Sunday, November 28, 2010

New American Zen Cover


(Photoshopping courtesy of my sister Alicia Morgan of Last Left Turn B4 Hooterville.)

This is the visual I'm going with for the new cover of the American Zen Kindle edition (I wish it was a Fender Stratocaster, which is Mike's guitar, instead of a Gibson, but you take what you can get). I think it just about sums up the most important abstracts of the book. Alicia's looking for a better, more Zen-like font than the Presidential one I've been using. Then when she inserts the title into the .jpeg, I'll upload it. It'll make for a more professional-looking cover. After all, there are approximately 650,000 titles on Kindle alone, so one must make their work stand out in some way.

I also just reduced the price from $9.99 to $4.99 and sales are already picking up. So please give it a try. Once again, you can download a free 50 page sample to help you make up your mind as to whether or not to purchase it. I've also posted a review of it that's actually an expanded synopsis to further give you an idea of what it's about.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Cat That Ate Thanksgiving


Welcome to my first foray into Windows Movie-making. While Mrs. JP was puttering around on the internet tonight on the one laptop that actually gets online, I was puttering around on the Dell and discovered the Windows Movie Maker. After reading a few tutorials and experimenting with it, I shot this video of our cat Popeye and added some of my own subtitles. The results were kind of unexpected.

And yes, he's really like this every day of the week. See what I have to live with?

We May be Radical Liberals...


...but deviating from turkey and opting for baked ham is about as far as we stray from convention in our home come Thanksgiving. This was our spread before we done digged in and pigged out. You can see the baked ham with pineapple slices, Stove Top stuffing (with Bell's Seasoning, natch), butternut squash, sweet corn, real mashed potatoes, pitted black olives, Barb's cheesy potatoes on the far left and pork gravy in the foreground. We had a perfect Auslese white wine later topped off with a big bottle of Berkshire Steel Rail beer.

Pumpkin pie and Cool Whip, another concession to tradition, was accompanied by a small bottle of Veuvecliquot champagne we decided to get last night on hearing Tom DeLay got convicted on money laundering and conspiracy charges (Hey, I said we were liberal. The last bottle of champagne that I bought was October 30th, 2005, the day Scooter Libby got indicted. Today, we actually toasted the Travis County DA's office and Ronnie Earle with the champagne. Did I mention we were liberal?) So right now, we're feeling no fucking pain, folks. Ya only live once.

So, what did you guys have for Thanksgiving?

What are You Grateful For This Thanksgiving?


Well, for starters, despite the prostrate-before-Wall St-and-the-GOP Obama administration, I'm still grateful, for starters, that this deeply superficial asshole isn't still in office. His ghost-written, plagiarized turkey of a book ought to be a reminder as to why we should all be grateful for presidential term limits.

But, as with last year, I'm grateful that I can spend Thanksgiving with Mrs. JP and Popeye the sassy cat and Arlo Guthrie and "Alice's Restaurant" (I'm listening to it now on my CD mix, as I do at noon every Thanksgiving, a cool tradition I carried over from the last house). Have a happy, safe and grope-free Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Top 10 Ways to Prevent a TSA Patdown


Sadly, even nerdy love dolls are subject to TSA patdowns.

This weekend, millions of American passengers will be flying all over the country for Thanksgiving in the midst of the TSA controversy over "enhanced patdowns" and X-ray screening. Last week alone, 170,000 passengers had been subjected to what many consider intrusive searches, possibly by homosexual TSA officials. The Transportation Security Administration is struggling to find a balance between safety in the skies and personal privacy, yet there are some measures you can take to prevent both an X-ray screening and a groping of your genitals. What are they?

  • 10) Say in a pronounced lisp to a male inspector, "Say, sailor, you might want to get a second guy over here to help save time. There's a lot to cover."

  • 9) "Say, that scanner's not gonna pick up my crabs, is it?"

  • 8) "I think this might be a good time to warn you I'm seeing a sexologist for premature ejaculation."

  • 7) Have a fake ID ready identifying you as Ted Haggard.

  • 6) Spend 100 hours in a tanning booth the week before your flight and say you're Rep. John Boehner.

  • 5) If you're a woman, apologize for smelling like Rosie O'Donnell.

  • 4) Loudly announce to the TSA agent, "I'm just seeing someone off. This is the closest thing I've had to a sex life since the AIDS clinic."

  • 3) Moan, breathe heavy and insist that the airport play "Bolero" over the PA system.

  • 2) Claim that the Viagra and Oxycontin in your carry-on actually belongs to Rush Limbaugh and that you're his drug mule.

  • 1) Mention that your biggest sexual fetish is latex and sadistic, minimum wage-earning losers in blue uniforms.
  • Monday, November 22, 2010

    "Dave's on Sale Again."


    Hell, so are all the boys of The Immortals. That's right, even though I hadn't gotten any confirmation from Amazon, yet, I decided to check on the status of my Kindle upload of American Zen and it appears that it's already on sale.

    Now, if you have any of the following:

    Kindle
    Kindle DX
    Kindle (2nd Generation)
    Kindle (1st Generation)
    Kindle for PC
    Kindle for Mac
    Kindle for iPad
    Kindle for iPhone
    Kindle for Android
    Kindle for BlackBerry

    you can purchase my novel American Zen (ASIN: B004D9FUZ4) on Amazon. To help speed things along, here's the catalog page that'll take you straight to it. All except 1st Generation Kindles have text-to-speech in case you want to listen to it in your car.

    To be honest with you all, I have no idea what it looks like since I can't afford a Kindle, yet, so if they screwed up the formatting and it looks amateurish, I apologize in advance.

