Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"Is Everything Excellent?"

By Cassandra D

Bah humbug! That little phrase, "Is everything excellent?", usually uttered by waitstaff bearing smiles that dare you to say otherwise, is enough to raise my hackles and ruin a good dinner.

What is it with restaurants these days? Are their employees suffering from such low self-esteem that management wants them to get nice affirmations all day? "Uh...sure." In our (superficially, anyway) polite society, it takes a lot of guts to make waves and say, "No. Everything is pretty good, but not excellent."

Do restauranteurs really believe that if they get us to agree that "everything is excellent" we will actually believe it to be true? Are they just tired of getting honest answers to, "How is everything?"

I find the "Is everything excellent?" question so annoying that I don't go to restaurants that ask it. They make rude people out of those who don't cheerfully agree with them, and I don't want to go anywhere that tries to coerce compliments from me.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Summertime Blues

By Conrad Spencer

There may not be a better book to read during the lazy summer months, or to write about on the heels of a three-day weekend, than the definitive work on lying about in America. To think that all this time I've thought I was the only one caught between the enticing myth of free time and that quintessential American guilt over lost productivity.

For as long as I can remember, I've held two conflicting ideals for my life --success, recognition, accomplishment on the one hand and a pseudo-bohemian existence on the other, eschewing the material and spending my time in a utopia of friends, books, music and wine. I've never consciously decided on one over the other, or resolved the differences between the two.

Though I can't say I've reached great pinnacles of accomplishment or recognition, my life has definitely tracked closer to worldly success (or maybe worldly mediocrity) than to the Birkenstocks and acoustic guitars. It seems like it should be possible to find some middle ground, a compromise with a solid job, a good paycheck and copious amounts of free time. That compromise has eluded me.

For whatever reason -- the lengthening of the daylight hours, maybe, or a recent birthday -- I've found my mind circling the concept of time, or more specifically, my time and how I choose to spend it.

I have a child and a spouse; I commute to work; I cook meals; I try to exercise fairly regularly and get a healthy (if unAmerican) seven to eight hours of sleep a night. On weeknights, this schedule generally leaves me free time starting at 9 or 9:30 p.m., with an hour or two left in the day, but I'm too exhausted by then for the time to be of much consequence. Weekends, you'd think, would be better, but I frequently find weekends consumed by errands, grocery shopping, housecleaning, and lawn and auto care.

All I'd really like to do, by the way, is spend a quiet afternoon reading a book. Or doing some non-blog creative writing. Or listen to a CD from start to finish in one sitting. Or play a game of Monopoly (or something less careerist) with my family.

I watch very little TV. I don't want to cut out the exercise because I see it as an investment that will yield more time by way of a longer life and increased energy. I see the same benefits in sleep. Besides, I used to only sleep five or six hours a night but I don't think I got any more done.

My weekends have taught me that Stuff takes up an enormous amount of time. Houses and lawns take up time. Cars take up time. Moving stuff around so you can vacuum takes up time. I've pared my stuff down to what I consider basic, and I'm always re-evaluating. Problems arise, however, when I try to similarly pare down my wife's or my son's Stuff.

Then there's the commute, the 80-mile round-trip drive that sucks about an hour and a half out of my day. This is the hardest fix requiring major change --in resident, or employment, or both. One of these will happen eventually, but isn't in the cards, for several reasons, in the immediate future.

All this to say I'm stumped for any solution short of quitting my job and taking up subsistence farming. Though the insights are profound, the practical applications of Walden are elusive.

It's common to hear people wonder "where does the time go?" or lament the hectic schedules of modern America. It's typically idle chit-chat, as meaningless as a conversation about the weather, but few decisions say so much about us as individuals and as a culture. We can't do anything about the weather, but, even if it doesn't seem like it, I pretty sure we made the choices that scheduled away our free time.

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Baghdad ER"

By Cassandra D

If you have HBO and haven't yet seen "Baghdad ER," it's on again tonight. It should be a Memorial Day obligation for every adult in this country to see it.

Whether you support or oppose the war this HBO documentary provides an important and eye-opening look at the harsh reality of injury and death in Iraq. It is horrifying, as all wars are, and brings home to me, anyway, the idea that wars have extremely high stakes and should not be undertaken without good reason and planning. We all owe it to our service men and women to try to understand what they face every day, especially as we look forward to this three-day weekend. It is too easy for us to go about our lives and forget that they are over there, in harm's way.

Friday Random 10

Give the gift of music. Or don't. It's not really any of my business.

Oh, and before I forget, you might want to check out this amusing Slate article on politicians and the political implications of what's on their iPods.

