Saturday, April 07, 2007

Maybe It's You

Latest Newspaper Column:

Former Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd has become the latest in a long string of former officials, former aides, and former allies to break with the Bushistas.

Dowd helped interpret polls during the 2004 election and was one of the people giving interviews on friendly media outlets claiming that John Kerry was "weak on defense" and that people "trust this president more than they trust Senator Kerry on Iraq."

But in a recent interview with The New York Times, Dowd says that even while he was making those claims on TV, he was beginning to have his doubts. The Abu Ghraib detainee-abuse scandal deepened his misgivings, as did the disastrous federal response to Hurricane Katrina. The last straw may have been when Dowd's son Daniel was deployed to an Iraq war in which Dowd had rapidly lost faith. Now, Dowd says, he's "disappointed" by a president who he sees as more and more "secluded and bubbled in."

White House reaction was typical: The problem was with Dowd, not with the administration.

Administration mouthpieces like Communications Director Dan Bartlett and second-string press briefer Dana Perino spoke over and over of the "emotional" nature of Dowd's criticism, the "personal hardships" he's been through, including the death of another child.

Poor fellow, the narrative goes, he's just unhinged by grief -- or, as both Bartlett and Perino reiterated, he's on a "personal journey."

Well, there seem to be quite a few people who've made that "journey." Just a few examples:

* Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill: In a book published in 2004, O'Neill asserted that, rather than being a reaction to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the invasion of Iraq was something that had been planned from Day One of the Bush administration, when the president was demanding "find me a way to do this."

O'Neill said cabinet meetings were like "a blind man in a room full of deaf people. ... There was no discernible connection." Bush, O'Neill said, was intolerant of dissent and of anything that might call into question what "The Decider" had already made up his mind to do.

The response from the Bush camp? O'Neill was just trying to sell a book. He was "wacky." He was 'bitter." Any problems were O'Neill's, not the administration's.

*Richard A. Clarke: A counter terrorism expert who served Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton, and Dubbya, Clarke came out as harshly critical of Dubbya's seeming indifference pre 9/11 to the threat of terrorism in general and al-Qaeda in particular, as well as his seeming fixation on Iraq. Clarke said he felt pressured to find a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, even though no credible connection existed, then or now.

White House response? Clarke was just trying to sell a book. He was an "opportunist." He was "inconsistent," because his briefings to reporters while a member of the administration weren't as critical of the administration. (Duh.) In any event, the problem was not in the administration's fight against terror; the problem was with Richard Clarke.

* David Kuo: An evangelical Christian and a former White House adviser on "faith-based" initiatives, Kuo rapidly came to realize that the administration was cynically manipulating religious people for political ends. Kuo details how White House staffers frequently referred to evangelicals as "nuts" and "goofy." They even called Pat Robertson "insane." (Well, of course, they're right about that.) Kuo's book, "Tempting Faith," details his disillusionment.

The response from the Bush Cult? Kuo's claims were "factually inaccurate" (a polite euphemism for "he's lying"). He was really a liberal. And, of course, he was just trying to sell his book. We don't have a problem, they insisted: David Kuo has the problem.

* Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel: Originally a supporter of the 2002 resolution to authorize force in Iraq, Hagel has become one of the war's most vocal critics. He has compared the Iraq war to the one in Vietnam and called the White House "totally disconnected from reality."

White House reaction? According to Dick "Shooter" Cheney, Hagel was an "armchair quarterback." He was never really with us." He was "wrong when he said we "couldn't do Afghanistan" (an outright lie, as Hagel never said anything of the kind). Hagel's words "aren't analysis, they're just criticism." (This last, by the way, has to be one of the most bizarre responses I've ever heard.)

Well, at least he didn't have a book out. But again, to the White House, it's not Dubbya and Shooter who have a problem; it's Sen. Hagel.

But you know what? There's a line from a song by comedian Tim Wilson about things he's learned in life: "You been divorced nine times," the song goes, "hell, maybe it's you." Maybe this is a lesson the Bushistas should have learned: You lose this many friends, Mr. President, maybe it's you.

