[2006.07.31 - 09:00 P.M.]

And so, the Major League Baseball trade deadline has come and gone, and what do we find? The Yankees added a star right-fielder, a power-hitting utility player, and a serviceable fifth starter for their rotation. The Red Sox, meanwhile, pretty much did jack squat.

I am happy.

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[2006.07.30 - 11:10 A.M.]

Brokeback Mountain: A sad little story. Beautifully filmed and well-acted, for sure. Not, however, the deeply moving experience I was expecting. In fact -- don't hate me for sayin' it -- I was a little, uh, underwhelmed. Pretty obvious to me that the reason this movie blew up into the huge cultural phenomenon it briefly became had everything to do with what it was about and not a lot to do with what it was. (Sidebar: Michelle Williams is a reasonably competent big-screen actress, a bit of a surprise given her Dawson's Creek beginnings, but seriously, what on Earth about that performance was worthy of an Oscar nomination?)

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[2006.07.30 - 10:45 A.M.]

Avedon Carol, responding to the Washington Post's assertion that the Democratic Party needs Joe Lieberman for "his ability to bridge the partisan divide":

"Look, he's not 'bridging' it, he's on the other side of it."

So true. Go read the rest.

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[2006.07.29 - 04:00 P.M.]

It was an odd way for this particular piece of news to slip out, as a parenthetical aside in the past tense, but if it's true that the New York Times is going to endorse Ned Lamont in an editorial tomorrow, well, uh, you know, holy shit much? Yeah. I'd say that's big.

Update: Here it is. They don't pull any punches, either. Here's the closer:

[T]his primary is not about Mr. Lieberman’s legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.

Wow. Just wow. Ginormous props to the Times for being the one establishment media organ that actually seems to get what's going on in this race. And heaps of shame for those who continue to peddle false storylines, deliberately misrepresenting the motive forces behind the extraordinary political wave that is about to sweep Joe Lieberman out of office.

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[2006.07.29 - 01:45 P.M.]

Today, A Tale of Two Wheat Beers, one from Sierra Nevada and one from Long Trail. Belly up to the bar, friends, as we draw two glasses and see what's what.

Sierra Nevada WheatFirst, the Sierra Nevada unfiltered wheat. Having been quite impressed with their Summerfest a little while back, I decided I just had to check out their wheat offering. One good turn deserves another, after all, right? (I don't actually know what that saying means, but it sounds good here.)

The Pour: Big old foamy head, which seems to be the result of this brew shooting its carbonation load all at once, as there's very little in the way of bubbly going on shortly after the pour. Light yellow in color with a cloudy body. Just beneath the surface there's a layer of extra-cloudy swirliness going on, which is cool to look at.

The Taste: Very lightweight feel here, bordering on insubstantial. Surprisingly, though, this wispy thing packs a decent flavor payload. Sour taste to the malt, which grabs the tip of your tongue and jumps on it. Well-hopped for a nice, crisp edge. Tart, lemony finish. Fairly long (and enjoyable) aftertaste.

The Verdict: Quite a package here. Everything balances really well. Each sip provides a nice little pop-pop-pop experience with the punchy malt, followed quickly by the hoppy bitters, and wrapped up with a tarty, zingy finish. And yet, even though it's so assertively flavorful, it's got a body so skinny you could drink a ton of 'em. Very well-crafted beer. I really like what Sierra Nevada did with this one. Could work its way into the regular summer rotation.

Rating: 7.0

Long Trail HefeweizenNext up, we travel to Germany Vermont for a taste of Long Trail's Hefeweizen.

The Pour: Moderate-sized thick, rich head, with a fair amount of medium-to-coarse carbonation present in the glass. Strong, fruity scent. Tracy says it smells like bananas. I can smell that but also some strawberries. Body is 14-karat gold with just a hint of cloudiness.

The Taste: Medium-weight body with just a tiny hint of syrupiness. Foams up real nice in the mouth. Mellow, sweet, and malty up front. A real fruit salad going on flavor-wise. The banana and strawberry are there as the bouquet advertised, but you've got rasberry and lemon too. Quite the complex array of flavors. The hops wait a while to present themselves. You can really only get at them during the aftertaste. A tad sticky around the lips, but not maibockish or anything.

The Verdict: Stop the presses, people. An American microbrewery has finally nailed a traditional, old-school, German-style hefeweizen. The body is right, the taste is right, everything is right. It's textbook. A little rasberry syrup at the bottom of the glass and you'd swear you vere seeting in der Rathskeller, taking un break from der summer heat vit a nice, revreshing brau. (My German accent is sucky in person, too.) Seriously, though, kudos to Long Trail. I love it when an American brewer demonstrates this kind of technical proficiency, absolutely nailing a traditional European style like this. I don't see that nearly often enough, and when I do, it's both a surprise and a pleasure.

Rating: 8.0

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[2006.07.29 - 12:00 P.M.]

"Before you try Reality, be sure to read the directions and learn how to use it properly."

Final instruction in the list of directions for using "Reality", the "female condom". Tracy's cleaning out her luggage and found one of these in her old toiletry kit from back in her flight attendant days. Apparently, my wife was a wild and crazy gal.

Good advice in general, though, if you ask me.

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[2006.07.29 - 09:30 A.M.]

Sitting here, mildly hungover after staying up until midnight watching Clerks -- had to make Tracy watch it before seeing Clerks II -- listening to Beck's Sea Change on the computer. Sea Change is one of my Top Five Hangover albums of All Time. It is a beautiful respite, a sonic massage for my bleary self. It strokes my head gently, saying there, there, you'll be fine.

Here are the criteria for a good Hangover Album: It must cradle the swollen brain that is listening to it. It must take you away from the world to a different place, a swoony rabbit hole in which you can escape your aches and pains and remorse. Generally, it should not be too jarring or too loud (but there are exceptions). Mood-wise, melancholy is good, longing is good, dreamy is good. Assertive or angry or happy? Not good. No strong emotions, please. Can't you see what I'm nursing here?

So here, then, are my Top Five Hangover Albums:

  1. The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner - Ben Folds Five

  2. Sea Change - Beck

  3. Meddle - Pink Floyd

  4. All Shook Down - The Replacements

  5. Kerosene Hat - Cracker

And, of course, the Question of The Week: What's your favorite hangover album?

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[2006.07.28 - 05:30 P.M.]

The toaster is set for extra crispy tonight, so let's get started. First things first: The Remaining Work Days To Ireland Countdown hit the single digits yesterday and now stands at eight. The excitement, she's building, me bonnie readers...

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Dear President Bush: "Hatred" and "Freedom" are not ideologies. One is a fairly ubiquitous emotion which is known to rear its ugly head in all societies regardless of their political structure. The other is an abstract and malleable concept which, recently at least, is mostly noted for the abuse it has suffered at the hands of fear-mongering demagogues like yourself. Sincerely, Toast

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Dear Lee Siegel: I am writing to express my deepest and most sincere thanks for your recent blog entry blaming the continuation of the endless, bloody, and intractable Iraq war on the angry left-wing blogosphere. I've been getting real tired of carrying this "Dumbest Fucking Guy On The Planet" belt around. Nice to finally have a worthy successor to hand it off to. Keep her shiny. Sincerely, Douglas J. Feith

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OK, time to go downstairs and soak the tamarind. Making Massaman Curry Chicken for Mrs. Toast tonight. Doesn't look too labor intensive, and if my memory serves from making this aeons ago, it is seriously Kick Ass.

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Yankees television announcer Michael Kay, moments ago:

"Vintage Chien-Ming Wang there in the top of the first inning."

To which I have to ask in response, Can you have a "vintage" performance from a second-year player?

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[2006.07.27 - 12:00 P.M.]

In his column entitled "Simmering Rage Within The GOP", David Broder quotes an anonymous friend of his who he describes as coming from the "Taft-Goldwater-Reagan" wing of the Republican Party:

"My wife was thrilled by the veto" Bush administered last week to the bill expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, because she shares the president's belief that those clumps of cells destroyed in the research process represent human life. "I thought it was stupid," he said. "I know too many people who are like this" -- and he shook his hands like a victim of Parkinson's disease -- "and their only hope of a cure is in stem cells. Now Bush is forcing that science to move overseas."

He went on: "How the hell long can they refuse to raise the minimum wage?" He was furious, he said, with the Republican leaders of Congress who keep blocking bills to raise the minimum wage, which has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for years. "I'm a conservative," he said, "but they make me sound like a damned liberal the way they act. They spend like fools, they run up the deficits and they refuse to give a raise to the working people who are struggling. How the hell are you supposed to live on $5.15 an hour these days?"

So let's see. Mr. X is horrified that the anti-science religious nuts have hijacked his party's domestic social policy. Further, he sounds like he's someone who's opened his eyes to the harsh realities of GOP-style screw-the-poor economics. What is it, then, that prevents this man from coming over from the Dark Side?

"If it wasn't for Pelosi," he said, "I'd just as soon the Democrats take over this fall. Get some checks and balances and teach these guys a lesson."

Ohmygod, yes. I forgot. That awful Nancy Pelosi. The mind recoils in horror at the list of atrocities she has committed as House Minority Leader. The budgetary excesses, the unhinged legislative pandering to theocrats, the directionless and incompetent foreign policy agenda. Her complete and utter lack of power prevented her from stopping any of these things. The woman is an abomination.

This reminds me of Mort Zuckerman's recent appearance on the Colbert Report. Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, is another self-described conservative who is horrified at what's going on during this era of one-party rule by the GOP. Prompted by Colbert, he gave a run-down of George Bush's malign national stewardship that would have made a crazed liberal blogger proud. Then he concluded by saying that the only reason he voted for Bush in 2004 was because he knew John Kerry would have been worse.

Really? Worse how?

