Friday, April 29

I'm here to help.

Don't get me wrong, I love doing this blog and I try my best to provide a little something different, to really be of service to my fellow man as a blogger. Yet every once in a while, as I'm sitting out on my balcony gazing pensively off into the distance and pondering my life, I think, "What is it all for? Am I really doing everything I can? If not, what can I do to go that extra mile for society? Is there some greater good I can be serving, some person out there I could be using this blog to help?"

Well, there is. And I'm asking you, dear readers of this blog, to join me in helping this chick choose her porn-star name.

Let's all do our part to make the world a better place.

Signs of the coming apocalypse/excuses to not do laundry tonight, and the Friday Random Ten.

In addition to being a kind of scary-looking guy who doesn't see what the big deal is about all those priests molesting altar boys, Pope Benedict XVI is -- you ready for this? -- a sign that the end of the world is near. G$#dammit, did none of the cardinals bother to look at that part on Ratzinger's resume? "Experienced in use of Microsoft Word and Excel; proficient in HTML and Java, as well as all seven sacraments; papacy would speed the coming of the End of Days."

But it's not like we even needed another sign of the coming apocalypse, what with the plague of exploding toads in Germany, Paris Hilton talking about becoming a mom, and oh, yeah, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes becoming an item.

Oh, and Ahmed Chalabi being named the fucking oil minister in the new Iraqi government. The same Ahmed Chalabi who whispered sweet nothings into the ears of the Bush administration about how occupying Iraq would be easier than a game of Candy Land and then turned right around and started cozying up to Iran. Why is he occupying the Tony Montana Executive Suite at the Iraqi Oil Ministry right now and not a jail cell? Dozens of Iraqi prisoners, many of them completely innocent, get paraded around naked at Abu Ghraib and sodomized, and we couldn't save a glow stick for this guy?

Christ. I can't think about this anymore, it's making my head hurt. Here's the Friday Random Ten for this week, and after that I'm putting my brain in Hibernate mode until 5 o'clock rolls around and it's beer-consumption time.

1. Avenue Q cast, "I Wish I Could Go Back to College" (lyrics here)
2. Pet Shop Boys, "Up Against It"
3. Air, "Sexy Boy"
4. DJ Shadow, "Six Days"
5. Beck, "Soul Suckin Jerk"
6. Jefferson Airplane, "Volunteers"
7. Pet Shop Boys, "A Red Letter Day" (Basement Jaxx remix)
8. Thomas Dolby, "She Blinded Me With Science"
9. Dead Kennedys, "Let's Lynch the Landlord"
10. A Tribe Called Quest, "Money Maker"

If you've got an iPod or some kind of mp3 player, put your own Random Ten in the comments below, and if you don't have one . . . just put in the names of ten songs you really like, or something. Look, I'm not your dad. You don't need my permission for every little thing.

Thursday, April 28

He wants to spend all your money. At the gay bar. Gay bar. Gay bar.

I'm almost positive that everybody and his brother has been e-mailed this link already, but particularly in light of Bush's man date from earlier in the week, I thought this little music video was too good not to share.

(Here's another version featuring kittens in Viking helmets, as opposed to politicians, created by the folks who brought you those astoundingly bizarre Quizno's ads a while back.)

If you're angry and you know it, clap your hands.

Now that Dennis Miller has done a backwards triple-gainer into irrelevance (with one-and-a-half twist to put him in better position to kiss Bush's ass) -- a dive that, oddly enough, carries a difficulty of only 1.0 -- I hereby propose that the title of Ranter Laureate be bestowed upon the richly deserving TBOGG, along with his own talk show. (Not on CNBC, of course. I mean a channel people actually watch.)

A taste:

Face it. We're selfish. We're all about us and if it doesn't put a new XBox in Cody & Dakota's room or fill up the gas tank of our 12-mile a gallon TerraCrusher XLT, we don't want any part of it. Freedom for the other guys? That's their problem; when is X-Men III coming out? But threaten our "way of life" (which is more about a plentitude of internet porn, the ability to buy a 64 oz. BladderBuster? of Mountain Dew for eighty-nine cents, and Calvin pissing-on-something car window stickers than it is about Jeffersonian democracy) and we're shipping the few, the proud, the aren't-a-legacy-at-Yale off to a country that most Americans couldn't find on a map if you spotted them the continent.

Yet Time's "Blog of the Year" award went to three idiot-savants whose biggest contribution to society has been a superhuman ability to . . . recognize Microsoft fonts. I know, I know, life ain't fair . . . but I didn't realize it was this unfair.

Anyway. Go read.

Wednesday, April 27

In Toulouse, a behemoth takes to the skies . . . and in Birmingham, one man realizes he's not a little boy anymore.

If you're a plane geek like me, today was a big day, because we officially have a new biggest passenger plane in the world -- the Airbus A380, which successfully made its first test flight this morning.

This thing will carry 550 people in a three-class layout, or as many as 800 in an all-coach tourist configuration. Which would already qualify as "friggin' huge," but they pack all these people in with such features as a frickin' bar --

-- sorry, they call it a "social area," wink-wink -- and an upper-deck first-class cabin that's nicer than my house:

Even the economy-class cabin that peons like me are going to have to make do with is pretty nice.

So on the one hand, it's pretty awesome that they managed to build something that weighs more than half a million pounds and get it up in the air. On the other hand, though, I can't help but feel a little sad that the biggest airliner in the world is no longer American-made. I loved planes throughout my childhood and wanted to be a pilot when I grew up -- and not a fighter jock, either (as much as I loved the movie "Top Gun"), but a commercial pilot, flying 747s across the Atlantic or something like that. I considered my aunt, who lived in Seattle just a short hop from the Boeing widebody plant in Everett, to be the rock star of the family -- as an employee of British Airways, she got to fly on the Concorde once and got plenty of other hookups to pretty much anywhere she wanted to go. A few times she and her co-workers even hitched free rides on the brand-new BA 747s right after they popped out of the factory -- the planes were constructed in Everett but the interiors were installed in Hong Kong, so they'd basically fly these empty 747 airframes to Asia to get the seats and interior trim put in. And since the plane was going over there anyway, my aunt basically got to go to Hong Kong for free as long as she didn't mind riding in a basically empty airplane. She told me stories of how she and her friends would bring their running shoes with them on those flights and get some exercise running laps of the empty airplane as it made its way across the Pacific.

So if for no other reason than simply because of how big it was, the 747 was my favorite airplane, the one I wanted to fly when I became a pilot, and one of the biggest thrills of my entire life was when I got to fly out to Seattle all by myself at the age of 12 and go see the Boeing widebody plant in Everett. One of my most vivid memories is of getting to the Everett plant on a foggy morning in August, and as we were walking across the parking lot to the tour center, I heard this whistling noise off in the distance and looked up. Pretty soon a line of nearly a hundred little yellow dots appeared inside one of the clouds hanging over the runway and almost as soon as I'd figured out they were actually windows, a big Qantas 747-400 materialized out of the fog right before our eyes and landed on the runway right next to us.