1. Tom Jones, "What's New, Pussycat?"
2. The Clash, "The Magnificent Seven"
3. The Ass Ponys, "And She Drowned"
4. Bongwater, "The Bad Review"
5. The Beatles, "Blackbird"
6. The Fruit Bats, "When U Love Somebody"
7. The Cure, "Why Can't I Be You?"
8. Kings of Leon, "Wasted Time"
9. The Starlight Mints, "Pumpkin"
10.Wilco, "Misunderstood"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Book's Been Done Throwed

We can only hope that these two wind up as cellmates with big, burly Enron retirees who believe their squandered pensions might be retrieved deep in the anuses of ...

See yah. Wouldn't want to be yah.

Sex Tape Derby, Round 54

Welcome back, my friends, to the derby that never ends. We're so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside.

OK, now that I got that damn song out of my head, let's get to the particulars. Let's assume for a minute that you have a libido and a voyeuristic streak to go with it. Of the following celebrities, whom would you rather see let their love flow? Think long and hard on this, STDers, the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.

Christ. I need to switch to decaf.

Anyway, post your selections in the comments section below.

Radha Mitchell or ...

Angie Harmon?

Country star Dierks Bentley or ...

Keith Urban?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sweeps, God and Governance

By Daniel Gale-Grogen

The suits at KFOR, Oklahoma City's NBC affiliate, could be a little more subtle about their deeply entrenched devotion to consultants. While it cannot be proved without the compliance of a mole in either the station's promotions or news departments, a consultant clearly informed the station that its road to dominance in Nielsen "sweeps" periods was a, shall we say, divine path.

But this pandering to viewers' soft spots finds its equal in those who are planning legislation, referenda and talking points for the run-up to the November mid-term elections. The mobilization of National Guard troops along the Mexican border? It's really no different from having Madonna walk on for some slap-happy hijinks on "Will & Grace."

For those without a passing knowledge of sweeps, it is the period when the television industry and A.C. Nielsen measure viewership and thereby determine advertising rates for individual programs. What has evolved from this focus on February, May, July and November is an unhealthy reliance on stunts, which means wacky guest-stars on sit-coms, awkward made-for-television movies about the bird flu, and local television news ratcheting up its shrillness.

This often takes the form of "fill-in-the-blank can kill you" stories on everyday consumer goods like lipstick or bottled water, or involves dropping a car into a lake, a ravine, a vat of meat by-products or straight into the ground to illustrate what happens "when seconds count." It can involve the dating habits of local radio personalities or the terror that awaits your children outside your heavily fortified front door. But this month at KFOR, the abiding concern has been with all things God.

When one subject becomes polyglot, it becomes obvious that a consultant is turning the knobs. "You know what people in Oklahoma City love? No, not Tex-Mex food and gated communities -- they love God and God accessories. You get on the right side of God, and the ratings shall be bountiful, verily I say unto you!"

But instead of serious stories on religion, KFOR indulged in Godsploitation during the nearly-completed sweeps. The 10 p.m. Monday edition concentrated on "Holy Spirits" -- sightings of heavenly orbs or Casper or Slimer or some such nonsense in some photos taken in a Texas church. But that was only one in a series of super-special God stories. The station ran stories on "Religiously Transmitted Diseases" (the subject of a local pastor's book on misconceptions among the faithful), "Dying for God" (a package on a Cushing, Oklahoma, congregation that does not believe in basic medication, and that God heals everything), "House of God" (church services taking place in private homes), the self-explanatory "Angels on Tape," and "Rebels With a Cross," a story about skate-punks for Jesus.

This has been an ongoing theme during KFOR sweeps for some time, but never has it reached the intensity and frequency that the May "Jesus Sweeps" achieved. Then, as soon as the ratings period ends, so does the Godsploitation. KFOR gets what it wants from the Christians, and then it's back to house fires and the 4-Warn Storm Tracker.

The bizarre part comes when government begins acting like a local news team stunting for ratings. In the coming months, we'll see congressional votes, ballot initiatives or just a rhetoric free-for-all on a gay marriage ban amendment, tax cuts, flag burning and limits on stem-cell research, along with the current bugaboo on everyone's minds, immigration.

But while television ratings stunts amount mainly to cheap thrills, election sweeps stunts tend to fray our political fabric. Cynical political gamesmanship turns real-life problems and issues into talking points, and the discourse invariably gets dumbed down into the kind of parlor game, in which the powers that be try to confuse the electorate sufficiently that they'll just throw up their hands and vote for the incumbent, or the latest "American Idol" winner or something. As Iggy Pop once sang, "Well that's like hypnotizing chickens."

Reuters quotes White House spokesperson Maria Tamburri as saying that President George W. Bush assured Mexico President Vicente Fox that "the United States considers Mexico a friend and that what is being considered is not militarization of the border, but support of border patrol capabilities on a temporary basis by National Guard personnel."

