Saturday, June 28, 2008


BONUS Newspaper Column :

You know what I kind of miss? I miss the nutty political e-mails I used to get.

You know the ones I mean: the ones that have subject lines like "URGENT!!!! MUST READ!!!!!" or "PASS THIS ALONG TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!!!" (The multiple exclamation points were always a dead giveaway.)

When you opened the e-mail, you'd find some crack-brained conspiracy theory or Internet rumor, like the one about how Bill Clinton ordered U.S. Navy ships to strike the American flag when visiting Vietnamese ports, or the one that claimed John Kerry went to Ronald Reagan's graveside and said, "I'm just here to prove to myself that the s.o.b. is really dead."

It's true that those e-mails used to raise my blood pressure with their sheer idiocy and blockheaded indifference to the truth. But they did get the blood flowing in the morning. Occasionally they provided me with material for this column.

Unfortunately, I think I may have killed the goose that laid those eggs. I got to the point where, as soon as I got something that claimed, for example, that "The Clintons are charging rent to the Secret Service detail assigned to protect them," I'd go to trusty sites like or I'd find out that the story in the e-mail was pure BS. Then I'd copy and paste the refuting information into a reply e-mail and hit "send" to all of the people in the recipient list.

Pretty soon I stopped getting those e-mails. They diminished to a trickle, then died off entirely.

At first I was happy. But then, I confess, I started to feel guilty, like I was being kind of a buzzkill. It obviously gave some people great joy to let all of their friends, a large number of nodding acquaintances, and a staggering number of complete strangers know that Bill Clinton is personally responsible for the deaths of at least 50 political opponents and may, in fact, have dropped the hammer on a few with his own hands.

It obviously sent a little thrill of righteousness up their spines to inform the world that the Clintons ran a drug operation out of an Arkansas airstrip that made the Medellin cartel look like a bunch of high school kids splitting up an ounce of weed. It seemed almost mean-spirited to point out that this was all fiction, and badly written fiction at that.

Eventually, I started to miss those wacky e-mails. As regular readers of this column know, I am a great aficionado of the weird things that occasionally burst from the minds of my fellow Americans. It's one of the many, many things I love about my country. Oh, sure, the British have their lovable eccentrics, but when it comes to absolute gibbering lunacy, obsessive paranoia over just about everything, and wild leaps of illogic, well -- God bless America.

I know those e-mails are still out there. I know, for example, that people are getting and sending e-mails that insist that George W. Bush personally arranged for the destruction of the Twin Towers by "controlled demolition" and that the whole "terrorists hijacking airliners" story was a hoax designed to let Bush seize power.

Obviously, this is absurd. For one thing, a "controlled demolition" that drops a multi-story building into its own footprint takes weeks, even months of preparation, not to mean the gutting of the target building. It would be impossible to pull off without someone noticing. Second, George W. Bush isn't nearly that smart.

I know that, somewhere out there, there are people getting and sending e-mails that claim that Barack Obama is a Muslim who swore his senatorial oath of office on a Koran. I know that some people are getting and sending e-mails that take Obama to task for the rantings of his former pastor -- who, let us not forget, is a Christian, just not the right kind of Christian for some people.

And the really hilarious thing is that, in many cases, the people who are sending the "Obama's a Muslim" and "Obama goes to a racist Christian church" e-mails are the same people. You find that somewhat logical disconnect in only two places: the Internet and in the more secure locked wards in our nation's mental hospitals.

But I don't find that stuff in my in-box any more, so I don't get to dash off an e-mail that begins "you blithering idiot" And doggone it, I miss that.

So help me out. Take your best shot. Give me your wild, your crazy, your weird conspiracy and rumor mongering e-mails, at

But don't be surprised if I e-mail you back.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Have an Idea

Digby, over at Hullabaloo, has posted a meditation on the authoritarian, "Unitary Executive" theories of Presidential power, in the course of which she talks about the famous quote from Richard Nixon that "when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

I won't attempt to compete with Digby (one hell of a writer, BTW) on discussing the ramifications of unlimited executive power in a stated (if undeclared) time of war. But part of the post attempted to put the infamous Nixon quote in context, and something Tricky Dick said jumped out at me. It was in a famous series of interviews with David Frost, and this was the exchange:

FROST: ... Is the president in that sense—is there anything in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that suggests the president is that far of a sovereign, that far above the law?

NIXON: No, there isn't. There's nothing specific that the Constitution contemplates in that respect. I haven't read every word, every jot and every tittle, but I do know this: That it has been, however, argued that as far as a president is concerned, that in war time, a president does have certain extraordinary powers which would make acts that would otherwise be unlawful, lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the nation and the Constitution, which is essential for the rights we're all talking about.

Now, that bit about President Nixon not "having read every word" of the Constitution really struck me, especially since Nixon was supposedly a graduate of Duke Law School. (This UNC law grad will refrain from making the obvious dig here.)

As I've pointed out before, the President of the United States does not take an oath to protect the country. The Presidential oath requires the POTUS to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution of the United States. It would seem to me that having actually read the thing, every jot and every tittle, ought to bloody well be a prerequisite for the job of defending it.

So here's what I suggest: part of the swearing in ceremony should require the President to stand on the Capitol Steps after taking the oath, hold a copy of the United States Constitution in his or her hand, and actually read it. Out loud. Beginning to end. Every jot, every tittle, every article, sub-article and amendment. Every damn comma and semicolon.

Maybe it would be boring to watch. Maybe it would be lousy TV. But maybe, just maybe, it will impress upon the next holder of the office that the Constitution is by-God important, and he or she needs to pay attention to it for a change.