    For those of you who don't know about my novel, I'll give it to you in a nutshell:

    Liberal investigative political journalist Mike Flannigan (the very same guy who occasionally posts here when his editor in chief Ari lets him out of his cage) is quite possibly the only political reporter not writing about Barack Obama's victory in November 2008. That's because about two years ago today, Mike got a cryptic email from his childhood friend, the keyboardist Jo Jo Vandermeer. One thing leads to another and eventually Mike reunites with his old rock'n'roll band The Immortals from 1978. The men, now middle-aged, eventually realize how cruel life had been to them since the band broke up when their front man Dave Carmichael signed himself and not the group to a recording contract. One nationally televised and Youtubed scandal, some jail time, a graveyard brawl and several soul-defining musical performances later, Mike and his old band realize the limits and cost of love and friendship and what each one will risk in that pursuit.

    I tend to look at American Zen not as a $10 purchase but an investment because it may teach one a lesson or two about life, love and death. So if you have a Kindle or are planning on getting or receiving one for the holidays, please give my novel a looksee. It may prove to be the best 626 kilobytes you'll ever download.

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    American Zen is Here.


    I just uploaded it on Kindle and it'll take about 24 hours for it to become available on Amazon. So, if you have a Kindle (they start out at $130 for wifi only) and appreciate rock'n'roll novels told from a liberal/progressive perspective, you might want to give it a try. I've set a standard price of $9.99, which is far less than individuals have donated to P'ville through Paypal. I think it's high time I started earning my own money instead of having it given to me and not really giving something back. I should have a URL by tomorrow to direct you to, so stayed tuned.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    How Did We Let This Happen?


    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

    Two years ago, we were counting the nanoseconds.

    Two years ago, we were looking for legal and even extralegal ways to get Bush out of the White House before January 20th and to get Obama in there sooner. The Democrats had widened their congressional majority and were going to lead us to the Promised Land and Mordor was finally plugged up. We couldn't have been any more slap-happier than if we'd found out Paul Wellstone had come back from the dead.

    Fast forward to the present day. Sarah Palin's new reality show was a ratings coup in spite of us signing hundreds of thousands of petitions. Like Palin, George W. Bush got a literary agent to get him $7,000,000 for a ghost-written book. First day sales were almost 250,000.

    To top things off, we enjoyed the spectacle of seeing George W. Bush, Condi Rice and Dick Cheney in Dallas this week wielding not the pickaxes they ought to be swinging at a rock pile while doing hard labor at an East Texas federal prison chain gang but golden shovels during the groundbreaking ceremony for Dubya's Presidential Lib'ary, a massive half a billion dollar complex for a guy who insulted erudition his whole life.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats have to move out of their committee chairman offices like shamed and vilified foreclosed homeowners and Obama just dragged his tail back from a humiliating defeat in Asia in which the 19 other G20 countries basically told him to go fuck himself. "We're going to move into the global economy with or without you," they said.

    Fox "News", despite being run by a jiggling partisan pig named Roger Ailes, someone the very sight of whom makes one think of apple sauce and mint jelly, is still atop the ratings heap and Keith Olbermann just came off a humiliating suspension because he committed the unpardonable sin of his few modest campaign contributions making all of MSNBC look partisan.

    And even Jon Stewart is sounding a bit sketchy these days with his false moral equivalences.

    Frodo fucked up. He lost the ring and Mordor has just blown its top, largely thanks to a brain-starved faction of the voting and non-voting public who thought that bitch-slapping the Democrats and voting in Republican lunatics like Michelle Bachmann, Steve King, Tom Tancredo, Alan West and Rand Paul was somehow better than what the Democrats had given them these past 4 years.

    Once again, with feeling: How the fuck did we let this happen? How did something so right turn into complete and utter dog shit?

    Well, the Democrats have to assume some blame. Granted, the average American knows their current American Idol contestants' names or the roster of their favorite football team better than that of their elected officials or the President's Cabinet. So, while they should've known this, they should've done a better job enumerating and articulating their successes. Health and banking reform, even in its weakest state, was still reform that wouldn't have even been considered if the Republicans were still in power.

    Thanks to Obama, women now have more parity in terms of pay and advancement than they ever would've had under the Republicans. The Obama administration is winding things down in Iraq, are scoring victories over the Taliban and is repairing the foreign relations damage done under eight years of Bush. Tax cuts had been extended to both poor and middle class. The stimulus under Obama created over 2,000,000 jobs.

    But when the American public asked in the months leading up to the midterms, "What have you done for us, lately?" the Democrats were as tongue-tied about what they'd done as the Republicans were about what they planned to do apart from extending the Bush tax cuts, repealing what little health care reform the Democrats gave us and blindly opposing whatever Obama wants.

    Looking at how the wicked and stupid are succeeding on every front, it reduces to absurdity the old adage we may still try to teach our kids that crime doesn't pay. Not only does crime pay but it's further enriched by brain-dead literary agents and TV producers and pays dividends with stock options and has a kick-ass pension.

    Then we build half a billion dollar monuments to that evil.

    America, I've never been more ashamed to be one of your citizens as I am now.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    The Grand Old Man of Journalism

    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)


    "U.S. troops are in a part of the world that produces a huge amount of oil and natural gas. We will have U.S. troops in that region for years to come, whether we want to or not. … And with the price of oil going up to a 4.5 dollars a gallon, imagine what would happen to the price of oil if we precipitously pull troops out of the Persian Gulf." - Ted Koppel on This Week, July 6, 2008

    Trivia quiz: Which guy in this video is the real newsman? If you answered the guy on the right, the one who got fired by MSNBC for not picking up his pom poms fast enough, you'd be right.

