Thursday, January 31, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7117

Product of an unspeakable ménage à trois between Pat Boone, Peyton Manning, and Ludwig van Beethoven.
(Image originally uploaded by conrado4; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Weekly Random Flickr Blogging, #4188

I'd like to dedicate this week's group fun to the ongoing fight against aesthetically induced hearing impairment.

One time, the phone rang for two minutes before she finally heard it over the wallpaper.
"We live right under the south approach to Hartsfield, but we don't notice it so much since we had the room redone."
"Jeez, my nose has better taste than some interior decorators."
"Please, no, not red plaid. Have mercy."
Thankfully, there are things you can do to make bad decor more enjoyable.
Just ask Eugene Hütz.
(Images originally uploaded by CHAD COOMBS, Luckyd, Lynda Sandoval, whadonce, speedbird2639, and mrgilbert; Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1642

"I used to leave it there when I wasn't using it."
(Image originally uploaded by kbish; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton. See more from Wat Mahathat here.)


From the Magnificent Metaphors Department

Matt Taibbi:

The crying incident was Hillary's own personal Checkers speech, a painful bit of self-mutilation tossed off on the last step before the political gallows -- a pure sea-cucumber tactic, scaring us off with a display of vulnerable green guts. We missed the chance to finish her off, and now she's back in charge, setting the tone for a campaign that gets dumber and meaner and dirtier by the day. Thanks to you, New Hampshire, the Clintons still have us to kick around.
More on sea cucumbers here and here. I did not know that they are known among acquarium devotees as "cukes." And hey, check out today's Wikipedia featured article.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0261

I don't have much time for posting, but anyway: Go read Greg Palast. Democracy Rocks!

The Alpha Chis have embraced the philosophy known as Wooooo: "Aren't you supposed to warm up sake first?" "F*ck it, it'll warm up in my stomach." *glug glug glug* "WOOOOO!"
(Image originally uploaded by ScottHernandez; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Monday, January 28, 2008

Goodbye and Good Riddance

It's doubtful that the mainstream media will pay much attention to the passing of longtime Indonesian dictator Suharto in the first place, and it's even less likely that they'll spend much time on the role of the US in propping him up for decades and turning a blind eye toward atrocities committed on his orders. Thankfully, we have today's Democracy Now! to remind us of some of the things Suharto's Indonesia did with US backing and US weaponry—as with this heart-rending recounting of the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre in occupied East Timor:

AMY GOODMAN: But despite the threats and a dramatic increase in disappearances, torture and deaths, Timorese had prepared to speak out. They had met in secret, making banners and petitions for the delegation. When the army tried to hunt them down, many had gone into hiding and sought refuge inside churches. But under pressure from the United States, the visit of the delegation had been called off. Three days later, with the world’s spotlight removed, the army stormed the Moteal, Dili’s main Catholic church, and killed a young man named Sebastiao Gomes, who had taken refuge there.

And then came the morning of November 12. The two-week commemoration of Sebastiao’s funeral. A memorial mass and procession were planned to lay flowers on Sebastiao’s grave. After the mass was held at the Moteal, people, young and old, came out into the street, and in a land where public speech and assembly had been forbidden over a decade, they started chanting. The Timorese then held up banners drawn on bed sheets. They had been prepared for the delegation that never came. The banners called on Indonesia to leave East Timor and said things like “Why the Indonesian army shoot our church?” The Timorese were facing a gauntlet of troops that stretched the length of Dili. It was the boldest act of public protest occupied Timor had ever seen.

ALLAN NAIRN: More and more Timorese joined the procession. They came from huts and schools and offices along the way. And there was this building feeling of exhilaration, as well as fear, among the Timorese. And when they reached the cemetery, the crowd had swelled to maybe 5,000 people. Some went inside to lay flowers on Sebastiao’s grave. Most of the crowd was still outside, and then suddenly, someone looked up, and we saw that marching up along the same route that the Timorese had come came a long column of Indonesian troops, dressed in brown, holding M-16s in front of them, marching in a very slow, deliberate fashion; hundreds and hundreds of troops, coming straight at the Timorese.

