Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sarah Palin Is More Full of Bullshit Than a Constipated Cow

Calling Sarah Palin dumb isn't sexist. It's a statement of what should be fairly obvious to anyone with two ears.



Ugh, seriously? Seriously? You mean, I know what the Bush Doctrine is and the woman running for Vice President doesn't? She doesn't know what our every foreign policy move now hangs on?

Well, at least you can see Russia from Alaska, so that makes her a foreign policy expert. In a similar vein, look for my upcoming career in coaching college football. Sure, I haven't played on a real team since I was in sixth grade, but you can see the NIU football field from my bedroom window, so that's enough experience.

Here are some other questions I have about Sarah Palin from watching her interview with Charles Gibson:

1. Why can't Palin or McCain ever address a single issue? Are they that dumb that all they can do is repeat the same talking points over and over without really answering anything put forth to them? Don't you see that happening constantly? That the entire campaign is just clinging onto and repeating lie after lie despite how often they've been refuted with definite proof?

2. Is it just me, or does she make George W. Bush look like a political science professor?

3. Do you think Sarah Palin could explain what the European Union is and how it functions?

4. Why didn't Gibson just make shit up and ask her, like, what her opinion on the "Meinhoffer Strategem" was? Wouldn't it have been hilarious to see Sarah Palin, with her deer-in-headlights shaky nervousness, trying to answer that question seriously with another generalized deflection about what America needs right now? I mean, find a talking point to stick to that one.

5. Aren't you sick of these conservative apologists falling all over themselves to tell us that we're sexist or threatened or elitists for not liking Sarah Palin? Dude, it IS entirely possible to hate her because she's fucking stupid.

6. Why isn't Hillary Clinton out there promoting Obama and talking about how anyone who supported her and is now supporting Pailin doesn't have a feminist bone in their bodies?

7. Having heard Palin talk, are we now surprised that her infant son has Down's Syndrome, or are we surprised the other four don't? (Cheap shot? I don't care. Once you've done an ad claiming Obama wanted to teach kindergarteners about sex, you've lost every last shred of decency from me. I'm not running for President, so I don't have to be decent.)

8. Who do you think Charles Gibson wanted to smack more: Palin or the segment producer? How did they get him to actually not roll his eyes once?

9. Is someone going to call out the campaign on their lying point that 50% of American women support Moose Hunter Barbie? Because, according to Gallup, that's just not true.


10. Will John McCain ever figure out that everything he says on camera can be checked later? (H/T to TheMom for the video.)

11. Can we stop focusing on Sarah Palin now? She's the distraction McCain is using to stop people from talking about him. And yes, I've been doing it, too--I've been way too focused on Palin when, with less than two months to Election Day, I should be talking about McCain. So I'm going to focus less on Palin now and get back to what matters: that John McCain is a duplicitous son of a bitch who doesn't give a damn about your family, your freedom, or your life.

Dan Rather on the Media

Here's a rather inspiring video of Dan Rather talking to a group of journalists at the DNC. He's dead on about a number of issues concerning accurate vs. corporate journalism today. (He's also, by the way, only the second person I've heard mention the fact that the military action in Georgia and the US threats to Russia are really about a gas pipeline; sadly, the first person I saw mention it was me.)

This is an especially interesting video when you take into consideration what just happened with Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. Granted, Olbermann and Matthews aren't Dan Rather, but Dan Rather was forced out, too. America really needs to ask itself who has a vested interest in seeing reporters that people trust get silenced. Hell, if Jon Stewart didn't bring in money for Viacom, where would he be now?

Cinememe II: The Wrath of Khan

Another great movie meme found at The Sickness' Cinema.

1) Your favorite musical moment in a movie
Gosh, who could pick just one? I tend to love musicals and musical moments. Off the top of my head, there's "If I Only Had a Brain" from The Wizard of Oz, "That's How You Know" from Enchanted, just about any moment from West Side Story, Gene Kelley singin' in the rain, the Beatles in any of their movies, the "ABC" scene in Clerks II, "Ease on Down the Road" from The Wiz, all of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg... I can't even come close to picking one.

2) Ray Milland or Dana Andrews?
Ray Milland

3) Favorite Sidney Lumet movie?
Sidney Lumet is a filmmaker I only like sporadically. Of the Lumet movies I really liked, I'd say my favorite is Serpico.

4) Biggest surprise of the just-past summer movie season?
That I actually really enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It didn't surprise me that people didn't like it, however.

5) Gene Tierney or Rita Hayworth?
Rita Hayworth is certainly beautiful, but I think Gene Tierney is the better actress by far.

6) What’s the last movie you saw on DVD? In theaters?
It was the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus movie on DVD. What was the last movie I saw in theaters? Must have been The Dark Knight.

7) Irwin Allen’s finest hour?
Lost in Space, of course.

I certainly am not a fan of any of his movies, with the possible exception of The Poseidon Adventure.

8) What were the films where you would rather see the movie promised by the poster than the one that was actually made?
I can't think of one. Despite appearances, I generally like most of the movies I see on some level, and I'm not one to carry on for years being disappointed in something. Sure, I hate some movies like crazy, but I can't remember a poster ever making me really desperate to see something.

Oh, wait: when I saw this poster that appears in the movie Just Friends, I resolved to see it on cable. I would've seen it for Anna Faris, anyway, but this made it a little urgent for me, I admit. I could see a movie made from this poster that would be a) free of Ryan Reynolds and b) a hell of a lot better than Just Friends, one of the many movies I've seen that Anna Faris is the only good part of.

9) Chow Yun-Fat or Tony Leung?
Chow Yun-fat

10) Most pretentious movie ever?
Jeez, where do you start? Off the top of my head: Magnolia. Also Crash.

11) Favorite Russ Meyer movie
Vixen
Is she woman or animal?

12) Name the movie that you feel best reflects yourself, a movie you would recommend to an acquaintance that most accurately says, “This is me.”
Clerks II. A cliched choice, probably, but I really felt like it had a lot to say about me and the people I've known my whole life.

13) Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo
Garbo, absolutely.

Nothing against Marlene Dietrich, who's fantastic, but Garbo is something from another world.

14) Best movie snack? Most vile movie snack?
When I was a kid, I always used to have Twizzlers or Reese's Pieces. These days, especially since I started losing weight, I'm not a big movie snacker. The most vile movie snack is easily Milk Duds.

15) Current movie star who would be most comfortable in the classic Hollywood studio system
For some reason, I want to say George Clooney. I think it's only because he works so often and seems to have no ego about his image.

