Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Top Ten Predictions For The Future

The following articles was originally published in the November issue of Bazooka Magazine.

Rand Paul is Kentucky’s new Senator, and throughout his campaign he’s made a lot of vague promises about smaller government, lower taxes, and letting the magical invisible unicorn hoof of the free market fix all of society’s ills. Of course, Rand Paul is just one man, and even though the GOP won the House, the Democrats still (barely) control the Senate and Obama has veto power, so it seems likely that our government will spend the next two (or more) years so divided that only the most moderate new laws will make it through the gridlock. But let’s be honest: With the possible exceptions of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, pretty much everybody in Washington is owned by the same group of corporations and lobbyists, they’re all more concerned with winning elections than improving the lives of average Americans, and the American people are easily swayed by catchy slogans, even when they contradict verifiable facts. This will allow some of the Tea Party’s unfocused anger to be channeled into actual public policy.

In order to determine what the Tea Party’s recent electoral success will mean for Kentucky and the United States, I’ve consulted the Zodiac, several lost volumes of predictions by Nostradamus, Aqua Buddha, the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, and TV’s Adam Carolla. The following predictions are absolutely, 100% guaranteed to come true.*

10. President Obama’s Health Care Reform will remain in effect. Sorry, teabaggers. There’s just no way the Health Care industry’s going to let that kind of easy money slip through its fingers. The House may waste countless hours (probably during the next election cycle) making a big show of trying to repeal “Obamacare,” but any actual legislation will be narrowly defeated in the House, killed in the Senate, or vetoed by President Obama. It will make for some great political theater, though.

9. In order to combat air pollution, Wal-Mart will be given trillions in government subsidies in exchange for locating all new stores within walking distance of a trailer park.

8. If you were planning to visit one of our nation’s beaches next summer and you’re not a tarball collector or wildlife suffering enthusiast, you should probably make other plans.

7. The social safety network will be completely eliminated, but new “voluntary charity contracts” designed to allow the wealthy to “help the less fortunate” will make it legal to essentially own a poor person.

6. In one of the Tea Party’s more controversial moves, the United States Army will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Halliburton.

5. You know how a bunch of state Attorney Generals tried to sue the federal government after Health Care Reform passed? Jack Conway’s going to remember that shit when Rand Paul starts passing crazy-ass laws.

4. April 20th will become “National Aqua Buddha Day.”

3. With the Department of Education de-funded, local schools will have to turn to corporate sponsorship in order to stay afloat. In sports news, the Tilghman Bloomin’ Onions (Paducah) will defeat the Tates Creek Submarinos (Lexington) in the state football championship by over 50 points.

2. With the Daily Show and Colbert Report writers unable to recap all of each day’s crazy in a single hour, Viacom will spin the shows off into the world’s first 24-hour fake news network. Shortly after the new network is announced, will release video of Jon Stewart softly weeping to himself.

1. The Tea Party will lose the 2012 elections by a landslide. With Medicare dismantled (and Medicare scooters a thing of the past) the people who voted them in this year just won’t be able to drag their old, fat asses to the polls in order to vote.

*Predictions not really guaranteed to come true.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Agony of Victory

Earlier today, the House of Representatives held a vote to extend the Bush tax cuts only to those making less than a quarter of a million dollars a year. All but 3 Republicans voted against the measure because the tax cuts did not extend to the wealthiest Americans. Cheerleaders for what passes for the left in this country are calling this a victory. By voting to raise everyone's taxes if the rich don't also keep their cut, they say, the GOP is showing their true colors. Their base, who voted them in based on promises of lower taxes, is bound to take notice.

Call me a cynic, but I don't think this is the victory some people believe it to be because, let's face it, the GOP base is not swayed by reality. Soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner (who, for the record, said during the recent elections that he would vote for this exact measure if he had no other choice) has already called the vote "chicken crap," and there's a good chance that will be enough to convince the right that House Republicans made a wise, brave decision. If the GOP base happens to demand some reason for why their elected representatives voted in direct opposition to the purported party line, Fox and friends will drag out trickle-down economics and talk about how they really voted against raising taxes for "job creators."

The Republicans know this, which is why progressives should look on today's vote as a defeat, not a victory. If anything, today's vote is proof that the GOP knows it can do whatever is necessary to enrich the wealthy without fear of losing votes when the next election comes around. As long as the GOP spin machine keeps rolling, the bases will continue to vote against their own self-interest, no matter how blatantly the GOP screws them over.

To the liberals who are calling this a victory, I think the words of Winston Wolf are appropriate here: "let's not start sucking each others' dicks quite yet."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dangerous Liberal Activist Foiled By Brave Rand Paul Supporters

This article appears in the November issue of Bazooka Magazine.

The morning after the final Conway/Paul debate on KET (the one where they both acted like snide middle school kids in the principal’s office), the first thing to pop up in my news feed was the video of employee Lauren Valle being tackled and having her head stomped by Rand Paul supporters before the debate. The video was on a blog I haven’t been reading for very long (so I haven’t really gotten a feel for their reliability when it comes to fact-checking) and didn’t list a source, so I was initially skeptical about the video’s authenticity. Within a couple of hours, the story broke in the more mainstream media. I assumed that everyone could agree that stomping on a woman’s head while she’s down is a bad thing, but in doing so I underestimated the Tea Party’s capacity for rationalization and conspiracy theory.

The teabaggers started, predictably enough, with conspiracy theory: everyone involved in the altercation was a Conway supporter and it was all a stunt to make Paul look bad. Coming from a party that’s made James O’Keefe (the ACORN “pimp” and would-be Abbie Boudreau seducer) sort of a folk hero, I guess this makes sense--kind of like a company that engages in shady business practices assuming that everyone they do business with is trying to rip them off. Once the stomper was identified as Timothy Profitt, Paul’s Bourbon County coordinator who had been associated with the campaign for months, contributed $2500 to Rand Paul, and been thanked for his support in a Lexington Herald-Leader ad, only those who believe in Ringo Star’s New World Order mind control lasers stuck with the conspiracy theory angle.

With the conspiracy theory debunked, the teabaggers moved on to the character assassination of Lauren Valle, asserting that the fact that she had been engaged in numerous non-violent acts of civil disobedience and protest justified the beat-down. They were very happy to discover she had been arrested for trespassing during one of these instances, which led to the most ironic (definitely in the Alanis sense, and possibly even literally) comment of the whole discussion, from a commenter on the WPSD Facebook page: "She is a risk-taker and puts both her life and her liberty on the line, along with those she associates with, and poses a risk to whomever may happen along. Illegally boarding a ship,,, they could have been shot, they could have caused a major disaster just with that one stunt.” If you’re not laughing so hard you’re shooting milk from your nose (even if you’re not drinking milk), keep in mind that she was sneaking onto the ship to commit an act of vandalism as a form of political protest--kind of like a group of Bostonians (who later gave their name to a dangerous but hilarious political movement) did in 1773.

Another rationalization, tied closely to the character assassination game, is that Paul’s thugs believed that Valle posed a physical threat to Rand Paul. One video does show her waving her Republicorp sign in Rand Paul’s face as he drives by, but proving the teabagger assertion that she hit him (or nearly hit him) with it would require the kind of video enhancement technology that only exists in police procedural TV shows. To me, it looks more like she’s trying to turn the sign around so that her accomplice can get a picture of it next to Paul. The same video shows her coming around the front of the car after it has stopped (right before the smack-down), and to me she looks more scared than threatening (according to her story, several of the Paulbots were chasing her at this point, so I can’t say I blame her). There are so many holes in the “clear and present danger” scenario that it can’t be easily sorted while maintaining any narrative flow, so I’m going to have to break out a bullet list:

* To the teabaggers, the fact that Valle was wearing a wig (which according to her was part of the costume for her Republicorp “character”) is apparently probable cause to assume that she’s an assassin--some even pointed out that Squeaky Fromme wore a wig when she tried to kill Gerald Ford. While this may be true, if wearing a wig makes you an assassin, I can only assume that strip clubs are crawling with ninjas and William Shatner is the most dangerous man alive. This fear of wigs on the part of the Paulbots probably has some sort of creepy sexual component, but I’d rather not think about it.
* Valle claims that Paul’s supporters recognized her and were keeping a close eye on her before Paul ever got there. This does not fit with the “unknown attacker” idea, but does fit with the teabagger “she was a troublemaker” rationalization. If the Paulbots did, as Valle asserts and the character assassination defense suggests, know who Valle was, they should have also known that none her previous protest activities had ever presented a danger to anyone (except possibly herself). This also kills the “wig as assassin disguise” argument.
* If Valle were planning to harm Paul in some way, she had ample opportunity when she was a foot away from his car window. When the teabaggers took Valle down, Paul was long gone according to the video and eyewitnesses.
* Many of the “she was dangerous” defenses presume that the men who attacked Valle were part of Rand Paul’s security detail. So far I haven’t heard the men themselves or anyone in the Paul campaign claim that this was the case. Even if these men were acting in some official capacity and Valle was presenting a threat, the head stomping was excessive. Those who acknowledge that these men were not security present them as brave bystanders who were protecting their candidate, which brings us to:
* Lauren Valle is a small woman who was completely unarmed (unless you count a sign as a weapon, in which case everyone there was dangerous). Kind of makes you wonder if these men would have been so “brave” if it was a 300-pound linebacker and not a 110-pound woman (especially if you’ve read Amanda Marcotte’s excellent Guardian article “The Women-Hating Rage of the Republican Right,” which explores the misogyny inherent in Tea Party rhetoric and policy).

