Monday, December 31, 2007

Jon Swift's Best of the Blogs 2007

If you haven't already done so, head over to the brilliant blog of "reasonable conservative" Jon Swift, author of the definitive post on Jonah Goldberg's magnum ludicrous, Liberal Fascism, and check out his broad offering of Best Posts as submitted by the bloggers themselves, including this one by Yours Truly. Lots and lots of great reading awaits--I was delighted to discover several compelling, new-to-me bloggers with whose work I was previously unfamiliar.

Jon's own pick? The above-mentioned post about Liberal Fascism. Partial as I am to anything brutally funny that manages to work LOLcats into the mix, I would say the Liberal Fascism post was right up there with Jon's best work, though as his fans already know, there was an awful lot of satirical goodness set forth by that guy in 2007--it's really hard to choose a favorite (Jon's Mothers' Day post, My Mother is a Terrible Person, for example? Gorgeous.)


Also at Cogitamus.

Ron Paul's Time Machine Mega Money Mania (With Cowbell)

Another choice bit of campaign comedy from the brilliant Lee Stranahan. Now that I know Ron Paul will be suspended in a time machine over Times Square tonight, I'm wishing I could hop on a plane and join Son One and my brother-in-law, who'll be in the city to watch the ball drop. *Sigh*

Also at Cogitamus.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dynasties and Democracies

Banana Exploding by Dr. Andrew Davidhazy. Via Synthstuff.

Imagine this scenario, and yes, it is a present-day one: the leader of a populous, nuke-possessing nation, the citizens of which are religiously and ideologically divided--rather sharply so, sometimes to the point of violence and terrorism--is someone who rose to power after a stint as the head of the country's espionage agency. He places his sons in positions of governorship over two of the country's wealthiest and most politically-valuable provinces while grooming one son to be the guaranteed successor to his own position at the nation's helm a decade later; and, when that comes about, stacks his staff from the top on down with cronies and war profiteers.

I know, someone really ought to drag those banana republics into the twenty-first century.

Oh, wait...

As news comes forth that assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari and their son Bilawal will co-chair the Pakistan People's Party, the Freepers and Green Footballers of the world are picking away at the splinter in Pakistan's eye--muttering about corruption and nepotism while remarking that Musharraf isn't perfect but hey, he seemed to be working--even as they ignore the telephone poles that are firmly lodged in their own red-white-and-blue-tinted corneas.

It strikes me as more than a bit hypocritical for anyone Stateside to be grousing about, well, corruption and nepotism abroad.
It matters not if a country is known for its bananas or its missiles: power-poisoned human beings, brown and white ones alike, will always revert to form. La plus ça change...

Also at Cogitamus.

Friday, December 28, 2007

She Rests Now in Peace; Will the Rest of Us Know Peace?

Photo of Benazir Bhutto taken by NYT photographer John Moore
minutes before she was assassinated at a rally on December 27, 2007.

At the end of a year full of sad and shocking events, yesterday we were profoundly saddened and utterly shocked, yet again, this time by the brutal assassination of Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.

I commend to you this superb post by The Dark Wraith, who wonders why the United States invaded Iraq when clearly it was the roiling marketplace of WMD's and their attendant parts furiously bubbling away in Pakistan, right under our noses--particularly, at least until she was deliberately outed, the trained nose of CIA counter-proliferation specialist Valerie Plame--that represented an actual and real nuclear threat in the Middle East (emphasis mine):

In 2003, the United States attacked Iraq despite the fact that it was Pakistan, through the long-term, ongoing efforts of nuclear scientist and entrepreneur Dr. A.Q. Khan, which was the principal wellspring from which not only the technology of nuclear weapons was spreading, but the actual parts to build the bombs, themselves, was flowing to countries like North Korea, Iran, and Libya; but instead of crushing the operation, arresting the participants, and punishing Pakistan and its leaders for their support of this global bazaar of weapons of mass destruction, the Bush Administration, through its very own top-level officials, outed a CIA non-official cover spy, Valerie Plame, and thereby destroyed her network that was tasked to tracking these very WMD proliferators. Moreover, the Bush Administration, which now expresses outrage at the assassination of the best hope for Pakistan to emerge from years of authoritarian rule, has poured billions of dollars of aid at the corruption-riddled Pakistani leaders, even as the junta-led Pakistani armed forces have been entirely ineffective in preventing the country's western frontier from falling solidly into the hands of Taliban forces and their sympathizers, who have pumped combatants, war material, and ideological strength into the debilitating war of attrition being waged against U.S. and other NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Yet, despite the fact that terrorist organizations are alive and well in Pakistan, feeding allied groups and assorted malcontents that foment trouble and kill locals and American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, George W. Bush is able to keep a straight face and express outrage at one more consequence of a failed war on terrorism, which commenced with tens of billions of dollars in property damage to the largest city in the continental United States and thousands of lives lost, and now proceeds across the Middle East and into Asia Minor, western Asia and the Indian sub-continent, billowing forth with American military casualties by the thousands, deaths and injuries to indigenous peoples of the region in the hundreds of thousands, the utter collapse of moral and financial leadership by the U.S., and political instability that ripples across vast swaths of the world.