AMY GOODMAN: Allan suggested we walk to the front of the crowd between the soldiers and the Timorese, because although we knew that the army had committed many massacres, we hoped that we, as a foreign journalists, could serve as a shield for the Timorese. Standing with headphones on and microphone and camera out in full view, we went and stood in the middle of the road, looking straight at the approaching troops. Behind us, the crowd was hushed as some Timorese tried to turn away, but they were hemmed in by cemetery walls.

ALLAN NAIRN: The soldiers marched straight up to us. They never broke their stride. We were enveloped by the troops, and when they got a few yards past us, within a dozen yards of the Timorese, they raised their rifles to their shoulders all at once, and they opened fire. The Timorese, in an instant, were down, just torn apart by the bullets. The street was covered with bodies covered with blood. And the soldiers just kept on coming. They poured in, one rank after another. They leaped over the bodies of those who were down. They were aiming and shooting people in the back. I could see their limbs being torn, their bodies exploding. There was blood spurting out into the air. The pop of the bullets, everywhere. And it was very organized, very systematic. The soldiers did not stop. They just kept on shooting until no one was left standing.

AMY GOODMAN: A group of soldiers grabbed my microphone and threw me to the ground, kicking and punching me. At that point, Allan threw himself on top of me, protecting me from further injury. The soldiers then used their rifle butts like baseball bats, beating Allan until they fractured his skull. As we sat on the ground, Allan, covered in blood, a group of soldiers lined up and pointed their M-16s at our heads. They had stripped us of all of our equipment. We just kept shouting, “We’re from America!” In the end, they decided not to execute us.

ALLAN NAIRN: The soldiers beat us, but we actually had received privileged treatment. We were still alive. They kept on firing into the Timorese. We were able to get onto a passing civilian truck, went into hiding, but the Timorese, who had been with us there on the cemetery road, most of them were dead.

DN! also features a segment wherein, back in 1997, journalist Allan Nairn tries to question then-President Bill Clinton on Indonesia's human rights record and the US's legacy of support for Suharto. Admittedly, it's a somewhat long question, as Nairn prefaces it with some historical background; Clinton tries to cut Nairn off, however, with joking remarks like "Are you making a speech?" and "Hey, everybody, let's give him a hand, he's making a speech." Nice.

We've all gotten a taste of THAT Bill Clinton recently, huh?

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2470

Unclear on the Concept Theater presents The Skydivers.
(Image originally uploaded by pr3ttyinpink; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sweet, Sweet Irony

Our glorious (p)resident thinks that his favorite painting—the source of the stirring title of his autobiography, A Charge to Keep—represents a missionary determinedly climbing a steep hill on horseback. Really, it depicts a horse thief fleeing a mob trying to bring him to justice.

If George W. Bush did not exist, writers for The Simpsons would have to invent him.

(Found via the ever-informative C&L. Speaking of which: Richard Lewis and Buddy Hackett make the top ten in the "Top 100 Stand-up Comedians of All Time," but Bill Hicks ranks 31st?!? Are you people insane?)

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4492

By sheerest coincidence, the Picardy town of Dirkdiggliére boasts one of the most magnificent organs in the world.
(Image originally uploaded by Dennis Bakker; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton. For extra fun, check out Organ Cases of the World. Some of 'em are gorgeous.)


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0205

Enjoy the full-bodied taste of seven heads and ten horns or your money back!
(Image originally uploaded by hyperweaver; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, January 25, 2008

Weekly Random Flickr Blogging, #5690

Dang—almost missed the group fun again.

