Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Team 22 RULES!

In order of Nielsen ratings, from most popular to least, rank the following shows: "Judge Judy," "Judge Hatchett," "Judge Joe Brown" and "The People's Court."

That was the jackpot question for the team comprised of the Malcontent, Bobby Bubbles and Ms. Ellie. We missed that one (thank God "Team 22" maintained some dignity), but we still won the George's trivia contest, thanks to our knowledge of such arcane names as:

*The artist who recorded "I Fought the Law" (Bobby Fuller);

*The head of the Major League Baseball Player's Association (Don Fehr);

*The Brat Packer who was second cousin to the Kennedy clan (Peter Lawford);


*The actress who got her start as a villainess on "Hercules: The Legenday Journeys" (Lucy Lawless ... lucky guess).

Is there any honor in knowing the name of Jimmy Smits' character on "L.A. Law"? Maybe not, but what could be wrong be about a trophy comprised of free beer and burgers?

Three cheers for cultural absorbance.

***In order: "Judge Judy," "Judge Brown," "The People's Court" and "Judge Hatchett." Shame on you if you guessed that correctly.

Likes: Ann Coulter, songs about America and people just like me

Though I should probably reconsider --- as I sit here, alone --- I've steadfastly avoided computer dating sites. Why the hell would I want someone as desperate as me?

I've already anointed Dr. Neil Clark Warren (the grinning graybeard on those eHarmony.com ads) as one of the scariest people alive. But the most frightening online mating service has got to be Hannidate, "the place where people of like conservative minds can come together to meet." That's Hannidate as in Sean Hannity. From W.'s mouthpiece to matchmaker.

Imagine that first date conversation: "Did you hear what Sean said today? He is so wise and brilliant." "I know. I don't think he's ever been wrong." "Don't you love that new Lee Greenwood song?" "I wish they'd bring back 'Highway to Heaven.'"

Shouldn't he be driving a Miata?

So there's this Trident gum ad featuring some nondescript guy walking down the street in a Speedo. He gets to a bus stop, where he's surveyed by the other passengers-to-be.

Featured prominently is your stereotypically swishy queen. I know this because he's wearing tight shorts, his lips are pursed and he's carrying one of those 'lil yapper dogs. Oh, and he sports that most familiar lascivious grin as he checks out the near-naked guy's bod.

If you were to ask, say, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation about this, they'd probably respond with a statement celebrating the inclusion of homosexuals in modern advertising.

That's what bothers me. Not the ad --- I pride myself on my insensitivity --- but the reaction, a microcosm of how queer rights groups view everything from "Will and Grace" to the gay guy on the last "Real World." It's all about exposure. Dignity be damned.

Would the African-American community applaud if, instead of the gay queen, there was a brother eating fried chicken and watermelon? Hardly. But the homo hierarchy reliably embraces stereotype, with seemingly no objection from the people they claim to represent. Sadly, it seems like they're doing a pretty good job of that.

Bribe me a river

It sure is fun piling on a disgraced congressman, particularly one who refers to himself as "The Dukester."

Actually, that's what he called his yacht, acquired in exchange for illegal favors.

History will remember him as the most corrupt legislator in American history, a designation that should merit some special prize. Perhaps a funny hat? Or a conjugal visit from a fellow prisoner named "Duke"?

Prosecutors call it a corruption case with no parallel. And it keeps getting worse. Convicted U.S. Rep. Randall Cunningham (R-Calif.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee from 1998 to 2005, actually priced the illegal services he provided.

Prices came in the form of a "bribe menu" that detailed how much it would cost contractors to essentially order multimillion-dollar government contracts, according to documents submitted by federal prosecutors for Cunningham's sentencing hearing this Friday.

"The length, breadth and depth of Cunningham's crimes," the sentencing memorandum states, "are unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress."

Prosecutors will ask federal Judge Larry Burns to impose the statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The sentencing memorandum includes the California Republican's "bribery menu" on one of his congressional note cards, "starkly framed" under the seal of the United States Congress.

The card shows an escalating scale for bribes, starting at $140,000 and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe.

The rate dropped to $25,000 per additional million once the contract went above $20 million.

The government's sentencing memorandum against Cunningham also details, with photographs included, the luxury vehicles, yachts, homes, antique furniture and Persian rugs that Cunningham received as bribes.

***Pictured: Cunnigham's Rancho Santa Fe estate

Monday, February 27, 2006

Thanks to Jesus I no longer carry my wallet in my back pocket

"Ever wonder why some lesbians look mannish?" asked Melissa Fryrear at the "Love Won Out" conference in St. Louis for ex-gays. "It’s a vulnerability to be a woman. That suit of armor to keep you from being hurt."

Fryrear, once "a college student whose whole life revolved around being gay," now works for fundamentalist Christian activist James Dobson. That's kind of like abandoning the Shiites to fight for the Sunnis.

Focus on the Family co-sponsored the event, along with Exodus International (which, I once read, took a group of curious straights to a baseball game in hopes of exposing them to good, old-fashioned masculinity. I know I think about girls and Promise Keeper rallies whenever I see a finely conditioned athlete in tight pants).

Perhaps Fryrear was converted at a WNBA game.

"We suggest you decline an invitation to a civil commitment ceremony," she said, addressing a major area of concern among evangelicals. "So many Christians are yielding on this part."

What's Texan for schadenfreude?

Ken Lay is going broke. That is, his net worth is now less than $650,000, down from as much as $400 million before Enron's downfall in 2001. Think I'm going to shed any tears for a guy who has $649,763 more than me?

The New York Times reports he has spent $20 million of Enron insurance proceeds for his defense, along with $5 million of his own money. He also has $4 million in unpaid legal fees and could see his total legal costs reach $30 million, according to the paper.

Another reason to stay out of Florida

Like you needed one. Already home to the country's scariest city, Celebration --- "the first planned community developed by The Walt Disney Company" --- Florida is getting another Stepford-like hamlet. (And that's leaving out Orlando).

Welcome to Catholic heaven:

Abortions, pornography and contraceptives will be banned in the new Florida town of Ave Maria, which has begun to take shape on former vegetable farms 90 miles northwest of Miami.

Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain, has stirred protests from civil rights activists by declaring that Ave Maria’s pharmacies will not be allowed to sell condoms or birth control pills. The town’s cable television network will carry no X-rated channels.


The Florida developers managing the project claim more than 7,000 people have already expressed interest in buying homes in the town. Retailers and other businesses are reportedly close to leasing 60% of the intended commercial space.

Lawsuits appear inevitable once the new town begins functioning in 2007, but Monaghan believes he has more than the law on his side. "I think it’s God’s will to do this," he said.

Wonder how the new residents of Ave Maria will handle their state's nickname, "America's wang."

Take a swing at John Rocker

"I know Hank (Aaron) and Jackie (Robinson) took a good deal of crap," the former Braves reliever told ESPN.com last year, "but I guarantee it wasn't for six years. I just keep thinking: How much am I supposed to take?"

That's for those who may have thought Rocker got a raw deal after being suspended for insensitive remarks back in 2000. While against the government punishing for "speech crimes," private organizations, like the Braves or Major League Baseball, have every right to expect their employees to behave in a certain way.

Regrettably, Rocker still has his fans down here. Don't count me or Al Kosa among them:

First off, I have nothing against people in wheelchairs, hunters or hunters in wheelchairs. I do, however, think John Rocker is a bit of an imbecile.

It’s almost too easy to take shots at Rocker. But as he’s back in the news, why not? The pride of Macon is appearing in a Spike TV show where he’ll pitch to a few average Joes who win some sort of contest, in New York, no less. Oooooh! Rocker in New York. This could get crazy.

Probably not. According to the local organ, the burned out lefty will have plenty of security in tow, not to mention the Spike crews. Rocker will be flinging on "Pros vs. Joes, the show where ordinary guys face off against some of the greatest athletes in the world."

I’m not sure John is one of the greatest athletes in the world. Maybe Bode Miller isn’t available, though he’ll probably be chasing gigs like this soon. As for Rocker, he seems to remain on a campaign to rehabilitate his image. He has a web site filled with news about appearances at charity events for children. He does seem to do a lot of that. And he lets you know about it all.

The above photo features this caption:

John poses with Dusty Vance of Philadelphia, Mississippi, at the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Wheelin’ Sportsmen event in March 2004. Rocker recently spent three days in Union Springs, Alabama assisting disabled hunters in the field.

Dusty, a Wheelin’ Sportsmen participant said, “I am thankful to all the volunteers who came out to help with the Wheelin’ Sportsmen event. I am particularly grateful to John Rocker, who not only took the time out of his busy schedule, but he is also one of the nicest people I have ever met.”

See. He is a nice guy. If you don’t believe Dusty, John’s publicist - yes, he has a publicist – says so too in a Newsday story when Rocker signed with the Long Island Ducks. This was before the matured Rocker had screaming matches with a couple of Long Island fans.

The real Rocker, his image maker says, is "a very genuine person, a very likable person, intelligent, great sense of humor. Look, he knows he made a mistake. He doesn't deny that. But he's also grown up in six years, and he's matured."

He’s matured enough to write a book "that will cover topics such as politics, current events, the media and sports," according to his web site. Move over Thomas Friedman and David Brooks.

Falwell's gal

Warning to those Hillary Clinton supporters out there (I wouldn't admit to it, either): Karl Rove wants you to vote for her. So does Tom DeLay. And Pat Robertson.

Conventional wisdown is usually flawed, but it's hard to convince this junior political scientist that Bill's wife can win the presidency. Half the country already hates her, and that's probably a conservative estimate. Unless some right-wing renegade runs as a third candidate, even Hillary can't calculate those odds in her favor (cattle futures joke for you 90s survivors).

But most of those haters aren't Democrats. Considering her rock star status, Hillary seems a shoo-in to win her party's nomination. Republicans couldn't plan it any better.

Perhaps sensible Dems are beginning to realize that the last thing we need is another legacy in the Oval Office.

If you run for president, chances are good that you'll secure your party's nomination. But realistically, how do you think you can win the White House? You are the most polarizing figure in the Democratic Party, and your negatives among likely voters are prohibitively high. Many people simply don't trust you. You may share your husband's name, but what people liked about him is not transferable to you.

You are not the person to help define a party that needs to convince voters it can govern from the vital center.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Do you love your monkey, or do you love me?

I could give a shit about George Michael, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to run this pic of the pop(ped) star, who's in trouble for drug possession.

Michael was arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs yesterday after being found slumped in his car.

Police allegedly found cannabis and GHB — a Class C drug known as Liquid Ecstasy that is popular with clubbers.

In the boot of the car, thought to be a dark Range Rover, cops are also said to have found a cache of pornographic material including sex toys and masks.

Gotta love the British press. Where would they be without "allegedly" or "thought to be?"

Let's hope George doesn't choke to death on a ham sandwich.

"I played with the Ween"

About five years ago, I was in the midst of stepping back from a most destructive months-long binge. I was "withdrawing" quite uncomfortably, subsisting on cigarettes, Coca-Cola and TV. Or Wednesday, as it's now known.

Having just gotten a satellite, I was prithee to tons of channels carrying multitudes of bad movies (now showing: something called "Purgatory Flats.") On one particularly bleak day, I came across "It's Pat." Having been a huge fan of the SNL skit, I ignored the awful reviews the movie version had received.

"Patently atrocious in every conceivable way," according to someone named Scott Weinberg for something known as EFilmCritic.com.

I'm not going to say "It's Pat" is a good movie, or funny, or even entertaining. It does boast an extended cameo by the Ween brothers, and that's always a plus. But Julia Sweeney will always hold a special place in my heart for pulling me out of the (an) abyss.

Cultural haven or redneck tourist trap?

City and state officials have chosen the latter, delivering millions for a proposed NASCAR museum in downtown Atlanta and nothing for a new symphony hall.

Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the exterior is touted as a "postcard for Georgia," a beacon for tourists and a soaring affirmation of the city's commit-ment to culture. With acoustics designed by Chicago's Kirkegaard Associates, the state-of-the-art building will be customized for concerts, educational events and rentals for corporate and private functions.