It was hard for me to imagine a passenger jet any bigger than the 747, but now somebody's built one. And on the one hand, I kind of want to be sad because my favorite plane isn't King of the Sky anymore. If you think about it, it's kind of a symbol of how the rest of the world is catching up with the United States, and the country that once produced the biggest and best of everything -- cars, skyscrapers, airplanes -- can't necessarily be counted on to do that anymore.

But on the other hand, I'm thinking, "Awesome. A plane that has a bar."

So I'm officially not that wide-eyed 12-year-old anymore, I guess. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things . . . and replaced them with other ones. Specifically, booze.

He gets by with a little help from his friends.

George W. Bush has not exactly been distinguishing himself with his choice of play dates recently. First he brought Tom DeLay, who is about as popular as gonorrhea right now with the American public, along with him on his No, Really, Dismantling Social Security Is A Good Idea '05 tour. An odd choice, but maybe a shrewd one strategically, since compared to DeLay, anything looks good, even Bush's fakakta privatization dreams.

Few on the right raised any hackles at that, since after all, DeLay is as pure as the driven snow and is merely the victim of a left-wing smear campaign. But oddly enough, even some of Bush's most ardent fans took issue with his other houseguest this week, from the knobs at The Corner to Michelle "All The Brown People Suck Except Me" Malkin.

What I want to know is, where the crap do these people get off acting surprised that Bush is holding hands with Crown Prince Abdullah? Is the evidence documenting Bush's Saudi ties not utterly exhaustive enough for them yet? The only person in the past five years who didn't know Bush was buddy-buddy with the Saudis was Terri Schiavo, and well, she had a pretty good excuse.

But it's really interesting how neocons like Malkin and the Cornerites (hey! that sounds like the worst band ever!) fell all over themselves pushing Bush for re-election in '04 and are now expressing some degree of surprise and dismay at . . . stuff he'd already been doing for his entire first term. Palling around with the Saudis? I am shocked, shocked! Spending money like there's no tomorrow? Why, we had no idea he was going to do that! Oh, the hell you didn't. I would tell these folks that they can't play dumb like that anymore, but honestly, I don't see how you can be sure they're playing.

Anyway. At least Bush is done with the singles scene now, and good for him.

Tuesday, April 26

If 1,000 words = 1 picture, then consider this picture NSFW.

Make that NSFWWEP, as in Not Safe For Work With Extreme Prejudice.

Nevertheless, anything this creative, this funny, this staggeringly, maniacally dirty, needs to be linked to. I just can't link to it by name. So I'll simply warn you that if you don't think you'd like a blog that has the F-word in its title, or think you would be disturbed and/or psychologically scarred by graphic depictions of sex with Ann Coulter, don't even think about clicking here.

On the other hand, if you can appreciate, say, the anal-intercourse humor of a site like Wonkette, go for it.

Monday, April 25

Your weekend sports update.

So there was a draft this weekend (which explains why George W. Bush has been nowhere to be found since Friday -- thank you, I'll be here all evening!), and two Bulldogs got taken in the first round, another two in the second round, and a couple more in the third and fourth rounds for a total of six. What's especially gratifying is that the Cincinnati Bengals are no longer the black hole they used to be now that Marvin Lewis is the head coach, so when David Pollack and Odell Thurman both got taken by Cincy, there was reason for rejoicing as opposed to sighing and mumbling, "Oh, well, nobody's ever gonna hear from them again."

Meanwhile, UAB now has bragging rights for its first first-round draft pick ever now that wideout Roddy White, maybe the best deep threat in the entire draft, is headed to Atlanta. So another reason to root for the Falcons, then. As for my team, the Redskins: Don't know why they were so obsessed with Auburn in the first round, but hey, if Joe Gibbs says it's a good idea, then I trust him.

Meanwhile, Tennessee only had three players drafted out of 10 eligible (and one of the draftees was their punter); one of the undrafted players was Jason Respert, whom Georgia had recruited five years ago before he was accused of sneaking into a girl's apartment and groping her on a recruiting visit to Florida. So, heh. And Georgia Tech? Not a single player drafted. Awwww. Too bad.

And of course we would be remiss if we did not mention that the Georgia gymnastics team, who won the SEC championship a few weeks ago, won the national title in Auburn on Friday (thanks to fellow Georgia alum DAve for the early tip).

So now I guess it's baseball baseball baseball -- at least until September 3.


Friday, April 22

Oh, man . . . I just had to respond to a dozen client e-mails and I am so baked.

Another bang-up argument (after a fashion) for legalizing the shit:

LONDON, England -- Workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana, a British study shows.

The constant interruptions reduce productivity and leave people feeling tired and lethargic, according to a survey carried out by TNS Research and commissioned by Hewlett Packard.

This was brought to my attention by a fellow editor on a college-publications listserv, who pointed out that smack in the middle of the page where this story is located is a box exhorting you to add X, Y, or Z to your CNN e-mail alerts. Which must mean that if religion is the opiate of the masses, as Karl Marx once said, cable news is apparently striving to be the doobie.

Friday random ten, So Do You Like . . . Stuff? Edition.

1. Miles Davis, "Flamenco Sketches"
2. Passengers, "Miss Sarajevo"
3. rx, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (a mash-up cover of the U2 song with the vocals constructed entirely out of snippets from George W. Bush speeches . . . check it out here)
4. John Barry Orchestra, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"
5. Dido, "Here With Me" (Chillin' With the Family mix)
6. War, "Lowrider"
7. Chemical Brothers, "In Dust We Trust"
8. The Roots, "Without a Doubt"
9. Madonna, "Beautiful Stranger"
10. DJ Shadow, "The Number Song" (Cut Chemist remix)

Stand by for the "HAGEL'S WAR WOUNDS: SELF-INFLICTED?!?!" post on

Not much needs to be added to TBOGG's assessment of the Capitol Hill Repubs' latest cannibalism, as he looks at National Review's chastising of twice-Purple-Hearted Vietnam vet Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for not rubber-stamping the nomination of John Bolton for UN ambassador . . .

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Furrowed Brow) pronounces himself troubled by the allegations. But he supported John McCain for president in 2000 ? since when is a docile temperament his test of whether someone can be an important public servant? Hagel is a fairly reliable conservative vote on routine matters. It's just when the chips are down that you can't count on him.

. . . and arrives at this conclusion:

John Kerry. Max Cleland. John McCain. Now Chuck Hagel. It seems the only person that they like in government who had anything to do with Viet Nam is the one who went AWOL.

I think there is a lesson here....

