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Monday, March 28, 2005

The Bloogeyman Travels

If you’ve ever taken a flight out of Los Angeles you know that LAX can be a nightmare – in fact, it’s almost always a nightmare. First, the 405 freeway in LA (near LAX) always has a traffic jam – I’m not talking about jams between 6 and 10 a.m. and between 3 and 7 p.m., I’m talking about all the time – you could be on the 405 near LAX at 1 a.m. in the morning and find yourself in traffic (trust me, it’s happened to me…). So, from the first step, even getting to LAX is a hassle.

Once you get there, what do you do about parking? Well, I like to use Parking Lot C – it’s pretty much the cheapest parking for a couple days – the only problem is that this parking lot is large enough to qualify for its own zip code. Theoretically, this isn’t really a problem – they have shuttles that come by every 10 minutes or so and take you to the airport – there’s just the dreaded possibility of forgetting where you parked your car. Sure, you make sure to write it down in two or three places and find yourself muttering “area 7C…area 7C” as you board the shuttle.

Now, I’ve never lost my car in Parking Lot C, but I can only imagine what would happen if you did. This isn’t a normal parking lot, in which if you lose your car you can just wait till 9 or 10 p.m. when everybody goes home and only your car is left, this lot has thousands of cars and is always packed. One car leaves, another car takes its place. I imagine that if you don’t remember where you parked your car you’d just have to write it off and go buy another one. I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself for what would happen if I forgot where I parked my car. Sure, I could wander the desert that is Parking Lot C in a vain attempt to locate my car – I figure I’d eventually die of thirst. No, better to just go buy a new car and forget my old one ever existed. What’s the probability that you actually forget where you parked your car? Pretty slim, I gather, since most people seem to understand the danger of Parking Lot C. But, in the same way that I figure everybody’s bound to lock their keys in their car sometime, I figure that if you use Parking Lot C enough, you’re bound to forget where you parked sometime…

Yes, it’s not the threat of terrorist WMD attacks, the loss of social security, or the loss of civil liberties that keeps me up at night – it’s the fear of forgetting where I parked in Parking Lot C.

Well, this time as I get on the shuttle to the airport I’m pretty confident that I won’t forget where I parked (I wrote it a dozen times on my arm…). Now comes the next ordeal in the gauntlet that is airline travel: getting to your boarding gate. First, upon getting off at your correct terminal (you hope!) you’re faced with a couple choices of how to check in – -there’s regular check-in, e-check in, and e-check in with self-baggage check. Liking to feel self-reliant at all times, I choose e-check in with self-baggage check. Ok, I just slide my credit card in and it pulls up my name…all’s good…it shows my flight (to San Francisco!) and the gate…good. I push “Continue” and it takes me to a screen where it asks me if I want to upgrade to ‘Economy Plus’. This ‘Economy Plus’ costs $19 and gives you an extra five inches of legroom. Gee – a whole five inches…wow, and only for $19! I push “No” as I think to myself “Good lord, if the airlines have come down to hitting people up for $19 to upgrade to five more inches of leg room, they’re in more trouble than I thought” Of course, we all know that Delta announced this week that they were close to bankruptcy again.

Now comes the dreaded security perp walk. The funny thing about security is that if you fit the ‘profile’ you potentially have a lot to be worried about. Now, I’m not talking about your stereotypical bearded, middle-eastern man wearing a turban (do they even bother going into an airport anymore), but just the broad profile by which you might be considered a threat. I’m talking about any guy traveling alone, between the ages of...say…18-45, who has black or dark brown hair. Yep, I fit that profile. So, knowing that you fit a broad profile of the type of person they’d be interested in (somehow, little girls between the age of 12-17, with blonde hair don’t seem like the type of traveler that gets a lot of scrutiny) you now try to show that they’ve got nothing to worry about regarding you. You try to act non-chalant. The interesting thing about this whole little mental game you play with yourself is that you try to act non-chalant without acting non-chalant in a clichéd way. You sure as hell don’t whistle and tap your shoes. You try to kind of look at people, but not stare. You don’t want to look spaced out, or constantly look at your shoes either. Given the recent 60 Minutes report about how people are randomly being abducted and spirited off aboard ‘phantom airplanes’ to countries that use torture to get information out of you – I wasn’t looking forward to the possibility that I might draw any unwanted attention…

That's all for now, the Bloogeyman will get back to you with more tales of travel as his week of traveling adventure goes on.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Throw a Bucket of Cold Water on 'Em

A couple weeks back the Bloogeyman related the first part of his epic story: The Trials and Tribulations of Installing a Water Heater. When we last left the Bloogeyman he was on his way to Home Depot to get a soldering kit to do the damn job of welding copper pipes. Why? Because the Bloogeyman doesn’t exactly fancy the thought of having some inbred plumber blow up his house. The Bloogeyman prefers to do the job himself.

So anyways, the Bloogeyman is on his way to the local Home Depot to pick up a soldering kit, some copper pipe, and some couplings. The great thing about Home Depot is that it’s basically like a huge candy-shop for men – I mean the amount of power tools, electrical gadgets, and just-plain-manly-stuff (PVC pipe) is astonishing. Of course, if you’re not used to doing things yourself, or if you don’t exactly know what you’re doing it can be as intimidating as parachuting naked into the jungle.

Luckily, since the Bloogeyman had been through the drill before (looking at water heaters, connections, etc.) he knew exactly where to find the stuff. Oh, how the Bloogeyman strutted through the wide aisles like he owned the place. The meek, who didn’t know what they were looking for, or the babies who were waiting for some Home Depot employee to guide their hand, scattered before the mighty Bloogeyman.

Of course, once I got to the water heater / pipe section I realized I couldn’t find any soldering kits. Great…now my turn to stand around helpless like a baby who just crapped his pants waiting for some grownup to come rescue him. Screw that, I’ll go find some employee. The first guy I run into, a kid, actually (is there some sort of pimple-count test you have to pass before becoming an employee of Home Depot?) starts walking with me towards the soldering kits while I tell him exactly what I’m going to be doing.

“Hey, you should use this stuff right here – CopperBond – you just put it on the pipes and bond them together, you don’t have to do the soldering”, he said as he grabs some epoxy glue-type stuff for bonding copper pipes.

“Yeah, but will this really work?”, I said as I scratch my head and look at the label denoting a $5.99 price (that’s gonna be $20 less than getting a soldering kit).

“Sure, that stuff will work. And look here on the back of the box, it says this stuff is guaranteed to provide a leak-proof joint. If this stuff leaks and messes up all your stuff you can, like, sue the hell out of them and get a ton of money”, he advised.

I actually started laughing out loud.

I mean, come on – like you can sue some large-ass corporation that’s probably a subsidiary of GE or something because their ‘CopperBond’ didn’t bond your copper and water-damaged your whole house. You’d get that lawsuit shoved up your ass so hard by some GE corporate lawyers that you’d end up paying them for slandering their product or something. I almost wanted to pat the kid on the head because he was so naïve!

“No, really, you could sue them and get them to pay for all your damages”, the kid defended.

“Yeah, well maybe, but probably not”, I said noncommittally.

Screw it, I’ll just go for the soldering kit, I thought as the kid walked away. If I’m going to do the job myself might as well do it right.

Of course, there was also some latent pride at being able to walk up to the counter and purchase a propane torch soldering kit. I’m a big boy.

So I get home and fire up that torch. First things first, I have to undo the previous joint the previous scumbag plumber welded into the wall.

So, I start to heat up that joint – once the solder gets hot enough I should be able to pull the pipe off.


There’s molten hot soldering dripping onto my hand as I hold the torch below the joint. Goddamn, molten metal is hot! I go run my hand under some cold water – luckily I hardly got burned – and then go find some gloves.

To make the rest of a long, boring story short suffice it to say that there really weren’t any other hilarious mishaps (no, my eyebrows did not get burned off and I do still have a house). Frankly, I kind of enjoyed doing this project myself – it’s always cooler to do something with cool tools than say, sweep the sidewalk.

All-in-all I’m actually glad I didn’t have to deal with watching a plumber do a shoddy job and overcharge me when I could basically do the job myself in roughly the same amount of time. And I guess that’s what it’s come to – these days you either have to buck up and do the job yourself or resign yourself to the fact that you’ll probably get ripped off.

