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Monday, December 15, 2008

Don't Look At This As Goodbye, Ed

Just that we won't share our time together here anymore. That's right, this website is now defunct. I am very excited to announce the purchase of the Shambollocks web domain. Yes, that's right-from now on, Shambollocks will be as free as a bird! So please visit us at our new location here:

It's new, it's spiffy, and you'll love every second wasting your time with a whole slew of added features!

Thanks Blogspot for being the cradle. But now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to kick this baby into overdrive.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Will eat you alive! Mwaaahahahaaaa!


Bobby Rush-Working For Us

I know, I know, this week has not been kind to my fellow Illinois citizens. Our initial excitement at the news of Boy Blunder's downfall has turned into horrid embarrassment as the national media attention changed our state's image to that of an -izikstan. At least my wife can say she's from Iowa. Me, I got nothing.

And yesterday the Tribune reported that another Illinois politician continues their excellent public service in Congress, one Bobby Rush. Bobby is my representative in Congress, although I voted for him once-in my first election. This week, he sponsored a bill guarding our great nation from the tyranny of a false college national championship game.
He [Rep. Joe Barton of Texas]said the bill — being co-sponsored by Reps. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, and Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican — "will prohibit the marketing, promotion, and advertising of a postseason game as a 'national championship' football game, unless it is the result of a playoff system. Violations of the prohibition will be treated as violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act as an unfair or deceptive act or practice."

I give. Next time, Kara and I have the Iowa talk I'm calling her bluff.

Illinois, vote these bums out

Historical note- the above congressman waxed our President-elect in a primary here a few years back. For the record, I voted for Obama.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Afghanistan- Gung Ho? Or No?

I stand as one of the few people who said after American forces invaded Afghanistan, "This is a bad idea." For as long as we have written history, attempts at occupying that country have come to naught. And for good reason. The country is as inviting as a Rush Limbaugh, post-show hug. When you're not dealing with impassable mountains you're stuck in flesh-melting heat. The great majority of the country has no running water or electricity. The New Republic this month provides a thorough examination of just what kind of mess President-elect Obama is hell-bent on entering.

That America's October 2001 invasion failed to impose peace and stability is not exactly a surprise. Afghanistan is like a Chinese finger trap: The harder you try to solve it, the more it constricts you. Ask the Russians. In 1979, the Soviet Union sent military forces to install a pro-Soviet government in Kabul. At its peak in the country, the Red Army numbered some 140,000. But, after ten years of inconclusive fighting, 15,000 dead, and tens of thousands more wounded, the battered Soviets mounted a humiliating retreat--one that probably helped speed the collapse of their empire. ("They've already repeated all of our mistakes," one former Soviet general from the Afghan campaign recently said to The New York Times of the U.S. occupation.) Or ask the British. More than a century earlier, the United Kingdom dispatched a huge army to Afghanistan from India to secure it against Russian influence. That adventure, too, was a disaster, ending in a retreat of 16,500 troops and civilians through the Khyber Pass into Pakistan. Only one survivor made it--his life spared by the Afghans so he could recount the ghastly tale for others.

From the beginning, experts with this historical perspective in mind warned that crushing the Taliban was impossible: "No matter how successful the U.S. campaign is," wrote the Council on Foreign Relations's Kimberly Marten Zisk in November 2001, "never will all the rebels defect to the winning side. The rebels who are left will not stop fighting, no matter how hard conditions get." The past seven years have made those words look prescient. Today, the Taliban is as bold--and as brutal--as it has been since the United States first drove it from power. The Pashtun Islamic radicals who controlled the country from 1996 to 2001, and provided safe harbor to Osama bin Laden before September 11, have found sanctuary and regrouped just across Afghanistan's eastern border, in Pakistan's self-governing northwestern tribal areas.

The Afghans know how to kill and maim, yo. Obama, you best watch it. They will fight forever because that is all they know. I don't think America is ready for an interminable occupation of Afghanistan. My advice-gather a regional council of NATO, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan. Collaborate on an infrastructure for Afghanistan that gets modern knowledge and sanitation for these people. Agree to spend what it would cost to house 300,000 troops there. Invest in the Afghanis- not the crooked tribal chiefs or warlords.