Word 'em up. Of course, anyone who thought the right wing actually gave a rat's ass about the soldiers who risk their lives for this country probably should have been slapped silly long before now.

Thursday, April 21

Me and Vince are like this, son.

One of my dad's patients used to play football for Vince Dooley back when Vince was the freshman football coach at Auburn, and through him my dad managed to snag this picture of the coach who led Georgia to their national championship in 1980 and went on to become the greatest athletic director in the history of ever . . .

 Posted by Hello
One of the things I like best about this picture is that the perspective of the backdrop they shot Vince in front of makes it look like he's hovering high above the University of Georgia campus, watching benevolently over the students and faculty (and ensuring that the football team still kicks ass). Huh. Now I'm thinking they should've told Ratzinger to take a hike and made Vince the new pope -- he is Catholic, from what I understand . . .

Pope Vincent I. Come on, I know you like the sound of that.

Wednesday, April 20

I've got some problems with the new guy.

OK, remember the part where I said I hadn't made up my mind yet on the new pope? Well, consider that position amended, and color me officially not happy. Andrew Sullivan, who's been a lot more fun to read ever since he wised up and realized that the current Republican Party's claim to being "conservative" is a colossal Orwellian joke, has the goods (third item down):

I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offences among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower . . . One comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church.

(Pope Benedict XVI, 2002)

Ummmm . . . yeah. When the new pope turned out to not be all about the birth control and the female priests and whatnot I couldn't really get excited because that's different from the past 2,000 years of Roman Catholicism how again?, but when the new pope looked at an epidemic of pedophilia on the part of American priests and responded to it not only by saying "Molestation? I don't see no molestation" but also trying to play the flippin' victim card . . . you know what, Pope Benedict XVI? It gives me no pleasure to say this, but you're kind of an asshole.

Great. Now I have to go to confession next week . . . but it was worth it.

A supposedly fun magazine I'll never read again.

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

But it's all OK as long as I get to call him "Ratzo."

Homeboy Blake axed me yesterday what I, as a Catholic, thought of the new pope. And like baby sis, I'm still not sure. I know I'm not thrilled that Joseph Ratzinger was one of the primary people trying to convince American priests to play Pin The Apostasy On John Kerry with him last year (though he did relent somewhat and say it was OK for American Catholics to vote for Democrats -- gee, thanks). Nor am I going to get particularly excited about a guy who appears poised to continue, if not strengthen, the church's opposition to stuff like birth control.

At the same time, though, I told Blake that the semi-outraged reactions from American Catholics in particular were just kind of silly. I mean, the Catholic Church has been around for nearly two millenia now, and for good and for ill, it has resisted all sorts of change during that time. Did these "liberal Catholics" honestly think that, just because of the passing of John Paul II, the church was going to turn on a dime and suddenly say "female priests would totally rock"? Hell, even birth control -- the Catholic church has opposed birth control ever since there was such a thing, and whatever the wisdom of birth control might be for other reasons, they're not going to suddenly do an about-face on that issue just because we libertine American Catholics want to bang our wives/girlfriends/mistresses without having to worry about a baby nine months down the road.

(By the way, this is getting a little off the subject but in his sex-advice column last week, Dan Savage had a really great bit about how American Catholics will fall in lock step anytime the pope says something about gays being evil or deviant or whatever, but when the same pope comes out against birth control or extramarital sex or whatever, those same American Catholics are like, "Pope who? With the what now?" Scroll down past the letter from the guy with a zombie fetish and read it, it's totally spot-on.)

But anyway, I'm not too worried that this new pope, for all his theological conservatism, is going to usher in some horrible new era of repression, because I'm not convinced that he was elected to be anything more than a place-holder. I've heard reports from people saying that the College of Cardinals typically tries to elect a new pope who is a contrast to the previous one, and in this case they were trying to select someone who was a contrast to John Paul II, who had served longer than just about any pope since St. Peter and as such had left his mark on the church in a huge way. So the papacy of Benedict XVI -- he's 78 years old, guys, so it's not likely to last too terribly long -- may be simply a chance for the church to do some post-JPII regrouping, to decide which direction they want to take the church in next. And the next guy after Benedict will be a JPII-style leader who really has a lasting effect. (That doesn't mean I'd sit around waiting for the next guy to completely reform the church's stance on birth control or married priests, either, but you never know.)

Anyway. Whatever you think of the new guy -- thumbs up, thumbs down, or like me, aren't sure what you think of him yet -- I sincerely hope (and Daily Kos beat me to this, the bastard) that you lefties out there will refrain from calling him a Nazi. Yes, full disclosure, he was a member of the Hitler Youth as a teenager, but that was during a time when membership was mandatory in Germany, and his father was, in fact, a staunch anti-Nazi by all reports. At any rate, calling someone a Nazi -- whether it's Bush, Clinton, whoever -- for doing anything other than wearing a swastika armband and calling for the execution of Jews is pretty f$#!ing retarded. So howsabout we just excise the word "Nazi" from our arsenal of political epithets and move on. I think our collective image would be improved if we just never allowed that word to escape our lips again.

Tuesday, April 19

I've got Schoenborn over Tettamanzi in the finals, baby.

Herewith is the bracket for Papal Conclave '05 (click to see it full-size). Posted by Hello My apologies to anyone who finds this, as Homer Simpson would say, "sacri-licious," but even my mom, who is devoutly Catholic, thought it was funny (even the "I can't believe it's not Jesus" part). Thanks to my bestest heathen agnostic hellbound pal Brian for passing this along.

Now then. I smell another eighty bucks about to come my way . . .

Saturday, April 16

And Elisha Cuthbert. Where the hell is Elisha Cuthbert?

You won't be surprised to hear this from me, but I think Time's "100 most influential people" list was pretty much completely discredited the minute they put Ann Coulter on it. I mean, sure, when you say "name me a right-wing female columnist" hers is the first name people will come up with, but so what? I'm getting really tired of magazines taking hate-filled, antisocial, or otherwise deviant people who get attention primarily through being completely obnoxious and naming them "Most Influential" or "Most Powerful" or whatever, because they usually do so with the tired-ass rationale that "Love 'em or hate 'em, you gotta admit they get people's attention!" Hey, the nutbags in the New York subway who wear their undewear outside their clothes and preach about how Jesus will be returning to Earth as a jellyfish get people's attention, too, but I don't see Time marveling at what profound, original thinkers they are.

Furthermore, even within her little neofascist Keebler tree, I don't see Coulter wielding that much "influence." Sure, she spits out a column a week where (rather than advancing any particular cause or debating an issue) she defames liberals with as many slanderous epithets as she can before her handlers come along and wrestle her back into her cage, and the Freepi and LGF minions salivate like the good little Pavlov dogs that they are, but has she influenced them in any way? They wouldn't hate Muslims or liberals any less than if Ann Coulter had never come along, and certainly she isn't changing any liberals' minds, so in the end she's not "influencing" anyone to do anything other than more firmly entrench themselves in beliefs they already held. She's not an opinion-maker or a trendsetter; she's a fluffer, a dick-stiffener for the right-wingers who think that as long as they can find enough other people who hold it, their opinion that our foreign policy should be centered around nuking Mecca is valid and intelligent.

