Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Country Before Party and (Some) Paesani

"It would be easier to pay off the national debt overnight
than to neutralize the long-range effects of our national stupidity."

-- Frank Zappa

The Zappaphile also known as my Darling Husband is off to vote in the Republican primary here in Florida.*

Unlike many (if not most) of his fellow Republicans, R was against the invasion of Iraq from the very beginning. In fact, he can most accurately be described as a true, Old-School conservative. For those too young to remember, this is a similar political philosophy to that held by the late Frank Zappa--in other words, he feels government should stay out of his business, brain, and bedroom, and that American tax dollars are better spent helping Americans in America than on profligate nation-building and the wanton invading of sovereign lands. Which enterprises, he believes--cynically, accurately--were and are about enriching defense contractors and cronies under the guise of "spreadin' freedom and preventin' nookyular proliferationizing". At our expense.

(What a noble, if quaint, version of conservative thinking, huh? Where have you gone, Mr. Zappa, sir? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...)

Anyway, Dear Husband plans to support the Democratic nominee this November, having supported Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, even displaying huge Republicans For Kerry banners on our house, which is flanked on either side by Serious Republicans of Faith whose Borrow-Spend-Invade! philosophy aligns in perfect symmetry with that of the modern neocon. (At least, the banners were displayed until local goons tore them down the day Bush came to St. Pete for a fundraising event at our neighbor's house down the street. I suppose city officials couldn't have the POTUS look out of his bulletproof SUV as it rolled through the isle and lay eyes on such baldfaced evidence of dissent within his own party--certainly not right before dinner.)

So, considering the list of Republican choices he faces today, and knowing how proud he is of his hometown and ancestral heritage alike, I am that much more appreciative of R's intense individualism and logical, autodidactic approach to politics as well as life itself.

And even though I'm certain, given his disdain for Kool-Aid-drunk party-liners in particular and slow-witted sheep in general, that he would never do it anyway, I wish to thank the Italian-American Republican man from New York City for not voting for the Italian-American Republican man from New York City.

*For one of the, ah, least likely long shots in the history of elections.

Also at Cogitamus.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rudy's Plea Deal For Florida

Über-productive videomaster Lee Stranahan strikes again. Come on, Florida, Rudy luuurves you!

Also at Cogitamus.

Monday Morning Wonderful: Michael Vick's Pit Bulls Thrive in Loving Homes

Kiss me, you gorgeous beast!
Two pit bulls formerly owned by Michael Vick enjoy their new lives. (AP)

As the Mama of a foundling pit bull--hell, as a human being who loves animals--this news made me so happy:

His back resting comfortably against her chest, Hector nestles his massive canine head into Leslie Nuccio's shoulder, high-fiving pit bull paws against human hands.

The big dog -- 52 pounds -- is social, people-focused, happy now, it seems, wearing a rhinestone collar in his new home in sunny California.

But as Hector sits up, deep scars stand out on his chest, and his eyes are imploring.

Hector ought to be dead, Nuccio knows -- killed in a staged fight, executed for not winning or euthanized by those who see pit bulls seized in busts as "kennel trash," unsuited to any kind of normal life.

Instead, Hector is learning how to be a pet.

After the hell of a fighting ring, he has reached a heaven of sorts: saved by a series of unlikely breaks, transported thousands of miles, along with other dogs rescued with him, and now nurtured by Nuccio, her roommate, Danielle White, and their three other dogs.

The animals barrel around the house, with 4-year-old Hector leading the puppy-like antics -- stealth underwear grabs from the laundry basket, dashes across the living room, food heists from the coffee table -- until it's "love time" and he decelerates and engulfs the women in a hug.

"I wish he could let us know what happened to him," says Nuccio, the big tan dog's foster mother.

But what she does know is this: Hector has come a long way since he was trapped in the horrors of Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels.

There are more great photos at the link. If you're interested in adopting a pit bull, here's a terrific site with loads of information as well as links to your local rescue organizations. I must remind you, however, that one should never, ever allow a small or even medium-sized child to play with any dog bigger than a Chihuahua, since animals are unknown quantities, and while a Chihuahua bite might be upsetting, it won't be disfiguring or lethal. As with many large dogs, especially terriers, that were historically bred as fighters and hunting companions, pit bulls don't always play nicely with cats and other small animals (and that's putting it mildly)--unless, of course, they've been raised with cats since early puppyhood. Furthermore, generations of selective breeding have produced an animal that can oftentimes be pathologically needy for love and affection. Still, I can attest to the pit bull's incredible intelligence, loyalty, and sweet, gentle nature, and I will also warn you: they're very fond of kissing the ones they love.

