Sunday, May 21, 2006

Blast from the (recent) past

I find myself easily distracted. I was never diagnosed with ADD or anything, but sometimes, I'm doing research for my little weekly (and mostly ignored by the American populace) blog/column, and I suddenly find myself at a complete standstill, reading something unrelated to the subject at hand.

Unless you were living under a rock for the past two months, you are probably aware of the Stephen Colbert speech, delivered six feet from George Bush, at the White House Correspondent's Association dinner. It was a masterpiece, but apparently, all of the people stunned by the audacity of Mr. Colbert is forgetting where he came from. He was one of the major writers/"performers" on The Daily Show, and about a year and a half ago, the spokesmodel from The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, appeared on Crossfire, and pretty much destroyed that show. It was cancelled shortly after Mr. Stewart's appearance, and it also brought to Tucker Carlson's attention what a stupid piece of clothing a bowtie actually is.

So here's the appearance that ended a news program, and which shows the fetal appearance of the attitude that brought us the Stephen Colbert speech.

(It's slightly, but only slightly, edited for readability. I removed most of the superfluous "(LAUGHTER)" and "(CROSSTALK)" lines. I kept a few, when laughter was more of a punctuation, not just a random sound).
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. As both of our loyal viewers, of course, know, our show is about all left vs. white, black vs. white, paper vs. plastic, Red Sox against the Yankees. That's why every day, we have two guests with their own unique perspective on the news. But today, CROSSFIRE is very difficult. We have just one guest. He's either the funniest smart guy on TV or the smartest funnyman. We'll find out which in a minute. But he's certainly an Emmy Award winner, the host of Comedy Central's "Daily Show" and the co-author of the new mega best-seller "America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction," at your bookstores everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the CROSSFIRE Jon Stewart.

STEWART: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thank you for joining us.

STEWART: Thank you very much. That was very kind of you to say. Can I say something very quickly? Why do we have to fight? (laughter) The two of you? Can't we just -- say something nice about John Kerry right now.

CARLSON: I like John. I care about John Kerry.

STEWART: And something about President Bush.

BEGALA: He'll be unemployed soon? (laughter) I failed the test. I'm sorry.

CARLSON: See, I made the effort anyway.

BEGALA: No, actually, I knew Bush in Texas a little bit. And the truth is, he's actually a great guy. He's not a very good president. But he's actually a very good person. I don't think you should have to hate to oppose somebody, but it makes it easier. (laughter)

STEWART: Why do you argue, the two of you? (laughter) I hate to see it.

CARLSON: We enjoy it.

STEWART: Let me ask you a question.

CARLSON: Well, let me ask you a question first.

STEWART: All right.

CARLSON: Is John Kerry -- is John Kerry really the best? I mean, John Kerry has...

STEWART: Is he the best? I thought Lincoln was good.

CARLSON: Is he the best the Democrats can do? This year, of the whole field.

STEWART: I had always thought, in a democracy -- and, again, I don't know -- I've only lived in this country -- that there's a process. They call them primaries.


STEWART: And they don't always go with the best, but they go with whoever won. So is he the best? According to the process.

CARLSON: Right. But of the nine guys running, who do you think was best. Do you think he was the best, the most impressive?

STEWART: The most impressive?


STEWART: I thought Al Sharpton was very impressive. I enjoyed his way of speaking. I think, oftentimes, the person that knows they can't win is allowed to speak the most freely, because, otherwise, shows with titles, such as CROSSFIRE., or "HARDBALL" or "I'm Going to Kick Your Ass" or... (laughter) ...will jump on it. In many ways, it's funny. And I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.

BEGALA: We have noticed.

STEWART: And I wanted to -- I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come here and tell you that I don't -- it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America.

CARLSON: But in its defense...

STEWART: So I wanted to come here today and say... Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.


STEWART: Stop. (laughter) Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America. And come work for us, because we, as the people...

CARLSON: How do you pay?

STEWART: The people -- not well. (laughter)

BEGALA: Better than CNN, I'm sure.