Really, though, outside of truly powerful and influential world leaders like George W. Bush and Ali Sistani, the whole list is kind of a joke. Not to discount the achievement of Ellen MacArthur, who recently set a speed record for sailing around the world, but whom has she really "influenced"? (Are people suddenly bum-rushing boat shows to try and get a head start on re-creating her feat?) Same with Hillary Swank: Great actress, but what has she influenced people to do besides spend eight bucks to see "Million Dollar Baby"?

Even some of the political/social leaders on the list are questionable, and I'd go so far as to ask whether Barack Obama -- a guy I really like and admire, and look forward to supporting for an office higher than the Senate sometime down the road -- can be called one of the world's 100 most influential people after less than five months in Washington. Yes, at last year's DNC he gave one of the most inspiring (and inspired) political speeches I've ever heard, but I don't see how you can make the case that he's more influential than, say, Harry Reid, who is calling the shots for the Democrats in a high-stakes game of procedural chicken with the Senate Republicans and has been doing a rather impressive job of it, too, especially considering the suddenness with which he was dropped into the role. Or Howard Dean, who, despite the mainstream media's attempt to marginalize him as a nutcase, is in the process of shaking up the national party hierarchy more than anyone has in the last decade.

Instead of Johnny Depp or Michael Schumacher (he's a Formula 1 driver -- ever heard of him?), I would've liked to see names like Myles Brand, who, as the head of the NCAA, pulls the strings for an organization that (for better or worse) commands a truly staggering amount of the money we spend in this country; or Robert Lutz, who, as the vice-chairman of the largest automobile company in the world, has declared it his mission to turn GM's products from cars purchased by people who don't really care what they drive into cars people buy because they want to, because they inspire passion in drivers.

I don't want anyone getting the impression that I only think true influence is restricted to poiticians or people who make a big impact on how people spend money, but face it, that kind of power is a lot more relevant and influential than someone who simply gets people to say, "Yeah, that was a good movie/album/jump shot." In the end, it seems like what Time was really putting together -- beyond the natural choices like Bush, Ariel Sharon, Bill Gates, etc. -- was a list of 100 People Who Are Cool and We Felt Like Writing About Them. More specifically, though, it comes across as 100 People Who Did Something Important Recently That You Should Know About But Most Of Them Are Too Obscure For You To Have Ever Heard Of Them And We Didn't Think You'd Read An Entire Feature Article On Them, So Here's A Couple Hundred Words So We Can Say We Tried. That's insulting to not just those supposedly "influential" people but to the readers as well, and I'd be perfectly happy if Time never bothered with this again. If I want lists of people, I'll stick with FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World" issue -- sure, it's sexist and superficial, but at least FHM doesn't have any delusions of grandeur about what they're actually doing.

Friday, April 15

Finally I do something newsworthy besides getting in trouble.

Well, not me personally, but me and the other Clark folks who went on the big trip to Little Rock this past weekend. Here's a tidbit from the "Washington Whispers" section of U.S. News:

Seems friends of retired general and 2004 presidential candidate Wesley Clark are still after him to run. During the Association of State Democratic Chairs' meeting last week in Little Rock, Ark., Clark hosted a group from the Alabama Democratic Party for dinner at the city's political hub?Doe's. The group, reports our Suzi Parker, included the state director of the Alabama party and about 15 grass-roots folks who traveled from Alabama to meet Clark. The group believes Clark is the only hope the party has to win southern states. They strongly encouraged Clark to run in 2008. Clark's answer? The same as before: He isn't ruling out a run for president in 2008. Some Arkansas Democrats who also attended the meeting offered to form an alliance with the Alabama party to help their efforts and promote Clark in the South.

A little clarification is in order -- though we were there the same weekend as the ASDC meeting, we weren't there as part of an official Alabama Democratic Party contingent, though one of the people in our group was a high-level state party official. And it was actually 27 people, not 15.

But one thing is dead-on -- we're still promoting Clark in the South, and if he does make the official decision to run in '08, we're gonna work our asses off for him.

Thursday, April 14

The 101st Fighting Keyboarders jump the shark.

Suspicious that our men and women in uniform were nothing more than faceless pawns to the mercenary neocons of the right-wing blogosphere? Congratulations, here's your proof:

. . . in late-March, Minnesota native Cpl. Travis Bruce was killed in Iraq by a rocket-propelled grenade while standing watch on the roof of a Baghdad police station. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Bruce had called his girlfriend the night before his death and said that he was stationed on the rooftop and increasing the height of the sandbag barricade. "He said they didn't have enough sandbags up there," she said softly.

Based on this account, Sen. [Mark] Dayton sent a letter to President Bush calling it immoral for our command not to provide our soldiers with absolutely everything they need to give them maximum protection: body armor, armored vehicles, sandbags.

Hinderaker [John Hinderaker, "Hindrocket" of Power Line blogfame] had heard enough. "First it was body armor, then armored vehicles," Hinderaker complained. "Now it's 'immoral' that our soldiers don't have enough sandbags. Am I missing something, or is this ludicrous on its face? I can understand a soldier in Iraq being short of armor. But sand?" He continues: "It is up to soldiers in the field to protect themselves. If they want more sandbags, they should get more sandbags, as Cpl. Bruce apparently did."

OK, I've officially had enough of the self-professed military-lovers of the right wing going on and on about how the Democrats want to decimate our armed forces and Democratic Senator Blah Blah thinks they should have to defend themselves with speeeuut bawwwlls! Here we have a soldier who wanted something as simple as freaking sandbags, and Hinderaker -- all for the purpose of shielding the Bush administration from any blame whatsoever for the Iraq occupation's manifold fuckups -- throws up his hands and says, "You want more sandbags, get 'em yourself." Next time a right-winger accuses me of not respecting the military, I'm not even going to debate him, I'm just going to plant my foot in his balls and say, "Guess you know what it feels like to not have enough body armor -- sucks, don't it?"

Oh, how I wish Ashton Kutcher would kidnap Hinderaker (and Limbaugh, and Hannity, and every freaking writer over at National Review for good measure) and send him to get Punk'd over in Baghdad. Ol' Ash could station Hinderaker on the roof of a Baghdad police station with nothing but an M-16 to protect himself, and when Hinderaker quiveringly asked for some sandbags or body armor, Ashton would shrug and say, "You're on your own, soldier!" Then we'd just sit back and wait for the inevitable dark, spreading stain on the front of Hinderaker's trousers. Punk'd! Punk'd and double-punk'd!!! Has anyone ever been so punk'd?!?

