Lebanon's pro-Syrian PM and gov't have stepped down. Hopefully, the protests in Beirut signal the start of the Middle Eastern version of the Velvet Revolution.

Saint Ball

Tom Ball is a saint. He hasn't performed any verifiable, Church-certified miracles, but he is cleaning up 39 pages of the Frank Luntz playbook Guide to Screwing Your Neighbor (and not in the good way), thus enabling us to post the complete guide in searchable text form on (fingers crossed) Wednesday.

St. Ball has posted sections of the guide at politicalstrategy.org. Word versions of the guide are available in the realitique February archive. When we're done, I'll post the complete guide in Word and PDF formats here. The HTML version will be at politicalstrategy.org.



I don't know how anyone but myself and PDS feels about the new template. But I thought I should mention the white elephant in the room. It's there. It's, you know, big. And white. I designed it, so it's my elephant. I didn't pay anybody. Have a few substitutes for the kickboxer girl, if you're interested, including a retro 50's man's head, godzilla destroying a plane (too 9/11 for me), a robot head that looks a little BDSM and a running stick figure. An angry gorilla would be a nice addition, even though gorillas generally get a bad rap, like chimps. Comments and suggestions are welcome. No, really.

Ohio's Odd Numbers

On the heels of Bush's meeting with the neo-fascist Putin comes the new Christopher Hitchens article in Vanity Fair: Ohio's Odd Numbers. I'm not sure how hypocritical Bush is when it comes to democracy; it's hard to gauge the depth of a bottomless pit. But what Hitchens has to say made me ill. I hope to hell he's wrong.
"Machines were put in place with no sampling to make sure they were 'in control' and no comparison studies," she explained. "The code of the machines is not public knowledge, and none of these machines has since been impounded." In these circumstances, she continued, it's possible to manipulate both the count and the proportions of votes.
FYI: Compare the results in non-swing states to those in swing states (via Sludge.) I can't vouch for the accuracy of the data, but I'm sure you can check it easily enough. If it is accurate, it's extremely curious.

Just What Is the Gannon Story?

Digby on Gannon. Not sure what to think of it, but it's my kind of paranoia. (Via Moxiegrrl.)

Roberta RIP

I woke up this morning to my girlfriend's sobs. "She's dead!" she cried. She was referring to Roberta, the pigeon she'd found in the front yard on Friday afternoon.

We'd taken her (we didn't know it was a her) to a Veterinarian in Metairie who agreed to diagnose her. We knew that if the prognosis wasn't good, they'd kill her. But they said there was nothing wrong with her; she was just young and skinny.

We took her home, put her in a box, gave her birdseed and water. Yesterday she seemed better, though not exactly vibrant. Whenever I'd check on her, I'd find her just sitting there, looking cozy. I didn't know what birds in boxes liked to do, so I figured she was fine. Yesterday afternoon, we took her out of the box so we could clean it, and she escaped my girlfriend's grip and flew across the living room.

We thought we'd keep her in the box for another day and then take her outside.

Last night she seemed the same as before: she just sat there. The last time I checked on her, she was balled up, breathing softly--snoozing, I thought.

This morning, after my girlfriend calmed down, she asked me to check if Roberta was still alive. I looked in the box. Roberta was slumped forward, her body bent and feathers askew. She was dead.

We buried her in the front yard.

I knew this bird all of three days, and yet I'm sad. I can't say why. She looked cute, cuddled up in the box in the hallway. But so what; cute is part of life, and it's bullshit. There's ample reason to think she would've died no matter what we'd done. Maybe it was West Nile. Who knows. But now I have a vague, simplistic inkling of what an Emergency ward doctor goes through when one of his patients dies. Not the full experience. Just an inkling. But that is bad enough.


Prostitute Gannon "Asked to Come"

"I asked to come. They allowed me to come."
--Jeff Gannon on Good Morning America

Okay, okay, to the White House briefing room. Context. Geez....

We Regret the Error: It was the Today Show.

American Five-Spice Powder

The Apologist has a few suggestions for US lawmakers. They're very sensible, which is why they'd be difficult, if not impossible, to pass.


He Who Has Ears

Bull Moose (a.k.a. Marshall Wittman) has some excellent advice for the Donkey:
There has been more attention lately to energizing the Democratic base than expanding it. It is important to motivate "the grass roots", but thought should also be given to enlarging the Party's membership.

The growth component of American politics over the past couple of decades has been self-identified independents. While some of these indies lean to one party or another, there are also many up for grabs. Kerry did moderately well with this group - but obviously not well enough.

The Moose recommends that the new DNC launch an "Independent Project" that both analyzes the motivations of this group and develops innovative ways to appeal to them. Money and staff should be dedicated to this effort.
The Republicans lost me once Bush showed his near total hypocrisy. But I vote for Democrats only under duress. If the Democrats actually tried to lure people like me, they might pull the growing pool of alienated citified centrist/moderate voters to their side. But that's assuming they want to win elections....

Pentagon Officials Release Strategy to Avoid the Draft

A brilliant strategy....

More Craig's List Antics

With all the rain in SoCal, my uncle's stuck at home again, writing fake ads for Craig's List:
Check out Laci's "Trying to find the nice older guy who helped me this morning" ad under women seeking men and "Creepy Sugar Daddy..." under Erotic Services.... Actually, a writer whose past credits include Beavis and Butthead wrote to me to compliment me on my ad the other day.
The ads, sadly, are gone, but never fear, the PDFs are here:

Nice older guy...

Creepy sugar daddy... (This one's priceless.)

It's me, Laci...

I Like Tehran in June, How About You?

Stunning, but somehow not surprising:
Scott Ritter, appearing with journalist Dahr Jamail yesterday [Feb. 18] in Washington State, dropped two shocking bombshells in a talk delivered to a packed house in Olympia’s Capitol Theater. The ex-Marine turned UNSCOM weapons inspector said that George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and claimed the U.S. manipulated the results of the recent Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

On Iran, Ritter said that President George W. Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005. Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran's alleged program to develop nuclear weapons, but Ritter said neoconservatives in the administration also expected that the attack would set in motion a chain of events leading to regime change in the oil-rich nation of 70 million—a possibility Ritter regards with the greatest skepticism.

The former Marine also said that the Jan. 30 elections, which George W. Bush has called "a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom," were not so free after all. Ritter said that U.S. authorities in Iraq had manipulated the results in order to reduce the percentage of the vote received by the United Iraqi Alliance from 56% to 48%.

Asked by UFPPC's Ted Nation about this shocker, Ritter said an official involved in the manipulation was the source, and that this would soon be reported by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in a major metropolitan magazine -- an obvious allusion to New Yorker reporter Seymour M. Hersh.
Strong allegations, to say the least. Let's hope he (or someone else) can substantiate them.

