August 30, 2007

Gay Gay Gay

Dr. X posts this from a press conference he has called to announce he is not gay:

The blog that originally outed the Senator, long before this incident, is here.

A Toast

Dr. X posts this from the Miller Lite bar in Hell:

"Farewell to Michael Jackson, eminent beer critic, and brilliant writer."

August 29, 2007

Mayoral Centerfold?

Now I am not a Republican or anything, but if there is any Mayor of a medium-sized metropolis I'd want to adopt a "wide stance" for, it would be this guy! Way to go Mark!

August 28, 2007

And That's Just The Bronx

Dr. X posts this from the Alamo Gun Shop in El Paso:

"According to a think tank in Geneva, there are around 875 mm firearms in the world. Americans own 270 mm of them."

Yes, I read the latest Harry Potter book

And thank God I finished it over a weekend, so I didn't have to suffer the humiliation of being seen reading a kiddie book on the bus.

For others who are "too awesome and/or old" to be caught reading it in public, some enterprising chaps come up with some ingenious solutions to this problem.

August 27, 2007

Just a Thought

Dr. X posts this from Remezzos:

"It occurs to me that Michael Vick could have avoided all these problems if he had just eaten the dogs.

"You know, someone would say, 'hey Michael, you just tortured that dog to death,' and he could just say 'yeah, but I'm going to eat it. I think they taste better when they've been tortured.'

"I'm pretty sure that would have been cool."

This Story Raises Many Questions

Dr. X posts this from a stall at SFO:

"This story raises at three questions:

"1) Is putting down your bag and tapping your foot really a universally recognized gay pick-up signal?

"2) Since when does a U.S. Senator do anything without the benefit of legal counsel?

"3) Is there anyone in the Republican Party who is not gay?"

Proof: Heterosexual Republicans Exist!

Just kidding.

GOP Senator Convicted of Lewd Conduct in Airport Mens Room

August 25, 2007

Today's Yesterday's Masterpiece of the Week

Dr. X posts this from Quiberon Bay:

"What psychic vortex has begun pulling me toward The New Yorker films of the early 80s? First Chan is Missing, now Pauline at the Beach. The difference is that I had seen Chan is Missing before, in New York, when it was a cause célèbre, a surprise hit among the intelligentsia of a city that, before Wall Street ran amok, had a certain sophistication.

"Pauline at the Beach was another discovery back in those days, but I never saw it. I found Rohmer later, almost randomly, on the Foreign shelf at the video store. As the years went by I started knocking back Rohmer movies like potato chips - The Collector, A Winter's Tale, A Tale of Springtime - I lost track of which ones I'd seen and which ones I hadn't, and didn't care, because they're smart movies and you can watch them more than once. But I'd given Pauline, the big crossover hit, a miss. I figured that to be as popular as it was it must have been one of Rohmer's least Rohmer-like efforts.

"This was incorrect. Pauline at the Beach is not Rohmer's best film, not close, but he doesn't make bad ones. It has wonderful acting performances, particularly by the innocently smoldering Amanda Langlet:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

"And it is a stark reminder that we live in the Age of Ersatz Entertainment. In this movie six actors working on three sets (beach, house #1, house #2) create something beautiful, something that stays with you and makes you feel a little better about being human. Rohmer is not unique in this - in fact, he is a throwback, playing the same games as Shakespeare did in his romantic comedies, and frankly, playing them about as well.

"Vincent Canby's original authoritative review is here. I can't find an Ebert review - Siskel had it as one of his top ten of 1983, but Ebert back then was more of a Psycho Beach Party kind of guy. (Can't blame him, I used to be too.) Anyway, kind words from Ebert on Rohmer, in 2001, here."

August 23, 2007

Must-See DVD

Dr. X posts this from Radiator Springs (Gateway to the Ornament Valley):

"The 1960s tv show, Route 66, is coming out on DVD."