Some White Male Liberty Patriots dispensed with trying to defend the curbstomper and went right for the straw man argument, claiming that people wouldn’t be making a big deal about this if Valle had “attacked” Conway or Obama. While I’ll be the first to admit that progressives do have a few sacred double standards, they don’t generally apply when it comes to basic civil and human rights. That’s why many of us detest Barack Obama’s failure to end the human rights violations of the Bush era and, why the Volvo-driving hippies at the ACLU regularly fight on behalf of Christians who have suffered religious discrimination and those whose Second Amendment rights have been violated, and, more generally, why the left has such a hard time holding power. While the right proudly stand behind their leaders in power as they accomplish nothing (and in some cases act in direct opposition to their state beliefs), those of us on the left are quick to vote against those who aren’t doing what they promised, usually throwing our votes away on third party candidates who can never win in our corporate-owned political system. That’s why our government will probably grind to a halt due to political gridlock before Thanksgiving.

While Matt Taibbi (in his October 15 Rolling Stone article: “How Corporate Interests and Republican Insiders Built the Tea Party Monster”) has done a much better job than I ever could of highlighting the double standards of teabaggers (specifically those in our state), I do feel like I should point out how it applies to the curbstomper himself, Timothy Profitt. According to campaign donation records, Profitt’s wife works for Bourbon County High School, which is of course partially funded by the Department of Education that Rand Paul wants to destroy. For his part, Tim, who is only 53, lists his occupation as “retired/unemployed.” Since his address doesn’t match any of the Paris horse farms I’m familiar with and his wife still works, it seems unlikely that his early retirement is because he’s independently wealthy. I’m speculating here, but that leaves two explanations I can think of: Either he worked for an EVIL union and retired early with a pension or he’s drawing disability (due to the “bad back” that he used as a rationalization for stomping on Valle’s head). In any case, I’d be interested to know how Profitt managed to retire so early--I seriously doubt his wife’s supporting them both on the salary she’s getting from Bourbon County High. At the very least, Profitt is working hard to vote his wife out of a job (or at least a raise in the foreseeable future).

In addition to the teabagger double standards, I would argue that Conway/Obama supporters wouldn’t stomp on a woman’s head when she’s already down because the left is not constantly being conditioned for violence by their party’s rhetoric. The Tea Party thrives on things like thinly-veiled calls for violent revolution and Bible verses recommending the assassination of President Obama. It’s hard to believe that this violent rhetoric has no effect on those who buy into it, or that it doesn’t appeal to a certain kind of person. Which brings us to the other major player in the altercation: Mike Pezzano, the man who knocked Valle down so Tim Profitt could step on her head. Pezzano has been showing up at Paul events for a while now, and his big issue is “open carry.” For those not familiar with the term, it basically means that Mike is not content with being able to carry a concealed firearm. He wants to, to paraphrase Townes Van Zandt, “wear his gun outside his pants for all the honest world to feel.” I’m not saying that Mike’s overcompensating for anything, but I’ll bet he drives a Hummer and his wife needs a magnifying glass and tweezers to give him one.

I realize that Rand Paul can’t be held accountable for the actions of his supporters (though it would have been nice if his weasely statement hadn’t tried to make Conway supporters share the blame), but I do believe that the rhetoric of the Tea Party contributes to and encourages this kind of incident. I’m writing this a few days before the election, but by the time you’re reading it there’s a good chance (at least based on the latest polls) that Rand Paul will be Kentucky's new Senator. Like all politicians (a victorious Conway included, I’d wager), his professed ideals will quickly be subverted to the special interests who control Washington, but like all politicians he’ll have to keep up the rhetoric necessary to make his constituents vote against their own interests again next time around. Since the Tea Party is so hell-bent against the system, he’ll need to be even more vocal than most to hide the fact that he’s just another politician. While rhetoric rarely changes the way government works (as those of us who really wanted to believe Obama during his campaign can bitterly attest), it does have an effect on the voters, and, if the case of Lauren Valle is any indication, it’s not a positive one.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Open Letter To Rand Paul

Dear Senator-Elect Paul,

Congratulations on your recent election to replace Jim Bunning as a Senator of Kentucky. While I only saw a short clip of your victory speech, I was mildly surprised by the confidence you exhibited during the speech. It was a great improvement over the figity, eye-darting, nervousness I saw you when debated Jack Conway in Paducah a few weeks ago. I assume this change is due in part to the fact that you’ve won the election and no longer have to fear that someone will ask you a question to which you do not have a politically expedient answer or obfuscation prepared. Or worse, a question that for the sake of political expediency you have to answer with a denial of something you’ve said in the past. With these concerns out of the way, I’m hoping that you will be willing to help me better understand some of your beliefs and policy positions. You’ve been a little inconsistent on a few things during the campaign, and some of your beliefs seem to be in direct opposition to your platform which claims to embrace personal liberty.

During the primaries, you said that you would never take money from Senators who supported the Wall Street bail-out, but in September you attended a $500-a-plate fundraiser organized on your behalf by 17 Senators who voted for the bailout. Does the word “never” have a different meaning in Texas?

Do you support a $2000 Medicare deductible?

What about a 23% sales tax on all purchases. You were for it before you were against it, but are you for it again now that you’ve secured your Senate seat?

When you appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show following your primary victory, you said that you would have voted against the Civil Rights Act. Later, you said that the legislation was necessary at the time. I’m confused. Why would you vote against a piece of legislation that you feel is in the best interest of the American citizens?

In the fallout of our comments to the Civil Rights Act thing, you repeatedly stated that you were not a racist. You even seemingly backed it up by firing campaign spokesperson Chris Hightower when people found out that he thought lynching was hi-larious. Yet you kept campaign donations from donors with ties to white supremacist groups. Isn’t it kind of disingenuous to keep money given to you by extremists whose views you claim you do not support?

Speaking of people who aren’t white, do you feel a border fence is necessary to stop illegal immigration, or do you think that it would be an overpriced, Berlin Wall-like symbol? You’ve said both.

Do you think the Americans with Disabilities act needs to be eliminated or simply reformed. You seem to go back and forth depending on who you’re talking to.

What is your stance on medical marijuana? Initially you, like your father, were for it, but at some point you changed your tune. Isn’t allowing the government to decide how a person chooses to treat an illness (or, for that matter, making it illegal for an adult to decide what substance he wants to introduce into his own body) a violation of personal liberty?

Do you want to completely eliminate farm subsidies, or simply restrict them to farmers who make less than $2 million per year?

Do you or do you not support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

You’ve repeatedly said that we need Congressional term limits, but when asked if you would leave the Senate after two terms, you’ve either waffled or outright said “no.” Isn’t this just a little hypocritical?

Your entire platform is based on reducing government interference in citizens’ lives, but you think it’s ok for the government to force a women to have a baby she doesn’t want, even if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Isn’t that about as intrusive as government can get?

Who would win in a fight: Aqua Buddha or Cthulhu?

Yours truly,
Steve Johnson
Concerned Voter

Monday, November 1, 2010

Top Ten Reasons To Vote

From the October issue of Bazooka Magazine:

10. You can leave work for a little while.
9. Over half of U.S. citizens don’t vote. That hasn’t worked out real well for us so far.
8. The United Kingdom typically has 10-20% higher voter turnout than the U.S. Are we going to let those limey bastards win again?
7. If you don’t vote, Bono might cry.
6. Have you seen the people who are really vocal about politics? Do you really want assholes like that deciding who’s in charge?
5. Let’s face it, since you can’t buy beer on election day, you’ve got some free time on your hands.
4. Chicks dig it.
3. For a few brief moments, you’ll get the illusion that you have some say about how our country is governed.
2. Free sticker!
1. Three words: Senator Rand Paul

Monday, October 18, 2010

Aqua Buddha: Rand Paul's False Idol

Since the November issue of Bazooka Magazine won't be out until after the election, the October issue was all about politics. As part of the political coverage, Bella asked me to do a story about Rand Paul's Aqua Buddha misadventures in college. I Googled the story and found a bunch of reports that were practically the same. Since straightforward coverage would mean that the Bazooka story would just be another repetition (albeit a snarky one), I decided to get creative. [Author's Note: The phrase "Aqua Buddha" is even more fun when sung to the tune of Kool & The Gang's "Jungle Boogie."]

Rand Paul Worships False Idols
by Reverend Jim Bob Spuckler

With a good, God-fearing woman like Sarah Palin supporting his campaign, I figured that Rand Paul was a good Christian, but it looks like I was wrong. A little while ago, a story came out that when Rand Paul was going to Baylor University, he belonged to a secret society called NoZe. As you know, all secret societies are part of the New World Order conspiracy to create a world government, and this one is even worse than most. According to the Baylor president at the time, NoZe was known for being “lewd, crude, and grossly sacrilegious.” One former member admitted that the group “aspired to blasphemy.” What kind of sicko wants to make the baby Jesus cry? A sicko like Rand Paul, apparently.