Read the whole article here.

UPDATE: In an interview with Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story, Ritter clarified his remarks on Iran. What he said was that the President had "signed off" on plans for military action against Iran in June, should he choose to order said action.

Media Research Center Believes Peter Jennings Believes in UFOs

Yeah, I know, it's barely worth noting the hypocrisy of the Media Research Center, "the leader in documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias." But this is absurd. Last night, ABC aired the two-hour-long "Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs -- Seeing is Believing." Jennings' conclusion?

"I believe there are unidentified flying objects, I'm just not sure who's driving."

Scandalous. This is like saying, "There are objects in the sky we can't identify." Media Research, in an effort to slight Jennings, mischaracterized this with the headline "ABC's Peter Jennings Believes in UFOs." Then followed with the lede, "Peter Jennings had plenty of doubts about the existence of WMDs as a justification for war in Iraq, but he believes in UFOs."

God forbid a journalist should show skepticism about the claims of the Bush Administration. And it's not like Jennings' skepticism proved warranted....

The Media Research Center: We're guilty of the same behavior for which we so fondly criticize the "liberal media."

Gannon's White House Access

This Salon article on Gannon getting into the White House clarifies the issues a bit. (Via Eschaton.)

Sully Gets It

Andrew Sullivan on the Sager-Ponnuru debate:
If Al Gore, say, had, turned a surplus into years of mounting debt, if he'd added a huge new federal entitlement to Medicare, if he'd over-ridden the rights of states to set their own laws with regard, say, to education, if he'd put tariffs on steel, if he'd increased government spending faster than anyone since LBJ, if he'd said that government's job was to heal hurt wherever it exists, if he'd ramped up agricultural subsidies, poured money into the Labour and Education Departments, thrown public dollars at corporate America, spent gobs of money on helping individuals in bad marriages, used the Constitution as an instrument of social policy, given government the right to detain people without trial and subject them to torture, and on and on, I don't think National Review would have been content merely to nitpick. Do you? I think they would have mounted a ferocious attempt to remove the guy from office. The duplicitous, budget-busting Medicare entitlement alone should have caused an insurrection. It didn't. I think that tells you a lot about where some conservative thinkers are really coming from.
In an earlier post, Sullivan quotes Sager:
Make absolutely no mistake about it: This party, among its most hard-core supporters, is not about freedom anymore. It is about foisting its members' version of morality and economic intervention on the country.

Luntzing You

Here's the next 20 pages of Luntziana (part 2, pp. 21-40). Don't you think "Luntz" would make a nice verb? But for what? As a noun, it sounds like an exotic cheese or sandwich meat ("I'll have luntz on rye with muenster"). As a verb, it sounds cruel. Noirish:
I stroked her hair and ran my fingertips along her cheekbone. She looked up at me longingly, never suspecting my intent. Gazing into her soft blue eyes, I slide my hand across her throat and then, in one swift move, I luntzed her and she collapsed onto the floor.
UPDATE: Full Luntz strategy report here.


The Not Not Jeff Gannon Blog

Our favorite prostitute reporter shill has a blog. Like, for real this time. No, seriously. I mean it. (Danke, Americablog.)

Curious how some conservatives® say liberals® are going after Gannon because he's gay, ignoring his (ahem) other profession. And why's that illegal anyway? I mean, how's a young cub reporter in DC supposed to make ends meet when he's cutting and pasting White House press releases?

Luntz Speaking Tip of the Day: Social Security

For the people to trust Wall Street, Wall Street - and Washington - must be put in their place. “Wall Street” is America, and Washington will just spend it all. Amidst all the scandal and corruption within the Financial Services industry, it is important that Wall Street be seen as the driving force of the American economy, and as far removed from scandal as possible.
(Typographical abuse Theirs)

Fake Anti-AARP Ads

Whiskey Bar's series of fake anti-AARP ads. Worth a chuckle. (You can find the ad Whiskey Bar's parodying here.)

Mas Luntz por La Gente

Okay, maybe that should be "para"; my Spanish is rusty. Anyway, here are the first 20 pages of the second Luntz PDF (part 2). I'm waiting for someone else to finish cleaning up the last 40 pages of the first PDF (part 1). (How's it coming, John?)

If you want to get the other documents or find out why this report is worth bothering with, go here (or just scroll down a ways).

If you want to help with this effort, email me at realitique@cox.net. The work is secretarial, not technical. You need a working knowledge of MS Word, a good sense of formatting and an editor's eye.

UPDATE: Full Luntz report is done.

My Perfect Man

My uncle in California sent me the following message this morning:
Finding some time on my hands yesterday afternoon, I checked craigslist (http://losangeles.craigslist.org) to see some of the postings which routinely crack me up or make me sad. I especially enjoy the "women looking for men" wherein every woman is looking for a male model, over 6', under 35, with dark hair and a great body. It doesn't matter how unattractive the woman is, that's what she expects. I decided to write my own ad including some of the common clichéd requirements and post it (see attached). You would not believe the responses I got. They fell into three categories:

1. Guys who are obviously short, over 35, balding with poor builds who were enraged;

2. Clueless guys who sent a picture and a come-on and

3. Guys who got it and appreciated the humor.

What amazed me is how few got it. I guess I should have added the Homer Simpson line, "In case you didn’t know it, I was being sarcastic!"

If I have time later today, I want to write another ad which would be from a gal thanking the "older guy" who helped her with her car this afternoon, "but I think I may have left my panties in your car" and, "It may not be a big deal to you, but I'm on a scholarship and my parents can only afford to give me a small allowance, so I just can't afford to lose a pair of panties" and so on. "If you see this and can write to me, I'll give you my address so you can mail them back to me. Don't worry about laundering them; we've got washing machines here in the dorm." Whuddya think? Any creative ideas would be appreciated.

Do I have too much time on my hands or what? Oh mercy, it’s just too much fun.
You can view the ad live here or download the PDF here.


Luntz Nut

I've spent a good 12 hours scanning and cleaning up the text of those $#@% Luntz files. But this guy sends me what looks like the equivalent of a decent TIFF of the files in djvu. The scan needs cleaning up just as much as the ones I made, so no harm there. But I'm an equal opportunity unemployer, so here are his djvu files: http://www.moderntimes.info/files/luntz.djvu. BTW, since in the end it's readable text files that matter, if anyone feels like, you know, helping out here, please let me know. Because this is a lot of work. Capiche?

UPDATE: Full report here.