    After Walter Cronkite's retirement, Ted Koppel used to be America's de facto "most trusted man in America" then a funny thing happened on the way to lionization and the title of Grand Old Man of American Journalism: He simply sold out and accepted the Bush lies about Iraq as truth. If you can stand to watch the whole thing, the depth of Koppel's deluded state of mind regarding Iraq is breath-taking.

    Then two days ago in an op-ed in the Wa Po, he made the mistake of lambasting Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly, uniting the two ancient enemies by providing them with a common enemy. In it, Koppel blamed the degeneration of the news on partisans like O'Reilly and Olbermann without seeming to make any distinction between which man or which network, Fox or MSNBC, was the more honest and factual. Olbermann, in his rebuttal, laid it out succinctly by reminding Koppel that MSNBC doesn't make up facts. And, when they're wrong, they fess up to it.

    If it wasn't for we bloggers' nonchalance about restating and overstating the obvious with viral echo chambers, Olbermann could single-handedly wipe out the liberal blogosphere because of the depth and righteousness of his commentary segments. But there are a few more points I can make.

    Back when he'd taped that segment on Phil Donahue's soon-to-be-yanked show, he spoke authoritatively about Saddam's possible nuclear weapons program even as Donahue was trying to hold his feet to the fire and remind him of the absurd hypothetical in his and the Bush administration's argument. He even made the colossal mistake of using his own son in law, the Brooking's Institute's Kenneth M. Pollack, "one of the world's leading experts on Iraq", and his 2002 book that proved to be more wrong about Iraq than virtually any book ever written on any subject.

    Back in 2004, long after the war had started to go south, Ted Koppel told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now that America didn't deserve an apology from either him or the networks who rah rah, sis boom bahed us into war with Iraq. Koppel's position back then hasn't changed a bit: That while the networks could've "been more critical", it's not their place to apologize for helping the Bush administration beat the war drums.

    Koppel completely misses the point: In his fetish for straight, unbiased journalism (and invoking the spirit of Edward R. Murrow as Republicans embrace the skeleton of Joe McCarthy and any dead Democrat with whom they momentarily agree), Koppel conveniently overlooks the main function of journalism, which is to employ its critical faculties and to speak truth to power when government propaganda doesn't pass the smell test.


    This is another example of how wrong he was after we'd invaded Iraq, when he told the late Tim Russert that withdrawing from Iraq would be a mistake and result in a regional civil war that would inflame the entire Persian Gulf and, yes, make oil prices spiral out of control.


    And here's Koppel telling us yet again during the '08 election that if we pull out of Iraq, it'll disrupt the flow of oil and natural gas and plunge us into a global depression. Essentially, he said, we're staying in Iraq because of the oil and natural gas but not in any critical sense. Duh, you think, Ted? Don't you think that maybe the oil and natural gas industry in the Persian Gulf was destabilized and that our illegal meddling in their nationalized oil industry had made us retroactively indispensable?

    But in the waning years of his career as a relevant newsman, Koppel because a passive pro-corporate tool who once wrote an alarming op-ed in the NY Times entitled "These Guns For Hire" in which the opening sentence was, "There is something terribly seductive about the notion of a mercenary army."

    Less than a year and a half later, such a seductive mercenary army had killed 17 Iraqis at Nisour Sq. on September 16th.

    So Ted Koppel, who was once an admirable journalist who faithfully reported for 444 days during the Iranian hostage crisis, is in no position to be chiding anyone about taking sides, especially when he consistently takes the side of the corporate sector that made him a rich man and helped confer on him the title of the Grand Old Man of American Journalism, a status that was denied his hero and so-called model Edward R. Murrow.

    Koppel is spot-on correct in saying that news is becoming infotainment. But that was a trend that began back in the 50's and early 60's and Murrow was the first to speak out about it. But to conflate Olbermann with O'Reilly and, like Jon Stewart of late to make false equivalences between left and right is one of the biggest blunders he ever made. And when a "straight newsman" like Koppel consistently and unapologetically gets it wrong and sleeps with the wrong people time and again, it's symptomatic of why we trust "straight" news less and go to partisan commentators and cable comedians for our news by the millions.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Diary of a Wimpy pResident


    Memo to the lazy cunts at Crown Publishing:

    If you buy sight unseen anything from a Republican, especially by George W. Bush, don't be as lazy as him and assume that he's done all his homework, especially if you're paying him a small mint for it.

    Because it's come to light that George W. Bush's Decision Points, which just knocked off the ironically-titled Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth as Amazon's top seller, is rife with passages already written and published by Bush's aides. And he did so without any attribution whatsoever. Says Ryan Grim at HuffPo:
    Crown also got a mash-up of worn-out anecdotes from previously published memoirs written by his subordinates, from which Bush lifts quotes word for word, passing them off as his own recollections. He took equal license in lifting from nonfiction books about his presidency or newspaper or magazine articles from the time. Far from shedding light on how the president approached the crucial "decision points" of his presidency, the clip jobs illuminate something shallower and less surprising about Bush's character: He's too lazy to write his own memoir.

    Bush's advance, by the way, for this copy-and-paste job was reported to be a cool $7,000,000, which is what another right wing zombie got for her ghost-written memoirs. Which segues neatly into my next point:

    Of course, the fact that Bush couldn't write much less read a book by himself went without saying. We've known since at least March of this year that the memoir would be ghost-written, as was Sarah Palin's, by a 28 year-old Bush speechwriter named Christopher Michel. So when we start railing about the plagiarism, start with Michel.

