Sunday, December 24, 2006

The List: Good, Bad and Ugly of the Christmas Season

Latest Newpaper Column:

Well, here it is, Christmas Eve.

The lights are up, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and the hard-working folks at Wal-Mart and Target are getting that haggard, hollow-eyed look, like people who've been under several days of sustained artillery fire.

It's a wonderful season, to be sure. Time with family and friends, good cheer, and celebrations abound. But there's also a fair amount of crassness, commercialism and just plain silliness around this time of year, even more than usual. So, in our usual fair and balanced spirit, we bring you the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Christmas Season.

Best TV Christmas Special: I've thought long and hard about this one, and I've got to declare it a tie.

First among equals is the classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas." OK, when you look at it now, I'll admit, some of the jokes are clearly gags from the "Peanuts" newspaper strips shoehorned into the show as filler, the animation is crude, and you can even hear some clumsy splices in the voiceover track.

But I still choke up at that moment when Linus, having recited St. Luke's account of the angels proclaiming "peace on earth and goodwill toward men," picks up his blanket, walks offstage, and says simply "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Sharing the No. 1 spot is "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." It's clear that the Whos down in Whoville don't belong to any Christian sect we'd recognize. They're not even human. I mean, they have antennae, for crying out loud. But that doesn't stop the winsome little critters, even in the absence of presents, from joining hands and singing the immortal Christmas lyrics "Fah-who foraze, dah-hoo doraze, Welcome Christmas, come this way," and so on before they invite the even less humanoid Grinch in for dinner, thus proving that Christmas is truly an inclusionary holiday.

Take THAT, Bill O'Reilly!

Worst TV Christmas Special: There are so many contenders for this one, most of which have fallen by the wayside.

There was, for instance, the plethora of horrific Kathie Lee Gifford efforts. But the absolute worst, the Lead Standard by which all bad Christmas specials are judged, is George Lucas' "Star Wars Holiday Special."

This one's making the rounds again on Internet sites such as YouTube, despite LucasFilm's desperate efforts to get it taken down as fast as people upload it.

You can hardly blame Lucas. I'd be embarrassed to have anyone know I had anything to do with this piece of crap, too. It starts with Han Solo trying to run the Imperial Blockade to get Chewbacca back home to his family for "Life Day." (Yes, Chewie has a family, including a son named -- are you ready for this? Lumpy.)

And it goes downhill from there, reaching its nadir with Bea Arthur as an intergalactic barmaid. Singing. It was really, really bad. Back in 1978 when it first aired, I was a major "Star Wars" fan, and even I could tell it stank up the screen.

Best Christmas Song, Traditional: "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," mostly because of its association with the above-referenced Charlie Brown special.

Worst Christmas Song, Traditional: "The Little Drummer Boy" is pretty annoying, but it gets edged out by the maddeningly insistent "Carol of the Bells."

"Oh how they pound, raising the sound." Exactly.

Best Christmas Song, Modern: Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," featuring the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, on saxophone and backup vocals.

Worst Christmas Song, Modern: Again, there are so many to choose from here. I have to give the nod to "Jingle Bell Rock," mainly for the way it tries to tack "jingle" on to everything. "Jingle-hop," "jingle-horse," etc. I'm sorry, it just sets my teeth on edge.

Thing I'll Miss Most When the Season is Over: As always, the tree. I love bringing the tree home. I love hanging the lights and decorations. I love having the tree all lit up in the living room. It's always a depressing day when it comes down, sometime in June.

Thing I'll Miss Least When the Season Is Over: The "Peace Love and Gap" commercials, aka "Holiday in Your 'Hood." As my son has observed, "Yes, when people think Gap, they think immediately of the 'hood."

Running a close second are all those jewelry store commercials with women who are supposed to be gazing off camera looking raptly romantic over their new trinkets, but who actually look more like the result of a botched lobotomy.

So, dear readers, let me close with my holiday wish to you: May you treasure the good things about this and every other season, and may you always be able to laugh at the bad. Whatever holiday you celebrate, have a joyous one.

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

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thank You, Graham Powell!

Let me join my fellow bloggers and extend my warmest thanks to Graham Powell, whose most excellent site brings together the best of the crime-writing blogosphere, and this site as well. When I check the site stats, way over half of the people who come here come from CrimeSpot. It's a great resource for us all, and a true labor of love on Graham's part. Thanks, Graham.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What Rough Beast?

Virgin dragon prepares to give birth : "CHESTER, England - In an evolutionary twist, Flora the Komodo dragon has managed to become pregnant all on her own without any male help. She is carrying seven baby Komodo dragons.

'We were blown away when we realized what she'd done,' said Kevin Buley, a reptile expert at Flora's home at the Chester Zoo in this town in northern England. 'But we certainly won't be naming any of the hatchlings Jesus.'

Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis. But Flora's virginal conception, and that of another Komodo dragon earlier this year at the London Zoo, are the first time it has been documented in a Komodo dragon.

The reptiles, renowned for their intelligence, are native to Indonesia. They are the world's largest lizards and have no natural predators — making them on par with sharks and lions at the pinnacle of the animal kingdom.

"Komodo dragons seem to be able to switch ways of reproducing to deal with a shortage of suitable boyfriends," said Dr. Rick Shine, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Sydney, Australia. Shine was not involved with the Nature paper. In contrast, other lizard species that reproduce asexually cannot mate normally.

That might give Komodos a distinct survival edge. Only about 4,000 dragons remain in the wild, of which 1,000 are female. Concerns about dwindling Komodo dragon populations might be allayed by Flora and Sungai's recent self-induced motherhood.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Santa's Butt Is Comin' To Court

Latest Newspaper Column

I love The Christmas season; don't get me wrong. But I swear, every year it seems to get weirder and weirder. Take, for instance, the strange and terrible saga of Santa's Butt.

It seems that the Shelton Brothers Brewery, located appropriately enough in Belchertown, Massachusetts, distributes an English-made brew called "Santa's Butt Winter Porter." The company swears that the name does not refer to anything naughty. "It was inspired," Shelton Brothers insists on the company Web site, "by this famous line from a well-loved children's story book: 'And Santa sat on his great butt, drinking a hearty brew.'"

A "butt," they hasten to add, is a type of whomping-huge beer keg holding 108 gallons, upon which, one presumes, Santa could take his ease while enjoying a well-earned cold one after a long day in the workshop.

So there's nothing suggestive at all, according to the brewers. This might be a lot more convincing, however, if the label didn't feature a colorful cartoon Santa facing away from the viewer, with his enormous red-clad posterior dominating the frame.

This label ran afoul of the Grinches at the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, who banned Santa's Butt from the shelves of the Pine Tree State (seriously, that's what they call themselves). The label might cause the beer to appeal to children, a spokesman for the Maine State Police stated.

Yep, nothing gives a drink kid appeal like the exaggerated, bloated rump of a morbidly obese 800-year-old-guy.

Two other beers, a French ale called Les Sans Culottes ("Those Without Pants"), and a Belgian beer called Rose de Gambrinus ("I Have No Idea What This Means And I Am Too Lazy To Look It Up") were banned because their labels featured bare-breasted women.

"Basically, the standard we use is what are people going to see walking up and down a store aisle," the MBLE spokesman explained.

Frankly, I think we could stand to see more bare-breasted women on labels as we walk up and down the store aisles. It'd make things way more festive, so long as it was done, you know, tastefully. Nothing, say, larger than a DD cup. And let's get real, it'd just be the next logical extension of the basic marketing philosophy behind most beer advertising, which is that "if you drink lots of our beer, women with large breasts will want to have sex with you." But I digress.

It's not the first time that Shelton Brothers labels have caused controversy. Their Seriously Bad Elf beer (not to be confused with their Bad Elf beer) was banned in Connecticut. Not because of being risqué, mind you, but because the label (an evilly grinning elf firing Christmas ornaments at Santa's sleigh with a slingshot) might, again, "appeal to children" due to the presence of St. Nick on the label.

I have to ask here: So it "appeals to children." So what? They're not going to be able to buy the stuff.

I have trouble believing that a 5-year-old is going to see a six-pack of Seriously Bad Elf on the shelf , think "Look! Santa! I have to drink that stuff right now!" -- then take it off the top shelf, toddle to the counter, plonk down a sawbuck, and be found passed out in the gutter three hours later. I guess that's the kind of lack of imagination that explains why I'm not on the Massachusetts Liquor Control Board.

Well, you'll be happy to know that the freedom-loving brewers of Belchertown are not taking this blow to our civil liberties lying down.

With the help of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, they've filed a lawsuit in federal court against the MBLE, claiming that their rights under the First Amendment have been violated by not being able to sell Santa's Butt or their other beers with the nekkid ladies on the label in Maine.