Frank Luntz Strategy Report

Last night, DailyKos posted two PDF files of Republican PR strategist Frank Luntz's report on the 2004 elections, with an eye to helping Republicans frame their approach for 2006 and 2008. I've rendered the PDFs into TIFFs and have used Optical Character Recognition to turn all the images into text. Now I'm busy cleaning up the text so it's presentable. You can download the original PDFs here.

Part 1, pages 1-20 in MS Word (all text) are here.

Part 1, pages 21-40 in MS Word (all text) are here.

Part 2, pages 1-20 in MS Word (all text) are here.

The formatting isn't perfect, but it gives you the general idea of how the document is supposed to look. Though I'm sure I missed plenty of misinterpreted characters, I've left the genuine spelling and grammatical errors of the original document in the OCR version.

By the way, if you want to help me with this monkey work, please email me at realitique@cox.net.

UPDATE: Full report here.


Another Reporter on Gannon (Gate)

Today we have the third in a series of anonymous journalists' replies to the question of how common it is for reporters to use pseudonyms--and on the Gannon mess and the media. Again, I'm posting the replies in full, except for personal information. This one, like the first, comes from a reporter at a city newspaper. (To read the first response and a run-down of the original editorial that these journalists responded to, scroll down two posts or go here. The second response is above the first one, or here.)
This guy Thibault has a few interesting points. I agree with two out of three of his points, the first two. Gannon's lack of experience and pseudonym, by themselves, are unimportant. Being a journalist is not a clearly defined thing. It's much more hazy. This became clear a couple of years ago when a first-time true crime writer was sent to jail for several months for protecting sources in a Texas murder investigation. She claimed to be a journalist and argued that she should receive the protection of a Texas reporter-shield law. Prosecutors claimed she had no right to call herself a journalist because this was her first real journalistic effort. Now, with the Internet, lots of people can more plausibly call themselves journalists. We don't have professional licenses for what we do. Is Rush Limbaugh a journalist? Are you a journalist because you do a blog? In theory, the White House could let anyone into its daily briefing who claims to be a journalist. He's not the first maybe-journalist to ask loaded questions at these press conferences. But if Gannon was indeed a ringer brought in by the White House then that's a legitimate scandal to criticize.

I'm less convinced of Thibault's last point. The press did not, I repeat not, treat Bill Clinton with kid-gloves. I would direct this guy to Howard Kurtz's 1998 book, "Spin Zone," to see what a brutal lot the press can be. They may not have asked the questions this writer would have liked, but then again he's always free to come down to the White House and ask his own, conservative-minded, loaded questions. As far as homophobia driving this whole scandal, I disagree. It's created more cognitive disonnance than anything else. This Gannon guy is a real odd bird. Perhaps I've missed some overtly homophobic left-wing claptrap.

The last few paragraphs of Thibault's rant seem to be variations on the standard liberal-media rant. What's ironic to me is that the media is much less liberal than it was a decade ago, but charges of media bias are more frequent than ever. And now we have the phenomenon of overtly conservative media like Fox News added into the mix. Media bias is more particular to me. A bias toward government solutions to problems, a bias against evangelical religions, a bias toward more social libertarian kind of outlook, suspicion of business and commerce, a bias towards conflict, a bias towards easy storylines, that sort of thing. But the media is by no means easy on Democrats, however they might vote. That's right-wing fantasy.
The reporter's original response ended there. After I replied to it, he wrote back with the following gem:
This guy's assertion that Gannon is not a conservative was vile and odd. So what if this guy is a homosexual hooker or whatever. So Log Cabin Republicans aren't conservative? Andrew Sullivan isn't conservative? (well, not always). Why should we stop with homo hookers? I think Bill Bennett should be ousted from conservatism becus he gambled away millions in Vegas. Jack Ryan, one-time Illinois senate candidate, is no longer conservative because he took Jeri Ryan to brothels and group-sex-plexes. Yet, this writer says anything goes when it comes to journalism. Write using crayons and live in a padded cell? Sure, you can be a journalist. Administer blow jobs in between writing RNC press releases? Definitely, a journalist.

As far as Rush or anyone being a journalist, all I'm saying is I could easily see someone of his ilk claiming to be a journalist, especially if a federal prosecutor was breathing down their neck wanting to know their sources. And who could say they're not? Courts, I guess, would have to use the good-ole "reasonable" test? Is it reasonable to consider Limbaugh a journalist? Could be in the right circumstances.
Comments, especially from journalists, are welcome.

As before, if you're a reporter, uber-rich media tycoon, or Ari Fleischer and you'd like me to vent your spleen post your opinion on this subject, you can reach me at realitique@cox.net.


Hercules the Liger

A friend sent me this story about Hercules the 10-ft. liger, a cross between a lion and a tiger. He's expected to grow another two feet. But wait, there's more!
Other exotic hybrids include the zeedonk, a cross between a zebra and a donkey; the zorse or zebroid, a zebra/horse cross; and the beefalo, an American bison/ domestic cow cross.

Another rare creature is the wolphin, the offspring of a whale and a dolphin.
Next: Demublicans and Libervatives.

You are not on the realitique home page. To go there, click here.

A News Director on Gannon (Gate)

Yesterday, I posted the first in a series of anonymous journalists' replies to the question of how common it is for reporters to use pseudonyms. I'm posting the replies in full--except for personal information. The most recent one comes from a news director at a TV network affiliate. (To read the first reply and a run-down of the original editorial that these journalists responded to, scroll down two posts or go here.)
To begin with, this part of the issue is nothing but a red herring.

Yes, some TV journalists (including some in my own newsroom) do use pseudonyms, although the practice is dwindling as ethnic-sounding names become more common. However, they don't use the pseudonyms on official documents, which this guy apparently did on his application to the Standing Committee of Correspondents. That's not a pseudonym, that's fraud.

However, I'm afraid this is one of those phantom issues that people get fired up about, find out it's more widespread than they think, and then figure the whole issue was nonsense. The problem here isn't the fake name - the problem is the fake presidency. For all intents and purposes, the Bush White House is now staging news conferences, much as they staged "policy" speeches (called that so that taxpayers, rather than the campaign, picked up the travel tab) during the campaign in front of invitation-only Republican crowds.

The worst part is that all of their manipulations of the media - the bought-off columnists, the fake reporters, etc. - are a no-lose proposition for the White House. At best, the schemes work, and they get positive press from what appears to be legitimate news organizations. At worst, it gets exposed, and all that happens is the public becomes ever more convinced that the entire media is just a charade anyway. Who's going to punish the White House for playing dirty? Congress? That's a laugh.

While those of us in the media haven't been doing a very good job of upholding our responsibility to hold the powerful accountable, just wait to see what happens when there's no there to do it all. Here's a scary exercise: Re-read 1984. It now seems a whole lot more like fact than fiction.
Comments, especially from journalists, are welcome.