    This memo also goes out to whatever dingbat literary agent who thought that tying his or her fortunes to a Typhoid Mary like Bush was a good idea: If you were also tricked into thinking that this memoir would be the real deal, then you're as brain-dead as your colleagues. If you knew that this book would be ghost-written and plagiarized from Bush's aides, then you're a douchebag of the highest order and ought to donate your 15% of that 7 million to Bush's victims, starting with the widows, widowers and children of the servicepeople who'd needlessly died for Bush and Halliburton.

    So, bottom line, GOP zombies keep getting $7,000,000 advances for books they're not even writing while I continue to get form rejection letters from literary agents for good manuscripts that I wrote myself that they refuse to read because I'm not, apparently, as marketable as Joe the Plumber.

    Two years ago, Erica Heller, daughter of the late great Joseph Heller, more eloquently than I put this disturbing trend of throwing mountains of money at the cloven hoofs of right wing mouth breathers while real writers often get short shrift, especially if they're not "names."

    Despite my obvious literary talent, I don't have to be eloquent about it nor do I feel the need to be any more than I have to keep silent about my neverending and ongoing frustration with avaricious, self-absorbed literary agents who are slowly killing the publishing business. Which is to say our nation's literary IQ by drying up the pool for the rest of us by letting the elephants suck up all the water so the rest of us have to slug it out for pennies with broken pool cues and beer bottles.

    God damn you literary agents and God damn you publishers past and present who made them indispensable 30 years ago and making it impossible for people of real talent to even get their foot in the door of publishers on their own merits.

    And this latest scandal over Bush's ghost-written pack of lies and denials only shows that if you kill enough people and are infamous enough for a whole host of war crimes, there will always be a scumbag literary agent who will gladly represent you whether or not they know or care that hardly a word in your property is true or even original.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Rall to Arms


    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein.)

    "(W)e've seen since the economy melted down, that neither the Democrats nor Republicans nor any third party is poised to step in. In terms of passive resistance, the American left has been very peaceful since the early 70s, since the Kent State shootings and where has it gotten us? Millions of people marched against the war in Iraq. What did it do? The tanks rolled in just the same." - Ted Rall on Dylan Ratigan's program.

    I'll admit that Ted Rall is a somewhat amusing cartoonist. He's not a laugh-out-loud funny cartoonist like The Far Side's Gary Larsen or raunchy funny like Sam Gross or dead-on insightful and hilarious like Dilbert's Scott Adams or Tom Tomorrow. But Rall is a political cartoonist who excels in revealing the absurdity and corruption in politics today with a weary irony and dry wit that borders on the dessicated.

    Rall, of course, isn't a mere cartoonist. He also writes political screeds, many of them informative, on The Smirking Chimp and elsewhere.

    Still, imagine my surprise when I went to Raw Story before dawn this morning and found out that Rall had advocated violent revolution at the invitation of, in the middle of the Keith Olbermann controversy, MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan, the weak musketeer in the Four Horsemen of the Liberal Apocalypse consisting of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell.

    The Anti-American Manifesto is the name of Rall's newest book (even though it came out a month and a half ago) and it makes for an interesting counterpoint and perhaps even an extended postscriptum to George W. Bush's own book that was released yesterday, Decision Points.

    The good thing about Rall's proposal is that 5th columns, whether liberal or conservative, have a miserable track record in American history. They may change history, like presidential assassins, or even alter the very face and role of government, such as 5th columnists Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. But our government and the democracy that renews it every two years has never come close to being overthrown if you exclude the war of 1812 that set most of Washington, DC on fire and made President James Madison flee the Capitol.

    But Rall, and Ratigan, seem to think it's time to recreate history 200 years later.

    First things first: Shame on MSNBC's producers and Ratigan himself for playing up the violent overthrow of the government angle. Even a radical like Rall concedes that the violent overthrow of the government is a last ditch scenario. The only difference between Rall and the Tea Baggers, and right wing mouth-breathing bloggers such Red State's Moe Lane take note, is that Rall regards violent overthrow as a last resort whereas Tea Baggers tend to look at it as a first resort and reach for their ammo boxes when they don't get their way at the ballot box.

    Secondly, this is what Publisher's Weekly had to say about Rall's book:
    When it comes to what follows, Rall, like many revolutionaries, has less to say: "We must take the chance." His revolutionary rants and belief in a green, egalitarian world are compelling, yet a stubborn truth remains: most Americans don't want to revolt, a fact about which Rall seems oblivious, making his Manifesto inadvertently ridiculous. While the cartoonist is right about much of what is wrong with America today, it's hard to take this seriously. For once, the joke's on him.

    Which is probably the most spot-on analysis of Rall's book. Indeed, even in the extremely unlikely event that the government and Wall Street and the entire corporate structure is overturned: What will we replace them with? Anarchists, by their very nature and by the very definition of the word anarchy, are pre-doomed to failure for the very reason that Man is an inherently political animal that not only needs but wants to be led by those who are fit to lead.

    Rall is an idiot to think that a liberal movement that was cowed 40 years ago after a relatively minor exercise of federal power at Kent State, a nation that mustered a mere 40.3% voter turnout last week during a critical midterm election, will somehow be able to heave itself off its Laz-E-Boys and away from their Apple laptops and overthrow the very apparatus that has made the United States the titan it is in the world (albeit one that's on one knee).

