Thursday, December 29, 2005

IT'S OUT!

The paperback of The Devil's Right Hand, that is. St. Martin's was telling me it'd hit the street in January, but some bookstores I've talked to recently said they had it on the shelves. If you haven't had a chance (or the funds) to meet Jack Keller in hardback, now's your chance. And they make great Valentine's Day gifts!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Did Osama Win After All?

This Miami Herald editorial says it better than I ever could:

One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help.

and:

I would have expected proud defiance of anyone who would suggest that a mere terrorist threat could send this country into spasms of despair and fright so profound that we'd follow a leader who considers the law a nuisance and perfidy a privilege.

Never would I have expected this nation -- which emerged stronger from a civil war and a civil rights movement, won two world wars, endured the Depression, recovered from a disastrous campaign in Southeast Asia and still managed to lead the world in the principles of liberty -- would cower behind anyone just for promising to ``protect us.''


There's more. A lot more. Read the whole thing.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, to All Still Awake...

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. The Firewire card for the new video camera is hung in the computer. All the battery packs for all of the electronica are charging....all is calm, all is bright.

A Merry Christmas to All...and to all, a good night!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

WHO SAID THIS?

"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires-a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution. "

Who said it? Click HERE to find out.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bad Santas Indeed

From A Dark Planet: A group of 40 people dressed in Santa Claus outfits, many of them drunk, went on a rampage through Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, robbing stores, assaulting security guards and urinating from highway overpasses, police said Sunday.

Crikey!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Trevanian, R.I.P.

Rodney Whitaker, who wrote under the pen name Trevanian, has died.

When I was a yoot, I read and reread Trevanian's books five or six times each. He was probably best known for his novel The Eiger Sanction which was made into one of the more fun 70's Clint Eastwood flicks.
The movie was certainly memorable, but there was no way to capture on film that certain atmosphere that Trevanian brought to his spy adventures, that sense of never being quite sure when he was putting you on. I mean, how could you resist a character like art collector/assassin Jonathan Hemlock, who worked for a shadowy (literally) intelligence boss named Yurassis Dragon? (say that last name fast if you don't know why it makes me laugh out loud).
My absolute favorite Trevanian character was Nicolai Hel, the half-Japanese assassin of Trevanian's classic Shibumi. Killer. Philosopher. Lover. Wine connisseur. No offense to Ian Fleming, but Nicolai Hel was cooler than James Bond by a factor of 10.
Trevanian's books had style. They had wit. They had great and often bizarre characters. They had hot sex. They were, above all, huge fun to read.
As it turns out, Whitaker wrote under at least five pseudonyms. I'm sure that he published great work under all of them.
But it's Trevanian I'll miss.

Bill O'Reilly's War on New Year's

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As I’m sure you’ve heard (because he’s incapable of shutting up about it), talk show host and falafel aficionado Bill O’Reilly is really, really cheesed off about what he calls the “War on Christmas.”

He and his followers have their knickers in a big ol’ Yuletide wad over the fact that some retailers are using the words “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” at this, the most festive and financially lucrative time of the year.

According to O’Reilly, there are some people out there who hate, hate, HATE the idea of anyone saying “Merry Christmas.” These people, as I understand O’Reilly’s argument, have formed some sort of sinister cabal and infiltrated the highest levels of our society with the sole mission of destroying the entire holiday as revenge for the offense. So Big Bill has decided to declare his own war on anyone who dares go about with “Happy Holidays” on his lips.

He’s even makin’ his own list and checkin’ it twice. O’Reilly recently went on the air and proposed a “coalition of the willing” to fight against this “secular movement.” He also railed against what he called the “defamation pipeline,” which apparently consists of “far left smear sites.”

And how does Bill propose to plug up this pipeline and, in doing so, help save Christmas? Two words: enemies list. He promised to post the names of the offenders on his Web site, billoreilly.com, so that people would, uh, know who they are, I guess.

Boy, nothing says “Christmas” to me like a good, old-fashioned blacklist. I get all misty just thinking about it.

(By the way, I looked. I’m not there. Dang.)

Actually, I’ve never actually met anyone who was truly offended by the term “Merry Christmas,” so I have no objective evidence that such people exist outside of O’Reilly’s head. I have met several Jewish people who have gently corrected me when I forgot and wished them a happy celebration of a holiday that they don’t celebrate.

But O’Reilly apparently could give a rats’ hindquarters what a bunch of Jews think. His reply to a Jewish caller on his show was: “You have a federal holiday based on the philosopher Jesus. And you don’t wanna hear about it? Come on, [caller] — if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel.” Not that there’s any anti-Semitism there, oh no.

Actually, what I think Bill O’Reilly’s really up to isn’t a war to save Christmas. No, I think that’s just a smokescreen for the real O’Reilly agenda: the War on New Year’s. Think about it. The phrase “Happy Holidays,” the one that so enrages O’Reilly, refers to the entire season, both Christmas and the New Year’s holiday that comes the next week.

Now, Christmas is a wonderful time, what with the tidings of great joy to all people and chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all that. But New Year’s is an important part of the holidays as well. It provides time for reminiscence on the year past, time for sober reflection (or, if your New Year’s Eve is like mine, deeply hung-over reflection) on what’s to come.

O’Reilly and his ilk, apparently, want no part of reminiscence or reflection or Auld Lang Syne or any of that commie pinko claptrap. They hate New Year’s so much that they don’t want to include it in the greeting.

Why, Bill? Why do you hate New Year’s? Did some horrible trauma happen to you on New Year’s Eve? Do you not get invited to the good parties? Do you end up spending every New Year’s Eve alone in your apartment, slugging down Irish whiskey while watching “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” and weeping softly to yourself as the ball drops? Is it that you have more than the usual trouble getting a date for New Year’s after that whole sexual harassment thing?

Folks, here’s what we need to do at this holiday season. Someone needs to take one for the team and invite Bill O’Reilly to their house for New Year’s. He’s got a contact e-mail address on his website, and I know he’d be glad to hear from you.

Invite the big guy over. Show him a good time. Get him loaded. Put a little paper hat on him and give him a noisemaker. Have some good-looking young lady give him a big ol’ sloppy kiss at midnight, then whisk her into the Witness Protection program before he gets hold of her phone number.

Show Bill O’Reilly that New Year’s has its charms too, so the phrase “Happy Holidays” doesn’t make him so all-fired angry and bitter any more. I’d do it, but I’m, uh, washing my hair that night. But I’d appreciate it if someone would ask him about putting me on the blacklist. That would be cool.

And in the meantime, don’t worry about Christmas. It’ll be fine. Like the Whos down in Whoville say: “Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.”

Have a merry one of whatever you celebrate .

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, practices law, and celebrates in Carthage.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Heh.

"Operation Kringle Kill": The blog of one of the soldiers currently engaged in fighting the War on Christmas.

A Dark Planet

My good friend David Terrenoire joins the ranks of blogdom (aka people who waste time rambling on the Internet when they really should be writing) with his blog, entitled A Dark Planet. Welcome to the blogosphere, David!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas in Crawford

Latest Radical Islamist Newspaper Column


One of the great traditions of Christmas is, of course, the Christmas card. Some folks prefer, in lieu of a card, to write everybody a long chatty letter telling folks how the year has gone. Even some of the world’s most famous people indulge themselves this way.

Here, courtesy of your Humble Columnist, is one example of just such a letter:

Christmas Greetings from Crawford!

We’re having a quiet Christmas in Crawford this year. Just a few friends. Very few. Actually, just Karl and Dick. They insisted on that. And it was their idea to ban all TV, radio and newspapers from the house. They call it the Christmas Bubble. Isn’t that cute? And it’s done wonders for George’s mood. We’re so lucky to have Karl and Dick to keep his spirits high.

Wow, what a year it’s been! Things started off really well, what with the fun and excitement of our second inaugural celebration back in January. We had a lot to look forward to, what with George winning that huge mandate and amassing all that political capital. And boy, did he spend it!

We’ve got so much to show for it, too. Take Social Security reform. … OK, bad example. Well, seniors got that Medicare prescription drug benefit. I hear one or two of them can actually understand it, which is more than I can say for George! Ha-ha!

Of course, no year is without its setbacks. I’m sure you all heard about Scooter’s little trouble with the law. But Dick tells us that it’s going to turn out fine and that Scooter will be totally exonerated. His exact words were that the prosecution was in its “last throes.” Funny, I seem to remember hearing that before somewhere, but I can’t remember exactly where.

Speaking of trouble with the law, our friend Tom got some great news the other day. The judge threw out one of the three charges against him. George called him up to congratulate him on his big win. “That’s half the case!” he said. (George is so funny when he tries to do math.) Tom seems pretty sure that he’ll be acquitted. Of course, he said the same thing about Duke Cunningham, but I’m sure this time he’s right.