Success in Afghanistan would do much to make the world forget the Iraq debacle. But it can't be done by any repeat of an Iraq strategy. When in doubt, don't forget to ask the Russians.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Twat(s) of the Day

Empire of the Sun, "Walking On A Dream" from Benjamin Technology on Vimeo.

If you were wondering what it would take to make the Chinese go all al-Queda on our asses, check out this video. Not only does the song make a Chinese laundry joke sound cutting edge, these two Australians make a video that collectively dumps on Chinese culture. It is the music video version of Road Rules Europe. Let's show how enlightened we Aussies (thank God, they are not Americans) are by trading on the same level of self-involved irony we do at home!

Please feel free to play this whenever you need an outlet for that irrational rage issue you have.

woxy Holiday Mixer

My wife is a wonderful, adorable woman in almost every conceivable, measurable way. But when Christmas comes every year she desires holiday music to the near exclusion of all else. Of all the music genres, I am quite sure that holiday music contains the most rubbish. And the most repetition. It it truly necessary to hear 'The Christmas Song' fifteen times, even if it is the classic Nat King Cole version?

To our collective rescue comes woxy with their Holiday mixer. I just listened to unique Xmas songs by Shambollocks favorites Guided By Voices and Ron Sexsmith.

Feel free to hang mistletoe with care- and with devils horns.

'Children of the Revolution'-T Rex, Elton, Ringo '72

This rocks a whole hell of a lot. Three drummers, T-Rex, and Elton bang out this classic T-Rex hit. On the flip, you also see the wasted self-love which made the '70s suck. Bolan starts off by serenading EJ from within his piano. Ringo, who directed a T-Rex feature from which this is taken, walks around in a clown suit filming T-Rex in a mirrored cube. Ick!

Amount of degradation before and after this was shot- Epic!

Found- MBV.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

'As Tall As Cliffs'

Margot and the Nuclear So & So's - As Tall as cliffs - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Shambollocks loves jam sessions, cities at night, and messy sing-a-longs. Margot and the Nuclear So & So's give us all of that in this wee in the morning performance. I especially love the maracas played against a Makers bottle.

'Stronger Than Jesus'

The band is called A Camp. The song is 'Stronger Than Jesus'. It is the first single from their next album. The album drops Feb. 2, 2009, and will be called Colonia. Very much dig the song with its mid-70s MOR feel, and a video which harkens back to the very early days of music videos.

Plus, I like hot blondes.

Found- Chromewaves.

Dumbest. Politician. Ever. (UPDATED)

2008 just keeps giving for me, politically. The Republicans were marched out of office last month. This morning at 6:15 AM, federal agents knocked on the North Side Statehouse of one Governor Rod Blagojevich (Boy Blunder to Shambollocks readers), and arrested him for going on "a political corruption crime spree" (words of U.S. Attny Patrick Fitzgerald). Huzzah!

From early reports, it appears Boy Blunder was auctioning off the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama to the taker whose bid best accommodated Rod and Patty financially. He was doing this up through this weekend, despite reports that he was under audio surveillance on the front page of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE! Wow, really Trib, nobody pays any attention to you. Don't think this rotten stew could get any better? He was racking his brain for a way to appoint himself to the Senate seat, thereby avoiding the threat of impeachment and prepping himself for a, sit down, run for the President in 2016!

Hahahahaha...oh yeah, I'm at the keyboard.

Illinois is an open sewer. I wonder how this will reflect on Obama, whose staff has many connections to Boy Blunder. I wonder if George Ryan will now get a new bunkmate. Is Daley next on Fitzgerald's hitlist?

Find news of this developing story here.

Illinois-Where the Governor's pension includes room and board on the Fed's dime.

- Here is fine piece from Chicago in February which gives some deep background on Boy Blunder's problems.

[Dick] Mell [Boy Blunder's father-in-law and mentor] insists that he largely kept his big ego in check during the campaign, but in the aftermath of the November election, he began to feel as if he were getting the cold shoulder from Blagojevich. His phone calls weren't returned. He was left out of meetings. His nominees for state jobs got rejected. His advice was ignored.