Temporary? You bet. Just like a full month of "Desperate Housewives" without reruns or KFOR's love of "Jesus On a Tortilla" stories, once the election/sweeps period is over, it's back to business as usual. But as long as it guarantees high ratings/turnout of the political base, well then, "mission accomplished."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

American Idolatry

Any "American Idol" fans out there? There must be a hell of a lot of you bastards, at least judging by the ratings. Hell, in the pantheon of important cultural phenomenons, Entertainment Weekly has practically deified the program.

At any rate, my hometown newspaper is compiling comments on who you think will win the big showdown. Check it out here, and vote, for Christ's sake. It's your civic duty, after all.

So who will it be? Taylor or Ms. McPhee?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Oil Vey!

Today I am turning over the podium to one of our more conservative hangers-on here at CTTC, the curmudgeon formerly known as Red Dirt. It's a topic near and dear to his blackened heart, and one that really warrants attention. So without further adieu ...

By Red Dirt

“Peak oil” – the term has a vaguely secretive, inside-baseball ring to it. But chances are if you haven’t heard about “peak oil,” you’re going to hear a lot more about it in coming months.

I’ve been bugging my friends on the right, left and in between about “peak oil” since the day I walked into a Barnes & Noble in 2004 and saw a copy of “Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil” on display. I thumbed through its 128 pages, then plopped down on one of those overstuffed chairs scattered throughout the store and read through it in one sitting.

When I was finished, I felt queasy because of the implications of what I’d read. Since then, I’ve had an off-and-on obsession with this theory. And that obsession grew recently when gasoline crept up, up, up.

Here’s the lowdown: Peak oil refers to the peak of world oil supply. There’s only so much of the stuff in the ground. Eventually we will hit a peak of oil production, after which we face an inevitable decline until the last drop is pumped from the last well.

Peak oil theorists -- among them reputable physicists, geologists and oil industry gurus -- imagine a cresting wave of oil production that began about a century ago. As the spigot of oil flows, production levels rise until we hit the peak. Some theorists suggest we’ve already hit the peak. Others say it’s a few years hence. Others argue decades away.

So what? That means once we hit the peak we have another 100 years or so of oil, right? Big deal.


Because in the run up to the peak, we’ve essentially “petro-formed” our First World economy.

Everything now runs on oil. You and I essentially eat oil, since agriculture has come to rely on oil-powered machinery and fertilizers (produced with natural gas) and chemical pesticides for "Green Revolution" yields of grain, veggies and grain-fed animals that we buy in grocery stores. If you eat organic food and congratulate yourself on your P.C. prudence, you’re probably eating oil, too, since it was shipped from across oceans and continents in refrigerated boats and trucks.

Most of your clothing, your car, airplanes, trains, industrial products for home construction, electricity, air-conditioning, everything plastic -- you name it; it’s either a direct petrol-product, created by petrol-chemicals, powered by an oil derivative, or a byproduct of petrol-processing.

That means that as we hit the peak of production, demand has increased exponentially -- not merely a trickle of use like a century ago, but a massive river of demand across the planet. Other nations, such as China and India, now make increasing demands for oil supply as they engage in petro-forming their own economies. Thus the slim “margin of error” we’ve been hearing about the past several weeks for global oil supply.

Peak oil theorists argue that the downward slope of the peak is much more rapid than the climb upwards. Not 100 years, but a matter of decades.

And under that scenario, the intervening decades between the peak (which one scientist suggests has already happened) and zero oil are lean, hungry and mean times.

No margin for error in supply means prices for black gold skyrocket. With only a few million barrels of oil to spare as a supply cushion, any world event can create tremendous price spikes. We've all groused at $3 a gallon. Imagine $4 a gallon this summer, as recently predicted by T. Boone Pickens. What about $6 a gallon?

This is no time to smirk about those driving around in tank-like SUVs. Because the price of everything -- electric and gas utilities, the grocery bill, clothes, a trip to the dry-cleaners, your daily commute -- rises through the stratosphere when oil spikes. If peak oil theorists are correct, even as prices soar, supply will continue to dwindle until nothing's left. Before the last drop of oil is drilled, however, the apparatus for producing oil will have already ground to a halt. And modern civilization will cease to hum along.

Those who disagree with “peak oil” pessimism do not dispute that we'll run out of oil. They argue instead that we can grow our way out this scenario. And they point to the fact that oil has risen exponentially in price since the 1980s -- no “peak” effect has occurred, no constraints on America’s go-go economy. We’re still cruising along.

They have a point.

But if peak oil is a reality, and if we are beginning the rapid descent toward the end of oil, we could actually accelerate the slide by trying to wean ourselves from the stuff. It takes far more energy to produce “a joule” of food in North America than the energy you actually get from the food.