There is no serious debate about the orchestra's need for a new home. Musicians and patrons know the acoustics of the current Symphony Hall as inferior — deemed unfixable in a 1992 study — and the bare-bones venue generates almost no rental income.

Granted, opting to fund a NASCAR museum isn't just about appeasing rednecks (but it won't hurt with those "NASCAR dads"). The attraction could pump some significant money into the city, though I argue you won't be attracting much disposable income. Not a knock, but racing fans tend to be on the lower end of the economic scale.

And does it always have to be about money? Civic pride used to matter, and it would be nice to have something to brag about here besides an aquarium. Yes, I'm being simplistic. Atlanta remains a very livable city. But for outsiders, not very memorable.

And for insiders, not very cultural. The potential is there, and so, I think, is the audience. As big as the NASCAR audience? I wish I could be that naive.

The Olympic spirit

Self-esteem (minus the achievement part) has become a cause celebre within America's public schools. I see it in my nephew, who shrugs off disappointments much too easily. Maybe I want him to be more like me, throwing his tennis racket over the fence after losing a crucial point, for example. Yeah, I was a brat, but at least I cared.

"I just did it my way," said much-ballyhooed Olympic skiier Bode Miller after concluding his final event at the Games. In his five races, Miller: finished fifth, disqualified, did not finish, came in sixth and did not finish again.

"I'm not a martyr, and I'm not a do-gooder. I just want to go out and rock. And man, I rocked here."

Interesting interpretation. But the former Time and Newsweek cover boy has much lower expectations that your average athlete.

"Me, it's been an awesome two weeks," Miller told the AP. "I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level. My quality of life is the priority.

While I enjoy seeing the Nike hype machine take a hit, it's disheartening when you compare Miller to, say, Mike Eruzione, or Eric Heiden. Bode says he's anti-establishment, but when did that have anything to do with simply not caring?

Dude, I think they call that narcissism.

The deacon of bird

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the death of an Atlanta institution, a void yet to be filled.

Deacon Burton's looks like what a Hollywood set designer would tell you a soul food restaurant should look like. One exception: This place is 100 percent legit.

Mismatched silverware, mismatched chairs; a film of ancient grease that covers the hospital-gown green walls; the kind of tables you see in high school cafeterias --- the ones with the laminated top and collapsible metal legs. And proudly hanging on a column in the middle of the room is Deacon Burton's diploma from TV repair school.

Not to mention the TV's that littered the store front, vestiges of Deacon's former career. I didn't know any of them worked until Feb. 26, 1993. Al Kosa and I were there for our usual fix (two pieces of chicken, two hoecakes --- that's griddle-fried cornbread, flattened into ecstasy --- beans, rice and gravy and dessert, all for less than $5) but something was amiss.

The staff was hovered around the tube, watching coverage of the first World Trade Center bombing. They seemed to be taking the news rather hard. Burton's was otherwise empty, and the lights were dim.

We didn't discover until the next day that Deacon had died. I wish I had known that was my last time at his restaurant ... I would've gotten some hoecakes to go.

Institutions die all the time in Atlanta, and they're never replaced. Sometimes they can't be --- Deacon's son has opened an eatery next door, and it's good, just not as good, and not nearly as affordable --- but this city is typically cavalier about what it deems outdated. Progress always seems to trump tradition.

Meanwhile, I continue my quest for the perfect piece of fried chicken. I found it once, but it's been a long 13 years.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Last call at the Regal Beagle

Amid all my Stanley Roper talk comes word that his successor as the landlord on "Three's Company" has died.

Don Knotts was the first celebrity I ever met, at the first and only movie premiere I ever attended (got Tim Conway's autograph, too). My dad's company invested in two little-seen comedies starring the TV greats: "The Private Eyes" and "The Prize Fighter." I'd wager that everyone reading this missed my movie debut, as a young boxing fan in the latter film. I got to wear knickers!

R.I.P. Mr. Furley!

We're a lovable space that needs your face

Time to give Stanley Roper some love. His blog, Night Planet, is evolving into a must-read, as demonstrated by this post:

When I see the Hoveround commercial, and its accompanying "you made me love you, I didn't want to do it ..." with the beaming seniors laughing it up in the rest home rec room, I know its time to go to bed.

Founder Tom Kruse gives me that final ominous warning that I'm wandering into the wrong demographic, I hope. Its just me and the sedated in hospital gowns, right?

Is our entire economic future based on decay, heartburn, and credit problems, or have I just been staying up late? The deluge of ads like "I wish life were like this parking meter, I could keep putting in coins and stay here," "I ate these 2 value meals in 5 minutes and I'm covered by this pill I ate yesterday ..,""creditamerica solved my irs tax debt for pennies on the dollar," have you been injured in a car accident?" "I love getting out of my house again!"tend to bring me down, although wait, heres an upbeat weight loss pill testimonial!

Looking back on sunshine filled ads of my youth, I recall they used to try to sell happy things, things that didn't have 30 seconds of disclaimers during a 45 second commercial. I remember jingles, smiling doublemint twins. Sure there were the Sally Struthers saving the children ads, but now that would be squeezed between a herpes ad and an ad for medical malpractice.

Is this the true measure of where we stand, a decaying carnival? We've got to rage against the dying of the light here, lets see some silver lining, if you would please.

Unless I'm watching the news, or a drama, I don't want to be brought down, or reminded of that giant woman in the "shopping scooter" cruising past the customer service counter at the grocery store yelling "I'm not a happy camper!" that I once witnessed. Not only do I have the next day to worry about, now you've got me thinking about gingivitis and funeral plots.

Maybe I should go back to watching Saturday morning cartoons, if they still have them, cocoa puffs over relacor please.

"Don't ask us to attend 'cos we're not all there"

Punk has died many times, most recently when "London Calling" appeared in an ad for a luxury automobile. Not sure if the Clash owned the rights or not, but it was still cause for angst.

Thankfully, the Sex Pistols are still spitting at the establishment, declining an invitation to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain," according to a statement posted on their official web site. "Your museum. Urine in wine. Were (sic) not coming. Were (sic) not your monkey and so what?"

