Friday, September 28, 2007

At peace with himself -- at war with the world

During the run-up to our ongoing Iraqi fiasco, President Bush had a sit-down with Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar (speaking of which, can you imagine the ribbing a kid would get in the US if his parents named him "Joseph Mary"?) in which he talked about his plans for the imminent invasion of Iraq, and Aznar pleaded with Bush to show a little more patience an to build a stronger coalition against Saddam. Bush, however, with his spine of steel (connected to a mind of oatmeal) was stuck on "stay the course." When hasn't he been, is my question.

Money quote: "Bush quickly waved away any such tantalizing possibility, along with all the rest of the concerns and proposals voiced by his staunchest ally next to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Instead, he sternly warned that any foreign leader who continued to oppose him would be punished. Indeed, displaying his usual flair for diplomacy, he mocked the Spanish leader's worries about the growing rift between the United States and its traditional allies across the Atlantic. "The more the Europeans attack me," gloated the president, "the stronger I am in the United States."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

God vs. Skippy

And they say it with a perfectly straight face. Did they ever stop to think that despite the disparity in scale (a hundred years or so vs. billions of years, not to mention the presence of different elements), new life might be appearing in the peanut butter -- but is microscopic?

Remember, at least TWO of the Republican presidential candidates don't believe in evolution.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Achieving Mencken's Vision

H. L. Mencken waxes prophetic about the presidency:

" . . . all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious
and mediocre — the man who can most easily (and) adeptly disperse
the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The presidency tends, year
by year, to go to such men.

As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more
closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty
ideal. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will
reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a
downright moron."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Roosevelt Was Right

He said, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Though when he spoke those words in 1933, he spoke of the fear Americans were feeling in the wake of a depression bank panic, his words ring true today as American Christianists call repeatedly upon the fear of God's wrath. Look what godlessness is doing to our country, the would-be theocrats say. This video is a great example of how insidious this thinking has become.
This choir is singing at the "Value Voters" debate, at which all the major Republican presidential candidates appeared. (They wouldn't deign to debate in front of black people, Hispanic people or gay people, but they all trotted out for the creationists.)

Fear seems to be the coin of the realm for the current administration. (I won't even call them Republicans anymore, as the Bush, Cheney and the neo-con crowd have become a cabal unto themselves.) Fear of terrorism, fear of sexuality, fear of death -- all are used to prop up the President and maintain his power. Ultimately, what they seem to want is for voters to put their trust in an invisible god and cede their power as citizens to men and women who pretend to speak for this distant deity. That leaves a lovely vacuum for them to seize even more authority of a government that was designed to be "of the people, by the people and for the people." Contrary to another great president's words, this ideal may indeed perish from the earth if those same people don't start using their brains.

Home Futures

Apparently there is a new market opened at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, with contracts being sold there based on the price of real estate. Take a look at this blog post, which outlines where traders at the CME think housing prices are going, based on the bets they have made. Kind of scary. These guys are putting real money that prices will be down significantly over the next five years.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More on Larry Craig?

Here you are, my two faithful readers, seeing that -- after almost two weeks of radio silence -- another post has appeared on the Feast. And what does it seem to be about? Larry Craig. Sorry, I'm just not interested in OJ. On the other hand, Frank Rich is also still interested in Larry Craig. What's more, now that the New York Times has decided to make all content in the paper available on the Web (it used to be that some columnists could only be read through TimesSelect, a pay version of the online edition), you can read it.

Money quote: "What Mr. Craig did in that men's room isn't an offense either. He didn't have sex in a public place. He didn't expose himself. His toe tapping, hand signals and "wide stance" were at most a form of flirtation. As George Will has rightly argued, if deviancy can be defined down to "signaling an interest in sex," then deviancy is what "goes on in 10,000 bars every Saturday night in our country." It's free speech even if the toes and fingers do the talking."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Expensive Gas=Slimmer Waistlines

According to a new study, a rise in gasoline prices may lead to a reduction in the rate of obesity. Money quote: "The study found that an additional $1 per gallon in real gasoline prices would reduce U.S. obesity by 15 percent after five years."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Get on the Judy Train

Before it's too late, hurry down to the Plush Room and get yourself a ticket for Judy Butterfield's new show, "How Long Has This Been Going On?" Pretty soon she might be a star and you'll never have a shot at getting this up close and personal with her. Better yet, bring some friends, and you can all be stunned by the artistry of cabaret's new wunderkind. Just 17 years old, Judy Butterfield has an assuredness and a stage presence that belie her tender years. More than that, she displays the kind of fearlessness that is vital to any true artist. She stands on stage completely confident in who she is and what she has to offer. She is, simply put, a budding star. What does she have to offer? Plenty.