Dubbya Nearly Blows Self Up

From the Detroit News:

Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free world from self-immolation.

Mulally told journalists at the New York auto show that he intervened to prevent President Bush from plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford's hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid at the White House last week. Ford wanted to give the Commander-in-Chief an actual demonstration of the innovative vehicle, so the automaker arranged for an electrical outlet to be installed on the South Lawn and ran a charging cord to the hybrid. However, as Mulally followed Bush out to the car, he noticed someone had left the cord lying at the rear of the vehicle, near the fuel tank.

"I just thought, 'Oh my goodness!' So, I started walking faster, and the President walked faster and he got to the cord before I did. I violated all the protocols. I touched the President. I grabbed his arm and I moved him up to the front," Mulally said. "I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen...This is all off the record, right?"

God Help Me, I Do Love Me Some Geek Humor

The Inbox Of Nardo Pace, The Empire's Worst Engineer

One of my favorites:

Subject E-11 Blaster Rifle Calibration Still Off
From Stormtrooper Commander 09731 <>
Date A Long Time Ago 3:51 PM
To Nardo Pace

As you know, the E-11 has come a long way since its initial prototype. Thanks to your hard work over the past three years the rifle no longer fires completely sideways, and with your latest revision, the number of casualties resulting from blaster fire being directed completely backwards has been drastically reduced.

That said, the E-11 still has some accuracy issues. We recently bolted one of the rifles to a testing mechanism so that it couldn't move even a millimeter, then set up a human-sized target six feet in front of the blaster's barrel. Shooting in two second intervals, we let the E-11 fire at the target continuously for three days.

The result? Not one shot hit the target. I realize you're busy, but perhaps we can go over the design one more time and iron this out.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Santa & God Debase Women As If Non-Existing Opposites. How Evil Unto Their Mothers

I have seen some demented stuff on the Internets, but this is the ne plus ultra of batshit raving.

I don't know what's more disturbing: the fact that this exists, or the fact that my 15 year old son showed it to me.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Booklist: "Full Throttle Narrative"

Once again, the fine folks at the American Library Association's magazine Booklist give a Keller novel a great review...the best part:

Like James W. Hall’s similarly one-named hero Thorn, Keller faces a soul-crushing catch-22: he must unleash his propensity for violence to protect his loved ones, but by doing so, he alienates himself from those he seeks to save. Rhoades explores this psychological conundrum thoroughly but never at the expense of the full-throttle narrative. Think of Keller as a similarly tortured, contemporary version of William Munny in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.

Well, THAT'S Good to Know

Yahoo! News: NEWARK, N.J. - It's not drunken driving in New Jersey if it involves a Zamboni.

A judge ruled the four-ton ice rink-grooming machines aren't motor vehicles because they aren't usable on highways and can't carry passengers.

Zamboni operator John Peragallo had been charged with drunken driving in 2005 after a fellow employee at the Mennen Sports Arena in Morristown told police the machine was speeding and nearly crashed into the boards.

Police said Peragallo's blood alcohol level was 0.12 percent. A level of 0.08 is considered legally drunk in New Jersey.

Peragallo appealed, and Superior Court Judge Joseph Falcone on Monday overturned his license revocation and penalties.

'It's a vindication for my client,' Peragallo attorney James Porfido said after the hearing. 'It's the right decision.'

Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph D'Onofrio said no decision had been made on whether to appeal.

Peragallo, 64, testified at his trial that he did drink beer and vodka, but not until after he had groomed the ice. However, he told police he had a shot of Sambuca with his breakfast coffee and two Valium-pills before work."

'Cause, you know, driving that big-ass Zamboni is pretty stressful. A man needs a little bracer before saddling up one of those beasts.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Insider's View

Former Assistant Federal Prosecutor Michele Martinez provides her own insider's perspective on the Federal prosecutor scandal over at The Lipstick Chronicles.
Michele, as always, writes with a stunning combination of precision and passion, and she hits the nail right on the head. It's well worth checking out.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Latest Newspaper Column:

They show up almost daily in e-mail in-boxes across the world, with titles like GREETINGS! or URGENT ASSISTANCE NEEDED!

