Saturday, December 29, 2007

Unpacking ...

The 2nd worst part about vacation. That and saying goodbye to family, especially the older folks. We're finally home after an hour and a half delay getting out of Frankfurt. Shayna's home too and our little family is back together. We're beat so you'll see me tomorrow.

I just wanted to add that we like to fly Singapore Air whenever possible. Even though this was one of the worst times of the year to fly, the Singapore Girls (and boys, but I don't notice them. Heh ...) make it bearable. Their service and professionalism is, by far and we travel a lot, better than any we've experienced. Once again, they went above and beyond.

Thanks again for coming along.


And just a thought I had this morning (Sunday): Over all the trips we've taken, I never mentioned the people who allow us to leave in good conscience and have no worries upon our return. Those would be the good folks at the Glen Animal Hospital in Sea Cliff, NY.

Dr. Melinda Grove (who has been Shayna's vet since pupitude) and her vet staff, along with the kennel and office personnel, allow us to have a good time with peace of mind. With Shayna's little medical problems, we wouldn't be able to take more than day trips were it not for them. They are truly the best.

Saturday is Funday

Screw politics! Let's have some fun!

Pam Tillis

Kathy Mattea

Why did I pick these? Who knows - they're fun. Selecting music videos takes hours I tell you. It's hell, but somebody's gotta do it...

Friday, December 28, 2007

It’s not about you

Krugman, about Pakistan, to our tub o' candidates:

To all the presidential campaigns trying to claim that the atrocity in Pakistan somehow proves that they have the right candidate — please stop.

This isn’t about you; in fact, as far as I can tell, it isn’t about America. It’s about the fact that Pakistan is a very messed-up place. This has very bad consequences for us, but it’s hard to see what, if anything, it says about US policy.

If you’re a tough guy (or gal) who believes in exerting US power — never mind, there are just too many heavily armed people in Pakistan for anyone but Norman Podhoretz to believe that we could throw our weight around. If you believe you can bring new understanding to the world through your enlightened outlook — sorry, there are too many people in Pakistan who don’t want to be enlightened. If you believe that we’d have more influence in the world if we hadn’t squandered our resources and good will in Iraq (which I do) — well, sorry, that influence wouldn’t extend to being able to bring peace and light to Pakistan.

This isn’t about us, and it’s out of our control.

Update: Josh simultaneously had the same reaction

Also see Main and Central.

With Bhutto gone, does Bush have a Plan B?

Juan Cole knows about this shit.

Bush's failed policies in Pakistan, a nuclear power that al-Qaida still uses to plot against the West, threatens U.S. security more than Iraq ever did.

In order to get through this crisis, Bush must insist that the Pakistani Supreme Court, summarily dismissed and placed under house arrest by Musharraf, be reinstated. The PPP must be allowed to elect a successor to Ms. Bhutto without the interference of the military. Early elections must be held, and the country must return to civilian rule. Pakistan's population is, contrary to the impression of many pundits in the United States, mostly moderate and uninterested in the Taliban form of Islam. But if the United States and "democracy" become associated in their minds with military dictatorship, arbitrary dismissal of judges, and political instability, they may turn to other kinds of politics, far less favorable to the United States. Musharraf may hope that the Pakistani military will stand with him even if the vast majority of people turn against him. It is a forlorn hope, and a dangerous one, as the shah of Iran discovered in 1978-79.

Please read the rest.

We have exactly the wrong people in power to deal with everything they're trying to deal with. They are steering our country onto the rocks and blaming the rocks for not moving out of the way like they told them to.

You're damn right I'm angry

Just a good rant at The Regressive Antidote:

I’m furious because the Bush administration and its ideological allies have shredded the Constitution at every turn, destroying the institutional gift of those they pretend to revere (but only when it’s convenient to upholding their own depredations). This president, who has gotten virtually everything he has ever wanted throughout his life and his presidency, once privately exclaimed in frustration at not getting something he wanted when he wanted it, “It’s just a goddam piece of paper!”, and that is precisely how he has treated America’s founding document. His signing statements – probably over a thousand in count now – completely obliterate the checks and balances principle of the Constitution, its most central idea. His admitted spying on Americans without warrant smashes the Fourth Amendment. His fiasco in Guantánamo and beyond mocks due process and habeas corpus guarantees. His invasion of Iraq against the international law codified in the UN Charter, to which the United States is a signatory, violates the Constitutional requirement to hold such treaties as the highest law of the land. Altogether, Americans have never seen a presidency with such imperial ambitions, and anyone who cares about the Constitution should be furious. A year from now, it is quite possible that Hillary Clinton will be president of the United States (ugh). Would our conservative friends silently countenance, let alone viciously support, such a monarchy in the White House if it belonged to Queen Hillary rather than King George? I think not.