Another good friend who faced hard times this year was poor Brownie. Who knew that when he was appointed head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he’d end up actually having to manage an emergency? I mean, is that bad luck, or what?

But Brownie being Brownie, he’s managed to hold on to his sense of humor. I heard he was going around telling people, get this — that his next venture was going to be setting himself up as a consultant on disaster preparedness! Isn’t that a scream?

Harriet’s back at work and seems pretty happy, even though she’s obviously disappointed after having to withdraw her nomination for the Supreme Court. I really think people were unfair to Harriet. I mean, so what if she had no experience and was completely unqualified? It’s not like we were sending her there to actually think about complicated legal stuff! We were sending her there to watch George’s back! I mean, what part of “crony” do these people not understand?

Unfortunately, even at this happy holiday season, some people just have to be nasty ol’ Grinches. Like that silly Sheehan woman, going on and on and on about her dead son, and how she doesn’t like the war and blah blah blah. I wish she’d just get over it, you know? I mean, a lot of people have lost someone in this war. No one we know personally, of course, but I’ve read about them.

And that John McCain! I’m so mad at him I could just spit! How dare he propose a law that says George can’t order that people be tortured! Not that we actually do torture people, of course. Oh, sure, we may strap people to a board, put a cloth over their face and pour water on the cloth so they think they’re drowning, but Rummy tells me that that’s just, you know, horseplay.

Besides, George explained to me, we don’t torture people, because torture is illegal. We only do things that are legal, so if we do it, it’s not illegal, therefore, it’s not torture. You see why I love this man? Anyway, John McCain should just shut his big mouth. After all, what does he know about torture?

Whew! I seem to have gotten a wee bit out of the Christmas spirit for a moment there, didn’t I? Sorry about that. But don’t worry about me! A few dozen Xanax and I’ll be my cheery holiday self again!

Anyway, I’ve got to run. The twins will be home for the holidays any minute now, so I’ve got to make sure all the liquor’s safely locked away. And George’s mother will be here, so I better down a few more of those Xanax.

Hugs, Laura.

Arguing With The Voices In Their Heads

In today's edition of the Pilot, Martin Samchalk of Pinehurst uses an updated version of Dickens to explain how I'm really a radical Islamist:

Next, the Ghost of Holiday Future takes Dusty into the future when his heroes, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and Hillary have surrendered the country to al Qaeda. The state religion is Islam and there is no more Christmas to fret about. In fact there is no more Constitution, no Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution and no more Congress to make laws. We all live under Islamic law.

Finally, the Ghost of Holiday Present shows Dusty how he is helping to bring about future holidays under Islamic law, by repeating lies against President Bush and the Iraq war....

In Dusty’s dream he lives and is learning Islamic law in Carthage.


Heh. Now who can argue with that?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Richard Pryor, R.I.P..

Digby, over at his blog, has a passage in his requiem for Pryor that sums it up better than I ever could. He describes going to a Pryor show at age 18:

I looked around me in that theatre that night, in which I and my little friend Kathy were among a fair minority of whites, and I realized that we were all laughing uproariously together at this shocking, dirty, racially charged stuff. As someone who grew up in a racist household (and had always had a visceral reaction against it) it was an enormous, overwhelming relief. I understood Richard Pryor, the African Americans in the audience understood Richard Pryor and Richard Pryor and the African Americans understood me. He was right up front, saying it all clearly and without restraint. He wasn't being polite and pretending that race wasn't an issue. And it didn't matter. Nobody, not one person, in that audience was angry. In fact, not one person in that audience was anything but doubled over in paroxysms of hysterical laughter. He had our number, all of us, the whole flawed species.

That last sentence should be Richard Pryor's epitaph. It's a rare comic--hell, it's a damn near unheard of comic these days--who could wrench so many laughs out of so much human tragedy and stupidity.

My favorite Pryor routine is memorialized in his first concert movie, and it describes his first heart attack. He does a little one-man show in which he plays not only his own terrified self, but his own heart...an angry, talking heart with the attitude of a particularly vicious mugger. At one point the heart makes him get down on one knee and beg for mercy for eating so much pork. And it's hilarious. It takes real genius to make something that raw that funny.

R.I.P. Richard Pryor. Your legacy lives on.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Your Holiday Viewing Guide

Latest Newspaper Column

Here it is, another holiday season. And you know what that means. It’s time to gather around with the family, stick a plastic bag of compressed turkey parts in the microwave, and bask in the warm glow of holiday TV specials.

This year’s selections include:

“CSI: North Pole”(CBS): The combined casts of all three “CSI” shows come together as they are magically transported to Santa’s compound to discover the identity of whoever killed and dressed out Blitzen the Reindeer. At the show’s climax, the group gets stranded on an ice floe without food, and viewers can call a special 1-800 number to vote on who gets eaten (David Caruso).

“A Capitol Christmas”(CBS): Our nation’s lawmakers put away their differences for one night of holiday cheer. Comedy ensues when Ted Kennedy gets into the eggnog and starts hitting on Nancy Pelosi. Musical highlights include Reps. Tom DeLay and Randall “Duke” Cunningham singing a heartwarming rendition of John Prine’s classic “Christmas in Prison” with special guest Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Rumors that they’ll be joined by Bill Frist and Karl Rove could not be confirmed at press time.

“Christmas in Crawford” (Fox News): We actually have very little information on this one. Rumors in Hollywood claim that the show may not even get made, since the president refuses to commit to a timetable for taping it. He says it might embolden the other networks.

“Dick Cheney’s Christmas at Guantanamo” (ABC): President Bush’s very own jolly old elf visits not only the Cuban prison camp, but other CIA “black sites” to explore how our hardworking intelligence community celebrates the season. You and your family will get a warm glow as the vice president plugs in the “Human Christmas Tree,” and so will the suspect picked to be the tree, you betcha!

“A Sopranos Christmas”(HBO): The lovable lugs of TV’s favorite Mob family celebrate the season with a live broadcast from Tony Soprano’s infamous strip bar, the Bada-Bing. Songs include “What Freakin’ Child Is Dis?” and “Grandma Got Whacked By a Reindeer (So You Guys Know What to Do).” Unfortunately, this being HBO, the special will not be seen till March of 2008.

Bill O’Reilly’s “Merry Christmas! Shut Up!” (Fox News): The blustery bully of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” takes to the street to save Christmas by leaping out of bushes and alleyways to scream at anyone who dares to say “Happy Holidays.” Original songs include “Turn Christian, You Punk, Or Else!” and “Joy to the World (Except Those Pinkos in San Francisco).” Sponsored with limited commercial interruption by the American Falafel Council.

“A Fear Factor Christmas” (NBC): Winning contestants from the show’s last three seasons return to face the most terrifying challenge of all: Aunt Martha’s fruitcake. Viewer discretion advised.

“TomKat’s Scientology Christmas Special” (OnDemand): This special starring famous Scientologists Tom Cruise and his brainwashed minion — er, sorry, new convert — Katie Holmes, is only available on pay-per-view. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars to see, and people who’ve seen it through to the end say you really won’t believe how stupid the big surprise ending is.

“A Very Chickenhawk Christmas” (UPN): A group of 18- to 25-year-old Young Republicans who fervently believe in the Iraq War (but not enough to actually enlist) put on a Christmas special for the troops. As program host Tiffani “Muffy” Freeman put it: “We didn’t actually go to Iraq ’cause it’s, like, dirty and dangerous and stuff? So we got together and thought we’d cheer the troops up by singing them some songs? Like ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas.’ That one’s like, really poignant and sad and stuff because, like, they won’t be? But we back President Bush and the troops, like, a thousand percent.” When asked if her backing of the president’s war meant that she or her friends would be enlisting, Freeman rolled her eyes and answered, “As if. I mean, we, like, have plans for our lives, you know?”

“Pat Robertson’s Bat-Crazy Christmas” (CBN): The maniacal televangelist’s Christmas message reminds us of what the season’s all about: Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men, except gays, lesbians, anyone who’s against teaching Intelligent Design, the State Department, the president of Venezuela, Democrats, the media, the city of New Orleans, the city of Orlando, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Unitarians, atheists, agnostics, feminists, the entire ACLU, “secular humanists,” several members of the Supreme Court, Ellen DeGeneres and anyone in her audience, and parents of kids who dress up for Halloween. Ho Ho Ho!

Happy viewing and Joyeux Noel, y’all!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Reasons to Be Thankful, A Few Days Late

Latest newspaper column:

It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and as I look around me, I’m finding plenty to be thankful for.