Mr. Zuckerman, please describe how John Kerry could have botched things worse than George W. Bush. Give me something. Katrina? The Middle East? The economy? Kerry would have handled these more poorly in what way? Tell me just what it is about John Kerry, besides the "D" after his name, that leads you to believe he'd have been worse than George W. Bush, the Worst President of All Time.

Mr. X, please explain what Nancy Pelosi has done that makes her, in your opinion, a bigger danger to the nation than what we have now in the corrupt legions of corporatists and god-botherers led by Denny Hastert. What is it about Pelosi, besides the "D" after her name, that makes you continue to grit your teeth and support a Republican party you've come to loathe?

I'm willing to hear an explanation. Until I get it, though, I'll just have to write off the behavior of Mr. X, Mr. Z., and all the rest who share their instinctive inability to pull the lever for Democrats as the worst possible kind of partisanship. Sticking with a party and a president you've come to despise because of old prejudices and nebulous fears of what the other party might do, despite all the objective evidence suggesting they couldn't possibly do worse and in all likelihood would be an improvement. It's disgusting. And it's really friggin' dumb.

Update: One more thing. I find it interesting that the title of Broder's piece refers to conservatives who are "Simmering with Rage" and yet nowhere does Broder tut-tut them for being uncivil, dismiss their complaints because of the taint of passion, or question their sanity. Isn't "rage" a rather -- oh, I dunno -- inappropriate emotional response to a politically disagreeable situation? Oh, wait, that's right. I forgot: It's OK to be angry if you're a right-winger.

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[2006.07.23 - 03:00 P.M.]

Showtime, puppy dogs! Got a persistent headache and I'm still a bit groggy, but you know what? Sometimes you just gotta play through the pain.

Southern Tier Hop SunStarting off, let's have a taste of Southern Tier Brewing's Hop Sun Summer Wheat Beer.

The Pour: Lots of coarse carbonation and a big old foamy head. The body is pilsner gold, with only the tiniest hint of the cloudiness one expects to find in a wheat beer. I have to assume this is not a traditional, unfiltered wheat. No scent to speak of.

The Taste: Light body, as befits a Summer seasonal. Not much malt presence. Any detectable sweetness is utterly overwhelmed by the hops, which assert themselves at the outset and leave a long, persistent aftertaste. No tartness, no citrus, nothing whatsoever besides the words on the label to let you know this is a wheat beer.

The Verdict: A few weeks ago, the Times ran a story on wheat beers wherein the experts criticized American craft brewers for abusing the style, all too frequently departing in directions that betray expectations. The folks at Southern Tier might want to take heed. Granted, they warn you what to expect with the name here, but still, I fail to see how this merits the distinction of being a Summer seasonal. It's essentially a light-bodied IPA. In fact, it strikes me as a somewhat watered-down version of their Old Man Winter Ale which - surprise! - also tasted more like a mainstream IPA than anything that would qualify as a Winter seasonal. If there's one thing domestic microbreweries do that pisses me off, it's when they take an off-the-shelf recipe, tweak a few settings, and try to sell it as something it's not. I'm very close to writing Southern Tier off as a one-trick pony. If I buy their Oktoberfest and it's a friggin' full-bodied IPA, they're through. (Note: I have nothing against IPA's. I just expect brewers to flex their creative muscles when they put something new on the market.)

Rating: 4.0

Einbecker Mai-Ur-BockNext up, our tastebuds travel to Germany for a taste of Einbecker Brauhaus' Mai-Ur-Bock. (Not just Maibock, people, Mai-Ur-Bock.)

The Pour: Silky smooth, with plenty of medium-grained carbonation, yielding a dense, small head that quickly dissipates. Rich hop and clover smell. Copper-colored body.

The Taste: The body is medium-to-heavy and syrupy. It has that cloying, sticky feel to it that I noted previously in Berkshire Brewing's Maibock. The malt quickly enshrouds the tongue, delivering a flavor hit that's 4 parts honey, 1 part caramel apple, with maybe a dash of lemon thrown in. There's a ghostly hoppy apparition that glides by in the periphery, but it's easily missed. You have to be looking in just the right direction to catch it. (Odd that you can smell the hops so strongly but not really taste them.) Long aftertaste with an even longer aftertexture, if you know what I mean.

The Verdict: If my recent experiences with maibocks are any indication, it would seem that the intention with this style is to shock and awe the drinker's sweet sensors into submission. Einbecker's Mai-Ur-Bock certainly succeeds in that department, providing a rich, sugary sensory experience. While you'll enjoy the first half of the glass immensely, however, finishing it off can be something of a chore, and you won't want to reach for seconds without first cleansing your palate with something lighter and brisker. Definitely a "dessert" beer.

Rating: 5.5

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[2006.07.23 - 10:00 A.M.]

Coming to you for a special, one-week limited engagement, it's Slices of Toast: Sunday-Morning Hangover Edition!

Is there a better news item to start your hungover Sunday morning with than this: Taylor Hicks, the singer without a diaphragm, is going to the White House to meet George W. Bush, the president without a brain. Nope, I don't believe there is. If that doesn't accentuate your headache, my friends, then you didn't have enough fun last night.

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OK, you're saying, we get the vanity picture thing, lots of bloggers do it, but why that picture? Is it because I look scruffy and cranky and somewhat drunk? Yes, that's part of it. But it's also 'cause I look vaguely eeeeeeevil. MmmmWHA-HA-HA-HA-haaaaa...

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Congratulations to Johnny Damon for swiping his 300th bag last night in the Yanks 5-4 win over Toronto. If nothing else comes of this season, it sure has been a pleasure seeing Damon's cro-magnon brow and shorn locks in pinstripes. Couldn't ask for a more dynamic, fun-to-watch player to have on your club.

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On the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated: "T.O. Does Dallas: A Coup For the Cowboys?" Uh, yeah, it's a real "coup" if you like having a raging fucking three-year-old on your team. Terrell Owens exemplifies the one character flaw I loathe the most in athletes: Spoiled Fucking Baby Syndrome. I suffered through six years of SFBS watching Rasheed Wallace on the Trailblazers. Same deal with Owens as it was with Rasheed. You hear all this stuff about how passionate they are, how hard they work, how much they want to win. You know what? I don't care. I don't care if you're the most competitive guy on the planet. If you act like a fucking cry-baby jackass all the time, I don't want you on my team.

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Via Avedon at the Sideshow, an open letter from Ralph Nader to George Bush:

Dear President Bush: You have been a weak president, despite your strutting and barking, when it comes to doing the right things for the American people within the Constitution and its rule of law. This trait is now in bold relief over the Israeli government's escalating war crimes pulverizing the defenseless people and country of Lebanon.

Uh, Dear Ralph, I thought you said our two parties were exactly the same? What would the difference be if, say, Al Gore were president right now? None, right?

You stupid, arrogant, clueless piece of shit. You forfeited the right to decry all the bullshit being wrought by the American right wing when you deliberately undermined the one man who could have made a difference six years ago. Go climb back under your rock, you fucking wanker.

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Glenn Greenwald is one of the best bloggers to come around in a long, long time. But you know what? It'd be nice if the guy could, just once, write a post that clocked in at less than 30,000 words. Seriously. He makes Rob Salkowitz look pithy by comparison. A taste from his latest gem:

As Iraq collapses into all-out civil war and tragic levels of violence, Bush supporters continue to insist that things are going well there and our invasion was a success. As the Middle East spirals into all-out regional war, Bush supporters insist that this repulsive violence is actually good for the region -- encouraging "birth pangs" on the road to progress, as the Secretary of State put it yesterday -- and they are now actively involving the U.S. in this escalated conflict, even while Iraq rapidly falls apart. And there is seemingly no limit -- literally -- on the willingness, even eagerness, of Bush supporters to defend and justify even the most morally repugnant abuses -- from constantly expanding spying on American citizens, to a President who claims and aggressively exercises the "right" to break the law, to torturing suspects, imprisoning journalists, and turning the United States into the most feared and hated country on the planet.

And as radical as the administration has become, it is clear that the administration has not even come close to reaching the level of extremism which would be necessary for its supporters to object -- if such a limit exists at all. If anything, on those exceedingly few occasions over six years when his followers have dissented from the Presidents's decisions -- illegal immigration, Harriet Miers, Dubai ports -- it has been because the administration was insufficiently radical, extremist, uncompromising, and militaristic.

They want more spying, much more aggressive actions against investigative journalists and even domestic political opposition, more death and violence brought to the Middle East, more wars, and still fewer restraints on the President's power, to the extent there are any left. To them, the Bush administration has not been nearly as extremist and aggressive as it ought to be in dealing with the Enemies. And that is to say nothing of the measures that would be urged, and almost certainly imposed, in the event of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil or in the increasingly likely event that our limited war in Iraq expands into the Epic War of Civilizations which so many of them crave.

See? Great stuff. But couldn't he have summarized all of that as "The American Right is a bunch of bat-shit insane fucking assholes who are hell-bent on destroying the world"? Economy of words, man. Ever hear of it?

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Ode To Bacon: Oh, Bacon, thou greatest of all foods. From whence comes thy power to disarm me? The popping and crackling of thine grease, it is a symphony to my ears. The scent of thine flesh cooking on the burner wafts upward, and with it, my spirits. Your flavor, washing over my tongue, is sufficient to reduce me to tears of happiness. To those devoid of understanding of your true nature, of the limitless joy you are burdened with and which you long to impart to us mere mortals, who suggest that my intake of you exceeds that which might be called judicious, I say, folly! Preposterous folly! An excessive quantity of bacon is nothing short of an impossibility, an idea that ought not correctly enter into a man's mind. You call to me, oh bacon, and I hear you. You say to me "Indulge", and I obey.

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Soon, it will begin. The snap. The roar of the crowd. The clashing of pads. Walking into my living room just now, I was gripped with a flash-forward to... football season. Yes, it is only six weeks away, that sport which takes Sunday and elevates it from a merely pleasant interlude of laziness to the very centerpiece of the week. I cannot. Fucking. Wait.