August 22, 2007

Parenting: The Nightmare Scenario

Those of you passing on your genes (but not necessarily your Y chromosome) may some day encounter this no-win situation: the sight of your daughter, teary-eyed, coming to you for help because she has wrapped her hair in both directions around a curling brush.

May Cod give you strength on that dark day (which is more likely to be a dark night, because of nocturnal brushing habits that scientists have yet to fully explain).

Sports Fans!

Check your email for an important invitation. (If I left you out, it's because I know you hate football...and America.)

Entire city of San Francisco denied job as bus driver!

Okay, not really.

But the latest trend in urinalysis might lead to some interesting places.

Some highlights from the study:

One urban area with a gambling industry had meth levels more than five times higher than other cities.

Let me just file that under "I'm shocked. Shocked! To find gambling going on here!"

Affluent neighborhoods doing coke and ecstasy.

Coke I can see, but ecstasy? That's soooo 2000 (then again, I think coke is soooo '85)

Cocaine and ecstasy tended to peak on weekends and drop on weekdays, while methamphetamine and prescription drugs were steady throughout the week.

Makes me wonder how many people are doing meth just to hold down their two McJobs...

I guess the real question is: Does a town failing its pee test consist of probable cause? And how soon before they start moving the sampling points from the waste water plant to, say, some other point further upstream...

Can I Get an Amen?

Dr. X posts this from 1988:

"A bit of advice from Michael Dukakis: 'We have to organize every damn precinct in the United States of America—all 185,000. I’m serious. I’m deadly serious. I didn’t do it after the primary [in 1988]. Don’t ask me why, because that’s the way I got myself elected from the time I was running for town meeting in Brookline to the time I ran for governor.'

"And when he talks about organizing, he doesn’t mean the legions of eager college students—think the orange-hat-clad 'Perfect Storm' that Howard Dean sought to rain down on Iowa in 2004—who are shipped off to key states for crunch-time grunt work. He also doesn’t mean limiting the outreach to 'likely' Democratic voters, because—especially after seven years of George W. Bush—'there are huge numbers of disaffected Republicans out there. Who says they won’t vote for us?'

" 'I’m talking about every precinct,' he said, 'with a precinct captain and six block-captains that make personal contact with every single voting household. And I mean starting a year in advance. I’m not talking about parachuting in with two weeks to go. That’s baloney. And these people are people who’ve got to be from the precinct, of the precinct, look like the precinct and talk like the precinct.'

"As it says in our Christian Bible , 'if anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.' "

August 21, 2007

Yes, The Lonliest

Even Patrick Roy had his off days. I am glad none of mine have made it to Youtube. And speaking of Patrick Roy, he might be the best goalie ever, but nobody paid him to be an enforcer. Mike Vernon-1, Patrick Roy-0.

August 20, 2007

The Loneliest Position

Dr. X posts this from the Shark Tank:

"Even more than the NFL cornerback, when bad things happen, the goalie in hockey suffers alone. Note here, how every just totally focuses on the goalie after a goal is scored."

August 19, 2007

Time magazine exposes Billy Graham

A Missed Opportunity

Dr. X posts this from McLaren Park:

"It occurs to me that it is possible to make a small improvement to the chase scene from Bullitt. At the very end, they should have had McQueen walk up to the wreck and write a ticket. After all, they did hit-and-run that parked car at 3:33..."

August 16, 2007

Only Slightly Violent

Dr. X posts this from the conning tower of the Pampanito:

"Ubisoft's impressive-looking new submarine simulation, Silent Hunter: Wolves of the Pacific, is rated 'T-Teen' due to 'mild violence'. Examples of the "mild violence" are here, here, and here.

"This is outrageous, and by outrageous, I mean totally awesome.

"In other news, Ubisoft's next offering, Hiroshima: Nuclear Attack! will be rated 'Y-Young Adult' due to 'moderate violence'. "

Kick Ball, Get Check

Dr. X posts this from The Pitch:

"Of course David Beckham is overrated, and his move to the L.A. Galaxy is obviously a...wait a"

Hey, It's Worth a Shot

Dr. X posts this from the Mandarin-Physics-Divorce Law Magnet School (Achievement Track) in Los Altos:

"SF principal discovers one way to help poor kids do better in school. Feed them.