16) Fitzcarraldo—yes or no?
Any Herzog movie is a yes for me. Fitzcarraldo is a hell, yes.

17) Your assignment is to book the ultimate triple bill to inaugurate your own revival theater. What three movies will we see on opening night?
I already did a whole film festival meme. But since you asked right now, I'd say my ultimate triple bill for a revival theater opening might be the restored version of the original Wicker Man, Welles's F for Fake, and the restored version of The Thief and the Cobbler.

18) What’s the name of your theater?
The Elephant's Graveyard. I have no idea why.

19) Favorite Leo McCarey movie
How could you pick anything other than Duck Soup?

20) Most impressive debut performance by an actor/actress
Impossible to narrow down.

21) Biggest disappointment of the just-past summer movie season
The Dark Knight. Not a terrible movie, but too damn long and cheerless.

22) Michelle Yeoh or Maggie Cheung
I love them both, but I'm going to go with Maggie Cheung just because I loved her so much as Thief Catcher in The Heroic Trio.

23) 2008 inductee into the Academy of the Overrated
The Dark Knight

24) 2008 inductee into the Academy of the Underrated
I don't have anything yet.

25) Fritz the Cat—yes or no?
Absolutely yes.

26) Trevor Howard or Richard Todd?
As a Disney fan, I'm tempted to go with Todd.

But I do love Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter.

27) Antonioni once said, “I began taking liberties a long time ago; now it is standard practice for most directors to ignore the rules.” What filmmaker working today most fruitfully ignores the rules? What does ignoring the rules of cinema mean in 2008?
I honestly have no idea. Does anyone ignore the rules fruitfully these days? With so much of what dominates completely overstepping the bounds of good taste (and making hundreds of millions of dollars along the way), and a lot of genuine talents getting sucked up into that system of commercial crap, I honestly have no idea who makes truly great films anymore. I just like some of the stuff I see now and then.

Is that a cop-out answer? Because when the biggest thing going is Michael Bay, what the hell does cinema even mean?

28) Favorite William Castle movie?
The Tingler

29) Favorite ethnographically oriented movie?
That just seems like an intellectualist bullshit question, frankly.

30) What’s the movie coming up in 2008 you’re most looking forward to? Why?
The Spirit, because it looks like the kind of silly weirdness I adore.

31) What deceased director would you want to resurrect in order that she/he might make one more film?
Russ Meyer. I just wanted to see Viva Foxy.

32) What director would you like to see, if not literally entombed, then at least go silent creatively?
Michael Bay.

33) Your first movie star crush?
Drew Barrymore. She and I are only a year apart in age, and she was a big deal when I was a kid because of E.T., Cat's Eye, and Firestarter.

Honestly, no matter how crazy she gets, I've been in love with her ever since.

What Was on Every Girl's Mind a Few Generations Ago?

HOLY FUCKING SHIT, DO I LOVE HAM!!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Keith Olbermann Calls Out McCain

And it needed to be done. Olbermann comments, angrily, on how the Republicans have appropriated the memory of 9/11 for political purposes. This is stunning.

Throwdown 9/12

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. I understand, dog. If Katherine Heigl were doing that to me, I’d be afraid she was just leading me to the gas chamber, too. Bitch scares me.

2. Michael Madsen: “I don’t even know what [Uwe Boll’s] movies are about and why he keeps the same theme of people in the jungle and the vampires who ride in from space.” The fact that he’s worked with Boll just makes that quote doubly hilarious.

3. Here’s a scene of Robinson Crusoe dueling with a lady pirate who embodies the predictable bit of fake modern feminism in the new NBC series Crusoe. Seriously, if you’re going to add a bunch of pirates including the inevitable fake-feminist anachronism Xena/Elizabeth Swann character to the plot, don’t tell me that your show “combine[s] for the first time the pace and energy of network television while remaining faithful to the author’s original classic story.” Dude, I understand that watching episode after episode of painstakingly detailed goatkeeping is not exciting, but you’re not really being faithful, are you?

4. The ever-persistent rumors about Paul McGann making an appearance on Doctor Who as the Eighth Doctor have started up again. Honestly, this one needs to die. Either it will happen or it won’t, but I kind of feel like it probably won’t. I’d love to see it happen… I just don’t see it happening. Also, I want all of this talk about doing a Doctor Who movie to cease now. What’s the point of doing a movie? On TV, you get around 12 or 13 hours of characterization and story, with time to really unfold (or, alas, some filler). Reducing it down to an hour and forty-five minutes doesn’t seem like a very interesting step forward to me.

5. Disney’s Bolt. I’ve complained in the past about how good Chris Sanders’s concept art looked versus how crappy the finished, non-Sanders product looks. Well, even the non-Sanders storyboards were much better looking than the weird, blobby CGI. Also, check out Amid Amidi’s succinct summation. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

6. Scientists this week switched on the Large Hadron Collider, designed to simulate the conditions of the Big Bang. Of course, there were immediately those skeptical claims that this would create a black hole that would destroy the universe. While I’m not sure this would be an absolutely terrible thing (what are we doing with this life, really?), is this remotely possible? I mean, this always sounds to me like another “Cloning will destroy us because it pisses off God” argument to me. Is there any truth in this whatsoever, or is this another science scare coming from people who don’t know anything about science?

7. PBS adds some insight into the Republican National Convention.

8. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe went out of his way last week to point out that Barack Obama wasn’t wearing a flag lapel pin when he gave his acceptance speech. Never mind that Obama has already said that he believes patriotism is more than what you wear on your jacket, and never mind that John McCain, Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, and Mitt Romney were also not wearing lapel pins (you’re a moron, Inhofe). Really, can everyone just get over the fucking flag pins as a stopgap cancer ribbon symbol for being patriotic and start demanding that those in power (and they’re all in power) show their love for America by acting responsibly over what they administrate? Didn’t we settle this months ago?

9. ABC News is reporting a novel solution to the mortgage crisis. Some people who can afford this, who have been stuck with ballooning mortgage payments on houses that are now worth substantially less than their mortgage, are purchasing larger homes with fixed rate mortgages and simply abandoning their old ones. Good thing we keep bailing out the companies that force people into this, otherwise that precious debt might just be lost. Naturally, lenders are trying to make it illegal to do what these people are doing to protect their families and themselves from financial ruin.