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Seeing a squirrel slide down a freshly-oiled bird-feeder pole is both hysterical and deeply satisfying. It makes me believe, if only for a moment, that human kind can, in fact, triumph over any challenge nature has to offer. Fuck you, ya grey, thieving bastard. We win. Vaffanculo.

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Note to Grillers: Last week, while shopping at the incomparable kitchen geek mecca Sur La Table, Tracy and I picked up an outstanding new addition to our cooking arsenal. It's a silicone basting brush. Instead of bristles, this brush is made of rubbery dendrites with rounded tips, specially-designed to deliver whatever coating you wish to apply to your meat (huh huh, uh, huhhuhhuh) in a smooth, even layer with minimal dripping. I took this Super Brush for a spin last night while barbequeing chicken, and I was astounded at its performance. Verily, I say unto to you that you have not experienced the apex of sauce lathering until you've tried one of these babies. Best $8.99 we've spent in a good, long while.

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Raw nipples really suck. Friday night I had a mid-term for Karate -- What's a "mid-term" you ask? Why, it's all the exertion and stress of a belt test without that pesky new belt to have to lug home. -- and I believe I attained a level of sweatiness never before achieved by human kind. Enrollment has swelled somewhat recently, and as a result they had to find a larger venue for testing. So instead of our nice air-conditioned dojo, we were run through our paces at the Enfield soccer center. It's a big old dome that's held up, in part, by being pressurized. On Friday, of course, temperatures were soaring and the dewpoint was in the seventies (dewpoint is my new obsession, BTW), right? Well, inside that fucking dome it was a good twenty degrees warmer still. No ventilation whatsoever. Air so thick you could swim through it. And the instructors busted. Our. Asses. Honestly, I've been standing up all weekend because I am now assless. Oh, so back to the sweat. Never been so soaked in my life. I've been drier while swimming. At one point, about an hour and a half into the proceedings, the collar of my gi was stuck to my neck. As I craned forward, I felt it peel off of me like a wet facecloth. (I am, quite literally, a redneck this weekend.) Meanwhile, my nipples were rubbing against my soaking-wet undershirt and gi top, resulting in a rawness that has persisted for 36 hours and shows no signs of letting up. It fucking sucks. Hard. (Yeah, I know, WTMFI. Hey, that's what blogs are for.)

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[2006.07.23 - 09:45 A.M.]

The Aristocrats: Frequently hilarious, consistently fascinating. I mean, "And then my son starts licking his younger sister's asshole"? Comedy gold, right there. Of course, the most shocking part of the movie was the fact that Gilbert Gottfried actually made me laugh. Didn't see that coming.

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[2006.07.22 - 11:10 A.M.]

Submitted without further comment, this data point from Dr. Jeff Masters' Weather Underground blog:

Warmest January through June ever in U.S.

The National Climatic Data Center reports that June 2006 was the 2nd warmest June on record, and the first half of 2006 was the warmest in the United States since record keeping began in 1895. The average temperature for the 48 contiguous United States from January through June was 51.8°F, or 3.4°F above average for the 20th century. Globally, June was also the 2nd warmest June on record, and the period January through June was the 6th warmest such period on record.

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[2006.07.21 - 06:00 P.M.]

The Rain GapThis has been an incredibly rainy Summer here in Connecticut thus far. Except where we live. Here, in Simsbury, the ground is bone dry, protected from precipitation as if by an invisible dome in the sky. Last night, as we drove home from Windsor in a downpour, Tracy was rejoicing that we were finally getting the rain we'd been waiting for. I pointed over to a sunny break in the clouds a few miles distant and said "Don't think so." Sure enough, we'd been skirted again.

That radar image you see there is pretty much what I've been looking at every single hot night this season. The pink dot represents roughly where Simsbury is. The ragged line of storms to the north are representative of the ones that have been pummeling Springfield, MA and the Pioneer Valley regularly. The big Blob O' Storm to the south is typical of the T-Storms that we hear rumble by in the distance which never quite make it up far north enough to give us the drenching we so desperately need. Occasionally, the storms to our north and to our south will converge about 15 miles east of us, on the far side of the Connecticut River. That really pisses me off.

Never seen anything like this. Such a small but persistent gap in an otherwise highly active weather pattern. It sucks, though. That's for sure.

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[2006.07.20 - 05:10 P.M.]

Dictionary.com's Word of the Day for today is:

nescience \NESH-uhn(t)s; NESH-ee-uhn(t)s\, noun:

Lack of knowledge or awareness; ignorance.

I will now use this word in a sentence:

"None dared say it to his face, but behind the president's back his aides would frequently mock his nescience of even the most basic facts about the world."

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[2006.07.20 - 11:30 A.M.]

I just popped a tent:

HAMDEN, Conn. -- Democratic challenger Ned Lamont has pulled into a dead heat in his U.S. Senate race with incumbent Joe Lieberman, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

The poll shows Lamont ahead 51-47 percent among likely voters in the Aug. 8 Democratic primary. That compares to a 55-40 percent lead for Lieberman in a similar poll in June.

The telephone survey of 2,502 registered voters was conducted July 13-18. It has a sampling error margin of about 2 percentage points. But the error margin among the 653 likely Democratic primary voters is 3.8 percentage points, putting the candidates in a statistical dead heat.

There's still plenty of room on the Lamont bandwagon, people. Hop on board and help us run Lieberman's punk ass out of Dodge.

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[2006.07.20 - 10:00 A.M.]

The Hartford Courant is a staid and rather parochial paper. When they're not engaged in some extensive navel-gazing exercise about the latest downtown redevelopment project, their editorial stance towards the issues of the day tends to be tepid and moderate. I do not generally look to them for impassioned defenses of liberal positions.

You will understand, therefore, why today's editorial supporting gay marriage completely blew me away. I give it to you in its entirety:

What's So Scary About Love?

With all the negative energy being spent to deny loving homosexual couples the right to marry, you'd think that such unions were a threat to homeland security. Not so.

Since Massachusetts became the first and so far only state to allow same-sex marriages in 2003, about 8,000 couples have united with no apparent social cataclysm. In truth, the establishment of stable families headed by committed adults, no matter what their gender, can only be viewed as a positive development.

Yet Massachusetts legislators are debating a constitutional amendment that would undo the state's progress and define marriage as between a man and a woman. In the latest go-round, they voted to postpone the decision until Nov. 9, after the election. This looks wimpy, but has a tactical advantage for those who see the proposed amendment for what it is: discrimination. The delay will buy time in the hope that enough legislators will see reason and keep the question off the ballot.

Increasingly, scientific studies reveal evidence that sexual orientation is not a choice. One day, American society as a whole will look back in embarrassment at the fear and hatred being spread in the name of "preserving" traditional marriage. Opponents of same-sex marriages this month claimed new "victories" in their battle. But it is no point of pride that 45 states have laws or constitutional amendments barring part of their citizenry from happiness.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Patty Jenkins Pittman added to the polarization by ruling that same-sex couples do not have the right to marry here because they are protected by the state's civil union law. This gives them all the legal rights of marriage, she wrote. Well, not exactly all. The civil union law does not allow gay couples to say they are married, or to have their unions recognized in other states, and that makes all the difference between legitimate recognition and second-class citizenship.

Judge Pittman's ruling came in a lawsuit filed on behalf of eight couples who were denied marriage licenses in Connecticut. The state requires that there be equal protection and due process for everyone, the judge acknowledged, but "not that there be equivalent nomenclature for such protection." No, but by any name, civil unions constitute a separate status that tells same-sex couples that they do not deserve the respect that heterosexual wives, husbands and parents enjoy.

When you strip away the hyperbole and rhetoric, this is about love. Surely the world could use more of that.

Brilliant. Bravo. Well said. You have earned your subscription fee for this quarter.

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[2006.07.20 - 07:35 A.M.]

A few quick comments on Bush's stem-cell research funding veto: Embryos are not people. "Potential life" has no valid claim to moral standing. People who believe the converse of either of these statements are not due "respect" for their beliefs. Rather, we should hold them at arms length and look upon the fruits of their judgement with deep skepticism. A president who, acting upon said beliefs, consigns millions of others to prolonged suffering and unnecessary early death should be viewed as a steaming shit-pile of a human being, a diseased sore upon the face of civilization. That is all.

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[2006.07.20 - 07:20 A.M.]

Digby on Joe Lieberman and bipartisanship:

We are in a brutal partisan era that cannot be "fixed" by any more capitulation to the rightwing agenda. The Democratic party has hit a wall and can go no further if it cares to remain true to its principles. Joe Lieberman has proven that he is incapable of holding that line, even in such fundamental areas as social security and equal rights. If bi-partisanship is to be reborn, it must come from the other side moving back toward the center.

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[2006.07.19 - 07:30 P.M.]

At my fraternity, back in the day, we had a very special appointed position called "Boat Chairman". The Boat Chairman's sole duty during the semester of his tenure in office was to keep a small fleet of plastic boats floating in the "bug juice" machine (our term for an old school, soda-pop-stand-style juice dispenser). This was, it was reasoned, the only job that he could be trusted with, as the sole condition for his appointment was that he had committed the single most stupid, brain-dead, anti-common-sensical act out of anyone in the entire brotherhood during the prior semester.

We're not talking run-of-the-mill stupid, here, and we're not talking the consciously considered variety of stupid, such as that exemplified by people who took out interest-only mortgages during the housing boom. No, we're specifically talking about Transcendental Idiocy.

I was appointed Boat Chair for melting a shirt.