If you're a reporter, uber-rich media tycoon, or Ari Fleischer and you'd like me to vent your spleen post your opinion on this subject, you can reach me at realitique@cox.net.


We'll Always Have Paris

Paris Hilton's blackberry got hacked. Notes, email and pics from it are here.

Hunter S. Thompson RIP

Hunter S. Thompson is dead.

A Reporter on Gannon (Gate)

On Friday, I read a CNS News editorial about the Jeff Gannon flap. Amid the claptrap, I found an interesting point: "As a former television news reporter and producer in the nation's number seven market, I can tell you with first-hand experience that many of the 'journalists' you see on television or hear on the radio use different names while conducting their work."

Wondering to what extent that might be true, I asked a few reports I know. The responses I've gotten so far were not just to the question but to the entire CNS News editorial. CNS's Thibault asks if "the Left [was] more enraged by Gannon's lack of journalistic credentials and purported political bias, or because...he would have betrayed the liberal cause with conservative-slanted writing. There are other reasons about which one can argue that Gannon had no business working at the White House, but they fall flat when one considers the past and present practices of what we today loosely refer to as 'journalists.'" Thibault then makes the following three points:
1) Gannon's lack of journalistic experience: How many times have we seen entertainers with no past journalism experience plopped in the television or radio anchor chair to pontificate on the issues of the day and ask questions of guests?...

2) Gannon's use of a pseudonym: As a former television news reporter and producer in the nation's number seven market, I
can tell you with first-hand experience that many of the "journalists" you see on television or hear on the radio use
different names while conducting their work. 'Taylor' is easier to pronounce than 'Tetreault' for instance...

3) Gannon's use of loaded or softball questions at presidential news conferences: This is the most laughable excuse for the Left going loony over Gannon. How many times did Bill Clinton get softball questions from the adoring White House press corps, 90 percent of whom admitted to voting for him? Are we to believe that the David Brock-led Media Matters for America and his allies on the Left flipped out because one person asked President Bush conservative slanted questions in a forum that usually produces many more of the insulting and accusatory variety? I don't think so.
The first response I received:
Oh, boy. Well, first of all, on the minor point, yes, I've encountered some local TV news anchors and reporters who've gone by pseudonyms, sometimes for very good reason: There was an anchor at WLOX-TV in Biloxi when I was there who went by the name Steve Lawson. His real name was Steve Fondle. I don't doubt that radio people use pseudonyms, too. It's unheard of in print. I don't know about online sources.

The CNS News (pfffffht) guy is fucked on a number of points. First of all, yes, we've all seen non-journalists conducting
interviews or playing journalist from time to time. The difference here is that, say, Leonardo DiCaprio didn't pawn himself off as "Washington Bureau Chief, Titanic News Service" when he interviewed Clinton a few years back (something the wingnuts did go apeshit over at the time, incidentally).

Second, I couldn't care less whether he went by "Jeff Gannon" or "Steve Fondle" or "Abe Vigoda" or what, and I also don't particularly care whether he is or is not gay or was or was not tied to gay porn (although I do confess to finding that mildly gratifying). I care that, regardless of whether he used his real name, he obtained a White House press pass as a fake journalist for a fake news site that exists for the sole purpose of disseminating right-wing propaganda--period.

And that's what separates it from his last "point," the whole "well, the mainstream press is all a bunch of Democratic operatives who sucked Clinton's dick for four years, so what's the big deal?" The big deal is that, again, they're fucked: The press corps, whatever their failings, didn't belong to "The Mao Gazette" or the "Che Times." You can debate the Clinton dick-sucking all you want, but you can't deny the distinction between a reporter for NBC News and one for (insert Wingnut Online Publication here). "Gannon" (or whatever his name is) had one function only: Throw a monkey wrench into the journalistic process by greasing Bush's palm. That was why he was there.

And I think it rankles, too, since we've found out about all these commentators getting paid to shill for the Administration. "President buys favorable coverage"--that'd tend to make actual journalists rather antsy, wouldn't you think?

And I'm on an even higher level of annoyance than usual because my employer has informed me and my colleagues that
one of our goals for this coming year is to represent more conservative voices in the paper. Apparently some people
have complained to our editor about .... 'liberal bias.' And we're about to lube ourselves up and bend over. And I'm
about to get the fuck outta Dodge.
Comments, especially from journalists, are welcome.

UPDATE: Guckert used the pseudonym "Jeff" at least as early as 1999, when he was working on gay porn sites. Obviously, it's because "Jeff" is so much easier to pronounce than "James."

The Eberle Brothers

If Gannon's a top, how's he liked being a bottom for the last couple of weeks? John Byrne of Raw Story is on top of the Gannon affair, poundin' away. Here's the latest look at possible connections between Eberle's GOPUSA and the actual GOP (Virginia, is there a Santa Claus?). (HT: Guess.)

P.S. Anybody started a betting pool on this story yet?


Gannon in Editor and Publisher

Here's the Editor and Publisher interview with Gannon. Two paragraphs that deal with getting into the White House briefing room:
"I requested clearance each day via an e-mail to the White House Press office the night before. I gave them my professional name, my legal name, my social security number, my address and phone number, and the news service where I worked," he said. "I assumed that there was some kind of cursory check that they do, but did not know what. They never asked me for more information." He said he usually went to press briefings there “at least once a week," or more.

On those days, he said, "I would go to the guard gate and show my driver's license with my legal name, and they looked me up on the computer and let me in." He said he would receive a day pass, which has no name -- Gannon or Guckert -- on it. He said he sought the permanent "hard pass" when he first wanted to cover the White House, but after finding out he needed a congressional press pass -- which he’d been denied -- to get that far, he utilized only the day passes. “I made several attempts to get a congressional pass, and each time they said 'no.' They were concerned with the Talon News business model,” he said. “They didn't feel that we fit the criteria."
That's encouraging. But anyway, it's unclear whether Editor and Publisher double-checked his assertion about day passes. They google-checked the websites for which he claimed to've written op-ed pieces and found nothing. It would be interesting to find out if day passes do not indeed have names on them. So how did Scott McClellan know to call him Jeff? This isn't an answer, but it's at least interesting that Gannon was invited to White House Christmas parties.

Gannon Smoke Break: the Anti-Christo

There's a story in the New York Times today about "Hargo's" parody of Christo's Gates in Somerville, Mass. You can view the full installation here. Read the Times story here. Best line: "The Somerville Gates" has now become, Mr. Hargadon said, "the anti-Christo."

Day Tripper

Yesterday, Americablog linked to a diatribe from uber-GOP-connected CNS News that mentioned that pseudonyms were common among TV and radio journalists. The three journalists I've asked (an admittedly small sample) said that while it is common among radio and TV journalists, it's unheard of among print journalists.