The statement ridiculed Hall of Fame voters as "music industry people," and blasted the high price of attending the exclusive event --- $25,000 for a table, "or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery."

It concluded, "Your (sic) not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL."

You can open my parachute any time

Seven of the Army's most elite soldiers are set to be discharged for engaging in gay sex acts for money. Three soldiers from the famed 82nd Airborne Division also face court martials on charges of sodomy and pandering. Four others received nonjudicial punishments, according to a statement released by the military Friday.

The division had previously been investigating allegations that soldiers appeared on a gay porn site. A spokesman for the division said the charges were a result of that investigation.

The same would have happened to a straight guy, or woman. However, the line severs if you remove the "for money" part, as hetero sex acts aren't illegal in the Army.

But this isn't the best case for the equality movement to galvanize behind.

The charges indicate the soldiers' behavior is "a much more serious matter than just their sexual orientation," said Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a legal group that helps gays and lesbians in the military.

"I'm not going to make excuses for service members who are taking part in sexual conduct for money," said Ralls. "It would be absolutely criminal regardless of whether they were heterosexual or gay."

While the "don't ask, don't tell" police remains a contradictory sham (thank you, Bill Clinton), the greater crime here is in the cause. The median salary for a typical E4 - Specialist/Corporal in the U.S. Army is $22,471, according to HotJobs.com.

Easy to see how someone making that little might be tempted by the lure of quick cash. Not to make these soldiers martyrs, but hopefully their plight will draw attention to the pittance we pay our "heroes."

Fair and balanced

Bravo to Fox News for staying positive, unlike all those other nattering nabobs of negativity.

My lips are sealed

Perhaps I've lost my way. I was once good at the smallest of talk, able to pluck the benign-est of anecdotes from my basket and turn it into an invitation.

Emphasis on the past tense.

So I'm on the prowl, and I spot this tall drink of water (as the Go-Go's blared from the video). Desperate for an opening, I told him how the band, by their own admission, used to participate in a game called "Corner Cleaners." Stop at a rest area, go into the bathroom, and lick the corners. Disgusting, yes. Anecdote-worthy? Apparently not.

He walked away. He nodded, laughed uncomfortably, then walked away. Now what? The fact that I'm posting at 3 a.m. on a Saturday tells you I haven't figured that one out yet.

Friday, February 24, 2006

You pussel-gutted bastard!

Outside of watching two Paul Thomas Anderson films, no cinematic experience has induced more winces than "JFK." Kevin Costner may be the worst at it, but celluloid history is littered with bad Southern accents.

And worse caricatures. When they're not patronizing --- could be we any more precious? --- they're insulting. If only Robert Duvall could teach classes on the art of playing a Southerner.

Malcontenter Markie Post has taken up my crusade for accurate Southern portrayals in this essay soon to appear in Atlanta magazine (check out her piece on "Bubba Bashing" while you're there):

Brenda Johnson, the crackerjack interrogator played with syrupy spunk by Kyra Sedgwick in "The Closer," seems so familiar she might be kinfolk. An Atlanta native plopped into a boss-lady job in the mean ol’ Los Angeles Police Department, she misses her mama; gets lost on those big-city streets, bless her heart; and drawls down-home expressions like “widder-man” and “play-purty.” (I’m still waiting for "I’ll swanee!")

The breathlessly hyped Turner Network Television drama, ranked No. 1 in cable ratings, pivots on America’s love/hate relationship with the Southern accent, ever the mark of the charmer or the rube. Brenda toys with both roles like, well, play-purties, to force the most brutal suspects to confess.

She must have grown up in old Cabbagetown because most Buckhead Betties do not use words like "wharbouts." Sedgwick, a New Yorker, twangs like a banjo, but I can’t help thinking of karaoke night, when someone with pleasant enough pipes warbles a country song, overreaches, and hits some honking, sour notes. The crowd winces, even as it applauds the singer’s courage.

"Given the usual treatment of the Southern dialect on TV, it’s not all that bad, I suppose,” says Lee Pederson, an Emory scholar who has published seven volumes on the region’s speech.

In a refreshing departure from the preening, big-haired pulchritude of Dixie foremothers like "Designing Women," Brenda is deliberately dowdy, too busy with her blood-and-guts work to ditch those ugly glasses and flutter eyelashes at gentleman callers. With her keen wits belied by a bumbling manner and messy handbag, she is another Columbo who sounds like Elly May Clampett.

However, for all her brains, authority, and frumpiness, Brenda’s success as an interrogator depends on the old-school wiles of every belle since Scarlett (Eve of the South’s cosmology): act dumb, sweet-talk the men into a diabetic stupor, and then brandish the steel in your magnolia. Why, it’s enough to give a satanic serial killer the vapors!

Much about this cat-and-mouse game resonates with bright Southern women who have learned to manipulate their way through macho workplaces; despite the evolution toward sexual equality -- which proceeds, like everything else, slowly here -- these tricks are just a matter of realpolitik; a way to get the job done. I long ago stopped feeling guilty for glazing my agendas with sugar.

What nettles me is Brenda’s over-the-top, flibbertigibbet moments. It is one thing to present herself as a Georgia Peach genius who suffers unfair ridicule because of her accent; it is another to play to stereotype and invite that condescension smack dab through the barn door, as she might say. Once open, that door is always difficult to close.

Not having watched "The Closer," I can only assume Brenda has yet to toss out my favorite bit of rudebaga rhetoric, compliments of my grandfather: "pussel gutted," Dix-ese for fat.

A disconnect defined

From the Pentagon's Feb. 2006 "Report to Congress Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq:"

As stated in the last report, a noteworthy indicator of progress in the security environment has been the enemy’s inability to derail the political process and to foment large-scale ethnosectarian violence. These are their objectives, and they are failing to achieve them.

Rejectionists, Saddamists, and Terrorists have failed to achieve their common operational objectives to:

• Derail the political process
• Foment large-scale ethno-sectarian violence
• Deter development of the Iraq Security Forces
• Damage Iraqi public trust in the Iraq Security Forces
• Expand the conflict regionally
• Widen their political support among the Iraqi People
• Force the premature disengagement of the Coalition

Along each of these lines, the trend has moved against enemy goals.