Tempers flared outright a couple of months into Blagojevich's term, over something seemingly trivial: office stationery. Mell's office had printed Blagojevich's name on the alderman's 33rd Ward letterhead, an inappropriate link to the governor. Blagojevich was furious, but instead of calling Mell, he ordered one of his close advisers, Christopher Kelly, to handle it. Mell says Kelly summoned him to the East Bank Club and announced: "The governor's really pissed off." Asked why, Kelly shot back: "The stationery—it's got his name on it!"

Recalling the incident today, Mell grows animated, and his voice rises: "He sends that asshole Kelly to reprimand me about stationery! He's my son-in-law—pick up the goddamn telephone and call me." Adding to Mell's sense of insult, the governor's office sent him a cease-and-desist letter. (Attempts to reach Kelly were unsuccessful.)

The first rule of a spouse is don't piss off the in-laws. I've only been married two months and I know that. And if your father-in-law happens to be one of the ten most powerful people in the state and your political base, you might want to walk on egg shells. But not our testicularly vital (his words) Boy Blunder. He took that as a cue and alientated everyone.

Better learn how to make friends now, Rod. Sure helps in the prison showers.

Does God Love SUVs?

The above picture is from yesterday's Times. What are they thinking? One of Detroit's problems is that they make cars America doesn't want. What, is God going to buy them?
Pentecostal Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, who shared the sanctuary’s wide altar with three gleaming sport utility vehicles, closed his sermon by leading the choir and congregants in a boisterous rendition of the gospel singer Myrna Summers’s “We’re Gonna Make It” as hundreds of worshipers who work in the automotive industry — union assemblers, executives, car salesmen — gathered six deep around the altar to have their foreheads anointed with consecrated oil.
Oy vey! First, God doesn't care what happens with the auto industry. Second, the Big Three are not a governmental welfare agency. They are a business. And they don't want to change. Declare bankruptcy, dump your high-salaried corporate boobs, and restructure your legacy costs.

God helps those who help themselves.

'Little Dealer Boy'

Willie Nelson and Stephen Colbert provide us with the holiday hit of the season- 'Little Dealer Boy'. Enjoy.

And let mankind not bogard love, indeed!

Sesame Street Christmas 1978

With all the troubles that we're going through right now, I know we all can use a good smile. Here is 'Christmas Eve on Sesame Street' from 1978. I was for sure too young to remember this airing, being all of 11 months old. I'm sure my sister Michelle watched it. She had a Sesame Street playset that I loved when I got a couple years older. Really brings me back to plenty of wonderful Xmases on Springfield Ave. My mother would clip out the holiday listings from the Tribune's TV Guide, and my sisters and I planned our December viewing around the Grinch, Charlie Brown, Frosty the Snowman, and (maybe one year) this.

The cast we grew up with is all here- Bob, Maria, Gordon, Susan, Luis, David, Linda, and Mr. Hooper (!!). And Snuffalupagus!

You can watch the rest of the special right here.

Rhetorical questions- How does Oscar see where he's walking with no eye holes in his can? With no money, do I want to know how Bert and Ernie make rent each month? How come Big Bird was always getting himself lost?

- Want more retro Christmas treats? Get yourself over to BetaMaXmas right now! Awesome site that collects a bunch of our childhood Xmas specials.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sign 'O The Times

The above picture comes from Sunday's New York Times. Republic Window and Doors on the North Side of Chicago closed its doors on Friday. Except the workers haven't left. Some of them occupied the factory all weekend. Good for them.
The workers, members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, said they were owed vacation and severance pay and were not given the 60 days of notice generally required by federal law when companies make layoffs.
And where are the jobs going? Of course, overseas. Republic owed money to Bank of America, late of the Paulson bailout, which stopped Republic from giving its employees the back pay they were owed.
“Here the banks like Bank of America get a bailout, but workers cannot be paid?” said Leah Fried, an organizer with the union workers. “The taxpayers would like to see that bailout go toward saving jobs, not saving C.E.O.’s.”
We sure would, but I'm not going to start holding my breath. We know with whom the politicians go to dinner, and it isn't us. We need to celebrate the collective action of workers again. We need unions in this country, again. Someone has to speak for the needs of labor when the spoils are divied in Washington.

