Wed Mar 21, 2007
This is how administrations implode (Har Har Har):
Bush Clashes With Congress on Prosecutors
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
The New York Times
Wednesday 21 March 2007
Washington - President Bush and Congress clashed Tuesday over an inquiry into the firing of federal prosecutors and appeared headed toward a constitutional showdown over demands from Capitol Hill for internal White House documents and testimony from top advisers to the president. Read more...
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Mon Jan 15, 2007
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Wed Nov 29, 2006
Ah, Sweet Blissful Schadenfreude (Let the Hearings Commence)
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Mon Jun 26, 2006
I Wanna Drink With James Howard Kunstler
June 26, 2006
The energy debate around the US has taken a definite turn this spring, since oil prices stepped back up to the $70 zone, but the thinking around these issues has only gotten worse. That's because there is only one idea dominating the public discussion: how to keep our cars running by other means, at all costs.
We're certainly hearing more about energy from government and business. President Bush made the "addicted to oil" confession in January. Chevron and British Petroleum (or Beyond Petroleum, as BP wishfully styles itself) have both run ad campaigns acknowledging the oil-and-gas crunch, and the mainstream media has joined the campaign to pimp for bio-fuels. But all the talk is driven by the assumption that we will keep running WalMart, Disney World, and the interstate highway system just like we do now, only with other "alternative" liquid fuels.
The more naive members of the environmental sector have been suckered into this line of thinking, too -- especially the college kids, who imagine we can just divert x-amount of acreage from Cheez Doodle production and re-direct it to crops devoted to making liquid fuels for Honda Elements. They need to get some alt.brains.
Nobody is talking about the much more likely prospect that we'll have to reduce motoring drastically, and make other arrangements for virtually every aspect of daily life, from how we get food, to how we do business, to how we inhabit the landscape. The more we resist thinking about the larger agenda for comprehensively changing daily life, beyond our obsession with cars, the more likely we will veer into hardship, political trouble, and violence.
The reason for this collective failure of imagination seems pretty obvious: the older generations are hopelessly vested and invested in the hard "assets" of suburbia, which they feel they cannot walk away from; and the younger generation is too demoralized by the fear that they will never be vested in any assets (while many seek refuge from thinking at all in the electronic sensory distractions of video games and Ipods, or else in irony and other forms of manufactured alienation).
If I was a kid now, I'd find a lot more to rebel against than what we faced in the 1960s: the draft and the insipid program of Levittown. I'd rebel against a generation of adults selling the future for obscene pay packages. I'd rebel against everything from the mendacious nonsense of Rem Koolhaas to the profligate stupidity of Nascar. I'd want to eat Donald Trump for lunch (and set free the wolverine that lives on his head.) I'd utterly reject the false commoditized reality and set out to discover the world. I'd get busy building a society with a plausible future (and be real excited about it).
Sometimes I wonder if we just enjoy lying to ourselves. Sometimes I think: if this nation could somehow harness the energy in all the smoke it blows up its own ass, we'd all be able to drive to heaven in Cadillac Escalades.
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Mon Mar 06, 2006
Kurt Vonnegut Wrote Circles Around Both Gore and Capote
Published on Sunday, March 5, 2006 by the Columbus Free Press (Ohio)
Kurt Vonnegut's "Stardust Memory"
by Harvey Wasserman
On a cold, cloudy night, the lines threaded all the way around the Ohio State campus. News that Kurt Vonnegut was speaking at the Ohio Union prompted these “apathetic” heartland college students to start lining up in the early afternoon. About 2,000 got in to the Ohio Union. At least that many more were turned away. It was the biggest crowd for a speaker here since Michael Moore.
In an age dominated by hype and sex, neither Moore nor Vonnegut seems a likely candidate to rock a campus whose biggest news has been the men’s and women’s basketball teams’ joint assault on Big Ten championships.
But maybe there’s more going on here than Fox wants us to think.
Vonnegut takes an easy chair across from Prof. Manuel Luis Martinez, a poet and teacher of writing. He grabs Martinez and semi-whispers into his ear (and the mike) “What can I say here?”
Martinez urges candor.