" 'Most of the time, we give them something to eat, and they're back in class,' Franklin said."

August 14, 2007

In Which I Abandon A Conceit

Dr, X posts this from a bottle of Night Train, somewhere south of Market:

"Another quiet Saturday night in suburbia. My wife had dozed off during the late movie, the rescued, revitalized, and re-issued Chan is Missing. It was just at the part where the old guy notices that everything is ambiguous when my cell phone rang.

- X, is that you?
- Oh God. How did you get this number?
- Hey, are you still gigging? I've got 200 paying customers and my DJ's passed out.
- Call someone else. Call Jane.
- Naw, she's all fucked up.
- Living on reds, vitamin C and cocaine?
- Yeah, it's too bad. Look, I'm desperate, I'm calling you.
- And I'm retired.
- Can you come up? Three hours, three grand. Easy crowd, play whatever you like.
- Are there any IQ points out there? Don't have to do the same old same old?
- Whatever you like.

"Skeet knows my weakness. I'll play a gig now and then, if I can get a good crowd, some folks who can pick up some of the jokes, people who maybe can tell when you're quoting The Jazz Messengers. Those are special times, when you can pull together disparate and diverse musical elements and reassemble them on the fly into a rich and meaningful synthesis that brings you and audience together, if only for a little while.

"Yeah, right. Meanwhile on Planet Earth I was stepping over the body of my predecessor and slapping away from the equipment a lemur-like creature that was attempting a Yes/Monkees mashup.

- Know your limits kid. Play within yourself.

"And then I kicked him in the head.

"I donned the headphones and started off with a riff from that Beastie Boys album they released only in France. On the other turntable I was doing a little flare I learned that time I sat in with the Invisible Scratch Pickles, getting ready to warp into some fresh Birmingham drum and bass I'd picked up from London club guy I know down in L.A.

"Things were getting off to a trot, and as we revved into second gear with some choice Blue Note samples I looked out at the crowd. My heart sank: Japanese. They were all Japanese! And I didn't have to read kanji to know I'd been conned into playing some kid's birthday party. And they didn't know the name of anyone who hadn't played Budokan.

"It is a dark moment of the soul. It comes for all of us, that instant when all the little lies we tell ourselves are exposed for what they are. Looking out on a sea of uncomprehending Asian faces I realized that, like Richard Gere in American Gigolo, I had hit rock bottom. And I could walk out, or play the game.

"Well, I'd come all that way. And I'm ashamed to say I knew exactly what to do. God made Fatboy Slim for a reason, right? As the opening chords of Rockafeller Skank boomed through the basement, the place went up like The Steps of Rome on a World Cup goal by Italy. We had, as they say, learned a little about one another. One by one I pushed out the hits - the Ibiza stuff, the Top-40 "Remixes", the Acid House anthems...and they ate it up and begged for more. Modesty prevents me from sharing all the horrible things I did, not that I could remember them all. I recall playing the B-52s - really, you haven't lived until you've heard the youth of Japan shout "Honee Buns!" I played that Cantopop tune about the girl who's not sure if this is the right guy for her or not, too, you've probably heard it.

"I'm not proud of what I did next. I had "Crockett's Theme" on table 1, and started mashing it up with "Smooth Operator". I swear to God, I saw two kids fall in love right there. And then I flared in "Love Shack", firewalled the master volume, and walked out.

"I made for the door, trying to make the car before anyone noticed I was gone. But I wasn't quick enough - the path was blocked by a gorilla in a 'Ninja Please!' t-shirt.

- Boss wants to see you.
- uhh...ok.

"And I took the walk of shame to the back room, my ears assailed by 200 Japanese esophagi clamoring for us all to 'get together'.

- Hey
- What the fuck? WHAT THE FUCK?
- Yeah, sorry.
- I had no idea you could DJ missionary like that.
- Seemed like a Disney crowd.
- Well, your Disney crowd just tipped us 10Gs!