10. Check out the Ford 2009 Fiesta ECOnetic: it’s fast, it has a navigation system, it’s a subcompact that seats five, it gets 65 miles to the gallon, it’s… not being sold in the United States. It runs on diesel, for one thing, and even though diesel vehicles are generally now equipped with pollution-fighting technology, and diesel is now as clean or cleaner than gasoline (and 30% more fuel efficient), Americans still don’t want diesel. Neither do American oil companies, so diesel is taxed much higher than gasoline. Also, the engines are made in Britain, so the whole car would cost a lot to import, so the price for one of these cars would be… only about $1500 more than the very popular Toyota Prius (less with the tax deduction available to buyers of new diesel cars). And Ford will be making gas-powered versions in Mexico for the US… but Ford thinks it would cost too much money to build a plant in Mexico (about $350 million) even though Ford goes through about $1 billion a month in cash. Honestly, they don’t think they’ll sell enough diesel cars in the Americas for it to be worth the money. And they’re probably right.

11. John McCain said to ABC: “President Clinton had opportunities to get Osama bin Laden. President Bush had opportunities to get Osama bin Laden. I know how to do it and I'll do it. I understand and I have the knowledge and the background and the experience to make the right judgments.” Hey, didn’t Nixon have a secret plan to win in Vietnam? Has McCain actually said “Peace with honor” yet? And here the Republicans like to attack Democrats for selling false hope… So, if McCain knows how to get bin Laden, why hasn’t he shared this little tip in the previous seven years?

12. Another McCain quote: “[Obama’s] plan will […] force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.” You mean, the same health care system that McCain has been receiving for most of his life? The one that has saved him from cancer? The one that, even though he’s rich enough to easily afford any doctor in the country, he keeps receiving for free? I mean, doesn’t McCain keep telling us what great shape he’s in for a 72 year-old who can barely lift his arms? At any rate, McHypocrite, Obama’s health care plan isn’t going to force anyone into anything; it’s going to provide more options for those of us who have no health care or are insured and still find a bureaucrat standing between us and our doctor.

13. Sarah Palin’s people are saying now that she didn’t have her public safety director fired because he wouldn’t fire her former brother-in-law. No, she fired him because he dared tell her that she should put her infant in a car seat instead of holding him in the passenger seat of a short car drive. So, that makes everything much better. See, she wasn’t abusing her power… she was just abusing it in a completely different way. McCain’s people, by the way, are actively trying to derail the investigation into Palin’s misuse of power. Also, an Anchorage judge says he had to repeatedly warn Palin to stop harassing and disparaging the reputation of her sister’s ex-husband. Of all the shit coming out about Palin, I think the abuse of power is the most compelling.

14. Okay, the legacy of all the women since World War II who have fought so other women could benefit is not Sarah fucking Palin. That is fucking insulting.

15. Last week, I mentioned that Iraq had signed a $3 billion oil deal with China. Looks like this week they’ve decided to cancel their no-bid contracts with Western companies, which were, of course, the reason we went to war in the first place. Which means we’ll be there longer.

16. John McCain claims in one of his new ads that Obama sponsored a law to give kindergarteners comprehensive sex education. Actually, the law—which does not give kindergarteners comprehensive sex education—was a law designed to protect young children from sexual predators. So, using Republican logic, this means that John McCain is against protecting children from molesters. Why are you against protecting children from being molested, Senator McCain? Oh, wait, let me put it in Republican terms: Why are you in favor of children being molested, Senator McCain?

17. What I heard from the media was that there were only a paltry number of ineffectual war protestors at the Republican National Convention. Well, here’s a video of riot police heroically throwing bombs at peacefully dispersing protestors and here’s a journalist’s account of being arrested during the convention that I didn’t see too much about. According to the AP, about 800 protestors were arrested at the RNC.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11

Some events relating to terrorism and an attack on America. Most of this information is from The 9/11 Report.

The United States government did not become concerned with counterterrorism until 1976, after the Israeli commandos rescued 104 hostages from Palestinian terrorists at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. They were further concerned in 1977 when a West German special force rescued every hostage from a plan in Mogadishu, Somalia, and the Pentagon admitted they were not prepared to take such an action if needed to. America's first major experience with counterterrorism was a disaster, when the Delta Force attempted to rescue hostages in Tehran with much loss of life and equipment. The action in Tehran was a result of the overthrow by Iranians of the US-backed Shah of Iran and the institution of an Islamic Republic. The US wanted to reinstall a government friendly to American interests; the new Iranian government wanted no more Western interference in the name of oil profits.

In 1978, a Communist revolution took control of Afghanistan but couldn't establish control without the help of Soviet military units. A decade-long war between the Soviets and an Afghan resistance followed, becoming a rallying point and a training field for Islamist extremists. Among them was Osama bin Laden, the 17th child of a Saudi construction magnate with access to his family's huge fortune. He set up a financial support network fronted through charities and other organizations to help fund the war. The US also took part, fighting another of many proxy wars against Soviet interests by providing billions in secret assistance to Afghan rebels (including military training). Out of this (eventually) would grow al Qaeda, a terrorist group co-founded by Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam for the purpose of ending all Western influence in the Middle East.

President Reagan removed troops from Lebanon after a Hezbollah massacre of Marines in Beirut in 1983. This action emboldened terrorist groups, who interpreted as a sign of US weakness. The Iran-Contra affair did further damage to the international reputation of the United States.

Osama bin Laden became the undisputed leader of al Qaeda in 1989 when a car bomb killed Abdullah Azzam and both of his sons. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, bin Laden proposed summoning Mujahedeen to retake Iraq for the Saudis, but the Saudi monarchy decided instead to support the United States in an effort to secure more oil resources for Saudi profit. Bin Laden denounced this decision and was stripped of his Saudi citizenship. His assets were frozen. He fled to Sudan, where he set up a complex set of intertwined business and terrorist enterprises. His construction company built a highway from Khartoum to Port Sudan; bin Laden used the money earned to buy weapons, explosives, and tactical equipment with the intention of setting himself up as head of an international jihadi confederation. He recruited terrorists from 21 countries and extended his terrorist network into other countries, including the United States (primarily in New York, Boston, Tucson, Atlanta, Brooklyn, and Chicago).

The World Trade Center was attacked on 26 February 1993. A truck bomb was set off in the underground parking garage. Within days, the FBI was able to identify a remnant of the truck as belonging to a rented van reported stolen in New Jersey. Through the rental agency, the FBI tracked down Mohammed Salameh, who had rented the truck and even called the rental agency about getting his deposit back. Co-conspirators were also arrested, but the bin Laden terrorist network did not come to the fore in the investigation, trial, or public image. The man behind the action, Ramzi Yousef, would not be tracked down until 1995. America's counterterrorism readiness wasn't enhanced by the action, but instead created the false appearance that the US was prepared to handle a terrorist attack. Counterterrorism was not considered career-enhancing in the FBI.