I've already expounded at length on my firm conviction that when conservatives talk about "respect for the military," what they really mean is "having a faithfully devoted hard-on for all manner of expensive and unnecessary military toys," and nothing having much to do with the actual day-to-day lives and well-being of our soldiers. Look, I realize that war is bad and soldiers are going to get killed no matter how much protection you give them, but the expendability with which the right wing views our soldiers is nothing less than outrageously shameful. Particularly when, as with Hinderaker, they're nothing more than white-collar desk-chair-indenters whose biggest contribution to America's freedom and security has been crapping themselves with smug indignation and shrieking "Fake! Fake! FAKE!!!!" every time a memo comes along that makes Republicans look bad.

And just remember, this was Time's "Blog of the Year," kiddies. Yeah, right-wingers rail away at the liberal horrors of the mainstream media with every ounce of energy they have, but when said MSM dumps a huge accolade on a trio of Alex P. Keaton wannabes who can't muster any more concern or respect for our troops than they'd have for the guy swabbing the men's room at Hardee's, they party like it's 1999. Awfully convenient how that works out sometimes.

Vote for this resolution and all your wildest dreams will come true.

The Idaho State Legislature has passed a resolution commending the makers of "Napoleon Dynamite" for bringing positive attention to the state of Idaho and, I guess, for making a kick-ass movie besides. Which would be interesting and surprising enough on its own, I guess, but you have to read the actual resolution to believe it:

WHEREAS, Kip's relationship with LaFawnduh is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho's technology-driven industry; and

WHEREAS, Kip and LaFawnduh's wedding shows Idaho's commitment to healthy marriages; and

WHEREAS, the prevalence of cooked steak as a primary food group pays tribute to Idaho's beef industry; and

WHEREAS, Napoleon's tetherball dexterity emphasizes the importance of physical education in Idaho public schools; and

WHEREAS, Tina the llama, the chickens with large talons, the 4-H milk cows, and the Honeymoon Stallion showcase Idaho's animal husbandry; and

WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote "Nay" on this concurrent resolution are "FREAKIN' IDIOTS!" and run the risk of having the "Worst Day of Their Lives!"

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the members of the First Regular Session of the Fifty-eighth Idaho Legislature . . .

Wow. You know, I always thought Idaho was one of those really right-wing mountain states that spent too much time arming themselves in the event of an attack by the federal government's black helicopters to have any fun, but whaddaya know, these guys have a sense of humor after all. (And as far as I've been able to ascertain, the resolution passed the Idaho House 70-0.)

Tuesday, April 12

I wanna (Little) rock and roll all night,
and party every day.

So, the Little Rock trip. I think I've recovered enough from the excitement (and the near-continuous alcohol consumption) to be able to post on it now, and let me assure you, it was amazing.

First of all, Little Rock itself? Is awesome. They told us at the Clinton Presidential Library on Friday night that right after the location of the library was announced back in 1997 -- right on the edge of downtown, overlooking the Arkansas River -- various corporations and developers announced projects and improvements totaling more than $1 billion of new investment in the downtown area. And it shows. Not only are there a ton of great little restaurants and bars along Markham Street, some of them actually reminded me of New Orleans, for crying out loud (and, in any case, put Birmingham's dead-as-disco downtown area to shame). So Little Rock, you rock. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Friday afternoon, after having driven from Birmingham to Little Rock in homeboy Andy's bad-ass Volvo V70 Cross Country station wagon at speeds occasionally exceeding 100 mph, we immediately threw on our fancy clothes and went to a reception thrown by Wes Clark for the National Association of Democratic Party Chairs (who were having their convention in Little Rock the same weekend we were there).

We got to see Wes, of course (seen here with some of the girls who came on the trip, being a mack daddy, as always), but also some other folks including Jason Willett, recently elected chair of the Arkansas state party (and the youngest party chair in the country), not to mention . . .

. . . DNC chair Howard Dean, seen here with Thomas Diasio, a veteran from both the Clark and Kerry trenches here in Birmingham.

After that we got a special invite to the Clinton Presidential Library, at night, when the place was empty and we could roam around without anyone else being present. I wish I had a better shot of the exterior to show you -- in the end you'll just have to go here -- but for lack of that, I'll just tell you this: If you're disillusioned and despondent over having to suffer under our current lame-ass preznit for another four years, or you're a red-stater forced to spend every waking minute hearing what an awesome heroic bestest preznit ever Dubya is, go schedule yourself a weekend in Little Rock this instant and set aside a day to go to the Clinton library. Yeah, you'll see those pictures from the '92 campaign and from the triumphs of Bill's administration and at first you'll be even more depressed about what a drag Dubya is in comparison to the rawkstar we had for eight years in the '90s. But if you give it long enough, that depression will give way to a feeling of real inspiration -- a feeling that if we had a president that awesome once, and not all that long ago, we can have one like that again, if we're willing to work our asses off to get him elected. You'll come away from it having seen the contrast between the joy and hope of the Clinton administration and the fear, unsureness, and secrecy of the Bush administration put into starker contrast than ever, and if you're anything like our group is, you'll leave with the fire right back in your belly where it belongs, wanting to change things.

And even if you don't, you will still have gotten to visit the library's meticulous re-creation of the Cabinet room, right down to the placement of each secretary's chair.

Here's fellow yellow dog and Army of Clarkness foot soldier Blake in the president's chair, doing his best Bill impression, of course. I think that's my head in the lower left-hand corner, where I'm occupying the VP's chair. (I don't know whose chair the lady at right is sitting in, but I'm pretty sure she's thinking, "Who are these dorks?")

Anyway, the next morning we went to an Arkansas Young Democrats breakfast with Howard Dean at the state capitol, and I spent a little more time getting inspired at the Clinton library before heading back to the Peabody hotel (yes, the one where they lead the ducks through the lobby every morning) for a political communications workshop given by a group called Democratic GAIN that proved to be quite enlightening. But the main event of Saturday was, of course, the dinner with The General.

We had dinner with him at Doe's, a Southern-style restaurant in downtown Little Rock that was always a favorite of Governor Clinton's. He was a frequent visitor to the VIP room in the back, where he would go to pig out on the Southern cookin' and massive steaks (smallest on the menu: 2 pounds, which goes some length toward explaining Bill's recent health issues). And that back room was where we were sitting when The General and his wife Gert walked in the door. It's not a very big room, and all the chairs were pretty much taken when he walked in, so some extra chairs had to be added for him and Gert to sit down -- and they just happened to be added right across from yours truly.

Here's Wes kicking it with us at dinner, and the guy in the foreground wearing the suit jacket -- who has his back to the camera but you just know would be devastatingly handsome if you could see his face -- is me. I know, I know. You can tell me how awesome I am in the comments thread.