    But Rall's call for revolution is a clarion call that the current political and corporate model is plainly unsustainable. He points out the things that have poisoned our nation both ecologically and politically: The Wall Street hegemony; the BP oil spill; Chronic unemployment and the current administration's chronic inability to deal with it; political corruption at the highest echelons of government; the simultaneous subversion and silencing of the voice of the people.

    The people have been forgotten and Lloyd Blankfein and other "captains of industry" proved in the fall of 2007 that one whisper from a lobbyist or CEO speaks louder than a million screams in the wilderness. You're damned right something has to be done, especially when the government has InfraGard (the real "invisible hand" of corporate industry), which means our "democratically-elected" government won't even have to get its hands dirty if and when the revolution happens.

    Rall's book is nothing more than an extended blog rant that offers no realistic solutions or even realistic means for achieving those progressive ends. After all, the overthrow of the Roman Empire (not at the hands of fat, lazy, complacent Romans but the barbarians of the North, the precursors of today's ever-ravenous Wall Street tycoons) resulted in a centuries-long Dark Ages. The overthrow of the Romanovs resulted in 72 years of misery, death and poverty for the Russians. And the overthrow of a United States, while superficially attractive to some of us, would result in a power vacuum in the world that would just lead to the supremacy of the two most populous nations on earth that have already done more than their part to hollow out the United States like the opportunistic parasites they are.

    There's also the inherent absurdity that a cartoonist, a guy who gets paid to draw pictures and amuse a few people, would be at the vanguard of a bloody, world-changing revolution, which automatically flies in the face of one of the most cherished hallmarks of liberal antiquity: Nonviolent change at all costs.

    Still, when all is said and done and when used copies of Rall's book get put up for sale on Amazon.com for a penny and $3.99 shipping, after it's been relegated to the dustbin with 99.9% of the books that have ever been sold by brain-dead literary agents and published by equally brain-dead publishers, one has to admit that Rall's book, if nothing else, serves as an almost Cassandra-like warning that, according to Yeats, "the center cannot hold" and that we must change course either through consensus in the interests of mutual survival or revolution of one sort or another.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    The Obama-Palin Presidential Debate, 2012- Part One

        
         In light of the disaster that we'd brought about last Tuesday, I can perfectly imagine seeing this presidential debate in less than two years.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Top 10 Worst Moments in George W. Bush's Presidency


    Recently, former President George W. Bush cited rapper Kanya West calling him a racist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as the worst moment of his presidency. The 43rd president also told NBC's Matt Lauer that there were other rough patches in his memoir, Decision Points. But Mr. Bush also cited other bad moments during his administration in his autobiography. What were they?

  • 10) Having to buff out Dick Cheney's heel marks on the resolute desk with torn swatches of the original US Constitution.

  • 9) CIA Director George Tenet telling him after 9/11 that Osama bin Laden had hidden in Camp David for three days.

  • 8) That in July of 2003 Bob Novak was outed by the Wilsons as a GOP operative.

  • 7) The only Thursday night the White House kitchen couldn't serve pork rinds.

  • 6) That Ted Kennedy couldn't die sooner so he could tell at his funeral alcoholism jokes originally told at a Dean Martin roast 32 years ago.

  • 5) Cindy Sheehan "pissing and moaning about some dead feller named Casey" during his vacation.

  • 4) The eight temporary lobotomies he'd suffered through every time Karl "Bush's Brain" Rove went on vacation.

  • 3) Seeing the twins reach their 20's without either of them having killed a gay person.

  • 2) When Brent Scowcroft gave him on his 60th birthday a beanie with "41½ " on it.

  • 1) When a panel of historians determined by late 2008 that he'd had been less effective than William Henry Harrison, who died one month into office.
  • Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Apathetic is as Apathetic Does


    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein.)

    I suppose I should be a gracious loser and express the usual pious platitudes about how great it is to be in a free country, a democracy where every person has one vote. I suppose it's also incumbent on me to respect that democracy, accept last night's brutal results and say, "The people have spoken."

    But the people have not spoken.

    Most of them don't during your typical midterm, largely because the presidency isn't at stake. Typically, a midterm will bring out anywhere from 30-40% of the vote and last night wasn't much of an exception. The final national numbers aren't in, yet, but I think it would be safe to say that voter turnout last night still didn't get above 45%, if that.

    So, no, the people have not spoken. They are the biennial, post-Nixonian Silent Majority.

    And these people who'd decided to stay home have nothing to complain about because they forfeited their right to do so by saying home and pissing and moaning about attack ads, dead-catting, mud-slinging and name-calling. At the bottom of all that filth there were still the issues and they didn't dissolve beneath all the muck and mire. The issues, like our unpaid bills and terminal disease, stubbornly remain.

    So let's take a look at what we will have come New Year's: With all but 10 House races decided, our only bright spot in the country is that southern New England (RI, CT and MA) made a clean sweep. Add to that Blumenthal's victory over Linda McMahon in the CT Senate race, former liberal Republican Lincoln Chafee winning his Dad's old Governor's seat and Deval Patrick easily winning re-election as Massachusetts' chief executive. We did our part but the same can't be said for the rest of the country.

    At this moment, Republicans now have 240 House seats and almost took the majority in the Senate. And, most disheartening, while we lost liberal icons Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson, not one Republican incumbent of any consequence lost their seat in either chamber. Even Lisa Murkowski, as one of 1600 qualified write-in candidates in Alaska, beat Joe Miller by 7 points. Yes, Joe Miller was so repulsive to even right-leaning Alaska, that "One of the 1600 above" was preferable to him.

