor, Afghanistan.

In the last few weeks, Cheney's staff have unexpectedly become more active participants in an interagency group that steers policy on Afghanistan, according to an official familiar with the internal deliberations. During weekly meetings of the committee, known as the Afghanistan Interagency Operating Group, Cheney staffers have been intensely interested in a single issue: recent intelligence reports alleging that Iran is supplying weapons to Afghanistan's resurgent Islamist militia, the Taliban, according to two administration officials who asked for anonymity when discussing internal meetings."

So. Cheney and his boys want to connect Iran and the Taliban. Following this revelation, we get:

ABC's Iran Caught Red-Handed Shipping Arms to Taliban

The Associated Press' Iran Aids Afghanistan But May Have Helped Taliban Too

NBC's Iran Is Arming Taliban

Each of these three quickly added a source to the headline after the Newsweek article hit. The ABC piece now read "Document: Iran Caught...," the AP's reads "Iran Aids ... Taliban Too, says NATO General," and NBC's reads "Iran Is Arming Taliban, U.S. Envoy Claims."

But despite these addendums, this still sounds like Judith Miller all over again. How long until the national press stops buying everything fed to it by this administration and its gophers?

Bush pickpocketed in Albania?

The White House is denying it, but it appears president Bush got his watch lifted in Albania. The footage is here. Someone in the crowd appears to slip the watch at about the 3 minute mark.

The funny part, though, is looking at how many other people make the exact same grip at Bush's wrist as the thief. At least half a dozen people try before the watch gets taken, and at least as many try afterward.

June 11, 2007

The Bush Pub Crawl ... Letters of Marque ... God Weighs In ... Building the Gay Bomb

Salutations, friends. Between multiple presidential debates, our ex-alcoholic "teetotaler" president boozing his way through Europe, the 3,500th casualty in Iraq, and cable news' insistence on total coverage of the Great Paris Hilton Escape and Recapture Massacre Blues, I've spent most of the last week in various states of inebriation, brought on by an excess of good vodka and cheap beer, and often as not screaming at the television in a sort of apoplectic rage, glassy-eyed and howling as the news crawl at the bottom of the screen mentions the footnote bodycount in Iraq while the anchor weighs in on the more important tale of the day, the aforementioned trials and tribulations of La Hilton.

Subsequently writing about this experience seemed a thankless task, and indeed a near impossible one. I recall the words of Elvis Costello, likely apocryphally attributed though, who said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." One could say the same about writing about the state of public interest, pop culture, the media today. But now that I've had a weekend to lie in state (which is generally what I do with my weekends these days, now that I'm no longer a professional music critic — self-induced comas), a few of last weeks proceedings seem at least worth mentioning.

The two debates are not among these. The Democrats spent most of their time talking about healthcare, the Republicans spent most of theirs talking about how badly they would torture the enemies of freedom, if only they could lay hands on them. The debates nicely illustrated that, despite the protestations of Ralph Nader back in 2000, there is indeed a difference between the two parties, no matter how much we would like Democrats to better represent the opposite political view of the Republicans. The vaguely center-left position of most Democrats still beats the deeply weird philosophy of many Republican candidates, which seems to be based largely on the politics of Oceania's Inner Party.

Aside from the debates, last week also saw Bush staggering through Europe while blithely ignoring the possibility of a congressional no-confidence vote in A.G.A.G. (admittedly, meaningless). Here he is in Germany:

And here he is in Bulgaria:

Now, certainly, I'm not one to excoriate a man for getting his drink on. That would be, you know, hypocritical. But I'm just the guy for horse-whipping some jagoff who claims to be a reformed alcoholic but then tears around Europe slinging back suds with Angie Merkel and then toasting the Bulgarian president with what appears to be a glass of fine cognac.

Meanwhile, while La Hilton was the jailbird in the news, Scooter Libby seems a touch more important in the larger scheme of things. The judge in that trial released all the letters he had received regarding Libby's sentencing. I've read through them all. All 150 or so of them (more vodka, more beer, more blind rage). Everyone of them falls into one of two categories: Either colleagues of Libby who ask for leniency, or complete strangers who demand the harshest possible sentence. Obviously, I'm not surprised that none of Libby's colleagues demanded that the judge throw the book at him, but I am a bit surprised that no dyed-in-the-wool Republicans wrote in asking for leniency for a man they'd never met, despite the fact that he had succeeded in covering up for the person (read: Cheney) behind the plot to out an undercover CIA operative during wartime. Apparently, some things are below even them.