On the personal level, I’ve got my family, my health (except for a slight chest cold), I’ve got a roof over my head, plenty to eat (believe me, you can tell), and plenty of good friends around. I’ve got one book on the market (coming out in paperback in January, by the way), another coming out in March, and the writing on the third one is coming along well.

But hey, it’s not all about me.

No, I’m thankful for a lot of the things I see happening in my country. This may seem a mite strange to some readers of this column, since it would appear that I spend a lot of words blasting and/or lampooning the things I see going wrong. But in this season of love and happiness, I think it behooves us to concentrate on the good things that are going on.

Such as:

* Jose Padilla got indicted. The so-called “dirty bomb” suspect, who’s been held without trial or even being charged for three years, finally will see the inside of a courtroom. A federal grand jury in Miami returned an 11-count indictment against Padilla and four other suspects, saying that they, among other things, “operated and participated in a North American support cell that sent money, physical assets and mujahideen recruits to overseas conflicts for the purposes of fighting a violent jihad.”

Good. About time. If he’s guilty (and this seems likely), convict his sorry butt and put him under the jail, for all I care, and his accomplices with him.

See, despite the hysterical chest-pounding of the drooling ya-hoos that call themselves “Patriots” or “conservatives,” no American wants to see terrorists just let go. If they truly are terrorists, we want them caught, tried, convicted and put away. We’re just not ready to trust the government’s bald assertion that someone is a terrorist just because Alberto Gonzales or some other appointed or elected official says so.

Why? Because we are Americans. We know governmental officials can be incompetent. They can lie. They can just be flat wrong about something. I mean, really, really wrong.

For example, Dick Cheney and other administration officials said there was “no doubt” that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Assuming for the sake of argument that they weren’t being dishonest but were simply mistaken, do you want to give people who made an error of this magnitude to have carte blanche to lock people up? So the fact that someone finally recognizes that there’s some check on that power is a very good thing for America.

* I’m also thankful for Crazy Jean Schmidt, the Republican representative from Ohio’s Second District. After Congressman John Murtha, the ranking Republican on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, suggested a plan for getting out of Iraq that involved an “over the horizon redeployment” of American troops and the creation of a “quick reaction” force to deal with threats to the Iraqi government, Crazy Jean went ballistic.

She decked herself out in an American flag dress and blasted Murtha, a decorated former Marine with more than 37 years of service to his country. She claimed she had just had a conversation with Ohio State Rep. Danny Bubp, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. Bubp, Schmidt claimed, “asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: That cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”

Why am I thankful for this, may you ask? Because, first, Schmidt was immediately forced to withdraw her remarks. The rules of the House prohibit such personal attacks and specifically state that a member can be censured for such remarks.

But it gets better. Turns out Bubp never said any such thing. Bubp told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he never mentioned Murtha when talking with Schmidt, and he would never call a fellow Marine a coward. So, basically Schmidt got caught not only violating the rules of the House, she got caught lying while doing it. Any time lying extremist Republicans are exposed and embarrassed, it’s a good day for America. And there’ve been a lot of good days like that recently.

n Finally, I’m thankful that, in the face of George Dubbya Bush’s bullheaded insistence that there will be no timetables for withdrawal from Iraq, a call for just such a timetable has come from … the Iraqis themselves.

A “reconciliation conference” attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers as well as leading Sunni politicians issued a resolution “calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation.”

Well, that’s it, then. After all, Dubbya said that when the Iraqis want us to leave, we’ll leave. And Dubbya, as we know, is a man of his word, right? So I just bet we’ll be seeing some timetable real soon for turning things over to the Iraqis and coming home, right? That’s something to be thankful for, right?

Right?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Interview With Your Humble Blogger, With Colors

Jeff Shelby, author of Killer Swell and one of the fine bloggers over at First Offenders, interviews me via the magic of the Internets. I manage not to make an utter fool of myself. I think.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Modern Fable

Latest Newspaper Column

Once upon a time there was a village. It was a happy and prosperous place and the envy of all the other villages around it.

Then, one day, the village was attacked by wolves. Several of the people were killed, and the entire village was plunged into mourning.

Then the village shepherd boy spoke up. “We need to go find the wolves in their dens and kill them so this never happens again!” he said.

The villagers loudly agreed and cheered the shepherd boy. They sent their finest and bravest men to that part of the forest where the wolves hid. They killed many in their dens and scattered the rest into the forest. They were going to pursue the wolves and wipe them out, but the shepherd boy said, “Wait! Now we need to go and kill the old bear who lives in another part of the forest!”

“What?” some of the people said. “Why? The old bear isn’t the threat. He's weak and sick. Your own father fought him years ago and left him crippled.”

“The bear is still dangerous!” the shepherd boy insisted. “He’s got long sharp teeth!”

“We doubt that,” some of the villagers said. “His teeth were pulled years ago.”

“I know people who’ve seen his teeth!” the shepherd boy said. “He’s bitten people in the past, hasn’t he? And I know that he’s hiding some of the wolves who escaped!”

“Wait,” the people said, “How do you know that?”

“Someone told me!” the shepherd boy said. When the people still expressed doubt, the shepherd boy grew angry. “The wolf attacks changed everything!” he yelled. “You must want your neighbors to be eaten by wolves! Traitors! Wolf-lovers! Wolf! Wolf!”

The shepherd boy and his friends shouted so long and so loud and were so insistent that anyone who didn't want to attack the bear was putting the village in danger, that eventually the doubters were outvoted. Some even allowed themselves to be convinced by the shepherd boy. So the village’s finest and bravest men went to the old bear's cave with their swords and pikes.

When they got there, the old bear looked up blearily. He wondered why the villagers were coming after him, since he hadn’t left the area around his cave for years. When he saw they were coming to kill him, though, he reared up on his hind legs and tried to fight. He was old and weak and hadn't any teeth, but he was still a bear. The villagers killed him, but a few of them were killed as well.

“Now,” the shepherd boy said triumphantly, “you’ll see I was right about the bear!”

He pulled the dead animal’s lips back to show the villagers his long sharp teeth. But the bear didn’t have any teeth.

“See,” the doubters said, “we were right! The bear was no threat to us! What did those men have to die for?”

The shepherd boy shrugged. “Hey,” he said, “you had the same information I did!”

“What do you mean?” they demanded. “We had the information you told us! By the way, where did you hear that the bear still had teeth? Who told you?”

The shepherd boy shuffled his feet and looked around. “Ummm…” he said “the Town Drunk. “

“What!?” the villagers yelled.

“And the Village Idiot.”

“Are you crazy!? “the people said. “You didn’t tell us that!”

“We’re fighting to the death against the wolves!” the shepherd boy yelled back. “Wolf-lovers! You’re dishonoring these brave men who fought the bear! You’re dishonoring the memory of the people who died in the wolf attacks! Wolf! Wolf!”

Soon things got worse. With the bear gone, some of the remaining wolves actually did come and live in his cave. From there, they raided the surrounding villages and killed many people, including some of the people who lived in the forest.

“Hey,” the shepherd boy's friends said, “Better them than us.”

The people in the surrounding villages began to grumble.

“Who cares what they think?” the shepherd boy’s friends said. “I hear they eat cheese. Ha-Ha! Cheese! That's funny.”

The men of the village had to go into the forest again and again to fight the wolves, and many were killed.

“Because we killed the bear,” the shepherd boy claimed, “we don't have to fight them in the village. They haven’t attacked the village, have they? Huh?”

“That's because we've posted guards at the edge of the forest 24 hours a day, you dolt,” the people responded. “It doesn't have anything to do with the bear.”

“You voted to go after the bear, same as me,” the shepherd boy said smugly.

“Yes,” the people said, “it's our fault.”

“Told you,” the shepherd boy said.

“It's our fault for trusting you.”

“You love wolves, you wolf-lovers! Wolf! Wolf!” the shepherd boy yelled. This time, no one listened. But it was too late.

The moral of the story is: Pick your shepherds carefully or it won’t be the sheep that get fleeced.

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. He says for the record that he’s not pro-bear.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ten Movies I HATE

Amy Konig, over on her blog, started a list called 10 Movies I HATE, and, well, it seems to have caught on here in the blogosphere. Atrios and Steve Gilliard chimed in, so I figured, hey, why not me?

Understand that this is not the "worst movies of all time" list...there are plenty of bad movies I enjoy watching just because they're so bad. Top Gun, for instance or Red Dawn. This list is for movies I have a poweful visceral aversion to, movies the very mention of which causes me to instinctively do the "finger down the throat and making gagging noises" gesture. They are, in order:

10. Pretty Woman: It’s hard to come up with new ways to describe why the whole concept of this movie (the hooker as Cinderella) is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

9. The Waterboy: Adam Sandler’s a retarded guy who talks funny. When he gets mad, he knocks people down. That’s it. That’s the joke. It's not funny to begin with, and it doesn't get any funnier.

