Saturday, September 08, 2007

Olbermann's Words, Amen

On September 4, Keith Olbermann had a Special Comment about President Bush whoring in front of troops during his "mystery" trip to Iraq. I missed it live and - in the ensuing days - got lost in the hustle and bramble that is everyday life. Today I watched it, and I wept for our country.

From when I was a kid, I have a very distinctive memory of the end of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" where Gene Wilder, livid that he tried to do something good for the children, for humanity, in finding an heir, is confronted with Charlie and Grandpa Joe, eager for their prize, suggestively earned by being the last.
Wrong, sir! Wrong! Under section 37B of the contract signed by him, it states quite clearly that all offers shall become null and void if - and you can read it for yourself in this photostatic copy - "I, the undersigned, shall forfeit all rights, privileges, and licenses herein and herein contained," et cetera, et cetera...”Fax mentis incendium gloria cultum," et cetera, et cetera...”Memo bis punitor delicatum!" It's all there, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole fizzy lifting drinks. You bumped into the ceiling which now has to be washed and sterilized, so you get nothing! You lose! Good day sir!
I said "Good day!"
And as a kid - during the first viewing, anyway - you suddenly realize that Charlie might not win. But while you're disappointed, you're overwhelmed by Willy Wonka's angry, stern, and - dare I say - justified - rage, because you're pissed too. Damn it, Charlie, you would've won, you could've won, but you and stupid Grandpa Joe totally fucked it up! Goddamned fizzy lifting drinks - you could've had it all!

Granted, Charlie has the trump of "all goodness" in returning to Willy his Everlasting Gobstopper, manifesting the intangible promise of fidelity and absolving him of his truly minor trespass, returning to Charlie his childlike purity and making him eligible to be the Apprentice. (I know, I know. English Degree, blah blah.)

Unfortunately for this analogy, if President Bush ever had an Everlasting Gobstopper, he long ago broke it up, sold it off to Slugworth, Halliburton, for friendship or money, and lost the only part he kept. He has no Trump card, no salvation. And Olbermann says "Good day, sir!"

The president is a fucking liar, a tool, a rube who's hubris in the face of lack of intelligence has cost our country thousands of lives. But Keith says it so much more eloquently.

Madeline L'Engle 1918 - 2007

A Wrinkle in Time

Who taught you to ask the big questions? Who showed you that there was fantasy within your reality and to cherish it? For me, that was Madeline L'Engle.

Somewhere in second or third grade, as religion began it's slow collapse around my questioning mind, I found an unexpected joy and solace in the stories of Meg Murry, Charles Wallace, and the twins. True, it was escapism in fiction, but was more speculative fiction - a base in the real world - than it was science fiction or fantasy. Madeline L'Engle played with time, manipulated science, and wrote about multiple dimensions long before I ever heard about string theory (still don't have a firm grasp on that one). I began questioning my world, my universe, in a creative and imaginative way, and I'll never forget all the time I spent attempting to visualize a tesseract.

I owe a lot of my own imaginative process and the very seedling of my writing to Madeline L'Engle. She will be missed.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dennis Kucinich Making Middle East Peace

From the Kucinich Website:
While the other leading candidates for the Presidency were spending the Labor Day weekend campaigning at picnics, barbeques, state and county fairs, and parading in front of the cameras, YOUR candidate, Dennis Kucinich, without fanfare, was quietly traveling throughout the troubled Middle East in search of real-world solutions to monumental, global challenges.

The votes we cast next year will have an impact here in the United States and around the world, and the candidate we elect must be equipped to make sound foreign policy decisions, based on first hand experience and in-person communications with other world leaders.

So, while other candidates partied and picnicked and posed, Dennis and Elizabeth traveled to a troubled, dangerous region of the world to meet with heads of state and other political leaders to find ways to solve the problems, mitigate the dangers, and find common ground for diplomatic cooperation - and PEACE.