"The American objective in Iraq has failed"

Who said the above?

A.) John Murtha
B.) Al Franken
C.) Cindy Sheehan
D.) William F. Buckley
E.) All of the above

As someone who saw some merit in the Iraq invasion, I'm beginning to think I was a victim of political naievete. That's excusable when you're a blogger, not so when you're the president of the U.S.

While I think it's still too early to reach a final verdict on Iraq, Buckley is anything but uncertain:

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.


Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

Accepting reality has not been a hallmark of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, our fortunes in the Middle East will depend on it.

Good intentions don't count in foregin policy, only results.

The trouble with Europe

There's a whiff of anti-Semitism circulating around the continent, as evidenced in this story about controversial London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who has been found guilty of "bringing his office into disrepute" after comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp.

Livingstone was suspended from his duties for four weeks.

The three-man Adjudication Panel for England unanimously ruled that Mr Livingstone had been "unnecessarily insensitive and offensive" to Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold in February last year.

David Laverick, chairman of the disciplinary panel sitting in central London, said: "His treatment of the journalist was unnecessarily insensitive and offensive. He persisted with a line of comment likening the journalist's job to a concentration camp guard, despite being told that the journalist was Jewish and found it offensive to be asked if he was a German war criminal."

Such anti-Semetic attitudes have become more prevalent throughout Europe, particularly in France.

Most of the incidents have been perpetrated by French Arabs — by those, often from the deracinated underclass of the banlieues, who have chosen to act out their rage against Israel and the Jews on European soil.

Nonetheless, the A word obscures the real problem. Europe today suffers from a much larger ailment, as evidenced by the growth of right-wing populism in France, the Netherlands, Denmark or Austria. The common denominator is not Jews; it is angst and anger. The targets are foreigners who are darkskinned and non-Christian.

Furthermore, there's that old liberal tendency to reflexively favor the "underdog," even if that underdog utilizes violence to achieve its goals.

The trigger, but not the cause, is the war between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Or as the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a liberal German daily, has put it: "If Sharon did not exist, he would have to be invented." Europe, certainly its chattering and political classes, has chosen sides in an almost subconscious way. With the exception of Berlin, as represented by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the E.U. tends to interpret "evenhandedness" as "pro-Palestinian neutrality." A goodly part of the media has decided that the Israeli occupation is the greater evil, that Palestinian terrorism is somehow "understandable" and that Israeli counterthrusts are invariably "excessive" and "murderous."

In the Livingstone case, the U.K. has certainly gone to great lengths to establish their official distaste for bigotry. But political corrects always seems to go too far. Punishing hate speech is well-intentioned, but contradicts the great divide now playing out worldwide over free expression.

"This decision strikes at the heart of democracy," Livingstone responded. "Elected politicians should only be able to be removed by the voters or for breaking the law."

Or for reprehensible rhetoric. But Livingstone's correct in that it's the voters' choice whether he should lose his job. Making that choice for them often leads to unintended results. Livingstone may even emerge the victim out of all this, which would be a shame, but not surprising.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

"I'm skeptical that you could, but intrigued that you may"

Continuing my "King of the Hill" tribute, here's some classics from exterminator Dale Gribble, TV's greatest neighbor (barely edging out Ned Flanders):

You and your worms are fishing in the past, Hank, in the days of black-and-white television and a democratically elected Congress.

The vandalism upon my house can only be described as a hate crime. Somebody hates me.

Boo! I am a high-priced Washington lobbyist peddling influence. Who wants candy?

My Joseph better not be sterile ... I need my seed to live on. Certain plans of mine require additional Gribbles.

Ever since they held that big women's conference in Beijing, co-ed sports has been the number-two priority on the international feminite agenda. Want to know what the number-one priority is? Co-ed bathrooms. It'll be a cold day in hell before we institute that in the Gribble home.

You know what the root of the problem is, don't you? Feminism. Gloria Steinbrenner, that's what started it. Gerald Ford should have killed her when he had the chance.

Nancy's a terrible actress. Remember how her Liza Doolittle "did little" for the critics? For my insults to be effective, Nancy must remain completely in the dark, her reactions real and unscripted, like a Dean Martin roast.

I'm in over my head, Hank. I ran out of advice after I told him to hold the stick like a giant cigarette.

Don't flatter yourself, Hank, Nancy likes her men thin and pale of face. I thank God every day for sending me an angel with the hots for my trachtine physique.

Guns don't kill people. The government does.

No doubt I failed to include many of Dale's rhetorical gems.

Kissing Dale Jr.

The NASCAR-ization of America continues, recently merging with another staple of Yank cheese, the romance novel.

She wouldn't know a NASCAR star if he hit her with his car...and he just did.

Sarah was a kindergarten teacher until a sleazy ex-boyfriend got her fired. Now the only job she can find is driving the motor coach for racing star Lance Cooper. She doesn't know a thing about NASCAR — and she's off to a rocky start when she doesn't recognize her ultra-famous boss.

Lance can't help but notice Sarah's sweet smile — and how seriously unimpressed she is with his fame. Her reaction piques his interest — and he's convinced she's a good-luck charm. But Sarah has no interest in Lance's jet-setting life; she'd rather deal with spitballs than one supersexy race car driver. Too bad whenever he comes near her she turns hot as race fuel.

Soon things begin to heat up on the track, and Sarah begins to wonder if she might be able to teach one famous race car driver a few lessons about love.

This is not the work of some enterprising writer, but rather another shrewd marketing move by the folks at NASCAR. They sure know their audience.

And the mainstreaming of rednecks goes on.

This man was once a star

Hard to believe --- in the time of the supermodel celebrity --- but this handsome devil with the Pete Rose haircut and slight overbite was once a big star.

When I was a kid, Glen Campbell was a regular on "People" magazine covers, mainly due to his partying and his tempestuous affair with Tanya Tucker.

Is it possible to be an unattractive celeb today? Name me one. Paul Giamatti, you say? Fan though I am, has anyone seen PG on the front of any magazines lately ( Film Comment doesn't count)?