Osama bin Laden, it would emerge later, was also behind the shooting down of two Black Hawk helicopters on 3 October 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. American Rangers launched a raid on an area of Mogadishu controlled by Mohammed Farrah Aidid that, over two days, left 18 Rangers dead and 73 wounded. The US military decided that direct attack on terrorists would not work, and focused instead on cutting off terrorist sponsors. A special unit in the CIA devoted to capturing Osama bin Laden was formed in 1996. It was headed by Richard Clarke.

Sudan, under pressure from various Western and Arab states, forced bin Laden out of the country in 1996. He, his family, his bodyguard, and al Qaeda officers flew to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where they would have free movement under the Taliban rule. They began recruiting and training terrorists.

In 1998, FBI Director Louis Freeh proposed a five-year plan designating national security and counterterrorism as top priorities. The FBI instead focused on drug enforcement. Richard Clarke, meanwhile, put forth a plan of his own to deal specifically with bin Laden: use diplomacy to deny him sanctuary, institute a military air campaign against bin Laden's bases, capture bin Laden himself and bring him to trial, freeze his monetary supply, and prepare for a war with the Taliban if necessary. The CIA felt the plan was too expensive and that bin Laden's terrorist network was too insignificant to carry out action against. They also worried about political heat from Arab states. At this time, none of the intelligence/law enforcement organizations -- CIA, FBI, Justice Department, NSA -- are engaging in information sharing in order to work together on operations. The INS was outdated, still using manual typewriters and paper lists; they were not equipped to develop a role in counterterrorism.

Meanwhile, in February, bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, a fugitive Egyptian doctor, arranged for an Arabic newspaper in London to publish a fatwa calling for the murder of any American anywhere on Earth as the "individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.” That May, bin Laden was interviewed in Afghanistan by ABC, where he said “It is more important for Muslims to kill Americans than other infidels […] the worst thieves in the world today and the worst terrorists are the Americans. We do not have to differentiate between military and civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets […] if the present injustice continues […] it will inevitably move the battle to American soil.”

In February 1998, a plan that had the support of President Clinton to take bin Laden at Tarnak Farms, Afghanistan, was not carried out because of concerns over its chances for success and the possibility of civilian casualties. Much discussion followed over the next two years of how best to capture or assassinate bin Laden--including recruiting Ahmed Shah Massoud. leader of the Afghan anti-Taliban Northern Alliance to do it--but no action was taken. The US was reluctant to support the Northern Alliance, who had been charged with massacres and heroin-trafficking, and Massoud thought capturing instead of killing bin Laden could not be done.

On 17 August 1998 the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were destroyed by al Qaeda operatives driving bomb-laden trucks into buildings. Thousands were killed. The US responded with a brief, unsuccessful Naval bombing campaign. In 1999, the CIA raided an al Qaeda forging operation in Albania, possibly disrupting plans to attack the US embassy in Tirana, Albania. Arrests of terrorists followed in Azerbaijan, Italy, Britain and Germany, preventing an attack on the US embassy in Uganda. One of those arrested was Abu Hajer, a top deputy in al Qaeda.

By 1999, bin Laden had approved Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's plan (formulated in 1995) to train pilots to fly hijacked planes into US buildings. Khalid's original plan is to use ten planes.

That same year, fears rose about a possible Millennium attack by al Qaeda. Jordanian police arrested 16 al Qaeda members planning out to carry out a Millennium strike on four targets, and an Algerian jihadist, Ahmed Ressam, was arrested at the Canadian border in Port Angeles, Washington, with explosives he planned to set off at LAX on or around 1 January. President Clinton urged Pakistan to "resolve" the bin Laden problem, which included arms and equipment and recruits crossing into Afghanistan over the Pakistan border. President Musharraf was unwilling to cooperate because of political pressures in Pakistan (and because he saw Taliban rule of Afghanistan as politically beneficial).

As early as January 2000, al Qaeda jihadists were arriving in the US to take English lessons and learn to fly planes.

On 12 October 2000, there was an al Qaeda suicide attack on the USS Cole in the Port of Aden. The jihadists, aboard a bomb-laden speedboat, made friendly gestures, waving at the men on deck before piloting into the side of the boat. The operation was directly supervised by Osama bin Laden. He expected an immediate US response; when one didn't come, he was further emboldened against the US. President Clinton could not make a military response because neither the CIA nor the FBI was prepared to confirm or support that bin Laden was responsible. The connection to bin Laden was finally uncovered by Yemeni police.

In 2001, Richard Clarke offered another plan to pursue bin Laden and attack al Qaeda command-and-control centers and infrastructure, and even Taliban military assets. He also raised concerns about al Qaeda members operating in the US. Condoleezza Rice, as President Bush's National Security Adviser, demoted Clarke. He pushed the administration to support the Northern Alliance as an ally against al Qaeda; they refused. General Hugh Shelton of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later could not recall much interest by the new administration in ongoing operations against al Qaeda. Clarke wrote to Rice: "Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG has not succeeded in stopping al Qaeda attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US."

Between 20 January and 10 September, more than 40 intelligence reports in the President's Daily Briefing related to bin Laden.

Richard Clarke wrote in a memo to Rice: "When these attacks occur, as they likely will, we will wonder what more we could have done to stop them."

By April 2001, al Qaeda jihadists--the muscle hijackers--began entering the United States after receiving standard military training that included butchering a sheep and a camel in order to become skilled with knives specifically in order to hijack the planes.

All spring and summer, reports of jihadist threats and planned attacks surged into the intelligence organizations. In July, an FBI agent in Phoenix recommended action be taken regarding reports that bin Laden was sending operatives to US civilian flight schools. The recommendation was not acted on. On 4 July, Khaud al Mihdhar, sought for his role in the Cole bombing and one of the 9/11 terrorists, had no problem entering the country. According to The 9/11 Report, if agencies had been sharing information and combining their efforts, the entire 9/11 operation could have been derailed by arresting Mihdhar.

On 6 August, President Bush did not elect to take any action on an item in his Daily Briefing titled "Bin Laden determined to strike in the US." At the time, the FBI had 70 ongoing bin Laden-related investigations.

On 9 September, Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud was killed by two al Qaeda assassins disguised as journalists.

