09 Jun

Paris Hilton is our generation's Florence Foster Jenkins!

A friend of mine recently introduced me to the fascinating story of Florence Foster Jenkins. For those of you unfamiliar with her, she was a wealthy heiress back in the late 19th-early 20th century who felt she was destined for vocal greatness. Despite the fact that her parents objected to “the excruciating quality of her voice,” in her early teens she ran away to pursue her dream. Suffering great hardships due to her lack of talent, her father came to restore her to her social position, but “with the proviso that she wouldn't sing anymore.” After his death, her more lenient mother allowed her to pursue lessons again though she was forbidden to sing in public.

After her mother’s death in 1928, she was left with the substantial family fortune and decided to finally make her concert career at age 60. At the time, she was encourage along by some of the great singers at the time who, “to kid her along, told her that she was the most wonderful singer that ever lived.” According to an interview with her accompanist:

I might say that every number was memorable, the way she performed it, because it was not only a performance of this sort that we hear on the records, but she added histrionics to every number, generally acting the action, if it were an aria, or other appropriate action if it were a descriptive song, or else she would go into different dances during these numbers, which were extremely hilarious … She came out dressed in a high comb and mantilla, with a gorgeous Spanish shawl and carrying a basket of carnations. During the actual singing of the number, she would pause altogether and toss these flowers out into the audience, with shouts of ¡Olé! And this created such a pandemonium at the end that she was forced to repeat it always. Then of course she had thrown the flowers out, so she asked the audience if they would return them so she could toss them out again … there wasn't any question of semblance of approval, because they approved of it wholeheartedly, but the audience nearly always tried not to hurt her feelings by outright laughing, so they developed a convention that whenever she came to a particularly excruciating discord or something like that, where they had to laugh, they burst into these salvos of applause and whistles and the noise was so great that they could laugh at liberty.

Because Frank Sinatra at the time had started to have teenagers fainting at his shows, she took this as a sign of great approval. She would even throw parties at her mansion where she would put The Bell Song by herself and by Galli-Curci, and then she would “hand little ballots out and you were supposed to vote which one was the best. Of course they all voted for her, and one woman once voted for Galli-Curci so Mme said, "How could you mistake that! My tones are much fuller than that!" So she really didn't hear the atrocious pitches in these things. She used to sit delightedly and listen for hours to her recordings." In her most memorable performance, she used her substantial fortune to rent out Carnegie Hall and sang before a packed audience of amused friends and fans.

If you’ve never heard her before, you owe it to yourself to check out some of her recorded clips on the internet. They are seriously squirt-milk-out-your-nose hysterical!

Anyway, the point to all this is that I’ve always wondered what it must have been like to hang out with Florence Foster Jenkins and listen to her butcher opera with not only a straight face, but actually feigning admiration. But today, after seeing Paris Hilton’s new music video, it struck me -- Paris Hilton is our Florence Foster Jenkins! Clueless and uninhibited, we dress her up in pink frilly clothes, tell her how adorable she is, and then sit back and laugh as she takes herself seriously. She is just like that kid back in middle school that you could pay a dollar to have him eat a worm or to pull his pants down in the cafeteria. I, for one, hope she never grows up!

09 Jun

Zarqawi, or How Bush Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hunt: Why killing Zarqawi puts our troops at risk

UPDATE: The following is a previous post that I have expanded for OpEdNews.com:

All the major news outlets are abuzz with the news of Zarqawi's death. Regardless of how one feels about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there is little question that Zarqawi was a danger to our troops and needed to be stopped. However, headline proclamations of having killed "the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq" are disingenuous at best. At minimum, they serve to betray the tragic lack of understanding at both the local and governmental level of the kind of threat we are facing on the ground.

From the very inception of the War on Terror, this administration has attempted, both rhetorically and strategically, to present Al-Qaeda as a unified terrorist organization with a handful of supposed puppet-masters. Unfortunately, this assessment is tragically false. Global terrorist networks are fundamentally different in both structure and strategy than any previous threat to international state security. Unlike traditional warfare where power emerges from a single locus, Al-Qaeda is a radically individualized movement full of mini-leaders, self-starting cells, and zealous lone gunmen. The killing of any localized "leader" does nothing whatsoever to affect the actual power base any more than the ousting of Hussein did to staunch the threat posed by Iraq.

Despite rhetorical proclamations to the contrary, this administration has remained entrenched from the beginning in a pre-9-11 mindset. This tragic inability to think outside the box is perhaps the single most significant reason why Bush is losing a war of his own creation. The bottom line is that we are not dealing with a foreign government, nor are we tackling a guerilla movement centered around a charismatic individual. Were this to be the case, it would certainly be a reasonable strategy to target the enemy's power locus (their government or leadership) as the entity responsible for directing the country's assets against you.

