Saturday, May 31, 2008

Vacation time

I'm grazing on to other pastures for a few weeks. The blog will be on hiatus until around June 13, although I'll try to update from Japan if I can.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The truth hurts

I've always viewed White House press secretaries throughout Bush's reign of terror as soulless ministers of deception -- the enemy of Journalism. And if you watch carefully, it only takes a short tenure of lies and treachery before these despicable flacks get this vacant look in their eyes, as if they have finally realized the internal consequences of their loyalty to an administration that has utterly tainted American society.

Of course, it takes a special kind of evil to stand in front of the media every day and spew pure propaganda and half-truths, knowing that these lies will be disseminated among the hapless public. I can only imagine what it must feel like as every drop of integrity slowly seeps away. The psychological pain of defending a man who is responsible for so much needless destruction and death must be unbearable.

Yet, it seems one of these political hyenas has seen the error of his ways. After a few years of spreading the myth of Bush's America, former press secretary Scott McClellan is admitting in a new book that he was, in fact, full of shit, as was the entire administration. McClellan, of course, was the carnivore who fed on the rotting carcass of Bush's failed policies during Hurricane Katrina and much of the war in Iraq. Also, he doesn't blink. What an asshole.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The spokesman who defended President Bush's policies through Hurricane Katrina and the early years of the Iraq war is now blasting his former employers, saying the Bush administration became mired in propaganda and political spin and at times played loose with the truth.

Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan blasts President Bush and advisers in a new book.

In excerpts from a 341-page book to be released Monday, Scott McClellan writes on Iraq that Bush "and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war."

"[I]n this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security," McClellan wrote.

McClellan also sharply criticizes the administration on its handling of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

"One of the worst disasters in our nation's history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush's presidency," he wrote. "Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush's second term."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A few thoughts on Quotegate

As America reels in horror at the latest Hillary Clinton scandal, I think we should all keep in mind an important political standard: The majority of interviews with politicians are meaningless because the majority of politicians are full of shit.

Allow me to explain.

Every word muttered by a politician is carefully calculated and gauged to get the appropriate response from the designated electorate. The resulting "dialogue" is usually nothing more than politically tested talking points with no substance -- as much empty rhetoric that can be said without saying anything at all.

However, sometimes a politician really screws up and goes off message or says something completely ridiculous. These moments -- usually the only indication that a politician is human and not some automaton designed to say strictly what we want to hear -- are what we affectionately call "gotcha journalism." As much as I despise gotcha journalism, I have no choice but to concede its great importance, given that the only time we can expect true honesty from a politician is when something is said in error.

If everything a politician says about an issue is either bullshit or an accident, then voters would be wise to keep close track of the latter. Unfortunately, with Clinton, it's really hard to tell.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Quick recap (and some boobs!)

Well, here we go again with this human three-ring circus.

The California Supreme Court decides discrimination is generally a bad thing and announces that gay couples can enjoy the same rights as me and my fellow straight people. Yet another victory for civil rights that I'm positive the voters of California, in their infinite wisdom and homophobia, will destroy in November with a constitutional amendment.

In response, the Pope shits a golden brick from that soulless, decrepit ass of his and mumbles something that I couldn't understand because I don't speak fascist; the Christian elite in America retreat to their mansions in panic at the upcoming social apocalypse; and I'm sitting here wondering how any of these boneheads were allowed to dictate a personal decision like marriage in the first place. Again, I'm left to wonder.

Meanwhile, as the culture war rages and I yawn in agony, a Christian group in San Diego called The Resistance pushes for a boycott of Starbucks because the company's new logo depicts a mermaid with breasts. No word yet on how a barely legible drawing of breasts on a mermaid is decaying the fabric of our morality, although it does raise troubling questions about my bizarre attraction to mermaids. We won't go into that.

Hey, The Resistance, let me do you a fucking favor:

There we go. Now they're old news.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How America is killing political journalism

Election years are brutal for political journalists. Politics, like no other realm of journalistic inquiry, incite rabid passions as politicians dish out savage rhetorical beatings until a winner emerges, victorious but battle-worn after experiencing the harsh reality of our democracy.

In the middle of this tedious brawl of emotions and hysteria is the political journalist -- the underpaid and jaded intellectual masochist who is left with the arduous task of cobbling together the copious amounts of lies and empty oratory and delivering some semblance of Truth©. Subsequently, it's no accident that political journalism is often associated with heavy drinking and liberal abuse of any substance available to numb the pain of rowing down a constant stream of bullshit.

And therein lies the problem. In the end, political journalists are dishing out the Truth© to a public full of stubborn voters who SAY they want to be informed objectively but really just want the media to deliver evidence of their pre-conceived notions about political realities. If a political journalist fails in this task, or even has the audacity to contradict such notions, he is either biased or uninformed. Sadly, these are the only two options for Average Joe Voter, who retains such a clear picture of the political landscape from the comfort of his armchair that logical inquiry is moot. And this, of course, is how the American public can continue to elect people like George W. Bush.