"Strength through Peace" - the Kucinich philosophy - means direct engagement, diplomacy, adherence to international law and upholding treaties. It was in that spirit that Dennis and Elizabeth decided to visit the Middle East; to see whether political and religious leaders as well as the citizens of the region were open to the kind of positive dialogue recommended in the Baker Hamilton report. The kind of dialogue ignored and dismissed by the White House.

The six day trip started in Syria. In the Golan region, they visited the site of the "Shouting Valley" where Syrians whose families were separated by the occupation have to literally shout to each other across a distance of several hundred yards in order to maintain family and personal contact.

Syria has accepted and settled more than one and a half million refugees from Iraq. Dennis and Elizabeth visited an area on the Syrian-Iraqi border, as well as one neighborhood in Damascus where some of the Iraqis had settled. The Syrian government is providing free education and healthcare. "People are desperate," said Dennis. "They have lost loved ones in the war. They have nothing but the clothes on their back. This is a profound humanitarian gesture on the part of this country because it significantly increases the population of Syria. Now, someone must provide for these refugees."

On the second day, there was an extended meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They discussed a wide range of other matters including building relations between Syria and the United States, the role of the European community in negotiations between Syria and Israel, hopes for a national unity government in Lebanon, matters affecting Pakistan, and Assad's stated desire for a peace agreement with Israel.

Elizabeth met with the President's British-born wife, with whom she shares an interest in community economic development, education and the welfare of refugees.

One of the most moving parts of their trip was a visit to the holy site of Notre Dame de Saydanaya, a revered Christian mecca where legend says the Virgin Mary appeared 1,500 years ago, fully veiled Muslim women worship together with Christians. "In this time of religious strife, it is important to bear witness to places that show the way of peace," Elizabeth observed.

Peace and harmony in the Axis of Evil?? Would that message be seen on American TV? No.

Next, Dennis and Elizabeth visited Lebanon. There, Dennis met with President Emil Lahoud and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora where further discussions centered on resolving the conflict with Israel and issues surrounding stability in Lebanon.

President Lahoud was specific about the challenge of Shiites having resigned from the government: "Lebanon is governed by a consensus on every issue. To have this we must have the three main religious groups represented equally (Shiites, Sunnis and Maronites). When one group leaves, you cannot have a legal government."

And, in what may be a surprise to many here at home, there is a surprisingly large American population in Lebanon. How large? About 50,000, many of them active in "Democrats Abroad Lebanon", a branch of the Democratic Party's official overseas arm. Those U.S. citizens were thrilled to have a chance to meet Dennis and Elizabeth at a special evening meeting, and they used the event to kick-off their plans for getting Americans in the country to vote in Democrats Abroad's delegate selection process to choose delegates to attend the Democratic National Convention next year in Denver.

Lebanon's leading Christian cleric, Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronite Church met with Dennis and Elizabeth. Cardinal Sfier is no stranger to U.S. politics. He has met with George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condaleeza Rice in Washington. As the leader of a large segment of an ethnically and religious diverse nation, he told the Kuciniches, "We have to appreciate living together with persons who are not of our faith and working with them to achieve a common good."

Dennis and Elizabeth also made plans to return to Qana, the site of heavy fighting during last year's war and to participate in a televised 'Town Hall forum' in downtown Beirut with residents of the city.

Dennis, who will be returning to the U.S. in the next few days, summed up the trip this way: "I believe that through direct communication, there is hope for peace. The world is ready to embrace America again. It is important that America reaches out to show our true values, our compassion and our willingness to work for peace."

When he and Elizabeth return, he will provide a more detailed description of their travels and a more comprehensive assessment of his political and diplomatic findings.

Strength through Peace,
Kucinich for President 2008

Fool Me Once...

[Alternate YouTube Link]

Speaks for itself...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Notes on the FOX Republican Debate

Last night FOX News hosted the Republican Debate in New Hampshire. Here are some thoughts on what transpired during the evening. Get your popcorn; it's a haul.

