Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dems Fighting Words

Greg Saunders over at This Modern World:

For years now, the Democrats have been promising us that their flip-flopping and brown-nosing was no big deal because they wouldn’t buckle when it came to the big fights. Yet we’ve been tricked into excusing this sort of behavior time and again. You guys supported the Patriot Act, the Iraq War resolution, the Medicare Drug Bill, the President’s tax cuts, the promotion of torture advocate Alberto Gonzales, and now the appointment of two conservative ideologues to the Supreme Court. Sure, a plurality of Dems are usually in the opposition, but when you’ve got Obama supporting “tort reform”, Feinstein supporting the prescription drug debacle, Kerry and Clinton supporting the Iraq war resolution, Feingold voting to confirm John Roberts and almost everybody supporting the Patriot Act, this isn’t something that can just be laid at the feet of the usual suspects like Joe Lieberman. Over and over again we see Democrats support the President’s agenda and we’re supposed to believe everything will magically get better once you guys get into power? If the Democratic-controlled the Senate from mid-2001 to the end of 2002 is any indication, the Dem weakness on the Alito confirmation, the President’s unconstitutional spying program, and the Republican bribery scandal is just business as usual.

George at INOTBB:


Money for Nothing

How much you want to bet Bush won't mention the following economic news tonight in his State of the Union address?

Wages and benefits paid to civilian workers rose last year by the smallest amount in nine years, the government reported Tuesday.


The 3.1 percent increase in total compensation for the 12 months ending in December was the smallest annual increase since a 2.9 percent rise in 1996.

Last year's increase was not enough to keep up with inflation. When inflation is considered, overall compensation fell by 0.3 percent, the first time there has been a decline since 1996, when total compensation after adjusting for inflation was down by 0.4 percent.

Keep those tax cuts coming, we're all doing fine!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dems Roll Over, Do More than Play Dead

Once there was a guy who wrote a book that views "with alarm what he considers to be a 'slow unraveling of the people's liberties,' when all dissenting voices were stilled and awesome power swung suddenly to the president to fight a 'war on terror.' This path violates historic American principles—it shows no regard for the balance of powers or the role of the Congress; it invades our privacy; and it eliminates public participation in and understanding of government. Swept along, we have entered a war without proper consideration and rushed dangerous legislation through Congress. Now is the time to regain the Constitution, to return to the values and processes that made America great."

Now that same guy says this about Judge Alito: "We saw no reason for the members of this group to support a filibuster."

Yep, that's the oddly bipolar Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a member of the "Gang of 14" — a group of Republicans and Democrats who have pledged not to filibuster unless there are "extraordinary circumstances."

I guess when you're 88 what Alito can do isn't an extraordinary circumstance. All the worst things he and Roberts/Scalia/Thomas (might as well be one word) can accomplish as they hand even more power over to the executive branch that Byrd called reckless and arrogant will most likely happen after you're dead.

Thanks, old man, for screwing the country and joining with people like Joe "Republican but in Name" Lieberman to vote for cloture. We will remember.

Till They Had No Brain Left At All

Who the heck is running IMDB? Better yet, who is proofreading the site? It's clearly somebody with as much film knowledge as the young and dumb production assistants in that scene from Swimming with Sharks who didn't know who Shelley Winters was until Frank Whaley mentioned Poseidon Adventure (As if the entire Kill Shelley Winters career had never happened! imagine no A Double Life, no 1949 Great Gatsby, no Winchester 73 [true, she just gets winged in that one], no A Place in the Sun, no Lolita--nobody died like Shelley, and now she is dead--sad.)

But I have distracted myself with my own knowledge, something the folks at IMDB clearly never will do. For today we get this news entry:

Classic Ingrid Bergman thriller Gaslight is set to hit the big screen again, with British film-maker Joe Wright at the helm. In the 1944 thriller Charles Boyer played a husband trying to drive his wife (Bergman) to insanity. The new Gaslight will be Pride & Prejudice director Wright's first Hollywood venture. The original movie, set in Victorian England, co-starred Joseph Cotten and a teenage Angela Lansbury in her film debut. It garnered seven Oscar nominations and won two. Cast details for the updated remake, to be set in California, have not been announced.

Excuse me, original movie? If they weren't all dead, the folks at MGM who tried to erase the original Gaslight when promoting the Bergman-Boyer version would have a good laugh. For as even IMDB knows somewhere in its unconnected bytes, there's a 1940 English version with Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard that is supposed to be quite good (Andrew Sarris, for one, likes to compare and contrast the two versions in his book You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet, but that's mostly to show off, again, that he's screened every movie in existence at least once.)

Then again, in its promo spots NBC consistently refers to The Office as one of the most original shows on television, even with Ricky Gervais's name right there in the credits. It could just be that things don't exist if they happen in the UK. That would explain the non-response in the media to the Downing Memos, at least.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Not Buying Biden

The Senator from MBNA has spoken. "I think a filibuster makes sense when you have a prospect of actually succeeding," Biden said on CNN's Late Edition.