The all-mime adaptation of V for Vendetta could more aptly be titled G for Get Me the F*#% Out of Here.
Soon a bloody turf war erupted between the Crips, the Bloods, and the Nelsons.
I got nothin' here. I just think this building is gorgeous. I'm sorry—le bleu Majorelle c'est bon. Um, oui.
Never hire a former classics major turned paralegal. "Tell me, O Muse, of that heedless man who slipped on a puddle despite the many bold 'CAUTION: WET FLOOR' signs and of the motion for dismissal filed by Elm Street Piggly Wiggly."
You know what they say: Thank God it's Friday.
(Images originally uploaded by xerlia, lonely radio, svanstraten, laihiu, and cshontz; Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2004

Of the "reality shows" that the studios increasingly turned to as the writer's strike ground on, none was more thinly premised than Inexplicably Shirtless.
(Image originally uploaded by johnbullas; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8498

In other news, Senate Majority Leader Reid said that he would force Senator Dodd and other opponents of telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping to stage a real filibuster—something he rarely even requires Republicans to do. Senator Reid then flared his bell and wiggled his rhopalial lappet in a threatening fashion. Now this.
(Image originally uploaded by crod242; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3237

Festivities marked the arrival of the first Jawa accepted into the NBA.
(Image originally uploaded by Adam Bauer; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1378

The Gilligan's Island Experience confirmed a longstanding theory when over 75% of male visitors headed first to Mary Ann's Place.
(Image originally uploaded by frostband; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)

Meanwhile, how low will they go? I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully, with a contribution to this week's group fun.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Here's to Liquidity

Chris Hedges:

Bush stood in Jerusalem, uncomfortable and palpably bored. He mouthed platitudes about a peace settlement that mocked the humanitarian crisis he aided and abetted in Gaza, the rapacious land grab by Israel in the West Bank and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The diminished George Bush, increasingly irrelevant at home and abroad, is fading into insignificance. A year from now one half expects to see him stand up at the next president's inauguration and screech "I'm melting! I'm melting!" as he sinks into a puddle of slime. He will return, I expect, to his ranch, where he will be able to spend the rest of his life doing the only task for which he has shown any aptitude—cutting down brush with a chain saw.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8843

You can tell it's a liberal church, what with its obvious disdain for the clear Deuteronomic prohibitions on the structural use of red velvet.
(Image originally uploaded by About The Image; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9125

Cindy works part-time at Pottery Barn—but then equestrianism goes to some people's heads. "Avert your gaze in my presence, worm."
(Image originally uploaded by Peter Meade; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5996

"Dig it: Koalaroy was here."
(Image originally uploaded by kikiboon; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, January 18, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5605

The Domino's guy obligingly looked impressed, but inside, all he felt was pity.
(Image originally uploaded by sjd52878; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1221

Coming this summer from Paramount: Rosemary's Kitty. "What...what have you done to his eyes?" "He has his father's eyes." "But...but his hairballs dissolve the furniture." "Yeah, that'll happen."
(Image originally uploaded by EpaL; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Weekly Random Flickr Blogging, #3193

Hey, I remembered to join the weekly fun this week.

For safety's sake, it can only be prepared in a remote area of the Nevada Test Site. Now that's what I call Five-Alarm Chili.
Strange but true: the leading Japanese euphemism for premature ejaculation translates literally as "taking the bullet train to Kyoto."
The ancient Toltecs had already perfected advanced Thighmaster technology when Europeans were still grappling with the fundamentals of buttock toning.
Product of an unspeakable ménage à trois between Bob Dylan, Tiny Tim, and Deepak Chopra.
(Images originally uploaded by DantesFedora, RafaleM, erasmo perez, and starbucks//fielder//; Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2540

"Narrow-Gauge Blanche" was named after a local woman who—well, let's just say she provided valuable services in and around the station.
(Image originally uploaded by timmydunn; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0433

Strange but true: Frank Gehry's entire career as an architect stems from the time he left his favorite Spike Jones record in the family car on a hot day in 1943.
(Image originally uploaded by asmythie; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Monday, January 14, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7918

Erotic dancing is more complicated than most people think. "OK: left spin, triple pelvic gyrate, 45 bend dorsal thrust—on three. Break."
(Image originally uploaded by robt1975; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1878

After their first night on a bed of these, Dick and Lynne Cheney never went back to Posturepedic.
(Image originally uploaded by Focus Photo; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


The Mister Microphone Incident

So now the Navy Times (via truthout) is saying that a locally notorious Persian Gulf radio prankster known as the "Filipino Monkey" may be behind the mysterious "I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes" voice heard by American sailors during the January 6 encounter between US Navy ships and Iranian speedboats in the Straits of Hormuz.