Low Point: FOX & Giuliani
I gave this whole mess its own post in this spot, but it bears repeating at the top here as the single most angering event(s) of the entire evening: at several points during the evening, usually with the pretense of an attack-oriented question coming from Brit Hume or Chris Wallace, Ron Paul was asked to defend his "crazy" stance against the war or against bureaucracy. Starting as a light chuckle and continuing to crescendo with each instance throughout the debate, Rudy Giuliani could be heard directly laughing out loud at Ron Paul. FOX never cut his mic.

Rudy Giuliani is an unprofessional bully of a human being. What a dick.

Bill-O Preshow
  • Dennis Miller apparently never thought there were WMDs in Iraq; he thought it was right to go in, cuff Hussein, and develop a "reinvigoration of our brand." Did he just say that? You betcha.

  • Bill-O rails against a doctor who claims a chemical in microwave popcorn is not good for the lungs, follows it with one of the only things you can eat that's okay is hummus. What's wrong with that?

The Setup
  • FOX News Debate from May 2007

    Took this picture from May's debate, but last night was the same elephant. If red is GOP and blue is Democratic Party, why is the elephant not at least half red?

  • Every candidate had "Family" and "Religion" listed next to them at least once during the debate. Why is religion important? Mitt Romney's a Mormon, that's why.

  • The bell on Hume's nerts: the rule was that each candidate would have a minute to answer, shown by lights, then get buzzed. Unfortunately there was no consistancy except on how each candidate was treated: Ron Paul was regularly buzzed without warning, Giuliani was warned, warned, then buzzed, and at one point McCain got almost 2 solid minutes before even getting a warning. I came to the conclusion that a cowbell dangling by twine from Brit Hume's nutsack and tapped at his whim with a baby seal spine was the actual timer mechanism.

The Look
  • Does anyone believe Chris Wallace's hair is real?

  • FNC

    Red tie, red tie, red tie: They must have called each other. Everyone except Huckabee - who went periwinkle - and Brownback with his grey-lavender ditty.

  • Mitt Romney is - save Dennis Kucinich - by far the sexiest candidate on both sides of the field. Just wanted to throw out that man-crush.

  • Hunter's got that left-elbow-podium pose down, perfect for showcasing that left swoopy, swarthy eyebrow of his.

  • Giuliani: how 'bout them choppers? Standing out against the orange (see comment in The Post at the bottom)

The Attacks

The hard questions, the ones targeting specific beliefs or previous ideas - all, of course, on FOX's "no-no" list - were predictably aimed, mostly by Wallace: Romney was attacked on immigration and not federally banning abortion, McCain was pitted against "America's Hero" Giuliani, attacked for not signing a "No new taxes" pledge, Huckabee caught hell for suggesting a 23% consumption tax, and Ron Paul was lambasted for his contrarian views at every opening. Obviously fair and balanced.

The Topics

Overall, this was a lame, lame debate. They farted at immigration, swarmed on Iraq and how great and necessary the war is, winked at taxes, then hit on how important it is to eliminate Iran as a nuclear power.

The Comments
  • Ron Paul, the only voice of reason: The war is illegal, America needs to fix the problem we started, Republicans will go down the drain next year, bureaucracy is out of control.

  • Giuliani's comments can be summed up into three categories.
    1. I'm not running on what I did on 9/11, what I did on 9/11, what I did on 9/11...

    2. When I was mayor, I was able to transform New York in ways no one thought possible. I am simply a magical being, a miracle worker and enacted change by dipping my penis in the Hudson.

    3. [no words, just inappropriately laughing like a jerk at Ron Paul]

    And one gaffe: "I was stuck with 398,000" illegal immigrants. Oops.

  • Huckabee says we should outsource immigrant management to UPS/FedEx. Not a terrible idea, but good luck tattooing bar codes on all those asses.

  • Hunter says he'll get that 800 mile fence built, informs America that the president actually did sign a bill that says it needs to be built

  • Brownback on Larry Craig: Blah blah blubba blu...

  • Romney on abortion: Blah blah blubba blu...

  • Giuliani on family values: Blah blah blubba blu...

