Saturday, October 13, 2007

Republican Tough Guys Rough Up a 12-Year-Old

Latest Newspaper Column:

A few weeks ago, during the controversy over expanding federal funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (an expansion that had bipartisan support), 12-year-old Graeme Frost delivered the Democratic radio address.

After President Bush went on the air and threatened a veto of the expansion, Graeme told the story of how SCHIP helped him and his family out. Graeme and his sister had been in a severe car accident and had suffered serious injuries from which they still haven't fully recovered.

"We got the help we needed because we had health insurance for us through the SCHIP program," he said. "But there are millions of kids out there who don't have SCHIP, and they wouldn't get the care that my sister and I did if they got hurt. I just hope the president will listen to my story and help other kids to be as lucky as me."

Well, if you try to put a human face on an issue, leave it to right-wing Republicans to try to punch that face, even if it belongs to a child.

Rep. John Boehner huffed that Graeme was being used as a "human shield." Others went even further. Graeme's family, accused the right-wing blog Free Republic, were "not so poor" because the kids went to private school. This conveniently ignored the fact that Graeme gets a scholarship and his sister receives state tuition aid because of the severe brain injuries she received in the accident.

Mark Riehl of the conservative blog "Riehl World View" was "sympathetic" to the children, sort of: "They look more like victims of a couple of mostly spoiled brats who became parents and never felt compelled to take responsibility for themselves when it came to the bottom line on that." Doggone those spoiled, lazy parents! How dare they let their kids get into a horrific car wreck!

Not content with merely smearing the Frosts online, some of these Good Americans took it upon themselves to actually drive to their place of business and interrogate their neighbors.

Michelle Malkin gleefully reported that she had "just returned" from driving by the Frost's house and visiting the building where Mr. Frost's business was located. She admitted that another tenant in the building characterized the Frosts as "struggling," but dismissed said tenant since he was, according to Malkin, "an outspoken advocate for socialized health care and an insistent critic of the Iraq war."

She admitted that "guesstimates" of the value of the Frosts' home at $400,000 were "high" but went on to say that "they had made the choice to invest in property and a business, instead of health insurance." Now normally, investing in property and business would be considered a good thing by Republicans, but apparently that's only if you're on their side.

Mark Steyn of National Review Online was quick to defend attacking children: "If a political party is desperate enough to send a boy to do a man's job," he insisted, "then the boy is fair game. Any time I send my 7-year-old out to argue policy, you're welcome to clobber him, too." Ol' Mark's really pulling out all stops in pursuit of that Father of the Year Award, isn't he?

Like most Republican outrage, this sudden distaste for using children as political symbols is highly situational -- that is, it's only bad if Democrats do it.

Remember Elian Gonzales, whose terrified visage was plastered all over right-wing media as an example of Bill Clinton's "fascism"? Or how about Noah McCullough, the 9-year-old Texas boy who was signed up by a group called Progress For America to be a spokesman for Bush's Social Security "reform" plan?

"What I want to tell people is to not be afraid of the new plan," Noah told The New York Times. "It may be a change, but it's a good change."

Hey, everybody! I've got a great idea! Let's all drive down to Texas and drive by Noah's house! We can harass his neighbors and stalk his family too! After all, he's fair game! National Review says so! Who's with me?

No one, of course. And you know why? Because we're better people than that. Even if we might disagree with using a kid to make a political point, we'd never stoop to attacking the kid and his family.

You want to know why I'm not a Republican, despite actually agreeing with conservatives on some things? It's because if I were, I'd be associated with the type of thugs who think it's cool to smear, stalk, and demonize two injured children and their family, all to intimidate people who dare question the Dear Leader.

Kick this vicious scum to the curb, and maybe we'll talk.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Great Moments In Badassery, II

From one of the greatest Westerns ever made: The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Now, the "Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy" line gets all the respect, but I love:

"I had to come back."

"I know."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I'll be at the Barnes and Noble at 5400 New Hope Commons in Durham (that's the one near I-40) at 2:00 PM this Saturday, signing copies of SAFE AND SOUND and generally making merry. C'mon by.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Great Moments in Badassery

Omar comin', y'all!

One of my all time favorite moments from The Wire.

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

Leak Severed a Link to Al-Qaeda's Secrets -

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.

Okay, tell me again how this pack of bumbling imbeciles in the White House got the reputation of being strong against terror? These guys, in the words of Robert B. Parker's character Hawk, could fuck up a beach party.