See, we had this annual tie-dye party, and I had this great cotton, button-down shirt I liked to throw on over my tees. Ripe for tie-dyeing. So I tried laying down a really cool design, right? But I fucked it up. Unhappy that I had ruined my favorite shirt, I decided I wanted a do-over. I washed it with bleach. And again. And again. And although the cheap dye we used for the party faded considerably, it wouldn't quite relinquish its hold on my garment. I then decided that I was going to teach that shirt a lesson. I filled a two gallon tub with bleach and I soaked that shirt in it over night. The results were breath-taking. In the morning, that shirt was brilliant white. Also, completely dissolved. Went through my hand like slush. In my defense? I thought bleach was simply a sort of white dye.

Defenses and excuses, however, will get you nowhere when the Council of Boat Elders has you in their sights.

Boatdom has been with me most of my life. One time I was hanging out with some brothers in my room and we were looking at a book that illustrated scale. The opening image was titled "Our local cluster of galaxies, as seen from a distance of 2 billion light years." Staring at it, I blurted out "How did they get this picture?" (I was, I should note, baked out of my mind, but still...)

Boatdom has occasionally surfaced during adulthood.

For years, while microwaving my favorite quickie meal, French bread Pizzas, I would dutifully stop the microwave and, as per the instructions, rotate the pizza 1/4 turn. (I was using a carousel microwave.)

Once, I insisted to my ex-wife that it was perfectly OK to drain hot bacon grease into a plastic cup. I kept the remnants of that cup perched on my television for a while as a monument to my propensity for such neuronal spasms.

Boatdom is everywhere, and can strike anyone, although its touch does seem to favor those who would otherwise be considered quite intelligent in the conventional sense. (Oh the stories I could tell of the exploits of guys who snagged 4.0's in nuclear physics...)

My question to you for this week, dear readers, is this: How has the Great Boat Force that spans the universe touched your life? What is your greatest Boat Move?

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[2006.07.19 - 17:10 P.M.]

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled recently pondering the mainstream media's seemingly odd double standard in their treatment of left-wing and right-wing bloggers. I think the explanation is fairly straight-forward: In a society which is at once lawful and hyper-capitalist, it is entirely plausible that one might perceive threats of violence from one side of the political spectrum as less of an immediate and serious threat than legitimate and accurate criticism of ones job performance from the other. It is ironic that, in a very real sense, the aforementioned shitty job performance by the media is actively aiding in the dismantling of the very system of laws that protects them from the former threat.

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[2006.07.17 - 05:20 P.M.]

The cable networks were all a-twitter today about Bush's accidentally-recorded exchange with Tony Blair at the G-8 summit. Seems someone forgot to cut their mic while they were chatting over dinner, and in an unguarded moment, Bush dropped the S-Bomb:

"See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over."

The "S" I speak of is not "Shit" -- I'll let the bobbleheads in DC worry about the president's rough language and its coarsening effect on our culture or whatever -- but rather, "Stupid". Or, alternatively, "Simple".

A world wracked by violence cries out for leadership? Ladies and gentlemen, citizens of the Earth, the United States of America proudly presents to you: Some Guy In A Bar.

The man sits, watching his team scrape for yardage, constantly beat back, and he turns to his buddy and says "You know, what they really need to do is just throw the ball down the field some. That's their problem." His friend nods sagely, sipping his beer. Swivelling in his stool to face CNN, Some Guy In A Bar sees images of rocket attacks met with bombings, leaving two countries in flames. He frowns, then turns back to his friend and says "You know, I'm tellin' ya, all they really need to do is just get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit. They do that, this whole fuckin' mess goes away." His bar-mate pauses, wing sauce dripping from his hand, and considers this advice. "Yeah," he responds. "Fuckin' Syria. No shit, huh?"

Get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit.

It'd be funny if it weren't so friggin' embarrassing.

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[2006.07.16 - 05:35 P.M.]

I am drinking a Magic Hat #9 right now, and it is good, yes good, oh very good indeed. Slowly, I feel my innards returning to normal. You see, I was traumatized yesterday, trapped at an otherwise very enjoyable backyard cookout where the most prominent alcoholic offering -- by an overwhelming margin -- was... Bud Light.

Upon my arrival, I checked the large upright cooler and discovered that I had a choice of Bud Light in a can or Bud Light in a bottle. I was horrified, so I did some hunting around, and found a small cooler tucked under a chair that had a few Heinekens in it. This, however, appeared to be someone's special stash, so I limited myself to sneaking three of them over the course of the evening. I kept waiting in vain for someone to show up with a case of Sam or maybe Corona or maybe even plain old Budweiser. No dice. As each male guest arrived, ambling down the driveway to a fusillade of salutations from his inebriated buddies, he would produce, as if it were his price of admission, yet another thirty-pack of Bud Light. The capper was the guy who brought his Bud Light in some weird new kind of super-insulated bottle with a wicked funky label. That was a hit. Of course, this packaging did nothing whatsoever to mitigate the fact that the contents of those bottles was still Bud Fucking Light. Just an intolerable situation. Next time I attend an event at that household, I will surely do better advance planning to ensure I'm supplied with a more refined brew.

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[2006.07.16 - 05:00 P.M.]

The Brother From Another Planet: As it turns out, he came from the Planet Boring deep inside the No Plot Nebula.

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[2006.07.15 - 08:55 A.M.]

Just opened up this week's Sports Illustrated, and what do I find inside but a bumpersticker that reads "No, I wouldn't rather be snorkeling!" Nonplussed for a second, I flipped it over to discover that it was part of Volkswagen's new ad campaign aimed at dispelling the putative "myth" that VW drivers are all radically adventurous outdoorsy types. Here's why this ad campaign is annoying and stupid: I don't harbor any such stereotype of VW drivers, and I seriously doubt many people do. Frankly, the only stereotype I have of VW drivers is "People who like stubby-looking cars" and VW has done nothing over the years to dispel that image. So really, VW ad guys, can it. Who are you trying to attract with this crappy concept anyhow? People who pride themselves on being boring? Good luck with that.

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[2006.07.14 - 05:15 P.M.]

It's Friday! Yes, the Middle East is exploding. Sure, the stock market got kicked in the balls today and at the rate oil prices are going I'll be biking to work in a spandex parka this winter. And yeah, we're in for a world-class heat wave this weekend and Tracy and I have to spend the next two days driving up to Boston to retrieve furniture. BUT IT'S FUCKIN' FRIDAY!!! WOO HOO!!!

Let's kick things off with a software recommendation: Folks, I'd like to introduce you to my new RSS reader, RSS Bandit. Yesterday, trying to keep up on things while at work, I got sick of the fact the IE7 beta's built-in RSS capability refuses to auto-update, so I went out looking for an alternative. I'd tried the Sage plugin for FireFox and I'd messed around with Pluck a bit, but what I was really looking for was a simple, stand-alone newsreader. Well, I found one. Wow do I like this app. Clean, well laid-out interface. Easy feed configuration. Solid update and notify options. Just a joy to use. If you're a hard-core RSS junkie, I recommend checking it out.

slices

This is just priceless. Lieberman's college roommate comes out for Lamont in a letter to the LA Times (via Atrios):

I feel I have a special obligation to respond to your July 6 editorial, "Lieberman's run." I am a liberal activist. I was also Lieberman's roommate at Yale.

Lieberman is a good and decent man personally, but he has also become a cheerleader for George Bush's bloody, arrogant and disastrous war on Iraq.

As a friend, I wish for him the best. As a Democratic voter, if I lived in Connecticut, I would be voting for Ned Lamont.

DAVID WYLES, Playa del Rey

Wow. Can you imagine being Joe Lieberman's college roommate? That must have been a full-on 24x7 party right there, I'll tell ya.

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I do not get the Carville-Matalin marriage. I just don't. From Digby:

Scooter Libby has been collecting millions for his defense fund from all manner of rich Republicans. Mary Matalin has even held a big fundraiser at the Carville home.

I can understand being married to someone who doesn't share your political beliefs, I guess, but I can't really understand being married to someone who is actively employed promoting people and ideas you find abhorrent. And I certainly cannot, for the life of me, imagine allowing a situation like this to go down. "Uh, yeah, sure, Honey. You go right ahead and use our home to raise money for that treasonous piece of shit who sold out a CIA operative for his boss' political gain. I'll be out bowling with Begala if you need me."

Really. What the fuck?

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This is my fourth season watching Major League Baseball, and I just recently discovered that my understanding of the term "The Side" was faulty. You know how announcers routinely say that a pitcher "retires the side"? Well, for some reason I got it in my head early on that "the side" was a particular portion of the lineup. Specifically, I thought "the side" was comprised of batters 4 through 6 in a team's order. I have no idea why. Anyhow, turns out that "the side" is just old-school baseball shorthand for "the other team".

Frankly, I liked my definition better.

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I realize I'm a little late to the party here, but Taylor Hicks has to go away. That fucking Ford commercial he has out is on excessively heavy rotation on the YES network, meaning I see it an average of two dozen times a night. Everything about this dude is wrong. He sings like a guy with one lung, he dances like my 67-year-old Mom when she's trying to act "cool", and he looks like Jay Leno's wimpy twin brother. (And this dude won American Idol?) To top it off, the lyrics to the idiotic song he sings during this ad? "I go where I want! I get what I please!" Uh, no, dude. No, you don't. Stop singing that shit, you goofy, talentless motherfucker.

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[2006.07.12 - 05:30 P.M.]

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald took to task right-wing blogger "Mischa" of the apparently popular site "Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiller" for penning a post calling for the lynching of the five Supreme Court Justices who constituted the majority in the recently-decided Hamdan case. A little backstory: It would seem that last weekend Right Blogistan was all up-in-arms about some nasty commenter who was going after Jeff Goldstein. It was the usual aggrieved noise that wingers generate -- lack of civility, the lowering of political discourse, ad-hominem attacks, yadda and etc. -- right before they call for their political opponents to be jailed or executed for treason, you know? Well, Greenwald pointed out the hypocrisy of them wringing their hands over some repulsive comments while, predictably, remaining silent as one of their own called for the execution of five members of the Supreme Court for deciding a case in manner that displeased him. The tiff continued today with self-appointed Dean of Rational Right-Wing Discourse Instapundit linking approvingly to several posts by wingers whose collectively well-reasoned response to Greenwald's unassailable hypocrisy indictment can be accurately summarized as "Yeah? Well fuck you, Greenwald, you dumb douchebag jerk-head loser."