And that gets me to our current-day larger than life scandals. You can’t trust anyone anymore because they won’t think twice about ripping you off. Take Enron, for example, Ken Lay rips people off and just walks away. He is never going to trial. And hell, even if he does go to trial, he’ll probably get some lame Martha Stewartesque slap on the wrist. Raise your hand if you would gladly go to a minimum-security prison for 5 years if you got $100 million dollars out of it. Yeah, some of us have ethics, but face it, most people don’t. And, even if they try to take the money away from Ken Lay he’s had like 4 years to carefully stash, launder, and hide the money away. What a scumbag…

We need to revamp the whole prison system to create only two types of prisons: regular, and super maximum security. The super maximum security would be for people on death row, people who don’t behave (taking away their pudding doesn’t help), and psychos. Regular is for everybody else. That’s right – Mr. I-carjacked-somebody-and-then-shot-two-people right next to Mr. I’m-just-a-tax-accountant. I really think that if people like Michael Milken, Charles Keating, and Ken Lay had to bunk with some 300lb Bubba who’s serving 20 to life for gang-raping a Teamster they’d think twice before stealing pension money from old ladies.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

March Madness, Part 3: Bracket Breakdown - East

Welcome back to our coverage of March Madness. Previously our guest commentators, Gumby Bryant and Mad Johnnen, helped us break down the exciting 'North' region of the iNCAA bracket. Now we're going to look at the 'East' region - I'll let Gumby and Mad get right to it:

North Region

Oh, and if you haven’t gotten the whole bracket yet, or haven’t filled it out, here's the entire, printable bracket.

Gumby Bryant: Welcome back to our exclusive iNCAA coverage. I’m Gumby Bryant…uh…no relation to Kobe…and here’s Mad Johnnen…

Mad Johnnen: Welcome back everyone…

Gumby Bryant: Ok, let’s cut right to the chase – is the ‘East’ region the strongest in the iNCAA bracket? I’m starting to think so…

Mad Johnnen: Well, hold on a minute, let’s back up for a minute – I want to take a moment to introduce anyone who’s just joining us to the iNCAA tournament.

Gumby Bryant: Ok, but make it quick, we’ve got a lot to cover!

Mad Johnnen: The iNCAA tournament is a ‘last-man standing’ style tournament to determine who has the most control over Iraq at the end of the tournament. This tournament lasts 1 year and has six rounds (thus, each round lasts 2 months). At the end of each round a determination will be made as to which of the two teams has more control and authority in Iraq. For example, if you look at the ‘East’ region, #1 seed Theocratic Shiites is up against #16 seed Christian Iraqis – at the end of April we will determine who has more control and that team will move on to the second round.

Gumby Bryant: Hah – we all know who’s moving forward from that match-up.

Mad Johnnen: Well, yeah – the Christians are going to get crushed like this is a modern-day crusade!

Gumby Bryant: That’s what makes the current turn of events so interesting. Not many people realize that life was actually pretty good for Christians under Saddam Hussein. Ever since the invasion Iraqi Christians have been pretty much under siege with church bombings, kidnappings, and killings.

Mad Johnnen: Now, wasn’t the Deputy Prime Minister under Saddam Hussein a Christian?

Gumby Bryant: Yup, many people forget that Tariq Aziz, basically the number two guy in Iraq under Saddam, was a Christian.

Mad Johnnen: Well that’s too bad for Christian Iraqis – they had a good run.

Gumby Bryant: Yeah, you could say that they’ve been the ‘Cinderella story’ of the past 30 years – I think they’re going down and out after the first round.

Mad Johnnen: Now, how about that #1 seed for Coach Sistani’s team?

Gumby Bryant: That was pretty much a given – the Theocratic Shiites are arguably the strongest team in this whole tournament after U.S. Army. But, in addition to the #1 seed that the Theocratic Shiites deserved, I think they also got really favorable placement within the ‘East’ region.

Mad Johnnen: Come again? I was thinking the exact opposite – I think the ‘East’ region is potentially upset city…

Gumby Bryant: How’s that?

Mad Johnnen: Well, bear with me here, take a look at the top half of the ‘East’ region – you’ve got two other really strong teams in that part: Moqtada al-Sadr and Ba’ath Party

Gumby Bryant: But only one of those teams can move up to challenge the Theocratic Shiites…

Mad Johnnen: Sure, but whichever team moves up to challenge them in round 3 will have the benefit of a bruising second round match that will get them in shape for the Theocratic Shiites.

Gumby Bryant: And who do you think will move up to challenge Coach Sistani’s squad?

Mad Johnnen: I think Ba’ath Party, though seeded much lower than I thought they deserved, will move up and could possibly upset the Theocratic Shiites.

Gumby Bryant: Wow! I didn’t even think they could get by Moqtada al-Sadr in the second round!

Mad Johnnen: al-Sadr had his spark last April, but he’s really lost a lot of traction since then. You have to remember that the Ba’ath Party is really well organized and knows all the tricks of the game – they’ve been number 1 in Iraq for 30 years.

Gumby Bryant: Well, I guess you have a point, but I’m not sure I see them upsetting Coach Sistani…

Mad Johnnen: Well, it could happen – also take a look at the bottom half of the ‘East’ region. I was really surprised that the Theocratic Sunnis got a #2 seed!

Gumby Bryant: I guess you could say that was the shocker of this region – the Kurds were really unhappy at the fact that they were given a #3 seed.

Mad Johnnen: But that’s ok, they have a chance to take out their anger on the Theocratic Sunnis in the 3rd round.

Gumby Bryant: Only if they get past the Saddam Loyalists in the second round…

Mad Johnnen: What? I was going to say that the Kurds were going to roll over the Saddam Loyalists, they sure have some vengeance to work out of their system!

Gumby Bryant: Hey, you can’t underestimate the Saddam Loyalists – remember, they were the ones who started the current insurgency way back in March 2003!

Mad Johnnen: Granted…they are a tough, scrappy little team.

Gumby Bryant: Well, in conclusion, Mad, give me your pick to win the ‘East’ region…

Mad Johnnen: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Ba’ath Party will make an astounding comeback to win it all in the East.

Gumby Bryant: That’s definitely a daring prediction – I’m going to play it safe and vote that Coach Sistani and the Theocratic Shiites stomp through the East. With that, we’re off – stay tuned for some more bracket breakdowns next time. We actually have a surprise for viewers…

Mad Johnnen: What’s that?

Gumby Bryant: Next time we’re going to break down the ‘West’ region and we have booked Coach George W. Bush of U.S. Army to give us some insight into the ‘West’ region and the whole iNCAA tournament.

Mad Johnnen: Should be exciting – stay tuned!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Poll of the Week Results: Please State Your Nickname for the Record

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Well, here are the results from our ‘pick a nickname’ contest. How did I even come up with such a contest… you should check out this post in which the Bloogeyman takes an opinion columnist to task for suggesting Condoleezza Rice might deserve a Nobel Peace Prize (WTF?!?). Just writing that post got the Bloogeyman so worked up, muttering various unflattering names for Condi Rice, that he decided to make a contest of it and let you decide what Condi’s nickname should be.

So, you all voted and…the winner is…’Condosleaza Rice’ (in case you have trouble reading the complex graph above…or, unlike Ross Perot, just don’t like reading graphs). Oh, I also forgot to mention that Condoleezza Rice agreed to abide by our decision and use our proclaimed nickname from now on.

Just kidding (I know, that really threw you guys for a loop…you’re so used to the Bloogeyman being dead serious)

Ah, nicknames indeed – we all know that George Bush has a penchant for providing his own little nicknames…but what would George Bush nickname Condi? Well, the Bloogeyman knows because the only vote that ‘Brown Sugah’ got came from George Bush himself. You see, the Bloogeyman called up George himself, disguised as a ‘reporter’ from ‘Talen News’ service and asked him this very question. George seemed to think I was asking him a non-hypothetical question, since he quickly provided the “correct” answer. “Uh, that would be number D, Brown Sugah”, he replied to my question.

The Bloogeyman was about to launch into a hard-hitting one-on-one interview with the President, but right at that moment I heard a knock and George said “Shit, I gotta go, that’s Dick – I’m supposed to be reading this report”. Oh well, now that I’ve got George’s personal line (I found out the number for the large red phone that sits on his desk – I figure with the safety and security that George provides the Russians will never need to use the ‘red line’, right?). So, enjoy the results and don’t be afraid for the Bloogeyman, intrepid reporter that he is, will surely call George back on the ‘red line’ and get an interview one of these days…

Friday, March 18, 2005

March Madness, Part 2: Bracket Breakdown - North

Welcome again to our coverage of March Madness. Last time, we presented some opening comments and let everyone take a look at the bracket. This time, the Bloogeyman is proud to present Gumby Bryant and Mad Johnnen – they will be helping us take a closer look at the bracket. First, we’ll break down the bracket and look at each region – there’s some exciting stuff going on here, and plenty of controversy – then we’ll wrap it up by looking at the bracket as a whole along with some possible outcomes. Here’s the ‘North’ region of the bracket, I'll let Gumby and Mad take it from here:

North Region

Oh, and if you haven’t gotten the whole bracket yet, or haven’t filled it out, here’s the entire, printable bracket.