"The illustrations on these labels are artistic, and art is entitled to the protection of the First Amendment," said Zachary Heiden, a staff lawyer with the Maine Civil Liberties Union.

Doggone right. If Santa's Butt is suppressed, if the good people of the state of Maine are not free to quaff fruity European beers with partially nude women on the labels -- well, by golly, we just might as well start learning to speak Arabic and eat humus or loofah or whatever it is they eat over there. After all, aren't beer and half-naked ladies two of the very freedoms the Islamofascists hate us for?

The Shelton Brothers may win, or they may lose. But there's one thing I know for sure: I seriously want to party with those guys.

God Bless Santa's Butt, God Bless America, and God bless us, every one!

I'm Not Sure I Trust This "New Blogger" Thing

Blogger keeps trying to get me to "upgrade" to the "new and improved" version. But years of dealing with "upgrades" that occasionally end up rendering programs temporarily and sometimes permanently non-functional have left me deeply suspicious. Plus, the Blogger site tells me I'll have to "sign in with my Google Account" and I'm not sure I have one, and less sure I want to.

How about it, blogosphere? Anyone tried this "new and improved" Blogger (formerly Blogger Beta)? Your experiences?

Non-Viable Strategies For Living, Redux

From My Hometown Paper:

An Ohio man wanted for several bank robberies -- including one in Pinebluff earlier this week -- was arrested Wednesday in Hope Mills after a chase and car crash.

Pinebluff police have taken out a warrant charging Terry Ira Nichols, 48, of Proctorville, Ohio, with the armed robbery of First Bank on U.S. 1 on Monday. He is wanted for five total robberies, according to law-enforcement officers.

Nichols is charged with robbing the Lumbee Guaranty Bank on Main Street in Hope Mills at about 10 a.m. Wednesday. Police responded to the scene, and an officer spotted Nichols as he was driving away in a 1995 Oldsmobile.

Hope Mills police chased the man until his vehicle struck a semi-truck near U.S. 301 and overturned. He was crawling out of the vehicle when police arrived and took him into custody. He had cuts on his head and stomach, and several broken ribs.

Pinebluff Sgt. Chris Sanderson said the suspect was wearing the same clothes that he wore while robbing the Pinebluff bank and that he was covered in ink from two different exploding dye packs.

"You have to thank the Lord for people like that," Sanderson said.

Wait, it gets better...

Nichols will be charged with entering the bank in Pinebluff Monday and handing the teller a note saying that he was armed and he wanted money.

The teller at First Bank emptied the drawer and the man left the bank on foot. As the suspect made his way behind the bank, a dye pack exploded, covering his left side with characteristic dye.

Cue the music from Raising Arizona here...

A bank security camera captured several pictures of the robber. The bank had updated its security after being robbed in a similar way in July.

The images showed a white man, about 45 to 50 years old, wearing a green hat and jeans jacket.

A man fitting that description robbed a bank in Raeford later that afternoon.

After the robbery in Hope Mills, another dye pack exploded.

"The one here got his left side and (the one in) Hope Mills yesterday was on his right," Sanderson said.

You know, I've gotta figure, after that second dye pack blew up all over me, I'd start thinking maybe this whole bank robbery thing just wasn't working out and maybe I should find another line of work. But that's just me.

Nichols was treated for injuries from the accident at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. He was kept overnight and guarded by police. He appeared before a magistrate Thursday.

Friday, December 15, 2006

He Gone and Done It

I've been in denial about this, but it appears the dude was buddy David Terrenoire exits the blogosphere, stage left, as his most excellent, witty, and occasionally fiery blog, A Dark Planet shuts down production.

Damn it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


The Federal Election Commission hit the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth with a $299,500 fine today for playing too fast with election rules. The Swift Boat Vets were a '527' organization, which has no limits on contributions, but were acting like federal political committees, the FEC charged. 527s are allowed to work for or against certain candidates, but if they have no other 'major purpose,' according to FEC spokesman Bob Biersack, then they should register as a committee.

Have a nice Christmas, you lying sacks of shit.

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's Up!

By which I mean the latest edition of Spinetingler Magazine, which features, nestled among some great stories, my noir/sci-fi/horror/vampire tale Behind Every Man.

It's a bit of a departure from my usual redneck noir, but I think it's found a good home.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dear Santa

Latest Newspaper Column:

Leaks drive the news cycle these days. Seems like every day, some memo or report that somebody didn't want the public to see is fed to the press through some back channel.

But so far, one super-secret organization has managed to remain relatively leak-resistant. Until now. This columnist has obtained documents so secret and so shocking that they blow the lid off an organization so clandestine that some people deny its very existence. Without further ado, dear readers, here are letters from Santa's mailbag.

Dear Santa: I have been extra good this year, defending Christmas against those secularists who insist on trying to destroy this wonderful season by saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." I know you'll agree with me, and that you believe as I do. So, at the risk of sounding immodest, I'd like something for Christmas that reflects my contribution to the spirit of this season. (signed) Bill, c/o Fox News.

Note to staff: Is there some way we can gift wrap a swift kick in the butt and leave it under little Billy's tree? Or is there some other way we can get it across to this dunderhead that the "spirit of the season" doesn't include paranoia, small-mindedness, and getting your knickers in a wad over imaginary slights? Please take a meeting on this and get back to me. S.

Dear Santa: I'm in a lot of trouble. I'm about to be confirmed as secretary of defense, which means I'm going to be responsible for this whole Iraq thing. Problem is, I haven't got the slightest idea what I'm doing. The whole place is going to hell in a handbasket, and our troops are going to get caught in the middle. So all I really want for Christmas is a plan to end this nightmare. (signed) Bobby Gates, Washington D.C.

Note to staff: Someone get in touch with little Bobby and give him Johnny Murtha's phone number. They were laughing at Johnny last year, saying he wanted to "cut and run," but something tells me that now they'll be a little more willing to listen. S.

Dear Santa: I don't know what happened. This time last year, I was riding high. I was the Decider. Now the people elected Democrats to run the House and Senate and I can't count on getting everything I want anymore. World leaders are thumbing their noses at me. Even some of my friends are telling me I'm wrong. I really, really hate that, Santa.

I want things to be like they were before, when everyone was telling me how great I was and even the press was afraid to call me on the crazy stuff I was doing. Santa, I want my mojo back. Now. Hey, maybe you can leave some evidence that Muqtada al-Sadr was behind 9/11 under my tree. No one else has to know. (signed) George W., The White House

Note to staff: Someone needs to let Georgie know that Santa's part of the reality-based community. I can make reindeer fly, but even I have limits, especially considering how long Georgie's been on the naughty list. Send him a fruitcake and let him know he only gets that because I'm a nice guy. S.

Dear Santa: Man, getting fired at Christmas really sucks. Now I've got an apartment in New York to pay for, my credit cards are maxed out, and since I'm no longer a U.N. ambassador I don't have diplomatic immunity, which means I have to pay these $40,000 worth of parking tickets from the NYPD. I need a job, pronto. But let's face it, I don't have the greatest people skills. I'm abrasive, arrogant, and prone to scream at people who don't agree with me. Santa, can you help me? (signed) John B, New York

Note to staff: Send Johnny's resume to Fox News. And Court TV while you're at it. S.

Dear Santa: Like, this year has really been a bummer. I had to, you know, kick that worthless loser K-Fed to the curb? And I started, like, hanging out with Paris Hilton, right? And now there's all these pictures of me getting out of limos with, like no underwear on and they're all over the, you know, Internet and stuff? Can you, like, I dunno, give me something that'll like keep that from happening again? (signed) Britney S, La-La Land.

Note to staff: Send Britney a gross of Fruit of the Looms. And maybe she wouldn't have these problems if she only had a brain. See if you can get in touch with the Wizard of Oz. S.

Dear Santa: I have not been bad this year, but if I was going to be bad, I would do so by writing a book about how I would have killed my wife if I had actually killed my wife, which I didn't, and I didn't write the book either, but if I had written it, it didn't get published, so I didn't get the money I would have gotten if I had written it, which I didn't.

Long story short, make this Christmas easy on yourself, and just bring money. How about tens and twenties? (signed) O.J., Coral Gables. Fla.

Note to staff: How's that swift kick in the butt project coming? Please advise. S.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

House of Ill Repute

In case you had forgotten why the Republicans lost....

Committee Says GOP Left Foley Unchecked

The House ethics committee concluded yesterday that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his top staff probably knew for months, if not years, of then-Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate contact with former House pages but did nothing to protect the teenagers.

So much for "it's all a Democratic ploy! Conspiracy! Conspiracy!"

Top GOP House leaders also "failed to exercise appropriate diligence" in the matter, the committee's report found, and tried "to remain willfully ignorant of the potential consequences of Foley's conduct." The ensuing scandal contributed to the Republicans' losses in the midterm elections. The report speculated that some officials were reluctant to act too aggressively for fear of exposing Foley's homosexuality or for political reasons.