8. Monster’s Ball: Billy Bob Thornton is a vile racist and an abusive father who drives his son to suicide. Halle Berry is an emotionally abusive mother who mocks her overweight son by calling him "Piggy." They make some feeble stabs at redemption, but at the end of the movie they've both done such horrible things that you despise everyone still left alive, and hate yourself for wasting the time and money on it. Plus, you're subjected to Billy Bob naked.

7. Unbreakable: Unbearable. A superhero film without action. Interesting concept but boringly executed. Even the usually incandescent Samuel L. Jackson seems muffled.

6. Wild Wild West: Wild Wild Waste. This film manages to squander every advantage it had going for it. It had likable and talented actors (Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branaagggh) and a great, campy concept—James Bond in the Old West—that a lot of people who watched the old show had a lot of affection for. And this is what they did with it? Shame. Shame.

5. Godfather III: this makes my list because of the crushing sense of disappointment I felt when first seeing it. It would have been a mediocre gangster film had it not followed Godfathers I and II, two of the greatest works of American film, but in comparison with its predecessors, it is a Foul Reek in the Nostrils of God.

4. Forrest Gump: A wonderfully filmed, technically stunning, well-acted, and heartwarming movie about what a good and noble thing it is to be a half-wit. I actually walked out at the end of this movie thinking it was wonderful. But the more I thought about it, the more pissed off I got.

3. Dune (David Lynch’s version): One of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, and Lynch manages to get just about everything wrong. To be fair, I understand Lynch really didn’t want to make it and only agreed to do so to get financing for Blue Velvet. The TV version is more faithful to the book, yet still somehow manages to reek, largely due to the flat acting and hilarious costume design.

2. Very Bad Things: an alleged comedy about a group of guys who go to a bachelor party in Vegas, accidentally kill the hooker they've hired, and spend the rest of the movie trying to dispose of the body and cover up the crime. I have no problem with dark, gruesome humor...one of my favorite movies of all time is Pulp Fiction and the woodchipper scene in Fargo leaves me howling every time. But this is just hideous, without a trace of wit or style.

And the number one movie I love to hate is…may I have the envelope please?

1. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: Jar Jar Binks. Midochlorians. 'Nuff said.

Note: I considered Battlefield Earth, but I’ve never seen it all the way through. I literally cannot sit through more than fifteen minutes of it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Which Song Lyric Best Fits This Situation?

Torture Alleged After U.S.-Led Raid Uncovers Iraqi-Run Prison

BAGHDAD, Nov. 15 -- A U.S.-led raid uncovered an underground prison run by Iraq's Interior Ministry where detainees allegedly were being tortured, the prime minister said Tuesday. Separately, a Sunni Arab leader accused the government of involvement in the kidnapping and killing of 46 Sunni men.

Which song lyric best sums up this situation?

a) "Well it's one-two-three, what are fightin' for?" (Country Joe and the Fish)

b) "Meet the new boss
same as the old boss." (The Who)

c)" I can't believe the news today
Oh, I can't close my eyes and make it go away
How long, How long must we sing this song?" (U2)

(d) Other (explain)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Oh. My. God.

Is this man drunk? You make the call.

(Best comment I've heard about this particular video: "He sounds like Calamity Jane from Deadwood!")

Things I Don't Get, # 4,359

I think the iPod is a really neat idea, and I'm hoping to get one for Christmas. But I have to say I really don't get this idea of the video iPod. And I really don't get the attraction of porn on the video iPod. I mean, good lord, the screen's like, what, three inches across? I can see myself squinting, going "wait, who is that? WHAT is that? Are they...wait, what's that?"

These kids these days...

We're Still the Good Guys, Right?

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The Washington Post recently did a story alleging that the CIA was running secret prisons for “high value” Al-Qaeda detainees in Eastern Europe. The prisons, known as “black sites,” raised concerns that alleged terrorist subjects might be subjected to torture at the hands of the United States or agents working on their behalf.

I can’t imagine why. I mean, how can someone assume that a prisoner being taken to a place described as a “black site” isn’t going to be treated anything but humanely?

The revelation came at a particularly inopportune time, all things considered. Republican Sen. John McCain, who knows a little bit about torture, had vowed to enact a congressional ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment of prisoners. Incredibly, the Bush administration, led by Darth Cheney, opposed any such language. Cheney appeared before a group of Republican senators and insisted on an exemption from the torture ban for the CIA.

So, even while insisting that “the United States does not torture,” according to George Dubbya Bush, the administration is still, shall we say, keeping its options open when it comes to subjecting suspects to “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” treatment. After all, you never know when you might want to have the CIA wire someone’s tender parts to a car battery because we think they might have something to do with terrorism.

Refresh my memory. When did we give up any aspiration to being the Good Guys? Wasn’t “Saddam tortures people” one of the multiple and ever-changing rationales for Dubbya’s Wacky Iraqi Adventure?

Anyway, the revelation that we might be reviving the old-style Soviet chambers of horror incited a furor. The Republican leadership, specifically Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist, demanded an immediate investigation.

Not into the prisons themselves, mind you. They wanted to know who spilled the beans.

In a letter sent to the heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees, Frist and Hastert demanded to know: “Who leaked this information and under what authority? And what is the actual and potential damage done to the national security of the United States and our partners in the global war on terror? We will consider other changes to this mandate based on your recommendations. Any information that you obtain on this matter that may implicate possible violations of law should be referred to the Department of Justice for appropriate action.”

Yeah, fellows, why don’t you do that? Especially since, according to former Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott, the leakers were probably Republicans.

CNN’s Ed Henry reported on Tuesday that Lott “stunned reporters” by declaring that this subject was actually discussed at a ‘Republican senators only’ luncheon on the day before the Washington Post story ran. Vice President Cheney, according to Lott, was also in the room for that discussion. Lott said ruefully that senators “can’t keep our mouths shut,” and that “every word that was said in the meeting room went right to the newspaper.”

(One truly interesting thing about this is the question of why Lott would drop this dime on his own people. One theory I’ve read is that Lott is getting some payback on Frist because Lott blames Frist for his ouster as majority leader. Frankly, I’m torn between the impulse to weep for my country and the impulse to make popcorn, sit down and watch the fighting as the Republicans implode. I’m not proud of it, but I have to say that the prospect of watching this gang turn on one another promises more fun than an entire season of “The Sopranos.” But I digress.)

So. Back to torture. If there’s one encouraging thing here, it’s that there are some decent Americans left who’ll blow the whistle.

There are professionals in the CIA who don’t want to see that organization turned into the American Gestapo. There are people like McCain in the Senate, who still have a vision of the United States of America as the guys in the white hats. There are still people who are willing to blow the whistle when they see that vision tarnished by the prospect that we may turn into the very thing we hate, all in the name of — well, I don’t know.

Once we abandon our ideal of ourselves as an example for how a free country needs to behave, what exactly are we fighting for? When the issue is not “how could we be torturing people?” but instead, “how did you find out about it?”… are we still America?

Friday, November 11, 2005

My Veteran's Day Post

To All Those Who Pay the Cost.

Now when I was a young man I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of the rover.
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback,
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said, "Son,
It's time you stop ramblin', there's work to be done."
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun,
And they marched me away to the war.

And the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
As the ship pulled away from the quay,
And amidst all the cheers, the flag waving, and tears,
We sailed off for Gallipoli.
And how well I remember that terrible day,
How our blood stained the sand and the water;
And of how in that hell that they call Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk, he was waitin', he primed himself well;
He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shell --
And in five minutes flat, he'd blown us all to hell,
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.
But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
When we stopped to bury our slain,
Well, we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
Then we started all over again.
And those that were left, well, we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire.
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
Though around me the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead --
Never knew there was worse things than dying.
For I'll go no more "Waltzing Matilda,"
All around the green bush far and free --
To hump tents and pegs, a man needs both legs,
No more "Waltzing Matilda" for me.
So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay,
I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
To grieve, to mourn and to pity.
But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
As they carried us down the gangway,
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared,
Then they turned all their faces away.
And so now every April, I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reviving old dreams of past glory,
And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff and sore,
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask "What are they marching for?"
And I ask meself the same question.
But the band plays "Waltzing Matilda,"
And the old men still answer the call,
But as year follows year, more old men disappear
Someday, no one will march there at all.

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by the billabong,
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, One of These Things Just Doesn't Belong...

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These days, I don’t usually see the Sunday morning news analysis shows, like “Meet the Press,” “This Week” and the like.

Oh, there was once a time when, news junkie that I am, I never missed “This Week.” But then Brinkley left the show, and let’s face it, George Snuffleupagus just doesn’t have the same gravitas. Plus, I had kids who got up first and commandeered the set to watch “Spongebob Squarepants” or some other such abomination. So I got out of the habit.