Gumby Bryant: Hello everyone, welcome to our iNCAA coverage. I’m Gumby Bryant…uh…no relation to Kobe…and here’s my co-host, Mad Johnnen.

Mad Johnnen: Hiya everybody!

Gumby Bryant: Ok, Mad, let’s get right into this, there’s a lot of interesting things going on in this North region.

Mad Johnnen: Well, hold on for a minute, I think we need to first introduce the iNCAA tournament to everybody out there who just got into this – it’s going to be an exciting tournament and we want everybody to play along!

Gumby Bryant: Ok Mad, take it away…

Mad Johnnen: The iNCAA tourney is pretty exciting because it’s a ‘last-man standing’ tourney – we’re looking at who has the most control over Iraq. Man, there are a lot of players and players who play a lot. The interesting thing about this tournament is that there really is no time limit – players drop out whenever. Basically, we update the bracket each year and during the year we follow the players at two-month intervals and then determine who has more control at the end of the round. For example, lets take a look at the ‘North’ region – the first round is over at the end of April. At that point we’ll take a look to see who has more control, #1 seed Britain, or #16 seed Netherlands. Round two is over at the end of June, and so-forth.

Gumby Bryant: I’m sure we all know who’s going to be out at the end of April in that match up! Remember, a #16 seed has never defeated a #1 seed in the history of the tournament – the Netherlands is going to get rolled.

Mad Johnnen: No objections here, Gumby. You know, when I first took a look at the North bracket I was amazed at how stacked this bracket is with the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ this year.

Gumby Bryant: Right Mad, but I was thinking they are more like the ‘Coalition of the Willing-to-Bend-Over-and-Take-it-for-Uncle-Sam’!

Mad Johnnen: No objections here, Gumby. But, you gotta like some of the ‘wildcard’ players they threw in here…Iran, Syria, Israel. This could get really interesting.

Gumby Bryant: That’s exactly what I was going to talk about – there was a lot of controversy over the fact that Iran got a #2 seed in this region – are they even playing in this tournament?

Mad Johnnen: Boy, that sure took people by surprise. Coach Howard of Australia was really miffed on this one – he was really hoping for a #2 seed. Not only did he not get that, he’s potentially going up against Italy in the second round! I talked to some of my sources and here was the rationale behind putting Iran in this bracket and for giving them such a high seed. Basically, any way you look at it, Iran has a lot of influence, even control, in Iraq: Sure, they don’t have troops on the ground but there have been a lot of reports about Iranian intelligence agents in Iraq.

Gumby Bryant: Right, and if you remember back in January, a British C-130 Hercules was shot down – some people say that Iran was behind that. You’ve got to be nervous if you’re Coach Blair because you might have to go head-to-head with Iran to win the North bracket.

Mad Johnnen: Let’s look at another pick that took everyone by surprise – Italy. Gumby, didn’t Italy announce just a couple days ago that they were going to withdraw troops from Iraq by September? How did they get on the bracket, and how did they get such a high seed?

Gumby Bryant: Well, here’s how I look at the situation: Sure, Coach Berlusconi announced a couple days ago that he was going to drop out of the tournament by September, but look what happened yesterday – he backtracked on that statement! Coach Bush (U.S. Army) called him up and twisted his arm...

Mad Johnnen: I bet he didn’t have to twist hard…the U.S. hasn’t owned Italy this much since they drove through Italy in a convertible during World War 2!

Gumby Bryant: …yeah, well I think that Italy will be there longer than September, but I know they’re going to have to get by Australia if they want to stay alive past the second round.

Mad Johnnen: Now what about these other two surprises – Israel and Syria?

Gumby Bryant: Israel was a real shocker – Coach Sharon had publicly said that he didn’t want to be on the bracket, but that didn’t stop Israel from being placed…favorably, if I might add…

Mad Johnnen: Wait just a minute here, did you say that Israel has been placed favorably?

Gumby Bryant: Sure, just look at the top half of the bracket – Britain’s a #1 seed right now, but I think Britain’s position is kind of shaky. Coach Blair’s been getting a lot of pressure lately and if he makes some move that indicates he’ll be out of the tournament – or even some comments undermining the appearance of Britain’s commitment to the tourney – I think there’s an upset in the making. Everybody knows that Israel has a huge stake in the outcome of this tournament, and I think you’re naïve if you don’t believe they have some level of control in this process.

Mad Johnnen: So, let me get this straight: You think Israel will sail past Japan in the first round…

Gumby Bryant: The Japanese are a bunch of wet noodles…

Mad Johnnen: And then they have a chance at upsetting Britain…wow…that would be breath taking. In that scenario, what about a possible match-up against Syria in the third round?

Gumby Bryant: That’s what makes the North bracket so interesting…I think that Israel would squeeze by Syria – that could potentially result in a 4th round match up against Iran.

Mad Johnnen: Wowza!

Gumby Bryant: That’s right – this bracket has the potential to be a real powder keg of action. Good to have all you folks with us – let us know what your favorite picks are in the North bracket. Next time we'll take a look at the 'East' region of the bracket.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

March Madness, Part 1: Iraqetology

Well, March Madness has arrived and it looks to be a doozy. In fact, I’m a little late to the party because by my count March Madness actually started two years ago: I just never got around to filling out my brackets. Of course, I’m talking about Iraqi March Madness – the biggest, baddest bracket fest ever. So, sharpen your pencils because, without further ado, here is the bracket:

Click for larger, printable version

Click here for larger, printable version.

Also, I have a special surprise, I have scheduled Gumby Bryant (no relation to Kobe) and Mad Johnnen to do a region-by-region breakdown of the brackets. They’ll be swinging by later on to let us know the ins and outs of the brackets – who looks like they’ll be going far, who might be on the receiving end of an upset, and which surprises to look out for.

This looks like an exciting tournament - make sure to fill out your brackets and get ready for some madness!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Of Blogs and Boogeymen – Today in Iraq

Today in Iraq is more of a news source than a blog. “But, it’s all just bad news!”, I’ll soon hear someone whining. Well, hell, lemme double check that. Yup, it’s pretty much all bad news. I’ll refrain from telling you whether or not that’s because almost everything happening in Iraq is bad or whether it’s just cherry picking of news. You Tell Me.© (Hah! Love how I used my copyrighted phrase? Take that Fox News!). Suffice it to say my view on this blog is 1) The people who keep up this blog obviously put a lot of time into getting practically everything that’s happening in Iraq at a given moment and 2) The ‘Commentary’ section of the blog gives you good insight as to what various editorials around the nation and world are saying about Iraq (whether you agree with them or not it’s good to know what they are saying).

Here’s my view on the whole good news/bad news thing: When the time comes that I’m getting only good news about anything I’ll start to feel like I’m living in some Soviet utopian nightmare. “But comrade”, the local party boss will say, “a half a loaf of bread a day is a feast fit for a king!” as I look down at my bit of moldy bread and realize that once again I’m gonna go hungry so Uncle Joe can afford another car. Given a choice between bad news and good news, I’ll take the bad news any day.

Yes, I know that good things are happening every day in Iraq. I know that kids are going to school and hospitals are being rebuilt. But, to paraphrase what someone else once said, “It was a sunny day in Dallas the day that Kennedy got shot, but most newspapers didn’t lead with the weather.” Damn right. Don’t show me a picture of some little girl going to school when her mom had to wear a burkha to go vote and her cousin just got blown up by some suicide bomber. That’s not much progress in my book.

So, Today in Iraq tells it to you straight – no embellishment, just the cold, hard steel. Remember, part of how the Bloogeyman works is to try to look at the cold, hard facts – or the worst-case scenario – it’s part of being “conservative”. For example, in the business world (where I work to put food on my family), to be conservative in your budget forecast or financial assumptions means to take the ‘most likely scenario’ and discount it. That is, take what you think is happening or might happen and knock it down a notch to see what happens if things don’t turn out as good as anticipated. Now, I’m not a military genius or anything like that, but if we finance people can plan for a worst-case scenario (in which all we lose is more dollars) then shouldn’t a military planner plan for a worst-case scenario (in which you lose more lives if something goes wrong).

A key foundation of capitalism is the fact that you must be rooted in reality. If your business is producing goods of inferior quality or high price, the market will make your business go bankrupt. No goody-goody communist subsidizing of your business to make it look like your plan is really working. We’re living in the real world! And if the basis of our capitalistic economy is to be rooted in reality, doesn’t it make sense to be rooted in reality in other parts of our life? That is why I prefer to keep one foot in reality and look at a worst-case scenario. When the worst-case scenario starts looking ok, then I know (just as in business) that we’ve got something pretty good on our hands.