It gets worse from there. During one of his Illuminati club’s “pranks,” Rand Paul and another member of NoZe kidnapped a young woman, tied her up, and blindfolded her. Now, it’s one thing to tie up and blindfold a disobeying wife, but doing that to a woman that hasn’t been hitched to you in the eyes of God is almost as bad as fornicating with her. Rand Paul and his fellow deviant took this woman to their apartment, where they tried to make her smoke the demon reefer. When she refused, they took her to a creek, but they weren’t taking her down to the river to be washed in the blood of the lamb. Far from it. once they got her there, they made her bow down to some heathen deity named “Aqua Buddha.”

Now I’ve never heard of this Aqua Buddha before, but I think it’s safe to assume that it’s some kind of false idol worshipped by Hindoo Mexicans. That means that Rand Paul may just have a more sinister agenda than the secret Muslim that’s in the White House now. Since Jack Conway believes that it’s alright to kill babies and let the gays walk around like they’re people or something, the only choice for any good Christian in this election is to write-in a vote for Mr. Andy Griffith.

The whole world’s turning upside down, brothers and sisters, and the only thing we can do is stand strong in our faith. In order to fight off the forces of Satan that are taking over this country, the Southern Reformed First Primitive Church of Jesus the Savior (Eastern Reform Conference) will be holding an old-time revival this Sunday. There’ll be prayer meetings, sermons, hymns, book burnings, rides and cotton candy for the kids, and a musical performance by American hero Toby Keith. We’re located just off route 4, between the flea market and the Waffle House. A small donation is requested.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jack Conway: Not As Bad As I Thought

As those of you who regularly read my irregular updates to this blog know, I’m a regular contribute to Bazooka Magazine, the local alternative newspaper here in western Kentucky. After a year and some change, it looks like we’ve finally convinced a few people that we’re legit, because Bella (Bazooka’s owner/editor/publisher) managed to snag some spots with the other press people up on the balcony for yesterday’s debates. Since I'm kind of the politics guy, she asked me to come along . So I got the morning off work, woke up even earlier than usual, borrowed the company laptop (one of the fringe benefits of being the IT guy), and, really wishing I’d bought those Spider Jerusalem glasses when I had the chance, headed for the Carson Center prepared to do some journalism. Or, more accurately, to make snarky comments about the debate on Bella’s Facebook page (you can read them here).

After what seemed like days of Paducah’s high and mighty congratulating one another and some whining about regulations from some dude from Paducah Bank (one of the sponsors of the debates), the first debate started. This one was between Independent Bob Leeper (incumbent) and Democrat Rex Smith, candidates for the District 2 (Ballard, McCracken, and Marshall counties) Kentucky State Senate seat. Republican candidate Mike East did not attend. I haven’t been following this race especially closely, but I don’t think I’ve missed a lot. The candidates' answers to most questions were nearly identical, and in both cases very conservative. Based on a quick look at his website, I gather that the GOP candidate may be a little farther to the right, but not by a whole lot. None of these candidates represent me and I can’t imagine that it will make much difference which one of them wins, so I can’t even bring myself to fall back on my “vote against the incumbent” rule here. This section of my ballot will remain blank or get a smart-ass write-in.

Once The Amazing Right-Leaning Moderate Twins had finished their act, it was time for the main event: Senate candidates Jack Conway and Rand Paul. Before the first question was asked, Conway was way ahead in the non-verbal department, and not just because of his apparently sexy, sexy eyes (though Bella may disagree). As they took the stage, Conway seemed confident but relaxed, giving the impression that he was ready for any question the moderators threw at him. Paul, on the other hand, was nervous-looking and fidgety, like he could make a run for it at any minute. The difference could come down to the fact that Conway is just more comfortable speaking in public, but Paul’s body language didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Or maybe I’ve just watched too much Lie To Me in the past week.

The questions and answers were all things we’ve heard before, though in some cases Rand Paul’s answers have changed (sometime several times) since the primaries. You can watch the debate yourself for all the details. Paul didn’t do anything to surprise me, but Conway’s general attitude throughout the debate (and in some cases the contrast between between the two candidates) impressed me. Specifically:

* Throughout the debate, Conway very subtly (I don’t think he ever came right out and said it) made it clear that he is a native Kentuckian and Rand Paul is not. He answered a lot of general policy questions in terms of how they specifically affect Kentuckians, name-dropped a few local officials, and generally showed that he knows what’s going on in our state. Rand Paul rarely mentioned anything specific to Kentucky that wasn’t required to answer one of the questions. While I realize that some of Conway’s Kentucky shout-outs were the equivalent of a singer working the name of the town he’s playing in into a song, overall he gave the impression that he really does care about Kentucky. Rand Paul, on the other hand, seemed more concerned with Rand Paul’s political career.
* Conway was much more aggressive in calling Rand Paul out on his flip-flops and more ludicrous positions than I expected. Since the Conway campaign has missed several golden opportunities (especially early in the campaign) to showcase what a dangerous lunatic Rand Paul is, this was a nice change of pace.
* Conway’s views regarding the interaction between business and government are actually a lot more in line with my own than I had expected. On several occasions, he made it very clear that there are big problems with the role that corporate interests play in government, and that these problems need to be solved. Admittedly these kinds of beliefs usually fall victim to Washington realities fairly quickly once a candidate gets elected, but at least he hasn’t completely sold out to campaign contributors just yet.
* Conway answered the questions. Rand Paul wasted no time in dovetailing into his standard talking points (either that, or into asserting that he never said he supported a Medicare deductible, despite the fact that he’s said exactly that numerous times--many of them on camera). While Conway definitely worked in his talking points wherever possible, in nearly all cases he actually answered the questions that were asked as well.
* After the debate, Conway stuck around and shook hands, posed for photos, and talked to people. After about half an hour I got the impression that he was anxious to move on, but at least he made some kind of effort. Once he left the stage, Rand Paul wasn’t seen again. It was almost like he’s afraid someone might ask him an unscripted question (or start chanting “Aqua Buddha” over and over again) or something.
* And, as you’ve probably heard, Conway had the best line of the debate when he said “As the attorney general of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I’m always amused to get a lecture on constitutional law from a self-certified opthamologist.”

Going into the debate, Jack Conway was getting my vote, but it was 80% a Lesser of Two Evils vote against Rand Paul. After watching the debate, its’ more like 50/50 and I feel a lot better about voting for Conway. While his ideas for fixing some of the problems in our country differ quite a bit from my own, we at least seem to agree on what most of the big problems are. I know this is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that you that it’s important to vote in November, and that it doesn’t matter who you vote for as long as you vote. In this case, though, if you’re planning to vote for Rand Paul I’d really prefer that you stay home.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ideology Vs. Practicality

Archangel M just posted a blog at the Hillbilly Report offering his suggestion for reforming the Democratic Party: Vote third party. He makes a good point: For quite a while now, the narrative has been about “swing voters” who won’t vote for candidates that are too liberal, which has led Democrats to move closer and closer to the right. If enough of the Democratic base abandoned them for left-wing third parties, maybe the party would get the message that voters are fed up with a Democratic party that is almost indistinguishable from the GOP.

This is not a novel idea. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’re no longer going to vote for the lesser of two evils. Most of the people who say this now count members of either major party as “evil.” Barack Obama was the breaking point for many of us: he promised us real change during the campaign, but once he got elected it was business as usual.

I agree with Archangel’s sentiment, but I don’t think it’s a good idea across the board. Particularly, I think abandoning the party in the upcoming Kentucky Senate race is a very bad idea. If Jack Conway were running against Trey Grayson, I’d feel comfortable voting for a third party candidate--after all, the differences between a typical Democrat and a typical Republican these days are so minor that a GOP win wouldn’t be much more damaging to Kentucky or America than a win for the Democrats.

Of course, Conway isn’t running against a typical Republican, he’s running against the one man who may be more dangerous (and embarrassing) than Jim Bunning: faux Libertarian Rand Paul. Even if you ignore the fact that the degree of evil between Conway and Paul is huge, diverting votes to third parties and allowing Paul to win this election is bad because the whole country is watching this race. If Paul wins the election, no matter what the reasons, Kentucky voters will have legitimized the kind of ideologically inconsistent, uninformed, hate-mongering, and generally apeshit crazy politics that Aqua Buddha espouses, and that’s just not a good thing.

In a race between two candidates who are roughly on the same level of evil, I’m all casting a symbolic vote for a non-evil candidate just to send a message. However, when one candidate is a vanilla Democrat and the other is Lex Luthor without the charm, a symbolic vote Superman is less important than keeping Lex away from Washington.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fear & Loathing In Graves County

This article appears in the current issue of Bazooka Magazine.

I’d originally planned to write an article about the First Amendment for this issue, since it’s been in the news a lot lately. I was going to talk about the sheer economy of language by which the founding fathers packed the most essential freedoms of our society into just 45 words. Then I would launch into a story of the Coke Zero Culinary School (better known, with equal inaccuracy, as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” properly called the Park 51 Community Center), giving some background on the project, pointing out that it’s not a mosque and it’s not located at Ground Zero, providing poll data that shows most of the people in Manhattan support the project, and maybe even putting forward my pet theory that the whole controversy is just a smokescreen to obscure the story about how the GOP (many of whom built their careers on 9/11) blocked passage of a bill that would provide health care to Ground Zero emergency workers suffering from respiratory diseases and other problems as a direct result of their work in New York nearly a decade ago.