  • Huckabee believes all life is sacred, whether an unborn child, trapped in a mine, or in a long term care facility. So unborn children should be mining our coal until they're forced into early retirement homes? That's just crazy.

  • Ron Paul high point: the same people who are saying Iraq will be a bloodbath when we leave said it would be a cakewalk when we invaded; why are we listening to them?

  • Ron Paul vs. Huckabee - Huckabee loses on our honor is more important than lives, more important than being right. I was watching a stump speech lineup and a debate broke out. What the hell?

  • Tancredo was the first out the gate with "Radical Islam."

  • Mitt Romney soon followed "Global Jihad" and Al Mah Leaky. Who's that? Jambi's cousin (Mek-a-lek-a-hi Mek-a hiney-hoe)?

  • Everyone except Ron Paul spent a little time with their lips wrapped around the McCain sausage. I'm not sure what that was about.

Romney Slam: Bit of a Reach

This might be a stretch, but is one of those nuances that FOX tosses at us from time to time. When Mitt Romney's font graphic was was popped in to identify him, the "TT" at the end of his first name were crammed together, looking like pi (π). Pi being a foreign character, this works subconsciously to make Romney seem more alien, more foreign. You know, like that crazy Mormon religion he believes in. Might as well be a Jew or Muslim with that funny language stuff.

The Post
  • I addressed the Hannity handling of the Ron Paul Poll Win: no one redialed; Ron Paul won. Eh, so what? Granted, if Giuliani won it would've been a topic of serious conversation.

  • It wasn't as apparent on stage, but as soon as Rudy Giuliani sat next to Hannity under those more bleaching lights, it was clear that he should've called for makeup before taking a seat: less makeup to be exact. Giuliani looked like a damned Oompa Loompa - all kinds of orange. It made it only slightly more bearable to hear him laugh - again - and compare Ron Paul to Mike Gravel. Dick

The Rendered Fat of the Debate

I think the most frightening thing about this debate is the rhetoric that came out near the end, Hunter's "You don't understand the determination of the U.S. Marines" and Romney's pledge that we will "overwhelm jihad."

Our armed forces are not radicals; they have a strong belief in their families and at least a small vested interest in self-preservation. The people they are fighting are not necessarily looking at returning home alive; they are looking at their sacrifice and the generations that will come after them and eventually crush the American power. How do we win against that, and why is it that only one candidate for President of the United States on that stage last night has even the slightest understanding of that dynamic and its implications?

FOX, Giuliani, Hannity Belittle Ron Paul

Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate saying we need to pull the troops out of Iraq, that the war is illegal, and that governmental bureaucracy is out of control. If I were a Republican, I'd be pulling for him. Then again, if I were a Republican, I would've gone mad and put a gun in my mouth long ago (thank God for the 2nd Amendment!). Either way, he was a refreshing voice at last night's FOX Republican Debate in New Hampshire.

Unfortunately, a complete lack of professionalism showed just how ruthless Republican wingnuts can be and how they can turn on each other and eat their own.

FOX and Giuliani
FOX - if confronted - will probably claim that it was fostering an environment of open debate, but when one candidate was speaking, other candidates' comments were sometimes audible. Most notably, each time a question was posed to Ron Paul - usually worded as an attack by Brit Hume or Chris Wallace - Rudy Giuliani could be heard laughing off camera with increasing vigor as the broadcast went on.

This is what FOX does, undermining those who don't tow the party line, clearly showing bias by allowing Giuliani's mic to remain open. But Giuliani? Regardless of what you think of "America's Mayor," and his 30 seconds of mistakes, his openly laughing at Ron Paul is the most telling characterization to date: Rudy Giuliani is an unprofessional, beat-up-the-underdog, smug, sad excuse for a human being; in a word - douchebag. I wouldn't vote for him with Karl Rove's arm sticking out of Rush Limbaugh's ass.

I don't think anything during the debate bothered me more.

Hannity's Lies
After the Republican Debate on FOX, a special, live Hannity & Colmes aired with a "Text the Winner of the Debate" poll. At first blush, Ron Paul had twice the votes of the second place runner with 34% of votes; he carried that lead through the end of the show, finishing with 33% of the votes.