- Why did I pull the Republic story from the Times, and not the Tribune? Great question. Energizing redesign notwithstanding, the Trib sucks. I subscribe to it because I always have.

Today, the Tribune announced it was filing for bankruptcy. I still can't get over it. Sure, the paper will still run, and 'GN will remain on the airwaves, but the TRIBUNE CO. filed for BANKRUPTCY!!? The largest media company in Chicago, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, is BANKRUPT? Wow. I never thought there would be a time when the Trib didn't exist. But it is coming. The end of the newspaper era is upon us. The place where nearly every writer got started, the urban daily, will soon cease to exist. As both a writer and newspaper lover, I can't help but get a little misty.

And scared. What will replace newspapers? Who will speak truth to power?

'Jizz In My Pants'

The hottest viral video on the web right now is 'Jizz In My Pants', the video from Andy Samberg's the Lonely Island. Jamie Lynn-Sigler and Molly Sims provide the t & a. Andy is not allowing us to embed the video, but take my word for it-this is going to reach a 'Dick In A Box' level.

Remember, you heard about it first right here!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

'Salvage Mission'

How I Became the Bomb - Salvage Mission from How I Became the Bomb on Vimeo.

Great video for a very cool, bombastic slice of pop by the group How I Became the Bomb. I'm not sure what video game they used for the special effects, but it looks like it might be a Star Wars game.

Yes, music videos are back as meaningful art. MTV be damned, rockers still want to be actors. And thank God for that.

Ups to MBV for this.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Eliot, Be Good

Eliot Spitzer, former Emperor's Club VIP, returned from the dust heap of recent history Wednesday to write a slam dunk, right on article about the current bailout for Slate. I myself have done my best over the past few months to tell you exactly what I think about the mess, but my limited knowledge of economics makes me very much like Bambi- I can sense when something's amiss, but I can't tell you why exactly I'm running. Eliot, ex-Wall Street fighter he was, knows why it is amiss. Let's start with what's wrong with our economy:

  • Our trade deficit has ballooned from about $100 billion to more than $700 billion annually in the past decade, and our federal deficit now approaches $1 trillion. These twin deficits leave us at the mercy of foreign-capital inflows that may diminish as Asian nations, in particular, invest increasingly at home.
  • Our household savings rate has been close to zero—and even negative in some years—not permitting the long-term capital accumulation required for the investments we need; China's savings rate, by comparison, is an astonishing 30 percent of household income.
  • U.S. middle class income has stagnated over the past decade, while the middle class in China—granted, starting from a lower base—has seen its income growing at about 10 percent annually.
  • Our intellectual advantage could soon turn into a new "third deficit," as hundreds of thousands of engineers are being created annually in China.
  • We are realizing that the service sector—all the lawyers, investment bankers, advertising agencies, and accountants—follows its clients and wealth creation. This, not over-regulation, is the reason investment-banking activity has begun to migrate overseas.
Yes, yes! So true, especially that last one. All the white-collar yos who are out of work right now who think they have it bad? Wait until ten years from now, when most of their industries follow the money to India, China, or Europe. It was one thing when high-school guys lost their industrial jobs. Not much tear-crying by the degreed powers-that-be. But when a Burnett copywriter is serving up lattes at Starbucks? Ladies and gentlemen, there will be a symphony orchestra playing at every street corner.

Gotta get into the studio to lay down 'Brother, I'll Tell You How To Make Some Dimes'.

Spitzer goes on to state that we're propping up dinosaur industries- not just Detroit, but the lot of them. I've believed this, too. I know we need to bring money into the market because the banks are tighter than a Catholic school paycheck, but why are we putting the money into the same failed institutions?

A more sensible approach would focus not just on rescuing pre-existing financial institutions but, instead, on creating a structure for more contained and competitive ones. For years, we have accepted a theory of financial concentration—not only across all lines of previously differentiated sectors (insurance, commercial banking, investment banking, retail brokerage, etc.) but in terms of sheer size. The theory was that capital depth would permit the various entities, dubbed financial supermarkets, to compete and provide full service to customers while cross-marketing various products. That model has failed. The failure shows in gargantuan losses, bloated overhead, enormous inefficiencies, dramatic and outsized risk taken to generate returns large enough to justify the scale of the organizations, ethical abuses in cross-marketing in violation of fiduciary obligations, and now the need for major taxpayer-financed capital support for virtually every major financial institution.