I finally heard the audio of the exchange yesterday, when I had a chance to listen to the podcast of Friday's Democracy Now! segment with Gareth Porter, who has been investigating the story for IPS. I was exercising at the time, and when I heard that supposedly chilling message, I damn near dropped a barbell (should that be a euphemism for something?) and burst out laughing. Honestly, the first thing I thought when I actually heard that voice—having previously only read about it in the American press—was, It's some guy with a Mister Microphone.

The Navy Times includes a link to the Pentagon's version of the "altercation" video. Anyone who watches it will note that

  1. the video goes dark at about 3:47—which is when the mysterious voice first appears;
  2. the voice does not sound even remotely like it's coming from one of the speedboats (as Gareth Porter notes, there's none of the ambient noise one would expect if it was coming from a speedboat on the open sea); and
  3. it really, really sounds like some guy cutting in with a Mister Microphone, I swear.
Iran has accused the US of fabricating the threat, and the US has conceded that the mystery voice might have come from someplace other than the speedboats. The Iranian version is shot from the perspective of the speedboats (beware if you're prone to seasickness) and basically features footage of the US ships and of a guy in a life jacket bobbing up and down while he talks to the Americans. He is most definitely not the source of the mysterious "threat."

Was the mystery voice edited in by Americans nefariously trying to drum up a pretext for war, as the Iranians allege? Did the mystery voice come from the annoying "Filipino Monkey," as some in the US Navy now suggest? Or could the truth be even stranger?

Could it have been some neocon operative—or, given the crude, amateurish quality of the "threat," should we say neo-keystone-con?—lurking somewhere on one of the ships, Mister Microphone in hand, doing the Threatening Iranian impression that got him exactly nowhere on Star Search?

Has anyone checked Doug "Fucking Stupidest Guy on the Face of the Earth" Feith's whereabouts on January 6?

Could the explanation be reducible to a Clue clue?

Richard Perle, in the goat locker, with a Mister Microphone.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1992

I'll probably be offline tomorrow, so here's tomorrow's Daily Random Flickr Blogging—today. See y'all on Sunday.

P.S. Don't miss this collection of awesomeness that Generik has been spreading around.

Republican eroticism really does demand a certain level of commitment.
(Image originally uploaded by rubberrich; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8742

"Why Are There Always Quarters on the Ground Outside That Mysterious Ex-Priest's House?" is the latest in the Growing Up Fast series.
(Image originally uploaded by dvdyke; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4354

Archaeologists soon fell into bitter dispute over whether Zazacoyahuacatonga should be regarded as the Olmec Whoopi Goldberg or as the Olmec Ricki Lake.
(Image originally uploaded by erasmo perez; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Run, Rudy, Run

Well, well:

Bomb scare shortens Rudy Giuliani's visit

MELBOURNE - Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's visit here Wednesday was sidetracked by a bomb threat.

Harris Corp. headquarters in Melbourne received the telephone threat at 1:27 p.m., shortly before the former New York City mayor and his campaign team flew into Melbourne International Airport on a charter jet.

That would be the airport that's "international" largely because of daily flights to the Bahamas, but never mind.
Giuliani was scheduled to tour Harris headquarters and speak with employees. But his visit to Harris was canceled because of the scare. Instead, Giuliani stayed at the airport, where he eventually delivered a speech amid heightened security that included metal detectors and a bomb-sniffing dog.