But the ethics panel, officially known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, decided against taking any action against the leaders, aides or House officials involved in the saga, declining even to describe their actions as bringing ill repute on the House.

Bye-bye, you pack of criminals. Enjoy retirement...oh, and here's an example of Republican classiness....

On the other side of the Capitol, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania met with his successor, Bob Casey, for nearly an hour on Thursday, their longest encounter apart from their televised debates.
But Mr. Santorum, a Republican whose once-steady rise in politics ended with a resounding defeat, refused to be photographed with Mr. Casey, and brushed past reporters in his closing days in the Capitol.

That's your GOP...gracious in neither victory nor defeat. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Poor Dears...

House to Work 5 Days a Week, Republicans Disgruntled -

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who will become House majority leader and is writing the schedule for the next Congress, said members should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to.

"I have bad news for you," Hoyer told reporters. "Those trips you had planned in January, forget 'em. We will be working almost every day in January, starting with the 4th."

The reporters groaned. "I know, it's awful, isn't it?" Hoyer empathized.


For lawmakers, it is awful, compared with what they have come to expect. For much of this election year, the legislative week started late Tuesday and ended by Thursday afternoon -- and that was during the relatively few weeks the House wasn't in recess.

Next year, members of the House will be expected in the Capitol for votes each week by 6:30 p.m. Monday and will finish their business about 2 p.m. Friday, Hoyer said.

Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."

The poor dears. Gotta love 'em.

Maybe I can go into court on Monday and tell the judge, "sorry, your Honor, but this Monday through Friday thing is putting a real strain on the family. You believe in family, don't you? See you at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. Oh, and I'm taking Friday off. You know, family."

Well, I'd most likely get more writing done....

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Former Debutante Madeline Dare has gone decidedly downscale. She's living with her inventor husband in crumbling Syracuse, New York, writing food articles for a local rag, and wanting desperately for them to be anywhere else. Then one of her in-laws finds a clue that implicates Madeline's favorite cousin in a decades-old murder, and her seemingly dead-end life starts getting considerably more interesting than she wished for.

This is one of those books that I love so much, I end up accosting people on the street and pressing it into their hands. The plotting is superb, much more assured than one would expect from a first time author. The twists and red herrings are deftly mixed in to keep the reader guessing without feeling confused during the journey and used at the end.

It's the quality of the writing, however, that really makes this book special. I fell in love with Madeline's voice from the opening sentences ("There are people who can be happy anywhere. I am not one of them.") And it just keeps getting better. Cornelia Read has a flair for the compact: the quickly sketched but perfect descriptive phrase; the snarky aside tossed off so quickly it almost seems like a throwaway until you get it and laugh with delight; the one seemingly trivial detail that causes a character to suddenly spring to life in the reader's imagination.

A Field of Darkness is an amazing debut. Check it out.

Congressman Ozzy?

Latest Newspaper Column:

The members of the incoming Democratic majority in Congress are not without some bad baggage from their pasts.

Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida recently was passed over for the Intelligence Committee chairmanship he'd expected because of his impeachment back in the '80s for bribery and his removal from his position as a federal judge. One of the people who voted for his impeachment was incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, so it's perhaps not surprising that she wouldn't stick Hastings in one of the most security-sensitive positions in the House.

But perhaps the new congressman with the most egregious act in his past is John Hall of New York's 19th District.

What did Hall do that was so terrible? Three words: "Still the One."

You remember "Still the One"? The insanely bouncy and smarmy little '70s tune by the band Orleans? Maybe this will refresh your memory: "You're still the one who can scratch my itch. You're still the one and I wouldn't switch." As a member of Orleans, Hall wrote both that tune and their equally hideous follow-up single, "Dance With Me" ("I want to be your partner, can't you seeeeee ").

It's dreck like that that makes me wonder how I made it through the Seventies with my sanity intact. (Actually I do know, but my parents read this column, and I'm not sure if all the applicable statutes of limitations have run, so let's just drop the subject for now, shall we?)

Well, Hall's a bit older now, with a lot less hair than he sported in the '70s. He's shaved his beard and gotten all serious. Even so, when the very liberal Hall ran for Congress in the usually Republican N.Y.-19, very few people gave him much of a chance against the well-funded six-term incumbent Sue Kelly.

Then something happened. Several things, actually. Growing unease about Iraq. Duke Cunningham. Jack Abramoff. The Foley page scandal. Suddenly, it wasn't the greatest time to be a Republican incumbent.

Hall kept the pressure on by talking about Iraq and asking pointed questions about Kelly's membership on the House Page Board. Kelly tried to fight back by publishing fliers showing Hall half-naked with his bandmates on the cover of their "Waking and Dreaming" album, one of the most horrifically misconceived album covers of all time.

None of it worked. Hall won by 4,300 votes. Maybe if Kelly, instead of concentrating on the album cover, had actually published some of Hall's lyrics, like "Fantasy/could never be so killing/I feel free/ I hope that you are willing," she'd have had a better chance.

So now what? Will other rockers decide to try for higher office? After all, if the actor whose major claim to fame before entering politics was acting in a movie called "Bedtime for Bonzo" can achieve the presidency of these United States, what's to stop, say, Ozzy Osbourne from running for Senate?

Oh, sure, he's a little addled, but have you heard some of the stuff that comes out of the mouth of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)? Who can forget the shot of Stevens -- the head of the Commerce Committee, mind you -- standing in the well of the Senate bellowing, "[The internet] is not a truck! It's a series of tubes!" And let's face it, in Strom Thurmond's last couple of terms, he appeared to have roughly the cognitive ability of quartz.

No, if there's one thing recent history has taught us, it's that severe brain damage is no disqualification for the U.S. Congress. Now, I know Ozzy's British. But people have overcome worse handicaps to serve in politics. Or maybe I'm just pushing this because I really would like to see the look on Nancy Pelosi's face when Ozzy finishes off a rousing speech on the House floor by chomping the head off a bat. Hey, a man can dream.

But let's face it, Congressman Ozzy's unlikely to happen. What's more likely is that we'll get somebody like, say, Bruce Springsteen.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Bruce's music, especially the rockers. He puts on one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen, and he's one heck of a songwriter. But Bruce has this regrettable tendency to suddenly up and decide that he's this generation's answer to Woody Guthrie.

Sometimes he can pull it off, as on a few of the tracks of his recent "Seeger Sessions" collection of folk standards. But when he starts crooning something like "We Shall Overcome," you just want to take him by the shoulder and go "Bruce. Dude. No."

Still, Bruce has that populist, friend-of-the-working-man thing going on. I suppose we could do worse, even if there's little chance of bat-munching from Congressman Springsteen, the honorable gentleman from New Jersey.

What the heck. I'd even vote for him, except I'd have to move to Jersey to do that. And the chances of that are about the same as my chances of buying "Orleans' Greatest Hits."

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. He says he might also be persuaded to vote for Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Give Me a Break

Remark By Webb Arouses Passions:

Okay, a little background if you haven't heard the story. At a White House reception for the newly elected members of Congress last week, Preznit George Dubbya Bush walked up to Senator-elect Jim Webb and asked "So, Jim, how's your boy?"

Now, if I, like Webb, had a son serving in Iraq, a number of retorts would have come to my mind, such as:

"In the goddamn quagmire you stuck him in, you arrogant ass."


"Unlike your worthless drunken hell-spawn, volunteering to serve his country".

You get the idea.

But Webb was politer than I would have been. "I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," he answered.

Bush decided he was going to push a little harder:"That's not what I asked you," he said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb responded.

From the reaction of the Washington chattering class, you'd have though Webb had spat in the face of the Dimwit-in-Chief.

George Will was the first to get all prissy: "Webb certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor. Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency. Webb's more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being -- one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another."

Well, boo-fucking-hoo. God forbid that anyone should engage in "calculated rudeness" to a man who'd said, in so many words, that if you vote for people like James Webb, terrorists win.

Then Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell chimed in: 'I understand having a child over in harm's way in Iraq. You take the situation over there much more personally,' McDonnell said. 'The problem for Mr. Webb is he's got to learn a little bit better about having a sense of decorum. To be an effective U.S. senator, you have to deal in a collegial manner.'"

As the kids on the Internets say, O RLY? Is this the same collegiality Vice President Dick Cheney showed when he told Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy to fuck himself?

I've got news for you, Mr. Will and Mr. McDonnell: civility flows both ways. After six years of being called traitors and terrorist sympathizers, I hope you'll understand if some of us don't get the fucking vapors because a newly elected Senator who was accused by Republicans of writing child pornography doesn't bow down and kiss Bush's ring.

