Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Republican Government in Action

Associated Press has a story about how concerned the Army is about rampant contracting fraud. They think the Army "needs 1,400 more personnel to deal with the demands of supplying troops in combat".

The reason there's been insufficient policing of the contracts that have been handed out, of course, is that that would have gotten in the way of Dick Cheney's pals at Haliburton running their scams. The basic problem is that the Republicans think ripping off the taxpayers and fucking over our troops is a legitimate way to make money.

You can't trust a Republican with public funds. It's that simple. It's central to their ideology. They don't think the government should have the money in the first place, so they figure they're doing the taxpayers a favor by stealing it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We Sux

For twenty years, city officials in Sioux City, Iowa have been trying to get the Federal Aviation Administration to change the three-letter code by which its airport is known throughout the world and which is printed on tickets and luggage tags: SUX (an abbreviation, of course, of Sioux). In 1988, and again in 2002, the city petitioned the FAA, but to no avail. Finally, as the AP reported last week, city officials decided to give up the attempt, and embrace their inner suckiness.

SUX will now be at the center of the airport's new marketing campaign. FLY SUX will appear on souvenir caps and t-shirts, and form the URL of the airport's redesigned website,

I salute Sioux City's bold attempt to make a virtue of necessity. As airport board member Mark Bernstein notes, many airports, including some of the busiest, have forgettable three-letter codes (Providence's own T.F. Green Airport, frex, has the totally forgettable PVD), but nobody ever forgets Sioux City's code.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Journalism Made Easy

"I'm not a reporter, but I play one in a FEMA press conference."

That's right, the Bushies, possibly embarrassed by the Jeff Gannon fiasco, have finally decided to cut out the middleman and have the government officials themselves ask the questions at press conferences.

One can see where this is leading. Someday, in the not-too-distant future, all reporters will be banned from press conferences, and the press secretaries will ask as well as answer all the questions.

It should make for a much more efficient process.

UPDATE: Jen Clark, my first ever commenter, notes that the FEMA presser itself was an exercise in unnecessity, since FEMA didn't actually do much during the SoCal wildfires. So, to recap: they held a fake press conference to announce insignificant measures. Jen thinks this is a sign of overwhelming stupidity, but I think it's more sinister. This is what happens when the people running the government know they won't suffer any penalty when they do something wrong. As proof, I offer this: John "Pat" Philbin, one of the FEMA employees-turned-fake-reporters, has received a lateral promotion to head of public affairs at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

UPDATE 2: Like a demon from a medieval grimoire, apparently speaking Jeff Gannon's name causes him to appear in a flash of fire and brimstone. Unlike a medieval demon, however, instead of trying to eat your soul, Gannon just deposits long rants full of lame-ass right-wing talking points in your comments section. Sic transit gloria mundi.

UPDATE 3: In her latest blog post, Jen Clark reminds us just how breathtakingly awful FEMA still is two years after Katrina.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

United Nations Day

Today is United Nations Day, the 62nd anniversary of the day the United Nations Charter came into effect.

I'll be celebrating today by cruising around in my black helicopter, confiscating guns from patriotic Americans, and forcing their daughters to marry dark-skinned foreigners.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

He Promised Us the Moon

Sure, the financial markets may be tanking here in the United States, but don't worry, there's a new real estate market opening up just 240,000 miles away.

The Lunar Republic Society is offering parcels of Lunar real estate for the bargain price of $18.95 per acre (plus $8.00 shipping and handling). What is the Lunar Republic Society? Basically, it's a couple of guys who proclaimed themselves the government of "an independent and sovereign Lunar Republic" back in 1999. As the Society's website states:

In much the same way that major corporations — such as IBM or General Electric — offer shares of stock to raise capital, we are offering a limited number of "shares" in lunar property in order to fund privatized exploration, settlement and development of the Moon. The value of the shares is directly related to their location on the Moon, and the growth of their value is directly dependent upon successfully achieving our goal of permanently inhabiting the Moon by 2015.

Send in your money, and in return you receive a personalized parchment deed certificate, a satellite photograph of the property, and an information sheet containing geographic information on the region of the Moon where your property is located. Mind you, $18.95 just gets you property in the Sea of Vapors, the Moon's low-rent district. For property in the posher areas of the Moon like the Bay of Rainbows and the Sea of Tranquility, you can expect to pay up to $37.50 an acre.

Purchasing a plot on the Moon also entitles you to a two-year membership in the Society. As a member, you automatically gain citizenship in the Lunar Republic, which entitles you to participate in Lunar elections, receive a subscription to the Society's newsmagazine The Lunar Journal, discounts on Lunar property, and access to the members-only section of the Society's website. If you're not interested in buying property but still want to join the Society, you can get a two-year membership for $16.00.