Addressing more than 100 members of the news media and local supporters in an airport hangar, Giuliani proposed a slew of federal tax cuts that taken as a whole, he said, would amount to "the largest tax cut in the history of the United States."

If elected, Giuliani pledged to push for a more level federal income tax scale, in some cases providing a greater amount of tax relief for those with higher incomes. He also proposed decreasing corporate and capital gains taxes, and eliminating the estate tax.

"America needs a flatter, fairer tax system," he said after being introduced by Forbes business magazine editor-in-chief Steve Forbes Jr., a former Republican presidential candidate who is serving as a campaign adviser.

Giuliani said the tax cuts would stimulate the economy and "put America back on a pro-growth path" by rewarding financially successful individuals and businesses.

"Reward success. Don't penalize success," he said. "If I leave more money in your pocket, you'll spend it more intelligently than the government would."

Such as on a tiara. Sigh. Do these people ever have any new ideas? And here I'd thought Romney was the soulless robot and Giuliani was the soulless thug. Perhaps we should start thinking of Giuliani as a sort of soulless chimeric robo-thug.

A little while ago I found in my files a nice piece from around last tax day by George Lakoff and Bruce Budner. It aptly and briefly explains what's wrong with the taxes-penalize-success Moloch to which so many Republicans (and not a few Democrats) offer their prayers and devotions. Briefly: taxes aren't penalties for material success; they're payments to support an infrastructure that helps to make material success possible. And the more one has profited from this infrastructure, the more one owes for its support. This is not theft; it's justice (emphases mine):

America's government has at least two fundamental functions: protection and empowerment. Protection includes the police, firefighters, emergency services, public health, the military and so on. Empowerment includes the infrastructure needed for business and everyday life: roads, communications systems, water supplies, public education, the banking system for loans and economic stability, the SEC for the stock market, the courts for enforcing contracts, air traffic control, support for basic science, our national parks and public buildings, and more. We are usually aware of protection. But the empowerment infrastructure, provided by taxes, is usually taken for granted, hidden or ignored. Yet it is absolutely crucial, a fundamental truth about America and why America provides opportunity.


Taxes are part of our common wealth, what we all share. Protection and empowerment serve the common good. Because of our common wealth, we are all protected and America's empowering infrastructure is available to all. That is a fundamental American value: the common wealth should serve the common good. It benefits everyone.

Citizens are financially responsible to maintain this common wealth. If we shirked this responsibility, we could not maintain our roads, fund our schools, protect ourselves from military threats, enforce our laws and so on. Equally important, we could not create prosperity for ourselves, because we would have no protection of our intellectual property, no oversight of our markets, no means to enforce our contracts, no way to educate most of our children.

I know that many libertarians have orgasms at the thought of privatized education, and I'm sure there are some who are crazy enough to think that we'd all be better off with a totally privatized legal system and military (I did know one who actually thought that roads should be privately built, maintained, and operated), never mind the implications for individual freedom of a system where law and power are totally for sale to the highest bidder—but this is all beside the point, as Rudy Guiliani is certainly no libertarian.
Few people dispute this responsibility at some level. Disagreements generally arise over the amount and the relative apportionment of the responsibility. Differing concepts of fairness drive this debate. While many progressives say it is only fair that those who earn more pay a higher percentage of their earnings as taxes compared to those who have difficulty making ends meet, conservatives respond by asserting that it is unfair to "punish" the financially successful by making them pay more.

An important point often lost in this debate is an appreciation that the common wealth, which our taxes create and sustain, empowers the wealthy in myriad ways to create their wealth. We call this compound empowerment—the compounded use of the common wealth by corporations, their investors and other wealthy individuals.

