Patricia Clarkson at HRC Dinner

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

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I have to say, this is one hell of a speech.

Joe Lieberman: Hypocrite Extraordinaire

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.


Joe Lieberman then:

HAVING SPENT much of the past year mired in legislative trench warfare over Iraq, advocates in Congress seeking a mandatory withdrawal of troops are now refusing to pass funding for our forces deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

For Congress to fail to provide the funds needed by our soldiers in the field is inexcusable under any circumstances -- but it is especially disappointing right now, coming at the very moment when Gen. David Petraeus and his troops are achieving the kind of progress in Iraq that few would have dared imagine possible just a few months ago. [emphasis added]

A very petulant Joe Liberman now:

Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) lambasted transparency advocates at a press conference Tuesday, when they renewed their promise to bring Senate business to a halt until their bill blocking the release of detainee photographs becomes law.

"We're not going to do any more business in the Senate," Graham said, his face flushed red. "Nothing's going forward until we get this right."

The duo's bill, which would allow the Pentagon to exempt Bush-era photos from the Freedom of Information Act, was stripped from the conference version of the war supplemental Monday night. In anticipation of trouble, Lieberman and Graham had already inserted the bill into the tobacco-regulatory legislation currently on the floor of the Senate.

By turns sober and furious, the two senators vowed again Tuesday to vote against -- and, if possible, filibuster -- the troop-funding bill and all other legislation until they get their way. They equated the weapons supplied by the war supplemental spending bill with detainee photos that they said would serve as a recruiting tool for al-Qaida and a weapon against U.S. troops. [emphasis added]

So... who's playing politics with the troops?

The Trenchcoat Mafia & Other Tall Tales

Monday, April 20, 2009

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Perhaps the most powerful lesson we could learn from the Columbine tragedy of 10 years ago, is how completely wrong the mass media can get a story. If you still think of Columbine as a cautionary tale on the dangers of violent video games or bullying and cliques, let it go. These are comforting fairy tales we tell ourselves to make sense of the senseless. It all seems so much more controllable, if we can identify the social mechanisms and change them. Don't get me wrong. I think anti-bullying programs in schools are a great idea, but nothing of the kind would have stopped Eric Harris, or his sidekick Dylan Klebold. Such is the conclusion of author Dave Cullen and of FBI investigators who scrutinized the evidence. Cullen's book, entitled simply Columbine, pubs this Wednesday.

Cullen concluded that the killers weren't part of the Trench Coat Mafia, that they weren't bullied by other students and that they didn't target popular jocks, African-Americans or any other group. A school shooting wasn't their initial intent, he said.

It turns out the reason for the Columbine massacre is as simple as it is troubling. Eric Harris was a psycopath. Dylan Klebold, the weaker personality, was a suicidally depressed kid who took on Eric Harris's ethos as his own. Together, they planned a spectacular event -- one that would have eclipsed the Oklahoma City bombing. Their bomb-making skills were inadequate and they failed to wipe out the entire school. But, their plan had little to do with personal grudges against individuals. They just wanted to kill as many people as they could.

The killers, in fact, laughed at petty school shooters. They bragged about dwarfing the carnage of the Oklahoma City bombing and originally scheduled their bloody performance for its anniversary. Klebold boasted on video about inflicting "the most deaths in U.S. history." Columbine was intended not primarily as a shooting at all, but as a bombing on a massive scale. If they hadn't been so bad at wiring the timers, the propane bombs they set in the cafeteria would have wiped out 600 people. After those bombs went off, they planned to gun down fleeing survivors. An explosive third act would follow, when their cars, packed with still more bombs, would rip through still more crowds, presumably of survivors, rescue workers, and reporters. The climax would be captured on live television. It wasn't just "fame" they were after—Agent Fuselier bristles at that trivializing term—they were gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale of an Attila the Hun. Their vision was to create a nightmare so devastating and apocalyptic that the entire world would shudder at their power.

Harris and Klebold would have been dismayed that Columbine was dubbed the "worst school shooting in American history." They set their sights on eclipsing the world's greatest mass murderers, but the media never saw past the choice of venue. The school setting drove analysis in precisely the wrong direction.