Today, that death-swollen legacy of disastrously incompetent policies made a brief stop in Pakistan for the assassination of a once and future leader, a champion who died a martyred heroine even as our own President will live on as a catastrophic failure.

Well said, sir.

Also at Cogitamus.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Steve Martin's Christmas Wishes

I can't argue with a single one of Steve's Christmas Wishes*--they all sound perfectly reasonable to me, heh heh.

But I will add to his list my own hopes for peace, and of course a big, all-embracing wish that everyone who stops by this page will have a wild and crazy Christmas Eve--one that's filled with color and sparkle and children climbing on you and grownups handing you yet more things to eat and sloppy kisses from ecstatic dogs and Yes, please, more wine, and generally too much of everything. Just what Santa's helpers everywhere need if we're going to bust out of the bleakness that has plagued December thus far and ready ourselves for the Big Day tomorrow. That, and lots more alcohol.

Happy Birthday to my Baby Brother, who turns 45 today.

Alla famiglia!

*Via Bob Cesca's Goddamn Awesome Blog.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Best Political Ads Ever. Seriously.

Oooh, these are good. Just what I needed after seeing the new Rudy Giuliani holiday ad yesterday, the for-real one in which the former mayor, dressed in a standard WASP-issue Christmas-red sleeveless sweater vest, looks like the radioactive love child of Nosferatu and Mr. Rogers and smiles beatifically while decreeing that Americans must have a Merry Christmas and not think about 9/11 quite as much as we should on regular days, even as surrounding reindeer and small animals frantically bolt in an attempt to escape the awesome power of his Evil Eye.

These bits of lovely were written and directed by brilliant writer/filmmaker Lee Stranahan, and they're all bitingly funny. I'm rather partial to the subtlety of the first one posted here (Mike Huckabee's Message to Iowa), but ask me ten minutes from now and I'll choose the Mitt Protecting Marriage one or the wonderful Rudy G. send-up. How about you?

(H/T Toast, with Christmas hugs and a big Thank You.)

Also at Cogitamus.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To Read Molly Ivins is to Love Her (Again)

My kind friend Rachel at the ACLU recently sent me a copy of Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch's Assault Against America's Fundamental Rights, which was the last book Molly Ivins wrote, along with Lou Dubose. (Molly passed away in January of this year after a long battle with breast cancer.)

I dove into my present this weekend, and while obvious time constraints (uh, boys, boys, more boys, The Holidays, etc.) mean that despite my deepest longings, I simply cannot devour an entire book in a single sitting the way I used to, I can certainly tell you this: Even the introduction shrieks Pure Molly. That fierce and fearless voice--it's why we loved her so, and why we miss her so.

Never one to pull a punch, here she goes--and this is just a few pages in. (Emphasis mine):

Most Americans still believe this secret-police, secret-detention stuff applies only to foreigners, to illegals, to resident aliens--to people who are not "real citizens". No one likes the messenger tho brings the bad news, but pay attention, Americans: Your ass is on the line. And so we have included in this book some genuinely dismaying stories.


As a Texas liberal, I have developed a positively British case of phlegm. According to medieval medicine, "phlegm" is one of the four "humours", and it accounts for those of us who are hard to startle. If ever there was a group that knew how to survive political reverses, your Texas liberals are the past masters. I do not discombobulate easily. Experience has taught me that things are likely to get worse, so these will eventually turn out to be the Good Old Days, and think what a fool you'll feel like later if you don't enjoy them now.

So please, weigh into this claim my forty years of bearing with perpetually awful political news. Now, as the man said, "My hair is on fire." I am so freaked out about what is happening to freedom in this country, if I were anyone else but me, I'd be staging a pitched, shrieking, quivering, hysterical, rolling-on-the-ground, speaking-in-tongues fit.

Fortunately for you, I have phlegm. Instead of a pitched fit, I have stories to tell, each of them about "an ordinary, certifiably normal" human bean. Too many of whom have blundered into a "phantom of lost liberty."

This has happened before in our history--in fact, it's a pretty predictable reaction to fear. We get so rattled by some Big Scary Thing--communism or crime or drugs or illegal aliens or terrorism--something that scares us so much, we think we can make ourselves safer by giving up some of our freedom. Now, not only does that no hold a drop of water as a logical proposition, but it has consistently proved to be an illusion as a practical matter. Empirically, when you make yourself less free, you are not safer, you are just less free.

Thank you, dear Molly. With any luck, your wise words will find their way into many conservative stockings this Christmas (and I do hope you approve of that little double entendre).

Also at Cogitamus.

Cynthia McKinney to Run as a Green: "The Republicans Have Deceived Us and the Democrats Have Failed Us."

Wow. Hot off the 'tubes and fresh from my In box: Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney announces her run for President in 2008. It looks like the Green Party will be represented in Teh Big Election after all. I have to say, it's good to have another woman candidate entering the race, and now that the Traditional Media and rightwing bloviators appear to be running low on cleavage comments and aging slurs, perhaps we can have some substantive discussion of the female candidates' actual positions and plans for the nation. I'll leave it up to readers to analyze Ms. McKinney's platform, strengths, weaknesses, and overall chances.