Frankly, it's about the time someone gave the Boy in the Bubble a little reality check. The problem with this so-called "civility" is that sociopaths like the current crew in the White House manipulate it so you'll give them a pass on their rotten behavior. They count on you not making a fuss.

Well, news flash. Fusses are about to be made.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Does. Not. Compute.

The U.S. government agreed yesterday to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by an Oregon lawyer who was arrested and jailed for two weeks in 2004 after the FBI bungled a fingerprint match and mistakenly linked him to a terrorist attack in Spain.

Under the terms of the settlement filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Portland, the government also issued an unusual apology to Brandon Mayfield for the "suffering" caused by his wrongful arrest and imprisonment. It acknowledged that the ordeal was "deeply upsetting" to Mayfield and his family.

Mayfield will be able to continue pursuing his legal challenge to the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law, which was used to obtain his personal records while he was under investigation.

The payment is a clear embarrassment for the FBI, which arrested Mayfield as a material witness in May 2004. FBI examiners had erroneously linked him to a partial fingerprint on a bag of detonators found after terrorists bombed commuter trains in Madrid in March, killing 191 people. The bureau compounded its error by stridently resisting the conclusions of the Spanish National Police, which notified the FBI three weeks before Mayfield was arrested that the fingerprint did not belong to him.

Now wait a minute. All people arrested as terrorists are guilty, right? They have to be. That's why we can torture them to get them to confess to being terrorists. I mean, if not every person detained for terrorism is really a terrorist, then we might accidentally torture an innocent person...and worse, an innocent person might confess to get them to stop hurting him.

So Mayfield must have been guilty, because he was arrested.

But if the FBI paid him this settlement, then the FBI made a mistake. But the anti-terrorist agents of the FBI can't make a mistake because if they make mistakes...then..innocent people......might...


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Kick-Ass Chick of the Day (CBS) PALM SPRINGS, Calif. A murder suspect armed with an Uzi sub-machine gun led police on a high speed car chase through Palm Springs and a foot pursuit thereafter before being detained, police said.

The pursuit ensued about 4 a.m. when a silver Pontiac Grand Am with a burned out license plate lamp tried to elude a pursuing police car on Palm Canyon Drive, according to a Palm Springs Police Department statement. The pursuit reached speeds of 70 mph.

After making a U-turn on Bogart Trail, the Pontiac sped through residential streets, 'often on the wrong side of the roadway,' according to the statement.

A flat tire forced the suspect and his accomplice to abandon the Pontiac in the 2800 block of Palm Canyon Drive and flee in opposite directions.

The pursuing officer, with one year of experience on the force, chased the driver, identified as Jason Lee Gillespie, 29, of San Diego, and grabbed him as he attempted to scale a wall. Police noted that the officer is a 5-foot-2 woman and the suspect is 6 foot 5 and weighs 235 pounds.

A backup officer arrived as the woman yanked the suspect off the wall. That was when police noticed Gillespie had an Uzi strapped to his shoulder. The suspect was disarmed and detained without a shot fired.

Heh. Absolutely bad-ass. I do loves me some tough girls.

Thanks to alert reader Stephen Blackmoore for this one.

Monday, November 27, 2006

That'll Buy a Lot of Copies of "My Pet Goat"

New York Daily News - Home - W library in record book: WASHINGTON - He may be a certified lame duck now, but President Bush and his truest believers are about to launch their final campaign - an eye-popping, half-billion-dollar drive for the Bush presidential library.

Eager to begin refurbishing his tattered legacy, the President hopes to raise $500 million to build his library and a think tank at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Bush lived in Dallas until he was elected governor of Texas in 1995.

Heh. Considering not only how willfully non-literate (as opposed to illiterate) Bush is, but also his well-known penchant for secretiveness and obsession with never letting any information out, just what are they going to put in this library? Well, let's see....

The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," one Bush insider said.

If actual conservatives do write papers and books there, they won't be favorable to Bush. "Bush=conservative" is the biggest lie told by this Administration, and that's saying something.

So who pays for this?

Bush loyalists have already identified wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry as potential "mega" donors and are pressing for a formal site announcement - now expected early in the new year.

Oh boy! Maybe Syria will pony up a million or two!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bad Ideas: Then And Now

Latest Newspaper Column

Oh, Lord, not this again.

If there's anything that sinks the new, fresh class of Democrats in the new Congress, it's going to be the old Democrats who are left over.

Somebody needs to tell some of these dinosaurs that they're part of the reason the Democrats lost the majority in the first place, and that the new majority is not a license to trot out your old, cockeyed ideas.

The inspiration for this particular rant is ancient Congressman Charles Rangel of New York City, who's been a member of the House since 1970. Because of seniority rules, Rangel is first in line to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. And what does Rangel want to do first?

He wants to bring back the draft.

If this sounds familiar, it's because he has pulled this stunt before. He first proposed a draft back in 2003, presumably as a way to shock the public out of its support for Dubbya's wacky Iraqi adventure.

"If those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve -- and to be placed in harm's way," he said at the time, "there would be more caution and greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq."

Now with the war dragging on, Rangel is singing the same tune.

"There's no question in my mind," Rangel said recently, "that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way."

Oh, really? Does Rangel really think that conscription might prevent wars? Does the name "Vietnam" strike a familiar note?

And does he really think that the children of the rich and powerful won't find some way to avoid being placed in harm's way? Has he forgotten the history of the man who's currently sitting in the White House? (Which reminds me of my favorite joke of the week: President Bush supposedly called up Sen. John Kerry to ask if Kerry, as a bipartisan gesture, wanted to accompany him on his recent diplomatic visit to Vietnam. "Nah," Kerry said, "You go. I already went.")

I admit that there's a certain appeal to the idea of drafting all these fresh-scrubbed young Republican types who earnestly tell you that the war in Iraq is part of a clash of civilizations and that it's our generation's Great Struggle, right before they explain why they won't be signing up because, you know, they want to go to college and serve their country by becoming investment bankers.

When I read pampered rich-boy commentators like the National Review's Jonah Goldberg describing why he doesn't join up after being a rabid war supporter -- "I'm 35 years old, my family can't stand the lost income, and I have a baby daughter" -- it certainly is nice to fantasize about yanking them out from behind their keyboards and shipping them to Baghdad to guard convoys next to a National Guardsman who hasn't seen his own family (or his former income) for a while.

But let's face it, how fair would that be to the National Guardsman? We've done a pretty good job in the last few years of showing that a motivated, professional volunteer army can whip a conscript army any day of the week. Now that our enemies are motivated volunteers, why would we want to field an army of conscripts?

Here's the thing that really chaps my butt: Rangel knows he's not actually going to get a draft put in place. His first attempt lost 402-2, and there's no reason to believe it'll do any better this time around. Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi has gone on record as saying she doesn't support the measure, and as far as I know, not a single other Democrat has signed on.

No, what Rangel really wants to do is hold hearings. He wants to ask about current and future troop levels and Dubbya's future plans. "Mr. President," he's said he'd ask, "share with me what is victory, and if you have any clue what you're talking about, who is the enemy? ... Who do we negotiate the victory with? ... Who sets the agenda in the Middle East?"

In other words, Rangel doesn't really want a draft. He's grandstanding. He's like that Republican idiot from Louisiana who held lengthy hearings on why the networks got confused in calling the results of the 2000 election so wrong on election night (without any real idea of anything to do about it) just because he wanted to mess with the networks. I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now.

Here's the thing. You don't need to threaten the American people with the possibility of a draft anymore to turn them against the war. You don't need to raise the specter of a draft to illustrate that the Bush administration is clueless in the Middle East.

The new congressional leadership needs to concentrate on getting something done, not wasting our money making a point that everyone already gets.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We Won! Let's Fire the Coach!

Latest Newspaper Column

Former Clinton campaign manager James Carville has always been a little strange. But after the recent congressional elections, he seems to have completely lost his freakin' mind.

After a historic election in which the Democrats gained 29 seats in the House (after recounts), four in the Senate (plus two Independents who will be part of the Democratic Caucus), gained six state governorships, and gained 320 seats in state legislatures, including taking control of eight statehouses, what was Carville's recommendation?

Fire Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Not only that, Carville asserted, we needed to replace him with one of the only Democratic Senate candidates who lost a close election, Tennessee's Harold Ford.

Uh... what? Last time I checked, you can the guy at the top when you lose, not when you win. If the UNC Tar Heels win a national championship (please Lord, oh please) and someone comes up the next day and goes "you know what, we oughta fire that Roy Williams," they'll put him in a rubber room. But this simple logic seems to be lost on Carville.

"Suppose Harold Ford became chairman of the DNC," he said recently. "How much more money do you think we could raise? Just think of the difference it could make in one day. ... I just appointed myself his campaign manager."

Dear Lord. Somebody fetch a net.