I say this because I just sheepishly downloaded "Southern Nights" on my IPod. My favorite childhood song remains strangely listenable, backlash be damned.

"With the joy of responsibility comes the burden of obligation"

Mike Judge is criminally underrated, even by the Malcontent. I was late on "Beavis and Butthead," "Office Space" and "King of the Hill." The latter is in its final days, scheduled to go off the air this spring. It's probably about time, and, since I have nothing else to say, here's a sampling of Hank Hill's best:

Son, Al Yankovic blew his brains out in the late '80s after people stopped buying his records. He's not worth getting into trouble over.

Damn, I've poured my whole life into this lawn. My heart, my soul, the tender feelings I've held back from my family.

This is exactly what those environmentalists should be spending their time on: Finding ways to use nature against other forms of nature that are inconvenient to man.

You know, the special time in girls' lives, and the freshness and all that.

We don't fish for the fish. Ninety percent of what I like about this sport --- and it is a sport --- is sitting in the boat doing nothing

You know, when the Coach wanted Mickey Mantle to take the pitch, and he wasn't too hung over to see the sign, he took the pitch, I tell you what.

A circus clown is just a carny who's too stupid to flip a ride switch on and off.

I'm talking to myself. That's a side effect of the marijuana poisoning.

A dog's the only animal that makes sense. And I suppose a cat might work, you know, if you're a little girl or an old lady who's sick.

Look at your average pickup truck. With airbags and vanity mirrors, it's one focus group away from turning into a powder room.

Soccer was invented by European ladies to keep them busy while their husbands did the cooking.

All his dreams from now on are gonna be about leaving. And then some high school guidance counsellor is gonna tell him to follow his dreams. Then how will he end up? A fruit pie salesman with a whoopie cushion living in Wichita Falls.

Can't you see you're not making Christianity better, you're just making rock n' roll worse.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Georgia says no to philandering dead presidents

From the "my home state embarrasses me sometimes" file:

A bill designating Jan. 30 as Franklin Delano Roosevelt Day in Georgia has been stalled by a Republican representative, who says he is acting on behalf of a constituent opposed to honoring the randy former president.

"I understand my constituent's concern that it doesn't make a good statement," said Rep. Calvin Hill, who is now investigating claims about FDR's extramarital affairs (already well-documented). "If I find that's true, I personally won't be able to vote for it."

Meanwhile, Georgia's students rank last in the nation in SAT scores.

Sensitivity training

Here's one for the appeasers in the crowd, further proof that no religion has been treated with kid's gloves quite like Islam. Not that you'd know it by their actions:

Yahoo! is banning the use of allah in email names - even if the letters are included within another name.

This was uncovered by Reg reader Ed Callahan whose mother Linda Callahan was trying to sign up for a Verizon email address. She could not get it to accept her surname.

Enquiries to Verizon revealed that a partnership with Yahoo! was to blame. Yahoo! will not accept any identies which include the letters "allah".

Nor will Yahoo! accept osama or binladen. But it will accept god, messiah, jesus, jehovah, buddah, satan and both priest and pedophile.

Check here for words Yahoo! allows, and doesn't.

What's with these Internet search engines and their appalling double standards?

You are who I think you are

As you may have noticed, the Malcontent's built up a solid roster of contributors. A little background on each:

Stanley Roper: Though he's generations younger than the late Norman Fell, Stanley got his moniker after wearing an outfit that mirrored the causual Jewish chic worn by the "Three's Company" landlord. Despite "Stanley's" protestations, the name's stuck. And now he's got his own blog;

Markie Post: Years ago, our Frogtown correspondent sported a facsimile of the "Night Court" pin-up's female mullet. My memory is long and unforgiving;

Bobby Bubbles: When he isn't cultivating new pyramid schemes ("octagons of opportunity," as he calls it), the Double B is a consistent source for some of my more exotic material;

Ms. Ellie: We used to visit South Fork daily while in college. Having missed out on "Dallas" the first-time around, I got hooked while an undergrad, and Ms. Ellie came along for the ride. Perhaps you'd enjoy our Sue Ellen/J.R. mimicry: "J.R., which slut are you going to sleep with tonight?" "I don't know, but she's got to be a helluva lot more interesting than the slut I'm looking at now." One day, I fear, she'll take the act too far, lobbing a bottle of Jack at my conniving head;

Reginald van Osteen: L.A.-based photographer by day, Reggie is better known as the world's foremost craftsmen of cigarette holders. He's developing a show for one of those off-brand cable channels showcasing his unique skill;

Al Kosa: Formerly one of the ATL's premier car dealers, Al's famously bigger than life. He's dated his share of Hooters' waitresses, acquiring plenty of acolytes along the way. But Al's a one-man posse, armed with plenty of jewelry and a mean-spirited sense of humor.

Bitchy Jon from Castro: He's not really bitchy, nor gay, but his name is Jon and he once lived near the Castro district. He's married to ...

Molly Berg, socialist prude: Again, she's neither a socialist nor a prude, but this psuedonym once drove a sensible mini-station wagon. And a monker was born.

Nurse Hall: Although she doesn't care much for children, or for public health, Ms. Hall knows how to hold her job as a school nurse. Sleeping with the principal helps, but she doesn't stop there.

***We're still negotiating with the late Howard Cosell.

One of us, one of us

Another Frogtown dispatch from Malcontenter "Markie Post":

I was reminded last night of just how long I've been a freak magnet. There was a sweet, eccentric, hygienically-challenged boy -- bullied by all the other kids -- who had a crush on me all through school. Last night I ran into him at the Cleveland video store. He talked my ear off about how he's now a right-wing Pagan. I said something about how contradictions make people more interesting, which I think he took as some sort of flirtation or declaration of kindred-spiritedness. He suavely said, "You wouldn't perchance be into...Japanese anime, too, would you?" He seemed very crestfallen when I said no.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Importing fear

Initially I was on the bandwagon with those calling for a reversal of Bush's decision to allow an Arab company to continue running commercial operations at six U.S. ports.

But upon closer inspection, paranoia seems to be winning out, along with (understandable) mistrust of an Arab government.