Sorry, Joe, but it's like this, a filibuster makes sense when it's the moral thing to do. But you wouldn't know about that.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Shiny, Shiny, Shiny Mook on Leather

For Dog Blog Friday: Mookie says, "I'm not posing, I'm just naturally gorgeous."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

She Ain't Nothing but Fein, Fein Stein

Generally we've got it pretty easy here as lefties in California. When the rest of the country has to light up its senators' switchboards to try to swing a vote, we can rest easy knowing that Boxer and Feinstein will do the right thing. I mean, imagine having to live with the knowledge that Sam Brownback represented you in Washington? The kind of guy who says things like, "Lobbyists are children of God, too,” and, "Unborn children can experience pain even more so than adults as the baby has more pain receptors per square inch than at any other time in its life." You almost have to feel for Kansans, but then the smart ones know enough to get out.

Luckily, Dear Dianne sometimes opts to get us worked up, or we'd be the most complacent folks around. She's doing it right now with the Alito nomination, as the AP reports:

"I do not see a likelihood of a filibuster," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "This might be a man I disagree with, but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the court."

She said she will not vote to confirm the appeals court judge, based on his conservative record. But she acknowledged that nothing emerged during last week's hearings to justify any organized action by Democrats to stall the nomination.

Excuse me, but how does that logic work? Is she voting "no" just to say she did when she runs for re-election in November (about when Alito will get to help torpedo Roe v. Wade?), even though she won't try to stop him from ending up on the Supreme Court? Seems she will only do enough to say she tried, but not come close to do enough to succeed. She truly is a Democrat.

So, if you live in California, please give Feinstein's office a call at 202-224-3841. If we manage to get this philly to filibuster, what's left of your civil rights will thank you some day.

(All apologies to Rockpile for butchering their song title to come up with this entry's headline.)

UPDATE (1/30/06): It worked! Feinstein will vote for a filibuster. And I 'm sure we did it, or maybe it was Cyndi Sheehan....

Not too Bright

So Friday is the 126th anniversary of the day that Edison patented the electric light bulb. True, prototype light bulbs had been kicked around for 50 years, but that just meant some poor soul had to sweep up broken glass in the dark. To this day Edison is remembered as a great American inventor as he was so good at “inventing” the ideas of others, and tweaking them just enough that he could say they were his. This talent could be the reason behind the rumor that some rich guy in Seattle is Edison’s illegitimate grandson. While trying to decide what would work as the best filament in a bulb, Edison went through over 6,000 vegetable growths, although he never got to try some scraping from the shower floor of that one apartment on DP in IV. This testing was brutal on Edison’s poor lab workers for over thirty weeks, but part of the delay was that they insisted on testing one vegetable growth—cannabis sativa—daily for fifteen weeks at 4:20 pm, which more or less wasted them when the filament went up in smoke. (They also originated the phrase “don’t bogart that light bulb” nearly two decades before the man famous as Sam Spade and Rick Blaine was even born.) It is telling that the world’s first White Castle Burgers was built not far from Edison’s labs in West Orange, NJ (not to be confused with the West Orange labs in Edison, NJ). Recently studies have revealed that the struggle to invent the light bulb was so onerous largely because a light bulb couldn’t go off over anyone’s head after he or she came up with the brilliant idea.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm Really Up for My Talk Tomorrow

Sure we could be thinking about how the Supreme Court will soon have one more vote to help make Bush king, or about how the U.S. is all for democracy as long as only the people we want to get elected win (I'm not pro-Hamas, but if the Palestinians vote for them, are we suddenly supposed to say they shouldn't get to elect their own leaders? if that's true, every country including Fenwick and Freedonia should have invaded the U.S. in 2000), but it's more fun to think about sex (plus just thinking about it means there's nothing to clean up afterwards, unless you're some sort of telekinetic freak).

So, here's what Reuters reports:

Forget pretending you are talking to one person or concentrating on a single point in the audience -- having sex is a good way to calm nerves before giving a speech or presentation.

Just remember if you combine this way to keep yourself calm with one of the old ways--imagining the people you're speaking to are in their underwear--you better be sure there's a podium between you and your audience. Or that the first row isn't too close to the stage. The report also doesn't say how long you can leave between doing it and delivering it, but one assumes it would be rude to delay the speech for more than a half hour just to be sure you were "calm." What's more, the report doesn't say what to do if you're a man, have sex to be relaxed during public speaking, and then fall asleep during your own talk. It takes way too long to try to make-up for things with spooning if your audience is larger than 30.

But Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley in Scotland, said it has to be full sexual intercourse to get the best results.

Which means I can hear the new pick-up lines: "Honey, I have to give an important presentation tomorrow, so can you help me keep my nerves at bay?" I guess once you have a study like this at hand, there's just no pulling out or you'd blow it.

And there really is a University of Paisley. But if you get a BA there, be sure not to get your MA at the University of Plaid or your degrees will clash and everyone will laugh at you.

P.S. Don't forget to zip up before the talk.

Living at Night Isn't Helping My Complexion

Ah, it's good to go to bed between 1 and 2 and wake at 6. Deep in freelance work, I've got some project every night this week, so write I must.