The breadth and depth of information necessary to understand a situation and comprehend all of the future possibilities empowers one to make decisions that effect what will really happen in the future. The essence of that power lies in information and deduction. Today in Iraq does an admirable job of putting together about as much information on a pressing topic in today’s world that one needs to feel informed. For that reason the Bloogeyman recommends Today in Iraq.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Of Blogs and Boogeymen – The American Conservative Magazine

“The American Conservative magazine?!? WTF?!?”, you will screech when you see this. No, the Bloogeyman is not smoking crack. Yes, it is Pat Buchanan’s magazine. No, the Bloogeyman does not agree with all (or even most) of what is in that magazine. Yes, The American Conservative is still worth reading – and here’s why.

No, this whole post will not be a “Yes, No, Yes, No” diatribe – whew, I could almost hear my readership declining by the second. The American Conservative magazine was founded in 2002 by Scott McConnell, Pat Buchanan, and Taki Theodoracopulos. Now, the Bloogeyman is by no means a close follower of Buchananite policies, nor does the Bloogeyman even contend to know each and every Buchananite stance on every issue. However, in the quest for political knowledge it is important, if not essential, to look at other political theory frameworks to understand their source, structure, and impact.

“Ah”, you will say, “A variation of the ‘know thy enemy’ theme”. Well, let’s take a look at several recent important nation/world events. Against runaway spending by Bush that has turned a $200 billion surplus into a $400 billion deficit? Against the continuing policy of outsourcing manufacturing jobs – a policy that has cost 2.7 million jobs in the first Bush term? Against the war in Iraq before the war was started? Against the neo-conservative march towards limiting civil liberties and individual rights? Against bad fiscal and monetary policies that are causing or augmenting the decline of the dollar? Against go-it-alone foreign policies and neo-imperialism? It could be Howard Dean, but it is also Pat Buchanan that holds all those positions.

I know, that’s how fucked up the whole neo-conservative / religious right / right-wing conservative movement has gotten – it actually makes Pat Buchanan seem like a moderate conservative. I never thought I’d hear myself say that. Regardless, The American Conservative is an important magazine to read because you are able to see the thought process behind many of the conservative ideas laid out by “old-school” conservatives.

Here is some text from their website that explains how they view themselves:

Many voices will appear in the pages of The American Conservative — often in disagreement with one another. We are of course in considerable part Buchananite—well disposed to the web of ideas that drew millions of voters during three Buchanan presidential bids. But our magazine’s mission is broader: to ignite the conversation that conservatives ought to have engaged in since the end of the Cold War, but didn’t.

We will question the benefits and point to the pitfalls of the global free trade economy; we will free the immigration debate from the prison to which it has been consigned. And we will discuss, frequently, America’s role in the world, turning a critical eye on those who want to cast aside every relevant American foreign policy tradition—from Robert Taft-style isolationism to prudent Dwight Eisenhower-style internationalism, in favor of go it alone militarism, where America threatens and bombs one nation after another, while the world looks on in increasing horror.

We believe conservatism to be the most natural political tendency, rooted in man’s taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God. We believe that true conservatism has a predisposition for the institutions and mores that exist. So much of what passes for contemporary conservatism is wedded to a kind of radicalism—fantasies of global hegemony, the hubristic notion of America as a universal nation for all the world’s peoples, a hyperglobal economy. In combination with an increasingly unveiled contempt for America’s long-standing allies, this is more a recipe for disaster.

Against it, we take our stand.

Why not just read Fox News to get some “conservative” insight? Well, if we want to get philosophical for a minute, a Fox News argument usually goes something like this: A=B, B=C, therefore A=T (WTF?!?). Plainly said, it is rhetoric. Logic can not dent it because it does not exist in the plane of logic. You may not agree with many of the conclusions that the writers in The American Conservative come to (and even if the conclusion logically follows from the premise, you might not agree with the premise), but at least they try to start with a premise, add logic, and arrive at a conclusion.

The Bloogeyman believes it is important to keep an open mind and at least consider every point of view. Even if you arrive to the conclusion that a certain point of view is wrong, you should attempt to understand the “logic” of that point of view and the way that point of view is pitched or disseminated to people so that you can counter and unmask the boogeyman that hides beneath that policy. Amazingly, you will find yourself agreeing with some of the conclusions writers in The American Conservative arrive at and it will be interesting to see how they arrived at that same conclusion from a different philosophical starting point. For that reason the Bloogeyman recommends The American Conservative magazine.

Monday, March 14, 2005

When In Rome...

One thing I’ve started to notice a lot in the last several years is how people seem to be declaring that something is X and then, when called upon to provide evidence that supports the assertion, demand that someone needs to prove that something is not X – else they’ll keep on declaring that this thing is X. The Bloogeyman is not a philosopher, but he did take one philosophy and one logic class in college (yup, that’s right – you’re reading a college educated blogger!). This line of thinking is called ‘proving a negative’ – that is, you’re calling on someone to prove that something doesn’t exist/didn’t’ happen/isn’t true. The fundamental problem with this line of ‘logic’ is that it is false – you cannot prove a broadly asserted negative!

Here’s an example: Let’s say you call up the Bloogeyman and say “You’re gay!”. And I say “No, I’m not”, then you say “Prove it!”. Well, herein is the problem I’d have to do impossible things to prove that I’m not gay. I’d have to let you follow me around all day long, or let you video tape me everywhere (yes, even in the shower) to attempt to prove that I wasn’t gay. Even if I let you do that you could simply say that either you hadn’t been following me long enough or that I was hiding my true intentions. Long story short, you’d have to follow me around for the rest of my life and I still couldn’t prove beyond a doubt that I wasn’t gay. You are asking me to prove a negative – something that is logically impossible.

The most salient recent example is the whole debacle we call Iraq. We went to Iraq and said to them, “You have to prove to us that you don’t have WMD!” To which Iraq said, “Uh…okay…we’ll let you look anywhere you want, whenever you want, to show you that we don’t have any WMD”. You can already guess where this discussion will lead. Eventually, we found ourselves (or our administration) saying, “Well, the inspectors haven’t found any WMD yet, but he could be hiding them anywhere, even in his pocket!” Of course, it’s impossible to prove that you aren’t hiding them anywhere, because anywhere someone looks at a single point in time somebody else can say that maybe they’re somewhere else at the time. Finally we went down the absurd route of saying that they had intentions to acquire WMD. How the hell can you prove that you don’t have any intentions? It’s not like someone can crack open your skull and count all the intentions you have in there!

Regardless, that’s the path we went down, and it seems to be a favored path these days. The Iraq example is only the most obvious recent example – there are dozens, and new ones pop up every week. Well, the Bloogeyman has looked at how all of this has played out in recent years and finally decided that a new maxim applies, “When in Rome, accuse the Romans of hiding WMD!”

Since we’re all about demanding that people prove negatives these days, I figure why not start applying some of that logic to this administration?

George Bush – you are a crack addict. We now have tapes in which you basically admit to marijuana use; we have people that say you used cocaine in the past; and we have access to right-wing research that proves that once you’ve used marijuana you become a crack addict in short order. Therefore, you George Bush, are a crack addict. Now, don’t send one of your sleazy boogeymen (lawyers) over here talking about libel and slander – I want you to prove to me that you aren’t a crack addict. Until you do, I declare you to be a crack addict.

Jeff Gannon – you are a gay hooker. I’m sorry, but when you have a website which offers your ‘services’ to men for $200/hour (or $1,200/weekend, for you hedonistic, but still value-conscious and fiscally conservative, Republicans) you’re a gay hooker. Period. In fact, you’re also a gay pimp because you’ve offered to procure other men for your clients. Don’t go on TV and proclaim your ungayness or denounce that people have been calling you a hooker – you need to prove to me that you are not a gay hooker. I know that’s a little tough to do, but hey, I didn’t make up the rules.

Karl Rove – you are a self-loathing homosexual. That’s right, there’s just too much evidence that you’re gay to ignore. Hell, I don’t even need evidence – you need to prove to me that you’re not gay. Until then, I pronounce you to be gay.

Bill Bennett – you are addicted to pornography. Yeah, I know that right about now you’re saying “WTF?!? I’m just addicted to gambling…”, but according to this right-wing pamphlet I received last month gambling leads to pornography (which leads to homosexuality…or is it the other way around?). You have admitted to being a gambler, ergo, you are addicted to gay pornography. I will continue to announce to the world that you, William Bennett, are addicted to gay pornography until you prove to me that you are not.