According to some industry analysts, the change in management would have no real effect on security, which would still be carried out by American workers to international standards. The UAE, whose government owns Dubai Ports World, is an international financial hub and close U.S. ally.

Of course, the same is often said, incorrectly, about Saudia Arabia. But I can't make the same judgment about the UAE.

And doesn't this seem to contradict the mantra that our only enemy in the Muslim world are radical Islamists? If such sentiments exist within Dubai Ports management, then by all means, cancel the sale.

"The Emirates have been very pro-active partners in helping our security. They have a solid track record of cooperation," said Peter Tirschwell, publisher of the Journal of Commerce.

While I would like to hear what the "other" industry analysts have to say, right now there's no concrete evidence that would support nixing the deal. More information is needed. Though there might be good reasons for their opposition, my cynical instincts tell me Democrats are undertaking this cause in hopes of bolstering their poor poll ratings when it comes to national security. Not wanting to be outflanked on the right, many in the GOP are joining forces with the Dems.

So politics, not proficiency, will end up deciding this one.

Stand-up blasphemer

I've known a few people who've taken (or are about to take) classes in stand-up comedy. I would offer to teach, but my one experience left me dazed and bowed. No more open mics for the Malcontent.

It started well enough, in that most everyone who took the stage before me was horrible. So I had that going. Eschewing preparation, as I typically do, I felt confident that my routine would fly. My mocking impression of Al Pacino as Huey Long ("call me Gov. Scissors 'cause I'll cut through that red tape") was sure to please the crowd.

But then the lights hit my eyes, and I lost my way. I was revealed as a bad mimic, and the audience grew restless. Fortunately, I had a standby: Ronnie Sproles, a.k.a. gay redneck. He loves NASCAR and he loves dick. Ronnie's gotten me out of uncomfortable spots before, so I turned to my Daisy Dukes-clad alter ego and worked toward a reprieve.

Which was happening, until I tried to build on an ongoing joke about oral sex. Once I said it, I knew I had crossed several lines. The groans from the jaded L.A. audience were proof.

No repeating it here, but if I said it about Muhammad, chances are I'd be hanging from a tree.

Constructive criticism

Few really know what it is, but reader "Kyla" grasps the concept, taking me to task for some simplistic analysis. And I welcome it, with hopes that the Malcontent evolves into a forum for this kind of give and take.

Here's a re-post of a comment Kyla left regarding female suicide bombers:

So you've missed the whole line of conversation out there, about how it's not virgins, it's not *really* virgins, *everybody* gets pure spouses, the text actually says "raisins" and the like? (Incidentally, I'm damn sure it doesn't say raisins, in case you're wondering. It would suck to have died for a box of Sunmaids or whatever they're called).

I ask because it sounds like you've picked the one-liner about virgins and run with it. And being a sort of fan of yours, I was hoping for a more complicated analysis. So now I'm confused.

Obviously, the same discourse that allows men to think that there are women in heaven waiting for them allows them to ignore what might happen if the main subject of the fantasy was a woman.

As for women, jihad and martyrdom as an idea go so much deeper than the promise of endless exquisite orgasm, that 'virgins' isn't even close to the kind of carrot we're talking about here. It's just the sound byte for straight men, the rhetorical flourish that puts you over the edge when a bunch of other, deeper appeals have committed you 99.9% already. There are countless other rewards on offer.

Other things you've written suggest that you know this. But this one doesn't. So this comment is a genuine question. You seem to be falling for the sound byte.

The trouble with roommates

A man accused of fatally beating his roommate with a sledgehammer and a claw hammer because there was no toilet paper in their home has been arrested.

Franklin Paul Crow, 56, was charged Monday with homicide in the death of Kenneth Matthews, 58, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Capt. Thomas Bibb said Crow initially denied his involvement, but confessed during questioning.

Crow told investigators that the men were fighting about the toilet paper over the weekend when Matthews pulled out a rifle. Crow said he then began beating Matthews with the sledgehammer and claw hammer, according to an affidavit.

Matthews was beaten so badly he had to be identified through his fingerprints, detectives said.

Crow was being held at the Marion County jail without bond. It was not immediately known whether he had an attorney.

Admittedly, I used to simmer to a boil when my old roommate would replenish our TP supply with the lotion-y kind.

Good thing it's not a dog

Allow me to indugle my soft spot for kitties ... as soft's as this cat's considerable belly.

A 33-pound cat in Qingdao, China, is being described as a "feline monster" because of its 31-inch waist and large size, according to a report.

The 9-year-old cat from the Shandong Province is so heavy it needs the help of its owner to get onto a bed. However, the cat is in surprisingly good health despite its weight. The cat's owner said it has no interest in eating fish but prefers to eat six pounds of chicken and pork each day.

Apologies for the cheap ethnic humor.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Little E in '08

Without a political trend to exploit, pundits start getting nervous. They mainline cliche.

But soccer moms are so 1990s. A new swing voter must be created. And I guess it's men's turn. Hence, the NASCAR dad.

Much to question, and dread, here. If I were a political consultant, I'd maintain the focus on women. There's more of them, and a greater percentage of females vote. But I'm not a political consultant, as I maintain a minor bit of naive faith in our electoral system. I'd prefer a candidate address us all as one, not as respective members of a particular interest group.

God forbid NASCAR dads establish that kind of clout. I've actually watched auto racing in person. And never have I felt more confident about my looks and intelligence. I was, in comparison, a MENSA male model.

There is an underrecognized nobility in good 'ole boys and rednecks, but those ilk aren't the majority in the infields of the nation's various racing venues. There's no safer place to hoist a Confederate flag (often displayed, inexplicably, next to the red, white and blue). These are the people who are going to be deciding our next election?

Hard to imagine, since the NASCAR faithful are faithfully Republican. Though I would like to see the guy pictured above's take on the situation in Darfur.

What's in it for them?

An interesting question posed by my good pal Nurse Hall, who wonders what's the incentive for female suicide bombers. Are there virgins waiting on them? Male or female? If the latter, do the terrorist groups simply overlook their problems with homosexuality in order to accomplish a "greater good?" And finally, Nurse Hall asks, would a lesbian even care if their heavenly harem was comprised of virgins?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mom, can I have some of that armpit candy?