We could go on and on from here. This administration and the movement it fronts at least gets high marks for consistency. Everything they touch turns to stone. There’s Pat Tillman and Terri Schiavo. There’s the politicization of the US Attorneys and the corruption of DeLay and Abramoff. There’s North Korea, Pakistan and the Middle East. There’s the shame of torture and rendition. There’s the wrecking of the American military and of the country’s reputation abroad. There’s Afghanistan and the failure to capture bin Laden. And much, much more. But above all, and driving all, there’s the kleptocracy – the doing of everything in every way to facilitate the looting of the national fisc.

What an unbelievable record of deceit, destruction, hypocrisy, incompetence, treason and greed. What a tragic tale of debt, lost wars, stolen elections, environmental crises, Constitution shredding, national shame and diminished security.

All done by the very most pious amongst us, of course. Merry Christmas, eh? I guess those are our presents, all carefully wrapped in spin, contempt, and preemptive attacks on any of us impertinent enough to say “No thanks, Santa”.

So, yeah, you’re goddam right I’m angry about what’s been done to my country, and what’s been done by my country in my name.

How could anyone who claims to care about America not be?

Sometimes a guy just has to howl at the Moon to keep from goin' nuckin' futs. Plenty more.

Good and Evil at the Center of the Earth

Under no circumstances should you miss this piece by Greg Palast. It will make you feel good, I think.

Correa is one of the first dark-skinned men to win election to this Quechua and mixed-race nation. Certainly, one of the first from the streets. He'd won a surprise victory over the richest man in Ecuador, the owner of the biggest banana plantation.

Doctor Correa, I should say, with a Ph.D in economics earned in Europe. Professor Correa as he is officially called - who, until not long ago, taught at the University of Illinois.

And Professor Doctor Correa is one tough character. He told George Bush to take the US military base and stick it where the equatorial sun don't shine. He told the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which held Ecuador's finances by the throat, to go to hell. He ripped up the "agreements" which his predecessors had signed at financial gun point. He told the Miami bond vultures that were charging Ecuador usurious interest, to eat their bonds. He said ‘We are not going to pay off this debt with the hunger of our people. " Food first, interest later. Much later. And he meant it.

Correa's not unique. He's the latest of a new breed in Latin America. Lula, President of Brazil, Evo Morales, the first Indian ever elected President of Bolivia, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. All "Leftists," as the press tells us. But all have something else in common: they are dark-skinned working-class or poor kids who found themselves leaders of nations of dark-skinned people who had forever been ruled by an elite of bouffant blonds.

When I was in Venezuela, the leaders of the old order liked to refer to Chavez as, "the monkey." Chavez told me proudly, "I am negro e indio" - Black and Indian, like most Venezuelans. Chavez, as a kid rising in the ranks of the blond-controlled armed forces, undoubtedly had to endure many jeers of "monkey." Now, all over Latin America, the "monkeys" are in charge.

And they are unlocking the economic cages.

It does my heart good to see folks standing up to bullies. It makes me sad that the bullies is us.

Packing ...

What I hate most about going on vacation. I'll see you folks tomorrow afternoon when I get back Stateside. Thanks for coming along!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Only in L.A....


Some gifts from Kris Kringle are better kept wrapped.

A man in a Santa hat was arrested Sunday night for investigation of drunken driving after he was spotted outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood wearing a wig, a red lace camisole and a purple G-string, police said.

"We are pretty sure this is not the Santa Claus," Deputy Chief Ken Garner said.

Ya can't make this shit up. Sure woulda liked a photo...