STEWART: But you can sleep at night. See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.

BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we're too rough on them when they make mistakes.

STEWART: No, no, no, you're not too rough on them. You're part of their strategies. You are partisan... what do you call it?... hacks.

CARLSON: Wait, Jon, let me tell you something valuable that I think we do that I'd like to see you...

STEWART: Something valuable?


STEWART: I would like to hear it.

CARLSON: And I'll tell you. When politicians come on, it's nice to get them to try and answer the question. And in order to do that, we try and ask them pointed questions. I want to contrast our questions with some questions you asked John Kerry recently, up on the screen.

STEWART: If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you're more than welcome to.

CARLSON: No, no, no, here's the point.

STEWART: If that's your goal.

CARLSON: It's not.

STEWART: I wouldn't aim for us. I'd aim for "Seinfeld." That's a very good show.

CARLSON: Kerry won't come on this show. He will come on your show.


CARLSON: Let me suggest why he wants to come on your show.

STEWART: Well, we have civilized discourse.

CARLSON: Well, here's an example of the civilized discourse. Here are three of the questions you asked John Kerry. You have a chance to interview the Democratic nominee. You asked him questions such as, quote, "How are you holding up? Is it hard not to take the attacks personally?"


CARLSON: "Have you ever flip-flopped?" et cetera, et cetera.


CARLSON: Didn't you feel like -- you got the chance to interview the guy. Why not ask him a real question, instead of just suck up to him?

STEWART: Yes. "How are you holding up?" is a real suck-up. And I was actually giving him a hot stone massage as we were doing it.

CARLSON: It sounded that way. It did.

STEWART: You know, it's interesting to hear you talk about my responsibility.

CARLSON: I felt the sparks between you.

STEWART: I didn't realize that -- and maybe this explains quite a bit -- that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity. (laughter) So what I would suggest is, when you talk about you're holding politicians' feet to fire, I think that's disingenuous. I think you're...

CARLSON: "How are you holding up?" I mean, come on.

STEWART: No, no, no. But my role isn't, I don't think...

CARLSON: But you can ask him a real question, don't you think, instead of saying...

STEWART: I don't think I have to. By the way, I also asked him, "Were you in Cambodia?" But I didn't really care. (laughter) Because I don't care, because I think it's stupid.

CARLSON: I can tell.

STEWART: But my point is this. If your idea of confronting me is that I don't ask hard-hitting enough news questions, we're in bad shape, fellows. (laughter)

CARLSON: We're here to love you, not confront you. We're here to be nice.

STEWART: No, no, no, but what I'm saying is this. I'm not. I'm here to confront you, because we need help from the media and they're hurting us. And it's -- the idea is...

BEGALA: Let me get this straight. If the indictment is -- if the indictment is -- and I have seen you say this -- that... that CROSSFIRE reduces everything, as I said in the intro, to left, right, black, white.


BEGALA: Well, it's because, see, we're a debate show.

STEWART: No, no, no, no, that would be great.

BEGALA: It's like saying The Weather Channel reduces everything to a storm front.

STEWART: I would love to see a debate show.

BEGALA: We're 30 minutes in a 24-hour day where we have each side on, as best we can get them, and have them fight it out.

STEWART: No, no, no, no, that would be great. To do a debate would be great. But that's like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.

CARLSON: Jon, Jon, Jon, I'm sorry. I think you're a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring. Let me ask you a question on the news.

STEWART: Now, this is theater. It's obvious. How old are you?

CARLSON: Thirty-five.

STEWART: And you wear a bow tie. (laughter)

CARLSON: Yes, I do. I do.

STEWART: So this is...

CARLSON: I know. I know. I know. You're a...

STEWART: So this is theater.

CARLSON: Now, let me just...

STEWART: Now, listen, I'm not suggesting that you're not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie.

CARLSON: They're difficult.

STEWART: But the thing is that this -- you're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great. It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.

CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...

STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you?

CARLSON: Well, I'm just saying, there's no reason for you -- when you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy's butt boy, to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on. It's embarrassing.