Eliot, my man! So in short, prop up credit markets with new vehicles. Do NOT give money to the chuckleheads who drowned the baby and now can't find the telephone. Dude may have hired some ladies of the evening, but you know, leadership comes from strange places. This is by far the most well-reasoned piece I've read about our current plight.

You heard it here first. Eliot Spitzer. US Attorney General. 2012.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

'Big Timber'

Himsa 'Big Timber' from RadarMusicVideos on Vimeo.

Remember Headbanger's Ball? Remember how much you loved it? I know I don't get my own metal face out nearly enough. Himsa's very cool video for 'Big Timber' brings you back to the late '80s, when you didn't care what was being played as long as they played it FAST and LOUD!

Thanks to the aforementioned MBV.

MBV: Your One-Stop Music Blog

Shambollocks always wants you to be the coolest person on your scene, so we want to make sure you're aware of MBV- the new music site which combines the works of Said the Gramophone, Largehearted Boy, Fluxblog, The Catbird Seat, and Chromewaves in one place. Don't waste your time at Pitchfork or trawling the web. If you want new sounds, stop at MBV first.

Just as a reminder, they are the new addition to our blog list at the bottom of our page.

Windows 386 Is On The Attack!

Enjoy this promotional video for Windows 386. Stay until the seven-minute mark, where you will find some priceless, horrid white rapping.

How did John Williams, Spielberg, and Lucas allow Raiders music into this debacle?

Odetta: 1930-2008

Odetta, one of the leading voices of the '50s folk revival, died Tuesday. Odetta coincidentally died a few weeks after Studs Terkel, who introduced her to me through his WFMT show. Odetta sounded like no one else; like a cross between Bo Diddley and Nina Simone maybe. Her guitar-playing was as spare and plain as could be, but her voice, well, her voice was like the dark side of soul music. Sam Cooke and Ray Charles brought soul to Whites by taking out the pain. Odetta reveled in the pain. It was very much heavy metal folk.

Odetta influenced many. From Odetta, we get the Staples Singers, Bob Dylan, and The Band. She played at the March on Washington in 1963, so we can also thank her for President-elect Obama. I know she will be rocking out on January 20 of next year, and Studs will be close at hand, passing a hat through that heavenly bar.

The New York Times has a great interview with her last year here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Meet Our Creditor

The man above is Gao Xiqing. He manages $2 billion out of the $2 trillion we owe China. James Fallows interviews him in this month's Atlantic. What does he think went wrong with his debtor friends across the pond?

People, especially Americans, started believing that they can live on other people’s money. And more and more so. First other people’s money in your own country. And then the savings rate comes down, and you start living on other people’s money from outside. At first it was the Japanese. Now the Chinese and the Middle Easterners.

We—the Chinese, the Middle Easterners, the Japanese—we can see this too. Okay, we’d love to support you guys—if it’s sustainable. But if it’s not, why should we be doing this? After we are gone, you cannot just go to the moon to get more money. So, forget it. Let’s change the way of living. [By which he meant: less debt, lower rewards for financial wizardry, more attention to the “real economy,” etc.]

We're the guy who wants the filet mignon on our $70 a day salary. He's the guy reminding us when the rent's due. Better start saving, America. 'Cause when Gao wants his money back, we'll think the events of the last two months were the good times.

I have to say, I kind of like our creditor. Give this to the Chinese, without having to appeal to voters or shareholders they rate very low on the bullshit scale.

Keepin' 'Em Locked Up

We like to lock people up. Can't get around it. America likes to send people to prison, and if we can make the prisons absolutely miserable, well, more power to us. Dissent Magazine gives us an informed essay on the price we all pay for our criminal warehouses.

Since the 1970s, the U.S. prisoner population has increased by more than fivefold. Today, the United States is the world’s warden, incarcerating a higher proportion of its people than any other country—or about one out of every hundred adults. A staggering seven million people—or one in every thirty-two adults—are either incarcerated, on parole or probation, or under some other form of state supervision.