Consider Bill Gates. He started Microsoft as a college dropout and has become the world's richest person. Though he has undoubtedly benefited from his unusual intelligence and business acumen, he could not have created or sustained his personal wealth without the common wealth. The legal system protected Microsoft's intellectual property and contracts. The tax-supported financial infrastructure enabled him to access capital markets and trade his stock in a market in which investors have confidence. He built his company with many employees educated in public schools and universities. Tax-funded research helped to develop computer science and the internet. Trade laws negotiated and enforced by the government protect his ability to sell his products abroad. These are but a few of the ways in which Mr. Gates's accumulation of wealth was empowered by the common wealth and by taxation.

As Warren Buffet famously observed, he likely couldn't have achieved his financial success had he been born in Bangladesh instead of the United States, because Bangladesh had no banking system and no stock market.

Ordinary people just drive on the highways; corporations send fleets of trucks. Ordinary people may get a bank loan for their mortgage; corporations borrow money to buy whole companies. Ordinary people rarely use the courts; most of the courts are used for corporate law and contract disputes. Corporations and their investors—those who have accumulated enough money beyond basic needs so they can invest—make much more use, compound use, of the empowering infrastructure provided by everybody's tax money.

The wealthy have made greater use of the common good—they have been empowered by it in creating their wealth—and thus they have a greater moral obligation to sustain it. They are merely paying their debt to society in arrears and investing in future empowerment.

This is the fundamental truth that motivates progressive taxation.

It is a truth that undercuts conservative arguments about taxation. Taxes provide and maintain the protecting and empowering infrastructure that makes our income possible.

This basic truth is simple and obvious upon a few moments' reflection, but prosperous reptiles like Steve Forbes have made an art out of conning people into focusing entirely on taxes as a taking of the fruits of people's hard-earned labor (never mind the extent to which massive fortunes are themselves often built on the taking of the fruits of other people's labor)—while distracting attention from the fact that taxes are also a kind of giving back that helps to make the making of wealth possible. If only big-name Democrats could stand before their microphones and denounce this sophistry in clear, passionate language, we'd be on our way to an America where plutocrat Republicans and their think-tank stooges and their pundit flunkies couldn't stand up in public and blather about cutting capital gains taxes without being pelted with garbage. But back to Rudy:
Not everyone was there to cheer for Giuliani. Several supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul were in the crowd, including some critical of Giuliani for his support of the Iraq war.

One man tried to question Giuliani in a confrontational manner, but he was shooed away by Giuliani supporters.

Members of a group called Brevard Patriots for Peace held up signs that, in a sarcastic reference to Giuliani, stated, "Let's put another fear mongering hypocrite in the White House."

I'm not sure that's either "sarcastic" or a "reference to Giuliani," but never mind. I almost feel like I should give the Paul campaign a little money just for the delightful spectacle of watching some of his supporters chase Sean Hannity down the street, berating him all the way. The shout toward the end of "We're not falling for it any more!" makes me think one of the most optimistic thoughts I've thought in a long time:

It's morning in America.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6971

Unique among butterflies, the Sicilian Swallowtail uses intimidation to ensure a steady supply of nectar. "Nice stamen ya got heah. Be a shame if somethin' was ta happen to it."
(Image originally uploaded by slipacre; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Plutocracy Fever—Catch It!

It seems that the US Chamber of Commerce is worried about the peasants revolting—or at least getting uppity:

Washington - Alarmed at the increasingly populist tone of the 2008 political campaign, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to issue a fiery promise to spend millions of dollars to defeat candidates deemed to be anti-business.

"We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed," chamber President Tom Donohue said.

The warning from the nation's largest trade association came against a background of mounting popular concern over the condition of the economy. A weak record of job creation, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, declining home values and other problems have all helped make the economy a major campaign issue.

Presidential candidates in particular have responded to the public concern. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has been the bluntest populist voice, but other front-running Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, have also called for change on behalf of middle-class voters.

On the Republican side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee - emerging as an unexpected front-runner after winning the Iowa caucuses - has used populist themes in his effort to woo independent voters, blasting bonus pay for corporate chief executives and the effect of unfettered globalization on workers.

Reacting to what it sees as a potentially hostile political climate, Donohue said, the chamber will seek to punish candidates who target business interests with their rhetoric or policy proposals, including congressional and state-level candidates.