But this past week, I found myself out of town in a hotel room on Sunday morning, getting ready for a brunch/book signing, and I flipped on the TV. The topic under discussion was, of course, Friday’s indictment of vice-presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators.

The show (and I confess, I honestly can’t remember which one it was) segued into a little retrospective of previous White House scandals. Among the ones they covered were, of course, Watergate, Reagan’s Iran-Contra mess (and Bush the Elder’s controversial pardon of several of those involved) and, of course, Monicagate. Suddenly, I flashed back to the old song that they used to sing on “Sesame Street”: “One of these things is not like the others…”

Let’s review. Watergate was the president of the United States using the resources of the office to bug, burglarize, and otherwise harass political enemies. Iran-Contra was a conspiracy to sell weapons illegally to a sworn enemy of the United States, then illegally divert the profits to an organization Congress had forbidden the government to support. Clinton’s “biggest scandal” was an attempt to cover up an embarrassing and stupid sexual lapse, one that the judge hearing his civil case explicitly ruled wasn’t material to the underlying case.

I’m not trying to say Clinton was perfect; I’m just saying he didn’t sell anti-aircraft missiles to people who’d cheerfully use them against us.

Abuse of presidential power. Arms to enemies. Lying about an affair. These things are not the same. Trust me.

But that’s the “liberal media,” a phrase which I can no longer say without snickering. They’ve gotten so buffaloed by years of right-wingers yammering about supposed “bias” that they try to create “balance” where none exists.

Another aspect of the recent Plamegate scandal has shown up this “liberal media” idea as the farce that it is.

Among the people involved was New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who actually spent time in jail rather than reveal the “inside source” from whom she got information about Joseph Wilson and his wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Miller and her supporters claimed that reporters needed to be able to keep sources confidential. Otherwise, they argued, whistleblowers might be afraid to come forward with exposes, for fear of losing their jobs or worse.

But once Miller finally revealed what she’d been hiding, it turns out that she wasn’t protecting some endangered insider like “Deep Throat” in the movie “All the President’s Men.”

Instead, Miller and other so-called journalists, such as Robert Novak, were nothing more than mouthpieces, conduits for whatever information or disinformation the administration wanted to get out, willing accomplices in selling the American people on the war the Bushistas had already decided to wage.

In an extraordinary editorial published in The Times, Miller’s boss, Bill Keller, admitted that, had he known more about Miller’s “entanglement” with Scooter Libby, he might have been a little less vigorous in resisting the prosecutor’s subpoena. Miller got indignant over the word “entanglement,” apparently thinking it implied something more than a professional relationship.

To her, I’d like to say: There’s more than one kind of harlotry, Judy. You don’t have to literally be in bed with the administration to sell yourself to them. And it doesn’t even have to be for money, although as the Armstrong Williams case shows, there are some so-called journalists willing to sell out their integrity for that as well.

But some sell out for the access. They sell out because they get the inside dope nobody else gets, so long as they don’t examine that information too closely. As always, the biggest problem with modern journalism is not liberalism or conservatism — it’s careerism. At best, it leads to reporting the wrong information because a reporter wanted to be first so bad he or she failed to do any fact-checking. At worst, it leads to reporters being used as shills by a corrupt and cynical administration.

I’d like to believe that the kid-gloves way that the press has handled this administration (up until very recently) would once and for all dispel this malarkey about the “liberal media.”

Of course, I held out the same hope after the way the press savaged Bill Clinton on a daily basis and eagerly, almost gleefully, repeated Republican smears against Al Gore and John Kerry. Sadly, however, some myths just refuse to die.

As for me, I get all my news from “The Daily Show.” At least they know they’re ridiculous.

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. He says he’s also become quite fond of the “Colbert Report.”

Friday, November 04, 2005

Thank You, Canada!

Canada says suspected terror cell broken

By BETH DUFF-BROWN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

TORONTO -- Canadian agents this summer busted a suspected terrorist cell in Toronto that included an Algerian explosives expert they say was trained by al-Qaida, intelligence officials said Thursday.

The cell was made up of four Algerian men who had applied for refugee status in Canada and were alleged members of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, an Islamic group with ties to al-Qaida, which is banned in Canada and Algeria, the officials said.

The group was dismantled by CSIS counterterrorism and Canada Border Services Agency agents, working with police, Barbara Campion, a spokeswoman for Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said Thursday.


Canada has struck a major blow against terror...

And they didn't even have to invade Iraq to do it.

Thanks for fighting them over here, Canada, because we're kind of tied up over there.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Rest of the Story

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As I’ve written before, one of my favorite radio shows used to be Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.” In just a few minutes, Harvey would tell a short tale with a surprise or twist ending, often involving a famous person.

In a tribute to those shows, I’d like to offer my own episode of “The Rest of the Story.”

Fall 1990 was a bad time to be an American diplomat in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein had overrun Kuwait, and international tension was mounting toward what would soon explode into the First Gulf War. The American ambassador was out of the country, leaving an acting ambassador in her place.

Saddam Hussein began ratcheting up the pressure on the international community. He held a “photo op” with a number of British “guests,” as he blithely put it, including several women and a clearly terrified young boy. The message to the world was clear: These people are hostages. Attack Iraq and they’ll die.

The acting ambassador, after consulting with the CIA, decided that the best way to deal with Saddam’s mind games was to confront him head on. He began making snide public references to Saddam “hiding behind women’s skirts.” British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher picked up the phrase. Saddam backed down, and the British citizens were released.

The acting ambassador and his staff helped get hundreds of American citizens out of the country. Almost 200, however, were not allowed to leave and were holed up in the U.S. embassy compound. Then Saddam issued a decree: All foreign citizens had to “register” with the Iraqi government — which they only could do by leaving the protection of the embassy and going to the designated government office. They would almost certainly be taken prisoner there and used further as human shields. The penalty for failing to register, or for aiding others in violating the edict, was death. There was no exemption for diplomats.

So on Sept. 20, 1990, the acting ambassador appeared at the morning press conference with a noose around his own neck instead of a necktie.

“If Saddam wants to hang me,” he said defiantly, “I’ll bring my own [bad word] rope.” The Iraqis withdrew their demand the next day.

As fall turned to winter, the pressure continued to mount. The acting ambassador and his staff continued to provide intelligence and analysis to Washington. When Admiral William Crowe, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that economic sanctions would drive Saddam out of Kuwait in a year and a half, the acting ambassador fired off a cable to Washington, saying it would be at least a decade before that would work, a decade in which Saddam would have looted the Kuwaiti treasury.

Finally, after other Arab nations and Yasser Arafat put pressure on Saddam, he finally agreed to release the remaining people held hostage. The acting ambassador and a small staff stayed behind, “delighted,” as he put it, “that the number of Americans in danger had dropped from close to 200 to fewer than 10.”

Finally, war with Saddam became inevitable. On Jan. 12, 1991, on orders from Washington, the acting ambassador finally took down the American flag. He and his remaining few staffers were the last American diplomats out of the country.

Fourteen years later, the Bushistas and their willing mouthpieces in the press are vilifying this man. They’re calling him a liar, and an appeaser of terrorists. Some are even asserting that it is he whom Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald should be indicting.

What did he do wrong? Well, George W. Bush, the son of the man whom the ambassador served so well, decided he wanted his own war with Iraq. He decided that the way to get the American people to back that war was to convince the American people that Saddam was seeking nuclear weapons material, including uranium from the African country of Niger.

When the former diplomat went to Niger to find out, he found out that the documents upon which the claim was based were a clumsy forgery. And when the president repeated the claim in his State of the Union address, the former ambassador wrote an article debunking it. For that, the president’s men decided, he had to pay, despite his prior record of service. They smeared him in the press. They lied about what he had said, then called him the liar. And, finally, they destroyed his wife’s career and the cover of all of the people she had worked with by claiming the whole trip was cooked up by her in her job as a covert CIA agent working on weapons of mass destruction.

The hero who stood with a noose around his own neck and defied Saddam Hussein to hang him, the man who warned the first Bush administration that sanctions against Saddam were not going to work, the man who’s now being smeared by the Republicans as a liberal and liar, is the man at the center of the Valerie Plame controversy: Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

And now you know … the rest of the story.

Good day.

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, practices law, and still listens to the radio in Carthage.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

P.J. Was Right.

I've been thinking of this quote from PJ O'Rourke a lot lately:

"The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."

Poor Harriet

I guess they figured Harriet Miers would be greeted by Senators throwing flowers and chocolates.

Wrong again, Dubbya.