I was fortunate to be able to chat with Wes about a lot of things -- abortion, recapturing the South for the Democrats, the situation in Iraq, even dealing with the media. And on that note, here's a tip for all you Democrats who want a chance to challenge the stuck-up-Bush's-assedness of the mainstream media and "frame the debate" back in our direction: Wes told a story of how he'd been on CNN during the beginning of Gulf War II and had made a comment that today's military is better and stronger than the one that fought in Vietnam. A few days later he was back on CNN getting interviewed by Aaron Brown, and before they went on the air Brown told him, "I'm gonna give you a chance to explain some of your earlier comments, because we've gotten a whole bunch of letters and e-mails from Vietnam veterans who are angry about the comparison you made between the army of Vietnam and the army of today." The comments and e-mails of those Vietnam vets directly influenced CNN's coverage -- and Wes's point was that if they can do it, we can do it. If a news outlet, whether it's NBC or CNN or Fox, says something inccurate or Bush-biased, we need to flood their asses with e-mails and call them on it. Same thing with letters to newspaper editors: The more letters they get from liberals and progressives, the more they'll print. It's a very simple thing that, if executed properly, can have profound effects on public perception of the issues.

At first, when Wes was talking, it occurred to me that the tone and cadence he used when talking to us was a lot like what I'd heard from his campaign speeches during primary season. But the more I listened to him, the more I realized I'd had it back to front: He talked to people on the campaign trail in the same tone he uses with his friends, as if he's known them all his life. Amd that's what he really did make us feel like, lifelong friends. Two of the girls in our group, Mary Ryan Hawkins and Jennifer Land, had become known as "the bunnies" (as in Energizer, not Playboy) for their limitless supply of energy and enthusiasm during the primaries, especially in South Carolina; when we were going around the table introducing (or re-introducing) ourselves, Mary Ryan and Jennifer said who they were and Wes immediately responded, "Oh, the bunnies!" This is the kind of thing that got Bill Clinton elected in 1992 -- and that I'm confident will get Wes elected whenever he next decides to run.

Which may be pretty soon, if I'm reading things right. During my conversations with Wes I told him that I had a mother, father, sister and numerous friends who were already prepared to slap Clark '08 bumper stickers on their cars and just needed to be given the word. Wes's response -- cryptic, though delivered with a smile -- was "Tell them not to worry."

So clearly, it was a fantastic weekend. Can't wait for 2008. Can't wait to go back to Little Rock again. Oh, and of course I'd be remiss if I didn't post one last photo.

Yup, I get my picture taken with the next president of the United States and my frickin' eyes are closed. Typical. (I'm just going to attribute it to Wes's blinding charisma and leave it at that.)

But anyway. Wes, thanks for helping to set up one of the most memorable weekends of my life, but thanks also for being a kick-ass guy and a candidate who inspired us all on his own without forcing us to make a "lesser of two evils" choice. Thanks for being the guy who inspired me in particular to get off my ass and get involved in politics in the first place. Every awesome thing I've done since that first Clark MeetUp back in November 2003 -- and there have been plenty -- are owed back to him, and everything I get to do from here on out is, too.

Including a position in the press office of a presumptive Clark administration. You know, just planting seeds. I'm not saying. I'm just saying.

Catch you on the flipside . . .

Sunday, April 10

While I was out.

In the past 54 hours, while I was kickin' it with Wes Clark (and other assorted Democrats from around the country), the following things happened:

· In the Georgia Bulldogs' spring football game (that's "G-Day" for those of you who don't know), the Red team beat the Black team 21-12. By running the freaking wishbone, 'cause we got running backs this year like Mr. T got gold chains. But our presumptive starting quarterback, D.J. Shockley, threw for all three of the Red team's scores, so that's something else positive. I just want to see the Dawgs run over South Carolina for like 300 rushing yards this fall so I can see the look on this dude's face when it happens.

· Another Georgia team, the Gym Dogs, claim an NCAA championship berth by the skin of their teeth. Hey, a win is a win. Go kick some ass in Auburn in a couple weeks.

· John Smoltz, one of the awesomest guys ever (I've interviewed him! So, like, I know this for real!) throws 15 freaking strikeouts and still manages to lose. To the f$#!ing Mets, whom I hate even worse than the Yankees.

I would write more at a time like this, but after you've just driven 7 hours back from Little Rock, even a single beer can sap you of your betting blogger impulses, and thus this is all I got. So discuss these events and their larger significance in post-9/11 America, and I'll be back with a full rundown on the weekend's activities (including delicious Clarky goodness and a first-person account of the sheer awesomeness of the Clinton Presidential Library!) tomorrow. Or, by the time most of y'all will be reading this, today. Monday. OK? OK. See you then.

Friday, April 8

The Army of Clarkness rides again.

Leaving in just a few minutes to head toward Little Rock to go kick it with the man himself. Don't know if I'll be able to blog from the road or anything, but if I can, rest assured I will.

Wednesday, April 6

Where are all the photos of soldiers in Baghdad playing with puppies and eating ice cream while the Iraqi children dance merrily down Lollipop Lane?

Man, you give those mirror-lickers at Power Line one lousy "Blog of the Year" award and all of a sudden they're strutting around like they run the world or something. First they declare this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial cartooning too mean and nasty for their delicate little pro-Bush sensibilities, and then they declare the prize winners for news photography don't meet their rigorous standards either -- not only that, but compare the photographers themselves to "felony murder[ers]."

As Attytood points out (link via Atrios), beef with the Pulitzer-winning photos/photographers has certainly become the right wing's whine of the day. And yes, it's every bit as stupid and petty as you'd think. Like Power Line, Michelle "Immigration for Me But Not for Thee" Malkin advances the execrable slander that AP photographers somehow colluded with Iraqi insurgents to murder two election workers so the photogs could get a suitably shocking photo. "Riding Sun" ratchets up the whining from "Shrill" to "Even Shriller," grousing that none of the photos made American soldiers look heroic but rather made them look "overwhelmed and uncertain." Goodness, no! As opposed to underwhelmed and overly certain? Whatever will we tell the children?

I'll leave out the whole rant about heroic, overwhelmed, and uncertain all being in the eye of the beholder and instead just invite you to judge for yourself. But really, when I read right-wingers complaining about a picture of an American soldier taking someone prisoner, I have to ask, just what exactly the fuck do people like Riding Sun think is going on over there, anyway? Why is the thought that we might actually be taking prisoners over there so shocking and shameful? I mean, these bloggers spend practically every waking moment calling for as many Iraqis to be thrown in jail as humanly possible, but when a picture pops up of someone doing that, they get their panties in a bunch over it?

And who made Riding Sun (or Malkin, or Power Line) the sole arbiter of what constitutes "heroic," anyway? When I look at either of these pictures, f'rinstance . . .