Why is that important? Because it means you must burn up a lot of oil in tilling the land, creating chemical pesticides and fertilizing the crops for “clean” biofuels from corn or other grains that are touted as the next big thing. More energy may actually go into creating the “biofuel” than you actually get out driving a car on fuel that smells like popcorn.

You also burn up a lot of oil if you try to retrofit the economy with new rail lines or hybrid cars, or in manufacturing more solar PV panels (made from silicon, usually created through chemical reactions in industrial furnaces) or colossal wind turbines for “renewable” energy.

Perhaps you burn up so much of the available supply that the world actually runs out of oil before reaching the finish line in the race to move beyond the petroleum age.

At that point, peak oil theorists contend, the slide becomes a steep fall from a cliff.

Of course, there are plenty who argue peak oil is yet another scare scenario in a long line of apocalyptic nonsense. They may be right.

Lots of reasons for the increasing cost of gasoline have been floated. First, it’s Katrina, then tensions with Iran, then new requirements for gasoline mixtures. But no one disputes that supply is incredibly tight, and will grow only more so within the next half dozen years. And few argue that oil is an infinite resource.

And what if the continual run up in prices over the past year comes from an underlying reality of peak oil? Optimists suggest technology will save us, allowing us to transition to a different energy source. I’m hopeful enough to agree.

But I’m also hedging my bets. There are things you and I should be doing this very moment, even if we’re simply witnessing a temporary "super spike" in global oil prices, as some market analysts suggest.

Meanwhile, our political leaders of all stripes have already devolved into demagoguery over gas prices. Don’t look for national leadership from either political party that will be much help during a crisis. If peak oil is real, then you’re on your own.

So as feeble as it sounds, I’m learning how to grow vegetables in my backyard. I started last year, and expanded the effort this year. That’s step number one.

Look, I’m not expecting to feed my family with the meager strawberries or skimpy broccoli heads sprouting in my raised bed. But I am learning a skill that my Depression-era forebears took for granted. And I don’t feel as helplessly strapped down to the wheel of oil’s fortune.

Other steps? How about “de-consumerizing” your life and getting in touch with the local economy? How about “de-teching” your life as much as possible?

My friends like to joke that I’m a neo-Luddite, but I like my iPod as much as the next GenX music zombie. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt my health to mow my lawn with an old-fashioned push-reel mower -- and my grass likes it, too. I’ll never have to fill up a gas can for my lawnmower again. I can mow in my flip-flops. And I’m spewing absolutely zero pollution into the atmosphere.

One thing my lefty friends and I can agree upon: President Bush had a chance to unite the nation right after 9/11 under the banner of energy independence. This was part of the war effort that could have engaged all Americans. That didn’t happen -- but is that any reason to bemoan our “addiction to oil” and do nothing?

If peak oil proponents are wrong, and next week an MIT whiz-kid invents a pocket-sized cold fusion reactor, I’ll be the first to purchase a fusion-powered Hummer.

But events feel twitchy on the global stage right now, don’t they?

There are things you can do. Right now, in your own backyard, for starters.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Random 10

Oops. Kinda late on this ...

1. Spiritualized, "Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space"
2. Duke Ellington & Charles Mingus, "Backward Country Boy Blues"
3. Nirvana, "All Apologies"
4. Love Tractor, "Themes from Venus"
5. Ethel Waters, "I Got Rhythm"
6. Carole King, "You've Got a Friend"
7. Neil Young, "Cinnamon Girl"
8. Hole, "Doll Parts"
9. Ween, "Birthday Boy"
10. Koufax, "So Long Good Times"

Home State Pride!

By Cassandra D

Hey, fellow Oklahomans! Take a look at this map!
For once we look ejukated.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What Me Worry?

By Larry Mondello

I am so glad the Constitution allows me to say this.....

What a fucking goof!

Sex Tape Derby, Round 53

Welcome to another edition of Sex Tape Derby. Put on those smut-addled thinking caps, boys and girls, and ponder the following Zen koans -- well, that is if koans were not mystical paradoxes that opened the soul to spiritual revelation but instead focused on who you'd rather watch getting their freak on in a homemade videotape or DVD.

Post your selections in the comments section below.

Poor maligned Jack Abramoff ...

Or poor maligned Lewis "Scooter" Libby?

Heather Locklear ...

Or "Scrubs'" Sarah Chalke?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


First Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes co-produced Suri.

Now Isaac Hayes and wife welcome newborn Nana Kwadjo Hayes.

The Church of Scientology is in an accelerated state of procreation. I smell a conspiracy.

What Happened to Chase?

By Cassandra D

For those of you who are wondering why Chase hasn't posted in a while, let me, er...cut to the chase.

It is my solemn duty to inform everyone that a few nights ago Chase was whisked away in the dead of night in a dark sedan by men wearing earpieces and navy blue suits. We think he was sent to Gitmo or to one of the CIA's black sites. Our only clue: in his draft of tomorrow's Sex Tape Derby were photos of the Bush twins.