Iraq threatens Korea over oil exploration deal with Kurds

JoongAng Daily

Concerns about high oil prices have met Middle Eastern politics as Iraq warned Korea that it will suspend crude oil exports next month if Korean companies continue an exploration project under an agreement with the Kurdish regional government in the fractious country. Iraq accounts for about 5 percent of Korea’s crude imports.

The Iraqi government is warning Korea? Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Note to the Iraqi government: If you don't like the U.S. occupying your country and only 'tolerate' it because a) they're proppin' your flimsy ass up, and b) you can't do anything about it anyway, you REALLY aren't gonna like a Korean occupation! They're not nice like we are. Best not to get in a pissin' contest with 'em.

I watched three Korean Marines clean about twenty American Marines out of a barracks once. The Koreans were small, wiry men, didn't speak very good English, and kept to themselves. The Americans had been teasing them and they got tired of it. Those were the hardest cats I ever saw. They didn't change expression or break a sweat. I think I saw them smile at one another a little whilst viewing the pile of Marines they had built. They didn't really hurt 'em, but they damn sure taught a bunch of arrogant kids a lesson about courtesy. Also about what 'tough' is. Hint: it ain't in the talkin'.

To be fair about it, the KMCs (Korean Marine Corps) were old salts and practical masters of various martial arts. They were all Gunnies or the equivalent with fifteen or twenty years in, including service in the Korean War, and as a reward for outstanding service were granted the great privilege of attending U.S. Marine boot camp. Our guys never stood a chance.

They never kidded the KMCs again, either. Kinda looked at 'em with awe after that.

They had lived all their adult lives under a terrible threat, once acted upon, from North Korea, and were professional soldiers who gave no quarter and asked none. I think the KMC and the ROK Army are like that yet.

So if you Iraqis get in a dust-up with the Koreans, let us know how it goes..if there's enough of you left to tell the tale.

Senate blocks recess appointment of torture advocate.

AP via Think Progress

A nine-second session gaveled in and out by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., prevented Bush from appointing as an assistant attorney general a nominee roundly rejected by majority Democrats. Without the pro forma session, the Senate would be technically adjourned, allowing the president to install officials without Senate confirmation. […]

Democrats wanted to block one such recess appointment in particular: Steven Bradbury, acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Counsel. Bush nominated Bradbury for the job and asked the Senate to remove the “acting” in his title.

Democrats would have none of it, complaining Bradbury had signed two secret memos in 2005 saying it was OK for the CIA to use harsh interrogation techniques — some call it torture — on terrorism detainees.

More on Bradbury’s nomination HERE.

I'll give Reid props as far as this: He understands Senate process and has used it to good effect, but it's not nearly enough.

More from All Spin Zone:

Bushie Whiney Excuses for Breaking the Law

Bush wants an appointment, and Harry Reid is preventing that appointment of Steven Bradbury. Bradbury is the architect of the legal justifications for many of the scandalous Bush Administration policies, including denying habeas corpus and justifying waterboarding. Bush loves his torture guy Bradbury, and wants to put him into a recess appointment job Bradbury is already holding illegally.

The Bush Administration has been breaking the law for a while now. According to the 1998 Vacancies Reform Act, they cannot keep a non-Senate-confirmed in an “Acting” role for longer than 210 days without being confirmed. [...]

Bush appointed Bradbury as 'acting' whatever in 2005. Just another Bushie whiney got caught in another crime deal. Ho-hum. Nothing will happen, accountability- or prosecution-wise, of course. It is good to be King.

We need politicians as brave as Bhutto

Headline at BuzzFlash:

"Osama Bin Laden is safe in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto was not. Osama Bin Laden is alive and free in Pakistan. Daniel Pearl is not. Neither Iran nor Iraq have nuclear weapons. But Pakistan does." This is the bitter harvest of the bungling, Bush/Cheney backing of a dictatorship that harbors the same Islamic fundamentalists who pulled off 9/11.

Links to Words Of Power:

When she returned to Pakistan a few weeks ago, I kept asking myself, "Why?"

She certainly knew she would most likely be killed.

I knew she would most likely be killed.

This morning, as I heard the news of her assassination, the answer struck me, and it came with a bitter twist of irony.