Sean Hannity, on two or three separate occasions, made serious comments on how it was a couple of nutjobs dialing and redialing and screwing up the poll. Sean Hannity was wrong. After one vote, the return text message thanks you for voting. Attempting to vote again returns a text saying "You have already voted...thank you for participating." No one could vote more than once with each cell phone.

But if Sean can undermine anyone without the FOX brand as their tramp stamp and make all his loyal, blind followers believe that there isn't something notable or significant going on? Well, that's his job. And he does it well.

I feel badly that Ron Paul is the clear casualty of these asshats.

UPDATE: JL over at Laissez-faire (nice comments) posted found this Ron Paul loveliness. I don't feel so bad anymore when Hannity looks like such a choad:

Stay tuned. I have 3 pages of notes from last night's debate; I just thought this deserved its own post.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bush: Tears of a Clown

Crooks and Liars had a nice post about President Bush's admission that he cries. They entitled it "Tears of a Clown." How dare they do that without a proper Photoshop?

Bush: I bet he weeps
This is flattery: if not for the presidency thing, he'd be a carney, running a tilt-a-whirl

There you go. Much better.

Notes From the Popehat: Money Honey

From the Vatican Information service press office:
"Wealth," the Pope says, "though a good thing in itself, must not be considered as an absolute good."
So with a quick Pope/Webster mashup, we're hearing that the Pope, the man who - by religious succession - is the keeper and high priest of the religion based on the man who supposedly said "Truly, I say unto you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 19:23]" is saying for the public record that abundance of valuable material possessions or resources is a good thing in itself.

Does that somehow sound incorrect?

But what else would the head of a multi-million dollar world power with its own country and mission to increase its flock by downgrading other belief systems say about money? It's what drives the Catholic power base. Unfortunately, it also puts them in a position where to believe what Jesus believed and preached about money would make them hypocrites.

Religion's funny like that.

Mom Bakes 2-Year-Old in SUV, Walks Free

Gotta love Cincinnati. From the Cincinnati Enquirer:
UNION TWP. - Brenda Nesselroad-Slaby won't be charged in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Cecilia Slaby, who was left in a car for eight hours amid searing heat Aug. 23, the Clermont County prosecutor said Tuesday.

Nesselroad-Slaby, 40, forgot that she had left the sleeping girl strapped in a child seat of a sport utility vehicle at Glen Este Middle School, where she is the assistant principal.

All evidence indicated that Nesselroad-Slaby didn't intend to leave Cecilia in the car, Prosecutor Don White said.

The only charge that might have been appropriate was child endangering, White said. But Ohio law doesn't allow for the prosecution of someone on that charge if a death results from an accident.
Prosecutors also reviewed video from security cameras at the school, which showed that, a few minutes before 7 a.m., Nesselroad-Slaby stopped near a school door to remove boxes of doughnuts from the rear cargo area of her car through a hatchback.

Nesselroad-Slaby then moved the car to a parking spot.

She didn't notice Cecilia, who was sleeping in a child seat behind the driver's seat, Croswell said. The doughnuts were for a 7:15 a.m. faculty meeting that Nesselroad-Slaby led to plan the Aug. 27 start of school. A teacher who parked next to Nesselroad-Slaby's car about 3 p.m. noticed Cecilia. Nesselroad-Slaby had not returned to the car before then, White said.

The child died of heat-related causes on a day the temperature averaged 98 degrees in that part of Union Township, police said. It could have reached 149 degrees in the car, which had its windows up.
Oopsie! I's forgets da baby...for 8 hours! What the hell?

It's being stated - repeatedly - that Ohio law, by apparent fluke, does not have a prosecutorial process for accidentally killing your child by leaving them in the car until their brain bakes. This is almost as unfathomable as someone remembering the doughnuts but leaving their child in the car - for 8 hours.