STEWART: I was absolutely his butt boy. I was so far -- you would not believe what he ate two weeks ago... You know, the interesting thing is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one. The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk...

CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

STEWART: No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey.

BEGALA: Go ahead. Go ahead.

STEWART: I watch your show every day. And it kills me.

CARLSON: I can tell you love it.

STEWART: It's so -- oh, it's so painful to watch. You know, because we need what you do. This is such a great opportunity you have here to actually get politicians off of their marketing and strategy.

CARLSON: Is this really Jon Stewart? What is this, anyway?

STEWART: Yes, it's someone who watches your show and cannot take it anymore. I just can't.

CARLSON: What's it like to have dinner with you? It must be excruciating. Do you like lecture people like this or do you come over to their house and sit and lecture them; they're not doing the right thing, that they're missing their opportunities, evading their responsibilities?

STEWART: If I think they are.

CARLSON: I wouldn't want to eat with you, man. That's horrible.

STEWART: I know. And you won't. But the thing I want to get to...

BEGALA: We did promise naked pictures of the Supreme Court justices.

CARLSON: Yes, we did. Let's get to those.

BEGALA: They're in this book, which is a very funny book.

STEWART: Why can't we just talk -- please, I beg of you guys, please.

CARLSON: I think you watch too much CROSSFIRE. We're going to take a quick break.

STEWART: No, no, no, please.

CARLSON: No, no, hold on. We've got commercials.

STEWART: Please. Please stop.

CARLSON: Next, Jon Stewart in the "Rapid Fire."

STEWART: Please stop.

CARLSON: Hopefully, he'll be here, we hope, we think.

(Here, we cut a chunk where Wolf Blitzer pimps his own show)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're talking to Jon Stewart, who was just lecturing us on our moral inferiority. Jon, you're bumming us out. Tell us, what do you think about the Bill O'Reilly vibrator story?

STEWART: I'm sorry. I don't.


STEWART: What do you think?

BEGALA: Let me change the subject.

STEWART: Where's your moral outrage on this?

CARLSON: I don't have any.

STEWART: I know.

BEGALA: Which candidate do you suppose would provide you better material?

STEWART: I'm sorry?

BEGALA: Which candidate do you suppose would provide you better material if he won?

STEWART: Mr. T. I think he'd be the funniest. I don't...

BEGALA: Don't you have a stake in it that way, as not just a citizen, but as a professional comic?

STEWART: Right, which I hold to be much more important than as a citizen.

BEGALA: Well, there you go. But who would you provide you better material, do you suppose?

STEWART: I don't really know. That's kind of not how we look at it. We look at, the absurdity of the system provides us the most material. And that is best served by sort of the theater of it all, you know, which, by the way, thank you both, because it's been helpful.

CARLSON: But, if Kerry gets elected, is it going to -- you have said you're voting for him. You obviously support him. It's clear. Will it be harder for you to mock his administration if he becomes president?

STEWART: No. Why would it be harder?

CARLSON: Because you support...

STEWART: The only way it would be harder is if his administration is less absurd than this one. So, in that case, if it's less absurd, then, yes, I think it would be harder. But, I mean, it would be hard to top this group, quite frankly. In terms of absurdity and their world matching up to the one that -- you know, it was interesting. President Bush was saying, John Kerry's rhetoric doesn't match his record. But I've heard President Bush describe his record. His record doesn't match his record. So I don't worry about it in that respect. But let me ask you guys, again, a question, because we talked a little bit about, you're actually doing honest debate and all that. But, after the debates, where do you guys head to right afterwards?

CARLSON: The men's room.

STEWART: Right after that?


STEWART: Spin alley.


STEWART: No, spin alley.

BEGALA: What are you talking about? You mean at these debates?

STEWART: Yes. You go to spin alley, the place called spin alley. Now, don't you think that, for people watching at home, that's kind of a drag, that you're literally walking to a place called deception lane? ...Like, it's spin alley. It's -- don't you see, that's the issue I'm trying to talk to you guys...