Chase wanted me to send his apologies for being absent. He's had a rough week but hopes last night was the worst of it. It seems that last night he and Mrs. Chase were up with little Apple Rosebud, cleaning up puke and, uh, poopy in the baby's first ever illness. He tells me that she is much better today but it was a rough night. Apparently watching a five-month-old throw up is rather alarming, kind of like watching a smelly liquid flamethrower in action, with the added worry that the kid might choke.

Chase'll be back for STD tomorrow, without the Bush twins.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Spying on the Press

By Cassandra D

There is a chilling report on our loss of freedom of the press in ABC News' "The Blotter:"

"A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources."

I'm sure that plenty of administration supporters would argue that leaks need to be dried up even if it costs us press freedom, but it seems to me that in this era in which our government lies to the organizations that are to provide oversight and repeatedly breaks the law, we need whistleblowers and investigative reporters more than ever. They are the last defenders of our most cherished values and liberties.

I don't want to live in a police state, but more and more it looks like that's what we've got.

(via AMERICAblog)


Here are a few of the comments on the ABC story at their site:

"Good! I hope they do find out who is leaking national security info to the press. I'm tired of the press helping our enemies. Maybe you guys should start trying to "FOR the USA" instead of "AGAINST the USA" ALL THE TIME. I hope the FBI nails lots of idiots who are out to destroy the intelligence agencies and cost us more soldiers and spys! "

" 'Bout time you guys are roped in."

"Excellent the Media needs looking after, Traitors most of them..."

This is why our country is in trouble. Do you think that ABC thinks that is how all of America feels? Will they bother to cover the story on their main news? Feel free to leave your opinion at The Blotter.


Just in case people are flipping rapidly through the posts I changed the title of this one.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Snowed Under-Snow Job-Oh Snow Ya Don't!, etc.

By Larry Mondello

For someone who seems so intelligent, articulate and politically savvy, Tony Snow's brief tenure as Bush press secretary can be defined as "so far, so stupid."
He hasn't even had his first full-blown on-camera briefing and he's already boneheading it.

He's spent much of his time ranting and raving about what he considers "unfair" coverage by AP, the Washington Post, CBS News, etc. Ya know, all the left-wing, mainstream media.

Whether you agree or disagree, for Snow to start off his tenure in such a combative way is quite dangerous, when you are taking on the guys who own the ink! Of course, you challenge them to be fair and accurate, but you don't just launch grenades before you've even received your business cards. He might have some valid points, but you take those up individually and not just expect them to spit back Bush talking points in their stories. This ain't Fox News, pal.

It will only hurt him and create situations like today's first Snow gaggle with the WH Press Corps.

One more thing, here's an interesting blog read from CBS reporter Jim Axelrod on this issue.

Tortuous Logic of Tort Reform: Spin, Baby, Spin

In the ever-shrill debate over tort reform, particularly as it relates to the world of medical malpractice, I would never be so presumptuous as to claim litigious America is free of frivolous lawsuits. But before Republicans continue to paint trial attorneys as only slightly less evil than Islamist terrorists, child molesters and aluminum-siding salesmen, it is worth noting a recent Harvard University study on the matter.

Researchers concluded:

"One popular justification for tort reform is the claim that 'frivolous' medical malpractice lawsuits ... enrich plaintiffs’ attorneys and drive up health care costs. A new study by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital challenges the view that frivolous litigation is rampant and expensive (emphasis added).

"The researchers analyzed past malpractice claims to judge the volume of meritless lawsuits and determine their outcomes. Their findings suggest that portraits of a malpractice system riddled with frivolous lawsuits are overblown. Although nearly one third of claims lacked clear-cut evidence of medical error, most of these suits did not receive compensation. In fact, the number of meritorious claims that did not get paid was actually larger than the group of meritless claims that were paid."

In fact, researchers determined that the vast majority of malpractice claims involve medical error or serious injury, and that claims with merit were far more likely to be paid than claims without merit.

Nevertheless, the spin from the news media was a bit different than how the researchers interpreted the data. Check out these headlines: "Four Out of 10 Malpractice Cases Are Groundless" (from AP) or "Study Casts Doubt on Some MD Tort Suits" (from UPI).

Why should the news media attempt to fully examine tort reform, after all, when it is a given that attorneys are evil swine? What journalists, doctors and too many Republicans refuse to recognize are the implications of the chief sticking point in tort reform, that being a cap on noneconomic damages. Under that scenario, only the wealthier Americans would have a real shot at judicial redress. All men might be created equal, but apparently it is impossible that they would suffer equally.