. . . I see a group of incredibly heroic, fearless sons of a gun (or perhaps many guns). They're dirty, they're tired, and they're most likely scared, but you know what? War is dirty, tiring, and scary. These guys knew that, and they said "Send me anyway" -- something I have yet to hear from Riding Sun, the Power Line guys, or any of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, for that matter. Perhaps the reason the 101st doesn't see any of this as heroic is because they've been conditioned to only see heroism when the Bush administration commissions some staged-ass picture of a Saddam statue being toppled by a mob of handpicked Iraqis. It's so much easier when someone concocts the image out of whole cloth with all the apropriate symbols so that you know exactly how to react without even thinking, isn't it? Maybe that's why these knobs see "heroism" when George W. Bush borrows a flight suit and makes an aircraft carrier pull a Louie in the middle of the ocean just so he can land on it, but not when a sweaty, dirty, and courageous American soldier braves explosions and gunfire to do his freakin' job.

And now that I think about it, how do Riding Sun or any of his neocon pals know this isn't the real Iraq? Have they ever set foot in the place? I'm gonna guess a big fat no on that one. Their only "arguments" (if they can be called that) that these photos are inaccurate and therefore un-American are based entirely on two things -- their near-pathological mistrust of all things "media," and their blind faith in the Bush administration's promises that our soldiers would be met in Iraq by nothing more dangerous than rose petals and Hershey bars, and that apple-cheeked Iraqi children with gumdrop smiles would welcome them into Baghdad with a rousing chorus of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." So of course nothing even remotely unpleasant-looking can be permitted to pierce their bubbles of obliviousness -- and if anything does, well, they're makin' me saaaad, and anybody who'd want to make me that unhappy must be fighting on the side of al-Qaeda!

So my advice for the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, as it so often does, boils down to two choices: Enlist, or cram it. Either go to Iraq yourself and find out conclusively whether life is as the AP photographers have portrayed it, or stay here in your comfortable homes and comfortable blogs and enjoy a tall refreshing glass of Shut The Fuck Up. Otherwise you sound like one of those whiny five-year-olds who has never tried pasta primavera before but somehow just knows he hates it. And heaven knows we can't have our right-wing pundits sounding that immature -- it would just be unheard of.

Added: You want more, oh yes you do. And you want it from The Dead Parrot Society and Greg Mitchell.

Wednesday Random Three, Soy Un Perdidor Edition.

They say that right after a breakup, all the songs you hear take on a different and much deeper meaning. But I think that could go for pretty much any shitty, unsatisfying day. Here are the three songs my shuffling iPod played between my office and my apartment as I walked home this afternoon:

1. Mo' Horizons, "Hit The Road Jack." Oh, don't worry, I'm going.
2. Public Enemy, "Can't Do Nuttin For Ya Man." After all those albums of yours I bought? Some friend you are, Flav.
3. Beck, "Loser." Ahh, yes. I'm going to have them play this song at my funeral.
4. Dead Kennedys, "People Who Put The Boot On My Car Fuck Off (And Get Syphilis)." OK, the Dead Kennedys didn't really record that song 'cause it doesn't exist. But I've jotted down a few of the lyrics and I really think Jello Biafra needs to be the one to sing it.

Tuesday, April 5

Not only is she a pageant winner, she's a miiiiracle!

"Insult to injury" department:

MILWAUKEE - A new Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin has been crowned after pageant leaders stripped the original winner of the title when she appeared in a newspaper photograph standing up.

Standing up?!?! Kill her! Kill the witch! But then I read the next part:

The announcement of the new winner Tuesday came amid a storm of protest over pageant officials? decision last week to take the crown away from Janeal Lee, a high school teacher and muscular dystrophy sufferer who uses a scooter as her main way to get around but says she can walk up to 50 feet on a good day and stand while teaching.

Wait, she can walk up to 50 feet? And she rides a scooter? A frickin' Rascal scooter like the one George Costanza got in that "Seinfeld" episode where everybody thought he was handicapped? OK, I'm sorry, but if you can walk, you don't get to be Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin. And a frickin' scooter doesn't count. That's like a woman who lives in New York City wanting to compete in the Miss New Jersey pageant. Or something. Look, I'd like to have a better metaphor for you there, but it's been a long day.

Anyway, I invite you readers to weigh in on this pressing ethical issue, in the hopes that we can get a controversy started that's just as overblown and divisive as the Terri Schiavo thing. If just one person gets arrested trying to bring a wheelchair to Janeal Lee, then this post will have been a success.

Well, it's not like those judges weren't asking for it, strutting around in those short little robes like that.

Not much you can add to this quote from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) . . .

I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence.

. . . except to marvel at the balls it takes for a politician at the national level to express sympathy for a suspected rapist who committed a quadruple murder in an effort to escape police custody. Balls, my friend! Oh, and to point out that had this been a Democrat implying that people who kill judges for ruling the "wrong" way somehow had an excuse, the calls for his/her resignation would be ringing from every editorial page and talk-radio station in the country.

But mainly the balls thing. Kinda makes me want to go out and grab my pitchfork and torch and go lead an angry mob to the doorstep of one of those godless Demon-crat judges right now.

North Carolina 75, Illinois 70, Doug Gillett $80.

As much as it hurt to cheer for North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament final last night, cheer my opportunistic little ass off I did, and now have four crisp new $20 bills to show for it courtesy of the folks in my tournament pool. Yep, I won the whole shebangabang, which makes this about the first time I won, well, anything of a monetary nature. Based on my delicious expertise in picking this year's tournament field, I'll shortly be faxing a cover letter to ESPN suggesting that they put me in place of those other schlubs they currently call analysts, who clearly don't know squat.

Now, dear readers, what shall I do with my ill-gotten gains? Save it (boring)? Place a last-minute bet on Baylor in tonight's women's tournament final? Buy two whole tanks of gas? Convert it into singles and slowly fritter it away into the undies of one of our friendly local exotic dancers? The sky, as they say, is the limit.

Monday, April 4

The pope was dope.

Posted by Hello

We Catholics are guilty-feeling and conflicted about pretty much everything -- I like to think it makes us better, more characterful people -- so I guess it's only natural that I have some conflicted feelings in the wake of Pope John Paul II's passing. On the one hand, yes, I think the times call for the kind of more progressive attitudes toward birth control and women in the ministry that John Paul just wasn't willing to consider. And as much as I'd like to get really mad at Tony Pierce for some of the things he had to say about the Pope with respect to the church's non-response to the child-molestation scandal, I can't, because I'm angry about that too. I can't try and pretend that I'm not.