Unlike most kids her age, Butterfield has fallen in love with the American songbook. She sings tunes from George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jermore Kern, Rodgers and Hart and others. She begins the evening with "Skylark," delivering a lovely version of that haunting song and closes with a Curtis Mayfield tune, "Please Find Me Someone To Love." Along the way, she makes two stops, one for Dylan's "It Ain't Me, Babe" and the Beatles' "If I Fell." But other than those three numbers, the playlist was almost entirely from the 20s, 30s and 40s. (But I must admit, I think the Dylan and Beatles numbers were my favorites of the evening -- she did what a true artist does: helped me to experience the familiar in a fresh way.)

The show itself is well put-together; her patter is funny without trying too hard to be funny, just personal enough, and draws you through the evening in an elegant, economical manner. It's really a terrific show.

My only criticism is that when Butterfield is being gentle with a song, she can have a a pitch problem or two. But that will fade as she gains experience. Besides, her pitch and tone are lovely when she's really singing out.

I can't wait to see how Butterfield develops as an artist; it will be fascinating to see her again in five or six years. Depending on the course she takes with her career however, that could be at the Oak Room in New York, on a Broadway stage, or even an arena. The girl's got a lot going for her.

An Effort in Futility

Larry Craig has decided to attempt to withdraw his guilty plea for disorderly conduct in the men's room at the Minneapolis airport in June. Given the nature of the testimony (and, I imagine, the power of his attorneys), I suspect Craig could achieve an acquittal, or get the charges dropped altogether.

His problem is, being cleared in a strictly legal sense (in this instance, at least) will do nothing to help him in the court of public opinion. People aren't stupid. They know what Craig went into that restroom looking for. If he truly had suffered a "manifest injustice," as his lawyers are claiming, wouldn't he have mentioned it to his wife and/or staff?

Tales of Power

I never thought I'd think of John Ashcroft as one of the good guys, but read this story from the New York Times. It discusses some of the materials in a forthcoming book by Jack Goldsmith, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel. There is much here to anger those who see the continuing abuses of power by the Bush/Cheney cabal (most notably the continuing evidence that, once Bush has made up his mind about something, nothing can deter him -- not facts, and certainly not legality).

But my favorite bit is the story of how, after then-Attorney General Ashcroft was visited in the ICU by AG Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card in an attempt to get Ashcroft to renew a secret terrorist surveillance program, Ashcroft's wife expressed her displeasure at these men's attempt to capitalize on her husband's weakened state: “Mrs. Ashcroft, who obviously couldn’t believe what she saw happening to her sick husband, looked at Gonzales and Card as they walked out of the room and stuck her tongue out at them. She had no idea what we were discussing, but this sweet-looking woman sticking out her tongue was the ultimate expression of disapproval. It captured the feeling in the room perfectly.”

NOTE: photo is NOT of Mrs. Ashcroft

Friday, September 07, 2007

Bush Knew

There are those who defend President Bush's handling of the lead-up to the Iraq war by saying that he never actively lied. Perhaps the intelligence he got turned out to be wrong, but he never said something he knew to be wrong. Well, according to an article in Salon, the CIA told him specifically that its best sources showed Saddam had no WMDs. George (Bush, not Tenet), however, had already made up his mind. The article quotes a report from two CIA officers who provided the report.

Money quote: "The officers continued to insist on the significance of Sabri's information, but one of Tenet's deputies told them, "You haven't figured this out yet. This isn't about intelligence. It's about regime change."

The CIA officers on the case awaited the report they had submitted on Sabri to be circulated back to them, but they never received it. They learned later that a new report had been written. "It was written by someone in the agency, but unclear who or where, it was so tightly controlled. They knew what would please the White House. They knew what the king wanted," one of the officers told me."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Redefining "Traditional"

As the Republican presidential candidates fall over themselves to attack the recent Iowa county court decision overturning the state's anti-same-sex marriage law, they all talk about defending traditional marriage. Interestingly, most of the Republican candidates have been divorced, which hardly fits the definition of "traditional," at least as I was taught it. Salon's Glenn Greenwald has an interesting piece on the subject. Money quote:

"The only reason this glaring contradiction can be maintained is because most of the media and huge numbers of voters even outside of the "Value Voters" sphere have convinced themselves -- driven by obvious self-interest and oozing self-centeredness -- that the only rule of "traditional marriage" is that you need a man and a woman and provided that rule is complied with, all other types of marriages and divorces qualify as "traditional.""

Saturday, September 01, 2007


For those of you who have never heard of Flickr, it's a photo-sharing website. People can upload photos, classify them, and share them with anyone who visits the site. (The only photos I've ever uploaded were pictures of the snow-covered course at Bandon Dunes in January -- visit and search for "bandon dunes snow" if you want to see them.)

If you click to this page on Flickr, you'll find some of my favorite images -- a collection of designs that were supposed to have become part of our world by the year 2000. Check 'em out.