However, what this administration seems to have a difficult time grasping is that terrorism functions as an essentially populist movement where power derives from the bottom, not the top. There is no single government or leadership that will cause the beast to come crashing down but rather hundreds or maybe thousands of tiny, quasi-governments capable of acting with complete autonomy. Within such a network, Zarqawi no more represents the power behind Al-Qaeda than any other zealous individual motivated to strike against U.S. interests.

I believe it is infinitely more likely is that Zarqawi's death will further inflame anti-Americanism across the entire region. Within the specific subsection of terrorists motivated by Zarqawi's leadership, his death will only serve to create a localized power vacuum. In the face of his absence, it is far more probable that several individuals will vie to fill the void through independent operations, each more vicious than the last, in order to prove their merit. Absent Zarqawi's leadership, whatever form of "command" he had over his followers has now been abruptly splintered and the U.S. will likely face a more diffuse and erratic level of aggression.

Were this administration to finally get serious about fighting this war, rather than playing the role of cowboy in a "dead or alive" posse, they would confront the ideology to which terrorists claim allegiance rather than the individual, armed expression of that ideology. In this way, perhaps the administration could cease inserting itself as a causal factor into the very problem is claims to be solving.

09 Jun


Damn!  I was just freakin' kidding about parading his dead body around at a press conference!

The Bush administration: rendering satire obsolete since 2001.

08 Jun

Why killing Zarqawi may make things worse

The folks at Americablog are pondering the immediate effects if Zarqawi’s death turns out to be true.

If Zarqawi is such a big deal, then it's great that we got him. But I can't help but feel a nagging "so what" in my gut, at least as it concerns the situation in Iraq. In a month, I fear things are going to be just as bad as ever, and the public will quickly forget the "victory" over Zarqawi just as the capture of Saddam didn't change much either.

However, the problem with terrorism as we are experiencing it is that our enemy is not an organized state from which power emerges from a single locus. Rather, it is a radically individualized movement full of mini-leaders, self-starting cells, and zealous lone gunmen. The killing of a supposed leader does nothing whatsoever to affect the actual power base any more than the ousting of Hussein did to affect the threat posed by Iraq.

Bottom line is that these aren't governments we’re dealing with. In traditional warfare, you may reasonably target the enemy’s power locus (their government) since this is the entity responsible for directing the country’s assets against you. If you manage to take them out, the threat will generally stop since the prime motivator has been eliminated. However, terrorism functions as a populist movement where the power derives from the bottom. There is no single government but rather hundreds or maybe thousands of tiny governments and the power in this case is no more Zarqawi than it is any other zealous individual motivated to strike US interests.

I think it is infinitely more likely is that Zarqawi’s death will further inflame US hatred and that somebody even more vicious will rise to take his place. In fact, this may be the best possible outcome since it is far more likely that 3 or 4 individuals will view for power, each seeking to run their own ops campaign to prove their abilities. Absent Zarqawi’s leadership, whatever form of "command" he had over his followers has now been abruptly splintered and the US will probably have to face a more diffuse level of aggression from a group that was once concentrated.

08 Jun

Cancer is better than sex!

This is the face of the man leading the charge against the cervical cancer vaccine.



In 2003 President Bush appointed a medical doctor, Reginald Finger, to the ACIP. Until last fall, Dr. Finger was also the medical affairs analyst for Focus on the Family, the nation’s largest and most powerful evangelical Christian organization. In an effort to gain the support of this group, Merck has been forced to aggressively lobby Focus. Merck has admitted to holding numerous meetings with Dr. Finger at Focus’ headquarters. It’s troubling that a vaccine manufacturer has to be concerned with securing the backing of a conservative Christian organization. And Merck will likely have an uphill battle.

Although children are required to have various vaccinations before attending public schools, conservatives are against the ACIP recommending this for the HPV vaccine. The Christian Medical & Dental Associations is an organization that “exists to glorify God by advancing Biblical principles in bioethics and health to the Church and society.”

So now we're taking medical advice from a civilization more than 2,000 years old? Well, I guess that makes sense since back then the average lifespan was apparently 912 years!

Oh, and his name is seriously Dr. Finger?!


Good news!  Apparently rational thought has won out and MSNBC is reporting that the FDA has approved the HPV vaccine.  Will Dr. Finger lay awake tonight pondering the downfall of civilization as we know it?  I hope women will be having cancer-free sex all over his front lawn.

08 Jun

Body armor? Nah, let's build a really cool wall instead!

After five years of incompetence in the War on Terror, a major American city still in shambles, and a skyrocketing national debt, Bush decides to divert billions from Iraq in order to better fight the War on Terrorism Mexico.

The money was diverted at the behest of the White House in a last-minute bid to address growing political unrest about illegal immigration. The Office of Management and Budget championed the change without input from the Army or the Marine Corps whose budgets were sliced, a Pentagon budget official told United Press International last week.

'It was done in a 24-hour period, and presented as a fait accompli,' the official said.

The Senate accepted the offer 'without recognizing they were shorting the very people fighting the war,' the official said.