BEGALA: No, I actually believe -- I have a lot of friends who work for President Bush. I went to college with some of them.

CARLSON: Neither of us was ever in the spin room, actually.

BEGALA: No, I did -- I went to do the Larry King show. They actually believe what they're saying. They want to persuade you. That's what they're trying to do by spinning. But I don't doubt for a minute these people who work for President Bush, who I disagree with on everything, they believe that stuff, Jon. This is not a lie or a deception at all. They believe in him, just like I believe in my guy.

STEWART: I think they believe President Bush would do a better job. And I believe the Kerry guys believe President Kerry would do a better job. But what I believe is, they're not making honest arguments. So what they're doing is, in their mind, the ends justify the means.

BEGALA: I don't think so at all.

CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion. OK, up next, Jon Stewart goes one on one with his fans...

STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

CARLSON: Now, you're getting into it. I like that.


CARLSON: OK. We'll be right back.

There you go. Just another piece of pop history that we all need to remember.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What The Hell Is Your Major Malfunction, Private Pyle?

We've had a lot of trouble with reporters lately. First, the Stock Market tumbled because USA Today reported that the NSA was spying on Americans. And now, those America-hating traitors at the Hartford Courant reported that the Army was sending suicidal troops into combat.

It didn't matter if the troop's commander was aware of the situation, or whether the soldier was taking anti-depressants (which even GlaxoSmithKline now admits lead to an increased risk of suicide in younger patients), the soldiers were still deployed to Iraq.

Let's look at this statistically. Among the entire population of the United States, rates hover around nine suicides per 100,000; of course, this includes the entire population and all its extremes: the elderly, the terminally ill, and any number of other mental and physical states which could be considered statistical anomalies. The military, of course, weeds their personnel, to a certain extent, to remove the ill and the old; they also have psychological tests that are supposed to prevent some extremes of behavioral disparity (not that those tests are as effective as they could be).

Among the military, twenty-two deployed soldiers committed suicide last year, accounting for one in five of all non-combat deaths (this, of course, does not factor in any suicides that might have been made to look accidental), out of roughly 130,000 troops deployed to Iraq - or roughly 17 suicides per 100,000 people, almost twice the national average. And of course, even if they do get home, those soldiers will have a difficult time getting counseling, what with the VA withdrawing benefits related to a diagnosis of PTSD from Iraq veterans (in fact, the military is becoming positively apathetic toward what they called "shell shock" in World War One, redeploying soldiers diagnosed with PTSD to Iraq).

A study has been released showing that the British military has similar problems.The US Navy, suffering from increased suicide rates among their submariners, is at least trying to do something about it.

And it seems obvious how the enemy will use this report. First, they'll start playing sad songs twenty-four/seven on their radio stations. Then they'll start forging "Dear John" letters from home. And that will be the end for this Great American Experiment in Nation-Building.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Insanity Of The Bush Tax Cuts

This little rant was written by Andi Matheny, and originally posted on Hoffmania. It pretty accurately covers my thoughts on the subject. So why reinvent the wheel? Just check out how she put it.
Please pay attention to what happened in Congress today while you were working and raising your families.

In an election year, in order to appease the electorate, and because no one in government has the guts to face reality, Congress once again passed tax cuts. Here's how it breaks down:

If you earn 50,000 or less per year
You will save $2 - 46

If you earn 50,000 - 100,000 per year
You will save $110 - 403

If you earn 100,000 - 1 million per year
You will save $1388 - 5562

If you earn 1 million or more
You will save $41,977 (average)

Here's what was deleted from the tax cuts package:

Deductions for state and local taxes
College tuition fees
School supplies for teachers who pay for them out of their pockets Businesses hiring welfare to work - (bringing people out of welfare)
The war in Iraq has already cost us approximately $260 Billion dollars - we are spending around a billion a week for this war. This is the first time in history a war has been fought with tax cuts. Remember, we couldn't "afford" body armor for a number of our troops.