Friday Random 10

Not to disparage a poor defenseless iPod random shuffle, but the coincidence of Smash Mouth following Smashing Pumpkins strikes me as ... well ... a little less than random

1. B.B. King, "The Thrill Is Gone"
2. Smashing Pumpkins, "Today"
3. Smash Mouth, "Can't Get Enough of You Baby"
4. Dwight Yoakam, "The Last Time"
5. Chuck Berry, "Back in the U.S.A."
6. The Call, "Everywhere I Go"
7. Liz Phair, "Divorce Song"
8. The Pixies, "Cactus"
9. The Meat Puppets, "Comin' Down"
10. The Doors, "L.A. Woman"

Thursday, May 11, 2006

"The Government Can Take Pictures In My Bedroom..."

By Cassandra D

"...because all I will be doing is sleeping, or having heterosexual sex. Why are liberals afraid our own government? What are they hiding? Don't they want to find al-Qaeda? It's 'Constitution this' and 'Constitution that.' Pansy traitors."

Can't you just hear Rush's Dittoheads?

Give That Man an Award!

By Cassandra D

I hereby propose the creation of the "Sons of Liberty Award," and I humbly suggest that the first recipient be former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio. From USA Today's article detailing the warrantless collection of call records from millions of Americans:

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers' information and how that information might be used.


Trying to put pressure on Qwest, NSA representatives pointedly told Qwest that it was the lone holdout among the big telecommunications companies. It also tried appealing to Qwest's patriotic side: In one meeting, an NSA representative suggested that Qwest's refusal to contribute to the database could compromise national security, one person recalled.

In addition, the agency suggested that Qwest's foot-dragging might affect its ability to get future classified work with the government. Like other big telecommunications companies, Qwest already had classified contracts and hoped to get more.

Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. "They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them," one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general's office. A second person confirmed this version of events.

And I stand by my nomination even though the article goes on to say this about my newest hero:

In June 2002, Nacchio resigned amid allegations that he had misled investors about Qwest's financial health.

Oh well. Can't be perfect, right?

I figure the Sons of Liberty Award is very appropriately named, as its recipients will surely be S.O.L. when it comes to dealing with the Bush Administration.

Sex Tape Derby, Round 52

Welcome to another edition of Sex Tape Derby, the game show that stands up for the rights of the little guy -- or the little voyeur, to be more precise. Here's the setup: Let's assume you had a filthy side (assume away), and let's assume you had to view a homemade sex video of the following celebrities. Whom would you rather watch do what the birds and bees do? Post your selections in the comments section below.

Supermodel Elsa Benitez ...

Or supermodel Rachel Hunter?

Messianic singer Chris Martin ...

Or messianic singer Bono?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Talk About a Sense of Entitlement!

By Cassandra D

I just don't get some people. I posted earlier about the balls of Stephen Colbert, but his look puny next to the collective huevos of certain folks in the Middle East.

It takes outlandishly, ridiculously enormous cojones for the Palestinian people to vote in Hamas and still expect American taxpayers to pay for their government. They elect a group of terrorists who deny that Israel has any right to exist and who blow up people riding on buses and sitting in cafes. They think we ought to pay for that?

And I thought we were a little dim in expecting Iraqis to greet us with flowers and kisses!

The Birthday Post

I would be remiss if I didn't offer a big, sloppy, wet Happy Birthday to Mrs. Chase.

And since I refuse to get any more maudlin, I would simply note that all my yicky sentiments from her birthday last year still apply.

"She's Pregnant, Y'All!"

Oops, Britney did it again.

Our friends at Egotastic! suggest that this might be the government's wake-up call for forced sterilization.

Personally, we here at CTTC are done tickled pink at the prospects of another Britney-Kevin offspring. If the happy couple keeps procreating at this rate, we marvel at the implications this could have for the retail world.

Rattles shaped like Marlboro packs? Methamphetamine-flavored Gerber baby food?

(Pic courtesy Egotastic!)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Move Over, Surly

By Cassandra D

I know that Surly is supposed to be this blog's curmudgeon, and I'm supposed to be the Leftist. But today I'm going to out-surly Surly.

What I want to know is this: What is the expiration date on the cheesy plastic memorial flowers that mark the sites of tragic traffic deaths?

I've lived in my house now for six years and there are two such spots nearby that predate my arrival. One, affixed to a lightpole says, "MOM" in faded pink and white plastic glory. Another, at a nearby intersection, gets a red plastic floral update every year or so. At the shopping mall a few miles away, someone has created a little shrine, complete with cross, American flag, and lots of bunches of plastic flowers, all next to a tree by the parking lot.

I'm all for remembering and honoring the dead. But how about putting up a fountain or planting a tree? How about some real flowers? How about having the memorial in a "memorial garden," a.k.a. a cemetery?