In the midst of reading all this, I cautiously poked my head in over at Mischa's -- or should I call him "Emperor Darth Mischa" as he styles himself? -- blog. What I saw there reminded me in short order of just why I Don't Read Winger Blogs. The content of the posts at "Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiller" is what you'd expect: Screeching noises about treasonous liberals and their activist judges; Hate-filled rants decrying Islam; Idiotic blather about journalists undermining the war effort; Weird projection as to the reasoning deficiencies of liberals; Up-is-Downism regarding the affairs of the day. But beyond the cake was the frosting: The pseudo-militaristic handles assigned to the authors; The emblems and insignia and coats of arms assaulting the reader from every corner of the site; The tough-guy bluster seeping from every aesthetic trapping.

Yep. Looks like someone's trying to compensate.

Oh, and of course, there was one more thing. The element that a right-wing site just isn't a right-wing site without: Eliminationism. See, it appears that "Mischa" has a bit of a lynching fetish. The line that set Greenwald off -- "Five ropes, five robes, five trees. Some assembly required." -- was a variation on a t-shirt the site offers that reads "Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required." It's all intended as political humor, you see, because really, nothing's funnier than joking about killing people you disagree with. None of the fine folks at any of these sites really mean what their yuk-yuk material says at face value. Like the budding comic who came up with the "Liberal Hunting Permit" bumper sticker, they're just having a knee-slap is all. Nothing to worry about. No budding fascism here, we assure you.

Anyhow. Taking all of this in, I felt a wave of revulsion wash over me, and a righteous fucking fury that these people are out there, telling their lies, beating their chests, acting tough, and indulging in fantasies of doing physical harm to people like myself. Understand: I do not fear these morons. I imagine 999 out of every 1000 of them is the sort of would-be bully who would quickly develop bladder-control issues if ever confronted by a real, live member of the opposition. (The 1 in 1000 who's a genuine psycho? Hey, what are you gonna do? Can't eliminate all risk from one's life.) No, I just get angry that they're out there spewing that shit. And that we're the ones the mainstream media routinely dismisses as "crazy".

Bottom line is that this is why I can't -- and don't -- read right-wing blogs. The endless stream of counter-factual assertions I could acclimate to. The deep psychosis that undergirds their attitudes? That's a deal-breaker. There is nothing I can learn from people who inhabit that mental space. There's nothing but poison they have to offer. I shun them as I would the plague.

And so finally, I give you the (belated) Question of The Week: Do you read Winger Blogs? And if so, why? What do you feel like you get out of it?

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[2006.07.11 - 07:30 A.M.]

Reason #1,238,644 why insider Beltway pundits occasionally make me want to poke my eyeball out with a stick: Here's E.J. Dionne, in an article on the GOP's impending ideological upheaval in the 2008 election, discussing the relatively ho-hum decision facing the Democratic party:

The Democrats, in the meantime, are engaged in an argument over a question rooted more in social psychology than policy: Can Hillary win?

True, there is some debate over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's stance on Iraq, and a few on the party's left criticize her as too centrist. But much of the Democratic discussion has to do with whether the New York senator will be helped or hurt by her public image and her close ties to a certain former president. The Hillary talk is more about persona than ideology.

I'm not sure what's more muddle-headed about this take: The fact that he completely ignores the tug-of-war still going on for the heart of the Democratic Party between it's liberal/progressive/activist base and the establishment doofi that he runs with, or the fact that he's all but decided for us that Hillary is going to be the nominee and all we've got left to worry about is evaluating tactics and odds.

Your establishment liberal media mouthpieces, folks.

They've really got their thumb on the pulse of the electorate.

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[2006.07.09 - 11:30 A.M.]

The New York Times has a front page story today reporting that tax revenues from the wealthy and corporations have increased dramatically in the last year, driving down this year's projected budget deficit. Predictably, this has kicked off a round of crowing from members of the usual right-wing spin tanks:

Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, a conservative political fund-raising group, said: "The supply-siders were absolutely right. All the major sources of revenue have grown, especially in areas where we said they would."

Whoa, hold on a minute there Sparky. Yes, it's a good bit of short-term news that tax revenues are up, but let's note that after six years of the second Great Supply Side Experiment, those revenues have still not managed to match tax receipts from the year 2000 (aka the Last Year of the Fiscal Sanity Era). Further, in terms of the big picture, this jump in the nation's income does not even begin to offset the extraordinary borrowing and debt binge that the administration has gone on which has been at least as crucial in keeping the economy chugging along as the tax cuts have. And even assuming, for the sake of argument, that this increase is solely the result of Supply Side forces, we might wish to see a few years of sustained revenues, preferably at higher than pre-2000 levels, before we go rewriting all our economics textbooks.

More importantly, focusing on tax revenues exclusively ignores the far more important claim made by Supply Siders over the years: That the economic investment spurred by tax cuts would result in more jobs and better wages for everyone. You know, the famous "Rising Tide That Lifts All Boats". This effect, unsurprisingly, is not in evidence (emphasis mine):

Despite almost five years of economic growth, individual income taxes -- the biggest component of federal tax revenues -- have yet to reach the levels of 2000. Even with surging payments for investment profits and business income, individual tax payments in 2005 were only $972 billion -- below the $1 trillion reached in 2000, even without adjusting for inflation.

I am not an economist, but I would go out on a limb and speculate that the reason individual income tax receipts are lagging so badly is because corporate America is engaged in a long-term project of suppressing wages for workers while distributing all the dividends of our economic growth to the shareholder class. The resulting lack of any growth in income for the middle and lower classes exposes Supply Side economics for what many of us have always known it to be: A program to transfer wealth up the income scale in enormous quantities. That tax revenues on the beneficiaries of this program have risen is, in that light, hardly something to be celebrated. Coupled with the significantly lower rates the wealthy are paying under Bush, the increase in their tax bill is just further evidence of the obscene inequity underlying the Supply Side Ripoff.

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[2006.07.09 - 09:00 A.M.]

From Roger McShane, writing in Today's Papers for Slate:

Back to the LAT piece on corruption in the Iraqi police force. The report notes that documents from Iraq's Interior Ministry portray a detention system "in which officers run hidden jails and torture is common." Where on earth do the Iraqis learn this stuff?

Nice.

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[2006.07.09 - 08:30 A.M.]

Looks like the Lieberman Campaign is turning to truly desperate measures:

A man drove his car into a crowd at a New London waterfront festival Saturday afternoon, injuring more than two dozen people, police said. The car narrowly missed Democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont, who was campaigning nearby, a spokesman said.

At least three of Lamont's campaign workers were hurt. One, Susan Goldman of Norwich, suffered a broken leg, said Lamont spokesman Tom Swan. The car missed Lamont by 6 to 18 feet, Swan said.

Witnesses could not positively identify the driver of the car, who appeared to be wearing a disguise of some kind and was quickly whisked away by police, but several accounts describe the man as having a curiously small chin.

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[2006.07.08 - 08:00 P.M.]

Superman Returns: As our story begins, Superman has just returned from the remnants of his home world of Krypton, where he had flown on a failed quest to find Lois Lane's ass. Lex Luthor, global criminal mastermind, is out of prison because Superman failed to attend his parole hearing, and he has stolen Superman's crystals from the Temple of Solitude so that he can use them to create a truly hideous piece of real estate which, for some reason, he believes people will want to move to. Heroics ensue, and in a nod to the "Vulnerable Superhero" trend, Lois actually saves Superman's life. And then there's an anti-climactic ending. All told, though, a worthy piece of Summer entertainment.

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[2006.07.08 - 02:00 P.M.]

Over at Daily Kos, DarkSyde has an interview with Brent Rasmussen, a self-described "conservative atheist" and co-author of the blog Unscrewing The Inscrutable. Two bits I liked:

Philosophically, I hold the same position as George H. Smith - that the word "god" is literally incomprehensible. A blank. A semantic null. I make the further claim that it has a mutable and changeable meaning that is wholly subjective and is different for each and every individual human being on the planet, each and every time they use it - thus rendering it nonsense. Dangerous nonsense, to be sure, but nonsense all the same. The reason that I am an atheist is that the only other choice in this binary spectrum is complete and utter lunacy.

I am unfamiliar with George H. Smith, but this sentiment exactly mirrors a thought I've had repeatedly over the years: When someone really gets on a God roll -- you know, "God this, God that, God wants, God says, Goddiddy God Duh God God Bluh" etc. -- my brain often starts hearing Charlie Brown's parents talking. It's gibberish. It doesn't mean anything. The term "God" is operationally invalid. It does not refer to anything real. It's baby-talk.

[B]eing an atheist is the best way to approach this life. It's like un-wrapping the cotton swaddling from your skull and seeing the bright, beautiful world as it truly is. Our planet, each other, our lives, our universe, they are all so incredibly and wonderfully exciting - all on their own! Why gild the lilly, you know? Isn't it enough to see the mind-blowingly beautiful fog of stars on a clear night - and knowing that our tiny little envelope of air and dirt is embedded in this small part of one of the spiral arms of our galaxy - without attributing it to Jojo The Great God Of The Congo's B.O. or something? I mean, why diminish it like that? I'd rather understand it the way it really is - and not the way that I wish for it to be.

Yes. Exactly. God is not only an unnecessary concept, but ascribing the beauty of this universe to "Him" is actually an insult to the universe.

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[2006.07.07 - 10:45 P.M.]