Carville and his cronies in the Democratic Leadership Council (aka the Hillary Clinton Wing) found fault with Dean's insistence on what's come to be called the "50-state strategy." Rather than the traditional democratic strategy, which was to concentrate on a few "key districts" where the party's Wise Men figured they had the best chance to gain seats, Dean put the party's time and money into building Democratic Party infrastructure everywhere in the U.S.

But the biggest gripe the DLC types have with Dean is that he's "abrasive" and that he hurts fundraising as a result. (Imagine what it must be like to be called abrasive by James Carville). Dean was "confrontational," they griped. He'd alienate the voters.

Then there was "The Scream," where Dean was caught on tape exhorting a cheering crowd to keep fighting.

Later it was revealed that the network reporters (you know, the so-called "liberal media") had mixed down the audio track of the crowd noise so that, instead of sounding like what he was -- a man trying to be heard over a noisy crowd -- Dean sounded like a raving maniac. "The Scream" turned Dean into a laughingstock and probably cost him the presidential nomination.

But who's laughing now? The 50-state strategy worked. Instead of a narrow majority in the House, the Democrats have a solid one. They took the Senate, which even some Democratic optimists doubted would happen.

The 50-state strategy helped toss the arrogant pronouncements of Tom DeLay and Karl Rove that the Republicans would henceforth enjoy a "permanent Republican majority" into the Dumpster of History.

And as for confrontational: When the Democrats stopped worrying about whether Republicans would say nasty things about them, stood up and said what they believed in, people listened.

And when they listened to what Democrats actually had to say, rather than the spun Republican version of it, they liked what they heard: The war in Iraq is stalled and needs new direction. We need an increase in the minimum wage. Someone needs to fix the Medicare prescription drug bill so it's not a feeding trough for big pharmaceutical companies. And we need to get rid of the corruption, criminality and cronyism exemplified by people like convicted Congressfelons Randy Cunningham and Bob Ney, not to mention creepazoids like Mark Foley.

People heard a message that cut through the noise of Republicans bleating about how "all the Democrats were about was hating Bush." People heard the message, and that message worked.

It worked despite the Republican tactics of fear. It worked despite the desperate attempts to make the election all about John Kerry's lousy stand-up comedy. It worked despite Republicans mocking Michael J. Fox. And it worked because those things were all the Republicans had left. They'd thrown real conservatism out the window with record deficits and intrusive government, and their claim to the moral high ground left town on the same bus with Mark Foley.

They spent so much time equating the war in Iraq with the war on terror that, when that war started turning into a quagmire and the incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld in prosecuting that war was revealed, people no longer trusted the Republicans to be the party that could save us from the bad guys. Pretty soon it was hard to believe that the Republican Party stood for anything at all other than maintaining power, whatever the cost and whatever sleazy tactic or slur they had to use.

The conventional wisdom about George W. Bush and his party was that they won because people thought, "Well, you may not agree with them but at least they stand for something." When that failed, so did they. And when the Democrats stood up and stood for something, they won.

That's the legacy of Howard Dean, and it drives Carville and the me-too Democrats in the DLC, whose strategy for victory has always been to turn the party into Republican Lite, straight up the wall.

But then, what has James Carville won lately?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Where Were The Rednecks?

Hotline On Call:

“White rednecks” who “didn’t show up to vote for us” partly cost GOPers their congressional majorities, Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) told fellow Republicans today. And Putnam, seeking the post of GOP conference chair, chided ex-Chair J.C. Watts (R-OK) for ruining the conference’s ability to serve its members.

Three Republicans in the room independently confirmed to the Hotline the substance and context of Putnam’s remarks. But Putnam’s chief of staff insists that the remarks were taken out of context.

Examining the 2006 midterms, Putnam blamed the GOP defeat on “the independent vote, the women vote, the suburban vote.” He said that “heck, even the white rednecks who go to church on Sunday didn't come out to vote for us.”


Putnam’s chief of staff, John Hambel, said his boss has used the word “redneck” only in the context of sharing polling data from last week’s elections. Hambel said Putnam was listing off different constituencies and ended with saying: “Heck, we even had rednecks who go to church who didn't come out to vote.”

Maybe the "white rednecks who go to church" finally realized the contempt with which the GOP actually regards them.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Non-Viable Strategies for Living

Man shows up to DUI hearing drunk: A West Virginia man's second time around could land him in even more trouble with the law.

According to Charleston police, Stephen Lewis Skiles raised the ire of a judge after he showed up for a DUI hearing - drunk.

Skiles appeared at the administrative hearing at 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 14. He had been charged with DUI after a May 19 incident in which he came through a seatbelt educational checkpoint with a blood-alcohol limit of .025, 'well over two times the legal limit,' according to Sgt. Terry Shawn Williams of the Charleston Police Department.

Although Skiles showed, his lawyer didn't. After a 15-minute grace period, 'Mr. Skiles told his version of the story,' Williams said. 'When he started speaking, we immediately detected the odor of alcohol on his breath.'

Skiles claimed he hadn't been drinking that day, but had consumed eight to 10 beers the previous night. He then promised he wouldn't drive home.

But when Williams - who, as the arresting officer in the May 19 incident, was present at the hearing - went out to his unmarked patrol vehicle in the parking lot, there was Skiles.

'[I] saw him pulling out,' Williams said. 'I didn't even have to get in my car.'

Williams stepped in front of Skiles' vehicle and instructed him to step out. He gave Skiles a field sobriety test, which he failed, Williams said.

Skiles now faces a second DUI charge, and a five-to-10 year suspension of his driver's license if he is convicted.

'He didn't learn his lesson,' Williams said.

Democrats: You Need "The Look"

You've seen the look I mean: That look of incredulity that indicates the questioner has asked an incredibly stupid and obvious question and the only reason you're not laughing in the questioner's face is because you're too polite.

It needs to be turned on every dolt who asks or suggests the the Democrats are in "disarray" or that they're "crippled by infighting", followed by "of course not. That's silly. We had an election for majority leader. One candidate won. The fellow that didn't congratulated the winner and we got to work," delivered in a tone which clearly indicates the pundit asking the question is a blithering idiot.

Maybe we could arrange for a half day seminar to tech the leadership how to do it. I volunteer my teenage daughter to teach it. She has that look down.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Your Liberal Media at Work

House Democrats name Hoyer to No. 2 post.

Let me be the first to say--"whatever." Two months from now, nobody's going to remember this. But right now, the so-called liberal media is spinning this as a crippling defeat for Speaker Elect Nancy Pelosi, who'd written a letter supporting Hoyer's rival for the post, Congressman John Murtha.

Of course, when Murtha was the front runner, that same "liberal media" was spinning that as a defeat for the Democrats on ethics reform, in part because somewhere there's an hour long videotape of Murtha from 26 years ago that shows him not accepting a bribe.

I'll also note that the same media types that were wringing their hands when Joe Lieberman didn't get the Democratic nomination for Senator in Connecticut and moaning that "the Democrats are intolerant of dissent in the ranks! They're marching in liberal lockstep to their doom!" are now claiming the Democrats are in "disarray" because there was a contested election for the #2 post. Of course, they're also trying to claim that the electoral victory of this party (which two months ago was in the clutches of leftists stifling all dissent) was actually a victory for conservatives. Or moderates. Just anybody but liberals.

"Heads Republicans and conservatives win, tails liberal Democrats lose" --that's your "liberal media" at work.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Very Very Deep Hole

Ever wonder where you'd end up if you dug a hole straight through the Earth from where you are? Well thanks to this nifty web page,
you can find out. Zoom in as far as you can, click where you want to dig and


I end up in the Indian Ocean WSW of Perth Australia.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Little Schadenfreude

Latest Newspaper Column

As I write this, it's the day after a historic election, the one in which the Republican Party managed to lose both the House and the Senate.

And at this writing, I just heard the news that Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down after his tenure as probably the nation's most clueless, yet arrogant, defense secretary.

Well, that whole Republican thing was fun while it lasted, but I guess I'll have to send back my GOP membership card. After all, if I can't get a bye any more for meanness, corruption and incompetence, what's the point?

It's all for the best, I suppose. Being a Republican is harder than it looks. I don't know how you guys do it with a straight face.

Well, now that that's over, I suppose I should write a deep and analytical column about what happened and why. Unfortunately, my mind is still in a mode that could best be described as "HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!"

I'm trying very hard not to give in to schadenfreude (a German word for an emotion defined as "satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune"). But I have to admit, it's been more than a little entertaining watching some of the nuttier right-wingers go into total meltdown.

Like this charming comment from the right-wing blog Little Green Footballs: "I just hope the nuke attack comes soon. Let it be on the East Coast where it belongs." And this one: "This will be a big one with many casualties only good news from it is President Pelosi will have to deal with a whole order of magnitude and more casualties than Katrina."