Department of WTF? Redux

State offers free replacements for "WTF" plates :

Thanks to some text message-savvy grandchildren, North Carolina drivers whose license plates have the potentially offensive "WTF" letter combination can replace the tags for free.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Tuesday the state Division of Motor Vehicles has notified nearly 10,000 holders of license plates with the letter combination. Officials learned last year the common acronym stands for a vulgar phrase in e-mail and cell phone text messages.

But this week, the DMV officials got another surprise when they learned the same letters appeared on the agency's own Web site on a sample personalized plate.

"I can't believe it," DMV Commissioner Bill Gore said Monday when told about the online glitch. "Obviously, I didn't know it was there."

Officials are working to remove the sample plate.

The "WTF-5505" used on the Web site's sample plate was the first random letter combination available when DMV switched from blue- to red-lettered plates, officials said. DMV spokeswoman Marge Howell received a sample plate WTF-5506 to use as a prop for news stories about the switch.

A 60-year-old technology teacher from Fayetteville complained about the plate last July after her teenage grandchildren clued her in.

OMFG! There's always some stupid kid who has to screw things up for everybody by telling.

I, for one, feel much better knowing that I or my children won't have to be exposed to potentially vulgar acronyms.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Quote of the Day

A Dark Planet describes neocon snake-oil salesman Bill Kristol:

...a man whose closest brush with uniformed service comes when he orders a Big Mac from the back of his limousine.

Heh ! Go Terrenoire.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Department of WTF?????

Karl Rove on Barack Obama:

"Even if you never met him, you know this guy," Rove said, per Christianne Klein. "He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

What the fuck? When I left for vacation, Barack Obama and his wife were Angry Racist Negroes awaiting their opportunity to oppress us white folks....again.

Now, a week later, they're Trip and Muffy, the evil rich kids from an 80's teen movie?

These people have gone completely insane.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Silly Season Never Ends

Latest Newspaper Column:

Journalists used to have a term for the slow news period of mid- to late summer, when legislatures are often in recess, there isn't much going on, people are off on vacation, and newspaper readership is down.

They called it the "silly season." During the "silly season," according to the online source Wikipedia, "to retain (and attract) subscribers, newspapers would print attention-grabbing headlines and articles to boost sales, often to do with minor moral panics or child abductions."

These days, however, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable demand for more sensational stories, it seems as if the silly season never ends.

Case in point: Frequent Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin recently ramped herself up into a state of high vigilance and threatened to go to war with Dunkin' Donuts over -- a scarf.

Yes, that's right, a scarf. It seems that, in a recent Dunkin' Donuts ad, the cute but oppressively peppy Food Network host Rachael Ray was wearing a black-and-white scarf. A rather fetching fashion accessory it was, too, if the photos are to be believed.

But the niceties of fashion mean little to Ms. Malkin where the Global War Against Jihad is concerned. She charged that the scarf was not a scarf at all, but was rather the same type of terrorist headgear worn by such villains as the late Yassir Arafat and the evil minions of Hezbollah.

The fact that the scarf was worn around Ms. Ray's lovely neck rather than over the head and across the face as one would expect from a suicide bomber made no difference to Malkin, who referred to the neckwear as "Jihadi chic" and "hate couture." She wondered, "Is this really worth boycotting Dunkin' Donuts over?"

Apparently that thinly veiled threat was enough to cause DD to say, "Eh, it's just not worth it," and pull the ad, whereupon Malkin and a dozen other bloggers declared victory over the forces of politically suspect fabric patterns. I feel a lot safer now.

Then there was the matter of the Obamas' fist bump. At a rally after the final primary, when it became clear to everyone that Barack Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee, Obama and his wife Michelle appeared before a wildly cheering crowd of 20,000 people. They exchanged a quick embrace, then touched fists, then Michelle gave her husband a smile and a thumbs up before exiting the stage.

I've seen that fist-bumping gesture at least a hundred times, and not just from black people. I've always thought of it as pretty innocuous.

But that was before it was used by the Obamas, whose smallest gestures are now analyzed for signs that they're part of the Great Black Racist Conspiracy to keep us white folks down.

I bet you never knew there was such a thing. Neither did I, frankly. I never knew how oppressed I was until it started looking like Obama was going to win this nomination. But the Right has set up a constant drumbeat that it is the Obamas who are the real racists.

Since Obama is of mixed race, this apparently means that he hates at least half of himself. I don't know why this makes right-wingers so angry. After all, one of the defining characteristics of the people who call themselves conservatives in this country is that they profess to love America while loathing and fearing at least half of the people in it.

Anyway, the claim is that the nation's first mixed-race presidential candidate is a racist, and signs and symbols of it are apparently everywhere. The "terrorist fist jab," as Fox News anchor E.D. Hill called it, is apparently some sort of coded signal. Or something. It's really hard to figure out what some of these people are talking about sometimes.

As near as I can decipher it, the right-wing position is this: It's OK for Barack and Michelle Obama to be black. But let them, or even anyone around them, do anything that could remotely be considered "acting black," or let anyone who's ever been around them express any dissatisfaction with the way African Americans have been treated in this country, and it's time to circle the wagons, boys, because it means that Jeremiah Wright and an army of angry Negroes are coming to take your stuff. And they'll be aided by Arab terrorists.

Obviously, this idea is silly, which is why commentators like Hill and columnist Cal Thomas try so hard to sugarcoat it, until they let go with one of these Freudian slips. Thomas' reference to the bump as a "Hezbollah fist jab" was quickly removed from his Web site, and E.D. Hill's show was canceled.

But there are plenty of other fearmongers out there, and in the never-ending silly season that is the modern media circus, we will no doubt see them raise their silly heads again.