The good news is that I will make almost to the cent what it will cost to make that "Check Engine" light go off on my dashboard. I tried to tell the garage I didn't care if my catalyts got converted, they could profess any damn faith they wanted, but they said it's important. $800 important. Turns out you really need to keep an eye on stuff close to your tailpipe or you might release improper emissions.

I'll leave that kind of humor behind and ask: Can you guess from the entry's title what group's boxset I bought at Amoeba in SF two weekends ago? I'll get to the "look what I've bought, I'm an old fart" entry just as soon as I can hobble with my mental walker to the computer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

You Say Alito, I Say Ay-ito--Let's Call Roe v. Wade Off

So when the Alito nomination gets approved by the Senate tomorrow, and the beginning of the end of women's rights, workers' rights and civil rights gets a soon-to-be mighty five finger fuck you from the Supreme Court, don't necessarily blame anyone in the Senate now. Instead, here's the true roll call of shame:

David Boren, Oklahoma
John Breaux, Louisiana
Dennis DeConcini, Arizona
Alan Dixon, Illinois
James Exon, Nebraska
Wyche Fowler, Georgia
Fritz Hollings, South Carolina
J. Bennett Johnston, Louisiana
Sam Nunn, Georgia
Charles Robb, Virginia
Richard Shelby, Alabama

All eleven voted to confirm Clarence Thomas. All eleven were Democrats. Only one of the eleven is still in the Senate 15 years later. That's Shelby, who has since changed his party affiliation to Republican.

That's when the world went downhill faster than a waxed sled on an icy hill with Shaq on it.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Too Nice to Mice

Monday Mouse Guest Blogging:

So while I was vacuuming the kitchen, I looked up and there was a mouse sitting on the door mat by our shoes. I shooed him away but he didn't move very fast. I looked at him more closely and he looked like he had a bum leg. Poor thing. He was hanging out on the driveway, then I tried to give him some water (don't ask) and he started to hobble towards the garage, so I caught him with a cup and put him in with the rosemary. I feel sad for the poor thing. He didn't look well. I wonder what happened to him?

ps. I took a picture of him since the other mouse picture didn't come out so well, and he was standing so still. Is that unsensitive of me?

Now Dance for Me, Bush-Boy!

The This Modern World gang find the photo of Bush and Abramoff!

Still Life with Tin Cat, Dog Bone and Damn Mouse

Welcome to Monday Mouse Blogging! And here's hoping there won't be weeks of it, but given the amount of too-small-to-be-rat scat in our garage, and sometimes our kitchen, you might be at the dawn of a brand new meme.

Do know since Amy is nice to mice (it's not every day you get to work in an allusion to Alexandra Sheedy), we are capturing them and rehabilitating them. Turns out they make really cute tiny license plates that fit on the Barbie camper. And no, you did not see us letting them go by the stream just off State Street near the, uh, Mousecienda Motel.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

He Scores, and Scores, and Scores

If this headline is true, it's horrible news for Kobe Bryant's wife:

Kobe Channels Wilt, Goes for 81 Points

Cause you know he won't stop at 81.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

They Don't Call It Ms. America

Given you can have a nude woman on your computer screen as fast as you can type with one hand (be sure to use Google for that search! they'll protect you!), getting worked up about the swimsuit competition at the Miss American contest is like fretting over your coccyx (although it's hard to fret below your coccyx unless you have your head up your ass). Still, the things people say to defend the swimsuit competition don't hold water. For instance, an article from the Times-Picayune (sorry for the hold water joke, New Orleans), quotes Miss Louisiana Molly Causey as saying, "Honestly, it shows your hard work and determination and dedication more than any other phase of the competition. It's your few seconds to show that you care about your body, that you care about working hard to prepare. . . ."

For lord knows you can't tell anything about a woman's figure from a skintight evening dress.

But then it gets better, as the article quotes Miss America 1955 / Batman's Third-Best Catwoman (fourth if you count Michelle Pfeiffer) Lee Meriwether, who said, "So you have to wear a swimsuit. Who cares? If you have an opportunity to get a scholarship by doing that, why not?"

Rumor has it that male organizers of the pageant call it "Giving Your Best Meriwether" when they suggest a contestant lie down on their beds to earn a full four year scholarship.

Friday, January 20, 2006

He Was Just a Blur

For Dog Blog Friday: The Heisenigel Principle-you cannot determine the object's velocity and location at the same time.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bush Jokes about "Has Bin" Laden

The AP reports:

The United States has no plans to raise the security threat level because of a new tape of Osama bin Laden saying al-Qaida is planning attacks, counterterrorism officials said Thursday.

A spokesperson for the White House went on to say, "There's no reason to raise the terror alert since we are 10 months away from the next election. And besides, the Dems will fold on Alito, so why bother getting people worked up when everything is going our way?"

The White House firmly rejected bin Laden's suggestion of a negotiated truce. "We don't negotiate with terrorists," Vice President Dick Cheney said in a television interview. "I think you have to destroy them."

Of course, the Big Dickster seems to forget that most terrorists have no problem being destroyed--it's actually part of their plans. They just want to take a whole bunch of folks along for the ride.