Nice, huh? I mean, all a few liberals threatened to do after the last election was move to Canada. Right-wingers want to see the country nuked, to teach us all a lesson.

OK, that was fun. Now on to the analysis. Why did the Republicans lose what they were claiming only two years ago was going to be a "permanent majority"?

Well, first there was the corruption. From money-laundering and influence-peddling to teenage-page-chasing and mistress-strangling, the Republicans seemed to be rocked by a new indictment, investigation, or scandal each week.

It's harder and harder to use the classic strategy of "playing to the socially conservative base" when you've let yourself become known as the party of grafters, adulterers and pedophiles. In fact, one AP exit poll showed that "most white evangelicals said corruption was very important to their vote -- and almost a third of them turned to the Democrats."

Iraq was also a huge issue for voters. On that one, the Republicans really suffered from the corner George W. Bush had painted his party into. As his rapidly shifting justifications for the war in Iraq crumbled, Bush resorted more and more to the equation that the war in Iraq and the war on terror were the same thing, despite the fact, as we seem to have to keep repeating, it wasn't Iraq who attacked us on 9/11.

Bush made the war on terror pretty much his sole reason for demanding we support the Republican Party. (Well, I suppose there was nothing left. Cutting government spending? Please. Effective governance? Do the words "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" strike a familiar note?)

Problem with that is, when the war in Iraq started going badly, how could people not then assume that the Global War on Terror was going badly as well? And since it was the Republicans, at least according to Bush, that were the only ones interested in fighting it, how could it not be their fault?

As I contemplated the magnitude of the Republican loss, however, one quote came back to haunt me, from the day after the 2004 presidential election. It was a widely quoted article by Republican blogger Adam Yoshida, that said, in part: "If anyone needs to work to 'bring the country together' it's those on the left who have divided it so badly. Those who sought to destroy this great man should get down upon their knees and beg the victors for mercy. And maybe, just maybe, we'll let a few of them linger on for the simple reason that they amuse us. ... Despite all of their tricks, despite all of their lies, the people have rejected them. They mean nothing. They are worth nothing. There's no point in trying to reach out to them because they won't be reached out to. We've got their teeth clutching the sidewalk and our boot above their head. Now's the time to curb-stomp the bastards."

And that's the main reason the Republicans lost, because that is exactly the way they governed. "To heck with you, we're the majority, sit down and shut up, we'll do whatever we want." As the Book of Proverbs says, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

While the urge for payback is going to be powerful, I hope the Dems can learn from that mistake. If not, if it really does end up being a case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss," then it's going to be a really short majority.

The Democrats have got two years to prove they can govern better than the Republicans. Let's hope they don't waste them.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Now That's What You Call Some REAL Redneck Noir

Yahoo! News:

A Georgia man was charged Monday with plotting a murder-for-hire scheme after he allegedly recruited a hit man to kill a teen who gave birth to his child.

Authorities say they are considering more charges against Roy Holt, 50, who is accused of offering a hit man a mobile home to kill the 16-year-old girl.

Prosecutors claim Holt agreed to transfer ownership "of one or more mobile homes or real property located in Georgia" to a hit man in exchange for carrying out the slaying.

Perry County Sheriff Keith Kellerman said a tip from an unidentified source last week led to Holt's arrest Friday in the Du Quoin, Ill., home of his sister-in-law.

Kellerman said Holt, who celebrated his 50th birthday in jail Saturday, fled from Georgia to Illinois last week to establish an alibi for when the alleged hit was to occur.

"We received the information that he was trying to hire a hit man last Thursday, and we were able to independently corroborate those allegations," said Kellerman, who claims the unidentified girl was 14 when the sexual relationship began.

"We believe she was going to report the relationship to authorities in Georgia, and that is why he attempted to hire the hit man," he said.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

And Now the Best News of All

I'll admit, Democrats taking the House, the Senate, a bunch of governorships, and nine Statehouses is pretty damn sweet.

But the best news of all is: I finally broke a creative logjam on my novel-after-the-next-one, BREAKING COVER. I was worried for a bit there. It's been a bit like driving in Durham, North Carolina: I could see where I wanted to go, but all the streets seemed to be one way in the wrong direction. (Terrenoire'll know what I mean).

But as always, the words come. Eventually.

Life is good.

Now watch some asshole come along and fuck things up.

R.I.P. Ed Bradley

60 Minutes Correspendent Ed Bradley Dead at 65:

Damn. I always liked his reports. He was very likable onscreen but knew when to call "bullshit" on someone when they needed it (except for actors and singers, but that's a problem all the 60 Minutes crew seem to have).

Wingnuts Unhinged IV: The Right Wing Hates America


The morbidly obese American people put down their spoons for 5 minutes and hauled their huge butts into voting booth and sacrificed the rest of us to the domination of the sleazy, corrupt, slimy democrats


Yes, and go to shopping malls to buy sneakers with lights in them.


You hit it right on the head my friend . The majority of Americans are moron [SIC] in my book . TV watching , basketball brained , lunkheads. They believe the 5:00 news is real . You would NOT believe how dumb most people are here in the NY metro area when it comes to politics and history .


This country is insane . People we would have hung as traitors at one time are now elected to office.

The Right: they only love America if we vote correctly. Otherwise, they hope we all get nuked.

Rush Limbaugh: I Never Really Liked Those Guys Anyway

Admitted prescription drug abuser Rush Limbaugh, quoted in The Huffington Post:

The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, 'Well, why have you been doing it?' Because the stakes are high! Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country's than the Democrat [sic] Party does and liberalism.

Well, it's easy to scream hypocrisy about this. But let's fess up...isn't this the way a lot of us felt about John Kerry? "He supported the war, and he was a terrible campaigner, but he's all we've got against Bush."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wingnuts Unhinged III

Stop The ACLU:

From this day forward, every soldier that perishes in SW Asia is blood on the hands of Speaker Pelosi until every soldier comes home.

So let me get this straight...none of the deaths up to now has been Bush's fault. However, every combat death from now on is Pelosi's, even though she hasn't even been sworn in.

Right wingers are stupid.


November 1, 2006--President Bush says he wants Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney to remain in his administration until the end of his presidency.

November 8. 2006: Rumsfeld resigns. No one's seen Cheney today.

My friend Steve just noted, "well, he said to the end of his presidency..."

So will Bush resign?

Wingnuts Unhinged II

From the right wing blog Little Green Footballs:

I quit. I not going to vote again. It's time I gave up on this political bullshit. I just hope the nuke attack comes soon. Let it be on the East Coast where it belongs.


expect the next attack

this will be a big one with many casualties

only good news from it is President Pelosi will have to deal with a whole order of magnitude more casualties than Katrina


I only hope I wake up to Washington a glowing hole in the morning.

That's that right wing "Love for America" talking.

Wingnuts Unhinged

Jonah Goldberg--National Review Online: I think James Baker and Dick Cheney should take Bush out to the woods around Camp David. After 24 hours in a sweat lodge, he should be given only a loin cloth, a hunting knife and a canteen of water. Bush should then set out to track and kill a black bear, after which he should eat its still beating heart so he can absorb its spirit. He should then fly back to Washington in Marine 1. His torso still scratched from the bear's claws, his face bloodied and steaming in the November chill, he should immediately give a press conference at which he throws the bearskin on the front row of the press corps, completely enveloping Helen Thomas, declaring, 'I'm not going anywhere.'

This is it. They've let rage drive them completely insane. Honey, get my gun.

Remember When?

So, George W. Bush won. And he’s done so by a solid margin. The Democrats’ attempted coup managed to last all of eight hours. Not only is the President the first candidate to win a majority of the vote in a Presidential Election since 1988, but he also won more popular votes than any other candidate in history. The Democrats spent months telling us that high voter turnout would equal a win for them but, as it turns out, when 60% of the electorate showed up at the polls it translated into a Bush lead of nearly four million votes. In short: take that, you sons of bitches.

The Democrats are now talking about how this is a signal that Bush should “bring the country together”. Translated into American, this means “now that you’ve won, you should surrender to us.” The hell with that. We’ve won. Winning means not having to say you’re sorry. Bush already brought a majority of Americans together: they voted for him. He doesn’t need to reach out to them: they need to reach out to him.

If anyone needs to work to “bring the country together” it’s those on the left who have divided it so badly. Those who sought to destroy this great man should get down upon their knees and beg the victors for mercy. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll let a few of them linger on for the simple reason that they amuse us. My life’s goal is to see the Democratic Party virtually obliterated and left as a rump of people like Stephanie Herseth who both mostly agree with us anyways and are easy on the eyes.

That’s the future of the Democratic Party: providing Republicans with a number of cute (but not that bright) comfort women.