Introducing Pot Suckers, the lollipop that tastes of hemp. As someone who's sampled a certain kind of brownie, I can tell you that's not a desirable flavor.

And this candy doesn't get you high. Sounds like a product not long for the shelves, but a local politician with nothing better to do has proposed a bill outlawing ganja pops, so expect a surge in sales.

"When a child goes into a store and purchases potato chips, a soft drink and dope candy, that's not a good thing," said State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta). Poor kid must not have any working taste buds.

Well said

"Your abhorrent actions in China are a disgrace. I simply don't understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night."

--- U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), criticizing Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Yahoo for assisting in the Chinese government's crackdown on Internet dissenters. Lantos, a native of Budapest, is a Holocaust survivor.

Well-meaning idiots

Distressing news from the Berlin Film Fest, once a haven for "oppressed East European filmmakers who hailed the event as a mecca for freedom of speech," according to Daily Variety. Now, open expression is taking a backseat to cultural guilt.

Given the seriousness of this fest, almost every filmmaker here, whatever his movie was about, was asked by the press to comment on "the Danish question."

Many of these creative types were earnestly supportive of the irate Muslim population around the world. Even more surprising, few managed to mumble anything in defense of freedom of speech.

Take the remarks of Annette Oleson, a Danish director whose Panorama section film "1:1" deals with the ethnic tensions in a poor neighborhood of the Danish capital. Pic stars a 17-year-old Palestinian immigrant who had never acted before.

Her comments, in functional but not particularly nuanced English, suggested that the Danish paper was wrong to publish such material and should have been "more sensitive." The actor, too, who appeared onstage to have conjured up his outrage out of nowhere, also said he was offended.

And thus it went throughout scattered press events and latenight conversations. I must have missed whoever might have hazarded that there was at least as much cause to demonstrate against beheadings (and their televised images) as there was to protest the lampooning of sacred icons.

Even the accomplished and powerful "Road to Guantanamo" -- which gave a much-needed shot of adrenalin to the fest competition -- predictably depicted the Pakistani populace as gentle souls, and the entire U.S. military as dunderheads, if not outright thugs.

Director Michael Winterbottom may very well be right when it comes to those in charge of the prison at Guantanamo, but somehow the faces of all-smiling Pakistanis/Afghanis is at odds with the images we've been seeing on TV for the last two weeks.

As demonstrated during the Cold War, many artists seem to have a soft spot for ideological frameworks that subvert free speech. Ironic, ignorant and maddening.

We know what's good for you

Pretty outrageous reporting on "60 Minutes" last night, with correspondent Bob Simon concluding that a "little self-censorship is a good thing" in regards to the Danish cartoon controversy.

How about a little self-control? Simon infers that the illustrations were mere provocations to the country's small Muslim population (about two percent). But it was the Danes, and their lifestyles, that were provoked. They struck back with art; fanatical Islamists replied with violence.

As a parallel, note this recent poll taken among UK muslims: four out of 10 say they want Islamic law applied in their communities. You can't correct a problem until you recognize it, and it's clear that we're losing the battle for hearts and minds. Badly.

It doesn't help when reporters like Simon reflexively point fingers at free societies. It's not so much that the media leans left or right; they're just so often misguided.

Looking good?

The Malcontent continues its search for the perfect template. Your input on the latest look is welcome. Please report any difficulties you might have viewing.

On the lam

The cartoonist whose drawings of Muhammad (why must I call him the prophet?) continue to spark worlwide outrage from Muslim extremists refuses to cower, despite having a $1 million bounty on his head.

The cartoonist at the heart of the row, who conducted his interview with the Glasgow Herald newspaper via written questions, said he had not expected such controversy but did not regret the drawings - the most controversial of which depicted the Prophet with a bomb in his turban - or their publication.

He defended it as 'a protest against the fact that we perhaps are going to have double standards (in Denmark and Western Europe) for freedom of expression and freedom of the press'. The inspiration for it was, he said, 'terrorism - which gets its spiritual ammunition from Islam.'

Saturday, February 18, 2006

There's a plate of homemade wishes on the kitchen window sill

I've mentioned my celebrity encounters before. But only three of my subjects rate insignificantly enough to merit inclusion in good friend Bitchy Jon from Castro's collection of sub-famous signatures (Gallagher, Gallagher II and the kid who played the drummer on the "Partridge Family").

Bitchy Jon has the autograph of the former third base coach of the Oakland A's, as well as the high school football team he watched as a kid. And Dick Van Patten ... twice. The second time, he reasons, came when he was trying to grab John McEnroe's attention.

His wife, socialist prude Molly Berg, nailed his biggest ink trophy: Erik Estrada. Molly saw him on a plane and approached him, telling Ponch she was getting the autograph for her husband. Double E wasn't buying it, though: "Sure you don't want my picture, honey?" I'm told Molly had to be restrained.

Speaking of DVP, Bitchy Jon has been known to perform an achingly sad, a capella version of the theme song to "Eight is Enough." Tribute or parody? I'm not certain.

An empty box of Wheaties

For those around the world who assume Americans are nothing more than a bunch of arrogant, whiny dilettantes with an endless sense of entitlement, our Olympic team has delivered a pretty convincing closing argument. The majority of U.S. athletes aren't like that, of course, but the ones grabbing the media's spotlight have proven to be grand disappointments.

Whether it's skiier Bode Miller's nonchalance at losing, Michelle Kwan's power grab for a spot on the women's skating team or a snowboarder falling after celebrating certain victory too early, these Olympics have maintained a recent trend of ugly Americanism.

The champion, however, has to be figure staker Johnny Weir, who blamed his disappointing finish in the men's final on a missed bus.

"I never felt comfortable in this building," said Weir, after dropping from second to fifth. "I didn't feel my inner peace. I didn't feel my aura. I was black inside."

Because Weir is gay (proven, sadly, by the comment above), he'll get a sympathetic Advocate cover. But who's gonna be on that famous box of cereal?

Maybe they can borrow a Norwegian.