These figures understate the enormous and disproportionate impact that this unprecedented social experiment has had on certain groups in U.S. society. If current trends continue, one in three black men and one in six Hispanic men will spend some time in jail or prison during their lives.
So what, you might say. If they did the crime, they can do the time. OK, but what about the ripple effects that each convict's absence causes? The communities which suffer the most from imprisonment are already high-crime areas. Does it make any sense to remove healthy males from communities that already can't support themselves? And what do we do with these people we imprison? Do we educate them, get them off drugs, or, at least, keep them safe from disease and violence? No. We dump them back in the very same high crime communities, where they can import the 'tough love' we showed them to their new surroundings.

Imprisonment costs an awful lot as well. In this current economic crisis, does it make sense to feed and tend to adults who contribute nothing to society, except the occasional license plate or end table? The educational and rehabilitative services which have been cut from state prison budgets nationwide are much more effective at controlling crime than the building of more prisons. There is no reason offenders cannot return to society with marketable skills.

Finally, our nation's prisons are the last great civil rights issue. We in America just elected a black president, and we are justifiably proud of this. But we still imprison an extraordinarily high amount of black men. We need to stop looking at crime as the cause of problems, but as the effect of years of governmental ignorance. Give poor communities jobs. Give inner-city schools appropriate funding. Give increased student aid to underprivileged youth who want to go to college. Yes, this will cost an awful lot of money, but it is an investment in their future and our safety. Because what kind of investment is a prison?

This is a personal issue for us at Shambollocks. We have both been the victims and the loved ones of crime. So has most of America. It's time to make a more compassionate decision.

The Parking Meter Windfall

When is Mayor Daley finally going to take off his mask, and let everyone see that he is really George Bush? The fire sale of Chicago's revenue-generating assets continued yesterday when Daley announced the sale of the parking meters to a private company.

The City Council's Finance Committee is scheduled to debate the parking meter lease agreement Wednesday, with a final vote of the full council expected Thursday. Aldermen have given quick and overwhelming approval to all of Daley's groundbreaking privatization efforts in recent years, eagerly accepting enormous checks for long-term leases of the Chicago Skyway toll road ($1.83 billion), downtown parking garages ($563 million) and Midway International Airport ($2.5 billion).
If you wanted to know where the old Republican style of government went, it's home and safe in Chicago. Sure, you could be responsible and try to cut the administrative fat from the budget, or throw out the TIF districts, but why do that? No, just sell off future revenue to a private company that will raise rates drastically on everyone. See, you're not raising taxes. You're just mortgaging the future of the city- until 2016, when we get the Olympics and it rains lollipops and puppy dogs and we all rent our homes for outrageous sums.

Yeah, right.

The CTA is still available, but hasn't attracted interest from private hands because it needs no further push toward full-tilt disaster.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Iceland may be suffering through a winter of discontent, but they are still churning out great music. Today we spotlight the band Sin Fang Bous, a side project for a guy who is in another band called Seabear of which I am unaware. Their song 'Sinkership' has everything going on-horns, strings, and what sounds almost like the theme song to 'Kid Icarus'. Shambollocks' never faults pop which tries too hard, and we will definitely keep our eyes and ears open for this band's future work. You can find the song at bunnynico.

The Big Chart

Give yourself twenty minutes, and enjoy The Big Chart- a short film about an NCAA tournament to decide the best 'thing'. It is both funny and thought-provoking in a totally meaningless way- kind of like the best after-hours conversation you've ever had.

I Asked For A Zima, Not Emphysema

Alas, one more line from my favorite Simpsons episode will need to be explained to my children. Zima, the beer (?) which came, saw, and then turned into a national punch-line, was officially put out of its misery by MillerCoors on October 10th. Slate last week published an appreciation for this amazingly bad tasting malt beverage.

Zima came into being at the beginning of my drinking. I distinctly remember the first time I drank the stuff. In a decade which brought us the iced-beverage fad (yes, I once drank Miller High Life Ice), Zima was by far the foulest brew available. It tasted like cold, flat ginger ale-except with a distinct, mediciney after taste that made you want to immediately gargle with Jager. It lasted amongst my peers for a year because the Mother McCauley girls were able to place Sweet Tarts in it to create some kind of uber-sugary concoction similar to Homer's dear Skittle-Brau.