Now while that issue may be a red herring, I do think it's worth scrutinizing because we need and deserve to know whether someone used a fake name to gain entrance to the White House briefing room. Not only are there post-9/11 security concerns but also GOP propaganda concerns.

A few questions: What level of scrutiny are prospective briefing-attendees subjected to? Did Gannon provide the Secret Service with a fake name (Gannon)? If so, why aren't the Secret Service and FBI (and White House) worried that somebody snuck in? If Gannon gave them his real name, Guckert, how did Scott McClellan know to call him Jeff? This is a "reporter" who showed up repeatedly with a day pass, which, if his real name was on it, aroused no suspicon when he was called by another name? Ever?

Today, DailyKos points to an Augusta Free Press editorial that claims getting a White House day pass ain't so easy. They write:
One point on the controversy involving now-deposed Talon News and GOPUSA politics writer Jeff Gannon got our attention.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan has said that Gannon, actually James Dale Guckert, 47, was given access to presidential briefings and a Jan. 26 news conference with President Bush on a day-by-day basis - and that this practice is basically a routine one that many journalists go through.

It sounds convincing on first hearing. Doesn't it?

Forget that Talon News and GOPUSA are partisan outfits that are friendly to the president, McClellan was telling us.

Doesn't matter.

Nor does it matter that a number of White House correspondents are saying that they saw Gannon with what appeared to be a permanent White House press pass.

And that the pass featured his picture and name - his fake name, mind you.

Never mind that the White House day passes that we have in our scrapbook don't have anybody's picture and name on them.

Yes, we have been through the process for obtaining White House day passes.

And let us just say that it is not at all an easy process to get through.

Needless to say that it is difficult to think that it could have been done using a fake name - the Secret Service needs your real name so it can do a background check on you before letting you inside the gate.

Several phone calls placed over the course of a two-week period were needed to get us inside.

And that was for a one-shot deal.

To think that Gannon or Guckert or whatever we should call him now did this on a regular basis makes us wonder when he had time to do any writing.

Which is why we applaud his gumption - if not his choice of afterhours business ventures.
By the way, in light of all this, the CBS Rove editorial listed in last night's post is looking better by the minute.


And Curioser...

When Rathergate broke last year, a lot of people probably asked themselves (as I did) why someone would do such a shoddy job of forging documents for a prominent national news organization? The now-forgotten Magestic-12 forgeries, for example, were pretty good. Done on, you know, a typewriter. They at least looked old. You'd have to be an idiot, think the staff at CBS was really sloppy (oh, wait...) or...make the forgeries bad on purpose and cross your fingers that CBS would run the story. Well, maybe the latter is what happened. Or maybe the CBS documents weren't forgeries and Rove engineered a way to undermine them. Maybe aliens were involved. Here is an attempt to tie Jeff Gannon to the CBS forgeries and the White House. It's based in part on this article by John Byrne. For the CBS reacharound to Karl Rove, there's this. Ooo, la la. Mama, I don' know what you cookin' in dat kitchen, but boy, it smells good. Now none of this may pan out. But then again, it might. And if it does, 48% of America will be in fucking heaven.

Gannon: Curioser and Curioser

Americablog has an update on the Gannon story. Gannon seems to've had access to "golden" information--curious for a small news outlet. Hopefully, this will lead somewhere interesting so we can have a good feeding frenzy.

Limbaugh: "We never lie and make things up on this program"

Rush Limbaugh must be joining the staff of the Daily Show. Or maybe he's just shooting smack. Media Matters for America (which as you know is an anti-American, Osama-loving, Communist propaganda organ) had this to say about the paragon of objectivity:
On February 15, the same day that FOX News host Bill O'Reilly claimed that "[n]o lies have been told about anyone" on his show, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh boasted: "We don't retract anything we do here because we never lie and make things up on this program." Limbaugh also defended the accuracy of FOX News, stating: "You know, at FOX News, I have to tell you this, they haven't had to retract one story, major story that I can recall since they've been on the air."

Media Matters for America has documented frequent instances of smears, falsehoods and distortions from FOX News' "hard news" reporters and commentators.
What? from FOX?


Boy Meets World

I normally don't reply to comments in separate posts, but this is worth a post in itself--not because of the comment so much as the questions it raises. The comment was in response to an old post, "Everything Happens for a Reason." The comment, from regular visitor PDS, goes like this:
Rob: my point was going to be that you are being unfair [to God] because your post (implicitly) expects God to create a perfect world. Once He rids us of tsunamis, does it not logically follow that He must (in order to be a "loving God") rid us of all tornadoes, flooding, droughts, etc. This argument against God knows no logical bounds, until a perfect world is created. This is a point taken up and addressed much better than I can by Robert Nozick in his book The Examined Life.
An excellent point, but that’s why I included the caveat, "You can’t give God credit for doing good while giving him a pass on doing evil. Unless your god is limited (or limits the scope of his actions) and nature runs its course independent of him." (italics mine) I don't see how, with that caveat, I've implicitly been unfair to god: I gave him an out.

I wouldn't, for example, argue that god doesn't exist because the world isn't perfect. The world is perfect, as Leibnitz argued and Voltaire misunderstood. Unfortunately, it's not perfect in any meaningful human sense. Our notion of perfection is an anthropomorphic projection of our desires onto flinty "reality," which consistently frustrates those desires. Outside of extreme technological intervention which is not available and may never be, a "perfect" human existence is impossible (it's almost as abstract as "being"). Thus "perfection" is by definition perpetually beyond our grasp and, for that reason, simultaneously the most alluring and galling concept of all.

My use of the word "perfect" to describe the state of the world was nothing more than poetic license. The world is "perfect" in that it lacks nothing; it is a self-perpetuating whole responsible solely to itself, a whole of which we are a part.

I would not argue that god doesn't exist because the world is fraught with suffering. I would argue that god doesn't exist because there is no evidence that she does.

I could go on, but I'll leave further points for a later post, when I finally get around to discussing Intelligent Design.

Gannon Outs Himself

Never mind the previous post on Gannon Guckert. He's come clean: He loves New Wave films. So I was right, he is a drama queen. You can find his Amazon Nouvelle Vague wishlist here. But why did Gannon come clean?
The reason I decided to come clean is simple: John Aravosis and his "friends"€at America Blog. They're clearly on a witch-hunt against people who aren't really Jeff Gannon. They're clearly BONKERS.

Yesterday morning I woke up to this delightful email from John.


I've got invoices, baby. I'm going to tease it to my readers for 48 hours and then you're TOAST Gannon. Toast.