From there I would go into the freedom of speech and assembly portions of the First Amendment and make the sickening admission that, much as I’d like to see Fred Phelps drown in a pool of his own blood, I have to agree with the judge who ruled that his hate-mongering is protected speech. I was going to include a quote from Larry Flynt and everything. It would have been great.

After I’d got a couple paragraphs into writing the piece, a story came across WPSD’s Facebook feed about a group of Somali immigrants in Mayfield who want to use a space as a mosque. Knowing that some redneck would start screaming about terrorists, I decided to include a paragraph or two about the Mayfield mosque to give the story a little local flavor. That was on Monday. By Wednesday night the story had grown considerably, with dozens of stories in the local media turning up new information and hundreds of people discussing the story (WPSD’s Facebook feed alone had around 1500 comments spread out over eight threads the last time I looked). The story even got some national coverage on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Obermann, briefly eclipsing Rand Paul as Kentucky’s greatest current national embarrassment. The old saying says that “if it bleeds, it leads,” and this story was hemorrhaging enough hate, fear, and ignorance that I was tempted to stage a gay military funeral in hopes of luring Fred Phelps in so I could drown him. Instead, I changed the focus of my story.

Before I can properly begin heaping scorn on the--and I believe this is the proper technical term--booger eatin’ morons of our community, I should probably present the known facts of the case as I have been able to piece them together from news coverage and comments from people from Mayfield and the surrounding area. Both WPSD and WKMS did surprisingly good jobs of covering the story, and numerous people who know who they are have provided valuable supplemental information, research, and analysis. Putting all of them together, the following story emerges:

Approximately Six Months Ago:
A group of Somalis living in Mayfield rent a storefront on Broadway in downtown Mayfield. The space is originally intended as as combination store and community center, but at some point the Somali Muslim community begins using it as prayer space.
A Few Months Ago: Mayfield City Planner Brad Rodgers notices that the storefront is being used for prayer and informs the occupants that places of worship are required to get a use permit from the zoning board in order to comply with a city ordinance.
Early August: The Mayfield zoning board approves the use permit in a closed meeting.
The Day After That: Grumpy Old Man Dick Conner (now better known as the “Baptists know how to park” guy), who owns the flower shop next door, decides he doesn’t want these damned kids on his lawn and complains to the zoning board that the public should have been allowed to speak before the permit was granted. He threatens to stop paying his taxes and hold his breath until he turns blue if he doesn’t get his way. The permit is revoked and a public meeting is set for August 24.
August 24: A public meeting is held to determine whether the permit will be granted. The meeting is limited to 100 people (nearly all of them white, some carrying Bibles, and many wearing Christian-themed jewelry or clothing) due to space issues. Police prevent the Somali representative from attending the meeting because it is already full. After an hour of public comments that according to local news reports focuses almost exclusively on the religion, culture, and nationality of the petitioners, the zoning board unanimously votes to deny the permit based on concerns about parking.

In the days leading up to and immediately following the meeting, there was a lot of discussion about the Mayfield mosque. Not surprisingly, lots of people were against it. Let’s look at some of their well-reasoned arguments:

On the surface, this seems like a valid reason, but the timeline of events (which includes six months of prayers at the mosque with no parking issues), the fact that there is a municipal parking lot a block away, the small detail that no place of worship has ever been denied this type of permit, and the fact that most people don’t normally get all Jesused up and quote scripture at meetings about parking spots make this seem like a smokescreen. Perhaps the most damning evidence that parking isn’t really the issue comes from Brad Rodgers (from a story on WPSD’s website shortly before the meeting).

“‘We don't know if it's going to pass,’ Mayfield City Planner Brad Rodgers admitted.
Rodgers said permits in the past have not been a problem but this one might prove tricky.
‘I think it's more about the newness of having Muslims in this community. I think that's what people are concerned about.’”

Even if Somalis all lose their jobs at Pilgrim’s Pride start driving those welfare Cadillacs we’re always hearing about, parking might not be a valid excuse. According to one commenter on the WPSD boards, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act may protect them. I read over the act, but since I’m not a lawyer I can’t confirm that it applies here, but it would be very poetic if it does, since the law was the result of efforts by far-right wing (and probably not very Muslim-friendly) Christians of the James Dobson variety.

They’re Illegal Aliens

This also initially sounds like a valid argument, especially given Pilgrim’s Pride’s alleged history of hiring illegal aliens. My thoughts on immigration reform are a whole other article, so I’ll just say that we do, in fact, need to enforce immigration laws. Unfortunately for Mayfield’s racist community, that doesn’t matter. Even if allegations are true, that’s an INS problem that doesn’t affect their right to worship in any way. Our courts have ruled time and again that all people within the U.S.’s jurisdiction are protected by the Bill of Rights, even those who are here illegally. The subtle subtext of this reality is that everyone in the world is entitled to the same rights American citizens have, but our government can only legally extend those rights to people on American soil. It’s the kind of thing that almost makes America seem like the shining beacon of hope we’ve been told it’s supposed to be.

They Kill Albinos, Chop Them Up, and Use Their Body Parts for Magic!
Ok, only one person said this, and she was a complete idiot, but I’m not the kind of guy who passes on the chance to include albino mutilation in a story. Strange as it may sound, this does have some basis in reality, just nothing to do with Somalia or Muslims. According to a BBC story from August 17, a Kenyan (not Somali) was arrested in Tanzania (not Somalia) for human trafficking in albinos. The story goes on to say how witch doctors (not imams) in some parts of Africa (again, no specific mention of Somalia) value albino body parts for use in magic spells.

The thing is, even if the story was about Somalian Muslims, guilt by association is not a valid reason to deny anyone their freedom of religion. In fact, since we don’t punish thought crime in this country, it would be perfectly acceptable for the imam to talk about what great magical amulets you can make out of albino eyes. Until somebody attempts to slice up an albino, no crime has been committed. For the same reason, pricks like Fred Phelps and Bill O’Reilly can talk about how great it would be if someone would murder more abortion doctors without going to jail.

This Is a Christian Nation
Some of these intellectual super-heroes will even present cherry-picked out of context quotes from the founding fathers to back up their claim. Even if you don’t want to take the time to actually read the writings of Thomas Jefferson (though you should--he’s pretty awesome), simple logic should tell you that this isn’t true. I think we can all agree that the founders were pretty smart guys. Therefore, if they intended for America to be a Christian nation, why would they make the very first line of the Bill of Rights prohibit the government from establishing a state religion or prohibiting the free practice of religion? That’s like starting a basketball game by throwing away the ball. I’m pretty sure that if the founders wanted this to be a Christian nation, they’d have mentioned that somewhere in the Constitution.

You Wouldn’t Want A Satanic Church In Mayfield
First off, comparing a religion with 1.57 billion adherents all over the world and a millennium and a half of history that includes preserving vast amounts of human knowledge that otherwise would have been lost after the fall of Rome to the childish, reactionary religious equivalent of shock rock shows a weak grasp of Islam. Despite that, the Church of Satan is recognized as a valid religion, so they’re protected.

To be perfectly honest, I’d love to see Satanists in Mayfield, along with Jews, Discordians, Mormons, Pastafarians, Liberals, Repubicans, Hippies, Jedi, Hobos, Indians, Ninjas, Pirates, Scotsmen, Vikings, Pagans, Baptists, Punks, Yuppies, Sasquatches, and even Scientologists. The best way for us to move forward and address our real problems--unemployment, the environment, our broken education system, and everything else that’s holding us back--is for people to put aside all the stupid little differences that divide us and work together. In my experience, people who interact with each other day in and day out usually find common ground no matter how wide the cultural divide is between them.

They’re Terrorists Who Want To Destroy Us
As you’ve probably guessed, this was a popular justification and most people who argued this did so by bringing up 9/11. As one commenter said, anyone using this argument is judging nearly 1.6 BILLION followers of a religion based on the acts of 19 criminal extremists. If this is a valid argument, then from now on out we need to assume that all Christians are abortion doctor murdering, homophobic domestic terrorists, all Germans are Nazis, and all people from Mayfield are ignorant bigots. If that’s the way you want to see the world, the Westboro Baptist web site is I’m sure they’ll be glad to have another member to help them protest homosexuality at the funerals of American heroes.

The story of the Mayfield mosque is not over. As soon as the story broke that the permit had been denied, numerous people stepped forward to see what they could do to help. As I type this, people throughout the region looking into ways to appeal the decision or file a court case, organizing protests, and trying to find ways to welcome the Somalis to our region and help them find a place to worship. I hope they’re successful. These people are thousands of miles from home in a completely foreign culture, working shitty jobs in a chicken plant. If practicing their religion makes life more bearable for them, I think they deserve a safe place to pray. The First Amendment, which I’d rate somewhere between ice cream and Lemmy on the awesome scale, should allow them this small comfort, and hopefully it will. If not, we’ve lost one of the ideals that makes America great.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Is the Ground Zero Mosque the GOP's Way of Gaming Google?

We all know that politicians love misdirection. If something comes out that isn't very flattering, the spin machine goes into overdrive to manufacture some kind of controversy or glurgy display of PATRIOTISM! to distract people from what's really going on. The political machine that Turd Blossom put together is especially good at this. On several occasions, though, I've noticed that the GOP regularly gets up in arms about something that is very closely related to the story they're trying to keep buried. I first noticed this kind of correlation during the previous administration when Dubya gave the soldiers in Iraq a big plastic turkey during the same week that his Republican allies in Congress voted to slash benefits for Veterans.