Every time you ask yourself why US political leaders will not stand up to the Bush-Cheney regime, why impeachment is off the table, why the betrayal of US secret agent Valerie Plame's covert identity goes unavenged, why those who looked the other way while 9/11 went down, then lied us into war with Iraq and attempted to lie us into war with Iran, continue to occupy positions of power and privilege, why violations of FISA, FOIA, the Geneva Accords, the Bill of Rights, etc. have gone on unchecked, why no one is under criminal investigation for obstruction of justice in the firing of the US attorneys or the theft of elections in 2000, 2002 and 2004; remember the beautiful face, passionate heart and eloquent tongue of Benazir Bhutto, remember too Yitzhak Rabin, and Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Omar Torrijos, and Anwar Sadat, and the answer will come to you.

They do not stand up because they are afraid.

She was not afraid.

It certainly came as no surprise that Ms. Bhutto was assassinated.

It also came as no surprise that the assassin was able to sneak past Pakistani 'security' metal detectors wearing a bomb and carrying a pistol.

The fix was in on her murder, of that we can be certain. Her brand of politics could not be allowed to catch on in Pakistan at this time. The outcome was simply a matter of time, and time was up.

But she was not afraid, or perhaps she was and overcame it. She went headfirst against vastly overwhelming power arrayed against her.

I hope someone picks up where she left off.

It's too bad we don't have anybody like her in this country. If we did, I'm sure this administration wouldn't be above a little murder. Bush doesn't have the balls, but Cheney sure does.

To Hell With Bipartisanship

Paul Krugman was on Charlie Rose last night (watch it), and today I find it pretty much word-for-word in Slate, although on Rose he went more into racism as a Repug get-out-the-vote tactic. As usual, I think Mr. Krugman's right on the money.

Here's a thought for progressives: Bush isn't the problem. And the next president should not try to be the anti-Bush.

No, I haven't lost my mind. I'm not saying that we should look kindly on the Worst President Ever; we'll all breathe a sigh of relief when he leaves office 405 days, 2 hours, and 46 minutes from now. (Yes, a friend gave me one of those Bush countdown clocks.) Nor am I suggesting that we should forgive and forget; I very much hope that the next president will open the records and let the full story of the Bush era's outrages be told.

Note to prison administrators and judges: One door closes, another one opens. Even with fairer crack cocaine sentencing guidelines, we can still fill all those prisons, this time with white Repug politicians and Bush cronies. Win-win!

But Bush will soon be gone. What progressives should be focused on now is taking on the political movement that brought Bush to power. In short, what we need right now isn't Bush bashing - what we need is partisanship.

OK, before I get there, a word about terms - specifically, liberal vs. progressive. Everyone seems to have their own definitions; mine involves the distinction between values and action. If you think every American should be guaranteed health insurance, you're a liberal; if you're trying to make universal health care happen, you're a progressive.

And here's the thing: Progressives have an opportunity, because American public opinion has become a lot more liberal.

He goes on to 'splain this. Go read.

The question, however, is whether Democrats will take advantage of America's new liberalism. To do that, they have to be ready to forcefully make the case that progressive goals are right and conservatives are wrong. They also need to be ready to fight some very nasty political battles.

And that's where the continuing focus of many people on Bush, rather than the movement he represents, has become a problem.

Well, you have to cut off the snake's head before you can safely make dinner and a hatband out of the rest of him, but I get his point.

But any attempt to change America's direction, to implement a real progressive agenda, will necessarily be highly polarizing. Proposals for universal health care, in particular, are sure to face a firestorm of partisan opposition. And fundamental change can't be accomplished by a politician who shuns partisanship.

I like to remind people who long for bipartisanship that FDR's drive to create Social Security was as divisive as Bush's attempt to dismantle it. And we got Social Security because FDR wasn't afraid of division. In his great Madison Square Garden speech, he declared of the forces of "organized money": "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

So, here's my worry: Democrats, with the encouragement of people in the news media who seek bipartisanship for its own sake, may fall into the trap of trying to be anti-Bushes — of trying to transcend partisanship, seeking some middle ground between the parties.

That middle ground doesn't exist—and if Democrats try to find it, they'll squander a huge opportunity. Right now, the stars are aligned for a major change in America's direction. If the Democrats play nice, that opportunity may soon be gone.