By the end of the Bush presidency, our national debt will be $10 TRILLION dollars. If that was due today, it would cost each of us $28,000.

25% of our debt is carried by foreign countries. Japan is holding notes worth $673 Billion, and China comes in second at $265 Billion. If they decide another country is a better investment, we are in trouble.

This has been one of the most fiscally irresponsible administrations and Congresses in history. They are not doing what is right for our country - they are doing what they think YOU want them to do so they can get re-elected. They have no faith in the American people, nor have they asked Americans to make one sacrifice, besides the military and their families for this war in Iraq. In the meantime, Homeland Security is little better than it was 5 years ago, deep cuts have been made in school programs, and huge hikes in state colleges and student loans have put college out of reach for lower income kids. And the only people who are benefiting from these tax cuts? The top 2% tax bracket. And by the way, most economists agree, raising taxes on the top 2% will not have an adverse effect on the economy - but even if it did, which way do you want to gamble?

If this information has stirred you to take any action, please write to your representatives and tell them to have the guts to govern responsibly. If you have a blog, you have my permission to reprint this. Most people I know know the sacrifice my family has made for this war, and have asked me what they can do. Do this.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Poor Bewildered George

Sometimes, you almost have to pity George W. Bush.

Not a lot, really, since he essentially brought all his troubles on himself. But consider how things look from his perspective. Right now, he has to be feeling an emotion that most of us, as we grow into adulthood, leave behind.

Looking around at "his" country, he has to be feeling as if he can't do anything right.

In the larger sense, this is true. He screwed up all of the jobs he ever held. He couldn't even handle avoiding Vietnam by joining the National Guard - he rarely, if ever, showed up for duty. (Remember those National Guard documents that got a certain veteran news anchor fired? The facts were never in dispute. The documents themselves might have been forgeries, but the facts in them seemed to have been correct.)

And look at the situation lately. His Social Security "reform" was shot down. Despite his best efforts, scientists are coming forward to admit that global warming actually exists. It's becoming obvious, even to people who only watch Fox News, that Iraq is a disaster; this becomes even more obvious when retired generals are coming forward in droves to call for the firing of Donald Rumsfeld. Syndicated comedians named Colbert are standing five feet away from him, and mocking him by using talking points that Rush Limbaugh would be proud of.

His approval ratings are so low that squirrels trip over them. Because of his policies, America now owes more money to foreign governments than it did during the administrations of all of the previous presidents added together. Karl Rove is too busy worrying about becoming a prison bitch to properly smear the president's enemies. And his vice president shot a man in the face.

So Bush resorted to the tactic that got him elected for a second term, despite his obvious failings as an economist, a tactician, an administrator, and a human being. He tried to find an enemy to demonize.

This is a tactic that has usually worked well for him in the past. The fact that 11 states had gay marriage amendments on the ballots during the 2004 elections probably helped sweep him into a second term (the Diebold machines apparently had a lot to do with that, too, but let's not get into that right now). Admittedly, the fact that he demonized every Islamic person in the world, based on the actions of a few radical fundamentalists, blew up in his face when the Dubai ports issue came up. But for the most part, it's worked: liberals hate America, peace activists are supporting terrorism, and the French are evil smelly bastards.

But, looking around for a new enemy to grab the MTV-addled attention span of the American citizen, he found that old favorite, the illegal immigrant. And as soon as he tried to force the "wetback" stereotype into a more Satanic image, that soggy Chihuahua twisted around and bit him in the ass.

See, one thing that Bush didn't count on was that Big Business, his most faithful ally, wouldn't support him in this new Crusade. Because the dirty secret is, Big Business gets a lot of work done by people working for less than minimum wage. Sometimes, these people are in foreign countries (like sweatshops in the Marianas Islands, which Tom DeLay declared were "the perfect petri dish of capitalism"), and sometimes, it's a group of undocumented aliens somewhere in California or Georgia.

So pity George Bush. Everything he touches turns to dung. I just hope Laura Bush is properly supportive.

On the other hand, we still have two and a half more years with Bush in charge. So maybe you should pity America more.