The culmination of this vicious cycle -- that is to say, political journalists barely surviving election after election in order to deliver facts to people who don't really want them -- is rather hilarious. It goes something like this: The citizens who are presented with political facts but choose to ignore them simply spew out their asinine misconceptions, which the media gather and redistribute in order to develop some absurd gauge of political success. Allow me to demonstrate:

WILLIAMSON, West Virginia (AP) -- Like most people in Mingo County, West Virginia, Leonard Simpson is a lifelong Democrat. But given a choice between Barack Obama and John McCain in November, the 67-year-old retired coalminer would vote Republican.

“I heard that Obama is a Muslim and his wife’s an atheist,” said Mr Simpson, drawing on a cigarette outside the fire station in Williamson, a coalmining town of 3,400 people surrounded by lush wooded hillsides.

Mr Simpson’s remarks help explain why Mr Obama is trailing Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, by 40 percentage points ahead of Tuesday’s primary election in the heavily white and rural state, according to recent opinion polls.

Wow. Where do I even begin? First, and most depressing, is that a participant in this democracy would be such an idiot as to base his vote on some outlandish rumor without even attempting to verify its accuracy. A brief search on the Internet would reveal to this man that Barack Obama and his wife are both Christians. One would think Obama's religious affiliation would be evident by the 24-hour coverage of Obama's former Christian pastor. Another clue might be the unlikelihood that a devout Muslim would marry an atheist. Yet, undoubtedly, this voter has already decided that Obama is a Muslim, and thus any independent investigation on his part is fruitless.

Still, the clear stupidity of this one voter didn't deter the reporter, who simply concluded that the state must be full of Obama-haters, as if talking to one uninformed citizen in the backwoods of West Virginia is somehow an indicator -- and explanation -- of Obama's lack of support in the state. Last time I checked, a retired miner living in the Appalachians is not the fucking spokesman for West Virginia. The only information I can glean from this man is that the town is occupied by at least one idiot. Well, make that two conclusions: In West Virginia, John McCain appears to have a great start at securing the moron vote.

Basically, people in this country need to learn how to fucking fact check. And the media in this country need to learn how to distinguish between one delusional voter and the political persuasions of an entire state. Until then, this orgy of absurdity will continue, and we'll undoubtedly keep electing people who are utterly full of shit.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A dark time

I'm not sure which alignment of the stars resulted in this cinematic catastrophe, but apparently some misguided Hollywood executives with no respect for true art think a no-name hack director should revisit the disturbingly genius "Donnie Darko." The sequel starts production this month, and I wish I were kidding.

The travesty is Richard Kelly was traded for Chris Fisher, the guy who directed "Nightstalker" and other mind-numbing epics. Haven't heard of that one? Well allow me to enlighten you: "A horror film based on the life of Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker, who terrorized people in the Los Angeles area during the mid-1980s." So you can tell already the bar has been set really high by the people responsible for this nightmare.

According to Wikipedia, the story follows Darko's younger sister as she accompanies her friend on a road trip to Las Vegas, where I'm positive the story devolves into some utterly childish horror dreck worthy of the guy who made "Nightstalker." Here's the full synopsis, if you can bear it to read it:

Filming will begin for S. Darko, the sequel to Donnie Darko. UK-based sales company Velvet Octopus will be launching sales for the film in Cannes, with Fox already having required North American rights. S. Darko will be set seven years after the end of Donnie Darko, when Donnie's little sister Samantha and her best friend Corey are now 18 and on a roadtrip to Las Vegas when they are plagued by bizarre visions. Daveigh Chase, who portrayed Samantha Darko in Donnie Darko, will be reprising her role. The cast will also include Ed Westwick, Briana Evigan and Justin Chatwin. Chris Fisher will direct the film, shooting on an estimated $10,000,000 budget and commenting he is "a great admirer of Richard Kelly's film and hope[s] to create a similar world of blurred fantasy and reality." Donnie Darko director Kelly is, however, not involved. According to Simon Crowe of Velvet Octopus, the character of Donnie Darko will not be coming back, but there will be "meteorites and rabbits".

Oh gee, I guess it won't be so bad given the meteorites and rabbits will be represented. But, um, what about the incredible dialogue? The mysterious and interesting plot? The social commentary? The cast of top actors? The paranoid schizophrenia? Will we be treated to any of that in this brilliant new production?

Incidentally, Daveigh Chase, the actress who played Darko's sister in the first movie, is from Albany, Oregon. She apparently spends quite a bit of time there when she's not living in Los Angeles or crawling out of TV sets in movies like "The Ring." I could conceivably go to Albany and ask why she is contributing to the death of cinema, but Albany fucking sucks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Florida: Home of the crazies since 1845

Ah, Florida. The land of wrinkled retirees, media whore amusement parks, stolen elections and crackpot paranoia. Oh, and apparently news travels pretty slow to the fabled southern state, as many people there are apparently under the impression that the world is populated by wizards:

A Florida teacher may have to pull an unemployment check out of his hat after performing magic in front of students, according to reports.