Here's the thing: the supposed reason behind the withdrawal is that the Senate would be demanding documents from Miers' stint as White House counsel. These were documents that she fet she just couldn't turn over. Executive privilige, attorney-client privilege, and all that.

Well, okay...but couldn't the Bushistas have seen this coming? Other than the mash notes she's written to Dubbya, she's got damn little paper trail as to what she beleives or how she views the law, other than what she did as WH counsel.

The usual poor planning? Or arrogance? Did the Bushistas just assume that, since so many Republicans and quite a few Democrats have been kowtowing to the President's choices , that no one would then dare to question putting Bush's pet on the SCOTUS?

You make the call.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Whoops.

"Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was given considerable information about his stake in his family's hospital company, according to records that are at odds with his past statements that he did not know what was in his stock holdings.

Managers of the trusts that Frist once described as 'totally blind,' regularly informed him when they added new shares of HCA Inc. or other assets to his holdings, according to the documents."

Guess it depends on what your definition of "blind" is.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

This Just In!

Perjury has been downgraded from a crime to a technicality, according to Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas.

The Memento Republicans

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I once saw this movie called Memento. It was a murder mystery with a bizarre twist: The detective who was trying to solve his wife’s killing had suffered a traumatic head injury that left him “unable to create new memories.”

With each new day, he had completely forgotten everything he’d done or said the day before. I think of that movie a lot these days, every time I watch the Bushistas in spin mode. I’ve even started calling them the Memento Republicans.

They’ve had their work cut out for them these days. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had to step down from his leadership position after being indicted for conspiracy and money laundering. Wednesday, the D.A. issued an actual warrant for his arrest.

Senate Majority leader Bill Frist is under investigation for insider trading. And, as of this writing, all of Washington is waiting for the other shoe to drop, with that shoe being the possibility that federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury will be issuing indictments in the scandal that’s been dubbed “Plamegate.”

For those who came in late, “Plamegate” is named for Valerie Plame, a CIA agent who happened to be married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson published an article that disputed the White House’s claim that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from Niger for use in nuke-yoo-lar weapons, as Dubbya likes to say. Since the threat of said nuke-yoo-lar weapons was a major rationale for Dubbya’s Wacky Iraqi Adventure, the Bushistas were a little peeved about this.

Lo and behold, not long after Wilson’s article, alleged journalist and notorious Bush administration mouthpiece Robert Novak published a column in which he let drop the juicy little morsel that Wilson’s wife was a CIA agent who dealt with WMD issues.

Problem was, Plame had been working covertly on those issues, under the cover of a CIA front group called Brewster Jennings and Associates. The CIA got their trenchcoats all in a wad over Novak’s revelation and sent what’s called a “criminal referral” to the U.S. attorney’s office, claiming that the “outing” of Plame (and, one supposes, the blown cover of Brewster Jennings) violated a federal law that says revealing the names of our spies in time of war is a Bad Thing.

The allegation was that the White House had retaliated for Wilson’s article by trashing his wife’s undercover status, and thus, her career.

Fitzgerald’s investigation eventually led to the jailing of two journalists, who eventually gave up their sources for the Plame information — sources from inside the White House. There’s talk at this point that Presidential Adviser Karl “Bush’s Brain” Rove and vice-presidential Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby may be facing indictments, either for the revelation of Plame’s identity or for lying to the grand jury about it. The normally staid U.S. News and World Report has even reported on rumors that the scandal may lead to the resignation of Cheney himself.

If you’re a big fan of irony (and I am), the twistings and turnings of Bush’s fan club as they try to spin these stories provide a veritable mother lode — an irony mine, if you will.

Take, for example, this quote from Jacob Weisberg, co-editor of the online journal Slate.com: “[I]n the hands of a relentless and ambitious prosecutor like Fitzgerald, the absence of evidence that you’ve broken a law just becomes an invitation to develop a case based on other possible crimes, especially those committed in the course of defending yourself, like obstruction of justice and making false statements. Call witnesses back enough times and you can usually come up with something.”

Two words, Jacob: Kenneth Starr. Remember how, with Clinton, it was all “about the perjury”? Remember when allegedly lying to a grand jury was an impeachable offense?

Then there’s the extended whine from Bill Kristol of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard. In response to the indictments of DeLay, the investigation of Frist for insider trading, and the Plamegate investigation, Kristol wrote: “It’s a reasonable bet that the fall of 2005 will be remembered as a time when it became clear that a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives.”

So now you’re complaining about a “vast left-wing conspiracy”? Well, cry me a freakin’ river, Bill. Have you forgotten the days when Bill Clinton couldn’t pull his socks up without some Republican demanding congressional hearings?

Plus, it’s going to be a little bit difficult to spin Fitzgerald as a raving liberal out to bring down Republicans. After Republican candidate Jack Ryan self-destructed in the 2004 Illinois Senate campaign, the state party was desperately scrambling to find someone to make a suicide run against immensely popular and charismatic Democrat Barack Obama. One of the names they floated was: Patrick Fitzgerald.

The Right seems to have conveniently forgotten this, the same way they’ve forgotten that the “liberal” Texas D.A. who’s indicted DeLay has indicted more Democrats than Republicans.

Is the Memento Republicans’ memory loss the result of hypocrisy or of mass head trauma? You make the call.

Monday, October 17, 2005

About Damned Time

Unicef bombs the Smurfs in fund-raising campaign for ex-child soldiers.

I never liked those little blue bastards anyway.

Shiny Happy Column

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You know, looking back over the past few weeks’ columns, it occurs to me that some might consider me a tad gloomy, even, dare I say it, a bit negative in my outlook. As our snail-eating friends across the pond are fond of saying, “au contraire” (“Nuh-uh!”).

Oh, sure, there are plenty of things I see around that I don’t like, and quite a few that make me nuts. But there are plenty of things I do like. Herewith, a few of the things I’ve seen in the media recently that have made me smile:

Favorite recent movie: “Serenity.”

The sci-fi TV series “Firefly” came and went so fast that I never had a chance to see it in primetime. I eventually checked it out on DVD and immediately got hooked. Created by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” director Joss Wheedon, “Firefly” chronicled the adventures of the crew of the space freighter Serenity, a scruffy bunch of misfits barely eking out a shady and often illegal living on the edges of an oppressive galactic empire called the Alliance.

Along the way, they pick up another pair of fugitives, a formerly well-to-do young doctor named Simon and his spookily pretty younger sister River. River has apparently been put through some Really Bad Stuff by the Alliance, and they want her back, because she has all sorts of freakish talents, including but not limited to psychic abilities.

The show, in typical TV fashion, revealed bits and pieces of River’s big secret, leaving tantalizing hints with each episode. When the show was canceled, all those threads were left hanging, much to the consternation of the show’s small but vocal group of hard-core fans. The feature film version answers all the questions and then some.

Every good adventure needs a good villain, and Serenity’s pursuer, known only as “The Operative,” is one of the scariest. After murdering an entire settlement, including the children, for giving refuge to Serenity, The Operative gravely explains to the crew that he does what he does because he truly believes that the end product will be a better world — a world that will have no place for him, because, he sadly admits, he’s a monster. Few things are scarier than that kind of True Believer.

What really made the show great was the interaction between the show’s characters, who fight, crack wise, and insult one another, but whose affection for each other and for their eternally harried captain comes through when the chips are down, which they are most of the time. I’m happy to say the show’s excellent ensemble cast brings that feeling to the big screen.

Favorite Recent Book(s): Barry Eisler’s John Rain series. John Rain is the James Bond for the new millennium, and Barry Eisler is its Ian Fleming.

Rain, a half-Japanese, half-American assassin living in Tokyo, is a master of killing people and making the death look like the result of natural causes. He has a few inflexible rules: No women or children. He’ll kill only a “principal,” a boss bad guy. And he works alone, with no backup teams, a rule he enforces by simply breaking the neck of anyone he thinks violates it.

Eisler, a former CIA agent himself who holds a Black Belt in Judo from Japan’s prestigious Kodokan, writes great action sequences, but he also gives the deeply conflicted John Rain a lot of soul. Add to the mix Eisler’s encyclopedic knowledge of some of the world’s exotic places and his gift for describing them, and you’ve got a great, fun read.

The books are “Rain Fall,” “Hard Rain,” “Rain Storm,” and the recently released “Killing Rain.” Eisler’s about to break out hugely with these books, and he deserves it.

Favorite TV Show: This one was a tough choice. I considered CBS’ sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” which is a sort of updated “Odd Couple,” as well as HBO’s wonderfully wicked drama series “Rome.” But I’ve still got to go with my old favorite, “The Daily Show.” It just keeps getting better and better.

Some of the best bits are when host Jon Stewart doesn’t even respond to some boneheaded videotaped quote from some politician. He just stares into the camera with this expression that says, “I cannot freaking believe this.” Neither can we, Jon, neither can we.