I'll be for bipartisanship as soon as we get politicians from 'our' side who are willing to stomp the Repugs into the ground. And I mean that literally if need be. Once they are beaten, broken, exposed, jailed, crushed, cowed, and powerless, let the bipartisanship begin!

Quite frankly, I doubt if the present Democrats are capable of that. There are some outstanding individual ones of course, but as a group, a well-motivated Girl Scout troop trying to sell cookies in a seedy neighborhood is ten times braver.

There's two things you have to understand if you are going to get into a fight:

1) There is going to be blood shed. Yours and theirs. Ya gotta bring some to get some.

2) You must not think of what your opponent might do to you, only what you are going to do to him.

Corollary a) If the stakes are high enough and the matter important enough, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an unannounced ax handle to the back of your opponent's head, AKA 'ambush'. This comes in particularly handy if you are outnumbered or outgunned. Cuts the odds down.

I'll add a third: You can be as afraid as you want. Just don't let your opponent know. That's the rub - the Dems are very afraid, for what reason I do not know, and everybody knows it.

Fabian's story ...

The one I love most.


Being we're leaving very early Saturday morning (Friday night to you guys in the western hemisphere), I figured I'd throw up some more random pics now. I doubt I'll have enough time once I start packing later on. Just looking at what I have to bring home, it seems daunting.

Quote of the Day


A friend told me yesterday he stopped reading The Onion when he found he couldn’t tell if they were kidding or not.

How many times have I said it? The Republicans, the Chimp in particular, have ruined irony and satire.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

White Christmas

A day late, but it snowed here this morning.

And speaking of Germany and history, I found this via the lovely Avedon:

Click to embiggen.

Take note, even monsters celebrate Christmas.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in Germany

Well, Christmas is over with and we had a great time. Good food, good people, and a good time all around.

My cousin Birgit and her husband Peter bought me a book called Hauenstein against Hitler that I didn't know existed, but I'm happy to have. It's the story of how the people in our little town resisted Hitler during the war. Good god, after listening to me for 4 years, do you still think all Germans of the time were Nazis?

Pics from our Christmas Eve celebration here, here, here, and here.

Even though it's so fucking cold (I told my family this is the last time I'm coming in the winter unless one of them drops dead), I'm glad we came.

In Search of A Season

A Christmas message from Bill Curry at HuffPo:

Christmas too is subject to extremes. Remember the war on Christmas? While there's no formal truce -- to save face, Bill O' Reilly still fires off a round or two at night -- it's essentially over. On its behalf, let it be said it was the shortest of the Bush wars and the one with the fewest casualties.

Christmas enfolds many traditions, not all Christian, or even civilized. As Christianity conquered the Roman Empire it absorbed its religions, adapting their deities and festivals. The first recorded observance of Christmas wasn't until 354 A.D., about the time the Roman God Janus took early retirement.

Christmas co-opted the solstice rituals it displaced, including their music, greenery, lights, drinking and carousing. (The office Christmas party is a lineal descendant.) Christians who wax proprietary about the day should tread carefully; one day the pagans may want their wreaths back and who knows what else.

Oliver Cromwell thought Christmas so debauched he banned it. So did Massachusetts Puritans; from 1659 to 1681 you couldn't cook a Christmas goose in Boston. It wasn't till the 19th century that Christmas took on the trappings we know, owing much to the publication in 1823 of Clement Moore's "A Visit from Saint Nicolas" and in 1843 of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

Some leaders of religions and even some politicians think the task of separating out the sheep from the goats falls to them. I'm no theologian but I remember the endless parables of love and inclusion, wherein prostitutes, lepers, Samaritans and tax collectors were all let in and loved without condition. He never once said judge thy neighbor.

Can there be any greater folly than a war fought over religion? Is it so much easier to fight for our principles than to live by them? According to a wise priest I know, "Jesus didn't ask to be worshipped; He asked to be followed, which is harder." We search for signs of winter and Christmas, and settle for what we find until at last we look within.

By all means, look within, but keep one eye peeled for the religious and right wing forces of darkness who will not be happy until you are forced to live by their whacko beliefs.

I came up with the idea that the Human Genome Project may be the key to Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men. As soon as they find the "greed" and "lust for power" and "everybody who's different from me is bad and needs to be fixed or killed" genes and eliminate them.

If you get a lump of coal in your stocking, enjoy it. Energy prices are up.

The Perfect Christmas Story?

"14-year-old Laura Montero of Albion, Ill., who was in excruciating pain after her appendix burst last week while she and her mother were on a cruise ship to Mexico. The captain of the Dawn Princess had put out a distress call while the ship was about 250 miles from the Mexican port of Cabo San Lucas. Luckily, the USS Ronald Reagan happened to be in the nautical neighborhood . . ."

more at Mercury News

Definitely brought a smile to this sourpuss' lips.


Merry Christmas

I was wonderin' what kind of inspirational Christmas message I could put here. I was trying to think one up that covered all the bases, from the Prince Of Peace and Goodwill Toward Men to spirituality over commercialism, which I don't think is going very well anyway, to the winter solstice meaning the Sun's coming back, without sounding trite.

Couldn't do it, but I found one with a slightly different approach at Hoffmania, in toto:

Music is a powerful touchstone, so while you’re reading this, put on “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”. Let it play in the background.

So this is Christmas once again, the air filled with tinsel and anticipation. Houses all aglow in glittering lights and frosted windowpanes, whether from the can or Mother Nature. It is the one time everyone enjoys feeling cold or pretending it is cold and the one time a year when the inner child in all of us runs free.

In the great American living room stands the Douglas Fir or maybe a Blue Spruce. The odor of pine needles circles the walls and crawls across the carpet with cheery dreams. Huddled around the bottom of the Christmas tree like a small herd of happy wishes, are the presents dressed in their finest gift-wrap and holiday splendor.

They are the gifts a President gives his country; his legacy and promise for the future, his servitude to “We the People” and his vision of America.

So here under the tree, dazzling and glossy in sateen bows and velvet ribbons are the gifts of this President:

Sparkle laden paper wrapped around a box of Fear. The plastic paranoia sealed package contains all the colors of Fear from brown to yellow to pink and purple. A small booklet of instructions is included on how to apply Fear to every situation and person that is not “one of us,” and how to brush on racism, homophobia and bigotry with the mascara of mendacity.

A flag covered box of brightly painted brittle toy soldiers and game board, plus interchangeable body parts for when they get broken from too much rough play. Each toy soldier is hand-painted, un-numbered and anatomically neutered to withstand everything but real war. Families not included.

There is the whirring and buzzing latest techno must have self-injectable Micro-Thought Chip. A gift from your government to monitor your thoughts and ideas and provide auto electro-pulse correction should you waver from acceptable mind processes. A gift certificate is included for all your left-thinking friends. Let them embrace the light.

A small gossamer covered box with one of those glass globes you shake to create a snow flurry – only this one encases “Democracy” and when you shake it, a crystal storm of red, white and blue flakes spin madly about until “Democracy” disappears.

And the last gift is a huge box with a thousand ribbons and bows and soft crinkle tissue paper taped and mangled together as though made by a child but when you get it all unwrapped – it’s empty. Or so you think. It is a box of sadness. A place for broken dreams of what has been lost. A place to store the faded Polaroid postcards of the America that once was. An empty box big enough to hold a heart full of holes from nearly 4000 troops killed by the lies that cradle the deceit and treachery that sold a war for the benefit of the few who line their pockets with the lives of our loved ones. It’s a big empty box that can hold the despair of 126 veterans who commit suicide every week in this country. Room enough for the 20-30% of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD. But not big enough for a mother or father to crawl inside and rummage around for the touch and smell of their child killed or maimed in this war.

And then you spot it. The small package under the back branches of the tree, strings of tinsel dripping down and nearly covering the box. So tiny and forlorn. Not the same as the others. It looks so fragile, so precious. And you open it carefully, not ripping or tearing the paper while gingerly pulling the ribbon bows and lift the top off and then wide-eyed you smile. It’s stunning. It makes you giggle and tremble at the same time. You search for the card, but there is none.

And while no one is paying attention you scoot behind the tree, into the corner of the room and lift it out of the box and feel its warmth while your stomach shivers with that excited chill as you carefully set it down in front of you and watch.

The song Happy Christmas (War Is Over) ends. But you can’t help but think how nice it would be to sing Celebrate Me Home as the troops run across the tarmac and scoop up their loved ones. Or how good it would be to celebrate America once again.

And you watch your tiny gift pulsate and radiate:


Monday, December 24, 2007

Dear USPS and Deutsche Bundespost,

You can both go fuck yourselves. When you say it will take 7 - 10 days to ship a package here and guarantee it will be here before Christmas, make sure it happens. I shipped two packages here the week before I left and was assured (I paid $150 for the privilege) they'd be here by now. They're not. Now, tonight, I have to explain to the children why I don't have presents for them.

Merry Fucking Christmas.


PS: I can't do anything about the Germans, but god help the postmaster where I mailed the stuff when I get home.

The Power and the Glory

Food for thought for this holiday season. Phil Ochs was one of, if not the, best, one of the most perceptive and one of the most vibrant of the 60s protest singers. Virtually all of his lyrics still ring true today. He committed suicide in 1976 in part because he was "no longer relevant." What a tragic misconception. Phil Ochs is probably more relevant today than ever. To wit:

Phil Ochs - The Power And The Glory

Come and take a walk with me thru this green and growing land

Walk thru the meadows and the mountains and the sand

Walk thru the valleys and the rivers and the plains

Walk thru the sun and walk thru the rain

Here is a land full of power and glory

Beauty that words cannot recall

Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom

Her glory shall rest on us all (on us all)

From Colorado, Kansas, and the Carolinas too

Virginia and Alaska, from the old to the new

Texas and Ohio and the California shore

Tell me, who could ask for more?

Yet she's only as rich as the poorest of her poor

Only as free as the padlocked prison door

Only as strong as our love for this land

Only as tall as we stand

Happy Holidays everyone!


Frohe Weihnachten*

As most of the Brain's regular readers know, I'm a godless, heathen, atheist, infidel bastid, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the magic of Christmas, especially here, in the land that gave us the fairy tale. There's nothing like seeing the look of surprise in a child's eyes when they open their presents, or just the joy of being with people that you love dearly.

Last night, I got to watch a Jewish girl from Levittown experience that magic for the first time as she helped my cousin decorate their Christbaum. It's the little things that make the season wonderful.

And I also celebrate Jesus Christ, not the myth but the man, who lived humbly and preached respect for others. If today's religious leaders would be more like the man himself, the world would be a lot better place. Jesus would puke and then crucify himself if he could see what has been done in his name over the centuries.

And at this time, those who aren't as fortunate as I am are on my mind as well. When I sit back and think about how blessed I am, to have such a great family, to be married to a wonderful woman, to be pretty well off, and to live in a land that hasn't known war and unrest as many have, I feel for those whose lives are spent in poverty and oppression.

Yes, ladies and germs, whatever your religion and circumstances, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and please take it in the spirit it is intended. And all I want for Christmas is true "peace on Earth and goodwill to all". I leave you with Sir Bob and the gang because what they sang in 1985 is just as relevant today, maybe more so.

Merry Christmas, everybody. Or, as they say here:

Frohe Weihnachten und ein herzliches, gluckliches, Neues Jahr!

From my family to yours.

*Spelling corrected thanks to JerseyGuy.

Curses ...

Tagged again. This time by Brother Lurch:

Da Rulez

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends."

1. Wrapping or gift bags?

2. Real or artificial tree?
Normally no tree, this year, real.

3. When do you put up the tree?
This year, last night (see link in post above)

4. When do you take the tree down?
Normally, since I don't put one up (re:godless, atheist, heathen, infidel bastid in the post above), I don't have to take it down. Here it's done on 6 Jan.

5. Do you like egg nog?
Ick. I will take a shot of Jack Daniels' if it's offered though. Heh ...

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
My Flexible Flyer sled, which I still have, from 1966.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Not hardly.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Orders to SAC in 1984.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?

10. Favorite Christmas Movie?
None, they're all too sappy for me.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
We shop all year round. When we see something someone will like we get it and put it away for Christmas.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Anything that doesn't bite me first.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

14. Favorite Christmas song(s)?
None, and you can thank the fact they start playing them in the stores just after Halloween. By the time Christmas rolls around I'm sick of 'em all.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay home except for this year.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
You gotta be shittin' me.

17. Angel on the tree top or a star?

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
Christmas Eve.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The commercialism and the crowds.

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?

21. What do you leave for Santa?
Fuck Santa, he's got more money than I do.

22. Least favorite holiday song?
All of 'em. (See #14)

23. Favorite ornament?
Don't do a tree, don't got no ornaments.

24. Family tradition?
Mrs F and I usually spend the day eating and drinking. Normally we're at my sister-in-law's for an Italian fish-a-thon.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services?
More times than I'd like to admit but one of my aunts sings in the church choir back home and I go to hear her.

Hmmm ... Who to tag?

The Old White Lady



The PolitcalCat


POP (when she gets the chance)


Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Bush fascisti are now buying each others dirty linen"

Get a good laugh at Pensito Review:

Rove’s Book Sold for Half of What He Expected - And Buyer Was Mary Matalin

From 'comments':

Now, this would actually be funny,if it wasn’t so pathetic. It’s bizarre how none of the “real” publishing houses want to touch this with a 100-foot pole. Maybe they think they’ll be somehow complicit in the lies and high crimes and felonies if they publish it. Matalan is such a stupid dope that she’s probably thinking she’s doing the world a favor. Blechhhhh, may they all rot in hell.

Maybe Mary Matalin is a shrew(d) businesswoman who expects book sales to soar when Rove hits death row.

Say, under some sort of community property rules, doesn’t that mean that half of the advance came out of the wallet of that staunch Liberal, James Carville?

Isn't there a 'Son of Sam' law that prevents criminals from cashin' in on their crimes? Doesn't look like there's gonna be much profit on this one in any case.

Note to Turdblossom: I'd like to see your life story of lies published posthumously by the Charmin folks so I could wipe my ass with it. Next week would be OK, but I'll wait until ya get the Texas needle as a reward for everything you've done to this country.

The torture tape fingering Bush as a war criminal

Andrew Sullivan in the Times (UK) on the CIA/Bush torture tape cover-up in the particular case of Zubaydah:

And that is where the story becomes interesting. The Bush administration denies any illegality at all, insists it does not “torture” but refuses to say whether it believes waterboarding is torture or not. But hundreds of hours of videotape were recorded of Zubaydah’s incarceration and torture. That evidence would settle the dispute over the extremely serious question of whether the president of the United States authorised war crimes.

And now we have found out that all the tapes have been destroyed.

But this case is more ominous for the administration because it presents a core example of what seems to be a cover-up, obstruction of justice and a direct connection between torture and the president, the vice-president and their closest aides.

What are the odds that a legal effective interrogation of a key Al-Qaeda operative would have led many highly respected professionals in the US intelligence community to risk their careers by leaking top-secret details to the press?

What are the odds that the CIA would have sought to destroy tapes that could prove it had legally prevented serious and dangerous attacks against innocent civilians? What are the odds that a president who had never authorised waterboarding would be unable to say whether such waterboarding was torture?

What are the odds that, under congressional grilling, the new attorney-general would also refuse to say whether he believed waterboarding was illegal, if there was any doubt that the president had authorised it? The odds are beyond minimal.

Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have - without any bias - would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.

Congresswoman Jane Harman, the respected top Democrat on the House intelligence committee in 2003-06, put it as simply as she could: “I am worried. It smells like the cover-up of the cover-up.”

It’s a potential Watergate. But this time the crime is not a two-bit domestic burglary. It’s a war crime that reaches into the very heart of the Oval Office.

Knowing Bush is a war criminal is one thing. I know it. Proving it is another thing entirely. I pray, yes, pray, to whatever gods may be listening that something surfaces that can prove it forever and ever, for once and for all, clearly and unequivocally so that he can't parse and weasel out of it any longer, and send that son of a bitch to prison where he belongs. And the horse he rode in on AKA Cheney.

While you were sleeping ...

At least, those of you in the western hemisphere, I was out having my morning cigarette and I couldn't help taking a pic of the beautiful winter scene.

Click to embiggen