Counterterror officials said they have seen no specific or credible intelligence to indicate an upcoming al-Qaida attack on the United States. Nor have they noticed an uptick in terrorist communications "chatter" — although that can dramatically increase or decrease immediately before an attack.

Counterterror officials have admitted that they have noticed a few more notes being passed surreptitiously about the al-Qaida lunch room, but they just think that's because Abbas has a crush on Mania but doesn't have the nerve to ask her to a suicide bombing.

Not Snowed by the Globes

So sorry I missed the excitement of the Golden Globes while vacating in San Fran. Of course people want to read the wins by Brokeback Mountain and Capote as some sign that the world is either: 1) finally realizing it doesn't matter who you sleep with, it's how you act the rest of your life that's important, OR, 2) the world is about to end in a dreadful mess of Rick Santorum-unapproved man-on-dog sex.

Guess what--my vote goes for neither. Not just because it's the Golden Globes, and the whole idea that the foreign press is worth diddly is pretty funny probably even to the foreign press, for whom translating the word diddly causes guffaws, and who are simply happy to get invited to the Scary Movie 4 junket. It's that movies really don't have that much of an effect anymore, if they ever did. It's not like thousands of youths went down tot he sea in ships after Titanic sailed through the megaplexes, and that won actual Oscars, so many you couldn't stuff them all in James Cameron's mouth and make him stop shouting "king of the world." It didn't even do much for the career of lovely Leo now, did it (how pretty purple his lips turned)?

It's only a movie.

San Francisco, Open Your Parking Lot...

We keep our desolation between ourselves and beauty because we're urban.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Zanger and Evans Win the Pool

Today in our local paper a letter-writer works up to full Grandpa Simpson mode, if Grandpa were a rightwing nutjob and not just a crusty, loveable 2-D character. This guy insisted that people should stop blaming Bush for things like terrorists and mine disasters, especially when it was so easy to blame everything on Bill Clinton. Still.

Which got me thinking, if Bush pulled off what he'd clearly like to do and turn the presidency into an emperorship, at what point would the "it's all still Clinton's fault" letters end? Would even idiocy be able to outlast a Bush who never gives up power?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Suffice to Say SF

We were up in San Francisco visiting Amy's brother Ken and not working and having a good time and not using computers. Sometimes all "ands" are not created equal.

But, I have to be into work about an hour-and-a-half earlier than usual tomorrow morning and have to squeeze in three extra (as in not my day job) writing/publicity projects during the rest of the week, and one of those I agreed to do for free, like an idiot. Or at the least like a poorly paid smart person.

So, blogging might be light, and not in the breezily humorous way I know all of you have come to love.

In the meantime if you visit San Francisco stay at the Laurel Inn, which even takes two big greyhounds for no extra fee, but will charge you $150 if you light-up in a non-smoking room and they are all non-smoking rooms. Good thing we prefer dogs to cigs. While in San Francisco, be sure to eat at Blue Plate, comfort food made by the mom you wished you had served by tattooed waitresses you never could. (Shoot, that had/have thing ruins the symmetry.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Greyhound Sings the Blues

For Dog Blog Friday: Mookie and his grandma serenade the table after dinner.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

At the Other End of the Careerscope

Something about reading reviews of Match Point* (which I have not yet seen, but how could that stop me from having an opinion?) led me to a revelation--Woody Allen is to film as Elvis Costello is to music. I cherish both, but to be honest prefer their earlier, better work, which is kind of funny. While Allen has a decade on Costello, both began taking fringier attitude to more normal forms to begin their careers, as Allen burned through genres (prison film, sex film, sci-fi, war epic) and Costello just burned, but not so much that he didn't have a Huey Lewis-less News be his backing band on album #1. Both share a problem that Allen's more obvious forefather Groucho suffered from--an excess of wise-ass wit, and tongues that don't know when to stop, so that while neither lacked lust, they're so lackluster, both as artistic personae lacked those who lusted them back, at least for long (despite Allen's actual carrying on with his co-stars and Costello finally pegging a Pogue, at least for awhile). Both were/are dependent on a brilliant colorist sidekick--in Allen's case cinematographer Gordon Willis, who made Manhattan as beautiful as it will ever be, and in Costello's, Steve Nieve, possessing fingers as busy and spry as his boss' lexicon.

And both built to one youngish man's masterpiece each, something that kept enough of their early energy but added just enough of some wisdom to be works that they could never match again. For Allen it was Manhattan, a notch better than Annie Hall because while just as funny it's a bit more serious (even moreso in retrospect to learn Allen himself can't get over the girl-child thing that whether he means to or not is kind of creepy in his alter ego Isaac Davis--I mean, just look at his pleading to Tracy in that last scene, and how much his eyes know the lie to the line he wrote for her, "Not everyone gets corrupted"). And thanks to Gordon Willis, and amazing black and white, one of the most gorgeous bits of celluloid you can watch, from the glory of NYC to the lunar surface in the Hayden Planitarium to Meryl Streep who would never look lovelier.