So there it is, folks, My shiny happy column for the year. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Harriet Who?

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Remember a few weeks ago, when I wrote a column saying that the Senate should go ahead and confirm Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, because “we could do worse”?

We just did.

Harriet Miers has never been a judge. She’s never argued a case before the Supreme Court. She’s had exactly two published articles, both of them in the trade publication “Texas Lawyer.” Her major claim to fame is that she’s worked directly for George Dubbya Bush since 1992 (except for a brief stint when then-Gov. Bush appointed her to the Texas Lottery Commission). She’s served as Bush’s staff secretary, as deputy chief of staff for policy (where her duties included promoting and defending Bush talking points on the “Ask the White House” Web site), and as White House counsel. Bush also says she’s a good friend of his. He “knows her soul,” he says. Ohhh-kay.

If some quotes are to be believed, however, Miers’ relationship with Bush the Younger goes beyond friendship into something approaching hero worship. She’s reportedly told people that Dubbya was “the most brilliant man she’d ever met.” Man, that lady really needs to get out more.

So what’s wrong with putting a friend of the president on the nation’s highest court? Shouldn’t the executive branch and the judiciary have a warm, buddy-buddy relationship?

Hell, no. There’s a little thing called “separation of powers.” It serves a greater principle called “checks and balances.” Our entire Constitution is based on this principle. At some time, any one of the three branches of government has the power to bring one or even two of the others to a screeching halt when they try to go too far. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton wrote about just this sort of thing when, in the Federalist Papers, he described the reasons for having the Senate confirm or reject presidential nominations:

“It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the president, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from state prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. ... He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same state to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.”

In other words, part of the reason we have the Senate do the confirmation is to avoid having the president, any president, pack the court with his home-state buddies.

Obviously, when Hamilton wrote about the president being “ashamed” to bring forth an obvious crony for the nation’s highest court, he never imagined anyone as utterly shameless in his political hackery as Dubbya. But then again, who could?

There’s also the fact that, right now, there’s a criminal investigation going on over who it was in the White House that “outed” CIA agent Valerie Plame as an act of political revenge after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame’s husband, stated publicly that the White House’s story about Saddam buying uranium from Niger was a crock.

After the story ran, someone, or possibly a couple of someones, in the White House let it out to New York Times columnist Bob Novak that Plame was a CIA WMD specialist. This is a crime if the person whose name is revealed is a “covert agent.” (Certainly the CIA thought she was, since it was they who made the referral to the U.S. attorney’s office.)

The question of “who dunnit” has reached all the way to the president’s chief of staff, Karl Rove, as well as the VP’s chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby. If a federal criminal case is filed against White House staffers, some issues, such as issues regarding executive privilege, will almost certainly end up in front of the Supremes. It is totally inappropriate for anyone who’s worked as long in the White House as Miers, including serving as the White House lawyer, to hear any part of that case.

There’s also this: House Speaker Tom DeLay was recently indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges. DeLay also has recently faced numerous complaints in the House of ethics violations. So DeLay set himself up a legal defense fund. Unfortunately, that fund got DeLay in further trouble for accepting illegal contributions from lobbyists and law firms registered as lobbyists. Among those illegal contributions was $2,500 from Locke Liddell & Sapp, the Texas law firm formerly headed by — Harriet Miers. So what happens if DeLay’s case goes to the Supremes?

Judicial inexperience is worrisome, but it’s not an insurmountable problem. Cronyism, conflicts of interest, and ties to corrupt officials should be. Plus, we already have a Congress where so-called “legislators” on both sides of the aisle are far too ready to skip out on their role as a co-equal branch of government and rubber-stamp any madness of bumbling King George.

We don’t need another “obsequious instrument of his pleasure” on the Supreme Court.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Stoned Design?

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The 21st-century equivalent of the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial” is going on in Pennsylvania.

A group of parents, backed by the ACLU, are taking the Dover, Pa., School District to court because the district had mandated the teaching of the theory of “Intelligent Design.” Intelligent Design, or ID as it’s known for short, basically states that life is too complex for it to be the product of either random mutation or natural selection. Something, the theory goes, has to be behind all of this.

As one ID supporter put it, “if I find something as complex as a watch in the middle of the road, logic tells me that there must be a watchmaker.”

Parents have objected that this is, at its core, a religious belief, and that mandating its teaching in state-run schools violates the separation of church and state. ID, they say, is just creationism in disguise.

ID proponents defend the school board’s decision, saying, in effect, that since ID doesn’t stipulate what the force behind creation might be, then it’s not a religion. In other words, what’s driving creation may be a super-powerful, super-intelligent invisible being, but it’s not necessarily God.

Seriously. This is their argument.

Of course this argument is weakened even further by the statements of board member Bill Buckingham, who ramrodded the ID mandate into school board policy while wearing a red, white and blue crucifix on his lapel and declaiming that “this country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such.”

Nope, no religious ideology here, not us.

I have to confess to some mixed emotions here, because ID is actually very close to what I personally believe. For some time now, I’ve felt that evolution is God’s lathe, and that all life is being constantly created (and hopefully improved) on it. The first time I finally understood how DNA replicates itself, I exclaimed out loud, “No way did that happen randomly!”

This really annoyed the guy in the desk next to me, who I apparently awakened out of a really cool dream involving a waterbed filled with Jell-O, “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter and Catherine Bach from the original “Dukes of Hazzard.” I can’t say as I blame him. I’d have been mad, too. I mean, talk about your intelligent design. But I digress.

Anyway, here’s the thing. While ID is close to my own belief, I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s essentially a religious belief, and that for me to mandate that as the truth that has to be taught to everyone else’s children would be the height of arrogance. Not that I’m not arrogant, mind you, but even I have my limits.

But let me suggest a compromise. Proponents of creationism want, at the very least, for schools to teach a “critical analysis” of evolution theory. They want students to ask certain questions, such as “If we descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” And “Why are there gaps in the fossil record?”

Actually, I know the answer to those questions: “Evolution doesn’t say we descended from monkeys, it says we and monkeys share common ancestors” and “We haven’t dug up all the fossils yet, have we?” (I often add “you doofus” to the beginning or end of these sentences, for extra spice).

All that said, there’s certainly nothing wrong with teaching our youth to think critically about any theory, whether that theory be evolution, creationism or ID. It’s only fair then, that the kids hear about some things that call the alleged intelligence of the alleged Designer into question, such as:

— The human appendix: This little dead-end side street branches off of the main drag of the large intestine, aka Colon Boulevard. It’s a useless pouch of flesh that’ s not good for anything much except getting infected and providing dramatic medical emergencies on bad TV shows.

— The human reproductive system: Ladies, can I get an “Amen” on this one? Childbirth isn’t killing nearly as many of you as it used to, but that’s because humanity has developed various workarounds for the system of baby delivery. But let’s face it: If the design of the way humans give birth had been developed by a corporation, that design would have resulted in more product liability and wrongful death lawsuits than breast implants made out of asbestos, coated with Vioxx, and implanted via Lawn Dart.

— And last but not least, I give you the duck-billed platypus. It’s a mammal! But it lays eggs! And did you know that the female platypus has two ovaries — but only the left one works? I mean, what is up with this critter?

Robin Williams once did a routine in which God was designing the platypus as a goof while stoned. Hmmm. Maybe Robin has something there. Maybe Stoned Design should be taught in schools as well.

After all, it fits the available data — and it’s equally unprovable.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Sin City

Everyone I know has been telling me for months I needed to see this film. They were right. This is the movie for people who didn't think Kill Bill was over the top enough. Hyper-dark, hyper-violent, hyper-sexual. Whaddya want? It's a comic book...sorry, graphic novel...brought to life.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I'll See You In Hell

Duane Swierczynski first turned me on to this 50's pulp classic via his blog. Then he solidified his position as one of the Princes of Cool by mailing his copy to me when I expressed an interest. (This is particularly impressive because the paperback's in that dry-leaf, just-about-to fall-apart-at-the-spine condition that made me reluctant to leave it on the kitchen counter, much less abandon it to the tender mercies of the USPS. (Not to worry, Duane; I treated it with the reverence it deserves).

I just finished it, and the verdict is: this book rocks. It's got a tough, honorable hero, beautiful and highly treacherous dames, and a sadistic psycho sheriff who has to be one of the great villains of all time. He's so compelling, in fact, that, like Satan in Paradise Lost, he almost overshadows the hero. There's also a twist ending that rivals The Maltese Falcon in its irony. I'll See You In Hell could serve as the prototype for redneck noir. Thanks, Duane, for the inspiration.

Monday, September 19, 2005

ARRRRH!