The current pointless battle filling time on cable news and clogging up my Google Reader is the mosque at Ground Zero. The story that's getting buried is the fact that last Thursday the Republicans blocked a bill to provide health care for the Ground Zero emergency workers. It occurred to me that maybe these correspondences between embarrassing and pointless but juicy stories may not be a total accident. With so many people getting their news online these days, maybe damage control includes making sure that Google and other search engines have plenty of nonsense to turn up before the story you want to keep quiet pops up.

To test my theory, I did a couple of Google searches. The first was for "Ground Zero." Here's what I got:

As you can see, every single link turned up has to do with the mosque that those dirty A-Rabs are going to build at Ground Zero, where they will no doubt give out free gay abortions to illegal immigrants thanks to socialist medicine. Well, maybe I wasn't being specific enough. Let's try "Ground Zero Workers:"
This one actually turns up a few stories about the bill that the GOP blocked, but the mosque still shows up. Let's try "Health Care Ground Zero:"

You'd think this would actually be the best search, but the top four are still about the Mosque. The hits that actually seem to relate to the GOP effort to deny health care to 9/11 heroes, only one seems to be to an actual news source.

Replacing "Ground Zero" with "9/11" turns up slightly better results, but not by much. Most of the links have nothing to do with either story. If the GOP are trying to game Google, it seems to be working.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oil Spill Related Dick Moves That You May Not Have Heard About

This article appears in the July 2010 issue of Bazooka Magazine.

If you think that BP, Haliburton, the MMS, and the other key players in the Deepwater oil spill are content with being everyday evil corporations, you’re not paying attention. These guys are vying for, and in some cases attaining, full-fledged super-villain status, which is normally reserved for people who go up against Batman, or at least James Bond.

• You’ve probably heard about the Inspector General’s report blasting the Mineral Management Service (the government agency in charge of regulating oil drilling) for filing false reports, taking gifts from the industry it was regulating, and (as Dave Barry would say, I Am Not Making This Up) having coke and stripper parties with oil industry bigwigs. This report is usually brought up by conservatives who want to attribute the oil spill to the failures of Obama’s big, scary, socialist government. The minor detail they usually leave out is that the report covers the period from 2005 to 2008, when a couple of oilmen ran the executive branch.

• According the the London Telegraph, BP head Tony Hayward dumped about a third of his company shares back in March (just over a month before the Deepwater explosion). All told, that stock is worth at least $650 million dollars less today than it was when Hayward made the sale. While the Telegraph states that “there is no suggestion that he acted improperly or had prior knowledge that the company was to face the biggest setback in its history,” a couple of other items on this list do make the sale sound a tiny bit suspicious.

• Like, for example, the fact that Goldman-Sachs sold off about half of their BP stock between January and March of this year, according to the New York Post. The liquidation began right after Goldman International Chairman Peter Sutherland stepped down from his chairmanship at (drumroll) British Petroleum.

• On April 12 (8 days before the Deepwater explosion), Haliburton--you know, the guys who built the Deepwater rig--bought a company called Boots & Coots. What is Boots & Coots? It’s an “emergency response oil control company.” They clean up oil spills. Obviously, Haliburton only bought the company because it rhymes with “Brown & Root” and the fact that Deepwater exploded a week later was just a fortunate coincidence. It’s not like they had any indication that the disaster was going to happen.

• Except, of course, that there are a lot of indications that BP and their corporate buddies had plenty of warning that this was coming, or at least very likely. According to Mother Jones, BP engineers noted concern that a metal casing used on the well would not hold up under pressure in June of 2009. BP ignored its own safety standards and used the casing anyway. BP also documented numerous problems with the blow out preventer, which should have shut off the well when the disaster happened. On top of that, BP and their BFFs at the MMS knew about issues with cracks in the rock (which can let in natural gas and cause explosions) since at least February--around the time everybody was unloading BP stock.

• If you’re trying to convince yourself that BP just made a bad business gamble by keeping Deepwater in operation, and all the stock market shadiness is just good business, try this on for size: They’re burning endangered sea turtles. Alive! This is on top of all the dead animal carcasses that according to some sources the company is destroying illegally to keep their fines (which are based in part on documented animal corpses) down.

• Not too long after the sea turtle story came out, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard announced that reporters would not be allowed within 65 feet of any boom, booming operation, or spill response team. Anyone who gets too close could face a $40,000 fine and felony charges. This blatant violation of the First Amendment, which Anderson Cooper has recently been vocal about (at least until somebody reminds him that he’s part of the corporate media) makes it hard for reporters to see and photograph or film the all oil-covered baby seals. And yes, I realize that there aren’t any seals in the Gulf of Mexico, but at this point would it really surprise you to find out that BP had some flown a few in just so they could dip them in oil?

In the interest of fairness, I have to point out that to BP’s credit they did order 32 oil centrifuges from Kevin Costner’s company, Oil Therapy Solutions. These devices, which Costner and his brother have spent 15 years and over $20 million worth of Bull Durham money developing, can separate large quantities of oil and water very quickly. There’s very little about this that isn’t awesome: the douchey new-agey company name, the mad scientist-sounding description of the machine, and of course the multitude of Waterworld jokes just waiting to happen. I’ll give BP 50 Awesome Points for this decision, but that doesn’t come close to comparing with their Evil Points total, which I won’t divulge due to fear of a $40K fine and several years in prison.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vocabulary Lesson

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." --Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

A long time ago, people didn't have language. That meant that whenever a saber-toothed tiger or other flesh-eating thing was headed toward the village, the caveman who knew it was coming had to try to communicate the threat to the others through the use of grunting, screaming, and primitive charades. This didn't work out really well, and lots of people got eaten. Then one day some genius realized that if he yelled "Run! There's a big-ass tiger coming to eat our faces!" and the other cavefolk knew what it meant, it reduced the chances that the entire village would be reduced to tiger poop. That's how language began [needs citation].

In order for language to work, words need to have consistent, widely accepted meaning. Otherwise, language is no better than grunting like a caveman. While word meanings can change over time--for example, until recently "teabagging" referred to giving somebody a mouth full of nutsack; now it refers to a political movement--this requires a general consensus of those who speak the language. If you just make up your own meaning for a word and start using it, you'll just sound like an idiot. Which, of course, brings us back to the teabaggers, who have turned the misuse of language into an art form. Whether they are actively trying to change the meanings of these words without consulting the rest of us or are simply ignorant of the words' actual meaning isn't clear. Regardless, there are a number of words that the teabaggers use in ways that don't match up to their commonly accepted definitions. In order to prevent the English language from devolving back into a series of pre-historic grunts, I'm going to give you the actual meanings of some of these words, and how they differ from the teabagger usage.

What They Think It Means: Atheism; Tyranny; Any form of Taxation; The welfare state; Taking money away from white people and giving it to black people.
What It Really Means: Both of these economic systems seek to eliminate economic classes by putting the means of production into the hands of the workers. The main differences between the two is that communism is a political as well as an economic system, distributes more according to need than contribution to society, and tends to vest the decision making power into the hands of a small group of people, usually in the form of a single, self-perpetuating political party. This inevitably leads to the kind of corruption found in the old Soviet Union.

Socialism, on the other hand, is purely an economic system that typically places emphasis on one's contribution to society for purposes of wealth distribution and attempts to keep power in the hands of the people, often by employing democracy as the accompanying political system. While most people view socialism as the antithesis of capitalism, many forms of socialism not only allow but embrace many free market ideals. In such cases, the emphasis is on providing all citizens with equality of opportunity (equal access to things like education, health care, and other basic necessities) rather than equality of outcome (an equal division of resources and political power between all citizens).

What They Think It Means: The same thing as communism and socialism, only with a Hitler mustache, from what I can tell.
What It Really Means: In his book The Anatomy of Fascism, Columbia University's Robert O. Paxton defines fascism as:

"A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

For a more straightforward and in-depth definition of fascism, take a look at this article by Dr. Lawrence Britt based on his study of fascist regimes in Germany, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, and Latin America. I suspect you'll have a "Holy Shit!" moment.

What They Think It Means: Dismantling the government, except for those parts of it that promote the Christian religion, prevent women from making their own reproductive choices, and keep gays from marrying each other (which would, of course, cause your next-door-neighbor to fuck a turtle). Also, according to Rand Paul at least, in a truly libertarian society, the darkies would know their place.
What It Really Means: According to, a libertarian is "One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state." According to most libertarians, that "maximizing individual rights" bit includes allowing people to choose their own religion, determine what reproductive decisions are best for them, marry who ever the fuck the want, and be allowed to use the bathroom in public places regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, or favorite Stooge. While I personally believe that libertarianism takes a naive view of human nature (especially as it applies to corporations) and places the right to one's pursuit of wealth above basic human rights of others, at least real libertarians (like the Kentucky Libertarian Party, who recently distanced themselves from Rand Paul) have a consistent belief system.