Just before 8 am on 11 September 2001, three Arab nationals set off an alarm at Washington’s Dulles Airport. They were sent to a second metal detector and quickly passed through without determining what set the alarm off in the first place.

7:59 am: American Airlines Flight 11 takes off from Boston’s Logan Airport on a nonstop flight bound for Los Angeles. Aboard the flight are 81 passengers, including Satam al Suqami, Wail al Shehri, Waleed al Sherhi, Abdul Aziz al Omari, and Mohamed Atta.

8:14 am: American 11 is unresponsive to air traffic control. The plane is being swiftly hijacked by terrorists who stab two of the flight attendants, employ mace, and claim to have a bomb onboard.

At the same moment, United Airlines Flight 175 takes off from Logan Airport. It is fourteen minutes late. Onboard are 56 passengers, including Marwan al Shehhi, Fayez Banihammad, Ahmed al Ghamdi, Hamza al Ghamdi, and Mohand al Shehri.

8:19 am: Two flight attendants make phone calls and report the hijacking of American 11 to the airline office.

8:20 am: American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Washington’s Dulles Airport bound for Los Angeles. It is ten minutes late. Aboard are 58 passengers, including Nawaf al Hazmi, Majed Moqed, Hani Hanjour, Khaud al Mihdhar, and Salem al Hazmi.

8:21 am: American 11’s transponder is turned off and all radar contact is lost.

8:24 am: Boston control hears from American 11: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you’ll be okay. We are returning to the airport.” The controller claims he didn’t hear the words “We have some planes.”

8:42 am: United 175 reports on a “suspicious transmission” from another plane--American 11. It will be their last communication with the ground. Some time in the next four minutes, the hijackers take control of the plane the same way the American 11 terrorists have: knives, mace, and a threatened bomb. Both pilots are killed and members of the flight crew are stabbed.

United Airlines Flight 93 takes off from Newark Airport in New Jersey. They are 42 minutes late taking off because of heavy traffic. 37 passengers are onboard, including Ahmed al Nami, Saeed al Ghamdi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ahmad al Haznawi (a fifth man had been denied entry by immigration). The flight crew is completely unaware that American 11 has been hijacked.

8:46 am: NEADS (the Northeast Air Defense Sector) scrambles Otis fighter jets in search of American 11. Forty seconds later, American 11 crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone onboard and an unknown number of people in the Tower. No one in the White House or traveling with the President in Sarasota, Florida, knows that the plane has been hijacked. Most federal agencies learn about the crash from CNN.

8:47 am: The transponder code on United 175 is changed.

8:51 am: American 77 transmits its last routine communication to the ground. Within the next three minutes, the plane is taken over by the hijackers.

8:52 am: New York controllers try to make contact with United 175, but cannot. A flight attendant notifies United Airlines of the hijacking.

8:53 am: Otis fighter jets are finally airborne.

8:54 am: American 77 deviates from its assigned course, turning south.

Control attempts to contact the cockpit of United 175, but cannot. They suspect the plane has been hijacked.

8:55 am: President Bush, about to enter a classroom full of kids at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School, receives a phone call from Condoleezza Rice informing him of the World Trade Center crash. He has already been told of this by Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

At the White House, Dick Cheney is told to turn the television on by his assistant.

8:56 am: The transponder for American 77 is shut off and all radar contact with the aircraft is lost.

9:03 am: United 175 crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone onboard and more people in the building.

9:06 am: Andrew Card alerts President Bush that America is under attack. Bush continues to sit in a room full of children.

9:15 am: New York control advises NEADS that United 175 has crashed into the World Trade Center.

9:16 am: Sometime in the next ten minutes, American 77 passenger Barbara Olson calls her husband, Solicitor General of the United States Ted Olson, to tell him the plane had been hijacked. The call is cut off within a minute. Solicitor General Olson tries unsuccessfully to reach Attorney General John Ashcroft.

American Airlines are now aware that flight 11 has crashed into the World Trade Center.

9:19 am: United dispatcher Ed Ballinger begins to notify aircraft to take defensive action.

9:21 am: Boston control advises NEADS that flight 11 is airborne and heading for Washington; the plane has crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46.

9:23 am: United 93 receives Ballinger’s warning. Pilot Jason Dahl is put off and asks Ballinger to confirm the message.

9:24 am: NEADS scrambles Langley fighter jets in search of American 11; the plane has crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46.

9:25 am: Herndon Command Center orders a nationwide ground stop to all commercial air flights.

9:28 am: The hijackers onboard United 93 attack. At least 12 people onboard make cell phone calls and learn about the attack on the World Trade Center.

9:29 am: American 77, now 38 miles west of the Pentagon, disengages its autopilot.

9:32 am: Ziad Jarrah announces to the passengers of United 93 that there is a bomb on the plane, then instructs the plane’s autopilot to turn around and head east.

Dulles Tower observes an unidentified aircraft moving fast on the radar; this is later confirmed to be American 77.

9:34 am: The FAA advises NEADS that American 77 is missing. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport advises the Secret Service that an unknown aircraft is headed in the direction of the White House. American 77, however, turns towards the Pentagon and descends at maximum speed.

Herndon Command Center advises FAA that United 93 has been hijacked. United attempts to make contact with the cockpit.

President Bush leaves the Booker School, initially headed in the wrong direction.

9:37 am: American 77 crashes into the Pentagon at a speed of 530 miles per hour, killing everyone on board and an unknown number of personnel in the building.

9:39 am: Cleveland control hears a second announcement from United 93 that there is a bomb aboard the plane and that they are returning to the airport.

9:57 am: The passengers of United 93 decide to take action and assault the hijackers.

9:59 am: The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.

Ziad Jarrah begins to roll the United 93 plane to the left and right in an attempt to knock the attacking passengers off balance.

10:00 am: Ziad Jarrah and the other United 93 hijackers decide they cannot hold back the passengers.

10:03 am: United 93 is deliberately crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, twenty minutes away by flight to Washington, DC. It is believed that the terrorists’ objective was either the White House or the Capitol Building.

Authority to shoot aircraft down on sight is asked for. The White House is still unaware of the hijacking of United 93.

10:28 am: The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.

The 9/11 Report determined that the chain of command was not followed, the lines of communication did not work, that NEADS had acted too slowly, and that NORAD, scaled down in the 1990s to a mere 7 alert sites, was not equipped for such an emergency. America, at the cost of thousands of lives, had been made to look foolish and unprepared in the eyes of jihadists across the world.