"A grass-roots business organization"—yeah, right. Why, if those roots get any grassier, they'll set off my hay fever.
After brief pleasantries on the phone the other day, Thomas J. Donohue got down to business with a top health insurance executive. "We're in a new year and a new time," Donohue said smoothly. "Can we put you on the list and get your money?"

The executive said yes, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was $100,000 richer. So, in effect, was President Bush's push to rein in trial lawyers and lower taxes.

The chamber is at the forefront of a quiet revolution in business lobbying. Corporate groups now raise big money to advance broad issues, largely to help the Republican president enact his fiscal agenda. That's a long step away from what trade associations traditionally did: concentrate on narrow concerns while shunning partisan spats.

The big money has become commonplace in day-to-day lobbying, and few people are more responsible for that than the outspoken Donohue. When he became the group's president in 1997, the chamber took in only about $600,000 from its largest corporate members. Last year, collections for that category, called the President's Advisory Group, totaled $90 million.

That's a major reason Bush will rely on him and the chamber this year. "When the White House looks for the go-to people on business issues," said fellow Bush enthusiast Dirk Van Dongen of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), "the chamber is among the very first groups that it talks to."

Ah-choo! Ah-choo!
During the first two years of Donohue's rebuilding drive, the chamber's budget remained in deficit. Then, as corporate chieftains gained confidence in the rejiggered organization, donations began to pick up. Now, the chamber is a behemoth.

In the first half of last year (the latest figures available), the chamber ranked first among all organizations in lobbying expenditures, at $30 million. The chamber also contributed more than $4 million to the November Fund, a group that attacked Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry for choosing a former trial lawyer, John Edwards, as his running mate. Today, the chamber is solidly in the black, its $150 million annual budget triple what it was when Donohue took over. It also is staunchly Republican in most of its legislative positions and played a pivotal role in cutting the tax on dividends and approving free-trade pacts, among many other Bush priorities. Whenever the president or his people called, the chamber assembled coalitions of like-minded groups and contacted its 3 million member firms to step up political pressure and donate lobbying-related funds.

Ah-choo! Ahhhhhh-CHOO! Oh God, won't someone please make these roots less grassy? Or at least get me a Kleenex?
These efforts have made the chamber many friends in the Bush administration, and Donohue, whose annual salary is more than $1.6 million, isn't shy about using them. He told a new $100,000 chamber member, Lurita Doan, chief executive of New Technology Management Inc., that he could arrange a meeting for her with the U.S. customs and border protection commissioner. "I'll get you in there," Donohue said. "We'll get you a meeting." Donohue works morning to night to, as he puts it, "separate some people from their cash." He said he annually makes 200 fundraising visits in person and an additional 150 over the telephone to large corporate donors whose dues are $100,000 or more.

He travels so often for that purpose that the chamber provides him a chauffeured Lincoln Town Car for in-town use and leases him a jet for longer trips. "You can't visit as many people as I do and do it commercial," Donohue said. He leaves the lobbying mostly to the staff that his fundraising pays for.

Ah-choo! Oh, hey, Lurita Doan—fancy her showing up here.
Donohue also opposes increased securities regulation -- from the Bush administration or any other source -- and does so with typical ferocity. The chamber is even suing the Securities and Exchange Commission. Donohue has called investigations by New York state Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer "the most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation that we have seen in this country in modern time."
Some chief executives keep a sign on their desks that says, a la Harry Truman, "The Buck Stops Here." Donohue's desk holds a sign with a telling variation. It reads: "Show Me The Money."
CHOO! *sniffle* Emphases mine. *sniff*

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0766

If more stores did this, fewer guys would mind shopping for drapes.
(Image originally uploaded by skizzy203; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sentence of the Day

"And how nice of the LA Times to give Page One exposure to this hotel conference room full of angry, self-pitying gynophobes and their ghost zygotes."