"Ok, that part I had not foreseen. Nor this:

- Here's your half.

"As the great man once said, a better man might have been angry. A better man might have been hurt. But a better man never would have taken the gig. I stuffed the envelope in my attache case.

"Back home I wept in the shower for what seemed like hours. As dawn broke I lay on the sofa, listening on my headphones to Cheap Trick's At Budokan.

"Maybe, I thought...just maybe..."

August 13, 2007

Alternate Third Lines From the NY Times Story On the Death of Brooke Astor

Brooke Astor, who by night reigned over New York society with a decided disdain for pretension and by day devoted her time and considerable resources to New York’s unfortunate, died yesterday afternoon at her weekend estate, Holly Hill, in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. She was 105.

* Doctors reported that her blood alcohol level tested at an astounding .35, more than three times the legal limit.

* Her body was recovered from the burning hulk of her trademark 1978 Camero, in which she had attempted to jump over a creek after a high speed police chase that lead through three states, involved 47 pursuit cars and two helicopters and began when what police described as a "routine felony drug stop" went awry.

* After traces of Polonium 238 were located by a geiger counter on her clothing, the State Department has been pressing Moscow for access to agents of the FSB, the notorious Russian secret police.

* Animal Control Officers described the gruesome scene as at least 37 Persian cats were said to be "subsisting off the remains."

* Family reported that she would have been satisfied knowing that she died doing what she loved, testing home-built supersonic jet aircraft.

* Friends had reportedly urged Mrs. Astor to subcontract out the roofing job instead of trying to handle it herself.

* Rumors are that an uncollected gambling debt placed in 1913 with the Bowery Boys, where Mrs. Astor overestimated the fighting stamina of Gentlemen Jim, may have finally come home to roost.

* The Astor Family lamented that the simple precaution of having a spotter for the 250lb freeweights may have prevented the tragedy.

* Police have take into custody one Col. Mustard, who they describe as a "Colonel of Interest."

* At last count, over three hundred 9mm bullet casings were recovered from the scene.

Spot the Distraction

Dr. X posts this from an Internet Cafe on Shattuck:

"The crack journalists at Yahoo! have identified a significant distraction in classes around the nation - see if you can spot it:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

"Answer here."

August 12, 2007

From Le Monde

A rough translation from the original:

The sight of a rodent in a kitchen seldom causes enthusiasm. At best, if one makes of them a small mouse with the large liquid eyes which tries to escape a cat, one obtains the frantic continuations of Tom and Jerry. But a rat? And a rat which insists to grope food? Beurk!

One needs insurance for the house Pixar, supplier of numerical dreams since 1995, to decide to devote so many resources to this idea: the rat become chef. Afterwards many adventures, this concept was entrusted to Brad Bird who in made a film of a sumptuous richness - one of large gastronomical films of the history of the cinema, an often funny burlesque comedy, and especially an apology for the individual creation of an unexpected strength.

Lastly, not so unexpected that that. Ratatouille is only the third full-length film of Bird, but the realizer of the Iron Giant (traditional animation, left in 1999) and of Indestructibles (numerical film carried out for Pixar in 2004) is enough obsessional to have imposed his topics and his manner in three master strokes.

Here, the superman who must make prevail his singularity on his pars and his enemies calls Remi. Its membership of the Rattus kind heavily handicaps the aspiration which tortures it to become a large cook. Remi lives with his many family (it is one of the easy ways of the Ratatouille scenario which to respect many the laws of the zoology) in a country house. While its congeneric makes the dustbins to regale putrid waste, Remi seeks the finest ingredients, despizing discretion which the life of rat requires normally. Nature endowed with a taste and a sense of smell of an acuity out of the commun run (here for the innate one) which pushed it to learn how to read (and here is for the asset), in the pages of a book of receipts, works of the culinary prophet Emile Gusteau now disappeared.