    Meanwhile, we now have psychopaths like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul about to enter the Senate and we were treated to presumptive House Speaker John Boehner weeping before a plexiglass podium like a bi-polar Oompa-Loompa.

    Here's an idea: We ought to make an Act of Congress that permanently rescinds your right to vote if you sit out two elections in a row. How one can call oneself an American while refusing to vote yet whining about who gets in, who gets tossed out while accepting federal benefits in a countless variety of ways is loathsome, despicable and ought to be grounds for a recission in citizenship or at least some of its benefits.

    And while the will of the people who did vote ought to be respected, since voting is the very heart of a democracy, one must nonetheless marvel at the sheer disconnect, the panic and the absolute fingers-in-the-ears, head-shaking, stubborn ignorance that went with sweeping back into power the Republicans, the very same people who'd gotten us into this mess, the very same party whose entire strategy boils down to, "Less regulations, less taxes and No to everything Obama wants."

    And when the inevitable gridlock get us even less reform and protection over the next two years, we're going to take it out on Obama twice as mercilessly as we did last night. And, like the last midterms in '06, voter dissatisfaction had victimized the President's party as if the legislative and executive branches were the one and the same.

    Except in '06, we at least had a point. This time around, we didn't. And many of us chose to stay home.

    Russ Feingold stood up to Obama and his excesses in Afghanistan and foot-dragging in Iraq. So did Alan Grayson, who also stood up to the evil banks and the Fed. But Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson didn't lose to other men: They lost to ultra right wing corporations too ashamed and cowardly to admit who they were financing. They lost to the US Chamber of Commerce that openly champions hollowing out the American workforce by outsourcing jobs to foreign countries that pay pay them "dues". They lost to the US Supreme Court and their stupendously brazen and pro-corporate decision named, ironically, Citizens United vs the FEC. Consider last night's results a test drive for Citizen's United in 2012.

    The citizens of this country have been anything but united since 9/11 and the SCOTUS's decision only proves that even 45% of our citizens united with the common desire to vote is no match for a handful of corporations and their political arm in the Chamber of Commerce.

    You have only yourselves to blame and I have nothing but withering contempt for every single last one of you.

    You just put back in power a party that is largely if not entirely responsible for everything that is wrong with this country, as if the GOP learned their lessons from their "thumpin'" of four years ago and will finally get things right this time, as if this wasn't the party that also voted for the bailout that allowed executives to resume handing each other billions of our tax dollars as bonuses, the GOP that called you a bum for needing UI extensions because your job was outsourced by them to Asia or Mexico, as if the GOP actually has a plan to help you keep your house after that same party repealed Glass-Steagall (with new Senator-elect Pat Toomey's help) and took away your right to file for bankruptcy.

    The same party that started needless and illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to no appreciable benefit to either of our three countries and eventually cost us trillions bloating the military-industrial complex, the party that wanted to deport over 11,000,000 hard-working brown people, wanted to spy on you without FISA court warrants, that strive to make our children more ignorant in schools, to make abortion illegal even in cases of incest or rape, the same party that is bound and determined to remove the very last sinew of regulation on any industry even as they're polluting our ecosystem and killing us. The same party that demonized African Americans after Katrina, wounded veterans when their neglect was revealed and the newly unemployed and homeless when they understandably looked to our government for help.

    These are the people to whom you've handed back the keys to our seat of government. We took a half a step in the right direction away from the Bush-era fireball of failure and are now about to take ten steps back into the Low Dark Ages. They have learned nothing, never will learn anything and months ago were already vowing to impeach our president for spurious reasons and to block his every objective that isn't named after Afghanistan.

    Bravo. Well done. And I hope you all rot in the hell you've just accelerated. Because if you thought this midterm election was brutish, long and nasty, imagine what things will be like in two years.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    You Know What You Need to Do


    If you're here, of all places, then you don't need me to stress to you the importance of voting. Michael Moore said it pretty eloquently at HuffPo and elsewhere and between Moore and Rachel Maddow, they make a pretty good case as to why Democrats and liberals especially have to both vote and to get out the vote.

    But no matter how eloquent, persuasive and right these arguments are, this time around they come off as sounding pretty desperate, don't they? Too many of us are listening to pundits like Karl Rove and the always-wrong Dick "The Ultimate Political Blowback" Morris, people whose prognostications have been telling us for a year or more that the Democrats are doomed, that they'll certainly lose the House and perhaps even the Senate.

    Well, the only way that's going to happen is if you sit on your keisters during this election and not vote your conscience. And if you have a conscience, then you'll know what you have to do. As I said, if you're here, then you don't need ole JP to tell you about how wonderful and important it is to have the right to vote for the person and ballot measure of your choice. But if you know any left-leaning people who plan on staying home until the polls close, it's your moral responsibility to get them up and at the polls if they're registered to vote. And if they're not registered, it's also your moral responsibility to get them to register for 2012.

    Because you know what'll happen if we treat this like any other midterm, where a good turnout is something approaching 40%. This particular midterm is, if anything, more important than most. We've seen open rebellion against a tepid, mainstream, middle of the road, centrist president who's helped give us a faint whiff of actual reform and a Congress that's hardly any more committed.

    But that's a damn sight more than what you'll get with a Republican-dominated Congress. With a Republican Congress, you'll see the endless extension of the Bush tax cuts that have helped bankrupt us so the wealthy can get even more bloated. We'll see the last of any regulation of the corporate sector that's also bankrupted us as well as polluted our southern shoreline for decades.