From World-O-Crap, via Thers. Zazz!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9536

Top Ten Toughest Film Jobs, #6: Beard wrangler for My Big Fat Sikh Wedding.
(Image originally uploaded by Gurumustuk Singh; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Gin and Chthonic

Yesterday's Word of the Day:

chthonic • \THAH-nik\ • adjective

: of or relating to the underworld : infernal

I've always liked this word. I'm not sure why; perhaps it's the nonchalant way it waits until after the c and the h to really get started. Any word that comes with its own prologue just has to be cool.

Speaking of things chthonic, my friend jules sent me this shot of an oddly hellish sunrise on the morning after the Iowa caucuses:

"My Rudy finished whatth?"

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2238

Note to self: After next Mediterranean vacation, do not speak excitedly of "gorgeous Spanish manhole" without photograph handy—especially around Father Callahan.
(Image originally uploaded by dirtydiva; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1331

Hmmmmm—where to begin? Well, we might as well work from the top down. For brevity's sake, we'll ignore the moral and rational shortcomings of the intellectual content (such as it is) and focus purely on grammatical/mechanical issues. (1) Hell, whether real or imaginary, is a place, not a "definition." (2) Normally, we would say that X is a definition of Y, not that X is a definition to Y. (3) "Flaming Faggot" is two words, not one word. While I disagree with what you are trying to say—or at least with what I think you are trying to say—I will defend your right to say it, and, motivated in part by the pitiable spectacle of three errors in an eleven-word sentence, I will even offer an amended version which is both shorter and clearer: "Ironically, flaming faggots go to Hell." What do you think?

This has been a public service message from Categorical Aperitif.

(Image originally uploaded by tweder; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton. I see that Generik has been helping some wingnuts with the intricacies of English, too.)


Friday, January 04, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3512

Shadow watched intently as the Jehovah's Witnesses approached her first tripwire.
(Image originally uploaded by SweetMeow; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6063

Wow, they weren't kidding about the Director's Cut of Giant.
(Image originally uploaded by skome; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Time to Give the Statue Back

TomDispatch kicks off the new year with some harsh reminders of just what the U.S. has become after seven years of Bush-Cheney rule:

Take, for instance, 20-year veteran of the National Guard Zakariya Muhammad Reed (born Edward Eugene Reed, Jr.), who, for the last 11 years, has worked as a firefighter in Toledo, Ohio. Regularly crossing the Canadian border to visit his wife's family, he has been stopped so many times -- "I was put up against the wall and thoroughly frisked, any more thoroughly and I would have asked for flowers…" -- that he is a connoisseur of detention. He's been stopped five times in the last seven months and now chooses his crossing place based on the size of the detention waiting room he knows he'll end up in. It took several such incidents, during which no explanations were offered, before he discovered that he was being stopped in part because of his name and in part because of a letter he wrote to the Toledo Blade criticizing Bush administration policies on Israel and Iraq.
Read the rest. Between stories like these and the recent revelation that the U.S. is right up there with China and the former Soviet Union as an "endemic surveillance society," remind me again: who exactly won the Cold War?

Weekly Random Flickr Blogging, #2007

The second thing Steve H. said.

In 2007, the beefcake extravaganza called 300 delighted gay men, right-wing bloggers, and these ladies.
In 2007, equine miniaturization continued apace. "These were originally bred for one of Paul Simon's weddings."
In 2007, somebody in Brazil made this. I think it's pretty cool.
The Sci-Fi Channel can wave breasts at me all they want; I still won't forgive them for cancelling Mystery Science Theater 3000.
In 2007, the warm glow at the end of the rainbow turned out to be a brush fire.
In 2007, The Man with a Big Van started getting lots of inquiries from jinglemailers wanting to live in it.
In 2007, the cathartic moment when angry mobs storm the White House edged ever closer.
(Images originally uploaded by loulousfo, destinyuk*, Tranquera, ebo8, blukeg,, and Kieron Lawlor; Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)


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