Unbiased Journalism
What They Think It Means: The kind of journalism practiced by Fox News: screaming about fascism, drawing elaborate conspiracies on chalk boards, covering astroturf political movements that you're sponsoring, and occasionally boiling a live frog on national TV.
What It Really Means: Presenting all of the facts (and in some cases fact-based opinions) about an issue to the audience and letting them make their own decision.
What It Definitely Doesn't Mean: Giving equal time to both sides of the issue, regardless of the veracity of each side's arguments. This is actually a misunderstanding by lots of Americans (including nearly all of our major news agencies), not just the teabaggers. Don't get me wrong, if each side has valid, factually based arguments regarding an issue, then both sides should be allowed equal opportunity to express those arguments. However, when one side's argument is based on fundamentally flawed facts and wild speculation, it should be discarded. For example, if one side claims that the latest Senate proposal on financial regulation ignores fundamental problems that led to the financial meltdown, and can underpin that opinion with facts and logic, they should be allowed the same opportunity to express that opinion as the side supporting the proposal. If, on the other hand, the side opposing the proposal claims that the bill will allow the New World Order and the Trilateral Commission to send every American's first-born child to Alpha Centauri, where they will become Matt Damon's sex slaves and spend all day re-enacting scenes from Manos, The Hand of Fate for the amusement of Jabba the Hutt and Micky Mouse, they should not be allowed anywhere near a news studio. In fact, they should be encouraged to remain in their homes where their tin foil hats can provide them with optimal protection from Ringo Star's mind control lasers.

While there are plenty of other words and phrases that many American people in general (and teabaggers in particular) frequently misuse--"Clear Skies Initiative," "enemy combatant," and "Must See TV" come to mind--the ones mentioned above are among the most abused in the English language. Before you start spouting these or other words at the political rally, around the office, or in your Facebook status, please take a moment to consider whether they actually mean what you think they mean. If you're not sure, you can always consult that most wondrous of inventions, the dictionary. Since it doesn't have a political agenda, investment portfolio, or upcoming re-election campaign, it's unlikely to lead you astray.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robin Hood: Prince of Teabaggers?

As I sat through Ridley Scott's new Robin Hood movie, I thought the main problem with it was the fact that, except for the characters, it had absolutely nothing to do with the Robin Hood legend. It wasn't a bad medieval war flick, it just wasn't really a Robin Hood movie. Since bad Robin Hood movies are made with alarming frequency, I wasn't too upset. That is, until I realized on the drive home that this one actually subverts the Robin Hood legend into a sort of teabagger fairy tale.

The movie begins with King Richard the Lion-Hearted leading his men (including his trusted adviser Robert Loxley of Nottingham and the archer Robin Longstride) back from the Crusades, sacking castles in France along the way. Richard has his flaws, but is basically a good guy: the kind of king you'd want to have a beer with. When Longstride questions the rightness of Richard's adventurism in the Middle East, he and his men are rightly detained as enemy combatants. They are willing to accept their punishment until King Richard is killed in battle, at which point they escape (presumably due to some sort of Promise Keeper-style vow).

As Robin and his men try to beat all the other soldiers to the coast so they can get a cheap ride home before boat prices explode (as dictated by the invisible hand of the free market), they discover that Loxley and his men, who were returning the crown, have been ambushed. The dying Loxley asks Robin to return his sword to his father, who he didn't part on good terms with. Then, in the creepiest Horatio Alger story ever, the merry men loot the bodies and become nobles, proving that everyone can become members of the privileged class if they're clever and hard-working enough.

Posing as Loxley, Robin returns the crown to the royal family and Barack Obama--I mean Prince John--is crowned king. John states that "Loxley" deserves to be rewarded for returning the crown, but then suddenly remembers that Loxley's father hasn't paid his taxes, and keeps the reward as an initial payment to help fill the coffers of Big Government. Just like a Democrat.

From London, Robin goes to Nottingham to return the sword. Upon arriving, he meets Maid Marion, Loxley's widow, who has been forced to do much of the work of running the manor herself due to downsizing resulting from harsh taxes. Fortunately she, like most wealthy land-owners, is up to the task of harsh manual labor. Robin also meets Loxley's father, Sir Walter, who has a proposition for him. With Robert dead, Loxley's lands will go to the Crown when Sir Walter dies, leaving Marion a pauper. If Robin will pose as Marion's husband, she'll be able to avoid this inheritance tax. Sir Walter also intimates that he knows a secret about Robin's background.

Robin agrees to become Loxley, and as he's getting "re-acquainted" with his lands, he discovers that all the seed grain in the village is about to be sent to York as property of the church, meaning no crops and more starvation. Upon learning from this, Robin and his men engage in the only instance of robbery (other than the previous corpse-looting) in the whole movie: stealing the grain. Do they, as the legends say, give it to the poor? Of course not, in part because the poor are merely background scenery in this film--the focus is the down-trodden, overtaxed corporations--I mean nobles. Besides, the poor would just spend it on crack. Instead, they use the seed to sow Loxley's fields, because that's how trickle-down economics works.

While all this is going on, Sir John's Treasury Secretary Godfrey (who happens to be half-English and half-French, and therefore probably isn't even a native-born Englishman) is fomenting revolution by brutally enforcing John's tax law. Of course, since he's not even really a real American--I mean, Englishman, he's got a secret agenda: by turning the nobles against the King, he'll make it easier for his French allies to invade England.

The nobles, unaware of the French plot, rightly protest the egregious taxation and, with heavy hearts but realizing that the tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of patriots, plan to rise up against the King. It is important to note here that the corporations--I mean nobles--are not part of the government and only have the best interest of the common people at heart. If the wealthy--I mean nobles weren't taxed so heavily, everyone would be better off (the magical unicorn hoof of the free market again).

Meanwhile, Robin Hood discovers that his father was Joe the Plumber (only his name wasn't Joe and he was actually a stonemason), who invented the Magna Carta. When Robin suggests constitutional monarchy and liberty to King John, John rightly assumes that Robin is suggesting a welfare state where all men live in castles. Robin quickly points out that every Englishman's home is his castle, and that those who have not pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps to become wealthy (hereditary) land-owners will be perfectly happy with whatever hovel they end up in, as long as they don't have to pay taxes.

John agrees and we get to see the invasion of Normandy--I mean Dover. After the British win the day and the French, as usual, run away, King John (being a traitorous public servant) goes back on his word, refuses to sign the Magna Carta and (FUCKING FINALLY) declares Robin an outlaw. Robin joins the Michigan Militia and in the final scene we get something that actually resembles a Robin Hood movie.

I'll give them the Boston Tea Party, since the typical public education version (if not reality) actually fits the teabagger agenda. But Robin Hood? Seriously, we can't let them have that one.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Giant Douche Vs. Turd Sandwich: Kentucky's May Primaries

This article appears in the current (May 2010) issue of Bazooka Magazine. I usually wait until the next issue is out to re-post articles, but am making an exception since the primaries will be over by then. I freely admit that there are several "homages" here to the Barefoot and Progressive blog. Check it out for great coverage of Kentucky politics.

On May 18th, a tiny percentage of our state's citizens will actually remember that there's a primary election. A few of them will even vote. Since I like to think that Goat Head Gumbo readers are politically active (we also like to think that Goat Head Gumbo readers are super rich and enjoy giving me money, but so far you have been a huge disappointment), it seemed like a good idea to give you a brief rundown on the upcoming ballot. Since they don't sell booze on election day, you'll probably have some extra time on your hands anyway.

The big race this month is for the position of U.S. Senator. The winner of the November election will fill Jim "Grampa Simpson" Bunning's seat. So no matter who wins, there's an excellent chance that our state will be made fun of on The Daily Show a lot less. While there are several candidates in both the Republican and Democratic primaries, all but four end up in the "other" category on most polls, so we're going to focus on the four guys who actually seem to have some chance of winning.

In the red corner, our first candidate is Rand "Ron Paul's Son" Paul. He enjoys hanging out with overweight old guys in pseudo-miliatary uniforms who want to overthrow the government, hiring campaign staffers who think lynching jokes are HI-larious, and being named after noted libertarian sociopath Ayn Rand. Paul has been endorsed by both Jim Bunning and Sarah Palin, so he should have the wingnut vote in the bag.

Paul's most serious opponent in the Republican primary is Secretary of State Trey Grayson. With the exception of illegally removing 8,000 Kentuckians from the voter registry during his first term, Grayson's only real selling point is that he's an incredibly boring, vanilla Republican. So if you're registered as a member of the GOP, it's ultimately a question of whether you think Paul's crazy will attract more voters than it repels when November rolls around. If you're not sure that nutty will win the day, you might want to go with Grayson and his total lack of personality.

On the Democratic side of things, the two main contenders are Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo and Attorney General Jack Conway. Mongiardo's campaign ads tend to focus on what a manly man he is and how much he enjoys killing things, and this, combined with his right-leaning stances on things like abortion and mountaintop removal might play well with moderate, non-teabagging Republicans and Independents if the November race comes down to Paul vs. Mongiardo. In addition to being as far to the right as most Republicans, Dan Mongiardo's greatest hits include calling his boss (Governor Steve Beshear) the worst governor in Kentucky history, misusing state housing funds, and spending over $30,000 in taxpayer money for trips and meals, including $50 steaks and lots of the creme brulee that his child bride just can't get enough of.