In his original article for Slate, Cullen debunked the litany of Columbine myths propagated by the media:

1. Targeting jocks, blacks, and Christians: There were no targets. Harris and Klebold just wanted body count, and they didn't care who died. They expected their bombs to do most of the killing, murdering everyone in the cafeteria, irrespective of clique or social standing. When the bombs failed, they shot indiscriminately, firing into open crowds and under tables without bothering to see who their victims were. They taunted jocks briefly in the library, but they taunted virtually everyone else there, too.

2. The Trench Coat Mafia: A small group of Columbine students did dub themselves the Trenchcoat Mafia, and they did have a feud with a band of jocks in 1999. But it was never a formal gang or club, and most of the members graduated nearly a year before the massacre. Harris and Klebold were never closely affiliated with the group and did not appear in the 1998 yearbook picture identifying the members. The TCM had little to do with Harris and Klebold and nothing to do with the massacre. The killers wore long coats in order to hide their weapons.

3. The Hit List: Eric Harris did create an enemies list, with a wide and sometimes comical assortment of personalities—students who pissed him off, girls who refused his dates, Tiger Woods. There's no indication that these were ever intended as targets. No one on the list was killed.

4. Christian Martyr Cassie Bernall: One of the killers allegedly asked student Cassie Bernall if she believed in God, then killed her when she said yes. Bernall became a revered figure among evangelical Christians. In fact, one of the killers posed the question to another girl, Valeen Schnurr, after she had already been shot. They had a short exchange, he reloaded, got distracted, and she crawled away to safety.

5. Marilyn Manson: Klebold and Harris hated Marilyn Manson. On his Web site, Harris said he loved, "Good, fast, hard, strong, pounding TECHNO!! Such as KMFDM, PRODIGY, ORBITAL, RAMMSTEIN, and such."

6. Escape to New York: Harris' journal does contain a passage about hijacking a plane and crashing it into New York City, but that appears to have been an early fantasy. He settled on a more practical scheme long before he and Klebold actually staged their massacre. By the time of the attack, they fully expected to die at the high school. They refer to their death routinely and explicitly in their writings and in their videos.

7. Outcasts: Perhaps the most pervasive myth is that Harris and Klebold were rejected outcasts. They were not captains of the football team, but they were far more accepted than many of their schoolmates. They hung out with a tight circle of close friends and partied regularly on the weekend with a wider crowd.

Columbine is a cautionary tale. Just not for the reasons we were led to believe. It should serve as a reminder of how completely wrong the prevailing narrative can be, and how badly professional journalists can serve their audience, in their haste to tell us the story.

“Columbine” is an excellent work of media criticism, showing how legends become truths through continual citation; a sensitive guide to the patterns of public grief, foreshadowing many of the same reactions to Sept. 11 (lawsuits, arguments about the memorial, voyeuristic bus tours); and, at the end of the day, a fine example of old-fashioned journalism.

Gratefully Recovering Republicans

Thursday, March 05, 2009

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Now, that is something I'd like to see.

In the newest plot twist in the strange saga of RNC Chair Michael Steele's self-destructive love affair with the media, he has now suggested a Twelve Step recovery plan for the Republican Party. As one who has been ranting for eight years about how that dry(?) drunk Bush ran this country like a giant dysfunctional family, I applaud Steele's, most likely accidental, admission of how seriously ill his party is. I doubt, however, that he is prepared for what it would really mean for Republicans to work the steps. Humility, surrender, accountability... Well, these are the steps. I wish them well.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [Powermongering, Profligate Spending, Corporate Whoredom, Lawlessness, War Profiteering... ???] — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

My New Hero

Thursday, February 19, 2009

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What I love about Mayor Bernaro's comments, aside from the fact that they are true, is that he managed to get a genuinely populist message on Fox. Not faux, Rush Limbaugh populism. Genuine concern for the working man, who has been watching his quality of life decline for years, while the rich got richer and Wall Street had its seemingly endless, drunken orgy.

The Huffington Post has more.

Fucking Hilarious

Sunday, February 01, 2009

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