'You can`t tell me that illegal aliens coming across the border pose the same kind of threat to national security as insurgents in Anbar do against Marines,' the official said.

Growing political unrest? Chimpy created this mess and now suddenly realizes he might have to actually pay for it? Too bad that after five years of fiscal malfeasance the coffers have run dry. This is nothing but an election year strategy to distract voters from the growing disaster in Iraq. Unfortunately, it is once again going to be our soldiers who have to face the consequences of Bush’s tragic incompetence. How are those tax cuts looking now?

08 Jun

Link Vomit

An oil spill off the coast of Canada goes unreported. Guy with the scoop is blackballed and threatened with a lawsuit.

Macy’s in Boston removes mannequins from a Gay Pride display because radical right thought they looked gay. Duh.

Fun quotes from America’s most famous conservative – Gays are A-OK!

Ding Dong the Hammer is dead!  Good riddance.  Meanwhile, Newt tells investigators to back off (unless they're going after Clinton of course) 

Nine Democratic state parties back impeachment.  So whose party is it? 

The CIA’s spider web of rendition revealed.

Fun little optical illusion for your gleeful entertainment.

08 Jun

Nouri al-Maliki reports death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Well I guess we pretty much won the war then. We can all go home now.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida-linked militant who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq, has been killed in a U.S. air raid north of Baghdad, Iraq's prime minister said Thursday.

So Zarqawi is dead. Again. Always funny how when Americans are killed or wounded, or miss the target altogether, it was in a raid by coalition forces. But when there is "good" news, it is a U.S. campaign. Sort of like when the kids are bad they're your kids. Either way, I'll believe it when Cowboy Bush parades his dead body about on TV in another flagrant and disgusting violation of Geneva Conventions. Again.

07 Jun

Bush to Immigrants: You Will Be Assimilated

From Pony Blow's gaggle (via First Draft):

Q Explain "assimilation." What are you talking about there, Tony?

MR. SNOW: Well, to tell you the truth, Steve, I'll tell you later in the day, because I've got to look at the briefing notes on it. I know it's a Catholic center and I just -- I don't want to --

Later Pony found his notes.

Q What does the President mean by "assimilation"?

MR. SNOW: Assimilation means understanding the laws and cultural pathways of the United States, gaining a mastery of the English language. Those are some of the basics. I mean, one of the things that has been stressed is becoming fluent in English -- that also is something that obviously a lot of Americans support and has always been a key determinate in how successful somebody is going to be in the long run.

07 Jun

Risk-Transfer Militarism

While I was working on my Ph.D., I remember coming across an article by Prof. Martin Shaw about what he terms Risk-Transfer Militarism which he has since turned into a book. The essence of risk-transfer militarism, according to Shaw, identifies how the Pentagon has attempted to transform modern warfare through an aggressive management of public relations and technological engagement. This management has resulted in a new form of American aggression, a central feature of which is a “militarism of small massacres.”

In traditional warfare, battlefield cost-equations are generally tabulated through a 10:1 ratio of troop advantage within a particular locale and a 3:1 theater-wide advantage. In other words, war planners have been, at least since Vietnam, generally uncomfortable with risking casualties above and beyond such ranges for fear of losing public support. Essentially, so the argument goes, Americans have not only lost their appetite for “intolerable” levels of military deaths, but also for reports of significant mass-killings of enemy troops.

According to Shaw, this risk-transfer has resulted in a policy of strategic engagement emphasizing the reduction of American casualties through so-called “remote” warfare, such as aerial bombings, coupled with ground campaigns focusing on relatively few “enemy” deaths ranging in the neighborhood of 50 or less. According to Shaw’s website, “The Western way of war, with its deep risk-aversion for its own soldiers and citizens, claims the ultimately impossible standard of ‘clean’ or at least ‘cleaner’ war. Its pretensions to civilian protection are easily represented as hypocritical - its thousands of civilian victims speak otherwise.”

The inevitable result of this management is a daily barrage of casualty reports in which a handful of U.S. soldiers are killed alongside several dozen or less Iraqi “insurgents.” These days, unfortunately, we are discovering that many of these supposed insurgents are actually civilians. According to Omar al-Juburi, spokesman for the human rights section of the party led by Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, "The US forces have violated human rights many times across Iraq." In the latest string, Juburi alleges three separate mini-Hadithas in May in which U.S. forces collectively killed 29 Iraqi civilians in the towns of Latifiyah and Yusifiyah, south of Baghdad, and in the capital itself.

Not surprisingly, such reports are difficult or impossible to confirm given that the U.S. has routinely failed to keep an accurate assessment of combatants killed over the course of the invasion. Nevertheless, the Pentagon’s efforts to keep casualty rates palatable for the American public has clearly spawned a new era of warfare in which Dresden-scale massacres are methodically spread out over time and space. The cumulative effect of this, however, remains massive and it is doubtful that the families and friends of Iraqi victims are comforted by the “containment” of body counts.