The Mongiardo campaign has leveled several devastating criticisms against the other Democratic front-runner, Jack Conway. For starters, he's one of those big-city "elite" fancy boys who don't own no truck or do no huntin'. If you actually look up the word "elite" in a dictionary, you might get confused and think being one is a good thing, but if you're opening a book you're obviously some kinda Latte-drinkin' Commie. Shoring up the "elite" argument is the fact that Conway graduated from Duke, which means he practically made that jump shot for Laettner back in '92. The other big criticism of Conway is that he had the gall to use a (very) mildly offensive phrase at the Fancy Farm Picnic, which no doubt corrupted young children and gave several womenfolk the vapors. In the "for" category, Conway seems to actually embrace the basic platform of the Democratic party. He also refused to waste Kentucky taxpayer money on the stupid Health Care Reform lawsuit and did a great job of defending his decision on Fox News. Bottom line: If you're a partisan Democrat who wants a party member to win regardless of their platform, Mongiardo might stand a slightly better chance against Rand Paul (if it's Mongiardo vs. Grayson, voter turnout will probably be very low since they're practically the same guy). If, on the other hand, you want to elect a Democrat who might actually act like a Democrat, Jack Conway is probably the way to go.

I was going to include a bit about the local Paducah/McCracken County races, but since I live out in the hinterlands of Ballard County, I haven't really been paying attention. From the signs, it looks like you'll be voting for Jailer and Constable. I tried to do some online research, but every apparent hit sends me to the county and city web sites, which don't say dick about the elections. This leads me to believe that either (a)even those in local government don't give a rat's ass who gets these jobs; or (b) the current administration are trying to keep the race as quiet as possible, which gives the upper hand to the incumbents. I'd recommend voting against the incumbents. It's usually a good idea to do so, and if the current administration indeed supports the current office holders, voting in somebody new reduces the chances of the jail being replaced with a big ass tent.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Review: The Wrecking Crew

For those of you interweb types who still read regular books, I recommend Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew, which does a good job of explaining why conservatives win when government fails. You can read my review at

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Parties: An Accurate Name?

Here in America, we like to imagine that the founders of our nation were heroic idealists unaffected by greed or self-interest. We praise their revolutionary idea that all men are created equal while ignoring the fact that they bought and sold other humans; we conveniently ignore the fact that they made themselves richer through war bond scams; and we boil the Boston Tea Party down to a simple protest against taxation without representation. Since our education system is more interested in producing good little citizens than critical thinkers, the average American rarely learns (or even learns how to learn about) the real story and motivations behind important historical events. So it's not really surprising that tax protesters have chosen to identify themselves with John Hancock, Sam Adams, and the rest of the colonists who pulled off the Boston tea party.

The truth, as always, is a little more complicated than a simple protest against taxation without representation and, like our recent financial crisis, is tied up in the fortunes of a company that was "too big to fail," in this case the British East India Company. Before 1773, the company was not permitted to export tea to the colonies. Instead, it sold the tea to other companies, who exported it to America, where it was a subject to a 3 pence per pound duty according to the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767. The high price of legally-imported tea led to the rise of a class of gentlemen smugglers, including shipping magnate John Hancock, who worked closely with Tea Party organizer Sam Adams (The joke around Boston at the time was "Sam Adams writes the letters [to newspapers] and John Hancock pays the postage").

While it is true that Parliament refused to remove the duties imposed by the Townshend Act primarily because doing so could be construed as ceding its right to tax the colonists, these duties had been around for six years before the Boston Tea Party. The question, then, is "what changed?" The answer, of course, is money: The Tea Act of 1773 permitted the East India Company for the first time to export its product directly to the colonies. Without the middlemen, this allowed the company to sell tea in the colonies much more cheaply, which worked out well for everyone. Except, of course, smugglers like Hancock.

In short, the original Boston Tea Party was the work of men who engaged in dubious business practices convincing their fellow Americans to act against their own financial self-interest in order to protect the profits of the wealthy. You know, on second thought, "Tea Party" seems like a perfect name for the Fox News zombies protesting taxes today, even without the many "balls in the mouth" jokes it provides Jon Stewart.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Anti-Resume

My current job sucks. I get paid about 2/3 the going rate for either of the jobs I do; the only way to get a raise is to give your two weeks' notice and hope they want you to stay; and a lot of the people I work with are either stupid, incompetent, or suffering from a diagnosable mental condition (at least one is all three). Also, I have absolutely no interest in either my current position or the industry I work in. Needless to say, I've been looking for another job, which means I've been updating my resume, which is something I've never particularly enjoyed.

Earlier today, I read an article that mentioned that Sarah Palin makes up to $100,000 for speaking engagements. Since Sarah Palin is a moron with no grasp on any of the subjects she speaks about, or even basic sentence structure, this seemed a bit steep to me. Then I realized that Palin isn't alone: Paris Hilton is regularly paid large sums of money to "act" in movies; Dan Brown has made a fortune as a "writer"; and Fox News employs dozens of "reporters" with the journalistic integrity of Joseph Goebbels.

This made me realize that if I want to make really big money, I need to convince someone to pay me obscene amounts of money to do something I have no training or talent for. To this end, I've decided that I should write an anti-resume, which will list skills I do not have, highlight my incompetence in certain areas, and generally reveal how truly unemployable I can be if I set my mind to it. That way I, like Palin, Paris, and Steve Doocy, can get paid big bucks for doing something I have no business doing. I'm hoping for a career along the lines of Rock Star or Pirate, but am willing to consider any (un)reasonable offer.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Seven Amazing True Facts About Health Care Reform (According to Wingnuts)

There's a staggering amount of misinformation being spread about our nation's recent health care reform act. So much, in fact, that it's hard for people who haven't been paying attention to understand what's really going on. Fortunately for you, dear readers, I have been closely following the debate, and have decided to uses this installment of Goat Head Gumbo to inform you of some important TRUE FACTS about health care reform (according to wingnuts).

Fact Number 1: It's socialism.
This is blatantly obvious. Marx himself said:
"Once the workers have seized the means of production, it behooves them to turn over a portion of their income, as well as income derived from a tiny tax on the highest-earning 2% of the citizenry, to large and corrupt health insurance corporations, preferably after those same corporations have practically destroyed the health care system."
It loses something when translated from the original German, but the point is still valid.

Fact Number 2: It will raise taxes.
This is also true. The only people who will be exempt from the tax increase to pay for this program are the truly destitute. Namely, the 98% of Americans who make less than a quarter of a million dollars a year. Never before has this country seen such a blatant scheme to redistribute wealth.

Fact Number 3: It provides for government-funded abortions.
Oh, it's worse than that, my friends. Not only does the new health care bill provide government funding for abortions, it REQUIRES that all women of child-bearing age have at least one abortion per year. If any woman covered fails to get pregnant, she will be impregnated by members of a government "rape squad" made up of Charlie Sheen, Snoop Dogg, and Ron Jeremy. In a rare nod to efficiency, these men are currently being trained to perform abortions so that they can carry out the impregnation and baby murder in a single visit.

Fact Number 4: It will set up death panels.
Again, it's worse than just a panel that decides whether you live or die. The bill actually sets up death squads. As we all know, Barack Obama is a black man, which means he spent some time in street gangs, and this is nothing more than an attempt to give his old gang buddies cushy government jobs. These gangstas will form the core of Obama's grandma killing death squads, because there's nothing niggaz enjoy more than popping a cap in Whitey's ass.

Fact Number 5: It provides health care to illegal aliens.
Oh, if only it just provided health care to illegal aliens. The Health Care Reform legislation actually includes a clause that will transport people from Mexico to American hospitals for treatment. Once they've recovered, these Mexicans will be offered employment in the U.S. They also get blowjobs and ice cream.

Fact Number 6: It provides Viagra to sex offenders.
On top of that, it will replace the Sex Offender Registry with a website to assist sexual predators in finding new victims. Also, Chris Hansen will be thrown into a pit and repeatedly gang raped by hyper-intelligent cybernetic gorillas.

Fact Number 7: It will clone Hitler.

This is a section of the bill that Democrats have managed to keep especially quiet. It provides funding to allow scientists to clone Hitler from tissue samples kept in Area 51. Once the clone Hitler is perfected, Obama will gay marry him and they will rule the earth for a thousand years.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Movie-Going For Morons

This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Bazooka Magazine.

Since I live too far from the thriving metropolis of Paducah to do any serious drinking and still make it home in one piece, I go to the movies a lot. There’s just not much else to do around here that’s still fun when you’re sober. I usually average around two movies a week, so it’s not unusual for me to encounter people who don’t seem to understand how the movie-going experience is supposed to work. If you’re one of these people, I hope this article helps.

Let’s start with buying tickets. This seems like an easy process, but some people manage to fuck it up. It’s important to decide what you want to see before you get in line. I don’t want to stand around listening to you and Mrs. Dumbass try to figure out whether The Men Who Stare at Goats is a porno, and neither does the person working the ticket booth. You can find out what movies are playing (and even read reviews, cast and crew details, and other useful decision-making information) online, in the newspaper, and even on your phone before you ever get to the theater. If all else fails, or you’re illiterate, there are a bunch of big posters with pretty pictures hanging on the outside of the building that you can look at before getting in line. And speaking of lines, if you and your little throng of adolescent obnoxiousness are more than 3 feet from the end of the line, you’re not in line. Don’t start quoting Dane Cook to me when I get in line in front of you.