Shakes lands the Post of the... well, the best post I've read in a good long damned time. Here's the closer:

[I]t can’t last forever. Believing one’s choices are guaranteed but leaving it up to others to protect the continued ability to make those choices—others who then become objects of ridicule for one’s amusement—is a recipe for disaster. Sooner than later, every American will be left with only one choice: keep on laughing at the activists, or become one to save themselves. And what a glorious dawn in America it will be when every chortling, finger-pointing, invective-hurling slacker who finds activism the epitome of pitiable profligacy stops counseling us to get a life, and instead, gets off his ass, and at long last takes a stand.

Read the whole thing. And, for fuck's sake, try to understand.

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[2006.07.07 - 06:20 P.M.]

Ezra Klein has a provocative post up at TAPPED describing what he believes motivates the Pro-Lamont/Anti-Lieberman forces:

[I]t's not about the war. Or moderation. Or ideology at all. It's about partisanship. The lines are brightly drawn, but in unexpected places. You can support the President's war, but you can't protect him from criticism. You can vote with Republicans, but you can't undermine Democrats. You can be a hawk, but you can't deride doves. The politics here are tribal, and Lieberman's developed too severe a crush on the neighboring chieftain to participate.

Putting aside the trivializing connotations of the word "tribal" -- there are certainly ideological and values-driven components to deciding which "tribe" one joins, after all -- there's an element of truth to this analysis, at least insofar as it describes the animosity of liberal Democratic activists towards Lieberman. The essential thing to realize however, in my opinion, is that appearances to the contrary, this tribal animosity is not symmetrical. In his view, Joe Lieberman hasn't defected to the "neighboring tribe". Not at all. Lieberman simply refuses to recognize or accord any importance to the fact that a domestic tribal schism even exists. To Lieberman, the only tribal distinction that matters is that between the Western world and radical Islam.

You can see this in his double-standard with regard to criticism: It is OK, by the Senator's lights, for him to criticize fellow Democrats and thus aid Republicans because in his eyes we are all part of the same "tribe". To him, the whole Red/Blue thing is just an internecine squabble of sorts. It is not OK, on the other hand, for Democrats to loudly criticize president Bush because he is the leader of our tribe in our fight against that other tribe in the Middle East. This is the tribal schism that preoccupies Joe Lieberman and also, by the way, informs the world view of the entire editorial staff of the New Republic. It's not that they're against Democratic activists and for the Republicans. It's that they just do not give a good goddamn about that divide. It's not a priority.

For us, on the other hand, it's the name of the game. Liberals, progressives, bloggers, and other Democratic activists see ourselves engaged in an intense "tribal" struggle with movement conservatism and the entire apparatus of the unhinged, authoritarian right. We see that as a far greater and more immediate threat to our nation than that posed by Islamism, and as that threat has grown more obvious and more ominous, we have gone from impatient to enraged with those who are, ostensibly, members of our "tribe" but who stubbornly refuse to emphasize or even recognize the tribal boundary that preoccupies us.

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[2006.07.06 - 10:00 P.M.]

Just finished watching the Lamont vs. Lieberman debate (had to DVR it as I had class tonight). I'd like to offer my own impressions prior to heading out into the 'sphere to see what everyone else is saying. No fact checking here; I'll leave that to the Lamont Army.

Ned: In terms of his demeanor and speaking style, I think he came off as less polished than Lieberman -- certainly to be expected -- and maybe a little hyper. It wasn't until after the opening statement and the first couple of questions that he really seemed to get his speaking feet under him. To his credit, I think he seemed to build momentum as things went on, and in the last couple of exchanges he finished strongly and confidently. Another big plus was that he maintained his poise physically, even through a series of nasty attacks by Lieberman. No fidgeting, sighing, head-shaking or other signs of discomfort. He stood his ground nicely through the broadsides. Finally, Ned came across as optimistic and earnest, which contrasted nicely with Lieberman's irritated condescension.

On content, I think Ned did spectacularly. Sure there was a poor word choice here and a stumble there, but he painted a picture of himself that was decidedly not that of a single-issue candidate. He spoke eloquently and passionately about education and energy policy and the economy as well as making the case against Lieberman on Iraq. He wove in enough of his background as a businessman and as a community servant to give voters a feel for what he's about. Lieberman spent half the debate, it seemed, repeating his "Who's Ned Lamont" mantra. I think Ned answered that question quite adequately.

Best Moment: When Lieberman was going after him for voting with Greenwich Republicans when he served on the town board, Ned responded with (paraphrasing): "That's the difference between us: When I find common ground with Republicans, it's over potholes. When you find common ground, it's over sending our kids to war." (Crack!) Ssssseee Ya!

Lieberman: The usual pious condescension was there tonight, but I have to hand it to the Chinless One, he really kicked it up a notch with the bitterness and contempt he directed at his opponent. From his opening and closing statements where he thanked everyone involved but his challenger (Ned did thank Lieberman in his opening statement) to the belligerence and finger-jabbing he directed Ned's way, the overall image Lieberman projected was of a man who was seriously put out by that small detail of the democratic process that says other people are allowed to run against him. It's an attitude that, if enough people picked up on it, could really hurt him. We do still live in a democracy, Senator. Elections should be celebrated, not treated as an inconvenience.

On content, Lieberman was not only a broken record, but a broken Republican record. Over and over he tried to stick Ned with the "flip-flopper" label, laboriously enumerating what he saw as Ned's varying positions on when to bring the troops home. In an odd homage to Ronald Reagan, he kept opening his rebuttals with "There you go again". Then he started in with the whole "Who's Ned Lamont?" thing. It was a tired act, to be sure, and the odd part about it was that, by spending so much time attacking Lamont, Lieberman diminished his own stature (such as it is), seeming at times like the challenger who's forced to tear their opponent down because they have nothing else to run on.

Bottom Line: It's hard to say whether there's a clear "winner" in these sorts of debates, mainly because of the format -- which isn't really a "debate" at all -- but also because as viewers we bring so many of our own expectations and biases along. Still, the fact that Ned showed up and held his own against someone who's ostensibly so much more seasoned at these affairs is, itself, a victory for the Lamont campaign.

Update: More from FireDogLake. Apparently, Lieberman stormed off shortly after the debate while Ned stuck around to answer questions. You know, if there's anything worse than an insipid, pious little twit, it's an insipid, pious, angry little twit. What an ass.

Update II: Excellent take from local radio host Colin McEnroe.

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[2006.07.06 - 07:30 A.M.]

Ken Lay is dead, and I can't really find anything to say about it. Well, that's not true. I actually came up with some colorfully spiteful things to say yesterday, but then I thought better of it. The guy's dead. No sense attacking his corpse. My thirst for justice will have to be quenched by seeing his name live on as a synonym for corporate corruption and greed.

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[2006.07.06 - 07:10 A.M.]

Anchorman (The Legend of Ron Burgundy): I stand corrected: Will Ferrell is one very funny man, and this was one very funny movie. Now that I have exposed myself to Mr. Ferrell's talents, I may have to explore the rest of his ouvre. After all, when in Rome...

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[2006.07.05 - 07:30 A.M.]

Hillary Clinton weighs in on the CT Senate race, and the news ain't good for the Chinless One:

"I've known Joe Lieberman for more than thirty years. I have been pleased to support him in his campaign for re-election, and hope that he is our party's nominee," the former first lady said in a statement issued by aides.

"But I want to be clear that I will support the nominee chosen by Connecticut Democrats in their primary," the New York Democrat added. "I believe in the Democratic Party, and I believe we must honor the decisions made by Democratic primary voters."

First, let me take my hat off to Hillary for unequivocally taking this position when so few Big Name Dems have been willing to. Second, let's face facts here: Hillary Clinton, like her husband, is a politician who makes decisions based on political strategy first and principle second. If she's staking out the position that she will support the winner of the primary rather than offering a blanket statement of support for her "friend" and colleague, that is bad news for Senator Lieberman. That's the sort of rumble and jolt that, to me, seems like it might portend a tectonic shift with regard to Joe's place in the party.

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[2006.07.05 - 06:55 A.M.]

On the radio, the NPR host announces that Italy beat Germany in their World Cup semifinal match, coming from behind and scoring two goals in the final two minutes for the victory. "Wow," Tracy responds, "The guy probably wasn't even done announcing the first goal before the second one went in."

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[2006.07.04 - 05:30 P.M.]

Today is July 4th, a day on which citizens across the land traditionally cook out (we're having pizza), drink beer (check), and blow shit up (taking a rain check on that one). It's a day when your chest is supposed to swell with pride at being an American. So how come my wife pointedly announced that we were having French Toast for breakfast this morning? I'll tell you how come: It's because, like me, she's having a hard time working up a case of the Rah-Rah's over the Good Ole U.S.A. these days. And that's not because either of us "hate" our country, as the idiots in the wrongosphere would undoubtedly claim, but because we love it and we're disappointed in it and it hurts.

We're not exactly the light of the world these days, not with the monsters we've got running our foreign policy, men who approve of torture and scoff at the notion of "inalienable" human rights. Our economy has been systematically rigged to move wealth from the poor and middle class to the already wealthy, as the power-mongers in D.C. have busied themselves erecting barriers between the American Dream and those who seek it. Our vaunted system of government, built on mutual respect between three co-equal branches that check each others' accumulation of power and balance each others' weaknesses? Utterly undermined by a ruthless GOP machine that equates its own power with the good of the nation.

So my Question of The Week is: America 2006 - What The Fuck?

I feel like I've been waiting for this country to wake up since the 2000 election. With each disaster that's befallen us, and with the endless string of revelations that Republican incompetence, malfeasance, or in some cases both was either behind these disasters or exacerbated them, I figured this would finally be the day of the GOP's undoing. Here we are, though, halfway through George Bush's second nightmarish term, and I feel like most of the American public is still sleeping through this thing. Tossing and turning and grumbling, perhaps, but still asleep.