Whew, this logic stuff is hard to apply - takes a lot of thinking. I'm sure I missed a couple of obvious people. Is there anyone else that needs to be on this list? You Tell Me.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Poll of the Week Results: A Unibrow-raising Result

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Well, here are the results of the first weekly poll. For background reading regarding this poll you should consult this expert study related to the poll question.

The Bloogeyman was frankly surprised that people seemed to zero in on two likely suspects. It was interesting to see that most of you picked Karl Rove as the most probable lead actor in this romantic comedy of sorts.

The interesting breakdown of the results caused this Bloogeyman to raise one eyebrow (maybe with the intent of looking mischievous, or maybe just because the Bloogeyman only has a unibrow to raise…). After putting his crack team of detectives on the case, the Bloogeyman was able to obtain further information on who actually participated in this online poll:

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Yes, that’s right – while most voters were just lazy employees wasting time at work, a full 7% of the votes were able to be tracked down to the computer that Karl Rove uses in the White House. It seems that when Karl saw that this poll wasn’t swinging his way he promptly logged on and voted 13 times for George Bush and 3 times for Dick Cheney (got to spread the blame somehow, right?). The Bloogeyman should have known that Karl Rove is the ultimate boogeyman – hiding in the shadows of every event and lurking in the corner of every room.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Of Blogs and Boogeymen – Another Day in the Empire

Kurt Nimmo keeps a blog called Another Day in the Empire. Besides the fact that he is obviously involved in other things (photography, book-writing) he pretty much adds something to the blog every day. And I’m not talking about some chewed up and regurgitated crap like a party boss might send down in a memo as talking points for the day – I’m talking about insightful, well thought out material and analysis from the corners of the media. Stuff that you’d probably have to wait 20 years for the history books to write about before you ever heard a whiff of it in the “main-stream media”.

Now, some of you are going to write back and say, “What the hell, Bloogeyman, half of this guy’s stuff are deductions and conjecture – not stuff based on verifiable media sources.” And the Bloogeyman would reply (if he wasn’t too lazy to actually respond), “Well that’s exactly what we want to do! We don’t want to find out about stuff after it’s already happened and then debate whether or not someone should have told us it’s happening or whether we should’ve looked out for something! We want to use our noggins to deduce what is actually happening without waiting for someone to whack us with a rubber mallet.”

And then you’ll say, “Bloogeyman, what the hell is up with all of these imaginary conversations you keep having?!?” And the Bloogeyman will say, “Well, hell, nobody ever leaves comments on my posts so I have to pretend that people are actually reading the stuff I write.” I bet people read Kurt Nimmo’s stuff. Sad.

Also, unlike the Bloogeyman, this Kurt Nimmo guy obviously has the time (or just the work ethic) to diligently document and reference where he is getting all of his data for these conjectures. “But, Nimmo’s off the deep end!”, you’ll moan. That’s the best part! Here is Kurt Nimmo, Captain Kurt Nimmo if you will, boldly voyaging where no one else dares to tread. I kind of like the sound and analogy of that. This Captain Nimmo is not unlike the Captain Nemo of literary fame. As you remember, Captain Nemo traveled the earth in an underwater submarine, the Nautilus, in search of – truth! The empires of the day hounded and chased Captain Nemo, but he was concerned with one thing, the pursuit of truth through science. The Nautilus was a fantastic contraption, allowing him to spend weeks under water, unpestered and free to explore. And boy, did he find things in the murky depths of the ocean where no one else dared to go.

Our Captain Nimmo trolls the darkest depths of the vast information ocean to bring us unvarnished, unpolished bits of information. We decide whether he pulled up a pearl or a rotting piece of flesh. Does he have all the answers? No, but he does a damned good job of asking the right questions. Compared to the power of Captain Nimmo’s and his Nautilus our “main-stream media” look like a bunch of clowns in leaky old rowboats (that also means you CNN!). Remember, you don’t have to agree with everything (or even anything) that a person says as long as it makes you think – that’s my rationale for linking up Captain Nimmo. For that reason the Bloogeyman recommends Another Day in the Empire.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Forcing People Through the Gates of Education is Not the Answer

I’m sure many of you have already heard about the comments Bill Gates made regarding education. He even had an opinion column in the Los Angeles Times a week ago. His argument was one that people almost universally agree with: American children are not getting the best education they could. However, Bill Gates goes one step further by describing our high schools as obsolete because “The idea behind the old high school system was that you could train an adequate work force by sending only a small fraction of students to college, and that the other kids either couldn't do college work or didn't need to.” In today’s world, Bill argues, we need to prepare every high school student for college. Now, let me preface this whole discussion by saying that I think Bill Gates is an extraordinary businessman and that I admire the fact that he has started to focus more on philanthropy in recent years. Now, back to the discussion regarding education and Bill Gates’ comments.

Sorry Bill, you’re dead fucking wrong. You should probably stick to sweating over software code, testing X-box games, or whatever it is you do these days. Simply put, the problem isn’t a lack of educationally qualified workers; it’s a lack of decent jobs.

“But…but…”, you’ll be saying, “we’ve added almost 2 million jobs over the last year! Unemployment is going down; the problem is that we need a lot more educated workers”. Granted, we have added 2 million jobs over the past year, but you have to look a little deeper than the surface number to get the real picture.

You see, Billy, there’s several types of jobs. You’ve got your standard breakdown between farm and non-farm jobs (non-farm payroll jobs are reported monthly in a report released by the Labor Department). Within non-farm payroll you’ve also got breakdowns by type and industry. Economists like to look at the breakdown between service-sector jobs and other jobs. What does this tell economists? Well, service sector jobs includes retail and fast-food jobs – that’s right, we’re talking about the ‘would you like fries with that’ type of jobs. Sure, there are plenty of ‘high-value’ service sector jobs (investment advisors, doctors, lawyers, hookers), but a large percentage of service jobs are minimum-wage paying jobs with no health or pension benefits. That’s why if you get a large increase in service-sector jobs it’s not really a great thing – sure, it’s good that more people have jobs, but by and large they’re not great jobs. That’s why economists often break down their analysis between Service sector jobs and Non-Service sector jobs.

We’re going to go through another example, but first for the sake of simplicity (yeah…that’s right…simple for you, Billy) we’re going to take away the euphemism (Service vs. Non-Service) and re-label our breakdown as Shitty and Non-Shitty jobs. Let’s take last week’s employment report that was released on Friday. This report was for the month of February and it showed that the economy added 262,000 non-farm payroll jobs in the previous month (Whoopee!). But wait just a minute…207,000 of those jobs were Shitty jobs (Bummer!). Non-Shitty jobs only made up 55,000 of those jobs. “So what?”, you’ll be thinking, “55,0000 jobs is a lot of jobs – that’s like 54,999 more jobs than I could use right now…”. Sure, it sounds like a lot of jobs, but economists estimate that with demographic shifts and population growth the economy needs to add 150,000 new jobs each month just to keep the unemployment rate constant. Any month in which we’re not adding 150,000 new jobs we’re actually losing ground. Additionally, if you care about things like poverty rates and the middle class, the 150,000 jobs we need to be adding per month should be Non-Shitty jobs. For sake of clarity, and to illustrate the effect of deterioration in the Non-Shitty job base, I’ve attached below a chart from an economic study conducted in 2004 by Professor A.G. Shinkleton:

Going back to the original issue at hand, the question of education, we start to see that simply having an education in-and-of-itself is not a cure-all for economic woes. As 90% of college grads will tell you, their jobs do not actually make use of their degree – the degree was just a piece of paper they needed to be able to interview for the job. Why should we start taking millions of kids who have no interest in pursuing a college education and force them to go through 4 years and $120,000 just so they can get a Shitty job? It’s gotten to the point where you practically need a college education to serve a cup of coffee!

What America desperately needs is a return to the ‘good job’ – the job that you could take right out of high school, which included health and pension benefits, and that could support your spouse and family (a one-income family? – I refuse to believe it ever existed!). Sure, it’s not a ‘great’ job – maybe you need a college education for one of those – but at least you’re not stuck working two jobs and turning your family into a 3-income family just to make ends meet. These days even college grads are stuck working 60-hour workweeks and find that at the end of the year they still haven’t saved any money. As an illustration here’s a real chart of the minimum wage adjusted for inflation (funny when your credibility sinks so low that you have to point out that you’re using a real chart this time…):

Yes, we all agree that education is a good thing, and that a college education is even better (maybe then more than 30% of the population would believe in evolution…), but we need to face the real fact: if everyone has an education and no one has a job it doesn’t solve anything. We need a return to the decent job – the job that an American knows he deserves if he is willing to work hard and live honestly.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Dose of Cold Water: Burnt Fingers and Burnt Egos

Well, last weekend the Bloogeyman was busy trying to install a new water heater. Now, if you’ve ever had your water heater break down you know two things: 1) Until you’ve installed a new water heater life is a living hell because you don’t have hot water and 2) While fairly simple devices, water heaters are a major pain in the ass to install.