They are from a variety of correspondents, with exotic sounding names: Minister Sese Imbwabe, Engineer Godswill Owode, Barrister Momoh Sanni Momoh. The writer may claim to be the son of a wealthy farmer murdered in Zimbabwe, the wife of a deposed dictator, or the former oil minister of Nigeria.

They have tales to tell, stories of war, corruption and deceit so sordid and convoluted they make "The Maltese Falcon" sound like "Goodnight Moon."

All of them, however, have one thing in common: They have a "lucrative business proposition" for you. By various means, most of them dodgy at best, the writer has somehow come into possession of a huge sum of money -- $10 million, $20 million, maybe even $100 million -- and they need a way to get it out of the country.

All they need, they assure you, is a few thousand dollars in "bank fees" or "wire charges" to facilitate the transfer. And since the money has to go somewhere, they need your banking information so they can pour all the loot into your account. At that point, they'll split the fortune with you 50-50, or even 60-40, or 70-30. They don't need any security from you because, they assure you, they have researched your background, and they know they can trust you, friendly stranger.

If you do respond, you'll find that, regrettably, some complications have arisen. More fees have been incurred. Officials will need to be bribed. But those fabulous ill-gotten riches are right around the corner. They just need another thousand bucks or so. Then, suddenly, all your money seems to have gone missing from your account, and your new foreign friends seem to have vanished with it.

By now, I'm sure you've recognized the famous "Nigerian scam," which is called that because many of the e-mails allegedly come from that unhappy country.

You might think that no one could be dumb enough to fall for something like this. But, as always happens when you say "no one could possibly be that dumb," you're wrong. According to the FBI, consumers lost some $198 million to Internet fraud last year, including Nigerian scams.

Why do people fall for something so off-the-wall? Well, the e-mail scams play, not only on our greed, but on our prejudices. Everyone knows "those countries" are rife with corruption. And, like most good cons, they involve the mark in something shady or actually illegal, making the disappointed sucker less likely to go to the authorities when the "deal" falls through.

It is, of course, shameful to be playing on people's greed like this. What's even more shameful is that this highly lucrative business is being outsourced to other countries. American con men were once the envy of criminals in all civilized and most uncivilized nations. We even made movies with con men as heroes. It's time we took that primacy back. What America needs is a good home-grown American e-mail scam. Something like this:

Hi, y'all. My name is Connielynn Boudreaux, and I'm the daughter of the late Sheriff Lepetomaine Boudreaux of Plaquemine Parish, Louisiana. I got your name from a friend of a friend, so I know y'all's good people.

Listen, shug, I got me a little bit of a problem. When the sheriff up and died, he left behind this big ol' pile of money he got from political payoffs, bogus speeding tickets, and fraudulent FEMA checks. And honey, we are talkin' mucho dinero. I got a Safeway bag that the sheriff was writin' on the back of, figgerin' up how much he took, and he's got like 10 zeroes here.

Here's the thing, though, hon: I go down to the bank and try to pull this money out, the FBI's gonna be all over me like ticks on a hound dog, and next thing I know I'm down in the county work farm, defendin' my virtue from a 280-pound former gator wrestler named Big Dora.

But you bein' from out of state and all, if you do that wire transfer thing, we can get the money into your bank account, slicker than owl poo. Then we take it all out, split it 80 percent to you, 20 to me. That's fair, ain't it? All I need's a little cash to cover the fees and, y'know, incidentals. Oh, and I need your bank account number, Social Security number, mother's maiden name, stuff like that.

Write me back quick, sugar. We ain't none of us gettin' no younger.

Textile, manufacturing, even high tech jobs have migrated from our shores, and they may never come back. But with our inborn American ingenuity, gumption, and taste for larceny, maybe we can at least hang on to the grifters.

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. This column is intended as satire. Do not attempt this scam at home. Really.