The gastronomical escapades of Remi end up causing the awaited catastrophe: its tribe is forced with the exodus. And the sequence which shows the rats fleeing masses of them their country paradise under cloudburst evokes the feeling of panic and despair which seized with the vision of certain plans of the War of the Worlds of Spielberg.

Carried by the floods of the French river system, then by the sewers of a metropolis, Remi fails in the kitchen of a Parisian restaurant which was that of Gusteau and is today with the hands of Skinner, a mercenary who wastes the heritage of the founder by multiplying the derived products - chips, tacos and other variations on the topic of the junk food.

At the same time as Remi, a young man who aspires to becoming cook made irruption in the kitchen of the restaurant. With the pans, Emile does not show any talent and profits, initially without his knowledge, of the talents of Escoffier of the rodents. The way in which alliance between the kitchen boy and the little rat is sealed makes a dazzling scenaristic pirouette, put in scene with delicacy on the edges of the Seine, not very far from the place where Gene Kelly courted Leslie Charon in An American in Paris. Ratatouille testifies with our capital and with the French imagery sincere, nourished affection at the same time culture and phantasms, which was that of certain Hollywood productions one half-century ago.

Symbiosis between the man and the animal gives again with the noble kitchen all its rights in the old restaurant of Gusteau. But Remi and Emile must face at the same time the schemes of Skinner and the pitiless judgement of the gastronomical critic Anton Ego. These obstacles will justify some continuations dishevelled in the streets of oneiric Paris, which alternate with spectacular culinary sequences. The quality of the synthesized image reaches in Ratatouille of the tops without precedents. All know-how acquired to make shine chromiums of Bus, to make move the grass bits of 1001 Legs passes here in the re-creation of mets of choice, of ingredients to make dream most demanding of the cooks (while testifying to the very new influence of the high-class cooking on imaginary American).

To know how to reconcile the presence of a rat in kitchen and the rules of the Parisian services of the hygiene (represented here by an inspector of the name of Pompidou), to discover how Emile will reconcile his love of the restoration and his incapacity to make cook an egg with the dish, how Remi his double condition of parasitic rodent and artist, and for good of other good reasons, it will assume is necessary to go to see Ratatouille.

August 11, 2007

The B-17 Sculpture Proposal

I've just published a rough web site going over my prospect proposal for a large, 1/2 mile long recreation of a WWII "Big Week" bomber formation of 1500 B-17s. The intent is to rebuild this type of formation at about 1/400 scale. The entire flight, which in life could be over a hundred miles long, could be installed in an area roughly 1/2 mile long and from 40 to 100 feet high, supported by a long series of open-air towers built around a form related to a cathedral-style open double vaulted ceiling.

Big, big project, to say the least; it would take some years of planning and work but I can't see anything unfeasible about it. The idea for now is to circulate among the contemporary art and aviation history communities and get er, rigorous criticism.

I would greatly value your suggestions. What are the glaring omissions, the killer technical obstacles, the conceptual or historical errors, the missed opportunities? I've been thinking about this idly for a year and more seriously for the last two months - so far, I've got a fairly enthusiastic response and am optimistic this project can be pursued.

Conceptually, it has aspects as a geometrically formal sculpture, war memorial, Seattle and aviation history, critical political perspective and personal totem. Viewed in person, and executed precisely, I believe it would induce suitably complex emotions when thinking about the reality of the bombing in WWII , perhaps spme sense of the awe the witnesses must have felt. The web site closes with a quote from Slaughterhouse 5:

Billy looked at the clock on the gas stove. He had an hour to kill before the saucer came.
He went into the living room, swinging the bottle
like a dinner bell, turned on the television. He came slightly unstuck in
time, saw the late movie backwards, then forwards again. It was a movie
about American bombers in the Second World War and the gallant men who
flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this:
American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took
off backwards from an airfield in
England. Over France a few German
fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments
from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked
American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join
the formation.
The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in
flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous
magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel
containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The
containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous
devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck
more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few
wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair.
France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and
everybody as good as new.
When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were
taken from the racks and shipped back to the
United States of America,
where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders,
separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly
women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in
remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground., to hide
them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.
The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school
kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn't
in the movie. Billy was extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and
all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two
pefect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed.