I am certain, however, that if you changed the facts of the case to a woman driving a beat-up Lincoln who forgot she had her child while she shopped at Big Lots and Dollar General for an hour or two and that child died, that woman would be in jail right now.

I'm also sure that this story is a comfort to anyone in Ohio who just doesn't really take to their kids; if they're young enough to be strapped in a car seat, it's hot enough, and you can park where no one's going to interrupt the baking process: problem solved. Oopsie! I didn't mean it.

I urge you to contact the following organizations. If this woman is seriously not going to be charged with reckless endangerment, involuntary manslaughter, or the like, at the very least she should not be supervising children for a living.

Clermont County Prosecutor's Office
(513) 732-7223

Glen Este Middle School
(513) 947-7700

West Clermont Local School District
(513) 943-5000

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ricky Shambles does...Fiction

I've been a writer for quite a while. My first stories were third-grade class-entertainment pieces about losing my homework to zombies, ninjas, and pirates and their steel-reinforced jock straps. No. Really.

Since then, I've gone slightly more high-brow. I'm actually working on a novel right now, and I'd like some exposure and feedback. If you ever read my blog and thought "I should comment," this is the time.

Chapter 1 is called "Job's Run":
Job was on fire.

He ran through the ally, his head switching left-right-over-the-shoulder. Every sound was new, was followed by his eyes. Every sight was fresh, and the sensations flashed into his mind with electric clarity. His brain was abuzz and burning with visions and auditory cruelty.

The rocks and glass on the concrete ground dug into his bare feet. Pain. New.

The chill in the air on his naked chest raised the hairs all over his body. He stumbled, stopping his fall with his hands as they dug into the cement.

Job held his bleeding palms in front of his face. Blood. Greater pain.

He catalogued, but did not react.

At thirty years old, Job was the world’s oldest and wisest newborn.

His brain had experienced many long years of suffering, but he had never felt physical pain.

Licking the blood, he logged taste with the other sensations, got up, and began to move again, remaining obsessed with the only spoken word his virgin ears had ever heard.

Love you long time. Did I catch you?

Ricky Shambles Goes on Vacation

A warning to all my would-be readers.

After a recent boon in 50 to 70 readers a day, I feel compelled to post the following:

Ricky Shambles will not have any new entries between September 16th and September 23rd. Mrs. Shambles's sister is getting married very far away and I will not be able to (or even want to) hit a computer while on an all-inclusive resort vacation (If I do have a chance...shhhh...I won't tell if you don't).

Seriously, though, there probably won't be any updates; but be aware that I am not abandoning you. I'll put up a final "I'm gone...but for a moment" post as a reminder. But when I do return, there will be much to talk about.

Of that I'm certain.

I love all you guyses.

Larry Craig and Apologies

Some days I just don't feel like blogging.

Most of those days I spend reflecting on news I've already dedicated myself to (have you ever felt the struggle between the sickness of ending a sentence with a preposition and that sickness not quite overriding the proper desire for the awkward structure that would make it "proper" English? Kind of like that).

Let's talk about apologies.

An apology is, in a sense, asking for forgiveness for some sort of trespass ("as we forgive those who trespass against us"...totally not raised Catholic). Unfortunately, most of our public officials and just about everyone who apologizes on the television has been a horrific example of what an apology should be.

When watching Saturday's "apology" resignation of Larry Craig, I was looking for a weeping James Orsen Bakker. Instead I got the standard "apology:"
  • I did something
  • It was not wrong
  • I'm sorry if decisions and opinions hurt people
This is what an apology should be:
  • I did something wrong
  • What I did hurt people
  • I apologize for my actions and for hurting those people
In America, we've gotten used to the "I'm sorry if something hurt people."

This is not an apology. We need to recognize that.

This is the equivalent to the linguistic passive voice, object deleted: "A meeting was held and it was decided that all Americans are terrorists unless explicitly stated by an unaccountable government body."

Larry Craig did not apologize; he barely resigned; he did not cry.

Where does our accountability live, if not in America, if no longer in our language?

Why aren't we sorry anymore?