    Don't believe me? Remember what things were like when the GOP dominated Congress during those four crucial years between 2003-2007? We saw our nation go to war with a much smaller sovereign country that had nothing to do with 9/11. We saw the disappearance of a major American city due to shocking federal neglect. We lost the right to file for bankruptcy, the economy was ready to burst, and innocent Iraqis and disabled American servicemen were suddenly the villains when news surfaced that we were abusing and neglecting them.

    "Liberal" became a four letter word more than ever and a grieving war mother named Cindy Sheehan had to remind us of our humanity and how wrong the Iraq war was by taking a lonely stand in a ditch in Crawford, Texas.

    Yeah, you remember. Remember how the 2006 midterms couldn't come fast enough and we all said out loud or to ourselves, "When, O when are the midterms coming so we can vote these bums out?" And you did the right thing.

    Well, we're about to do the same thing but to the wrong party. I don't believe for a minute that the GOP will take either chamber of Congress and I think by late tonight I'll be proven right again. But the Tea Baggers, thanks to the MSM, think they have the upper hand. They're hopped up like crystal meth freaks on Viagra and Spanish Fly.

    Let me make one thing perfectly clear: If the GOP takes either chamber of Congress, it won't be because of a tide of Red Republican votes but through the dam of backed-up votes denied the Democrats by lazy faux liberals and other moderates. Remember the words of that inestimable friend of Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, when he wrote, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

    You all know what you gotta do.

    Maybe we can all take a lesson from Gen. George S. Patton in his famous speech to the 3rd Army. Here's Patton's speech, slightly revised in bold for Election Day:
    "People, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this election, not wanting to vote, is a crock of bullshit. Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. You are here today for three reasons. First, because you are here to defend your homes and your loved ones. Second, you are here for your own self respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else. Third, you are here because you are real Americans and all real Americans like to fight.

    Well, despite what Jon Stewart told us at the rally, this election is a fight because the other side has made it a fight. Unlike us, Mr. Stewart, the GOP and its Tea Bagger overseers are resorting to threats, intimidation and outright disinformation, such as in Kansas.

    And if the GOP somehow gains either chamber of the legislative branch, the new majority party, drunk on its Koolaid-fueled power, will suddenly remember all about the impeachment process and we'll see one set of articles of impeachment after another against President Obama, only without Monica Lewinsky. God help us if those sick cocksuckers take over the Senate, also. That will make even whatever tepid and middling reforms we'd ever get out of this White House over the next two years harder to bring about if the President has to needlessly fend off one silly article of impeachment after another.

    Because to the Other Side that Jon Stewart insists on calling passionate Americans with real convictions, it's about preventing gay people from marrying, it's about deporting hardworking, taxpaying brown people, it's about putting a white guy back in the White House, it's about extending tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%, it's about abortion, it's about allowing corporations like BP to continue fucking up our ecosystem. It's about everything but what really counts because the last thing the Republican Party needs or wants is a government that actually fucking works.

    To quote Patton one more time: "Alright now, you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel."

    Now get out and do the right thing.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Sanity/Fear Rally

    Hi everybody, I would like to expand on JP's remarks. Yes, all those weird, unfortunate things happened but I wouldn't go so far as to say it was completely worthless. It was an amazing coming together of many, many different people and types of people (although the trolls on Huffpo are bound and determined to believe the crowd was essentially 99.99% white). We all got along great, no disagreements or problems, which is hard to achieve with a crowd that size. Anyone who wanted to could put their signature down at the bottom of a very large print of the Constitution. So in our own very little way we had some sort of impact and I think the majority of those who attended will be happy they did, if only to embrace our sameness, instead of vilifying our differences.

    Not to mention, stories that involve mishaps of a non-fatal sort are by definition much more entertaining than "Everything worked perfectly, nothing went wrong, a good time was had by all".

    No drama. I can't even say, unlike a previous experience, that we nearly got blown off the Delaware Memorial Bridge. With better scheduling all around (Metro people please take note) I would definitely do it again.

    Rally to Restore Toll Booths, Gas Stations and other Highway Robbers


    Anyone who's ever known me for even a day knows that I hate interstate travel. The last time I drove for more than a couple of hours was in 1989 when my ex-girlfriend and I drove from western MA to Mississippi. Then, a few months later, we had to drive back when the glorious family reunion with her two grown kids didn't turn out so glorious, after all. Eight days after we arrived, she was whining about missing MA. In my paranoid state of mind, highways are built expressly to kill people and over the course of a 500 mile road trip and back, there are literally countless possibilities for becoming road kill.

    As Mike Flannigan says in American Zen:
    The ride to Connecticut was thankfully uneventful. I don’t know why a man my age, with three decades of safe driving under his belt, can’t take a safe little trip from Rhode Island to Connecticut for granted but the fact is I don’t. If I have to go some place that’s further away than the convenience store down the street, I think it’s somewhat surprising that I get to my destination. If it involves swinging onto a highway onramp, I think a safe trip is like a Biblical miracle.

    That’s my biggest failing, if I have to pick one: My occasional obsessive/compulsive need to analyze shit down to its atomic structure. It may serve me in good stead as a political journalist/blogger since looking at things from differing viewpoints is crucial to understanding and explicating a thorny issue. However, it can be cumbersome for me and others when my OCD is applied to real life.