PS Just so you know, several of my friends already have copies of my files. I'm just saying...

John A.

I have to admit I was nervous. Aravosis is clearly a madman. So I did what I always do when I need to calm down and think straight: I squeezed out a few rounds from my 7.2 Inch Mini Cougar.

After shooting off the last of my ammo I realized what I had to do: Pre-empt that fucker. So here are the invoices. (Invoices pictured are for the purchases of Breathless, The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, Contempt, and Hiroshima Mon Amour.)
Mini Cougar? But I thought he was 8+ inches and cut! Anyway, for the firearm ignorati, this is a Mini Cougar. Would be nice to have some details about where he fires his, um, gun. I mean, is it indoors? Doesn't he live in the city? Clearly, John Aravosis, not Guckert, is a madman. Given Guckert's secret love of French cinema, does he secretly wish Kerry had won? See, here's the difference between Gannonquiddick and Easongate: Gannonquiddick is fun.

P.S. All of the Gannon-blog shit is probably a brilliant joke. But if you find out it's not, please let me know.

Support Our Troops

Ever since the first "support our troops" stickers appeared on the backs of cars, I've wondered what was the point of putting them there. I assumed they must be there to make the drivers feel empowered, just as "united we stand" and flag stickers proliferated right after 9/11 to buck us up with righteous anger and ward off our demoniac fears.

That slogan turned stale after a couple of weeks, and the new one didn't stay fresh much longer. The former statement was a declaration of defiance—unfortunately to the choir. The latter was an imperative lacking a mode of action. How were we supposed to support our troops? Most of them were (and still are) overseas. Give us a charity to give money to or an address to send care packages to (and tell us what to put in them: socks? porn? humvee armor?). Don't just tell us to "support" our troops. (Note: Stars and Stripes has a few suggestions—by way of Gnomon.)

But now I'm not so sure the slogan is innocent. Until recently, I assumed it was an entreaty. Now I wonder if it's not an order: "Keep your mouth shut." And even if it doesn't mean that (assuming there's a way to gauge its meaning), enough sloganeers are saying as much. Saying that talk of all the bombings and consequent civilian and military deaths in Iraq undermines the "war effort."

But I don’t see it. Do we imagine that Iraqi "insurgents," in a country with rampant power shortages where phones often do not work, spend their time tuned to CNN and not, say, trying to kill other Iraqis or Americans? If they do watch it—after wading through news about the social security and tort-reform debates in the US—is it the news of violence in Iraq that lifts their downtrodden spirits? Or is it that they can walk outside and see the rampant devastation and fear first hand? The effectiveness of their terrorist attacks is probably clearer to them in person than on TV.

Then again, maybe it's not the terrorists that criticism affects. Maybe military personnel see criticism of their laudatory efforts and wonder why they're in Iraq. Maybe they were troubled by the pictures from Abu Ghraib, or that question posed to Rumsfeld about lack of armor, or the piling-up of evidence that we were suckered into conflict, or the news that we had no post-war plans and not nearly enough troops to keep the peace. Or. Or. Or. But I suspect that just being in Iraq, with all the bombings and shortages and frustrated civilians (not to mention sand flies, sleep deprivation and Kafkaesque rescinding of orders home) does the trick.

What should we do? Shut up for a few years and keep our fingers crossed, standing by our man and presenting a "united front," no matter what happens in the war? How will that help our troops?

It won't. And no, I don't know what will, except giving them whatever they need to finish the crucial and dirty job they have to do. But that should not include silent obeisance to the White House. The irony would be stark indeed: Invading a country in order to "liberate" its people—and I'm not saying we didn't to some extent succeed—while at home calling those who question the invasion "anti-American" and telling them to shut up and present a "united front."

As a neighbor of the notorious California Pearcy family said, "I'm outraged. We have our men and women in uniform that are dying to protect our rights and I think it's a disgrace that somebody would be allowed to hang a U.S. soldier in effigy in front of their house." Evidently, she hasn't been listening to the President. Doesn't she know that the terrorists hate "our freedoms —our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other"?

While some self-styled "conservatives" rage at the anti-Americanism of Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy and the bias of the "MSM," our own Porter Goss testified yesterday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that
The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists.... Those jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.
Do we wish the committee had interviewed Goss in secret?


Persona Non Blogga

The non-existent Jeff Gannon doesn't have a blog here. And no, you can't contact him here. (From Wonkette.) During a recent non-interview with Not Wolf Blitzer, Not Gannon remarked that "French New Wave films make me sick and I bet John Kerry would have been the first president to enjoy French New Wave films." If so, it would've been long overdue.

Gannon's Guckert's questionable taste aside, that's a pretty strong statement. Even Armageddon didn't make me sick. Even Con Air didn't, though it came close. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to come up with any movie that made me sick. Then again, Gannon may just be a drama queen.

(If you missed the Daily Show tonight, catch the rerun tomorrow: Gannon was a prime target.)

Congratulations, Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is going to have a radio show in DC, starting in 6-8 weeks. According to his newsletter,
...it's going to be a political comedy radio show, very
similar to The Daily Show, political work in The Onion, Dennis
Miller's old HBO show, and Bill Maher's Realtime. I'm not planning on
reinventing the wheel, but it will have a distinct flavor since the
medium is radio, not television.
He'll be doing the show with a funny conservative (an oxymoron?) and he thinks we non-DC residents will be able to listen to the show on the Internet. Hopefully, it'll be a hit. The guy deserves more exposure. And with his love of profanity and porn, with any luck people will complain to the FCC and give him a ton of free publicity.


New Blog Showcase Extravaganza No 1

We at Realitique headquarters are shocked to discover that we're #6 on the New Blog Showcase Extravaganza No 1 list at Simon World: East Meets Westerner. Frankly, we are titillated. There's some excellent reading there. You might even consider reading posts from other blogs.

Maya Marcel-Keyes: Illusory Heterosexual

Well, what should wingnut Alan Keyes have expected from a daughter named “Maya”? You've probably heard that she exited the closet yesterday, to her parents' chagrin and her own obvious relief, calling herself a “liberal queer.” (To beautifully confuse matters, she's anti-abortion.) But have you heard she has a blog? Anyway, to exit the closet takes chutzpah; if your dad's Alan Keyes, it takes some big-ass, uh, balls. Incidentally, am I the only person who strongly suspects that her father secretly wants to join the Log Cabin Republicans? (Hat tip: Joseph Farah Aydiid's WND.)


Stumping Bush (as if)

On Thursday, the Bush SS Victory Tour stopped off in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bush gave a long speech and then took questions from the (filtered) audience. Below are some salient paragraphs from the middle of the speech interspersed with helpful comments by yours truly. I've deleted some of the text, but have been careful to retain all relevant context. If you’re a masochist, you can read the super-long original transcript here.