By nightfall, it had been determined that a response against Afghanistan was needed. It was publicized and took too long to mount, and Osama bin Laden again escaped. The Taliban would be overthrown almost immediately, but war continues. President Bush began pushing to find a link between 9/11, al Qaeda, and Iraq. On 18 September, Richard Clarke sent a memo to Condoleeza Rice to say he found no compelling evidence to suggest such a link.

By 2003, President Bush had convinced much of the nation, as well as Congress, that Iraq was working on weapons of mass destruction and had played some role in the 9/11 attacks. Neither turned out to be true.

On 23 March 2003, America invaded Iraq, a nation which had nothing to do with 9/11 or with Osama bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden, responsible for the slaughter of thousands of Americans in one day, and many who have died and continue to die from health issues resulting from their part in the rescue effort, remains free to this day.

Do you?

A Quick Note to Undecideds

Would you make up your mind already? Seriously, what is the hold up? You've got more than enough information now to make a decision.

You're not crazy about Obama? Hey, it happens. Neither are a lot of people. But just compare him to what he's running against.

Are you really going to vote for McCain just because you're not sure you like Obama? What kind of choice is that? That's ridiculous.

Look, I'm just going to lay it out, alright?

I know a number of people, people whose opinions I used to respect, who have told me that they're not comfortable voting for a black president. Not because they have a problem with Obama (although they haven't warmed to him), but because of this stupid, ignorant idea that black people (the name Jesse Jackson comes up a lot) are going to use Obama as some sort of means to enact a "black agenda" that will, apparently, turn the tables on white people.

Yes, the 21st Century and there are still white people who are afraid black people will get their "revenge" or something equally stupid. Which is another way of saying that they think Obama should know his place, in my opinion. Which is another way of telling people that you're an idiot who shouldn't ever be listened to about anything.

Seriously, undecided voters, if you're uncomfortable voting for a black man and you know you don't like John McCain, a third option isn't going to magically materialize, alright? I know that's what some of you are waiting for: it ain't gonna happen.

Unless you want to vote for Bob Barr, but... come on, seriously?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick, Pig, Another Stupid Distraction

So, Barack Obama said on Tuesday: "You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years."

He was referring to McCain's constant cry that, despite voting with him 90% of the time, his policies are different from George W. Bush's. The McCain campaign, of course, attacked Obama, calling it a sexist personal attack on Sarah Palin, mostly because she made that idiot "pitbull with lipstick" description of herself during her acceptance speech.

Obama accused the McCain campaign, rather correctly, I think, of using "lies and phony outrage and Swift-boat politics" and "the latest made-up controversy by the John McCain campaign."

Of course, the old adage about putting lipstick on a pig is... well, an old adage. It goes back quite some time. At this point, I believe it's what we call an aphorism. Obama's used it in the past. And... why, I believe John McCain used the same analogy when criticizing Hillary Clinton's stance on health care. It wasn't sexist then, though, I guess.

Obama also said the McCain campaign was wrapping an old fish in a piece of paper called "change." Somehow, that wasn't called an attack on Palin.

What is this really about? Of course, it's about McCain continuing to use Sarah Palin as what she really is: the ultimate distraction from criticism of John McCain. The Republicans will pathetically play the gender card, even as Obama has never played the race card despite a number of not-to-subtle racist criticisms from the McCain campaign. It's McCain yet again playing the politics of personality because he knows he can't campaign on actual issues. When it comes to any political issue he's got nothing to offer but an opinion. And everyone has one of those.

Obama responded: "I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and Swift-boat politics. Enough is enough."

You know what? Enough really better be enough. And it had better be enough now. Because the McCain campaign is eviscerating Obama, and Obama's strategy so far has been to trust that the average American is smart enough to know the difference. And I have to say: they're not. This tactic, as noble as it might be, will not work. It will not work, and it's long past time to start attacking McCain and Palin in the media. You don't even have to get in the muck to do it; all you have to really do is show actual film of McCain repeating what Bush has said, throwing a fit to the press or in Congress (and often to women, brave champion that he is), or at a loss for what to say when asked a direct question.

Do it, Obama campaign. Do it now.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE LAST METRO (1980)
One of Francois Truffaut's last movies, this works with a very typical storyline ("Let's put on a show!") and turns it on its side to use it as a metaphor for the Nazi Occupation: acting, identity, and roleplaying. Catherine Denueve plays an actress married to a Jewish theater owner, doing both of their jobs while keeping him hidden in the basement. Gerard Depardieu comes into the theater as an actor with an interest in the Resistance. One of Truffaut's more moving films, open-ended, a sort of mature version of Casablanca, with Truffaut once again ruminating on what the need to play various roles does to the individual identity and to relationships. **** stars.

SON OF RAMBOW (2008)
Wonderful movie about two young British boys in the eighties who become friends while making a film. Will is from a family of Plymouth Bretheren and, though an imaginative artist, is not allowed to mingle with the outside world. Lee Carter, the school terror and a loner, forcibly enlists Will to help make a movie for a film competition, allowing Will to express himself creatively. The first movie Will ever sees is First Blood, and Will sets about telling the story of The Son of Rambow. Their ambitions are innocent and vast, and their regard for consequences total, but the project becomes popular with others--including the school's French exchange student, Didier, who has fascinated his host school--their friendship and the film are pushed further than they imagined. It's a beautiful story, told in a very funny, breezy, but emotionally honest movie. It's absolutely wonderful. **** stars.

THE DAVID CASSIDY STORY (2000)
Wow, what a bunch of cheese, with Cassidy (an executive producer) rewriting the past to make himself look like a hapless victim of success--a success he's spent every year since trying to chase down. It's a silly movie, with loads of silly slow-motion montages, and Malcolm McDowell hamming it up as David's father. Cheese, cheese, cheese. * star.

BABY MAMA (2008)
Did you know Steve Martin is in this movie? Steve Martin is hilarious in this movie. He's the funniest part of it. Not that the rest of the movie isn't funny, actually. Tina Fey (I love her) plays a professional woman who can't get pregnant and wants a baby. She hires a white trash surrogate (Amy Poehler, funny) through a service headed by Sigourney Weaver, who is effortlessly funny, as she often is. The movie as a whole moves along more or less predictably, but it's good-natured and has some very funny moments along the way. I'm going to call it ***1/2 stars.

THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (2008)
Surprisingly fun movie with Michael Angarano (whom I also liked in Sky High and looks quite a bit like Brian Wilson--that's a hint, Hollywood) as a fan of chopsockey movies who ends up traveling back in time to a storybook version of ancient China. Set on a quest to become a warrior and use a magic staff to free the Monkey King from the Jade Warlord, Angarano is aided by Jackie Chan (very good and very Jackie as a drunken warrior, surprise, surprise), Jet Li (as a monk), and a very pretty young girl with a score to settle. I quite enjoyed Bingbing Li as a white-haired witch who tries to stop them. This is the kind of movie where tolerance levels will very; for me, it was a harmless adventure, possibly for a younger audience, in the vein of The NeverEnding Story or a Joe Dante movie, with a lot of really good fight scenes. I enjoyed it. *** stars.

HANNAH MONTANA AND MILEY CYRUS: THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS CONCERT
(2008)What can I say? Well-filmed, well-realized, fun to look at on a widescreen television, and I liked her music, anyway. Miley knows how to work a crowd and a camera, and for me she's very much a Disney figure. **** stars. Sue me.

Tax Talk

As every four years, we're hearing that old saw about how Democrats want to raise our taxes and the Republicans want to lower them.

Bullshit. It's just bullshit.

Take a look at the tax plans both McCain and Obama have in mind. First off, they're both going to end up raising the national debt, anyway (and that's according to the Tax Policy Center). And if you look at the numbers, McCain actually wants to reduce taxes more than Obama does; Obama's proposal will lower taxes by $2.9 trillion over the next nine years, while McCain's will lower taxes by $4.2 trillion. But what you have to look at is where those taxes are going to be lowered. Obama wants to lower taxes on low- and moderate-income households and slightly raise taxes on the top 1% and close corporate tax loopholes so that those Fortune 500 companies which don't pay their taxes (and even ABC reported that some of them do not) have to pay their share. John McCain, who said, when asked, that he considered the middle class anyone who makes less than $5 million a year, wants to give the biggest tax cuts to that top 1% who already benefitted from the Bush tax cuts. He wants to cut their taxes (and his, since he's in that group) more than they've already been cut.

The real problem I have with McCain's tax plan, though, is that he's just the latest person pretending that the Democrats are a "tax and spend" party when that's really all the Republicans have done for the past eight years. They've spent, boy, they have spent. They've spent billions on a war intended to make a few people billions more. And they've done so by spending the budget surplus created under President Clinton and cutting taxes for the rich.

What nonpartisan groups are saying is this: yes, both tax proposals will increase the deficit, but McCain's will do so significantly more because he wants to cut taxes too deeply.

In order to cut taxes that deeply, he's basically going to have to cut one-third of federal spending on domestic programs. McCain pandering once more; he used to be a deficit hawk, didn't he? Now he apparently doesn't care how big it gets. The New York Times estimated that McCain's budget would increase the deficit by $200-$300 billion a year. That's another $5 trillion in the next decade.

McCain even wants to lower the corporate tax by another 10%. Now, assuming a corporation actually does pay all of its taxes, that's $100 billion a year right there. It's $150 billion a year if he eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax for middle class families, which he's talked about doing. He wants to double the exemption for dependents, which would cost $65 billion a year.

This is from a guy who used to be a furious advocate of balancing the budget. Where does he think all of this money is going to come from?

Saying Obama wants to raise your taxes is, as far as I can tell, simply not true. A majority of American households would have their taxes cut, even if not as deeply as McCain unrealistically expects. Middle-income earners would benefit the most. He wants to get rid of the capital gains taxes on new businesses (which includes, I guess, Sarah Palin's service station owner sister, another family member as campaign prop).

So, your choices seem to be lower taxes (Obama) or a destroyed economy with free corporate reign (McCain). Is that really a hard choice to make?

No Comment

Bork

Bork bork bork bork bork!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 39

Just by eating mostly chicken or ground turkey and salad this week, I've suddenly lost a bunch of weight. That's kind of gratifying, because I still drink Coca-Cola at dinner, so it's not all water weight. Not bad. That's the good side of money being incredibly tight.

That's the only real health news this week. Exciting, wasn't it?

Make No Mistake: Georgia Is Another Oil War

Here's something the media isn't really touching on: the proxy war in Georgia is a war between American and Russia over natural gas. The Cold War is back.

Russia claimed the war was about separatist regions in Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But by moving against the two regions, Russia was also able to punish Georgia for wanting to join NATO and Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been an irritating thorn in Russia's side. Furthermore, the Georgian military has been enhanced with a lot of American equipment. Russia is apparently trying to re-establish itself as an important European power by creating a line of military influence the way it has in the past.

It's also a gang war. It's not secret that Vladimir Putin is corrupt, or that he basically controls the entire Russian army no matter who the president is in name. South Ossetia was essentially controlled by Eduard Kokoity and a bunch of KGB guys who are using it as a crime base. Otherwise, there's not much there besides a bunch of tiny villages. But you know what? Russia had control over the separatist regions anyways. They didn't need to go to war for control. Now they've just added bombing, looting, killing, and rape to the mix, destabilized the area, and probably gained a little more in the way of Russian territory. Georgia will retain its sovereignty, but it's probably not going to get those regions back.

This is really about the Caucasus.

There's a pipeline in the Caucasus that opened up in December 2006. It was even closed for a couple of days a few weeks ago because of the conflict, but it's flowing again now. This pipeline might even be connected to the planned Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline. For now, it comes out in Georgia and is meant to supply Turkey and Georgia with natural gas, but right now, Russia is occupying parts of Georgia. That's what the war is really about. Georgia gets the gas at a discount and gets 5% of the annual gas flow in lieu of a tariff. What happens when Russia is control of the Caucasus and in possession of the pipeline? Even though its owned by BP and Statoil?

All of the saber-rattling the US is doing now over Georgia comes down to nothing more than Western control of an important natural gas pipeline. A pipeline Russia wants to control.

What do you think it's all about when Russia tells Bush that they're going to defend Iran if they have to? It's because the largest single company in Russia, Gazprom, a natural gas company, is the majority shareholder in the Armenian section of the Iran-Armenia Gas Pipeline. Gazprom has been, it is believed, instrumental in keeping the pipeline diameter small enough tht Iran can't export to the European market. You know why? Because they'd be competing with Russia, whose major industry is natural gas.

So, it's not secret that the American government only goes to war when its wallet is threatened. This has nothing to do with freedom or sovereignty or self-determination or whatever bullshit buzz words the administration keeps pushing. This is about doing whatever they have to to secure profit centers. Or at least to keep them from an old enemy who is becoming an enemy again.