Let’s face a hard truth: this was the bitterest Presidential campaign in living memory. The Democrats and their allies staked everything on the defeat of this President. All of the resources they had accumulated over a generation of struggle were thrown into this battle: and they have failed. Despite all of their tricks, despite all of their lies, the people have rejected them. They mean nothing. They are worth nothing. There’s no point in trying to reach out to them because they won’t be reached out to. We’ve got their teeth clutching the sidewalk and out boot above their head. Now’s the time to curb-stomp the bastards.

Those words were penned by a Republican blogger on November 3d, 2004.

And that's why the arrogant sunsabitches lost, because that is EXACTLY the way they "governed."

"Screw you, we're the majority, sit down and STFU, we'll do whatever we want."

While the urge for payback is going to be powerful, I hope the Dems can learn from that mistake.


Holy shit...

More later.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Voting is one of the things that sets us apart from the animals. Hedgehogs don't vote. Horses don't vote. Even the Mountain Gorillas, our hairy cousins in the deep you think they vote? They do not.

Vote. It's the human thing to do.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Latest Newspaper Column

Look out, America. Borat's here, spreading controversy in his wake.

In case you're not familiar, "Borat Sagdiyev" is a character played by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. "Borat" is supposedly the foremost TV journalist from Kazakhstan, sent here by his country to find out about America.

"Borat" got his start as part of Cohen's HBO series "Da Ali G. Show" in which Cohen, with an absolutely straight face, pays three bizarre characters. In addition to Borat, Cohen plays Ali G., a gold-chain- and-Adidas-wearing British wannabe gangsta rapper of uncertain ethnicity, with probably the weirdest accent ever heard on television. There's also Bruno, the outrageously gay German fashion designer, a guy so far out of the closet that he's out of the house and standing in the driveway.

All three of Cohen's characters share a common thread: They conduct outrageously off-the-wall interviews with people who often don't seem to realize that they're being put on. Ali G's just clueless: He once asked Pat Buchanan about whether Saddam Hussein "ever was able to make dem weapons of mass destruction, or as dey is called, BLTs?"

Another segment had him quizzing a baffled older gentleman about "thousands of Vietnam veterinarians." "Is dere a lot of sick animals in Vietnam?" Ali persisted in asking, as the increasingly exasperated man tried to explain that what he had heard about were Vietnam veterans.

For his part, "Borat" is not only clueless, he's also antisemitic, racist, misogynistic, and generally just a horrible person. The humor, paradoxically, comes from his total innocence in saying really awful things. The relentlessly friendly and outgoing "Borat" doesn't even seem to notice that the smiles on people's faces have suddenly turned frozen.

In one segment, he regaled a nightclub full of baffled cowboys with a "traditional Kazakh folk song" called "Throw the Jew Down the Well." In others, he's told an interviewer from a dating service he was seeking a woman with "plow experience" and led a meeting of Oklahoma City officials in a 10-minute "moment of silence" for the victims of the (fictitious) Tishnik Sheep Massacre.

Obviously, not everyone finds this sort of thing funny. The Kazakh people, for example, seem to have taken umbrage at their portrayal in Cohen's new feature film, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." They seem to be a bit perturbed that Cohen, in character as Borat, lists the national hobbies as "disco dancing, archery, rape, and table tennis."

"I'd kill this impostor on the spot," said Eltai Muptekeyev, a Kazakh interviewed in an Associated Press "man on the street" interview. Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, leader of the opposition National Social-Democratic Party, assured the AP that "Our way of thinking is mostly European," before asserting "If I see [Cohen] I'll hit him in the face." (And this guy's one of the liberals.)

Yes, nothing's better calculated to dispel the impression that you're a nation of violent, ignorant thugs than statements like that. I hear that the Kazakh deputy foreign minister, Rakhat Aliyev, recently invited Sacha Baron Cohen to come and see what Kazakhstan is really like. "He can discover a lot of things," Aliyez promises. Yeah, I'll bet. Considering Kazakshtan's lousy human rights record, I think the safe money is on Cohen declining the invite.

Also jumping on the anti-Borat bandwagon is a human-rights group in Germany called the European Center for Antiziganism Research. The ECAR, as we'll call them, filed a suit in German courts against Cohen for slander and inciting violence against gypsies, since Borat describes himself in the film as a former "gypsy catcher." I fail to understand how this is a slur against gypsies rather than Kazakhs, but then I have no idea what "Antiziganism" is, so what do I know?

One group that really doesn't seem to get it is the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, which has also condemned the Borat movie for antisemitism. It apparently means nothing to them that Cohen, an observant Jew himself, is lampooning antisemites by placing the offensive words into the mouth of this absurd buffoon. "The irony may have been lost on some of the audience," the ADL says.

Well, yeah, maybe some of the stupid ones. But I've never found it particularly useful to base my condemnation of a piece of entertainment around the potential reaction of the stupidest person in the room.

Fortunately, some people aren't total idiots. Aigul Abysheva, a student at Almaty University in Kazakhstan, originally was "disgusted" by Borat's attitude toward women. "But then," she said, "I realized he was making fun of ignorant people, no matter where they come from."

Hallelujah. She gets it.

There's an old saying that "the devil cannot abide to be mocked," and that's exactly what the best satire does. It fights humanity's worst impulses by making those who give in to them look stupid and silly.

No one really wants to be a racist buffoon like Borat. Well, maybe George Allen. (Hey, you knew I had to get in at least one dig before the election).

And if Cohen's Borat act goes way over the top -- well, you kind of have to be over the top if you're doing satire these days. Otherwise, people think you're the real thing.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Waist Deep In The Big Muddy

Cheney Vows 'Full Speed Ahead' on Iraq War - "COLORADO SPRINGS, Nov. 3 -- The Bush administration is determined to continue 'full speed ahead' with its policy in Iraq, regardless of Tuesday's midterm elections, Vice President Cheney said Friday.
It was back in 1942, I was part of a good platoon
We were on manoeuvres in Louisiana one night by the light of the moon
The Captain said, We got to ford the river, that's where it all began
We were knee deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fool kept yelling to push on
The Sergeant said, Sir, are you sure this is the way back to base
Sergeant, I once crossed this river not a mile above this place
It'll be a little soggy but we'll keep on slogging, we'll soon be on dry ground
We were waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fool kept yelling to push on
Captain, sir, with all this gear no man will be able to swim
Sergeant, don't be a nervous nellie, the Captain said to him
All we need is a little determination, follow me - I'll lead on
We were neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fool kept yelling to push on
All of a sudden the moon clouded over, all we heard was a gurgling cry
And a second later the Captain's helmet was all that floated by
The Sergeant said, Turn round, men, I'm in charge from now
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the Captain dead and gone
We stripped and dived and found his body stuck in the old quicksand
I guess he didn't know the water was deeper than the place where he'd once been
For another stream had joined the Muddy a half mile from where we'd gone
We were lucky to get out of the Big Muddy
When the damn fool kept yelling to push on
I don't want to draw conclusions, I'll leave that to yourself
Maybe you're still walking, maybe you're still talking
But every time I hear the news that old feeling comes back on
We're neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling to push on
Knee deep in the Big Muddy
And the fools keep yelling, Push on
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling, Push on
Waist deep, neck deep
We'll be drowning before too long
We're neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fools keep yelling to push on

copyright 1963 by Pete Seeger

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Gay Marriage Debate, Summed Up

From YouTube: Great ad from Colorado.

Another One Jumps Ship

Retired Military Officer, Techno-Thriller Novelist, and (Now Former) Iraq War Cheerleader Ralph Peters just said "fuck it" on Iraq :

On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki obeyed Muqtada al-Sadr's command to withdraw U.S. troops from Baghdad's Sadr City. He halted a vital U.S. military operation. It was the third time in less than a month that al-Maliki had sided with the anti-American cleric against our forces.

President Bush insists that we have no conflicts with the al-Maliki government. The president isn't telling the truth — or he himself doesn't support our military's efforts. He can't have it both ways. Bush appears increasingly desperate just to get through the upcoming elections.

I supported the removal of Saddam Hussein. I believed that Arabs deserved a chance to build a rule-of-law democracy in the Middle East. Based upon firsthand experience, I was convinced that the Middle East was so politically, socially, morally and intellectually stagnant that we had to risk intervention — or face generations of terrorism and tumult. I still believe that our removal of Hussein was a noble act.

I only wish the administration had done it competently.

More at the link...

I've read a couple of Peters' novels. They're pretty good. He's apparently also written a bunch of non-fiction.

But I wonder when we'll see the Russian Hooker scene from War in 2020 blasted all over the papers and airwaves?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sex and Violence, Sex and Violence...

An Article In Slate Magazine asserts that Internet Porn can reduce the incidence of rape, and that violent movies can actually reduce violent crime, at least while the movie's on.