August 09, 2007


I'm heading to West Virginia soon and one of the best parts of the trip will no doubt be spending time with my nephews Shawn (aged 10) and Dustin (just turned 13). Their pin-headed but loving mother lives in NC and their loving but pin-headed father lives in WV. They are being raised to be God-fearing, video-game playing, extremely sheltered, little hillwilliams.

What amazes me is how much they remember of the short times we've spent together. I think it's because the stuff we do together is so different from what they usually do. We put on a puppet show, read Beowulf and acted it out--I was Grendel and his mother, my best performance yet. Two years ago we started reading Tom Sawyer together and I promised them a caving trip when we finished it. Last night, they reminded me what page we were on. After we watched Dr. No we made a video about the Worst Spies Ever and now they want a sequel.

I suggested Harry Potter, but they explained to me that their mom has forbidden them to read it because it "might make them go to the devil". Sigh. They're still young enough to be obedient.

I kind of stick to books because the nephews need constant encouragement to read; their parents aren't big on books. (I never thought we'd get through Beowulf, but the promise of acting out a battle in a swimming pool carried the day. At the end of the battle we had two Beowulfs and Grendel's mother was exhausted.)

When I was their age, my friends and I spent a lot of time on Civil War battles; the Laird tells me that for his group it was WWII. Of course, we don't just fight and tell stories of violence, but I can handle the softer stuff, cooking, sports, poetry, art (well, I do my best, FSL), even sewing, although we mostly sew costumes to fight in...

So, I'm writing to ask you what were your favorite boyhood tales and adventures. What fired your imagination, made you curious, wanting to read more? What makes a thrilling boyhood adventure?

August 08, 2007

Seize Him!

Dr. X posts this from a high-priced cocktail party in Manhattan or Georgetown:

"Who authorized this message?"

Stevens At Sea: Priority Despatch from First Sea Lord

All Ships: Alert! The Dread Pirate Ben Stevens, son of the Dread Lord Stevens, is at large, at sea!

Reports: "A Shell contractor, Bering Marine Corp., a unit of Anchorage-based transportation company Lynden Inc., hired Stevens as mate and relief skipper aboard the 121-foot combination tug and landing craft Arctic Seal." She prowls the waters of the Bering sea, seeking lone, rich Indiamen blown far astray, and fat, floating earmarks, as sea-prizes, to serve his insatiable lust for riches and power and the most insidous forms of debauchery.

This rapacious and blaggardly criminal, in the phantasmagorical guise of noble office, has wantonly laid waste to justice at strand near and afar remote. But caution! His very touch is corruption itself!

All ships in Her Majesty's service, upon sighting the Rogue vessel, are directed to board her forwith, with the Upmost despatch, and clap the escaped criminal Dread Pirate Ben Stevens in irons, if circumstances favor, or else, eradicate the menace from the seas in the greater Haste, watching all the while for the most nefarious and despisable turns of Ttreachery. On sighting the M/V Arctic Seal, Trust no signal, Give her No quarter, but subdue her, without restraint.

- First Sea Lord,
Aboard HMS Sovereign of the Seas, Vancouver, 8 Aug 1787

August 07, 2007

Oh My God

I have just in this moment, the most powerful experience of my life...

Today's Bible Verse of Wisdom and Comfort

From the Book of Revelation, Chapter 10, Verse 10:

And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.

August 05, 2007

A Silver Lining?

Dr. X posts this from the Detroit side of the river, looking wistfully across at the Hiram Walker Plant:

"With all that has gone wrong, perhaps one thing is going right. Canada is coming to understand, very deeply, what is good and right about being Canada."