Anyway, the letters included some big names: Paul Wolfowitz, generals Richard Myer and Peter Pace (particularly noteworthy given Pace's shitcanning just a few days later, in a move by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that can only be described as circumventing the democratic process), Henry Kissinger, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, along with a whole army of acquaintances in the fields of law and publishing. A few liberals chimed in to support Libby as well, including Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, and James Carville, who co-signed a letter with his wife, Mary Matalin, that signed off in mightily maudlin fashion with "My family is praying the wisdom and mercy you bring to bear in determining Scooter’s future will include a consideration of his family, the price they have already paid and what further justice would be served by additional devastation to them and the many other children who love Scooter."

Indeed. Won't someone think of the children?

Other than that, last week was especially memorable for the cameo appearance by God during the Republican debate, and the Pentagon's admission that it was no longer actively researching the Gay Bomb, something that will certainly allow the GOP base to sleep easier at night, but will no doubt cause consternation among circuit party promoters and Bravo network executives. You can't please everyone.

June 5, 2007

Craig Thomas, We Hardly Knew Ye

Ordinarily, when I use some version of the title of this blog entry, what follows is a scathing, mean-spirited, but entirely fair excoriation of someone whose politics happen to be morally repugnant. But not this time. He may have played ball for the wrong team, but Republican Sen. Thomas' death yesterday at age 74 due to leukemia stands him outside the grounds of such crass commentary. I didn't know the man's career well enough to justify the sort of vindictive obit that I've offered up for some other deceased politicians, and as I just wrote, like the Piranha Brothers, I'm a cruel man, but fair.

Among political junkies, though, like it or not, one of the first thoughts was "Who's Wyoming's governor?" The answer is that the governor, Dave Freudenthal, is a Democrat. But unlike in most states, this doesn't mean that Thomas' replacement will be from the opposite party. Even the Washington Post got this wrong at first (they corrected it in the above linked story), but it basically breaks down like this: the state Republican Party has 15 days to select three potential replacements for Thomas. The governor then selects one of those three people to serve until the next election. So, despite the fact that Thomas was re-elected in 2006, Wyoming will face another senatorial election in 2008. This will likely re-instate whomever the governor selects, though that's certainly no guarantee. In any case, without Thomas, the new senator may face a tougher re-election battle in 2008, but not much — Wyoming is one of the reddest states in the union, after all.

June 1, 2007

Breaking Godwin's Law

I'm a strong believer in Godwin's Law ("As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.") and it's important corollary. ("Whoever brings up the Nazis or Hitler is, by default, the loser of the argument.") But in a couple stories over the last few days, I couldn't help thinking of Hitler's final days, staring at maps in a bunker, issuing orders for nonexistant army divisions to advance, demanding to speak to long-dead advisors, and if rumor is to be believed, copulating with his German Shepherd, Blondie, before he finally fed her cyanide.

OK, that last part's untrue. But in any case, check out these two recent stories about Bush.

First, This one from April 30:

"...some big money players up from Texas recently paid a visit to their friend in the White House. The story goes that they got out exactly one question, and the rest of the meeting consisted of The President in an extended whine, a rant, actually, about no one understands him, the critics are all messed up, if only people would see what he’s doing things would be OK…etc., etc. This is called a “bunker mentality” and it’s not attractive when a friend does it. When the friend is the President of the United States, it can be downright dangerous. Apparently the Texas friends were suitably appalled, hence the story now in circulation."

And then this one from yesterday's Dallas Morning News:

"Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."

That last one is particularly bad. The President has clearly gone 'round the bend. At the very least, this bears obvious comparisons to the last days of Nixon, and that dark story of Nixon and Kissinger on their knees in the Oval Office, praying and weeping in the early hours of the morning. At worst, this bears comparisons to the aforementioned tiny-moustached dictator. In all three cases, it's about that bunker mentality that was mentioned after the first deranged outburst by the President.

And in any case, it shows that, moreso than ever, the President is unwilling to listen to anything even approximating an opposing viewpoint. As for the Big Dumb of Iraq, we are swiftly reaching a crossroads at which we'll have two options: Get out or institute a draft. Hell, that should be the talking point for whatever Democratic presidential candidate wants to get to the White House in 2008: "We've asked so much of our military, and now, they're stretched to the breaking point. In some cases, they've moved well beyond it. Our military was never designed to pacify a nation of 25 million people. The numbers simply aren't there. And so, I don't believe we can any longer asked our soldiers, our young men and women whose patriotism and sense of honor we cherish so well. Therefore, it comes to this: Either we get out of Iraq now, or we get enough men and women in the field to successfully complete the mission. And that means a draft. Personally, I'd rather not see that. And so, it falls on us to bring our troops home as soon as possible."

See that? It puts the troop-hating onus back on the people who want them to stay out in the field on an impossible mission. Neat, huh?

By the way, to whichever Democratic candidate uses this: When you win, I'd like the ambassadorship to a European country. I'd prefer Ireland, but if you want to give me a smaller country, I'll take Andorra. Thanks.