Strangely enough, I'm still confident that we could wake up, and we could smack these bastards down, if only people really knew where things stood. And there's the rub: When the media systematically promotes narratives that play down how badly the GOP is fucking up and fucking us, while simultaneously pimping storylines that undermine Democrats and liberals, it makes the already tough job of nudging the populace awake damn near impossible, like trying to rouse someone who's hooked up to a sedative-and-booze IV line.

So that's my pessimistic take on this, our nation's birthday. What's yours? Is the Fourth giving you the Doom and Gloom treatment, or are you feeling the nation's renewal just around the corner? Where do you see this fucked-up nation of ours going from here? Can we turn this around? Have we started already? What's the key to rescuing this once-proud country?

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[2006.07.04 - 03:00 P.M.]

This is how you know when it's intolerably muggy out: I take my shirt off. Outside. Where other people can see me.

For my entire life, I've had a generous coating of white flabby lard that clings to me regardless of the state of my underlying musculature, and this makes me very uncomfortable when I am forced to be in a shirtless state in the presence of others. I was one of those kids in grade school who dreaded hearing the coach say "OK, shirts and skins!" knowing that there was always a 100% probability that I would be on the "skins" team. To this day, I hate doing the shirtless thing. There are two things that can overcome this reticence: 1.) A pool (preferably with swim-up bar), or 2.) Weather so muggy that I'm sweating bullets while standing still.

Today, forced to mow the lawn on a day where the dewpoint crested at around 70 degrees? I had my shirt off like the director of Homeland Security. I was a-bouncin' and a-jigglin' and I did not give a rodent's behind. Damn it is sick out there today.

Oh, and on a related note, let the record show that Tracy and I made it to July 4th this year before caving in and turning the A/C on in the house. She probably could have held out longer, but I was just done. Good old New England: Home of the Armpit Summer.

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[2006.07.04 - 01:00 P.M.]

Takeru Kobayashi just won the annual 4th of July Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. His winning total was a world-record 54 dogs in just 12 minutes. The contest, broadcast on ESPN, was sponsored, in part, by Major League Eating. This organization does not appear to have a web site as of yet, perhaps because this event actually took place in a parallel universe. I don't know. Some choice bits from the commentators. First, a warning:

"Now, obviously, this is not something you want to try at home. These guys are trained athletes."

Then, as the contestants hit the three minute mark:

"It's all about hot dog management now."

Finally, as it comes down to the final minute, with the leader Kobayashi simultaneously fending off American challenger Joey Chestnut and striving for the record:

"If Kobayashi can pull out a four-dog minute here, he will set a new world record."

And the only thing weirder than all this? My wife, sitting beside me, going apeshit cheering for Kobayashi. When they announced that he had set the new record, she got goosebumps.

No, really. I saw them.

Update: As much as I mock the "sport" of competetive eating, at least it's more "athletic" than poker.

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[2006.07.04 - 12:10 P.M.]

"[T]he one thing worse than a press that is "out of control" is one that is under control. Anybody who has lived in a Communist country knows that. Just consider what would happen if the news media as a whole were as docile to the administration as Fox News or The Wall Street Journal editorial page." -- Nicholas Kristof

Yeah, Nick. Just "consider" what "would" happen. Wanker.

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[2006.07.04 - 11:15 A.M.]

You know, if I were Joe Lieberman, I'd fucking shoot myself, I would have waited until today to announce my petition drive to run as an independent candidate. That way I could have been all like "At times, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for politicians to throw off the chains of their party. And so I say to you, voters of Connecticut, that today is my Independence Day." Or some such shit. But you see, that would be me, and unlike Joe Lieberman, I have a spine, and a chin, and above all, the strength of my own goddamned convictions.

Not Lieberman. He doesn't have the guts to leave the party, which is the move all of his actions to date clearly point towards, and he doesn't have the integrity to abide by the accepted conventions of his party and the wishes of his party's voters. Nope, Selfish Joe wants to have things both ways, so he'll run in the primary and then, if he loses, run again in the general election, taking, as former Democratic state chairman George Jepsen put it, "two bites at the apple".

Worse still, we can expect to be subjected to months of twisted, non-sensical rhetoric about how he's a "Petitioning Democrat" or an "Independent Democrat". It's the language of both conceit and deceit, and you can expect a lot of it from this man whose much-touted "morality" and "honesty" were never anything more than a slap-dash coat of sealant over the rotting, splintered ego of a craven opportunist.

I fervently hope that the voters of Connecticut see, from the contemptuous course of action he has chosen to take, just who Joe Lieberman really is.

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[2006.07.03 - 12:00 P.M.]

I am off! Southward bound, on a 50-mile trek to my buddy Fridge's house down near the Connecticut coast. It's going to be a bit of a haul by my standards. I think it's been a decade since I've busted out a 50-mile ride. But, hey, I've done a 30 and a 35 so far this season, so what's 15 more miles, right? Only question mark is the terrain between Farmington and Middletown, which I am completely unfamiliar with. I am allotting 4 hours which, given my typical average speed of 15 MPH and factoring in a few breaks, should suffice. Wish me luck!

Simsbury to Clinton

The plan, upon my arrival, is for the wife to rendezvous with me at Chez Fridge for a cookout, a few (dozen) beers, and some Setback (world's greatest card game, at which I am the world's greatest player). Should be fun, assuming I'm not curled up in a ball and comatose from the ride.

Update: OK, a few comments on the result of my failed trek:

Oh, and Fridge handed everybody their asses in Setback all night long, yours truly included. So, you know, at least there was that.

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[2006.07.02 - 03:45 P.M.]

Warm, muggy Sunday afternoon of a four-day fourth of July weekend. Took a long bike ride yesterday, and I've got an even longer one planned for tomorrow. But today, shopping is done, the chores are under control, and leisure beckons. What better time for... The TRIUMPHANT Return of WEEKEND BEER BLOGGING!

Berkshire Brewing MaibockLet's kick things off with Berkshire Brewing's Maibock Lager. Berkshire, a regional brewer here in western New England, is probably best known for their Steel Rail Pale Ale, a staple at bars and restaurants out this way. Being a fan of Steel Rail, I thought I'd see what Berkshire's interpretation of a Maibock (traditionally a German bock-style beer brewed in the month of May for Spring festivals) was like.

Pouring the Maibock into a frosty mug produced a giant, foamy head with a flowery fragrance to it. The body is a rich, deep amber in color. Taking a swig, I encountered a texture that could best be described as syrupy smooth. The carbonation is relatively fine and initially abundant, but it's no match for the viscous liquid it inhabits and it quickly dissipates, leaving a body that seems as if it's straining to revert to the wort stage. There's a sweetness to this brew that is frankly cloying. After a dozen or so sips, I could actually feel a sweet, sticky film coating my lips. Berkshire describes this beer as having a "delicate hop finish". In my opinion, that overstates the hop presence here by quite a bit. If you can detect hops in this brew, you've a more sensitive palate than my own.

None of which is to say that Berkshire Maibock is an unpleasant experience. It's just a bit much in the malty sweetness department. The sweetness here doesn't end at the flavor, but somehow penetrates straight to the core of this beer's being. Part of the problem for me was that this is clearly a beer that's best in small doses and yet, me being me, I bought the bomber. So there you go. Bottom line: Nice effort, but too aggressively one-dimensional.

Rating: 5.0

Magic Hat Circus BoyOn a lighter note, next we bring you Magic Hat's Circus Boy unfiltered Hefeweizen. The Hefeweizen is the beer of Summer, designed to refresh, lighten, and perk ones spirits up when the oppressive mugginess is beating you down. Let us see, then, if Circus Boy is up to the task, for I am one sweaty, sticky, lethargic motherfucker right now.

Circus Boy has a very small head. I'll pause while everyone snickers at that. No, but seriously, it's true: The head on this brew is light, unscented, and quickly dissipated. Beneath it we see a beer that is light yellow and cloudy in color with fine carbonation. The mouth feel here is very light indeed, quite easy to drink. Coming to the flavor, however, I am somewhat disappointed. As one would expect for a Hefeweizen, the malt predominates over the hops, although unlike our previous glass, the hops here are at least present once the brew has cleared your mouth and things have dried out a bit. What's missing here is the tartness that this breed is typically known for. There's a hint -- and only the barest hint at that -- of lemony flavor but virtually none of the pucker that I'm used to in weissbiers. It's as if they took a standard weiss, with the right weight, mouth feel, subtle hoppiness, etc., and then neutered it, resulting in a beer that is mildly enjoyable, highly drinkable, but otherwise unremarkable. And that is not what I expect from the boys at The Hat.

Rating: 4.5

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[2006.07.02 - 01:10 P.M.]

Earlier this week, a conservative friend brought up the site "Little Green Footballs". This caused me to recoil in horror, and then to point out that LGF was precisely the sort of thuggish, fascist, foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing nutjobbery that generally leads me to stay the hell away from right Blogistan, even out of curiosity. Unsurprisingly, he made reference to the fact that he believed lefty bloggers were worse. Sighing inwardly, I made note of the fact that I should write something to rebut this notion.

How lucky for me, then, that on this lazy holiday weekend, it turns out that Glenn Greenwald has done the job for me. In a post examining the right's ongoing jihad against the New York Times, Greenwald breaks it down for us:

So, to recap - America is currently at war and its enemies are domestic liberals and The New York Times. This war was started by Al Gore and Jimmy Carter when they opposed the invasion of Iraq. The New York Times is allied with Al Qaeda and their latest plot against America is to provide their terrorist friends with a roadmap to the vacation homes of Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld so that they can be assassinated. That is what is being reported today by three of the largest "conservative" blogs on the Internet, along with Horowitz, the leader of the conservative effort to wipe out anti-conservative bias on college campuses.

..