The Last Frontier of Cheap Bribes and Broken Futures

Stevens, Young and Murkowski's wonderland of corruption is only going to spread. For Ted Stevens alone, there are three or four main arcs of corruption here, and they feed into each other, the VECO-remodelled house, the bookkeeper doing his personal business on a federal salary, the earmarks that put money in his son's pocket.

Washington Post.
Seattle Times.
ABC News- on the bookkeeper.
Capital Eye - List of Federal VECO recipients..

And, like watching your great aunt finally trying to cross a four lane highway, the Anchorage Daily News. Kudos for finally starting to tell this story in a larger historical context, but it is still very inadequate, because it misses the essential truth:

Conoco-Phillips, BP, Exxon Mobil.

Think long, spendy, half-drunk nights at the swankyish Petroleum Club in Anchorage. It simply isn't credible that Bill Allen's criminality was done without the knowledge and consent of big oil. VECO - Bill Allen and his goons- lobbied for big oil, on their behalf. The oil industry is morally and probably legally culpable for the situation Alaskans fell for.

Every Alaska politician who wined and dined- and personally profited - from their business dealings with the oil companies or their representatives now face the moral burden of demonstrating that they were not criminally influenced in their policy decisions by out and out bribery, corruption and racketeering. This includes several former governors and any number of state legislators of both parties.

But focusing on individual criminal behavior, even among U.S. Senators, is missing the point. In some ways, the AP story gets to the meat of it:

More than 70 percent of VECO's business worldwide comes from fossil fuel production and the company has logged more than $1 billion in sales. Its assets on the North Slope total more than $200 million and include an equipment fleet, maintenance facilities, a hotel, warehouses, fabrication facilities and a concrete plant.

"Needless to say," Allen wrote in the newsletter, "the best outcome for VECO and our employees would be for Republicans to control the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the Alaska State Legislature."

He and other VECO officials were known for their campaign fundraisers at the swank Petroleum Club in Anchorage. And they have given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to Stevens, Young and a host of state lawmakers.

"They were a very important source of money to some of the more pro-oil company candidates," said Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage. "Without VECO's involvement in state politics, we'll have a much more level playing field."

Rick Smith, former company vice president, has also pleaded guilty to bribery charges. Court documents say Smith and Allen would meet politicians in Juneau's Baranof Hotel to discuss the exchange of bribes for votes on key oil and gas legislation.

Company executives, led by Allen, lobbied on behalf of oil producers on the North Slope, the largest of which are BP PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips. Oil is the cornerstone of Alaska's economy. It funds about 80 percent of the state's annual budget.

"We discovered that there really wasn't anybody — not even the oil companies — defending themselves on the political front," VECO President Pete Leathard told the Anchorage Daily News in 2005. "So we took on the task."

Right. Oil Companies weren't standing up for themselves enough in Alaska.

It's what I've always said: if only Exxon Mobile was more assertive, they could get out more, even go on dates.

The essence of the story is evident in most of the reporting, but underneath the surface: Big Oil directly and indirectly bribed Alaska's politicians at all levels for favorable legislation involving billions and billlions of dollars, for years, to the point that virtually the entire state governmental system is suspect. To get out of the hole of national disgrace Alaska has dug itself, what we all need to know is the complete story of oil corruption of Alaska politics in the last ten years.

At the moment, Big Oil itself is - interestingly - avoiding serious criminal scrutiny while its soliders at VECO and yipping housepets like the Stevens' clan are going up the river. It will take a dogged historical perspective to dig this out. Right now, a dozen or so individuals are being investigated. It's reasonable to ask why executives at Conoco-Phillips, BP, and Exxon Mobil aren't being run through the wringer.

The infinitely more honorable Vic Fisher, one of the last living writers of the Alaska Constitution, put it like this in another AP story this week:

"Greed is rampant," Fischer said. "The character of the politicians has changed a lot. I'm very disgusted."

And that for me gets to the heartbreak of it. Alaska in the 1950's, when the classically liberal constitutional was written, seems to have been a crucible of youth, energy, optimism and individuality, with all the best, and also most of the worst, of the American character. But power tends to corrupt. And oil corrupts absolutely.