First of all, you have to haul the old, rusty water heater out. I’m not sure when my old water heater was made, but it weighs 250 lbs (no joke) and nearly gave me a hernia on four separate occasions. Of course, the Bloogeyman is no hulk, he had someone else helping him, but I’ll be damned if it still wasn’t heavier than Dick Cheney after a trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet. In fact, I’m starting to suspect that its filled with bricks or something – seriously – it’s like some fucking leprechaun has been hiding his gold in that thing over the last ten years (and, yes, I did drain the water out of it before moving it – come on guys, I’m not that dumb). I wanted to crack the fat bastard open just to see what the hell was in it (I didn’t get around to doing that, but I did hit it a couple times with a sledgehammer, to my great satisfaction).

After moving the first water heater out we had to go get another water heater – luckily they’ve made some advances since the Stone Age and this water heater only weighed 148 lbs. It was still a bitch to carry up a flight of stairs. Next came connecting all of the water and gas connections. You have to really tighten the connections hard otherwise it’ll start leaking. Fair enough, after about 40 minutes we had made all of the connections and opened the valves for water. Well, hell – the fucking thing is leaking more than the CIA under George Tenet.

Now comes the hard part, we have to tighten the connections – but everything is already connected. I know that doesn’t make sense, but see if you can picture this: You have a solid pipe screwed into the water heater. Screwed onto the end of the solid pipe is a flexible copper pipe – you have two connections. Now, if you want to tighten one you have to move the other connection at the same rate otherwise it will come undone (if you can’t picture this scenario I’m not going to draw you a diagram, just trust me). Okay, so we start tightening the connection into the water heater, but we move the other connection too much. After a couple turns I notice that the flexible copper pipe is starting to tweak – fuck – I take off the insulation from the pipe and notice that the flexible copper pipe is major tweaked. Great, now we try to un-tweak it but, as you know, once copper gets tweaked it generally tears at the point of stress – now hot water is squirting out all over and we’re all yelling. We turn off the water valves and just stare at the thing for like five minutes. Then we think ‘Ok, this isn’t the end of the world, we can just unscrew the flexible copper pipe from both ends and buy a new one to put on…’. Yeah, right. Once we take off all the insulation we realize that the other end of the flexible copper pipe is soldered into the wall?!? Great, the last plumber-whore decided to screw us by basically welding the fucking thing into the wall instead of attaching a thread adapter like you’re supposed to ($0.97, in case you’re wondering how much it costs).

Long story short: now I have to go get a soldering kit and re-do all the connections. You’re probably wondering why I don’t just hire a plumber. Yeah, I can afford it, but I’ll give you three reasons (stories, actually) why I don’t want to:

1) I was talking to a friend about water heaters and he told me that his water heater broke a while ago so he called a plumber. The plumber said he needed to replace a part and took 30 minutes to do so. He charged my friend $50 for parts and $100 for labor. Later, my friend is at Home Depot and, being an engineer, decides to look at the part the plumber replaced. The part costs $5. WTF?!? I can understand that all plumbers / car mechanics / prostitutes mark up the goods, but marking an item up 10-fold?

2) Another friend took his car into the mechanic. Along with replacing a bunch of other stuff and doing a general tune-up, the mechanic says that the radiator needs to be replaced. Why? Well, because it’s rusted up. A week later my friend is sitting around his living room when he realizes something – the radiator is made of aluminum – it can’t rust! Everybody understands that mechanics make you replace things before they need replacing (semi-worn gasket, slightly leaky o-ring, etc.), but replacing something that never needs to be replaced? WTF?!?

3) Another friend had a leak in his wall – the copper pipe had started leaking. So, he calls a plumber and the yokel opens up the wall and starts to put in a new coupling. Luckily my friend was there watching him do this, because the guy is using the propane soldering torch and he set the wall on fire! How some guy who supposedly does this stuff for a living can set a wall on fire I’ll never figure out…but WTF?!?

    So there you go – I figure to avoid getting charged 10x on parts I could buy all the parts (I already lugged up the new water heater) and just hire some plumber to do the work. But, wait a minute, then I’d actually have to stand there and make sure this monkey doesn’t set my house on fire or blow it up (we are dealing with gas connections…). Why the hell should I pay some rube so I can stand behind him and watch him work– fuck it, I’ll just do it myself.

    By now, you’re probably thinking ‘That’s great Bloogeyman, but exactly why the fuck should I care?’ Well, this whole episode got me thinking: Is it just me, or has the work ethic in this country really deteriorated in the last 10 years? I’m not talking about how hard people work, I’m talking about the ethics of work. I’m talking about doing an honest day’s work and reaping the honest benefit. One of the most salient examples is the Enron scandal – ripping off little old ladies and laughing about it on tape, cashing out stock in a foundering company while publicly encouraging shareholders to buy more, and undermining a company to the point where thousands of retirees lose their pensions and walking away without shame or regret.

    Maybe it’s just me…but I’d like to hear from some of you: Have you had experiences like my friends or I have had lately? I’m not just talking about things that count as over-charging or moderate incompetence – I’m talking about stuff that is grossly unethical, even criminal. Some time next week I’ll give you an update on how my weekend welding adventure went (stay tuned to see if I light my hair on fire or blow up my house…) and I’ll talk a little more about Enron and Texas. In the mean time, I’d love to see some comments on your close encounters of the unethical kind.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Italy – You Had Your Accountability Moment, Now Take Responsibility

    By now almost everyone has heard about the firestorm that has been unleashed in Italy over the death of an intelligence officer and the wounding of a hostage by U.S. troops as they were driving to Baghdad Airport after her release. There are several different versions of what happened floating around and several different viewpoints on who is to blame.

    But we’re going to skip all the finger pointing right now because I want to take a look at the emotional impact of what is happening in Italy. Let me preface this discussion by saying that upon hearing about the incident I felt sorry for not only the Italians involved, but also for the U.S. troops involved because they undoubtedly regret what happened. This must be a very hard time for the family of the Italian killed and I sympathize with their grief.

    However, I do not sympathize with the faux grief that the Italians are displaying in spades. It all started when right wing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi went on TV and played the crying game – putting on a farcical attempt to hold back faux tears. This is the guy who overruled his whole country and decided to send over 3,000 Italian troops to Iraq in the first place. This is a guy who is so scummy he makes Dick Cheney look like a clean whistle – he has had over a dozen trials involving
    bribery, tax fraud, illegal financing ( money laundering), false accounting, embezzlement, and bribing a judge. This is a guy who, when it looked like investigators were about to open the door to his dirty basement, had his party push a law through that granted him immunity from prosecution. Add in evidence of ties to the Mafia, the utterance of ‘Nazi’ slurs, and threatening to investigate ‘subversive’ judges (judges who were overseeing his corruption and bribery cases) and you start to scrape the tip of the iceberg that is Berlusconi. I guess no one does dirty politics like Italians.

    But the Italians continue to go along with him. Sure any expert on Italian politics will tell you that since his party was elected in 2001 (and he was appointed Prime Minister), his party has lost seats in the mid-term elections and in the EU elections. However, if you look more closely, you’ll see that he actually didn’t do so bad. In fact, “Mr. Berlusconi's Forza Italia [the party he founded in 1994] and its partners generally matched their local election performance of two years ago or showed a slight improvement” in the mid-term elections and although his performance in the EU elections were less than hoped, “polls indicated no major shift in support for Berlusconi's governing coalition.” Make no mistake about it – the Italian government and its policies are supported by Italians and they are responsible for the outcome.

    The blogger Raed of Raed in the Middle cuts right to the point in a post titledItalians, Shame on Youwhen he says:

    If you, Italians, had one man (killed by the US army) to pay your respect to, Iraqis are having tens of thousands of civilians that are being killed because of the war Italy is supporting.

    The time has come for the Italian people to demand that their government pull out its troops from Iraq. This will be the right step to take now, to avoid further destruction in the relationship between our people.

    This doesn't mean that you will be freed of the responsibility you hold for the damage caused by the illegal war on Iraq, but at least you won't be directly responsible for the atrocities that are going to happen in the future.

