Archive for July, 2008

McLame Running the Campaign He Said He Wouldn’t

Posted in politics on Wednesday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Mr. Honorable Respectable Serious Public Servant We All Respect, John McLame McSame McCain has over the past week or so turned into a childish name-caller. Is this part of some attempt to look younger? By constantly launching misleading and outright false criticism thru what he says and his campaign advertisements, McCain is proving that he is just not, well, Presidential. Unless we’re still cool with “Presidential” meaning like George W. Bush.

Of course there’s been his line about Barack Obama caring more about winning the election than the war. There was that completely false ad that claimed Obama canceled his visit to injured troops because the Pentagon wouldn’t allow cameras.

And now he’s stooped to the lowest in a new low:

“He’s the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead? With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says no to offshore drilling and says he’ll raise taxes on electricity. Higher taxes, more foreign oil — that’s the real Obama,” says the new ad that also shows crowds screaming “Obama!”

Top McCain adviser Steve Schmidt said it was accurate to compare Obama to the two celebrities who, as one reporter said on the call, are of ten portrayed as “frivolous and irresponsible.”

“I don’t poll Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, but I know they’re international celebrities, so apples to apples,” he said.

That’s just flat-out disrespectful and inappropriate. I realize that Barack Obama hasn’t been sitting around in the Senate isolated from the real world for the last 25 years, but I think he’s done enough to at least deserve some basic respect and not be compared to two young untalented starlets famous for being tabloid train wrecks. That’s simply not fair and way out of bounds. Especially when Obama and his surrogates cant even utter the words “John McCain” without first setting it up with the required “I have a lot of respect for his service to our country and he’s a true patriot who should be honored by all of us, but…”

Let’s talk policy. Why doesn’t McCain talk about how/why his administration and leadership of this country would differ from Obamas? Yes, Barack Obama is treated like celebrity by the media and the people in this country and all over the world. Get over it. Stand up and tell us while you’ll be the better President instead of taking immature cheap shots like this. It’s disgusting, especially coming from the guy who promised the respectful campaign that we need and deserve.

Responding to the ad, Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said, “On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Sen. McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another. Or, as some might say, ‘Oops! He did it again.’ “


Apparently Barack Obama agrees with me:

“You know, I don’t pay attention to John McCain’s ads, although I do notice he doesn’t seem to have anything to say very positive about himself,” Obama said, according to NBC’s First Read blog. “He seems to only be talking about me … You need to ask John McCain what he’s for and not just what he’s against.”


Ron Artest to the Houston Rockets

Posted in sports on Wednesday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

I actually like this move. I know, there’s a decent chance this guy could spontaneously combust or melt down or whatever. But there’s also a chance that he’s still a great player who finally gets it and maybe isn’t as crazy as he used to be. It’s very possible. He likes Rockets coach Rick Adelman, Houston is a major market that Artest might enjoy living in as much or more than Sacramento. And, oh by the way, the Rockets have Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming and some nice roll players. I say even with a couple short injury stretches for McGrady and/or Yao, this team will contend for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Getting ready to chase a title together?

Rush Limbaugh’s False Premise Strikes Again

Posted in politics on Friday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

I shouldn’t even give that pathetic right-wing blowhard the time of day, or space on my blog, but here’s some of Rush Limbaugh’s misguided and misleading reaction to Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin:

So now he has to go apologize for the United States of America. This is just beyond the pale. He’s talking to Germans and making excuses for the United States of America? Exactly right. This is insulting. It is demeaning. But ladies and gentlemen, if you are wondering when you hear Obama talk about change, this is it. The change is: America sucks, America’s deficient, America’s guilty. He lives in America, likes the country, but he’s a citizen of the world. And he has to go over to Germany, and I don’t know about you, but I’m frosted. That was Barack Obama ripping his own country.

Wow. Unfortunately, some voters will get so dizzy from this ridiculous spin that they will actually believe it. “Obama went to Germany and RIPPED AMERICA!!”

Really? When did Obama say that America sucks? How exactly did he rip his own country? Let’s take a look at the passages from Obama’s speech that got Limbaugh so riled up:

People of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment. This is our time. I know my country has not perfected itself. At times we struggle to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people, we’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

We acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world. Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from other lands and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

Hmm… so now admitting that the U.S. isn’t perfect, rejecting torture, shunning discrimination, and keeping the promise of equality and opportunity is now deemed as “insulting” and making excuses for America and held up as an example of “Obama ripping his country.”

I know, we should expect and ignore such simple-minded drivel from an idiot like Rush Limbaugh. But I’m concerned about the sadly large percentage of the population that will buy into this faulty logic.

Olympic-sized Irony

Posted in politics on Tuesday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

In the UK, The Guardian reports:
In a damning criticism of US integrity, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said ministers should no longer take at face value statements from senior politicians, including George Bush, that America does not resort to torture in the light of the CIA admitting it used waterboarding. The interrogation technique was unreservedly condemned by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who said it amounted to torture.”’s Glenn Greenwald comments:
“If Britain — one of America’s closest allies during the Bush era — is openly proclaiming that it cannot trust the word of our government, then who can? For the British to conclude in a formal Report that the U.S. is essentially an untrustworthy rogue nation when it comes to human rights abuses — ‘The committee’s conclusions amount to saying we can no longer rely on assurances from a US administration that purports to uphold the civil and political standards of behaviour,’ as MP Andrew Tyrie put it — is about as potent an indictment of how far we’ve fallen as one can imagine.”

Amid this backdrop, President Dumbass King George actually said the following in a White House send-off of American athletes heading to the Olympics:
“In Beijing you will convey our nation’s most cherished values. As ambassadors of liberty, you will represent America’s love for freedom and our regard for human rights and human dignity.”