So, if you've got some money burning a hole in your pocket, you can realize your secret dream of becoming a Lunar real estate baron. It's a small step for a man, but a giant leap for the interplanetary economy.

UPDATE: To give the Society its due, I have to admit that their managing director, David Ferrell Jackson, saw right through Bush's empty rhetoric back in 2004 when he briefly made noises about establishing a manned base on the Moon.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Breaking the Elephant

If there's one thing that really annoys me (and there are plenty of things that really annoy me), it's hearing insincere "advice" from Republicans about what Democrats need to do. This is because their advice is invariably along the lines of "you need to stop being a bunch of America-hating commie traitors". In other words, it's not actually advice -- it's just a rhetorical device for pushing bullshit talking points. *

But just to prove what a terrific guy I am (how white I am, as a Republican would say), and what wonderful people Democrats are, I'm going to return good for evil, and do for the Republicans what they're only pretending to do for us. I'm going to give them some good political advice: get out while the gettin's good. The GOP brand has been hopelessly compromised by Bush and the Bushies, and the national party itself has been taken over by Christian fundamentalists and neoconservatives. Republicans are already a dying breed here in New England, and the time will come when anyone who isn't a full-bore Freeper will be ashamed to admit to being a Republican.

The modern GOP consists of 3 main subgroups, two of which are already represented by minor parties. First, there are the Christian fundamentalists (or "values voters" as it pleases them to call themselves), whose bedrock principles are theocracy, antifeminism, and homophobia. The misnamed Constitution Party consists largely of former Republicans who have decided that the GOP, extreme as it is, isn't extreme enough. Second, there are the libertarians, whose bedrock principles are Social Darwinism, unfettered capitalism, free trade, isolationism, and total personal freedom. Most of the members of the Libertarian Party are former Republicans who became fed up at the growing power in the GOP of the fundies and the neoconservatives. Third, there are the Dixiecrats, former Southern Democrats who became alienated from the Party of the People after LBJ finished off segregation in the 1960s and who flooded into the GOP after Nixon started pandering to them with his "southern strategy". Although there are a number of tiny racist groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens and the American Nazi Party, there is no significant racist third party, since racists have found such a receptive home in the GOP.

The rise of Rudy "I Have 9/11 Tattooed On My Chest" Giuliani's presidential campaign to frontrunner status has alarmed the fundies, who are appalled by his refusal to flip-flop on abortion and gay rights. The result has been a meeting of the shadowy Council for National Policy, where the idea of abandoning the GOP for a third party (probably the Constitution Party) has been bandied about. If the fundies do bolt the GOP, that will leave the party as an even more uneasy coalition of libertarians and Dixiecrats. Given the libertarians' unhappiness with the growing authoritarian streak in the GOP, a Giuliani nomination might well drive many of them out of the Republican Party and into the arms of the capital-L Libertarians, leaving a rump GOP consisting largely of Dixiecrats.

If this happens, then here in New England the GOP might very well vanish, and in its place will be the Libertarian Party. So, my advice for the local Republicans: get out now, and get in on the ground floor of the Libertarians.

*Something that really annoys me even more are Democrats who take the Republicans seriously and try to act on their "advice". These Democrats tend to be Beltway political consultants.

UPDATE: From comes word that the entire governing board of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, is switching parties from Republican to Democrat. Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Rob Ortiz is not pleased.

Meanwhile, Digby thinks the fundies are just jerking the GOP around, reminding them that the Republicans are the religious right's bitches.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Scary Monsters of the Recording Industry

A cold wind is blowing across the RIAA. Ten days ago, the English rock band Radiohead released their seventh album, In Rainbows. And when I say "released", I mean they put the album on their website and let their fans download it, paying the band whatever amount they want. So far, over a million copies of the album have been downloaded by fans. From the linked Time magazine article, the following quotes:

From Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke: "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'Fuck you' to this decaying business model."

From an unnamed A&R man at a major European label: "This feels like yet another death knell. If the best band in the world doesn't want a part of us, I'm not sure what's left for this business."

From an unnamed rap producer: "Once you open that door and start giving music away legally, I'm not sure there's any going back."

The Time article points out that, at most, a band only ends up with 30% of overall revenues from their album sales, and that's for well-established big-name bands like Green Day. It ends by noting that Prince released his last album online for free in July, then went on to sell out 21 consecutive London concert dates.

Radiohead are planning to embark on a world tour in support of In Rainbows next spring.