    Yes, the Bloogeyman is an American, and yes, he is being somewhat hypocritical – given that we Americans had our own ‘accountability moment’ a few months ago – but there are many Americans opposed to this war and who are working tirelessly to make those representatives who support it pay a political price. Just last year the Italian Parliament defeated a motion calling for the withdrawal of Italy’s troops – these are your representatives. There is no reason – if the majority of Italians really don’t support the war, and if they really feel sorrow every time an unfortunate incident occurs – for Berlusconi’s party to have remained standing after the mid-term elections.

    Maybe more Italians support the war than openly admit – at least if Italians are going to support war they should understand the consequences and not shed faux tears every time they feel a pin prick while bludgeoning another country to death. There is ‘outrage’ right now in Italy over what happened – will they do anything about it? Or, will Silvio Berlusconi emerge victorious again, crying on the outside, but smiling secretly inside...

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    Bloggers are Breaking Out of the Closet

    In last weekend’s review of an article in the Los Angeles Time’s Opinion Section I talked about my shock that both bloggers and Gannongate were mentioned in the paper. Indeed, it seems that the mainstream media is loath to investigate anything related to Gannongate and even more determined to not even whisper about the dreaded ‘blogger’, as if the latter represents their own personal boogeyman.

    Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened up this weekend’s Opinion Section and saw a column on Gannongate and bloggers written by none other than our very own esteemed blogger John Aravosis of AMERICAblog. John took the mainstream media, including the LA Times, to task for avoiding one of the largest scandals in recent history. This is a story that, if you’ve been reading bloggers such as Atrios and Aravosis, is not ‘new’. Of course, we’re talking about Jeff Gannon: a fake journalist and gay hooker who got regular backdoor White House entry to daily press briefings (via a daily pass) and somehow got access to classified documents and information. If you’ve never read a blog before you’re probably thinking I just made all this up because it seems too juicy for the generally tabloid-like press to ignore. No, you just haven’t heard about this story because for some reason in the twisted mainstream media world anything involving Michael Jackson or Martha Stewart (or both!) immediately gets top billing. That’s right, we’ve had a gay hooker visiting the White House every day for the past two years and there hasn’t been a peep out of the mainstream media! You’d almost think they were in on all this (Hmmm…).

    John does a good job of taking the media to task for ignoring this multi-faceted story and for refusing to give credit where it is due (yes, they actively decided not to mention the bloggers responsible for scooping the story, it wasn’t just an inadvertent oversight). John also explores the possible reasons for why the media has decided to be so hands-off on this explosive story. Was it because the media is apprehensive about tackling sex and gays? Funny how the prudish aversion to sex didn’t apply circa 1998. And every time a movie star is even suspected of being gay we don’t see such hesitation – in fact it practically becomes a feeding frenzy over even the most minute of details. Was it because the media these days are too sensitive about being labeled ‘liberal’ by right-wingers? I think that does have something to do with it – though I actually think it’s more of a ‘corporate-controlled media’ problem than a ‘please-don’t-call-us-liberal’ problem. Is it because the mainstream media has blogophobia? The mainstream media is afraid of blogs to some extent (and resentful enough not to give proper credit), but in this particular case I don’t think it applies. In fact, one would expect that the mainstream media would try to hijack such a juicy story from bloggers rather than ignore it because of blogophobia.

    All-in-all John does a good job of introducing the Gannongate affair to people who read mainstream newspapers, and he does a good job of exploring why this story hasn’t been covered. The area in which John does a weak job, and arguably most blogs have done a weak job, is in not cutting to the real foundation of the story. Gannongate isn’t about security breaches in the White House. George W. Bush runs a very tight ship and he sure as hell is not sloppy about his own security. Jeff Gannon didn’t slip by security – he was let in by security. Jeff Gannon didn’t cause classified information to be leaked to him – it was leaked to him by someone in the White House – and if he wasn’t there, someone else would have been privy to the leaked information. Why was Jeff Gannon in the White House? Because he was a gay hooker! That is the story – Jeff Gannon is a criminal for engaging in prostitution and pimping, and someone in the White House is a criminal for soliciting sex.

    The weak point of this opinion piece is that it doesn’t get to that point. The reason Republicans succeed so well at presenting a policy, viewpoint, or agenda, is that they all sit down in a smoke-filled room and decide what their approach to the story is going to be. They decide what is pertinent and make sure everyone is on message when they leave the room. This isn’t conspiracy theory – the Republicans admit, even boast, about the fact that they do this effectively. Remember Paul Wolfowitz’s interview when he came clean about the run up to war in Iraq and said that the administration decided that the weapons of mass destruction story was the most effective way to get people to support administration policy? Well, it worked. Maybe bloggers covering Gannongate need to setup a chat room named ‘Smoke-filled’ or something so we can decide what our story is and what the pertinent information truly is. It would really help people care about this ‘story’ if bloggers could at least present a consistent message on why this is something that needs to be investigated.

    I don’t know the whole story – maybe John submitted a hard hitting piece which put a dagger in the heart of the whole story but the editors of the LA Times pruned it down. Damn editors! (Ed note: the opinions in this column are solely those of The Bloogeyman and in no way reflect the opinions held by the editors – we love editors!). Despite the weak point in John’s approach towards Gannongate, I appreciate the fact that he took time to explore the story. Hopefully John’s piece is the catalyst that will cause the mainstream media to wake up and take Gannongate seriously.

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    The Trust is in the Mail

    Trust has always played an important role in American politics. Americans will follow a leader they trust even when the path is difficult and the journey is painful. One of the greatest examples of American trust is the amount of trust patriots put into George Washington. It was trust that kept the ragged Continental Army camped out through a harsh winter in Valley Forge. George Washington led his 11,000 troops to Valley Forge in December of 1777. George Washington himself commented on the dire state of his army, saying “…you might have tracked the army from White Marsh to Valley Forge by the blood of their feet”. By June of 1778, 2,500 had died of disease and cold – they did not desert – indeed, you might say they died because of their trust in their leader.

    And George Washington kept that trust. After six years at the helm of a brutal fight for independence George Washington emerged victorious. He was offered kingship of the new nation, and turned it down. He served two terms as the country’s first president and then retired, setting the precedent for presidential term limits. There are examples throughout history of such leaders, worthy of the nation’s trust. Trust in President Lincoln led to re-unification, trust in General Eisenhower led the troops onto the shores of Normandy, and trust in Martin Luther King led marchers to bear brutality in the name of justice.

    Trust can also be lost – President Johnson was precluded from pursuing a second term because people did not trust in his stewardship of Vietnam; President Nixon resigned, on the verge of impeachment, because people could no longer trust him; President Clinton lost the trust of the people when he perjured himself in front of a Grand Jury.

    But, in order for trust to be lost – for people to understand that a leader should not be followed – they must constantly question and reassess the trust they have placed with their leader.

    This is not some unique or taxing process for people to undergo, an example shows that we use it every day:

    Trusting Person: “So, Honey, do you want to go out on Saturday night?”

    Significant Other: “Oh, I’d love to, but I was going to meet some friends for dinner that night – lets do something on Sunday”

    Trusting Person: Ok, sure – see you after work!

    ---next Monday---

    Trusting Person: Thinking to themselves, ‘Damn, guess they forgot about hanging out on Sunday night’.

    Saying out loud, “Honey, you sure seem to be working late all the time…”

    Significant Other: “Yeah, well my boss is riding my ass at work…and we have a deadline for a big project coming up”

    Trusting Person: “Hey, you want to hang out this Friday? I guess you forgot about hanging out on Sunday…”

    Significant Other: “Oh, yeah, something came up on Sunday…sorry…but, I don’t think we should do anything Friday night – I’ll probably be working late”

    Annoyed Person: “Oh, ok…see you later…”

    ---next Saturday---

    Friend: “Hey, what’s up…I was looking for you at the club last night, couldn’t find you…”

    Annoyed Person: “I wasn’t out last night…”

    Friend: “Really? I saw Significant Other there and I figured you’d be there too. Hey, gotta go, talk to you later!”

    Suspicious Person: “WTF?!?”


    Suspicious Person: “So, Honey, want to go to the movies tonight?”

    Significant Other: “Not tonight, I’m trying to rest up, I’m going to have a rough week at work…I was working late on Friday and had to bring home some work to do on Saturday…hey, we’ll get dinner on Thursday or Friday…”

    Non-Trusting Person: Thinking to themselves, ‘God damn, I knew something was going on. You don’t have to hit me over the head with a rubber mallet for me to know that when someone lies to you once you shouldn’t believe anything else they say. This relationship is finished! ’

    Saying out loud, “Yeah…sure…whatever”

    See how easy and intuitive that is? The Bloogeyman knows that all of us use this every day. One hour meeting at work? Yeah right. The check is in the mail? Hah, I’m not going to fall for that! No extra charges after I sign up? I’m not that dumb! You want to touch me where?