“Well,” says Vonnegut, “I just want to say that George W. Bush is the syphilis president.”
The students seem to agree.
“The only difference between Bush and Hitler,” Vonnegut adds, “is that Hitler was elected.”
“You all know, of course, that the election was stolen. Right here.”
Off to a flying start, Vonnegut explains that this will be his “last speech for money.” He can’t remember the first one, but it was on a campus long, long ago, and this will be the end.
The students are hushed with the prospect of the final appearance of America’s greatest living novelist. Alongside Mark Twain and Ben Franklin, Will Rogers and Joseph Heller and a very short list of immortal satirists and storytellers, there stands Kurt Vonnegut, author of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE and SIRENS OF TITAN, CAT’S CRADLE and GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER, books these students are studying now, as did their parents, as will their children and grandchildren, with a deeply felt mixture of gratitude and awe.
Nobody tonight seems to think they were in for a detached, scholarly presentation from a disengaged academic genius coasting on his incomparable laurels
“I’m lucky enough to have known a great president, one who really cared about ALL the people, rich and poor. That was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was rich himself, and his class considered him a traitor.
“We have people in this country who are richer than whole countries,” he says. “They run everything.
“We have no Democratic Party. It’s financed by the same millionaires and billionaires as the Republicans.
“So we have no representatives in Washington. Working people have no leverage whatsoever.
“I’m trying to write a novel about the end of the world. But the world is really ending! It’s becoming more and more uninhabitable because of our addiction to oil.
“Bush used that line recently,” Vonnegut adds. “I should sue him for plagiarism.”
Things have gotten so bad, he says, “people are in revolt again life itself.”
Our economy has been making money, but “all the money that should have gone into research and development has gone into executive compensation. If people insist on living as if there’s no tomorrow, there really won’t be one.
“As the world is ending, I’m always glad to be entertained for a few moments. The best way to do that is with music. You should practice once a night.
“If you want really want to hurt your parents and don’t want to be gay, go into the arts,” he says.
Then he breaks into song, doing a passable, tender rendition of “Stardust Memories.”
By this time this packed hall has grown reverential. The sound system is appropriately tenuous. Straining to hear every word is both an effort and a meditation.
“To hell with the advances in computers,” he says after he finishes singing. “YOU are supposed to advance and become, not the computers. Find out what’s inside you. And don’t kill anybody.
“There are no factories any more. Where are the jobs supposed to come from? There’s nothing for people to do anymore. We need to ask the Seminoles: ‘what the hell did you do?’’ after the tribe’s traditional livelihood was taken away.
Answering questions written in by students, he explains the meaning of life. “We should be kind to each other. Be civil. And appreciate the good moments by saying ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’
“You’re awful cute” he says to someone in the front row. He grins and looks around. “If this isn’t nice, what is?
“You’re all perfectly safe, by the way. I took off my shoes at the airport. The terrorists hate the smell of feet.
“We are here on Earth to fart around,” he explains, and then embarks on a soliloquy about the joys of going to the store to buy an envelope. One talks to the people there, comments on the “silly-looking dog,” finds all sorts of adventures along the way.
As for being a midwesterner, he recalls his roots in nearby Indianapolis, a heartland town, the next one west of here. “I’m a fresh water person. When I swim in the ocean, I feel like I’m swimming in chicken soup. Who wants to swim in flavored water?”
A key to great writing, he adds, is to “never use semi-colons. What are they good for? What are you supposed to do with them? You’re reading along, and then suddenly, there it is. What does it mean? All semi-colons do is suggest you’ve been to college.”
Make sure, he adds, “that your reader is having a good time. Get to the who, when, where, what right away, so the reader knows what is going on.”
As for making money, “war is a very profitable thing for a few people. Jesus used to be so merciful and loving of the poor. But now he’s a Republican.
“Our economy today is not capitalism. It’s casino-ism. That’s all the stock market is about. Gambling.
“Live one day at a time. Say ‘if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!’
“You meet saints every where. They can be anywhere. They are people behaving decently in an indecent society.
“I’m going to sue the cigarette companies because they haven’t killed me,” he says. His son lived out his dream to be a pilot and has spent his career flying for Continental. Now they’ve “screwed up his pension.”