You know what's funny? The neocons worship at the altar of Ronald Reagan. They think he was a god whose face should be on money and who should be added to Mount Rushmore. Yet, time and again, they undo any of the actual positive work he did (for example, ending the Cold War) in the name of profit. All they care about is money for themselves and you not getting in the way. Your lives are meaningless to them, anyway.

Condi Rice has announced that the administration is ready to abandon a proposed agreement on nuclear cooperation with Russia. It's a not-so-veiled threat. And that is Cold War, my friends. And that's what we've gotten back.

Can't we get some kind of injunction on the Bush administration to keep them from making any more decisions before the end of their term? Because this is when the really scary shit is going to happen.

Community Organizer

It's nothing compared to being mayor of a town of 5000 people.

Patience

ME: [after three or four big yawns] Excuse me.

BECCA: That's okay.

ME: That sound must just be irritating you.

BECCA: No.

ME: Really? Man, it would annoy the crap out of me if you did it.

BECCA: Everything annoys you. It annoys you when I sneeze!

ME: Well, it's annoying! I know you're not doing it on purpose or anything. I don't, like, hate you because you're sneezing. It's just annoying to listen to, like nails on a chalkboard.

BECCA: You just don't have any patience.

ME: I have tons of patience.

BECCA: But--

ME: GO FUCK YOURSELF!!

* It should be noted that last bit was a joke that she found funny.

Discover How It Really Was

I think these museum ads are neat.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Palin for President!

At last, the perfect candidate emerges.

The Party of Family Values

Hey, where's Bridget McCain? I bet Karl Rove won't use her Bangladeshi origins as a way to kill McCain's campaign this time around, like he did in 2000. Karl Rove loves McCain. This time.

John McCain met Cindy, a younger and richer woman, in a bar. They had an affair, and then he left his wife for her while the wife was in the hospital recovering from an accident.

Sarah Palin may have had an affair with her husband's co-worker, who was divorced recently. She may have already covered up an earlier teenage pregnancy in her family (I'm still not sold on that not being true, honestly). She is a fierce advocate of abstinence-only sex education and making abortion illegal, and she's proven this works by claiming to be proud of her pregnant high school senior daughter.

Of course, a candidate's children are off limits.

Right.

Yeah, sorry, but if you don't want your children, your shitty parenting, and your extramarital affairs used for political purposes, I suggest you all stop pretending you care about family values, stop running on family values, stop trying to legislate family values, and stop trotting out your family as campaign props.

Sorry, Sarah, but when you spend ten minutes of your acceptance speech simply introducing your kids, repeatedly reminding us that your family is normal... well, it's politics, pal.

Why aren't you people promoting stability instead of one idea of what a family is? Promote getting a good job, paying your own way, making sure your problems don't interfere with other people. That needing assistance is not a failure. Focus on making people feel enabled. To be productive. That racial, religious, sexual, and family biases don't matter in society. Life is long and complex, and people act inconsistently, and no answer solves every problem. Encourage personal stability, productivity, and responsibility.

Why does it always have to be someone berating me for not conforming to their values? I thought it was time to put our America hats on?

Sarah Failin' Will Meet the Press... Eventually

Reuters reported that Sarah Palin will begin giving interviews very soon. She didn't say so, of course. McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said so on Fox News Sunday. He said: "She'll agree to an interview when we think it's time and when she feels comfortable doing it."

Supposedly she's going to sit down with Charlie Gibson on ABC later this week, but she won't hold a formal news conference. The campaign is also crying sexism and personal attacks once more, once again not realizing that the media are talking about her personal life because she's so unprepared and unwilling to discuss her political positions. Give them something else to talk about or stop your whining. Sorry, but we know you're lying when you say you won't let her talk to reporters until they treat her with more respect. The more you sequester her, the more the rumors will swirl.

Sarah Palin: maverick, barracuda, pit bull with lipstick... vice presidential candidate afraid to give an interview.

So far, the only debate scheduled between Palin and Joe Biden is on 2 October. Biden admitted it might be tough: "I have no ideas what her policies are. I assume they're the same as John's. I just don't know."

You're not alone there, Senator. None of us do.

Has everyone read the Kilkenny email now? Because you do need to read it.

TV Report: True Blood

Vampires are bullshit.

I don't like vampire stories very often. Sure, I like old vampire stories. Give me a day of Christopher Lee movies and I'm happy as hell. But since Anne Rice took vampires and cut their balls off and turned them into brooding, depressed, gay Cure fans to star in teen romance novels, I just don't give a shit about vampires. Vampires are bullshit.

So, obviously I wasn't expecting much from True Blood. I was expecting even less since it was from the creators of Six Feet Under, a show I've never been able to watch.

All of that said, I thought True Blood was really good.

The premise of the show (which is apparently based on a novel) is that, at some point, vampires have revealed themselves to the American populace at large and created a synthetic blood substitute. I like that the show imagines what this would entail, including an illegal trade in vampire's blood (apparently it's a drug for humans). It takes place in a small Louisiana town, and the show is suitably as sweaty and steamy as that implies. Anna Paquin plays a psychic waitress who is immediately drawn to a new vampire in town, not least of which because she can't read his thoughts and, when he's around, the cacaphony going on in her mind is quieted.

The first episode, always the set-up, mostly establishes the characters. Paquin and her rather condescending friends, her sleazy brother, her co-workers (including Lynne Collins, whom I loved in The Merchant of Venice and have been dying to see more of), her grandmother (Lois Smith, always wonderful), and this mysterious new vampire that she, a bit of a prude, is having sexy and dangerous dreams about.

There's not much I can say about the story itself, since the payoff on everything is going to be saved for upcoming episodes, but based on the first episode, I'm in for wherever this show wants to go. Besides being strong right off on character and tone, it did something for me that I'd begun to think was impossible: it made me interested in vampires again. Instead of just assuming that everyone thinks vampires are sexy and scary and beautiful, it imagines vampires as being like another race of people. It introduces ideas of practicality and relationships and laws, instead of relying on that goth/emo romanticism crap that kills any interest I ever have in these types of shows. But it's still kind of sexy.

This may be the vampire show for people who hate vampires.

At any rate, it seems to be for me.

TV Report: Raising the Bar

Just because you let Zack from Saved by the Bell grow long, stringy, greasy hair and mope around pretending to be Heath Ledger, that doesn't distract me from the fact that this show is essentially a boring, cliche, faux-sexy, very serious version of Night Court.

Christina, 2008 VMAs