(H/T QM2)

Also at Shakesville.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bill & Hillary: Experienced

Upon opening my e-mail this morning, I'm cheered to see a note from video virtuoso Lee Stranahan, since it undoubtedly means there's more parody goodness in the offing. Lee writes:
Yeah, a new video based on South Carolina. It's called Bill And Hillary: Experienced and it's going to piss some people off...but you might not be one of them. (Ed.--Heh heh, no, I'm not one of them.) Done on Saturday night in three hours.


Also at Cogitamus.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

South Carolina, Then Caroline: Winning Hearts With Hope

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the beloved and inspiring American president who was assassinated when I was just a wee thing toddling around in England, endorses Senator Barack Obama in an editorial entitled A President Like My Father that will appear in tomorrow's New York Times. Via the magic of the Intertubes, though, I can bring it to you now (goosebumps alert):

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Wow...if, like me, you're still buzzing from Senator Obama's electrifying victory speech in South Carolina, you'll want to keep the warm feeling going and read the whole thing.

Paragraph of the Week

Writing about this week's report from the Center for Public Integrity about the decidedly unsavory Lies Flambée with Roasted Fabrications in Falsehood Sauce on a bed of Mashed Mendacity that Bush et. al. served (and continues to serve) the country on a baldfaced platter, The Rude Pundit says:

And what about the word "lies"? Shall we get meta here? Ari Fleischer, a man who, even if truth was an armless war orphan who had seen both her parents disemboweled and hung by their own intestines, would bend it over his lectern and rape it in front of the gathered press (who would dutifully report that truth was asking for it with her seductive tears), blustered in September 2002: "Iraq also accused President Bush of engaging in lies and falsehoods." Or George Bush, describing, one imagines, Saddam Hussein, in that same month: "This is a man who continually lies. This is a man who does not know the truth. This is a man who is a threat to peace."

I Love My Country (Part One Of What Is Sure To Be An Ongoing Series)

David Bowie's fabulous Alexander McQueen frock coat,
displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY in 2006.

The French have Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Americans can choose from a broad selection of slogans, from the boisterous YOU-ESS-AAAY! to the beautiful and dignified The land of the free and the home of the brave, and everything in between.

But what do we Brits have to say about ourselves--what can we say about ourselves? Certainly we're one of the oldest countries (and cultures) on the planet--invaded, raped, and pillaged by just about everyone over the past couple of millenia--and there's no dearth of excellent writers whose veins are pulsing with "British blood" (whatever that means, since we have indeed been invaded and raped and pillaged by just about everyone and can thus be fairly termed the über-mutts of the world).

We've got no national motto, though, and we can't have that.

Prime Minister Brown and company were troubled by this tragic shortcoming. And so, concerned that Britain might be perceived as lacking when it came to the ability to put together clever sentences--particularly ones that accurately expressed the national identity--they set their sights on procuring one for us:

Because of the peculiarities of its long history, Britain has in modern times never felt the need for such a statement. But in an era of decentralized government and citizens who tend to define themselves less by their similarities than by differences of region, ethnicity or religion, the government felt that the time was ripe for one.

The proposal, part of a package of British-pride-bolstering measures announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s new government over the summer, raised a host of tricky questions. What does it mean to be British? How do you express it in a country that believes self-promotion to be embarrassing? And how do you deal with a defining trait of the people you are trying to define: their habit of making fun of worthy government proposals?

The results were, well, about as bloody British as you'd expect:

The Times of London cynically sponsored a British motto-writing contest for its readers.

The readers’ suggestions included “Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco” (ASBO stands for “anti-social behavior order,” a law-enforcement tool, while Tesco is a ubiquitous supermarket chain); “Once Mighty Empire, Slightly Used”; “At Least We’re Not French”; and “We Apologize for the Inconvenience.” The winner, favored by 20.9 percent of the readers, was “No Motto Please, We’re British.”

“The point I was making is, this idea of a statement of Britishness; I cannot think of anything less British than that,” said 25-year-old David Bishop, author of the winning motto.

If I may be so bold--bearing in mind that the notion of "bold", to many a Brit, means things like gathering up your courage and asking the bartender for an extra lemon slice--I'd like to suggest looking to the British teevee programmes of decades past: they're chock-a-block with pithy statements containing the very Essence d'England the PM would seem to be seeking.