Once again, Talk Like A Pirate Day is upon us. Scurvy dogs and lusty wenches are invited to participate. Landlubbers needs not apply.

Arrrrh! Where's me rum?!

Find your pirate name here.

I be named Drakken the Awful, do yer wants to fight about it!?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Republicans Look for a Katrina Corpse to Politicize

Outrageous.

Sluice Tundra: The Case of the Missing President

Latest Newspaper Column . For those of you unfamiliar with my hardboiled sleuth Sluice Tundra, other columns featuring him are available here, here, and here.

Outside the window, a heavy rain was falling. I took another sip from the bottle of Old Overshoe I keep in my desk for medicinal purposes and looked out the window, watching the rain.

There was a knock at the door. “Come in,” I called out.

There were three of them, dressed in suits and ties. They were classier than the usual run of client that came through my door. Older, better dressed. “Are you Mr. Tundra?” one of them asked. He looked to be the oldest.

“Could be,” I said, “depending on who wants to know.”

“We’re clients,” the old guy said. “Paying ones.”

“Then I’m Sluice Tundra, Private Eye,” I replied quickly. “An honest gumshoe, out there on the mean streets, where the hot lead flies and justice is dispensed at the end of a fist …” I trailed off. They were looking at me expectantly. “Yes?” the old guy said.

“Sorry,” I said sheepishly. “Most people don’t let me get that far. I don’t really have an ending to it.”

“Yes. Well.” The old guy said, “My friends and I have a job for you. We want you to find out what happened to this man.” He placed a photograph face up on my battered desktop. I picked up the photo and wiped the batter off.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “This is George W. Bush.”

“That’s right.”

“The president of the United States.”

“Exactly.”

“Well … have you looked in the White House?”

“Mr. Tundra,” the old guy said heavily, “that man in the White House is not the man we voted for.”

“What do you mean?”

“We voted for a man who would be a strong and decisive leader in times of crisis. We voted for the man who we thought would keep us safer. The man in the White House dithered around for days on his vacation, eating cake with John McCain, pushing his Medicare plan, and playing a guitar some country singer gave him, all while a massive hurricane trashed the Southern U.S. The man we voted for was honest and forthright. This man in the White House let his people claim that the delayed disaster response was because the governor of Louisiana never asked for help until it was too late.”

“Which as it turns out,” I said helpfully, “was a total lie, according to the Congressional Research Service.”

The old guy didn’t seem to hear me. “The man we voted for,” he went on, “was going to be a wartime president who would lead us to victory over terrorism. The man in the White House has us bogged down in a seemingly endless operation that keeps producing more casualties and creating more terrorists.

“We voted for a man who had a clear vision. The man in the White House keeps telling us to ‘stay the course,’ but he won’t tell us what the course is, or when we can say we’ve arrived. We voted for a Republican, because the Republicans were the party of fiscal responsibility. The man in the White House spends money like a drunken sailor in a Bangkok brothel and keeps running up huge deficits while cutting taxes.” He slammed his hand down on the desk. “This can only mean one thing.”

“You were duped by the most shameless con man since P.T. Barnum?”

“No. The man claiming to be the president of the United States is not the man we voted for. Somewhere after the re-election, he was replaced by an imposter.”

“Sorry, pops,” I said. I turned back to the window and took another long drink of whiskey. “I can’t help you. Some of us tried to tell you all through the last election that the Emperor George had no clothes, that he was a mean-spirited hack whose only real agenda was creating power for himself and his party. The guy sitting in the White House is exactly the guy you voted for, because you thought it was funny to wear fake purple band-aids to mock John Kerry for not being wounded badly enough in Vietnam.”

I stopped. The three men couldn’t hear me. They had put their hands over their ears and were chanting, “Liberal. Jane Fonda. Michael Moore. Liberal. Jane Fonda. Michael Moore.” As one, they turned and began marching out. I sighed and turned back to the window. After a moment, however, I heard the door open again. It was the youngest of the three guys who had just left.

“So…” he said hesitantly, “what can we do?”

I shrugged. “There’s an election next year,” I said. “You can elect people who’ll stand up to him, who won’t rubber stamp everything just because it’s demanded by King George.”

He thought about that for a moment, then his face brightened. “Thanks!” he said.

“No thanks necessary,” I said, “I’m just Sluice Tundra, an honest gumshoe, out here on the…”

But he had already left. It was just as well. Some day, I’m really going to have to figure out an end to that bit.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Ask Not for Whom the Buck Stops

My latest newspaper column. I didn't post a link to the paper's website this time. For some reason, they dropped a sentence out about Brown being called back to Washington. This made the rest of the paragraph make no sense whatsoever. Of course, since the column ran, "Brownie" has gone from the "guy who's doing a heck of a job" to the "guy who's looking for a job."


President Harry Truman used to have a sign on his desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.” Truman, who got his first leadership experience as an artillery commander, realized and accepted one of the burdens of leadership: if something goes wrong, it’s the guy at the top who gets the blame. It’s the same principle by which ship captains are the ones cashiered when the vessel runs aground, even if they were having coffee in the galley at the time.

Well, Harry’s dead, God rest him, and apparently so is any notion of buck-stoppage at the top. Hurricane Katrina had barely stopped its spin before Karl Rove and the White House PR machine started theirs. Message One since the devastation of Katrina became apparent is this: There’s plenty of blame to go around, but none of it goes to George Dubbya Bush.

The President finally admitted that the response after the hurricane was “not adequate.” Outside of the Washington Beltway, this is the type of statement that would lead one to respond, “no [bad word], Sherlock.” The screw-ups here are almost beyond comprehension. FEMA had to be told by a CNN reporter that people were stranded at the New Orleans Convention Center. The city of Chicago offered “hundreds of personnel, including firefighters and police, and dozens of vehicles to assist.” FEMA said “no thanks.” WalMart donated truckloads of bottled water. FEMA turned them away. None of this, however, can be traced to the guy at the top, even though it was the President who named a FEMA director whose main claim to fame had been that he was a college buddy of the old director and that he’d been the commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. Bush is The Boss, until it’s time for accountability.

So let’s all chip in, pull together, and come up with some other slogan to put on a nameplate on Bush’s desk. How about:

  • “Wow, I Didn’t See That Coming”: On September 1, Dubbya stated on Good Morning America that “I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." This slogan is probably the odds-on favorite. After all, it’s a time-tested winner for the Bushistas. Remember the pronouncement by the Administration after 9/11 that no one could have anticipated that Osama bin Laden would stage a major terrorist attack in the U.S. (even though there was a presidential briefing paper titled “bin Laden determined to attack in U.S.”)? Fact is, people had been saying for years that even a Category Three storm would overtop the levees that hold the water out of New Orleans. They even ran a simulation last year where a fictional Category Three storm named Hurricane Pam hit, resulting in a breach of the levees. The director of the National Hurricane Center briefed President Bush and FEAM director Michael Brown about the possibility as early as Sunday afternoon, before the hurricane even made landfall, according to stories in the St. Petersburg Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. But hey, the President didn’t think…well, come to think of it, we might as well just leave it there.
  • “We’ll Look Into That and Get Back to You.” It’s another time-tested dodge of the Bushistas. From the Abu Ghraib torture scandal to the use of government funds to pay journalists to shill for the Administration, from the leak of the identity of a covert CIA operative for political payback to the current debacle in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, the refrain has become so familiar that we can almost sing along with it: “we're going to make sure we find out what the facts were and what went wrong.” Of course, no one ever does. On Tuesday the President indicated that there would be an investigation into what went wrong, led by…the President. Don’t you feel better now?
  • “Problem? What Problem?” FEMA is the organization to whom we’ll be turning if the terrorists really do pull of a nuclear or biological attack. And it’s looking like Michael “Brownie” Brown, the political appointee who heads up the Agency, was absolutely the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. But not to hear Dubbya tell it. “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” he said at one of his after-the-deluge media events. This was before Brown was taken off the Katrina job entirely and sent back to Washington. Of course with this Administration’s record for rewarding spectacular failures, Brown’s probably going back because he’s on the shortlist for the Supreme Court. Perhaps the most stunning example of Republicans in denial, however, came from Dubbya’s mom, former First Lady Barbara Bush. While touring the enormous refugee camp that was once the Houston Astrodome, Babs chuckled—and I’m not exaggerating, I’ve heard it, the woman was actually chortling: “so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this, this is working very well for them.” Yeah, Babs, they’re dancing for joy.

Of course, these are just a few ideas off the top of my head. If you have ideas, send them in to this newspaper. As for me, I’m working on spreading my own slogan: “Total Republican Control: How’s That Workin’ For Ya?”

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. He recognizes only one man as The Boss, and that’s Bruce Springsteen.