    Take, for instance, my fear of driving. While other people zip by me at 70-75 mph, I’m thinking of how fast I could get killed, at how absurdly easy it would be to not have a death-free and satisfactory journey. And, to be fair to me, think about it for a minute:

    Consider all the perfectly-timed, impeccably executed decisions that one has to make, a flawless string of pearls that one has to make to get to where they’re going in one piece. Don’t tailgate, look before you switch lanes, get in the proper lane before turning off, look out for erratic drivers, pay attention to strange sounds that your or someone’s car may make, keep an eye out for signs, be alert for people who legally and especially illegally pass you…

    There’s so much to think about, it freaks me out when do I think about it. I envy those who can brainlessly take their safety for granted.

    Mike and I differ in several ways but that's pure JP talking.

    Ergo, when Mrs. JP and I got sucked into the Stewart/Colbert rally hype like a pair of over-the-hill lemmings and debated whether to take Arianna's buses from Boston, we'd decided the best way to go in the interests of freedom was to take our new/used '98 Ford Taurus to Arlington, VA where she had a friend who'd put us up for the w/e.

    So we packed the Ford Friday morning and began an 11 hour odyssey that Mapquest told us would take a mere eight hours and three minutes. What Mapquest can't anticipate is bottlenecks in traffic for no earthly reason. At least six times just on the way down, traffic had slowed to a crawl or standstill even when there wasn't an accident, major exit, lane merge, toll booth, construction or for any other reason. It was as if one driver in each of the three lanes just decided, "Fuck it. I'm going to stop here and jerk off all over my windshield."

    But toll booths certainly were the most egregious reasons for the parking lots we had to sit in, especially in Manhattan at the George Washington Bridge (aptly shortened to the GWB). On the way back home last night, we sat in traffic for literally an hour while apathetic toll booth drones extracted $8 from each of us. With a dozen toll lanes open, only four were dedicated to those with cash. It's inconceivable that so many thousands of people would find themselves trapped on I-95 in Manhattan at 7 o'clock on Halloween night but there we were.

    (A word of caution for those of you on the east coast who may be planning a long road trip involving I-95- Avoid Delaware like the plague that it is. Reader Diva texted me on the way down to get out of Delaware ASAP and I found out the hard way what she meant. The entire state is a mere 10 square miles but they have more toll booths than they do papers of incorporation and will charge you top dollar for the privilege of crawling along their miserable little roadways at 15 miles an hour. I was barely aware that Delaware was a state and, after importing Joe Biden and Christine O'Donnell (whose campaign signs we had to endure along the roadway), we ought to have a Act of Congress that officially allows us to forget Delaware's statehood. As it is, it's barely fit to be a suburb of fucking Trenton, NJ.)

    So even though we left around 9 AM, we didn't roll into Arlington until about 8 that night. The next day, thinking that the rally would last until 6 PM, we left the house around noon and tried to get on the DC Metro. Once again, incredulity reigned. We paid $14 for round trip tickets for the privilege of standing on the platform for (I shit you not) almost an hour and a half. A total of five trains stopped at Ballston MU and, even though we were at the edge of the platform, we couldn't get on. The people on them were packed in like cigarettes and every time the doors opened, they'd scream, "No!" It didn't make sense for the trains to stop because literally 2-5% of us on the platform could squeeze in. Meanwhile, the platform got more and more crowded as people kept streaming down the escalator.


    I can't believe the Metro authoreities didn't plan on there being an extra 200,000 people in the Metro area because of the rally (Read Joe of Joe. My. God. for his own account of the DC Metro.).

    So, while I was having Charles Bronson fantasies and watching one train after another take off without us, I just grabbed Mrs. JP's hand and practically dragged her up the disabled escalator. We stopped at an IHOP next door for a quick pancake breakfast while I loudly railed for anyone to hear about the benefits of eugenics. Afterward, we took a cab in front of the Hilton to the rally. It cost us $20 plus the tip but it was worth it (or so we thought). I was not going to drive nearly 24 hours to get to a rally that we'd miss.

    Well, as else anyone who was actually there can tell you, you'll know the rally ended after Tony Bennett sang at about 2:30. The cabbie dropped us off a few blocks from where the rally was between 3rd and 7th streets and it took us until after 2:30 to get to the head of the cordoned-off area. I got a glimpse of Jon Stewart and Tony Bennett on the Jumbotron and by the time we got to the cordon, the event staff was already breaking down the massive stage.

    Luckily, we were able to get a Capitol cop to kindly give us directions to the nearest Metro station on 3rd street and we took a thankfully uneventful and comfortable train ride back to Ballston where out friend took us home.

    The timing on the 30th was our fault but it can't be said that the DC Metro did anyone any great favors by not factoring in what turned out to be an extra 200,000 people (according to the CBC) in the DC area. They sold well over 800,000 tickets but who knows how many were worthless because of the crowding? And idiotic drivers and rapacious and mobbed-up Turnpike authorities needlessly holding up traffic was also beyond our control. Thank the Powers That Be that our 12 year-old girl faithfully navigated us through nearly 1000 miles of hostile highway without a single hitch.

    As you can see from the pictures I'd already posted, we saw some great signs, met some really laid-back and nice fellow liberals and one incredible guy in a dress made up entirely of candy bracelets (to his mortification, I stuffed a dollar into it but failed to save the picture I took). Cigarettes are literally half the price, it being tobacco country, and it was nice meeting my SO's best friend from Rhode Island.

    But with the 11 hour trip back last night, that meant we drove just over 22 hours to attend the final hour of the rally without actually seeing any of it. 22 hours, almost $50 in tolls and about $120 in gasoline. No, it was so incredibly not worth it. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, Mrs. JP and I will be homebodies regardless what Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and our overlord Markos cook up. It was a needlessly expensive, frustrating, infuriating and exhausting road trip.

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