For Costello it was Imperial Bedroom, a quiet record with his noisiest guitar, if only to establish he's a man out of time. Really, though, it's Wee Small Hours for post-punks, with melodies so luscious they seem edible. That's where all the busted love earns its burnished sheen, and how fitting that the disc's most Sinatra-esque song "Almost Blue" would be later be one of the last great recordings by Chet Baker, another monument to wasted loveliness.

Sure, they've both had their moments since then, but at that point it all comes down to squabbling. You might like Crimes and Misdemeanors, and I might find it's morality play too schematic (even saying there's no justice can be too pat). I might say Zelig and you might complain it's a stunt in search of a throughline. Of course you'd be wrong, it's way too touching for that while still being a parable for the 20th century; god knows they took this quick film and bloated into Forest Glop.

You might say King of America, and I might say I love "American without Tears" and "Brilliant Mistake," but otherwise it is too stately for me. I might say Blood and Chocolate, but that's partially because for my money "I Want You" is Last Tango in Paris in song, or at least what happened to me 12 years ago in song, if only I was that generous and inarticulate.

No one is going to say The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, or Alice, or Goodbye Cruel World, or Mighty Like a Rose. If we want mediocrity, we can turn to Barry Sonnenfeld or solo Paul Carrack. And we don't want grandiosity either, so let's admit Interiors was a huge mistake. Don't get me wrong, I like Bergman, but faux-Bergman might as well be Bill & Ted--it turns parody, whether meant or not, really fast. And while Allen has his Bergman, Costello has his Brodsky Quartet.

Well, even if their careers have seemed to peter out, even though each new film or release gets some critic to trumpet "the old Woody/Elvis is back," about the only thing we can be sure of is both married women no one would have guessed they could end up with back in 1977. Of course, Soon-Yi was only seven at the time, and that might even make Jerry Lee Lewis blush.

*If you're going to remake An American Tragedy, again, you got to have someone go wild with an oar in the courtroom like Raymond Burr. You know Hitchock watched that and a couple of years later when he had to cast Lars Thorwald, knew who to call.

Not So Fine Rhyme

Civil rights appear to be finito--
The Senate is set to confirm Alito.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

All the Tears That You Boo-Hoo-Hoo

Things got dicey on Capitol Hill today. Republicans came out and defended Jennifer Aniston, claiming that Angelina Jolie is a typical Deomcrat-style hussy who stole Brad and will now have the baby that is rightfully Jen's, probably only to abort it anyway.

Oh, wait, there was real news, at least according to the AP:

The wife of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito left his confirmation hearings in tears Wednesday.

Martha-Ann Bomgardner, who had sat behind her husband for hours of questioning over several days, left as her husband was being questioned by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

"Judge Alito, I am sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this," said Graham.

Moments earlier, the senator had asked Alito, "Are you really a closet bigot?" The nominee said no, and Graham said, "No sir, you're not."

Of course, that Republicans can support a judge whose wife goes by her maiden name is something beyond me. That Alito didn't say "Why, I'm not a closet bigot, I'm a bigot right out up front," is not surprising.

But if you can't take the heat, stay out of the Supreme Court, is my response. It just doesn't seem healthy to work-up a big tear-fest because people are curious why your husband supported, and then forgot he supported, Concerned Alumni of Princeton, who were mostly concerned the university admitted women and minorities. Maybe Martha-Ann brokedown because it suddenly hit her that his forgetfulness was just the first sign of incipient Alzheimer's.

Meanwhile somewhere in America there's a young girl who is crying because she can never forget the night police strip-searched her. The good news is that the Constitution is just paper and lacks tear ducts.

A Headline Only a Dr. Strangelove Could Love

The Love of Money Is the Root of All Wal-Mart

Capitalism is no moral force, no sir.

The AP reports:

A judge approved a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. by employees in Pennsylvania who say the company pressured them to work off the clock, claims that mirror those in suits filed around the country.


The lead plaintiff's suit alleges she worked through breaks and after quitting time — eight to 12 unpaid hours a month, on average — to meet work demands.

"One of Wal-Mart's undisclosed secrets for its profitability is its creation and implementation of a system that encourages off-the-clock work for its hourly employees, ..." Dolores Hummel, who worked at a Sam's Club in Reading from 1992-2002, charged in her suit.

The suit was approved for class certification late last month by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Mark I. Bernstein. The class could include nearly 150,000 current or former employees who worked at a Wal-Mart or Sam's Club in the state since March 19, 1998.

"We strongly deny the allegations in this lawsuit. Wal-Mart's policy is to pay associates for every minute they work," the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said in a statement.

Wal-Mart earned $10 billion in 2004.

OK, that's not the bad part, it's this:

Shares of Wal-Mart rose 24 cents, or 2.4 percent, to close at $10.41 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Screw them workers, you'll make more money. That is, if you're not a worker yourself.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This Makes Me Sith

In a country where Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is chosen as the best picture at the People's Choice Awards, is it any wonder we elected George Bush president? Or should we check those People's Choice votes from Ohio?

Shoot First, Find Out If They're Press Later

In today's local paper a pro-war yahoo made the case that no one should complain about secret wiretaps, since if you're innocent, who cares if the government listened to your calls?

The problem, of course, is who's doing the defining of innocent.