First, the porn:

A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes. States that adopted the Internet quickly saw the biggest declines. And, according to Clemson professor Todd Kendall, the effects remain even after you control for all of the obvious confounding variables, such as alcohol consumption, police presence, poverty and unemployment rates, population density, and so forth.

OK, so we can at least tentatively conclude that Net access reduces rape. But that's a far cry from proving that porn access reduces rape. Maybe rape is down because the rapists are all indoors reading Slate or vandalizing Wikipedia. But professor Kendall points out that there is no similar effect of Internet access on homicide. It's hard to see how Wikipedia can deter rape without deterring other violent crimes at the same time. On the other hand, it's easy to imagine how porn might serve as a substitute for rape.

(Or maybe they've just gotten hooked on World of Warcraft.)

As for violence:

What happens when a particularly violent movie is released? Answer: Violent crime rates fall. Instantly. Here again, we have a lot of natural experiments: The number of violent movie releases changes a lot from week to week. One weekend, 12 million people watch Hannibal, and another weekend, 12 million watch Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

University of California professors Gordon Dahl and Stefano DellaVigna compared what happens on those weekends. The bottom line: More violence on the screen means less violence in the streets. Probably that's because violent criminals prefer violent movies, and as long as they're at the movies, they're not out causing mischief. They'd rather see Hannibal than rob you, but they'd rather rob you than sit through Wallace & Gromit.

(Oh, I dunno. After I saw Steel Magnolias, I REALLY wanted to kill somebody.)

I say that's the most probable explanation, because the biggest drop in crime (about a 2 percent drop for every million people watching violent movies) occurs between 6 p.m. and midnight—the prime moviegoing hours. And what happens when the theaters close? Answer: Crime stays down, though not by quite as much. Dahl and DellaVigna speculate that this is because two hours at the movies means two hours of drinking Coke instead of beer, with sobering effects that persist right on through till morning. Speaking of morning, after 6 a.m., crime returns to its original level.

(6 AM? Who knew criminals had this kind of work ethic?)

Well, Kerry's Lost My Vote

Because of Kerry's recent bobble of the punch line of a joke about President Bush, I regret to announce that I will not be voting for John Kerry on November 7th, 2006.

I won't be voting for him for Congress. I won't be voting for him for Senate. I won't be voting for him for Governor.

That'll show him.

Republican Blogger: "The Whole Party Has Been Hijacked by Frauds"

John Cole, a GOP activist and former member of the Editorial Board at, proves he's something I thought was extinct-- an actual ethical Republican --with this cri de coeur at his excellent blog Balloon Juice.

Some highlights:

In short, it really sucks looking around at the wreckage that is my party and realizing that the only decent thing to do is to pull the plug on them (or help). I am not really having any fun attacking my old friends- but I don’t know how else to respond when people call decent men like Jim Webb a pervert for no other reason than to win an election. I don’t know how to deal with people who think savaging a man with Parkinson’s for electoral gain is appropriate election-year discourse. I don’t know how to react to people who think that calling anyone who disagrees with them on Iraq a “terrorist-enabler” than to swing back. I don’t know how to react to people who think that media reports of party hacks in the administration overruling scientists on issues like global warming, endangered species, intelligent design, prescription drugs, etc., are signs of… liberal media bias.

And it makes me mad. I still think of myself as a Republican- but I think the whole party has been hijacked by frauds and religionists and crooks and liars and corporate shills, and it frustrates me to no end to see my former friends enabling them, and I wonder ‘Why can’t they see what I see?”


I don’t know why my friends on the right still keep fighting for these guys to stay in power. Why do they keep attacking decent people like Jim Webb- to keep this corrupt lot of fools in office? Why can’t they just admit they were sold a bill of goods and start over? Why do they want to remain in power, but without any principles? Are tax cuts that important? What is gained by keeping troops in harms way with no clear plan for victory? With no desire to change course? With our guys dying every day in what looks to be for no real good reason? Why?

Read the whole thing. It's worth the click through.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Now It Can Be Told

I've known about this news for a day or so, since Ben's a classy guy and called me personally to let me know and to wish me well.
I'll miss working with Ben Sevier, but from what I understand about the opportunity, it was too good to turn down, and he deserves every bit of success. Best of luck to him.
And I get to work with Marc Resnick as editor now. Marc edits my buddies
Duane Swierczynski and Bob Morris, from whom I've heard nothing but good things. And if I have to change editors, it's a good time...I've got one book in the can and I'm working on another one, so neither Marc nor I are under a big deadline pressure.
So, all things considered, it's not a change I would have gone after myself, but it's got definite possibilities for the future.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Hey Ya, Charlie Brown

Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture.....

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Latest Newspaper Column

I tell you, this being a Republican just gets better and better every day. Not a week goes by but that I don't find some new and exciting reason why. This week was no exception.

See, I have a confession to make. I'm kind of a jerk. I can be a real mean-spirited jackass on occasion. It's something I've had to deal with all my life. Sometimes it's been a real struggle, and, as people who know me can attest, not always successful.

But a couple of things that I've seen and read recently have made me think that my problem might be solved by becoming a Republican.

The first of these was last week's edition of "60 Minutes" in which Lesley Stahl interviewed House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Stahl began by quoting a statement Pelosi had made about bringing "civility" back to the political process. Then she began scolding Pelosi by bringing up things she'd said about the Republicans, such as that they're "immoral" and "corrupt," and "running a criminal enterprise."

"I mean, you're one of the reasons we have to restore civility in the first place," Stahl chided.

Doggone right. I mean, how does Pelosi expect to restore civility to the political debate if she's going to be all nit-picky and critical about little things like multiple corruption indictments and sexual harassment of underage boys?

I mean, the nerve! What does she think she is, the leader of some sort of opposition party? Why can't she be more like that nice Joe Lieberman, who never says anything bad about anybody but other Democrats?

Then I heard about the TV ad for a Senate race out in Missouri, in which actor Michael J. Fox appeared and announced his support for stem cell research, and by extension, candidate Claire McCaskill, who's for it. Her opponent, Jim Tallent, opposes it.

Fox, as you may have heard, suffers from Parkinson's disease, and boy, does this ad show it. He looks terrible, all jerky and twitchy. But Republican talk show host Rush Limbaugh was not impressed. Fox, he asserted, was either deliberately off his medication to exaggerate his symptoms or he's faking. Fox is, after all, an actor, said Limbaugh, who apparently never saw "Doc Hollywood." Limbaugh even provided a little mocking imitation of Fox to prove his point.

Or take Wyoming's sole member of the House, Republican Barbara Cubin. After a recent debate in which Thomas Rankin, Cubin's Libertarian opponent, accused her of taking contributions from indicted former Speaker Tom DeLay, Cubin stormed over to Rankin and said, "If you weren't sitting in that chair, I'd slap you across the face."

"That chair" refers to the motorized wheelchair to which Rankin is confined because of multiple sclerosis. Cubin's defense? "He misrepresented her and insulted her integrity during the debate," according to Cubin's campaign. (As it turns out, Cubin had accepted $22,520 from one of Tom DeLay's PACs.)

That's when it hit me. As an independent who leaned Democratic, I would have been ashamed of myself had I looked at some unfortunate person suffering from an incurable degenerative disease and sneered "Aw, he's just faking it. He's just playing for sympathy."

In those days, had I lost my temper and threatened to slap somebody in a wheelchair -- for telling the truth, no less -- people would come down on me like a ton of bricks.

There'd be angry letters sneering about "aren't liberals supposed to be so nice and tolerant," etc. That's what happens when you're a liberal and you say anything negative.

But as a Republican, no one expects anything from me. I can say anything I want, including being nasty to the terminally ill or disabled, and no one says a mumblin' word.

And it's not just the sick. As a Republican, I can even make fun of the bereaved. You may remember a few months ago, Republican pundit Ann Coulter talked about the widows of Sept. 11 victims who were calling for further investigation of intelligence failures in the times leading up to the attacks. "I've never seen anyone enjoying their husbands' deaths so much," she snapped.

I'm not saying that Democrats never say anything nasty or mean-spirited. This is, after all, politics. I'm sure my fellow Republicans, as they read this column, are mentally composing letters in which they detail half a dozen negative things a Democrat or liberal has said.

But that's precisely my point. Democrats get criticized for it. Nationally famous reporters scold them for it. We Republicans get a bye. Do you have any idea how liberating that is?

So thank you, Rush Limbaugh. Thank you, Ann Coulter. Thank you, Barbara Cubin. You've set me free in ways I never was when I was a liberal. You've made it OK in the last few years to be the bastard I was born to be. Now I can relax.

Let's just hope those darn Democrats don't win in November. The last thing we want is for viciousness, meanness, thin skins and bad temper to go out of fashion.