August 04, 2007

An Open Letter to Tom Tancredo

Dr. X posts this from the Institute for Mutually Assured Destruction:

"Dear Mr. Tancredo:

"We noted with interest your plan to attack holy sites in Mecca and Medina as a way to deter future terror attacks against the U.S. We have often ruminated on this ourselves, and, after deep thought on the matter, conclude that you are a weak little pussy.

"Sure, it sounds tough. But what have you really accomplished? They worship a pile of rocks, you blow up the pile of rocks. Just makes 'em mad.

"If you really want to deter terrorism, here's what you do. Pick a Moslem country. Doesn't matter which one, just one that doesn't have a lot of friends. Then blast the shit out of it. Bomb them into the stone age, kill their leader and his kids, occupy their territory, and make sure you do it in a way that ensures tens of thousands of Moslem 'civilians' die.

"Lather, rinse, and repeat.

"Give it up, Mr. Tancredo. You're a boy trying to play a man's game, and you're pissing off the pros."

August 02, 2007

Today's Bible Verse of Wisdom and Comfort

From the Book of Psalms, Chapter 60, Verse 8:

Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe.

Alaska Mucktacular!

Today on TPMtv:

August 01, 2007

More Love for the Democrats

Dr. X posts this from SF General:

From today's Chronicle:
California has nearly 6.8 million elderly, frail and chronically infirm Medi-Cal beneficiaries, and many would be forced to find help elsewhere, or make do on their own, without emergency funding from the state Legislature...but help is unlikely because both the [Democratic] Senate and the [Democratic] Assembly would have to approve an emergency bailout, and the Assembly has gone on summer recess.
"I'd like to make a joke about this, but there's nothing funny to say. What a bunch of jerks."

And in an Unrelated Development...

Dr. X posts this from Vancouver:

"American migration to Canada at a 30-year high."

Guns, Butter, or Semiconductor Engineering Training?

Dr. X posts this from what's left of Progressive New College:

"Just out of curiosity, when did the Democrats quit giving a damn about education? Of course the Republicans don't care - their kids will be fine in their private schools, and their vision of society works best when you have clueless Morlocks tending the machinery. Ask anyone from Guatemala or El Salvador.

"But I remember when Democrats cared a lot about education (once upon a time Republicans did, too, but that was long ago). Nick Begich, for one, made it a centerpiece of his campaigns.

"But today, not so much. In California, a state controlled by the Democrats since 1970, more money will soon be spent on prisons than on schools.

"Hillary Clinton's website lays out the things she cares about: the word 'education' does not appear, nor any specific proposal for improving the public education system that enshrines special interests (both left and right) at the expense of actual knowledge or understanding.

"John Edwards promises to do something about: health care, poverty, rural America, tax reform, tax simplification, working families, predatory mortgages, debt and savings, and food safety. Education? Not so much.

"Well, some candidates care about it, or at least care enough to put it on their websites. Biden wants to make it easier to go to college (I don't mean to be dismissive - actually doing that would be a big, big deal). Obama has some concrete proposals.

"But I think Richardson has the clearest take on it: pay up for good teachers. Why is this so hard? What is wrong with making 'Public School Teacher' a respectable profession again? There are about 3 million school teachers in the U.S. Let's go crazy and pay them all $100,000 a year. OK, I know, that would cost $300 billion - an incredible sum.

"Yes, incredible - almost half of what the Iraq War will cost us from this day forward. And almost 3/4 of what it has already cost us.

"But so what? We're a rich country. We're trying to hold our lead. We can only do that by producing millions of highly skilled workers. And it's impossible to do that without great basic education.

"Seriously... If the Democratic Party can't get its act together on this issue, there won't be much need for future elections. No open society can hope to survive with its educational system in this condition. Social mobility in the U.S. is already poor, and is well behind more advanced societies, such as Canada and the Nordic countries.

"If the Democrats won't fix it, who will?"

Impeach Gonzales

(c) J. Bollenbach 2007