It hasn't got that bad in the U.S., yet, although I'm sure Cheney would go into near palpitations if he could have that power. But it is that bad in Iraq, at least based on a story like this one from the Guardian:

American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.

Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning. He was released hours later.

That surely sounds like democracy on the march, doesn't it? Innocent man, sleeping, with his family, in his home. Bullets. Hood. Questioning. Guess he forgot to keep the little tag that reads "press" slipped into the band of his fedora.

Dr Fadhil is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated.

Purely a coincidence. There had to be some reason they burst into his home beyond he was working on some real journalism that wouldn't make the U.S. look good.

The troops told Dr Fadhil that they were looking for an Iraqi insurgent...

I guess random firing into an apartment is the best way to bring down an Iraqi insurgent--sort of like tapping 100s of phones hoping to nail one suspicious call.

and seized video tapes he had shot for the programme. These have not yet been returned.

I sure bet those tapes are coming back. Or maybe they will, for NPR's Morning Edition ran an interview with Ali Fadhil today that included the revelations that:

1) he was released outside the Green Zone close to the very dangerous airport (not sure why they couldn't take him back home directly--guess they have mileage limitations);
2) three other neighbors were arrested, if that's the term for being shanghaied, and they remained in jail;
3) he was given $1000 for his house damages and $500 for his detention time;
4) his neighbors, whose homes were more badly damaged, got zip.

So, is $1500 the going rate to keep quiet in Baghdad? Fadhil is quoted as saying he did believe it was a case of mistaken identity. But what would you say? You might not like bullets blasting over your sleeping children's heads and figure it was time to make nice.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Put a Bit More Goose in Your Step, Blogger

And they went unto Ken and Ken doth told them, "I have been to Mt. Rove and you all must cleave to the tablets I have returned! Corruption is bipartisan! Everyone gets donations, and not just Abramoff gave money! There is no 72-hour grace period for FISA warrants! We only wiretap bad people! Ask them if they are bad people!"

And the minions ran back to their wired ratholes and typed out their bitter, blind blogs as if they never had thoughts themselves.

Hat-tip to Jane at Firedoglake, who pointed out that Ken Mehlman rounded up the rightwing bloggers today to tell them how to spin, spin, spin. Of course, since they're really just as bad suck-ups as too much of the mainstream press and simply want access, which makes them feel all dewy-eyed and special and warm in places you don't want to think about them being warm, they go and listen and parrot.

And thinking dies. Democracy follows.

Go check out Hugh Hewitt bragging about being at the RNC. And see how flip Mehlman is even to his own syncophantic charges. The best line is this one, "I think there was a recognition that there needed to be some push-back on the Iraq issue," which I guess refers to all the talk about the war going well, and the revelation there's a plan (if only a marketing plan), and the attempts to call a true war hero like Murtha a coward. One hopes it doesn't mean "push-back" on reality, but of course that's how it seems, as reality, dressed in black and carrying one mean-ass scythe, surely seems to have the upper hand in Iraq of late. From the AP, in a report on the latest bombings that killed 29 Iraqis: "The escalating violence after the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections — at least 498 Iraqis and 54 U.S. forces have been killed."

Note not one of the intrepid bloggers brought up Iraq (at least in Hewitt's report). Even all safe and snug together they have to know people are dying for their blogs, and their comfort of fighting a war via words.

Friday, January 06, 2006

You Gotta Give for What You Take

On this day in 1941 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt named the 4 freedoms: freedom of speech & religion and freedom from want & fear. It was noted by many masochists (but quietly, as is their wont) that FDR did not specifically defend their freedom to want fear. Of course, this denial made them feel quite rosy with pleasure.

Then again, on this day in January 1941 FDR did not include either of these surely important things as freedoms:

  • Freedom from getting the crapped bombed out of you in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, let alone the further indignity of having millions of school kids dance impatiently over your watery grave if you were on the U.S.S. Arizona, and let’s not even talk about that Michael Bay monstrosity of a movie.
  • Freedom from them naming an instantly outdated urban highway after you, and what’s worse, its pilings will be eaten away by sea termites (that’s the FDR Drive along the East River for you New York City-challenged folks).

What's more, in a rare draft document one can see only on the "special" tours of FDR’s estate at Hyde Park (slip Vinnie the tour guide a sawbuck and you’re golden), we can witness that impish presidential humor in full flower with crossed out freedoms like:

  • Freedom to slip that fat bastard Winston an exploding cigar.
  • Freedom to travel to the future and stop the 22 Amendment--I will never die!
  • Freedom to use the NSA, once it’s established, to wiretap people, once everybody has phones.
  • Freedom to Heil! Heil! Right in the Fuhrer’s face!

The Watchful Eyes of TJ Nigelburg

For Dog Blog Friday: Ever-alert ichthyologist Nigel spies the Loch Ness Monster, wisely wintering off the Santa Barbara coast.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hard to A-Ford

MSN Encarta - On This Day in History reports:

"1914: Henry Ford establishes a minimum wage of $5 per eight-hour day in his automobile factories."