Jim Piculas said he made a toothpick disappear and reappear in front of students at the Rushe Middle School in Land 'O Lakes, Fla., reported. He said he later got a call from the supervisor of teachers, saying he had been accused of wizardry.

"I get a call the middle of the day from head of supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, 'Jim, we have a huge issue. You can't take any more assignments. You need to come in right away,'" he told

Piculas said he’s concerned the incident may prevent him from being considered for future jobs.

I guess this explains how Jeb Bush can keep getting re-elected. The whole fucking state is delusional!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Quick update before I pass out from exhaustion

Here's a chilling story, especially for parents: A U.S. soldier from a small town on the Oregon coast accidentally called his parents during an intense battle against insurgents in Afghanistan. The soldier's parents weren't home at the time, and when they arrived later they discovered a three-minute-long message on their answering machine, filled mostly with sounds of gunfire and frantic shouting. At the end of the message, a soldier yells a warning about incoming artillery, and then the message abruptly ends:

OTIS, Ore. -- An Oregon couple received a frightening phone call from their son in Afghanistan when he inadvertently called home during battle.

Stephen Phillips and other soldiers in his Army MP company were battling insurgents when his phone was pressed against his Humvee. It redialed and called his parents in the small Oregon town of Otis.

Sandie Petee, Phillips' mother, and her husband, Jeff Petee, weren't home at the time of the call. They returned home to find a three-minute voice mail on their answering machine.

"His friend died a year ago in Iraq and I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, this may be the last time I hear my son's voice on the phone,'" Petee said.

They heard shooting, swearing and shouted pleas for more ammunition on the phone call from their son.

"They were pinned down and apparently his barrel was overheating," said Jeff Petee. "It's something a parent really doesn't want to hear. It's a heck of a message to get from your son in Afghanistan."

The three-minute call ended abruptly.

"You could hear him saying stuff like, he needs more ammo, or he needs another barrel," said John Petee, Phillips' brother. "At the end, you could hear a guy saying 'Incoming! RPG!' And then it cut off."

As soon as the voice mail stopped playing, the Petees began trying to reach their son in Afghanistan. The family figured out Petee had tried to call home earlier that day, but he didn't leave a message and the phone later redialed during battle.

They eventually reached their son.

"I finally got a hold of him," Sandie Petee said. "He was embarrassed, he said, 'Don't let Grandma hear it.'"

Stephen Phillips is scheduled to return home next month, when his tour is complete, his mother said.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Late night boredom: Cinema edition

Did anybody fucking understand the movie "I'm Not there"?

I understand the filmmaker's intention to progress the plot like some philosophically disjointed yet poetic hallucination similar to a Bob Dylan song, and I understand the all-star cast of incredible actors and the rave reviews and the greatness of independent cinema and blah blah blah. But seriously, what the hell? Not only did I find the movie incredibly boring, bloated and trite, but two hours of scratching my head only resulted in a gaping wound and blood gushing down my face.

Alas, my inner narrator wasn't too helpful during the movie: "Hey look, it's a folk singer, like, singing and stuff. Wow! Looks like we might actually see some character development. Sweet, he's talking! Hurray for dialogue! Oh fuck, it's another cut scene of somebody being interviewed (I think?). Oh cool, we're back to the folk singer again. More character development! But wait, it's another actor now? What? And he's black? Wasn't he a white dude like five minutes ago? Am I supposed to be high on something to understand this?"

Now if you want to talk about quality cinema, let me just throw this out there: "Teeth." Unfortunately, I can't tell you what the movie is about because you won't watch it. I'm afraid, for your sake, that you'll just have to let your morbid curiosity take over. Let that little voice in your head lead you to the video store, take "Teeth" off the shelf and put it in your DVD player. Don't look it up on the Internet, you cheaters! This is a test of emotional endurance: Can you can make it through the entire movie without reeling in horror or throwing yourself off a tall building? Find out now!

Something rotten in Austria

For almost a quarter of century, as life unfolded in the quiet Lower Austrian town of Amstetten, Elisabeth Fritzl was enduring an unimaginable ordeal behind the plain gray walls of a nondescript house there.

Her 73-year-old father, Josef, today confessed that he held his now 42-year-old daughter captive for 24 years in a concealed, windowless basement hideout, where he repeatedly had sexual intercourse with her and where she gave birth to seven of his children. The shocking case has reminded many Austrians of the fate of Natascha Kampusch, who was kidnapped at the age of 10 and kept in a narrow basement for eight years until she managed to flee in August 2006. But the senior investigator in Amstetten, Franz Polzer, said that the cruel deliberateness of Josef Fritzl's deed outstripped the Kampusch case "by far." Though cases of such longstanding hidden crimes have cropped up elsewhere in recent years, the revelation of two in less than two years has set about a round of public soul-searching in Austria.

That's some top-notch parenting there. Given this man has a penchant for locking up and raping his children for decades, I'd say it's time to stop him from breeding. In fact, I'd be first in line for the hacksaw castration.