Sure, I'm sorry for their loss, but everybody has loved ones who have died, and life goes on, right?

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Kennedy Curse

By Larry Mondello

OOOHHH the Kennedy Curse strikes again. What is it about that darn clan?
God must love the Kennedys. That's why he gave us so damned many of them. Congressman Patrick says no worries, he was not drinking alcohol when he was driving around in the middle of the night with no lights on and hit a traffic barrier. He now says he was on Ambien.

Wow, Congressman, that makes us feel much better. You weren't drunk, you were asleep! News flash for the Kennedy Compound: sleeping pills impair your driving, no matter how much dad taught you about driving after a night of Congressional research. The Kennedy way is to blame the pills, which must flow like M&Ms in Hyannisport. Throw the book at his Kennedy ass. Oh, and anyone who believes he wasn't drinking ... ok ... so no one believes that.

By the way, in blogger spellcheck, Hyannisport comes up with suggested change: Hangover.

You do the math. Oh, the mystery of the curse.

UPDATE: Rep. Kennedy now says he is checking himself into rehab for Rx drug addiction. He also says he received no preferential treatment. He was treated just like any other Kennedy. Watch video of his short statement today here

Update #2: I watched him read his statement. In all seriousness, I have a bit of respect for him and what he said and what he's doing for his problem. But if his depression is that severe and difficult to control, how can he stay in office? I sympathize with him as a person, not as a congressman. I also didn't care for the shot at the end about mental health parity. A statement that as a sitting congressman, you suffer from mental illness is no place for a political statment about a related issue. I'll stop now.

Friday Random 10

What's on your iPod?

1. Graham Parker, "Girl at the End of the Pier"
2. The McCoys, "Hang on Sloopy"
3. Harold Dorman, "Mountain of Love"
4. Bob Dylan, "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again"
5. Wilco, "Wishful Thinking"
6. The Beatles, "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"
7. The Replacements, "I Don't Know"
8. Social Distortion, "Story of My Life"
9. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, "Blue Turning Gray"
10. The Rolling Stones, "Rain Fall Down"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Can This Stone Continue to Roll?

By Daniel Gale-Grogen

This week, the New York University College of Journalism's "We Want Media" blog posited a question that seems as frequent as the bell tolling for "Saturday Night Live": Can Rolling Stone, once the flagship for rock 'n' roll and counterculture, ever regain its footing?

Blogger Rebecca Ruiz commented on the magazine's upcoming three-dimensional cover celebrating its 40th anniversary. This promotional act of desperation prompted Ruiz to write, "By the looks of things, the magazine's website may be all that's left a few years from now."

The problems with Rolling Stone can be boiled down to one overarching illness: the magazine does not know what it is supposed to stand for anymore, and neither does its readership. It seems to be whatever publisher Jann Wenner wants it to be on any given week, whether its a lad mag, a music source, a left-leaning political magazine or a generic culture watch pub. But it has not been an access point for bleeding-edge culture for many years, as one of Ruiz' readers, Adam Raymond, posted in her comments section:

Rolling Stone should be holding on for dear life [emphasis added]. I can't remember when that magazine was ever relevant. Perhaps that's because they haven't been in my lifetime. It can bust out all the 3-D covers and other strange marketing campaigns it wants, but until it gets its finger back on the pulse, it will continue to stink to high heaven.

Rolling Stone had its finger on the pulse through much of the '80s, when writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, Dave Marsh, Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus and the pre-MTV Kurt Loder still populated the masthead. But as pop culture became more diffuse, Rolling Stone had difficulty keeping up.

When the magazine celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1987, it was coasting on the '60s revival of the time. Granted, it was looking back on its legacy, but many of its cover stories were dedicated to aging boomer heroes such as The Grateful Dead, George Harrison, Paul Simon, and Pink Floyd, along with retrospective covers featuring Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie. This wasn't a bad time to be stuck in the past, since the zeitgeist of 1987 was lacking in heroes beyond U2. But the magazine was losing steam, and it did not really revive until rock 'n' roll itself revived in 1991 with the grunge movement.

But when Kurt Cobain died and much of the style he popularized died with him, Rolling Stone did not know what to do with itself. It tried to make time with teens when the neo-pop movement took over, devoting two covers a year to Britney Spears and 'N Sync, but teens did not want to read a magazine written and published by people their parents' age, mainly because Rolling Stone felt like a 40-year-old at a Backstreet Boys show: uncomfortable and not fitting in, even though it had gelled its hair, sculpted its beard, Nair'd its chest and worn a white suit with no shirt just for the occasion.

But the 2000s have been downright pathetic. Faced with dwinding circulation and ad revenue thanks to the proliferation of "lad mags" such as Maxim, FHM and Stuff, as well as Maxim's music magazine, Blender, Rolling Stone hired FHM's editor, Ed Needham, to run the place in 2003. That was the year RS ran the cover stories, "Mary-Kate and Ashley: America's Favorite Fantasy," and "Housewife of the Year: Jessica Simpson." Many longtime subscribers chose that year to hang up for good.