And today in its latest bargaining session with the UAW, Ford tried to instate a new wage honoring founder Henry...of $5 per day. But then they remembered they wanted workers on the line longer than 8 hours and changed their minds.

Resisting Bush's Push into Room 101

There is no more important goal than exposing and undermining the cowardly and exaggerated fear which lies at the core of the Bush agenda. If, as has been the case, we are bullied into starting from the tacit premise that Islamic terrorism is a unique and unprecedented evil which threatens our very existence -- rather than one of many challenges which we must calmly face and overcome -- then it is a foregone conclusion that whoever advocates the most extreme “anti-terrorist” measures, no matter how excessive and regardless of whether they comport with legal niceties, will prevail.

If that fear-mongering premise is left unchallenged – if we are too afraid to dispute the premise that Islamic terrorism is the “unprecedented” existential threat to the United States which, at any moment, is likely to cause our cities to be in flames and our children to be glowing with radiation and therefore must outweigh every other issue and concern – then we will lose that debate every time, which is what has been happening.

One of those times when it's best to point--go read the whole piece by Glenn Greenwald subbing at Digby. It completely nails what is at stake right now.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bush to Iraq: Drop Dead

Let's pretend everything else is peachy keen in the country we decided we needed to shock and awe out of its leader. Even if that were true, we learn this from the Washington Post:

The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.


"The U.S. never intended to completely rebuild Iraq," Brig. Gen. William McCoy, the Army Corps of Engineers commander overseeing the work, told reporters at a recent news conference. In an interview this past week, McCoy said: "This was just supposed to be a jump-start."

Gee, wonder why the U.S. doesn't have the best international image anymore? We go in and destroy a country we had already been slowly eating away at for a decade via sanctions, and when we get bored, or Halliburton makes enough money, or it just seems too hard, we walk away.

This is simply unconscionable.

Of course it's not a surprise that Bush Co. doesn't have the ability-guts-know how-stamina to get a job done. Go ask the folks in New Orleans how helpful the federal government has been since Bush beamed us pretty pictures of his resolve from Jackson Square--heck 3,725 people are still unaccounted for, which is more than the magic 3,000 number that changed everything.

That Post article goes to state the achievements we've brought to a free Iraq:

Oil production stands at roughly 2 million barrels a day, compared with 2.6 million before U.S. troops entered Iraq in March 2003, according to U.S. government statistics.

The national electrical grid has an average daily output of 4,000 megawatts, about 400 megawatts less than its prewar level.

Iraqis nationwide receive on average less than 12 hours of power a day. For residents of Baghdad, it was six hours a day last month, according to a U.S. count, though many residents say that figure is high.

The Americans, said Zaid Saleem, 26, who works at a market in Baghdad, "are the best in destroying things but they are the worst in rebuilding."

Of course the article says it's been the insurgency that's made rebuilding so hard, and I'm sure the callous (AKA Bush supporters) will say, "We try to help them but they're too interested in being terrorists so they get what they deserve." That ignores, of course, that our invasion is what has plunged them into a state of near civil war. It ignores that Iraq is a country made of three peoples who have never really got along, to put it mildly. But then again, the White House has ignored all of that from Day 1, so why should we expect more from Bush's supporters?

Reading between the lines in the article, it becomes even clearer that the $18.4 billion is really a fee for publicity. For example, maybe the actual election days have all gone so smoothly as they make a great, finger-stained photo op even if "hundreds of millions of dollars were shifted to fund elections and to take Iraq through four changes of government."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I Forgot to Forget to Remember

As I drive back to work from lunch today, the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" comes on and just in the nick of time I remember the helpful mnemonic "it's alphabetical," and sure enough the first verse it's "Through a crack in the drapes" the second it's "Through a hole in the drapes."

And to think there's something I'm sure I'm forgetting to do right now.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Getting Real

It's not even yet on the air, but we just know that Fox's Skating with Celebrities (subtitled: We Know Enough Not to Call them Stars, C'mon "They" Had a Bit Player from Seinfield and an ex-Playmate?) will triple lutz into America's hearts blade-first. So, it's time to offer our own ways to put lovable C-grade stars, who kindly ask for a lot less money, back on TV and into outrageous situations viewers won't want to miss!

Trash Talking with the, uh, Stars
Narrated by the ghost of Scatman Crothers, this show hilariously pairs faces you've seen on TV at least once with real people who work as sanitation engineers. This show will surely clean-up the Nielsen's! Stars include Ron Artest, some woman who played a bad witch on an episode of Charmed (yeah, like Shannen Doherty was "busy") and Alex Trebek, who, by the way, is looking for a new agent. Back up the truck right here for all the awards this one will haul away!

Welding with a Meld of People with a Talent for It and People with No Discernible Talent at All
OK, the title needs work, but there's a real spark to this series. Episodes will include "Determining the Fatigue Strength of Welds in Marine Structures," "Finite Element Modeling of Complex Welded Structures," and the special blur-a-vision episode "Damn, They Meant It When They Said Wear Safety Glasses." Stars include Rachel Ray trying to branch out after appearing on every Food Network show, Pauly Shore doing his best work since Bio-Dome, and the indomitable Estelle "Stop Or My Mom Will Weld" Getty.

That's Not a Dental Hygienist, That's My Crush I'm Embarrassed to Admit to From When I Was a Pimply-Faced 14-Year-Old!
They're all here -- Lauren Tewes from Love Boat, Susan Dey from The Partridge Family (we made her remove LA Law from her resume as it both ruins the conceit of the show and makes her too expensive), Pamela Sue Martin from The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Daphne from Scooby-Doo (the animated one) -- and in your face, or should we say, your mouth! You'll feel like rinsing after an hour of non-stop toothy hijinks.

Are You Ready for Some Operation Iraqi Freedom?!
Pat Tillman, Arizona Cardinals football player, gives up his multi-million dollar contract to do what he feels is right and stand-up for his country even though he reads things like Noam Chomsky (who, don't worry, we won't allow on the program--all that thinking is booorrring). Brilliant montages better than even the most life-like computer game mix the thrill of vicious NFL hits and wild firefights in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a crazy mix-up that's just oh-so wacky, Tillman will get killed. By his own troops, but it's an accident. Just like the Pentagon waiting a few weeks or five to tell his parents he was killed in friendly fire. Meanwhile, George W. Bush, kind of the Paris Hilton of Presidents (why is this person on TV so much, we all wonder?), who never fought in a war, gets to use Tillman's death as proof war is noble and its fighters gallant. OK, no one would buy this show as reality for a second.

He Didn't Read the News Any Day, Oh Boy

The United States has a vital interest in the success of a free Iraq, so in the year ahead, we will continue to pursue the comprehensive strategy for victory that I have discussed with you in recent weeks....our coalition is overcoming earlier setbacks and moving forward with a reconstruction plan to rebuild Iraq's economy and infrastructure.
--President Bush, December 31, 2005 radio address

Iraq's oil exports hit their lowest level since the war, according to figures released on Monday, heightening a sense of crisis as fuel supplies grow scarce and political leaders struggle to form a government.

Iraq exported 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil in December, a senior official said -- less than any month since exports resumed in mid-2003 after the U.S. invasion and about half the level seen during sanctions under Saddam Hussein.
--Reuters news story, January 2, 2006

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hello, I Must Be Going

It's always hard to tell if new year's days are endings or beginnings. Maybe I'm the only one who suffers from sappiness trying to look forward, but instead end up borne back ceaselessly into the past (OK, I'm not the only one). For no matter how you hope for something, anything, the future, things like this happen, and it hurts:

Chicago Eyes Are Misty as a Landmark Is Saying Farewell

Murray Wolbach III is a third-generation commercial real estate developer who lunches several times a week at the Berghoff, the 107-year-old Loop landmark where little but the light bulbs have changed since his grandfather's day.

The fact that his own family career streak ended with Mr. Wolbach, however, hardly seems to have prepared him for the news this week that the storied restaurant would close Feb. 28 when its third-generation owner, Herman Berghoff, retires without passing it on to his children.

"The wonderful thing about places like this is you don't have to worry about them - it's been around 100 years, you think it'll be around 100 more," Mr. Wolbach, 60 and known as Trip, said as he forked the flaky crust of Herman's Chicken Pot Pie. "It's something you could always rely on. I'll probably die of starvation now."

It seemed all Chicagoland was lamenting the coming loss this week, as hungry hordes lined up outside the famed neon sign for up to an hour in hopes of one last Wiener schnitzel or sauerbraten (though regulars like Mr. Wolbach, as always, sneaked in through the back of the bar to get a table). The Berghoff is - was? - the city's oldest restaurant, at once a tourist's staple and native's standby.

I ate at the Berghoff once, years ago, after a game at Wrigley, and it seemed so right even though it's not a terrific dining experience. It's a historical experience, the sense you've been where others have been, that things last, that businesses owned by families (not out to gouge the world like the Waltons, say) can survive from generation to generation serving patrons for generation to generation. Heck, that's one of the charms of baseball, thinking about how the love of it can be passed down from parent to child. How there are places and routines outside the family that add to the family and thereby make it larger and nobler.

So although I'm not from Chicago, and not really a big German cuisine fan (partially because it's always big), the Berghoff closing makes me horribly sad. It's just one more step till all downtowns are every downtown, which is wonderful if you want to be comfortable but terrible if you want to feel one town is different from another. And once all our public spaces become the same, what does that make us, people who know only corporate versions of flair-driven fun? For Christmas I phone ordered my dad and stepmom a gift certificate at their favorite restaurant in New Jersey and was sort of shocked by the East Coast-ness of the woman taking the order joking, "George and Louise? Why do you want to get a gift certificate for them?" in that easy-going wise-ass way nobody really does on the West Coast (except maybe at a place like Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco, which has been around only since 1912), that made my heart briefly pang for my old New Jersey home. Because we should belong someplace, not every place.

Instead we will be left with the Berghoff Cafe O'Hare, just one mall-like stop on the way from place to place, an echo of something, a shadow as Plato might have had it, a memory of when we knew better who we were and why we are and a Berghoff Dark meant something beyond the roasted quality of the malt in a beer, at least in the timbre of voice our parents' used to order them.
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