But I'd be remiss if I didn't muse out loud, Whither Al Gore? Surely our favorite liberal Oscar and Nobel prize winner is the ultimate environmentally-conscious candidate. There are a few rumors about the former Vice President's diet and exercise efforts still floating around, with some pundits claiming that any signs of Al turning into a lean, mean fighting machine can only signify one thing: he plans to run a lean, mean (and, obviously, abbreviated) fighting campaign to win what was rightly his in 2000. And quite possibly save the world in the process. But time is running out for the Veep and the polar ice caps alike.

Fasten those seatbelts, gang. It's going to be a hellaciously bumpy (and, in my opinion, rather thrilling) ride next year.

Also at Cogitamus.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Duck's Off!

It has been one of those weeks.

You too, huh? It's not as though I've been expecting things to go perfectly, or swimmingly, or even well. Hell, I'm at the point where I look around me at the end of the day, and if the head count of the children is the same as it was yesterday--and all their limbs are intact--I'm grateful enough. Honestly, I can't wait for final exams, science projects, Christmas plays, and cookie-bakings to be finished so I can begin to enjoy the holidays for real. (You'd think I was the one in school, which , come to think of it, sounds like the better deal at the moment.)

Anyway, as someone who has been known to swear at and, okay, perhaps even threaten the occasional inanimate object, I've always loved this episode of the Britcom gem Fawlty Towers. Called Gourmet Night, it's about a promotional dinner at the Fawlty Towers hotel, one which the owners hold with the intention of attracting a high-class clientele. Of course, the whole effort goes terribly, hilariously wrong in every conceivable way. You'll want to pay attention around the 6:50 mark, when Basil (the incomparably funny John Cleese) launches into a tirade against his hapless (and mechanically hopeless) red Mini.

Also at Cogitamus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Battle of the Alt-burgers: Turkey 2.0

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ezra Klein makes turkey burgers; invitations pour in from Iron Chef, Naked Chef, and Nigella.

At our house, we adapt Queen Martha's instructions and make them like this:

2-3 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread
1 pound lean ground turkey (7 percent fat)
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
4 tablespoons prepared mango chutney, preferably Major Grey's, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chili powder
Coarse salt
French baguette--enough for four 6" long sections
1 ripe tomato sliced about 1/4" thick
Curry powder to taste

In a medium bowl, tear the bread into small pieces (I dice them finely with a sharp knife). Add turkey, sour cream, 3 tablespoons chutney, 1 tablespoon mustard, chili powder, and 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Blend well and shape into 4 firmly packed 5-inch round patties.

Grill on barbecue, about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through; alternatively, heat broiler with rack set 4 inches from heat. Place burgers on a rimmed baking sheet; broil until firm and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. You can also grill the tomato slices--the flavor is wonderful.

Place mayonnaise in a small bowl, add a pinch or two of curry powder, and blend well; in another bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon each chutney and mustard. Slice baguette sections horizontally and toast very lightly. Top each baguette with some arugula, a burger, and a tomato slice; serve the curried mayonnaise and chutney-mustard alongside burgers.

Serves four.

Also at Cogitamus.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Make Up For Missing Friday Saturday Frank: Solo from The Torture Never Stops; Barcelona; 1988

The title of this Frank Zappa masterpiece seems perfect for the moment, what with the week's revelation that our intelligence personnel destroyed valuable videotaped evidence of U.S. agents torturing "enemy combatants".

If no-one knows that it's even going on in the first place, of course the torture never stops.

Change, on the other hand, continues apace. In fact, it seems to me, lately, that the only real constant is change, and as someone who's had enough real-life moving this fall to last her a while, I'm glad this weekend's efforts are confined to the virtual kind. It's a big old blog-moving day today: Ezra Klein, the blog, as well as Ezra, our gracious host, will now be part of the American Prospect website starting on Monday, and the weekend writers at Ezra's, including Yours Truly, are joining together to bring you Cogitamus, a blog featuring the opinions, outrages, musings and indulgences of a group of modern thinkers.

Our very talented writers hail from the arts, the halls of academia, the courthouse corridors, and the drawing boards of design. And of course, for those of us loco parentis sorts, the kitchens and car-lines of Greater Domestica, where much writerly inspiration seems to occur, usually when there are no keyboards within reach and someone has absconded with all the crayons.

Writers who are seldom in complete agreement, who are always passionate, progressive, and articulate--that's us.

So come visit, and bookmark, our first clubhouse--Neil and Nicholas should have taken down the No Girlz Alowed sign by now (you guys did get the injunction this morning, yes?!), and while it's definitely a linoleum-tiled, beige-curtained starter home at the moment, we're going to work wonders with the place. You'll see.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Jeff Beck: Amazing Grace

In order to successfully embrace even a wisp of a suggestion of a rumor of your own holiday spirit, you have to venture outside yourself. The right music helps.

We like to play this heartbreakingly lovely Jeff Beck piece* early in December, and have done so every year for a while now. How about you?

* From the Merry Axemas CD

(The video is a slide show of album covers and still shots as opposed to a video performance; pity.)