Here's to you, Zima. May you continue to ruin young drinkers' palettes in some Latin American after-market.

Torture Just Doesn't Work

I know it seems like, no matter what President-elect Obama says, we are already post-Bush in this country. The messy economic picture, the war drums sounding from India and Pakistan, and the imminent celebration of Christmas in January (Obama's inauguration!) make the chore of looking back on the last eight years truly disheartening. But as a history student, I am a firm believer that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And one lesson I hope was learned by the 110th Congress is how truly awful and nation-staining our interrogation policy is. We should do whatever we can to rewrite those rules immediately.

Matthew Alexander led a Special Forces interrogation unit in Iraq during the bloody chaos of 2006. The title of his op-ed piece in Sunday's Washington Post says it all- 'I'm Still Tortured By What I Saw In Iraq'.

Our new interrogation methods [investigative instead of physcially and mentally punishing-Ed.] led to one of the war's biggest breakthroughs: We convinced one of Zarqawi's associates to give up the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader's location. On June 8, 2006, U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house where Zarqawi was meeting with other insurgent leaders.

But Zarqawi's death wasn't enough to convince the joint Special Operations task force for which I worked to change its attitude toward interrogations. The old methods continued. I came home from Iraq feeling as if my mission was far from accomplished. Soon after my return, the public learned that another part of our government, the CIA, had repeatedly used waterboarding to try to get information out of detainees.

I know the counter-argument well -- that we need the rough stuff for the truly hard cases, such as battle-hardened core leaders of al-Qaeda, not just run-of-the-mill Iraqi insurgents. But that's not always true: We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate."

Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.

The damage our interrogation policy has done to our image as a beacon of light to the world will take many administrations to correct. Terrorism is a crime, and it should be dealt with by trained criminal investigators. There is no armed military solution to terrorism, as Gen. Petraeus has shown us during his tenure leading our forces in Iraq. If you beat people enough, they will tell you they are Santa Claus. That is the truth.

24 is a popular TV show. It is not the real world. When you torture people you exacerbate crime, not eliminate it.

- On the same tip, in Sunday's New York Times Jonathan Mahler writes that the war on terrorism will never be only fought through our judicial process.

Mr. Obama may be more inclined to prosecute suspected terrorists in the federal courts than Mr. Bush has been, and he may even avoid referring to the battle against terrorism as a “war.” But ceding the military paradigm altogether would severely limit his ability to fight terrorism. On a practical level, it would prevent him from operating in a zone like the tribal areas of Pakistan, where American law does not reach.

“If you seriously dialed it back to the criminal-justice apparatus you will paralyze the executive branch’s ability to go where they believe the bad guys are,” says Benjamin Wittes, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “When people talk about a return to the criminal-justice system, they’re ignoring the geographical limits of that system.”
OK, then we need to set up a national security court which provides some recourse for those apprehended in other countries. Flying around the world and picking off the bad guys will continue to bite us in the ass. We need to make sure we are giving all detainees as much due process as we can. We're America, for God sakes. We don't stand for unwarranted imprisonment.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Word Of The Day: Rickrolling

From Wikipedia:

Rickrolling is an Internet meme typically involving the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up". The meme is a bait and switch: a person provides a Web link that he or she claims is relevant to the topic at hand, but the link actually takes the user to the Astley video. The URL can be masked or obfuscated in some manner so that the user cannot determine the true source of the link without clicking. When a person clicks on the link and is led to the web page, he or she is said to have been "Rickrolled" (also spelled Rickroll'd). By extension, it can also mean playing the song loudly in public in order to be disruptive.
The age of irony now reigns supreme over the internet. At first, this is a genuine funny prank. But then it gets co-opted into something much worse- an appreciation for an awful song which forgets why it was even started. By the time it hits network TV, it becomes such a Russian doll of a joke that you get exhausted trying to figure out why you're supposed to laugh.

As a cultural commentator, I'm left feeling cheated. What is important? That Rick Astley is alive and well? That a nagging buzzterm can infiltrate the mainstream to erupt on the float for a children's show on a traditional holiday platform?

I guess I just can't believe that the folks from the Today show are more on the pulse of the moment than I am. If this is hip, though, I'm ready for Florida.

Again, harrumph.