President Discusses Strengthening Social Security in North Carolina
BTI Center For The Performing Arts
Raleigh, North Carolina
11:12 A.M. EST

...So when you think about it, when you add up the equation, you've got more people living longer, receiving greater benefits, being supported by fewer people. And to me, that says, we got a problem. And as a matter of fact, the numbers say that. There is a chart over here that says "Cost of Inaction," because in 2018, the system goes red. That means there's more money going out of the system than coming into the system. The leading edge of baby boomers are retiring; they're living longer; benefit structures are bigger; fewer people paying in — the system goes negative.

Now, some of you probably think there is a kind of — a bank, a Social Security trust bank. But that's not what's happened over time. Every dollar that goes into Social Security has been paid out, either to retirees or government programs. It is a pay-as-you-go system; it is a flow-through system. There is no kind of — there are empty promises, but there's no pile of money that you thought was there when you retired. That's not the way the system works.

So…the 80’s Greenspan commission was an “empty promise”? The surplus paid into the system now doesn’t go to buy US Treasury bonds? Granted, bonds are promissory notes, but according to the Constitution (Am.XIV, Section 4), “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” Josh Marshall, who deserves a medal of freedom from some other president for investigating this, has pointed out that Bush’s personal fortune is mostly comprised of bonds. The president is saying that the government is going to default on paying the bonds in the Social Security Trust. Is the government also going to default on the bonds that he holds?

To make matters worse, as more baby boomers retire, as people live longer, as more benefits kick in, the cash deficit increases. So, for example, in 2027, the government is going to have to come up [with] $200 billion more to meet the promises that we've made, above and beyond payroll taxes. Every year from 2018 to when the system goes broke in 2042, the cash deficits required to meet promises increase. That says to me we've got a problem.

1. “Promises” as in “Treasury bonds”?

2. Repeat after me: The system will not go broke. Ever. Unless everyone under 65 is wiped out in a cataclysm. Social Security cannot go broke. It can, however, run in the red. And in 2042 it probably will. The system will be short of funds by one third or less. But unless Bush is speaking a different English language than I do (and the campaign made me question that), running a deficit is a far cry from “broke.” If it’s not, then the US government has been broke for ages, except for a couple of Clinton-era years. That is why the national debt is so enormous.

Now, I know 13 years doesn't sound like a lot — 2018 — it may seem like a lot to people whose perspective is maybe two years. But as I told you, I think we've got to anticipate problems, particularly on this issue, because the longer we wait, the more difficult the solutions become. That's just a fact.

You mean, more difficult to trick the public into buying your snake oil? Because, mathematically speaking, your so-called solution of forming “private accounts” requires spending even more money—deepening the debt—than would be required to fix the problem.

And so step one of my strategy is to continue saying to the American people, we have got a serious problem. In other words, sometimes they say, is it serious, is it a crisis—look, whatever you want to call it, just look at the chart and you come up with the conclusions. It is serious because if Congress says no to the President, we're not going the move forward on this, imagine what the solutions will be when the $200 billion hits, or the $210 billion a year, or the $300 billion. I mean, you're looking at either major tax increases, major cuts in benefits, major cuts in other government programs or massive debt. And so now is the time to move. And that's what I'm saying to the Congress.

Yes, all the more reason to address the problem instead of jeopardizing it. As for the “massive debt” option, may I point out that we already have massive debt—and it’s making our creditors uneasy. It’s not a good thing when the rest of the world starts eyeing Euros as a more stable default currency. If you really cared about massive debt, you would’ve sent the Congress slimmer budgets for the past four years. Are you going to default on any of that debt?

The second—second goal of mine is to make sure our people who have retired, our senior citizens, and people who were born before 1950 know that nothing changes…. You might remember those campaigns around…. They said, old George W. gets in, you're not going to get your check. Fortunately, they got their check after I got in, so they kind of rung hollow in 2004.

Translation: Get off my back, AARP and the state of Florida.

…The system when we talk about insolvency, the insolvency issue doesn't relate to you. It relates to your grandchildren. And that's the issue we're confronted with: What do we do about the retirees' grandchildren? As I said in my State of the Union, we have an obligation to do what others have done for my generation and that's to leave a—leave a better world behind.

A more polluted, indebted world. He cares enough about your grandchildren to pass on to them massive debt to China, Japan, Germany, etc. He cares enough to make their retirement even less secure (Social Security doesn’t pay much).

And that's why I was willing to dedicate as many words as I did in the State of the Union to what used to be the third rail of American politics, Social Security.

Now, it's one thing to define the problem; it's another thing to be a part of the solution. And I have an obligation as the President not just to define the problem, but to encourage dialogue by putting out some ideas of my own.

Which someone else came up with long before he was president. It’s not like his dad didn’t assert that Social Security would be broke by the nineties. This funny business is nothing new.

I stood up in front of the Congress and said, in order to truly fix it, in order to have a permanent solution, all options are on the table, except for running up payroll taxes.

Because that might solve the problem (not that anyone would go for it). And remember: I don’t really want to solve the problem; I want to exacerbate it. Whatever you do, do not compare this to an earlier situation in which I asserted over and over again that a situation was dire, even when the best information available said that it wasn’t, just so I could do what my advisers had dreamed for years of doing, fantasizing about as they lay in bed, touching themselves at the thought of using that big, big, powerful military. Also, do not ask yourself why, if I really want a diplomatic solution to the Iran crisis problem, I won’t join the EU in talks with them, when I know that the EU’s efforts will fail if the US doesn’t join in. And do not ask yourself why Dr. Rice said the military option wasn’t on the table at this time.

And that means a lot of different things. Democrats…had some really constructive ideas as to how to address the root cause of a—of the problems with Social Security…. [The] ideas range from raising the retirement age, to delaying benefits, to calculating benefits not based upon wage increase, but price increase. A little esoteric here, but, in other words, there's some serious ideas on the table to how to permanently fix Social Security.

Yes, those are genuine proposals for solving the problem. Unlike yours, which is as insincere as nearly everything that comes out of your mouth. Incidentally, under no circumstances should we ask ourselves why Karl Rove, after his 3% victory, has been given even more titles and has relocated his office to mere steps from the Oval Office.

And that's why I said to the Congress, all ideas are on the table, and if you got a good idea, bring it forward. Now is the time for people from both sides of the aisle to address the problem. And I'm willing to listen to anybody's idea. And I'm looking forward to a good, constructive dialogue about how to seriously address the problem, making sure that those who've retired have nothing to worry about and, at the same time, making sure there's a Social Security system for younger people coming up.