This would be amusing in the most perverse way possible if it weren't for the fact that these are the people who are shaping our national political discourse. We have spent the last week hearing people on every major news station accuse The New York Times of treason, and some have called for the execution of Bill Keller and Jim Risen. More people read Malkin's blog than most newspapers in this country, and that does not count those who are exposed to her when she appears on Fox or from her new venture, Hot Air. Powerline, of course, was crowned Blog of the Year by Time Magazine and has a readership not much smaller than Malkin's. Top Bush officials such as John Bolton submit to interviews with them. These are among the leaders of conservative opinion-making in this country.

And they really believe -- or at least they are telling their readers -- that the article in the weekend NYT Travel Section is in retaliation for criticisms of the Times, is designed to tell Al Qaeda where they can find Cheney and Rumsfeld so that they can kill them, and is yet another plot in the war on America being waged by "liberals" and The New York Times. Shouldn't there be some level of irrationality which, once displayed, disqualifies someone from being taken seriously in our mainstream political dialogue? The most minimal standards in that regard would immediately rid the pro-Bush contingent of their best-selling author along with many, if not most, of their most widely-read bloggers and talk radio hosts.

There you have it. First, the violent insanity: Winger lynch-mobs literally braying that the Times editors should be tried for treason and executed, preferably in the most painful manner imaginable. Now, the projection: Wingers -- always the victims in their own minds -- claiming that it's liberals and their instrument, the Times, making war against them.

Your American Right Wing, ladies and gentlemen: Bat. Shit. Bonkers.

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[2006.07.02 - 10:15 A.M.]

Young Frankenstein: I-gor? Hilarious. The Monster? Pretty damned funny. The rest of the movie? Eh.

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[2006.07.02 - 10:00 A.M.]

Had to share with you this bit of Fantasy Baseball analysis that arrived in my Inbox this morning from CBS Sportsline (emphasis mine):

Randy Johnson, SP NYY

News: The New York Mets roughed up Randy Johnson again, snapping their four-game losing streak with an 8-3 victory over the Yankees on Saturday. Coming off three consecutive strong starts, Johnson (9-7) was ineffective in this one. He gave up eight runs and eight hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking three. The Big Unit fell to 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA in two Subway Series starts against the Mets this year.

Analysis: You have to keep him active in all leagues because of his resume and the fact that he plays for the contending Yankees - but feel free to dislike him and regret drafting him.

I think that nicely sums up the feelings of Yankee fans everywhere, as well as Johnson's unfortunate fantasy owners.

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[2006.07.01 - 06:45 P.M.]

If you have glanced at my navigation bar over there on the right any time during the last two months, you may have noticed that the current work of fiction I am reading is none other than Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Lest you worry, I have neither lost my mind nor gone over to the dark side. No, I'm reading Atlas as part of the Husband & Wife Favorite Book Exchange Program that Tracy and I agreed to. Under the terms of this agreement, Tracy, a self-described "lapsed objectivist", gets to read the trippy, surreal, post-modernist conspiracy adventure Illuminatus and I get to spend some quality time several nights a week with Crazy Auntie Ayn. I'm roughly half way through this cinderblock of a book right now, and I'm looking to finish it before we head to Ireland in August, mainly in order to avoid having to pay for a seat for it on the plane.

Here's the odd thing: I'm enjoying it. Much more than I expected, in fact. The characters are compelling, the story line is interesting, and the writing, in my opinion, is actually kinda brisk. If a 1200-page book can be described as a "page-turner", then this is. OK, sure, the sex scenes are laughably bad, but still, even that's a little endearing in its own awkward and dysfunctional way. But what about Rand's famously anti-liberal ideology, you ask? Well, the trick, it turns out, is to read her like you're reading an Ursula LeGuin novel: Take the world she describes, alien as it is, on its own terms and just roll with it. While reading Atlas, I simply accept the cultural premise that what leaders of industry really want is to do the best possible job, produce the best possible products, and that it's those less-talented parasites in business and government that are holding them back from achieving that ideal. Yeah, it's a reach, definitely. But I've read weirder ideas.

Here's an even odder thing: On occasion, Rand actually introduces an idea that has some resonance for me. In her own skewed way, she sometimes passes surprisingly close to the truth. Take the term "Looters". This is the word that the protagonists in Rand's world use to describe the unethical businessmen who make their way by sucking on the government's teat and the politicians who cultivate them. Looters are people who trade in influence rather than talent. They arrogate to themselves the work and wealth of others not by right, but simply because they can, because they know that the power of the government and the threat of force that makes that power real is behind their unscrupulous actions.

Put simply, they're the sort of people Dick Cheney would feel right at home with.

This word, "Looters", in the specific way that Rand uses it, loaded with contempt and righteous indignation, came to me earlier this week as I was reading this post by Jared Bernstein at MaxSpeak on the "YO-YO" (You're On Your Own) economy. Bernstein starts out by sharing the following "observations":

Pay special attention to the third and fourth bullet points there. Ponder them. Productivity is up because workers, squeezed by staff cuts and threatened by off-shore labor, are finding ways to be more productive. But though their work creates wealth for their companies, they see none of it. Instead, it all goes to the guys with the cherry wood desks in corner offices. And, of course, to the shareholders.

(looters)

Look at CEO pay, look at the retirement deals that they cut themselves, and look at how they all sit on each others' boards of directors, so as to make sure that when it's their turn, they've got some sweet payback coming from the last guy they awarded a boatload of goodies to. What do these men do? What do they produce? How many of them can honestly be described as "innovators"? Many of them are, in fact, serial failures who, like George Bush, get shuffled around from board to board based on their political and business connections. They trade on influence, not on ideas. The "successful" among them are generally successful at only one thing: Slashing costs, depressing wages, and cooking up an attractive quarterly report in order to keep the Boys on Wall Street happy. And it all results in them lining their pocket with wads of cash that they cannot in any defensible sense of the word claim to have "earned".

(Looters)

Look at how our biggest corporations game the system. Look at Halliburton's endless series of no-bid contracts in Iraq, contracts they do a truly shabby job of fulfilling while charging a premium price tag. Look at K Street and the hordes of lobbyists with their suitcases full of cash, descending on politicians of both parties every day like Johns cruising for blow jobs. Check out what the telcos are doing in Washington right now, trying to buy the internet out from underneath the public. Look at the mess in New Orleans, the waste, the inefficiency, the scamming, all driven by seemingly deliberate mismanagement at the hands of people who profess to study the Gospels of Capitalism. This is the "free market"? This is "competition"? This is madness.

(LOOTERS)

Look at that disgusting turd at Exxon Mobil. He of the $400 million dollar retirement package. Did he invent oil? Did he pioneer a new drilling technique? Improve distribution? Perhaps pour some of his company's gains into R & D on alternative fuels? Fuck, did he do anything to earn that obscene sum of money? No, he and his company took government subsidies and tax breaks with one hand, slapped around the gas-buying public with the other, and rode the results to record profits without doing a single damned "innovative" thing. And somehow, I imagine that the vast majority of their workforce didn't see an extra dime of that money.

(LOOTERS!)

We are living in an age where the unscrupulous, unimaginative, and untalented routinely leverage their influence to gain positions of power from which they can loot. They loot the public treasury. They loot the pockets of their workers. They take money they had little part in making not because it's right or fair or just, but because it's there and they can. Because the government's on their side and there's no one else to stop them. And make no mistake: This arrangement is not the result of the functioning of some natural law. Nothing preordained it. No Invisible Hand dictates that those at the top of the pyramid must band together to hoard the nation's wealth, running into their castles to hide the gold we helped them earn and pulling up the drawbridges behind them.

Here's the punch line: In many ways, this economic dystopia is eerily similar to the one that Ayn Rand describes in Atlas Shrugged. In all regards, that is, except for one: These looters don't loot in the name of the "public good". They loot under the false guise of the very system Rand urged us to embrace: Unbridled free-market capitalism.

I wonder if she would have recognized them for what they are, and if she would have appreciated the irony.

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(Yes, that's probably the first and last time you'll see those two Technorati tags together.)


[2006.07.01 - 04:55 P.M.]

Big Bang (by Simon Singh): An engaging look at the history of both the Big Bang theory and cosmology generally. Singh introduces us to a cast of hundreds of colorful characters as the story of the Big Bang slowly unfolds, and in so doing illustrates not only how this model came to be the dominant explanation for the universe's origins, but also just how science gets done, how a theory that is originally scoffed at can gain adherents and momentum and, eventually, sometimes grudgingly, acceptance. The only knock I have on this book is that it could easily have been cut down to 300-350 pages rather than the nearly 500 it clocks in at. It's a small thing, though, and by no means let Singh's long-windedness put you off reading this if you're a cosmology nerd.

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[2006.07.01 - 11:10 P.M.]

OK, so Thursday night, at Karate, our instructor decided it was Destroy Everyone's Abdominals Day. During warmups, we did 3 sets of 20 of 1.) Situps, 2.) Crunches, 3.) Oblique Crunches (right), 4.) Oblique Crunches (left), and 5.) Leg Extensions. Then, at the end of class, she had us do another 20 reps of those five exercises. I nearly died. No shit. In particular, situps with nothing to put your feet under kill me. Something about that 70/30 above-the-waist/below-the-waist weight distribution just makes 'em brutal, you know? Anyhow, yesterday I felt fine. Today? Pain. Lots and lots of pain. It's the classic two-day pain delay I get whenever I really tool on a muscle group. Just... pain. Went to do my morning exercises just now, and I'm laying there ready to do situps. Brain sends the signal to the abs. Abs look up at brain and say "Hey, Pal, how about you fuck off, 'K?" Nothing doing. Pain.

Yep. Just wanted to share that. I'm off for a little training cruise on the bike now. Gotta gear up for the 50-mile ride to the coast I'm planning for Monday. Later.

Update: Woo Hoo! Made it all the way up to Granville, MA. Thirty-five miles total -- 70% of what I've got on tap for Monday -- and my knees held out just fine. Stopped at the bike shop on the way home and had them flip the neck on my handlebars, raising them by about an inch, which should make the going easier on any future long hauls.

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