Needham is long gone, having been richly rewarded for his RS debacle by becoming editor-in-chief of Maxim. Rolling Stone righted itself somewhat and has stopped running peg-free "trend" stories on teenage sex addicts and out-of-place features on the latest in hot weaponry, but it still seems adrift, unable to tap into a culture that prefers Defamer over "Random Notes" and gets its record reviews daily from and Pitchfork instead of waiting two weeks for that tired old thing to plop down on the newsstand.

Sex Tape Derby, Round 51

On his deathbed, legendary Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once called Sex Tape Derby "the throbbing heart of our very democracy." In keeping with that sentiment, we humbly submit another installment of America's favorite pastime (well, other than conspicuous consumption, that is). The question is simple: If faced with a homemade sex video of the following celebrities, whom would you rather be subjected to watching? Post your selections in the comments section below.

The comprehension-challenged should read here for a further explanation.

Onetime teenage witch Melissa Joan Hart ...

Or onetime Dharma, Jenna Elfman?

Ol' blue eyes, Frank Sinatra ...

Or the king, Elvis Presley?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

You Always Hurt the One You Love

"Love my way, it's a new road."
-- The Psychedelic Furs, "Love My Way," 1982

"I loved Enron very much and I loved Enron employees very much."
-- Ken Lay on the witness stand, May 2, 2006

"Let's say I committed this crime. Even if I did do this, it would have to have been because I loved her very much, right?"
-- O.J. Simpson to Esquire, Feb. 1, 1998

Now THIS Is Funny

By Cassandra D

It has become clear that the Republican Party has decided that Mexicans and other Spanish-speaking, brown-skinned folk are to be the "Gay Marriage" of the 2006 elections. While some Republicans are discussing the legitimate issues presented by illegal immigration, far too many seem to be beating the drums to draw folks into the "Big Racist Tent." And Dubya leapt right onto that bandwagon with his condemnation of the Spanish language version of the national anthem.

Leave it to some intrepid bloggers to uncover proof of the hypocritical opportunism that we all knew was lurking under the thinnest of veils.

Seems Mr. Bush had no problem with a Spanish version of our national anthem being sung during his campaign, nor a Spanish version of "America the Beautiful" being sung at his very own inauguration.

(via Atrios)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

No Sense of Humor Zone

By Larry Mondello

I have to chime in here, but I will try to resist referencing the size of Mr. Colbert's testicles.

You order gumbo, it's gonna be hot. You hire Stephen Colbert to speak, you're gonna get his shtick. Personally, I thought it was very funny, but I always think comedians who do this gig tread toward shark-jumping waters. I wonder if Lenny Bruce, had he lived, would ever have been invited.

You want a comedian who will come out and deliver a few generic "zingers" at the Prez? Hire Jay Leno, or better yet, Yakov Smirnoff (if Branson will let him go, that is).

There have been numerous references online to President Bush looking angry, not amused, dumbfounded. Hey gang, it's George W. Bush ... that's just the way he looks. It was late, way past his bedtime.

If he was truly offended, so what? Again, you should know what you're getting if you agree to show up. If all they did was to try to make GWB laugh, a few Beetle Bailey strips and they'd be set.

It might be time to stop this ridiculous little tradition of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Sure, it's the one time of year when C-SPAN appears hip and funny and gets some national media attention. But the fact is, it's a bunch of inside-the-Beltway self-important bozos who like to prove to each other they own a tux and don't have to rent.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More on Stephen Colbert's Big Brass Balls

Cassandra D was on-target about Stephen Colbert. His almost uncomfortably acerbic spiel at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner this past weekend revealed that the man's got balls the size of Humvees.

Some voices in the blogosphere weigh in (and they should weigh in, since the mainstream media has instead focused on Dumbya's appearance with lookalike Steve Bridges).

"It's very witty when you read the text; but actuality as Colbert says these things to the President's face, it's very uncomfortable. Watching it, It's like Hamlet forcing King Claudius to watch the play that accuses him of murder. Or it's like a man asked to be Court Jester who shows up and tells the king exactly what's wrong with him, and gets out of the building before they can behead him."
-- Chris Durang,
The Huffington Post

"Colbert's routine was designed to draw blood -- as good political satire should. It seemed obvious, at least to me, that he didn't just despise his audience, he hated it. While that hardly merits comment here in Left Blogostan, White House elites clearly aren't used to having such contempt thrown in their faces at one of their most cherished self-congratulatory events."
-- Billmon,
Whiskey Bar

A transcript of Colbert's lacerating monologue is available here.