The greatest peace, Vonnegut wraps up, “comes from the knowledge that I have enough. Joe Heller told me that.
“I began writing because I found myself possessed. I looked at what I wrote and I said ‘How the hell did I do that?’
“We may all be possessed. I hope so.”
He accepts the students’ standing ovation with characteristic dignity and grace. Not a few tears flow from young people with the wisdom to appreciate what they are seeing. “If this isn’t nice, we don’t know what is.”
Not long ago we spoke on the phone. I asked Kurt how he was. “Too fucking old,” he replied.
Maybe so. But the mind and soul are still there, powerful and penetrating as ever. Just as they’ll ever be in his books and stories and the precious records of his wonderful talks.
Thankfully, Kurt Vonnegut is still possessed by the genius of seeing and describing the world as only Kurt Vonnegut can.
He is still sharp and clear, full of love and life and light. May he be with us yet for a long long time to come.
Harvey Wasserman read CAT’S CRADLE, SIRENS OF TITAN and SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE in college, sought Boku-Maru, and has never been the same.
Copyright 2006 Free Press
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Thu Feb 09, 2006
J Lo's Ass
By Cenk Uygur
I am exhausted of writing about annoying shit that the Bush administration is doing. People must think I’m such an angry dude from what I write. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can’t wait to get these bastards out of town so I can write about happy, sunny shit again.
Did you know that there was another hot 37 year old woman in Tennessee (she was a former model) who had sex with a 16 year old boy? That’s awesome. Of course, they gave her jail time for that, which is unconscionable. That’s almost as bad as when Bush accidentally invaded Iraq.
It’s a crime these days to make a young boy’s dreams come true but not a crime to ignore federal laws against warrantless eavesdropping. Go figure. I’m just happy that the kid got laid before they locked the lady up.
Alright, now having said all that, did you see the $500 billion the Bush administration hid in the budget? Well, actually it’s not in the budget. It’s all the expenses they left out. They excluded half a trillion dollars from the budget over the next five years – and they thought we wouldn’t notice. Who knows, maybe they’re right and most people won’t notice.
There's an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee ... you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Mainly, the Chinese. What I mean by that is the Chinese have already decided that they are going to diversify away from their immense dollar holdings.
That might sound like economic gobbledygook, but it has enormous ramifications. The Chinese are one of our top lenders. If they start shying away from the dollar, it will make it easier for them to raise the interest rates on our loans (to make a complicated story simple). And that starts our unfortunate, long run downwards on the economy.
When people start losing their jobs and not being able to afford the things they’re used to, their patience for random Middle Eastern invasions, illegal wiretaps, reckless budgets, and endless corruption is going to wear out real quick.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA) snuck a provision into a recent bill that took $22 billion out of American taxpayers’ pockets and put it into the pockets of HMOs. That’s a cute trick you can get away with when you control all the branches of government and no one on television challenges you. But it becomes entirely uncute when the economy goes south and the American taxpayer gets a load of what you’ve been up to.
I can’t believe these guys used to call themselves fiscal conservatives. They don’t really have the nerve to trot that line out anymore. What I can’t understand is why average, everyday Republican voters like getting their money stolen. What’s conservative about a run-away budget disaster where we pile up record deficits with absolutely no plan to pay for them (and that’s not even including the half a trillion dollars they hid from the budget)?
What’s conservative about allowing your Republican representatives take high class vacations and have their wives get paid tens of thousands of dollars for nothing and ride off on limos and yachts (literally), while you get stuck with the bill?
Man, when the average taxpayer understands what these Republicans did to them in the middle of the night, when the after-effects of the political roofies wear off, they are going to one pissed set of monkeys.
Of course, the only question is – when. When will people on television finally start telling the truth so we can get rid of these clowns and I can go back to having fun and talking about J. Lo’s ass?
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Sun Feb 05, 2006
re: Slaughterhouse '06
An Excerpt From
Last week, George Bush used his annual State Of The Union address to declare that his government is meeting its responsibility to provide healthcare for the poor and the elderly and spearheading a global quest for peace. Vonnegut’s stump speech states the opposite. In the land of his internal exile, corporate profiteers rule unchecked, extended families have been split into desperately vulnerable nuclear groups, “lethal injection and warfare are forms of entertainment” and Americans are “as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis once were”.
When challenged about this last statement, Vonnegut repeats that US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and vice- president Dick Cheney are “jut-jawed, like Nazis” and argues that the main difference is that the Germans were justly feared for their military prowess.
“We have no army,” he says, “What makes us the most powerful nation on Earth is our willingness to kill people in their thousands with remote-controlled missiles, the fact that we’re prepared to set off nuclear explosions in the middle of unarmed people – men, women and children.
“Only one country has been crazy enough to set off a nuke in the middle of a civilian population. Did it twice, and that’s when members of my generation, soldiers, could see that ‘we’re not the good guys any more’. We were very careful not to hurt civilians.”
In his rage and despair he invokes the true guardians of America’s soul, quoting from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and Christ’s Sermon On The Mount. For a confirmed humanist, he mentions the Beatitudes surprisingly often, arguing that the President’s fundamentalist friends have forgotten the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers.
Vonnegut once observed that he was at his funniest two days after Martin Luther King Jr was shot, because he was speaking to an audience “full of pain that they couldn’t do anything about … there was an enormous need to either laugh or cry”.
The punchline count is high in A Man Without A Country, as it has been in every one of his novels. On the first page he explains that, as the youngest child in a family of five, making jokes was the only way to get noticed in adult conversation. Reporting on the fall of Biafra in 1970, he noticed he still cracked wise as the Nigerian army approached, writing that “joking was my response to misery I couldn’t do anything about”.
Crucially, it has not been his only reflex. What elevates his work above gallows humour and exposes him as an idealist in pessimist’s clothing is his palpable compassion and the way in which he appeals to his readers’ better natures. “Practising any art is a way to make your soul grow,” he writes, and it is clear that this has been his own salvation. As we speak, he raises a glass : “To the arts.”
Later, when the food arrives, Vonnegut talks about the teacher who inspired him, James C Bean, reminding me that “the Great Depression was going on, and there were no good jobs, so it was a wonderful break to get to be a teacher or a mailman. Some of the best and smartest people in Indianapolis were teaching in school.
“All it takes is one great teacher,” he continues, and though he would never be so conceited as to admit it, he has evidently been that teacher, for his seven children, for students at various American universities, and for three generations of science-fiction fans.
What he has consistently taught is that art alone can rescue his homeland, through a series of personal revolutions. This belief in the transformative power of creativity is expressed beautifully in the preface to Wampeters, Foma, & Granfalloons (Opinions). “I now believe,” he writes, “that the only way in which Americans can rise above their ordinariness, can mature sufficiently to rescue themselves and to help rescue the planet, is through enthusiastic intimacy with works of their own imaginations.
“I am not especially satisfied with my own imaginative works, my fiction. I am simply impressed by the unexpected insights which shower down on me when my job is to imagine, as contrasted with the woodenly familiar ideas which clutter my desk when my job is to tell the truth.”
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Wed Jan 04, 2006
When Dave Thinks You're an Asshole, You're One Big Asshole.
Bill O’Reilly: “I think that the Iraq thing has been full of unintended consequences and it’s a vital thing for the country and it's brutal, it’s absolutely brutal. We should all take it very seriously. This simplistic stuff about hating Bush or he lied and all this stuff, does the country no good at all. We've got to win this thing. You have to win it. And even though it's a screw-up, giant, massive, all right, right now, for everybody's protection, it's best for the world to have a democracy in that country functioning and friendly to the West, is it not?”
David Letterman: “Yes, absolutely.”
O’Reilly: “Okay, so let's stop with the lying and the this and the that and the undermining and let's get him. That is putting us all in danger. So our philosophy is we call it as we see it. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you don't. Robust debate is good. But we believe that the United States, particularly the military, are doing a noble thing, a noble thing. The soldiers and Marines are noble. They're not terrorists. And when people call them that, like Cindy Sheehan called the insurgents 'freedom fighters,’ we don't like that. It is a vitally important time in American history. And we should all take it very seriously. Be very careful with what we say.”
Letterman: “Well, and you should be very careful with what you say also.” [audience applause]
O’Reilly: “Give me an example.”
Letterman: “How can you possibly take exception with the motivation and the position of someone like Cindy Sheehan?”
O’Reilly: “Because I think she’s run by far-left elements in this country. I feel bad for the woman.”
Letterman: “Have you lost family members in armed conflict?”
O’Reilly: “No, I have not.”
Letterman: “Well, then you can hardly speak for her, can you?” [applause]
O’Reilly: “I’m not speaking for her. Let me ask you this question.”
Letterman, referring back to O’Reilly’s examples of a war on Christmas: “Let’s go back to your little red and green stories.”
O’Reilly: “This is important, this is important. Cindy Sheehan lost a son, a professional soldier in Iraq, correct? She has a right to grieve any way she wants, she has a right to say whatever she wants. When she says to the public that the insurgents and terrorists are 'freedom fighters,’ how do you think, David Letterman, that makes people who lost loved ones, by these people blowing the Hell out of them, how do you think they feel, waht about their feelings, sir?”
Letterman: “What about, why are we there in the first place? [applause] The President himself, less than a month ago said we are there because of a mistake made in intelligence. Well, whose intelligence? It was just somebody just get off a bus and handed it to him?”
Bill O’Reilly: “No.”
Letterman: “No, it was the intelligence gathered by his administration.”
O’Reilly: “By the CIA.”
Letterman: “Yeah, so why are we there in the first place? I agree to you, with you that we have to support the troops. They are there, they are the best and the brightest of this country. [audience applause] There’s no doubt about that. And I also agree that now we’re in it it’s going to take a long, long time. People who expect it’s going to be solved and wrapped up in a couple of years, unrealistic, it’s not going to happen. However, however, that does not eliminate the legitimate speculation and concern and questioning of ‘Why the Hell are we there to begin with?’”
O’Reilly: “If you want to question that, and then revamp an intelligence agency that’s obviously flawed, the CIA, okay. But remember, MI-6 in Britain said the same thing. Putin’s people in Russia said the same thing, and so did Mubarak’s intelligence agency in Egypt.”
Letterman: “Well then that makes it all right?”
O’Reilly: “No it doesn’t make it right.”
Letterman: “That intelligence agencies across the board makes it alright that we’re there?”
O’Reilly: “It doesn’t make it right.”
Letterman: “See, I’m very concerned about people like yourself who don’t have nothing but endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan. Honest to Christ.” [audience applause]
O’Reilly: “No, I’m sorry.”
Letterman: “Honest to Christ.”
“O’Reilly: “No way. [waits for applause to die down] No way you’re going to get me, no way that a terrorist who blows up women and children.”
Letterman: “Do you have children?”
O’Reilly: “Yes I do. I have a son the same age as yours. No way a terrorist who blows up women and children is going to be called a ‘freedom fighter’ on my program.” [mild audience applause]
Letterman: “I’m not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling, I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap. [audience laughter] But I don’t know that for a fact. [more audience applause]
Paul Shafer: “60 percent.”
Letterman: “60 percent. I'm just spit-balling here.”
O’Reilly: “Listen, I respect your opinion. You should respect mine.”
Letterman: “Well, ah, I, okay. But I think you’re-”
O’Reilly: “Our analysis is based on the best evidence we can get.”
Letterman: “Yeah, but I think there’s something, this fair and balanced. I'm not sure that it's, I don't think that you represent an objective viewpoint.”
O’Reilly: “Well, you’re going to have to give me an example if you're going to make those claims.”
Letterman: “Well I don’t watch your show so that would be impossible.”
O’Reilly: “Then why would you come to that conclusion if you don't watch the program?”
Letterman: “Because of things that I’ve read, things that I know.”
O’Reilly: “Oh come on, you're going to take things that you've read. You know what say about you? Come on. Watch it for a couple, look, watch it for a half hour. You'll get addicted. You'll be a Factor fan, we'll send you a hat.”
Letterman: “You’ll send me a hat. Well, send Cindy Sheehan a hat”
O’Reilly: “I’ll be happy to.”
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