The Dark Side

Posted in books, politics on Monday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Last week saw the release of what looks to be another great (and damning) book about the Bush Administration: The Dark Side: the Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer.

From the Salon review by Louis Bayard:

The very first Sunday after the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney descended like a cloud on “Meet the Press” to outline the Bush administration’s response. “We’ll have to work sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies — if we are going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in. And, uh, so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal basically, to achieve our objectives.”
Around the nation, one presumes, numbed heads were nodding in approval. Whatever it takes to get those bastards. The true nature of our Faustian bargain would not become clear until later, and maybe it needed a journalist as steely and tenacious as Jane Mayer to give us the full picture. “The Dark Side” is about how the war on terror became “a war on American ideals,” and Mayer gives this story all the weight and sorrow it deserves. Many books get tagged with the word “essential”; hers actually is.

In a New York Times opinion column, Frank Rich points out that, “In [Mayer’s] telling, a major incentive for Mr. Cheney’s descent into the dark side was to cover up for the Bush White House’s failure to heed the Qaeda threat in 2001. Jack Cloonan, a special agent for the F.B.I.’s Osama bin Laden unit until 2002, told Ms. Mayer that Sept. 11 was ‘all preventable.’ By March 2000, according to the C.I.A.’s inspector general, ’50 or 60 individuals’ in the agency knew that two Al Qaeda suspects — soon to be hijackers — were in America. But there was no urgency at the top. Thomas Pickard, the acting F.B.I. director in the summer of 2001, told Ms. Mayer that when he expressed his fears about the Qaeda threat to Mr. Ashcroft, the attorney general snapped, ‘I don’t want to hear about that anymore!'”

From Andrew J. Bacevich’s review of Mayer’s book in The Washington Post: “As Mayer makes clear, the White House seized upon the prospect of open-ended war with alacrity. And why not? In the near term at least, going to war almost invariably works to the benefit of the executive branch. War elicits deference from Congress and the courts. As a wartime commander-in-chief, the president wields greater clout. In this particular case, war also helped deflect demands for accountability: Despite what Mayer describes as ‘the worst intelligence failure in the nation’s history,’ the aftermath of 9/11 saw not a single senior official fired.”

Bloomberg’s Craig Seligman takes note of how the book traces torture and other atrocities directly back to Vice President Dick Cheney, his chief aide David Addington, former secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo: “Wrapping themselves in the flag, repeating the mantra ‘security’ and attacking anyone who questioned this insanity as soft on terrorism, they succeeded in disgracing their country before the world, and now they deserve to be called what they are: traitors. In a just world they would be prosecuted and convicted.”

According to some of the books’ revelations reported in the Washington Post, “A CIA analyst warned the Bush administration in 2002 that up to a third of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake, but White House officials ignored the finding and insisted that all were ‘enemy combatants’ subject to indefinite incarceration, according to a new book critical of the administration’s terrorism policies.

“The CIA assessment directly challenged the administration’s claim that the detainees were all hardened terrorists — the ‘worst of the worst,’ as then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at the time. But a top aide to Vice President Cheney shrugged off the report and squashed proposals for a quick review of the detainees’ cases.”

The book quotes Cheney staff director David Addington as saying, “There will be no review. The president has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it.”

This all seems to echo the opinion of the late historian Arthur Schlesinger: “the Bush administration’s extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.”

Time Capsules: the first half of 2008

Posted in music, time capsules, top 10 lists on Friday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

“Time Capsules” is our way of putting some of our favorite albums from particular years into a… little, um, time capsule so music fans can read our reviews of notable releases from various years. We were going to take the actual CD’s and launch them into space in real time capsules, or bury them in the ground so future generations and/or aliens could be sure to find the best CD’s preserved. But that seemed a bit pricey and foolish. Plus, aliens (and/or future generations) aren’t likely to go digging thru the ground looking for stuff, they’ll probably just poke around on the internet. Let’s hope they find this site sooner than later.

From the first half of 2008…

Stephen Malkmus – Real Emotional Trash

The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely

Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creations Dark

Nas – the untitled album formerly known as Nigger

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig! Lazarus Dig!
Felice Brothers – Felice Brothers
My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
Vampire Wekend – Vampire Weekend
Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis – Two Guys With the Blues
Countin Crows – Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs
Old 97s – Blame It on Gravity
Mike Doughty – Golden Delicious
The Roots – Rising Down
Beck – Modern Guilt
Girl Talk – Feed the Animals

Black Crowes – Warpaint
Portishead – Third

Some 2007 albums getting lots of play for me as “new”
Public Enemy how you sell soul to a soulless people who sold their soul
Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
Jason Isbell – Sirens of the Ditch

We have to be comfortable, we’re fighting TERROR!

Posted in politics on Friday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Once again, I wish this was some fake news story from The Onion, but no, this is the lead story in many papers across the country. From R. Jeffery Smith’s story on the front page of the Washington Post:

The Air Force’s top leadership sought for three years to spend counterterrorism funds on “comfort capsules” to be installed on military planes that ferry senior officers and civilian leaders around the world, with at least four top generals involved in design details such as the color of the capsules’ carpet and leather chairs, according to internal e-mails and budget documents.
Air Force officials say the government needs the new capsules to ensure that leaders can talk, work and rest comfortably in the air. But the top brass’s preoccupation with creating new luxury in wartime has alienated lower-ranking Air Force officers familiar with the effort, as well as congressional staff members and a nonprofit group that calls the program a waste of money.
Air Force documents spell out how
each of the capsules is to be “aesthetically pleasing and furnished to reflect the rank of the senior leaders using the capsule,” with beds, a couch, a table, a 37-inch flat-screen monitor with stereo speakers, and a full-length mirror.

Another 16.2 MILLION dollars down the drain. Yea, we’re “winning” all right.