From Doctor Who:

The universe should be big enough for the both of us ... just.

There is no indignity in being afraid to die, but there is a terrible shame in being afraid to live.

I tolerate this century but I don't enjoy it.

You know, I am so constantly outwitting the opposition, I tend to forget the delight and satisfaction of the arts... the gentle art of fisticuffs.

When everything is new, can anything be a surprise?

From Fawlty Towers:

Happy? Ah yes, I remember that.

Well let me tell you something - this is exactly how Nazi Germany started. A lot of layabouts with nothing better to do than to cause trouble.

If you bother me again, I shall visit you in the small hours of the night and put a bat up your nightdress.

All the while it was my fault. Oh, it's so obvious now--I've seen the light! Well, I must be punished then, mustn't I?

Don't mention The War.

And last, but not by any means least, from Monty Python's Flying Circus:

And now for something completely different.

Shut your festering gob, you tit! Your type really makes me puke--you vacuous, toffee-nosed, malodourous pervert.

The British Navy is one of the finest and most attractive and butchest fighting forces in the world...those white flared trousers and the feel of rough blue serge on those pert little buttocks.

Hello, good evening, and welcome to another edition of Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror. And later we'll be talking to a man who does gardening. But our first guest tonight is a man who talks entirely in anagrams.

Embarrassment is all part of growing up and being British.

Also at Cogitamus.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Frank: Solo from City of Tiny Lights; Koln, 1988

A sweet, guitar-y treat (with discord!) to kick off your Friday. And Thank God for it, right?

Bon Weekend and stay warm, everyone.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quelle Surprise

You can't hide your lyin' eyes,
And your smile is a thin disguise.
I thought by now you'd realize
There ain't no way to hide your lyin' eyes.
-- The Eagles

They lied to us. They really, really lied to us! Alas, this news is not exactly shocking--in fact, it's hardly even news. Seeing the hard numbers laid out in this manner, though...well, it's undeniably infuriating, and it leads one to wonder what, exactly, it would take to get impeachment hearings rolling. Whither that devil in a blue dress?! From truthout (emphasis mine):

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."


"Some journalists - indeed, even some entire news organizations - have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.

Also at Cogitamus.

Monday, January 21, 2008

This Couldn't Wait

At first, I regarded the darkly tasty political parodies in Mr. Stranahan's latest goody bag as chocolates, which is to say, I would hand them out one piece at a time so as not to spoil you.

Then I bit into the one below--my favorite to date, I think--and this mother thought, Ah, to hell with it. Let's have another:

Your Mom: you wouldn't ask her to help you install software...

Also at Cogitamus.

On Long-gone Ron

Filmmaker Lee Stranahan brings us St. Ronald's response to politicians who invoke his name:

"When I said Tear down that wall, that did not apply to the Mexicans."


Frank Rich says Ronald Reagan is Still Dead:

At the last Republican debate, the candidates invoked Reagan nearly three dozen times and Mr. Bush just once. “I take my inspiration from Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush,” said Mr. Romney on his Michigan victory night, in a typical example of the candidates’ circumlocutions about the incumbent president.

This, too, is laughably out of touch with reality as practiced in most American living rooms. Imagine if Mr. McCain’s Straight Talk Express stopped taking detours around the one figure who unites 60-plus percent of the populace in ire. Imagine if he started talking straight about how he’d clean up the White House mess. That might at least break the ice with the vast majority of voters who look at the G.O.P. presidential field and don’t see Ronald Reagan so much as also-rans for “The Bucket List.”

And Paul Krugman sets about Debunking the Reagan Myth (bolds mine):

Like Ronald Reagan, President Bush began his term in office with big tax cuts for the rich and promises that the benefits would trickle down to the middle class. Like Reagan, he also began his term with an economic slump, then claimed that the recovery from that slump proved the success of his policies.

And like Reaganomics — but more quickly — Bushonomics has ended in grief. The public mood today is as grim as it was in 1992. Wages are lagging behind inflation. Employment growth in the Bush years has been pathetic compared with job creation in the Clinton era. Even if we don’t have a formal recession — and the odds now are that we will — the optimism of the 1990s has evaporated.

This is, in short, a time when progressives ought to be driving home the idea that the right’s ideas don’t work, and never have.