But just as many of us Catholics struggle every day to reconcile our love for the church with our disagreements with it, there was a lot about this pope and his tenure that was great, and I can't let that go ignored just because of the things that weren't. In particular, there was one thing about this pope that I found truly inspiring and admirable, and my aunt I visited yesterday -- who, if there could be such a thing as a "devout atheist," would surely qualify -- pointed this out, too, even before I could: When the Pope talked about "a culture of life," he meant it, no exceptions. He wasn't one of those conservative Christians who makes a big show of their concern for unborn babies or Terri Schiavo but then turns right around and clamors for war or pumps his fist when a prison inmate gets executed. He was anti-abortion but he was also anti-death penalty and anti-war -- the war in Iraq being only the most recent one (as some current conservatives and so-called Catholics would do well to remember). You could call Pope John Paul II any number of things, I suppose, but inconsistent wasn't one of them.

So in the end, I like to think that even those who still disagree with some of the stances the church took under John Paul's tenure will be able to admire and appreciate some of the positve things he stood for, like respect for peace and life. That's not to say anyone should just throw up their hands give up in their attempts to try and square what they love about the church with what still bothers them -- admitting we don't have all the answers and continuing to ask questions is what makes us human. If we had all the answers we'd be gods; if we just blindly accepted everything dished out to us we'd be robots, and I don't think that's what God gave us free will for.

I hope that people of every faith will see the Pope's passing as an opportunity to reflect on the truly great things he did in his life and try to further those efforts in their own, and I hope Catholics in particular will continue asking questions and trying to strengthen both their church and their faith. And to the birthday list I put together a few days ago, I'd like to add this shirt, from Urban Outfitters:

Saturday, April 2

April fool . . . or actual fool?

I realize I may have pissed off some people with the Ukraine post yesterday, and I really do apologize -- and since it's no longer April 1, you can rest assured that apology is sincere. But my April Fool was pretty tame compared to some of the crap people have pulled in the past -- not to mention some of the other stuff that made its way around the blogosphere yesterday.

As always, though, the truth is stranger than fiction, and for that reason we've decided to implement a new game called April Fool . . . or Actual Fool? See if you can figure out, without clicking on the links below, which of the following news stories are real and which ones are figments of someone's frighteningly active imagination. Then go ahead and follow the links to see if you were right. It's fun and (mostly) harmless . . .

1. Orange County Woman Calls Sheriff to Report Botched Fast-Food Order
2. Hannity Nominated for Nobel Prize
3. Missouri Senator Blames Clinton for Bad Intel on Iraq WMDs
4. Clinton Still Under Investigation -- At $2M Per Year
5. Negro Space Program Finally Gets Its Due in New Documentary
6. Patrick Buchanan Unhurt in Salad-Dressing Assault
7. Gibson, Scalia on Shortlist to Replace Pope?
8. DeLay a Democratic Plant, Conservative Web Site Alleges
9. Schiavo Receives More Press Coverage Than WMD Commission Report, Iraq Bombing
10. Big Ten to Change Name to 'Big Conference'

Speculate away!

Friday, April 1

I know, I'm an asshole, but you have to understand, this is a holy day for people like me.

OK, I have to cut this off right now, because the Ukraine thing? April fool. I know, I know, I suck. But I really felt compelled to observe this holiday somehow, and besides, it wasn't like I wasn't already using this blog to be a total dick on a widespread scale . . .

So no Peace Corps, no Ukraine, I'm staying here in Birmingham, everything is as it was. Move along, nothing to see here, and I apologize. We now return you to your regularly scheduled asshattery, already in progress.

Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out,
come and keep your comrade warm.

Something big happened today and I've got an announcement to make -- an announcement that's more than two and a half years coming, I guess, so let me start off with a little bit of the backstory.

Back in 2002, just a couple weeks after I got laid off from my job in Atlanta, I was informed that my application to join the Peace Corps -- which had been pending for more than three months -- had been accepted and I was being sent to Russia for two and a half years. I moved back home to Columbus for the summer, living rent-free with the folks and working a temp job just so I could save up some money to take with me to Russia in September. My assignment was going to be teaching English in a town in the western part of the country.

My departure date was delayed a couple times over the course of that summer, always owing to some new bureaucratic hang-up originating in Russia, until finally I was informed around the first week in August that the Russian foreign ministry had severed all ties with the Peace Corps, they were sending all the existing in-country volunteers home and refusing to admit any new ones. The assignment was cancelled. After a week of feeling about as cut-adrift as I'd ever felt in my life, followed by a sort of life re-evaluation and spiritual re-awakening the details of which I'll bore you with some other time, I picked myself up and started looking for jobs, eventually finding the one that brought me here to Birmingham.

The Peace Corps folks did tell me that they could offer me a new assignment in a different country in Eastern Europe if one came available, and if that did happen my application would be moved back to the top of the stack, as it were. The thing was, there was no way to predict when that would happen or where the assignment would be, and that's why I went ahead and started looking for jobs here in the U.S. -- I needed something lined up for certain (since my parents weren't about to let me sit on my ass at their house indefinitely). But I did take the Peace Corps up on their offer to keep my application active and let me know if anything new came available.

Last night, it did. The Peace Corps offered me an assignment teaching English to students and teachers at a secondary school in the Ukraine, and after a very long night of soul-searching and praying, I've decided to take it.

If anything, I'm even more apprehensive about the trip this time around than I was the first time -- kind of the old "once bitten, twice shy" situation, but I'm also in a much different situation than I was three years ago. I have a job I like working with people who are great, I've settled down in a city where I've now lived longer than anyplace I've lived since college, I've made tons of connections -- and tons of friends -- through the political work I did last year, and they mean a lot to me. There's no question I'm leaving a lot more behind now than I would have been back in 2002, had I ended up going.

But it's something I've got to do. This is really one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and though I'll feel sort of sad and regretful about what I'm leaving behind here in Birmingham, I know I'd feel even more regretful were I to pass up this chance and never get another one.

So anyway, that's what I'm doing. I leave at the end of July for Kiev, and then it's on to Apryeliskiy Shutka, a town of about 50,000 people on the Black Sea near Odessa, just a little ways from the Romanian border. I'll be over there for a total of 27 months. Allegedly the weather there is a whole lot nicer than in Moscow or St. Petersburg or other points north, so it's looking like I really lucked out on that one; if the pictures I've seen of the chicks in the Ukraine are any indication, I apparently lucked out there, too. (I suppose now is a good time for all my family members to start back in with all the bring-home-a-Russian-bride jokes they were making about this time three years ago.)

As far as the blog goes . . . well, I don't know what's going to become of that. I'll keep doing it at least until I leave this summer, and then after that -- I'll continue to put up as many posts and pictures of my time in the Ukraine as I can, but be forewarned that Apryeliskiy Shutka (from the little I know of it) is not exactly bursting with Internet cafes or cable modems, so it's going to be tough. But we'll just have to see what happens.

At any rate, I hope y'all will say a prayer for me that I do OK over there and come back in one piece. Any other news pops up, you'll hear about it here . . .