So you’re willing to address the problem and ditch the idea of private accounts? I suspect that’s bullshit.

I put out some ideas and I want to talk about one of them that I hope you find interesting…. And that is as a way to allow younger workers to…come closer to the promises that have been made, but can't be fulfilled,

Because we’re going to default on the debt—an unconstitutional act.

we should allow younger workers to take some of their own money—their own payroll taxes—and set it aside as a personal retirement account. This is a novel idea for Social Security. But it's not…a novel idea for federal employees. There is such a thing that's called a thrift savings plan, which allows federal employees to take some of their own money and invest it in stocks and bonds, so as to increase their retirement benefits.

Well, er, yes and no. Yes, it’s true that there’s a thrift savings plan, and that federal employees can take some of their own money and invest it. But that’s in addition to Social Security. Bush™, however, has expressed no interest in add-on private accounts styled after 401Ks; instead, he wants to divert a healthy percentage of payroll taxes into private accounts. Add-on private accounts would be a no-brainer, and no problem. But they wouldn’t fix Social Security. For a Cato Institute analysis of state and local employees who opted out of Social Security in favor of private investment plans, go here.



Since I take too long to compose real posts, I keep posting references to others. Well, here's a rant well worth reading for anybody who has no patience for the "love it or leave it" mentality, no matter their political disposition. (The blog itself is a hoot, too.)


Leadership of That Nature

While kissing Old-European ass at a NATO meeting today, Rumsfeld took time out to comment on North Korea's admission of nuclear capability:
Given they're a dictatorial regime and the repression of their own people [sic], one has to worry about weapons of that power in the hands of leadership of that nature. I don't think anyone would characterize the leadership in that country as being, uh, restrained.
Granted, the US is no dictatorship, but the rest of the quote fits Bush™ quite nicely.

Luke Thomas

A friend of mine sent me this priceless post. Hysterical and (unfortunately) true. Sample paragraph (and it's not the best one, either):
How about the vote for the authorization of force for the Iraq war? Who voted against it? Most vocally for the Democrats was West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. Now there's someone you want on your side. When this lunatic, grizzly mountain man isn't sitting on his front porch in flannel shirts and overalls playing "Cotton Eye Joe" on his XXX moonshine bottle, he's out promoting race relations by cutting eye holes in his white bed sheets.


He's baaack.... And he's nuclear. Or at least he says he is.

Notice how Kimmy always throws a tantrum when the US pays too much attention to his competition in the Axis of (Some) Evil? The worst was when the US kept fussing over Iraq. Now, it seems, it's Iran.

And speaking of the Asian Elvis, the Team America DVD is slated for release on April 5. Woohoo!



Did Bush I Give Woodward Head?

Throw names like Woodward and Bush together and you have the start of a successful porn enterprise. Add Deep Throat and you have a runaway hit. Adrian Havill, in an email to Romanesko, suggests that Elder Bush may have been the mysterious informant of All the President's Men.

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote, Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

If you're like me, you're a little behind. In case you missed the 1967 NYT article that's been floating around, here's a reprint.

Orlando Bosch Bush

Here's an interesting connection between the Bush family and an anti-Castro terrorist. What's it mean? Got me. (Thanks, Charone.)

Bubble Tea Fusion?

Remember that wacky experiment where scientists claimed incredible energy was released from collapsing really tiny bubbles? Well, apparently, the results have been "replicated and extended." Read about it here. With the sexy title of Additional Evidence of Nuclear Emissions During Acoustic Cavitation, it's bound to be a big seller. (Link from A Boy and His Computer.)


Social Insecurity III

See if the following makes sense to you. Bush™ says there’s a Social Security crisis: eventually, the system’s going into the red because of the high aging population of the baby boomers. They propose to address this crisis by subsidizing the creation of private personal accounts with ginormous amounts of cash borrowed from other sources (China and Japan?). The gov’t will have to borrow the money to cover the costs of current retirees. Bush™ says this will put money directly into the hands of future retirees, letting them invest in stocks and bonds. Gov't regulated ones, of course: “There will be a prescribed mix of conservative stocks and bonds into which you can invest, similar to the employee thrift plan at the federal government level.”

What’s so strange about this is that it doesn’t address the crisis at all. It might even deepen it. Does the Bush Administration really want to foster “personal responsibility” over retirement funds (as if many people don’t already have these)? Do they want to create an Ownership Society®? If they did, they could start by cutting payroll taxes, the source of current SS benefits. If they took less of our money, we’d have more of it—and we’d have to take responsibility for it and not “go to the race track. (Applause.) Or take it to the lottery.” Unfortunately, the gov't would have to borrow money to cover the benefits of current retirees.

It's probably going to end up borrowing money anyway, just to pay for the Treasury bonds (“full faith and credit of the United States,” etc.) that make up the surplus in the SS trust fund--an ironic name if there ever was one. But Bush™’s plan would require borrowing even more, to cover the percentage diverted into stocks and bonds. Never mind that the rest of the world is already concerned about the third-world amount of debt we're accruing and the anemia of the dollar.

What’s the real agenda here? It may be, as Bill Kristol has said, to “create Republicans” by making us common folk investors through letting us sock away a measly amount of cash per annum that won’t add up to any more than what retirees get now. (Even if it did, it wouldn’t add up to much more, unless the stock market was irrationally exuberant for decades.) But I suspect something else is on the administration’s mind. Maybe they want to divert money into capital markets. Or maybe they want to phase out Social Security itself by forcing the gov't into a fiscal crisis years down the road.


UPDATE: Josh Marshall, who's been tracking congressional support and dissent on the SS mess, has an extensive review of the President's plan here.


Monkey Porn

While you're taking a break from politics, in anticipation of the rich feast awaiting you this evening, why not read about monkey porn:
A new study found that male monkeys will give up their juice rewards in order to ogle pictures of female monkey's [sic] bottoms. The way the experiment was set up, the act is akin to paying for the images, the researchers say.
Lessee, male monkey looking at pictures of female monkeys' backsides.... Sounds kinda like...porn, doesn't it? But the author doesn't make the connection. Instead, he writes:
Would you pay to see a monkey's backside? I hope not. Monkeys will, and I guess that's okay, though it sounds awfully close to the sort of thing that lands guys in jail here in the human realm.
What is he talking about? Does he live in Iran? Utah? Did the experiment involve underage female monkeys? No: adult rhesus macaques. Read the article here.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Sick of politics? Why not cook some Brazilian food? Here's an excellent site full of authentic Brazilian recipes--at least according to this Brazilian (what do I know?).


He's Sooo Biiig

This year is the anniversary of Oral Roberts' 900-foot Jesus. Iconoclast has an amusing post about it here.