If I was them, I wouldn't be so eager to get the word out that the instigator of 9/11 was still free, upright and breathing, since that fact is the single most glaring failure in Dubbya's Global War on Terra. But that's the truly terrifying thing...they don't recognize this as a failure.

Y'know what? I don't think the Bush Administration really WANTS to catch him. It's as if deep down, having the bearded boogeyman of Tora Bora out there in the wind is an asset to their power grab. "We need warrantless wiretapping because Osama's still out there, trying to kill us."

So getting Osama's scary visage out there right now, even if you have to leak it, is more important than preserving the techniques by which they got the tape.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Are You Ready For O'Reilly?

I was in the yard working when my wife came out of the house.

"Ummm....honey," she said, "what are you doing?"

"Just putting up a fence, Pookie," I said.

"Is that barbed wire?" she said.

"Concertina wire, actually."

"Uh-huh. And why exactly do we need...hey, what's in those boxes?"

"What boxes?" I said as innocently as I could.

"Don't even try that with me," she warned. "You know very well what boxes."

"Oh, those boxes. That's ammo."



She sighed. "What kind of ammo? We don't have a gun in the house."

"Ah, well. Um. I've been meaning to talk to you about that."

"What? Did you get a....oh, my God. Is that a machine gun?"

"Yeah," I said. "Belt-fed, air-cooled .50-caliber. Isn't it a beauty?"

"Why in God's name do you need a machine gun? And concertina wire? And..." there was a muffled explosion from the back yard. My wife closed her eyes. "Tell me that wasn't what I think it was."

"Did you think it was a land mine?"

"Oh, no," she said, "You didn't. Tell me you didn't."

"Don't worry," I said. "The kids and pets are all inside. It was probably just a squirrel."

"Do you mind telling me just what the heck is going on?"

"Bill O'Reilly."

"Bill O'Reilly? The Fox News guy?"

"He's gone nuts, honey. And he's coming. For me."

"He's coming," she said skeptically. "Here. To Carthage, North Carolina."

"That's what he said."

"This I have to hear. When, exactly? Or more important, why?"

I sat down in the porch rocker and started inserting bullets into the belt that feeds the machine gun.

"It all started," I said, "after O'Reilly did a bit on his radio show about his visit to Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem. He said, he 'couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City' and was amazed that 'it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. There wasn't any kind of craziness at all. ... There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-F-er, I want more iced tea!"

"Wow," she said, "He was actually surprised to see black people behaving like....well, people? What a jerk."

"Shhhhh," I said frantically. "He'll hear you!"


"You're not the only one to think what O'Reilly said was patronizing and racist. A Web site called Media Matters gave him a lot of grief for it, and even reported that the owner of the restaurant was offended by it. And it made O'Reilly really, really mad."

"So what?" she said. "Being really, really mad is what he does. It's his whole shtick."

"You don't understand!" I said desperately. "He's gone crazy! He went on the air and said: 'These people aren't getting away with this. I'm going to go right where they live. Every corrupt media person in this country is on notice, right now. I'm coming after you. And I don't care if it's Bill O'Reilly, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama. Anybody smeared by any media from now on, I'm holding them accountable. I'm going to hunt you down. I'm coming to your house. I'm coming to your house. You'll have a camera up your nose. OK? Everybody got it out there? I hope everybody's got it, because I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking it anymore!"

"Sweetheart," she said, "I've been meaning to tell you. That O'Reilly imitation really creeps me out."

"Sorry," I said, "But we need to concentrate on what's important here. I've said nasty things about Bill O'Reilly for years. I even kept ragging on him about the whole sexual harassment thing when he told his assistant he wanted to massage her with a falafel!"

"That was pretty funny," she said.

" Sure it's funny!" I shouted. "Until he snaps! I didn't know he'd go over the edge like this. He's out there! With a camera! And he wants to put it up my nose! We have to be ready!"

"Oh, stop it," she snapped. "Bill O'Reilly's not coming to put a camera up anyone's nose. He's just a loudmouthed, thin-skinned bully who mghmph "

I had leaped up and put my hand over my wife's mouth.

"She didn't mean it, Bill!" I shouted. "She's just kidding!"

"Mghmgph!" my wife said furiously. I let her go.

"We can't be too careful," I whispered. "He has spies everywhere."

"You have completely gone off the deep end," she said. "Bill O'Reilly's not coming to get anyone. No one's that crazy."

"Apparently you're forgetting that this is the guy who went ballistic for weeks because a couple of stores used 'Season's Greetings' and 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas.'"

She thought for a moment. "OK," she said, "pass me one of those ammo belts and a box of bullets."
No squirrels were harmed in the production of this column.