Also at Cogitamus.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Irony Alert #2

The day before yesterday, I was helping Son Two proofread his English assignment. Choose an important figure in American history whom you admire, his teacher said, And write a biography. His subject (and I swear to you, I had nothing to do with this)?

Tom Paine.

He's eleven. See? There is hope.

Anyway--irony on top of irony--when I was doing a bit of my own digging around, I found this wonderful post, entitled Fuck You, Tom Paine, by Driftglass. I had excerpted it (in comments) in response to Ankush's Irony Alert and at Lisa's behest, I am now posting it here and on the Cogblog proper. Because Drifty truly calls it like it is, and everyone ought to read it:

I mean, here we have an article in which a gen-u-ine professor takes time out of his busy day to inveigh against The!Direst!Threats!to Journalissimo, and yet when I go to search it, I can’t find the word "Fox" mentioned anywhere.

Couldn’t find "Hume" either.

Or “O'Reilly".

Or "Broder".

Or "Friedman".

Or “Limbaugh”.

Or “Savage”.

Or "Matthews".

Or “Russert”.

Or “The collapse of ‘Nightline’”.

Or “Roger Fucking Ailes”.

Or “The shuttering of foreign bureaus”.

Or “The Rise of Corporate Media”.

Or “The Firing of Phil Donahue”.

Or “Media Consolidation”.

Or “The killing of the Fairness Doctrine”.

Or “Tony Snow”.

Or “Charles Krauthammer”.

Neither “Joe Klein” nor “Joke Line”.

No “Jonah Goldberg”.

No “Karl Rove getting his journo card punched by Newsweek”.

No “Jeff Gannon” or “James Guckert”.

No “Michele Malkin”.

No “Lou Dobbs”.

Judith Miller was nowhere to be found.

Bob Novak? MIA.

No “David Gregory”.

No mention of “Downing Street” or “Macaca” or “Justice Department Political Purges” or any other of a dozen stories broken or kept in the public eye by citizen journalists because The Villagers did not want them in the store window of the MSM Outlet Mall.

No mention of “The Gaggle”.

Or “Rolling over for Tony Snow”.

Or “Rolling over for Scott McClellan”.

Or “Rolling over for Ari Fleischer”.

Or “Hardball”.

Or “Cross Fire”.

No “Chris Wallace”.

No “Bill Kristol”.

No “Neil Cavuto”.

Didn't find a-one of 'em mentioned; just the perils of letting the Great Unwashed paw at Lady Media's Fun Bags without a J-school degree and a moist towelette.

Which is odd, because frankly, Professor Hazinski, if Journalomysticism had not failed the citizens of the United States so utterly, callously, completely, conspicuously and spectacularly over the last 30 years – if your profession had not deserted its post and let a great, rotting, pin-head-infested abyss take over the sacred real estate once tenanted by a robust and fearless American Journalism – then maybe there would not be so many Smelly Citizen Journalists, desperately tossing their little torches into the Vast Darkness your colleagues and owners left behind when they turned tail and ran away.

So I assumed you must be fucking kidding.

And from Paine himself:

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.


Also at Cogitamus.

Friday Frank: Stinkfoot; 1974 Live on TeeVee

It's Friday again, thank the Fates. When Son One was a strapped-in toddler (as opposed to a strapping lad), he used to love it when I played Stinkfoot on my car stereo. In fact, at the time, his favorite FZ songs were this one and Don't Eat the Yellow Snow. Watching this clip, I can hear his infectious baby duck-quack giggle in my mind, even as he mumbles away in gruff teenage baritone, complaining darkly from across the kitchen that Mama is always embarrassing him.

There's a great claymation segment during FZ's guitar solo, by the way.

Bon Weekend, everyone!

Also at Cogitamus.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

War on Change!

Lee Stranahan's latest. Perfect.

Also at Cogitamus.

We're in For One Wild Night

No, not Super Tuesday--I need a break from the horse race stuff and so do you. This. It's something with cats. Specifically, the movie 300 With Cats.

(Via darling TRex)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Frank: RDNZL; Broadcast in Australia, 1973

This clip features a piece from my (current) favorite Zappa era; it has all the FZ goodness that we love so--the time signature changes, the wicked solos on numerous instruments, the impossible-to-pigeonhole style--and you get to see some great 70's hairdos, to boot.

With the awe-inspiring Jean-Luc Ponty on violin.

A belated Happy New Year and an on-time Bon Weekend to everyone!

(H/T bigfootpegrande)