Okay, you’ve got your ticket. Now it’s time to go to the concession stand. If you’ve ever been to the movies before, you already know what’s available there. They’ve had the same shit since Dillinger’s days at the Biograph. If this is your first time seein’ the movin’ pitchers, it’s still not too hard—popcorn, hotdogs, nachos, and candy. They’ve even got the containers up on top of the popcorn machines so you can see the sizes. Seriously folks, this ain’t Spago’s. Get your popcorn and get the fuck out of my way. And don’t complain or make jokes about the price of the snacks. The prices are high because that’s how the theater makes money, and everybody knows the prices are high. Your complaints won’t change anything and the poor bastards behind the counter hear the same jokes hundreds of times a day. If you can’t afford $10-$20 for popcorn and drinks, maybe you should be looking for a better job instead of wasting your time at the movies.

Once you’ve got your munchies, you’ll need to find a seat. Again, this is not rocket science. The way today’s theaters are built, there are really only a few bad seats (usually the first couple of rows). Find an empty seat and sit down. When you’re doing this, be aware that personal space preferences increase as the number of people in the theater decreases. If the house is pretty empty, give the other people a little space. I’ve already got plenty of friends and I’m not taking applications for new ones. Also, the farther away you are the less likely you are to annoy me. The only exception is if you’re Patricia Arquette and you’re there to fuck me so hard I kill Gary Oldman, steal a suitcase full of blow, and run away to California with you. I’d give up an eye for that shit.

When the movie starts, that’s your cue to stop talking. You’re not in the trailer anymore, so you need to be considerate of other people. I came here to ogle Amanda Seyfried, watch Jason Statham beat the hell out of a bunch of people, or be deeply disappointed by Roland Emmerich, not to hear about Aunt Earline’s foot operation. And if you’re talking because your wife can’t follow the plot of Last House on the Left and you’ve got to explain it to her, maybe fine cinema isn’t for you. I’m sure there’s an episode of John and Kate Plus Eight More Rat’s Asses Than I Give that you could be watching instead. The only time it’s permissible to talk during a film is if you’re of African-American decent and you’re talking to the characters on screen during a horror movie.

Eventually, the movie will end (even Transformers 2). DO NOT APPLAUD. The people who made the movie aren’t here, so it’s really kind of pointless. I’m sure Bruce Willis appreciates your support, but he isn’t watching you via hidden camera. Before you leave, grab all those (now empty) food and drink containers and throw them in the trashcan on your way out. The people who have to clean up after the show will appreciate it.

That’s about all the time we have this month. Look for future installments of the For Morons series, including “Turn Signals and You: A Moron’s Guide to Driving” and “ATM Machines: Convenient Technology or Satan’s Plaything?”

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Books I Read in 2009 (Most with some kind of review)

  1. Almost History by Roger Bruns
    Collection of primary source stuff about things that almost happened, were supposed to happen but didn't, etc. Includes the speech JFK was supposed to make in Dallas, FBI memos about trying to deport John Lennon, and memos about the various plots to kill Castro, just to name a few. My only real complaint is that in a lot of cases the explanation is longer than the actual thing it's introducing. In some cases, this makes sense, but in others it would have been nice to see, for example, a complete exchange of information rather than a single letter/telegram/memo/whatever.
  2. I'm A Lebowski, You're A Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You by Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell, & Scot Shuffitt
    This book was written (without blessing or curse from the Coens) by the guys who started Lebowski Fest. The heart of this book are the interviews with most of the cast (from The Dude himself to the Ralph's check-out girl) and the people The Dude and Walter (and some storylines from the movie) were based on--including the real life Larry Sellers. The book also has lots of trivia, a glossary, a few pages on Dudism, Lebowski Fest info, and a lot of stuff that I would make fun of if the book were about Dr. Who or something. But it's about the Big Lebowski, so most of it's ok (though a couple of the fan interviews are a bit much--I can see the interest in knowing what Patton Oswald or Tony Hawk thinks about the movie, but "the guy who built the Dudism website" is a litle too fannish for my tastes). If you're a fan of the movie, probaby worth a read.
  3. The Stupidest Angel, Christopher Moore
    It's Christmas, and a stupid angel comes to town to grant a child a Christmas wish. It goes badly, but in a very funny way.
  4. Redneck Words of Wisdom, Collected by Jamie Muehlhausen
    Some mildly amusing, some not redneck. I paid $1 for this book and feel a little ripped off.
  5. Swine Not?, Jimmy Buffett
    A story about a pig who lives in a fancy New York City hotel. Entertaining, but aimed at a younger audience, I think.
  6. World War Z, Max Brooks
    Very good zombie book.
  7. 'Scuse Me While I Whip This Out: Reflections on Country Singers, Presidents, and Other Troublemakers, Kinky Friedman
    Kinky muses about people he knows, people he thinks he knows, and probably a few people he forgot he knew. Quite entertaining.
  8. Buffy The Vampire Slayer RPG Core Rulebook by C.J. Carella
    Now I see why George Vasilamynamesoundslikeamadscientist felt threatened by my Buffy word document. This game is not terribly good (it's not awful either, but there's not a lot to recommend it). I figured it would at least have pretty pictures, but a lot of them are grainy. The game itself is completely mediocre, and the writer seems to believe the entire point of the show is witty dialog (which s/he tries (and fails--it sounds like Danny Tanner trying to be hip) to reproduce). Note to Hex creative department: If M. Alexander Jurkat ever applies for an editing job, politely send him away. Apparently he's behind the awful editing of this book, which at times makes early White Wolf editors seem nitpicky.
  9. Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener
    Tesla built a robot and now it runs a paranormal investigation agency and occasionally fights Nazi brains in domed robots, mobile pyramids, Jack Parsons, the ghost of Rasputin--the usual. Really no way for this not to be great.
  10. The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney
    Pretty much what it sounds like.
  11. The Damned by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
  12. The Damned: Prodigal Sons by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
    That Cullen Bunn--he's no Robert Kirman or anything, but still great stuff.
  13. Monster Spotters Guide to North America by Scott Francis
    M-Force 2E Research
  14. The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Les McClaine, and a few others
    The Middleman and his art school chick apprentice work for an agency so secret even they don't know what it's called. The first story is about a superintelligent monkey gangster. They also go up against luchadores, ninjas, giant mutant sharks, and big ass robots. No way to go wrong with that kind of material.
  15. Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead by Jonathan Maberry.
    Neat concept, but too much cop/gun/military fetishism for my tastes.
  16. The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
    Great concept, but possibly executed too well--a lot of it reads like a survival guide.
  17. Dave Barry's History of the Millennium by Dave Barry
    Collection of Dave's year-end reports, with a "Millennium End report" for 1000-1999 added.
  18. Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (movie novelization) by Richie Tankersley Cusick
    Pretty straightforward adaptation of the movie, written at about a 5th grade level.
  19. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
    Great Gaiman short story collection. The creepy-ass Snow White retelling is probably my favorite, but there are a few other contenders.
  20. Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip-Mining of American Culture, Edited by Katharine Washburn and John Thornton
    Most of the essays aren't so much about the good kind of elitism as they are about snootiness and conservativism.
  21. Muzzled: For T-Ball to Terrorism-True Stories That Should be Fiction by Micahel A. Smerconish. Review at Epinions:
  22. Invincible Volume 2: Eight Is Enough by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, and Ryan Otley. Review at
  23. Heaven, LLC by Wayne Chinsang and Dave Crosland. Review at
  24. Global Frequency Volume 2: Detonation Radio by Warren Ellis, Simon Bisley, Chris Sprouse, Lee Bermejo, Tomm Coker, Jason Pearson, Gena Ha, and David Baron. Review at Epinions:
  25. The Pro by Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner. Reviewed at Epinions:
  26. Bluntman & Chronic by “Banky Edwards and Holden McNeil” Review at epinions:
  27. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen T. Colbert. Reviewed at Epinions:
  28. Cyberpunk: Hackers and Outlaws on The Computer Fringe by Katie Hafner and John Markoff. Review at Epinions:
  29. Monster by A. Lee Martinez. Review at Epinions:
  30. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. Review at epinions:
  31. Three Days to Never, Tim Powers
    Einstein's great-great-grandson and his daughter get caught up in a race between the Mossad and a group of bad guys who are trying to get a time machine put together by Einstein and Charlie Chaplin. Neat time travel story and better characterization than some Powers novels.
  32. Spook Country, William Gibson
    Neuromancer took me several attempts to get into enough to finish, but when I did I loved it. This was the opposite. It starts of really strong and then just kind of runs out of steam. The ending is anti-climactic and too ambiguous to be interesting (and remember, I usually like ambiguity).
  33. More Information Than You Require, John Hodgman
    Follow up to The Areas of My Expertise. Lots of completely made up information on a number of subjects including the perks of being a minor celebrity, which presidents had hooks for hands, and lots of information about Mole-Men (who may in fact be the new Hobos). Very funny stuff.
  34. Death’s Daughter, Amber Benson Reviewed at Epinions:
  35. El Zombo Fantasma by Dave Wilkins and Kevin Munroe
    Story about a luchadore who returns from the grave to protect a young girl who's the incarnation of an ancient Aztec goddess. Not bad. Artwork is very pretty but not particularly good at storytelling.
  36. The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. Reviewed at
  37. Dave Barry Is Not Taking This Sitting Down--Dave Barry
  38. Bible Stories for Adults--James Morrow
  39. The Werewolf's Guide to Life--Ritch Duncan and Bob Powers
  40. The Wordy Shipmates--Sarah Vowell
  41. The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell
  42. Merlin, Norma Lorre Goodrich
  43. Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell