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January 21, 2005

Scenes from an inauguration

(Images moved here.)

Lifted from TBogg, who is always worth reading.


January 19, 2005

Bush said it's important to celebrate a "peaceful transfer of power" and that he suspects inauguration guests have been generous in donating to tsunami victims. "You can be equally concerned about our troops in Iraq and those who suffered at the tsunamis with celebrating democracy," he said.

Peaceful transfer of power?

He, uh, does know that he's been president for the past four years, right?

Story, via Greg. And speaking of the inauguration, both Greg and Bob have noted that...

Parade performers will have security escorts to the bathroom, and they've been ordered not to look directly at President Bush or make any sudden movements while passing the reviewing stand.

Celebrate democracy--but no eye contact please! It might disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.


Hat tip: reader Nick.

Looking ahead

The Christmas ornaments were pretty last-minute this year. We're hoping to give ourselves much more lead time for the next holiday season. Right now, the ornaments under consideration are Sparky and Blinky with full bodies (not just heads)--Blinky with a scarf, and Sparky with or without a Santa suit. And a third, more limited ornament, for those of you who remember Wilbur the Talking Stomach and his untimely demise--a glittery Wilbur angel, complete with wings. (If we actually produce that one, I might as well retire, because it's hard to imagine that I will ever achieve anything stranger.)

Anyway, we're still in the planning stages, so I'm open to requests. What TMW chotchkes and/or ornaments would you be likely to purchase in large quantities and proudly display? (One thing I'm pushing for is a child-safe plush doll, largely because a 19-month old of my acquaintance is quite taken with Sparky.)

...And before some tedious stick-in-the-mud starts whining about "selling out"--the Christmas ornaments this year represented about .00000002% of my 2004 income. I'm working on this stuff because it genuinely amuses me, not because it's making me rich, ha ha, rich beyond dreams of avarice. Though as I've stated before, that's certainly one of my main goals in life. And I think I've clearly chosen the most obvious career path toward that objective. (Astonishingly, I do occasionally get email from readers who berate me for not presenting a conservative or moderate/right point of view--my motivation for this omission, apparently, being the extreme marketability of left-wing cartoons. One thing you learn, doing work in public, is that--well, that this cartoon was not far off the mark.)

Sometimes I even scare myself

In last week's cartoon, I suggest, in my usual over-the-top satirical way, that conservatives will soon be using the tsunami to push their Social Security agenda ("Speaking of tsunami relief--this tragedy clearly highlights the need to reform the Social Security system--before IT is wiped out--by a FINANCIAL TSUNAMI!")

The typical reader, upon encountering this panel, undoubtedly set the newspaper down, took a sip of coffee, and mused, "Amusing, yes, but in an overstated kind of way. No actual conservative would really be so blatant and thoughtless!"

And I would have agreed, until I received the following email:

On the ABC News program "This Week," Dr. Frist said that a "huge demographic tidal wave" would hit the program in 2008, when the first baby boomers reach the age of 62 and can obtain benefits, reduced for early retirement.

Nice job, but please try to improve your performance - I'd like two know what the right-wing nutjobs are saying TWO weeks in advance.

I've said this many times, but it's really hard to stay ahead as a satirist these days. I did a cartoon awhile back for the American Prospect in which a psychotic right winger is shouting at a timid liberal (I know, hard concept to visualize, but just go with it). I was looking back through my TAP files to see if there were any evergreens I could resize and keep in my backup folder, to use for my weekly strip in case I'm ever laid up some week--and I noticed that in this wacky satire, written a couple of years back, I have my outrageous conservative saying, "I suppose YOU want to CODDLE the terrorists, DON'T YOU? Well, I think we should STRAP THEM DOWN and TORTURE THEM!" (Or something close to that--I'm paraphrasing from memory.) This was written before the Abu Ghraib revelations. It was meant as over-the-top satire, a ludicrous exaggeration. Once again, reality outpaced satire. What once seemed unthinkable is now commonplace.


January 18, 2005

Random observation

Why isn't there a computer on the desk in the Oval Office?

Do presidents still do everything with quill pen and an ink bottle?

(I know Bush thinks the internet is plural--but this was true of Clinton, as well...)(he didn't have a computer on his desk either, I mean...)

Pissing in the wind...

...and other wastes of time: trying to set the record straight on the Trent Lott thing. The conventional wisdom, from a Philly Inquirer review of Hugh Hewitt's book:

Hewitt notes that while it was left-of-center bloggers Atrios (Philadelphian Duncan Black) and Joshua Micah Marshall who got the anti-Lott swarm buzzing, it was conservative bloggers - notably the chameleonic Andrew Sullivan, whose coloration at the time was deemed conservative, and Republican law professor Daniel Drezner - who brought it to critical mass.

This is all true, as far as it goes, but it leaves out one significant detail: this site's small but crucial role in the whole matter. As some of you may recall, the balance was apparently tipped when footage surfaced of Trent Lott making the same comments about Strom Thurmond a third time. And the reason that footage became public was that a reader of this site had caught it on C-Span several years prior, grasped the significance, and saved the tape. He emailed me and I put the information up on my site, where it was ignored by pretty much everyone. I then called up a producer I knew at MSNBC, which ran with the scoop, albeit without acknowledging the source. Soon it was all over the networks and Fox pundits were speculating that the DNC must have had an army of interns poring over old footage.

Short story: the Lott thing is not quite the Triumph of the Blogs tale that myth has made it. The story gained momentum because of the blogs. And if I hadn't been blogging, the reader who had the tape might never have contacted me. But what finally brought down Trent Lott was primarily a guy, I believe in the Midwest, with an old videotape and a long memory, and secondarily, the fact that I had a friend working at MSNBC. (Since I called him on the phone, you could just as easily credit the telecommunications network as the blogs...)

Relevant entries here, here, and here.

...just so we're clear, I'm not that worried about getting "credit" here--I was really little more than a conduit. I'm just tired of seeing this triumphalist myth repeated over and over, when I know for a fact that the blogs were only part of the story...

Still more ribbons

Here. I especially like the "Where is your ribbon?" ribbon.


January 17, 2005

More homeland stupidity


ST. HELENS, Ore. Oct 28, 2004 — So far as she knows, Pufferbelly Toys owner Stephanie Cox hasn't been passing any state secrets to sinister foreign governments, or violating obscure clauses in the Patriot Act.

So she was taken aback by a mysterious phone call from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to her small store in this quiet Columbia River town just north of Portland.

"I was shaking in my shoes," Cox said of the September phone call. "My first thought was the government can shut your business down on a whim, in my opinion. If I'm closed even for a day that would cause undue stress."

When the two agents arrived at the store, the lead agent asked Cox whether she carried a toy called the Magic Cube, which he said was an illegal copy of the Rubik's Cube, one of the most popular toys of all time.

He told her to remove the Magic Cube from her shelves, and he watched to make sure she complied.

Sad news
There is very sad news to report today: Jesse Lanier Cooper, the 17-year-old son of Oscar winner Chris Cooper and his wife, "Sopranos" co-star Marianne Leone, died at the family's Kingston home Monday night.

Jesse, the couple's only child, died of natural causes related to his cerebral palsy, family spokeswoman Cara Tripicchio said.

"They are fantastic people and our hearts go out to them," Tripicchio said. "It's very, very unfortunate." The Coopers have been tireless advocates for special needs kids in the Boston area since moving here in 1994. The couple relocated from the New York area to the South Shore because they believed Massachusetts had the more progressive educational opportunities for children with cerebral palsy.

"My wife did her research and found out Massachusetts was about 20 years ahead of other states in terms of mainstreaming kids with disabilities into public schools," Cooper said last year.

Even with that, the couple "really had to fight" for resources for their son, said Cooper, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as an orchid thief in "Adaptation."

Jesse was eventually mainstreamed into classes at Silver Lake Regional High School, where he earned a place on the honor roll. The boy's success was due, in large part, to the dedication and sacrifices made by his parents.


I met Chris and Marianne last summer. We've stayed in touch off and on by email, but I just heard about this over the weekend. My deepest sympathies go out to them both.

...They've set up a foundation to support charities that meant a lot to their son. To donate, send a check payable to:

Jesse Cooper Foundation
P.O. Box 390
Kingston, MA  02364

A couple more ribbon magnets

Here and here.

The Freedom
"Ah, the freedom. Look, we have the gas-line freedom, the looting freedom, the killing freedom, the rape freedom, the hash-smoking freedom. I don't know what to do with all this freedom. " —Akeel, a twenty-six-year-old Baghdad resident on life in the new Iraq

That's the quote from which Christian Parenti takes the title of his new book of on-the-ground reporting from Iraq. I'm about a third of the way through it, and so far, I would recommend it unambiguously to anyone who wants to get a sense of what's actually happening there, without the various CNN/Fox/DoD filters.

Sorry, Andy

Yesterday, Sullivan was clutching at this exchange like a drowning man grasping for a piece of driftwood:

The Post: Do you plan to expend any political capital to aggressively lobby senators for a gay marriage amendment?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I think that the situation in the last session -- well, first of all, I do believe it's necessary; many in the Senate didn't, because they believe DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act] will -- is in place, but -- they know DOMA is in place, and they're waiting to see whether or not DOMA will withstand a constitutional challenge.

The Post: Do you plan on trying to -- using the White House, using the bully pulpit, and trying to --

THE PRESIDENT: The point is, is that senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I'd take their admonition seriously.

The Post: But until that changes, you want it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate. Do you see what I'm saying?

The Post: Right.


From this, Sullivan concludes:

The FMA has gone unmentioned by Bush since the election - and it appears more and more like a pre-election ploy rather than a principled stand. (Of course, that's a relief but it's also an indication of how bald-faced a political maneuver this was in the first place). But this piece of sanity from the President deserves praise and reciprocation from those of us who support equality in marriage.

Thus reassured, he closes with buoyant optimism:

Very soon, it will be clear that Massachusetts' judicial decision will be endorsed by its own legislature, making this case a matter not simply of judicial activity but democratic legitimacy. And then we should bide our time and let the example of Massachusetts set in. I'm convinced that once the reality of this reform sinks in, fears will recede. The president has given us this opportunity. It would be crazy not to reciprocate. But for the record: thanks, Mr president.

Sullivan may well be right on one count--that the FMA was never anything more than red meat for the knuckle-draggers. But even so, the thing about pandering to a noisy constituency is that they'll hold you to it, as we learn this morning:

The White House sought on Sunday to reassure conservatives that President Bush would work hard on behalf of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, backtracking from remarks Mr. Bush made in an interview suggesting that he would not press the Senate to vote on the amendment this year.

Remember Charlie the tuna? The bespectacled tunafish who, for reasons which are never made entirely clear, wishes nothing more than to be caught by the Starkist trawler (represented by a cartoon fishing hook) and, presumably, chopped up and served as some child's lunchmeat? That's Andrew Sullivan. Like Charlie, he longs for acceptance into a system that is designed to destroy him, and like Charlie, he is destined for perpetual rejection.

Sorry, Charlie.

Cheery thought for the morning
A recent study in stress at Nottingham Trent University found that watching the news triggered depression, confusion, irritation, anger and anxiety. News comes at the price of your peace of mind.



January 16, 2005

Homeland stupidity

I meant to blog this a couple of weeks ago, but you know how it is. I meant to become rich, rich I tell you, rich, ha ha, rich beyond dreams of avarice, but I didn't get around to that either.


A New Jersey miracle man has been charged under the Patriot Act for allegedly shining a laser into two pilots' eyes.

David Banach could face up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for disrupting the operator of a mass transportation vehicle - a charge covered under the controversial Patriot Act - and lying to the FBI. Authorities claim that Banach, 38, admitted to shining a laser at a jet plane and at a helicopter flying over his home. The jet pilots were momentarily blinded by the green laser light, according to state officials. Their Cessna Citation flying at 3,000 feet had six passengers.

Earlier this week, the FBI dismissed the idea that a string of "laser in the cockpit" incidents were part of a terrorist plot to bother pilots. The Feds, however, have now applied the long arm of the Patriot Act - invented after the Sept. 11 attacks - to Banach's supposed crime.

"We are not saying this is a grand terrorist incident," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie told the New York Post. "We have to send a clear message to the public - no matter what the intent was."

So. Does anyone really believe that Mr. Banach is a terrorist mastermind? Does anyone believe that he's anything more than a suburban goofball playing around with his laser pointer? And yet, his life is going to be severely disrupted, at best--if not destroyed--so the powers that be can make an example of him. That's the world we live in these days. That's the sort of thing the Patriot Act allows. And anyone who can still argue that "the innocent have nothing to hide" is officially Too Stupid to Breathe.

...for that matter, does anyone really believe you could aim a penlight laser at a moving airplane thousands of feet in the sky with such specificity as to target the cockpit--which is traditionally not placed on the underside of the plane, in my experience--and "blind the pilot"? I'd bet dollars to donuts that this whole thing is an after-the-fact justification by overzealous homeland security types. Or something else is going on here, but in any case, the "blind the pilot" thing just doesn't pass the smell test.


I'm giving my friend Jen Sorensen some ad space to push her new book, partially to make up for the fact that I forgot to write a blurb she asked for (d'oh!), but mostly because I am genuinely a huge fan of her work. So check it out.

The wankery du jour


The accusations about Kos being a Armstrong Williams-esque shill for Howard Dean are bullshit. Everyone knows it. Why are we even bothering trying to legitimately counter it? It's bullshit, we all know it's bullshit, the right-wingers all know it's bullshit. But they know the "Al Gore invented the internet" line is bullshit too, and you still see it in weblog comments.

Oliver Willis or Jesse Taylor could write 2,000 of the most eloquent, intelligent words on the dangers of the current Middle East crisis. Within the first five comments, some dipshit loser will simply respond "oh, I suppose you'd rather have the army run by a guy who raped a retard in 'Nam, wouldn't you?"

They don't care. They don't care about their own self-evaluations. What matters- the only thing that matters- is that they said something they think was really clever on the comments section of some person they've likely never met.

Heh, indeed, etc. The Kos pile-on is the perfect example of what I was talking about here. Right wingers are really, really good at this crap, at maneuvering liberals and lefties into a corner from which they must sputter, "We're not robots and/or aliens! Really, we're not!"

I mean, this nonsense spills out of the blogs and onto Fox and suddenly O'Reilly is equating Kos's relationship with Dean--which he fully disclosed, which I remember being completely aware of at the time--to Armstrong Williams secretly receiving nearly a quarter million dollars of taxpayer money. Bullshit, pure and simple.


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