    But for some reason we have utterly lost that intuition when dealing with national politics. It’s like we’re so used to being lied to by politicians that it’s just not a big deal anymore. Its just part of the background noise now…and journalists are content to ignore and not investigate any of it. Here are some quotes from several of our “significant others”:

    “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”

    Dick Cheney August 26, 2002

    “Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities
    that were used for the production of biological weapons”

    George W. Bush, Sep. 12, 2002

    “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments
    leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

    George Bush March 18, 2003

    “We know where they [WMD] are. They are in the area
    around Tikrit and Baghdad."

    Donald Rumsfeld March 30, 2003

    I'm starting to get a little suspicious, but I'm sure they were just working late that night...

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Of Blogs and Boogeymen – The Rude Pundit

    The Rude Pundit tells it as it is. He fearlessly shines a light into the darkest corners of any dilapidated, crumbling edifice and looks for the boogeymen. And, upon finding said boogeyman, the Rude Pundit gives him the finger. The Rude Pundit doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about him. The Rude Pundit is not child friendly – in fact he so rude that he is almost the boogeyman of rudeness. The Rude Pundit is not afraid of anything or anyone, least of all the Bloogeyman.

    In fact, let’s say he was to come home late at night to find his front door slightly ajar - something is in his house. Most people, trembling, would slowly creak open the door and peer in horror at it – shocked, mortified by fear. They would fall to their knees and beg and pray for it to have mercy. They would shake and sweat in agony, and, if they were able to get up the nerve, they would turn and run – screaming into the darkness for someone to save them. Were the Rude Pundit to peer inside and see the Bloogeyman he would not recoil back in terror as most would do. No, he would say, “What the hell are you doing in my house? And why are you wearing my pants?!?”, as he slowly reaches for a rusty iron pipe with which to beat the Bloogeyman senseless.

    Now, the Rude Pundit is one vulgar mofo. I’m not talking about ‘ol boys down at the bar having a beer after work’ vulgar, I’m talking about ‘cross-dressing, heroin-addicted sailor on a one-way trip to hell’ vulgar. I mean really, you probably should not go to the Rude Pundit if you think ‘mofo’ is a bad word. Hell, you damn well better run your ass away if you think I was even the least bit vulgar in this sentence. Kids, that means if you are under 21, do not go to the Rude Pundit for advice (public service announcement – think of the children!). That said, I’m still going to get plenty of grief for recommending the Rude Pundit, but hell, we all have at least one crazy, cross-dressing uncle who lives in the attic and we still visit him, right?

    Of course, it is quite cathartic to read what the Rude One has to say about something so infuriating that every time you think about it you feel the warm bile well up in your throat (Al Gonzo, anyone?). Oh, the string of expletives you will want to shout – the fury with which you will want to tear at your eyes for seeing such a thing. But the Rude One understands your pain – for every thorn that is thrust into your skin the Rude One writes painful poetry. Yes, it is painfully vulgar poetry, but it is poetry from the heart. For that reason the Bloogeyman recommends The Rude Pundit.

    Of Blogs and Bloogeymen

    You will all notice that to the side I have a ‘Links’ section for links to other blogs and websites. “So what?”, you will undoubtedly ask, “I’ve seen a million blogs and every one is crammed chock full 'o links and other crap”. Well the Bloogeyman does not just link any blog or site like a crazed spider juiced up on ‘amphetamines trying to weave the largest web possible, blind to how untidy or ineffective it may be. Frankly, the Bloogeyman does not care who links to the Bloogeyblog – and the Bloogeyman doesn’t link up other sites or blogs in a sycophantic attempt to get those sites to link back to the Bloogeyblog.

    No, the Bloogeyman will try to pick the most interesting, exotic fruit from the jungle of blogs. To you it may be the sweetest fruit on earth or a foul, fetid piece of fruit that explodes in your face, spraying you with acid, as you try to take a bite – to me, it’s just interesting. Not only will the Bloogeyman only link sites that he feels are actually worth looking at, he will explain and justify why he thinks that the site is worth reading (the Bloogeyman will also speak in the third person at all times – like Bob Dole). So, enjoy every link the Bloogeyman's got - the Bloogeyman only recommends the best!

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    Gannongate, Part 6: Republicans - Closing the Gannongate After the Horse Has Left

    This is part six of a six-part series. Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 in case you missed any. In the last part we talked about the Democratic strategy for squeezing out maximum potential from this affair. This time we’ll focus on the Republican strategy for suppressing this story and making sure that by this time next spring everyone’s saying, “Gannon, who?”

    Republicans have three strengths and two potential weaknesses when facing this whole situation. The Republicans' strengths: control of the Executive Branch (the Justice Department decides whether to investigate the Gannon affair), Congress (Congress will be unable to pass a request for a special investigator), and the courts – any investigation need only be undertaken under an enormous amount of pressure and public outrage.

    The two potential weaknesses are smart Democrats pursuing the best strategy (see previous part for the potential Democratic strategy), and the religious right. If the Democrats pursue a common-sense strategy their aim will be to either instigate a full-scale investigation and outing of senior administration officials as closet homosexuals (best case scenario from a Democratic perspective) or at least ensure that this White House becomes the butt of gay brothel jokes for the remainder of the term (worst case scenario from a Democratic perspective). A ‘best-case’ scenario can only come about if the religious right wing of the party starts to believe that homosexual activity is taking place in the White House and that it threatens their agenda regarding gay marriage and homosexuality in general. If the religious right wing comes to believe that its agenda is threatened, or that the administration was insincere in its statement of policy, then it will push for a deeper investigation and will want to ‘root out’ those senior administration officials that are undermining its agenda.

    Republicans must ensure that the ‘best-case Democratic’ scenario definitely doesn’t come to pass and that any effect from the ‘worst-case Democratic’ scenario is mitigated. The ‘best-case Democratic’ scenario can be forced if the religious right-wing starts to doubt the sincerity of the administration. Now is the time to play the quid-pro-quo game and to throw in some hardball for anyone who still resists. The leaders of the religious right must be told that the whole Gannon affair was just an untimely thorn that has been long since extracted. The White House did not know about Gannon’s homosexuality and it was some low-level staffer who gave Gannon such access to the White House. Point out that President Bush never even met Gannon and only saw him once in a press conference. Both Gannon and the low-level staffer are gone from the administration. The religious right leaders must also be told that the marriage constitutional amendment will be introduced in the fall after completion of the Social Security legislation. It is clear that for the constitutional amendment to be introduced in the fall the president will need a victory in his efforts to reform Social Security. This administration needs their support for this. For anyone who resists and continues to display a proclivity towards asking questions show them that you also have dirt on their life – not embarrassing the administration will result in no embarrassment for them.

    In order to mitigate the effect of the efforts of Democrats to tie the administration to gay hookers there must be a complete coverage blackout by most of the media (including non-conventional media such as radio shows, cable shows, right-wing bloggers, etc.). The right-wing radio and cable programs must be instructed not to even mention the story – send senior administration officials to talk about other important policies such as Social Security, the situation with Syria, and even Iraq. Any republican’s response to questions regarding Gannon will basically be “Gannon was just some hack who managed to slip by the background check process, but that’s been taken care of”. The benefit of this response is that it will focus any follow-up questions on the supposed “security breach” which can be addressed by sincerely stating that an investigation is being undertaken and that all issues will be resolved. There will be certain reporters who try to investigate this story, who continue to ask questions during the White House press briefings, but these reporters must be ignored and slowly pushed out of the daily Q&A. The standard response must not be harsh or defensive, and any retribution (towards religious right leaders, right-wing radio or media, and reporters) must be under the table and generally passive (radio host does a piece on Gannon? He’s not going to get a high-profile administration guest for a long time!) so as not to create the impression that there is actually a lot more to the iceberg than can be seen above the water.

    Democrats can safely be ignored and any of their questions or comments dismissed as “conspiracy theories, “rumor-mongering”, or “gay-bashing”. If the right-wing media can keep absolutely quite on this whole affair, main-stream Democrats will find it more convenient to talk about other issues such as Social Security, Syria, and Iraq – they will not want to face the vicious rebuttals and accusations of “crazy-talk” and “gay bashing”. The key is not to be defensive about Gannon, but to be on the offense – accuse anyone who brings it up of going off on some crazy conspiracy theory path while ignoring real issues such as the Social Security crisis and Iran’s nuclear program. With discipline, this story will soon be forgotten.

    This ends the Bloogeyman's six-part series on Gannongate. Interesting? Thought-provoking? Or, just crazy talk? You Tell Me.