The Hits Keep on Coming

Or maybe “cumming” would be better …

[pause for laugh]

Another Republican Member resigns in scandal, this time over emails to a 16 y.o. (male) page:

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned from Congress on Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former male page.

”I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

Looks like the proverbial live boy (and an underage one at that!) sunk Mr. Foley.  Personally, I don’t give a rip about the gay angle here (aren’t we beyond that yet … oh, wait, not if you represent a conservative consituency), but the underage thing is pretty alarming.

Where’s it stop with these jokers?


Stop Minimizing My Feelings!

Okay, Mr. Contrarian.  Yes, the war is effectively “won” (won like we won Vietnam).  And, yes, the Dems are everywhere on the ascendent … although I’ll believe it when I see it [and, frankly, the likely victory in November will only mask the serious rot in the party’s roots — much like Steve Marucci’s 49ers, it’s a talented group, but the ideas and the players are getting creaky-kneed]. 

But don’t you think it’s at least a little concerning that we face serious challenges to our basic civil liberties and the collective response of most of us has been, effectively, to yawn and fret over a racially racy Survivor?

I think our buddy Beige has it correct — it’s time for us to stand up and shout a little.  Enough of this pinky-extended harrumpfing at the martini bar.

This Is No Time For Hypertension

Professor — regarding the glove-offing, I respectfully submit that I think vitriol is so 2004.

Now that the war is over (to take Phil Ochs out of context — since both pro- and anti-war people are working to figure out the best way to bring the troops home, for all intents and purposes the war is basically over) and Republicans no longer have an ideology, all Democrats have to do is play a prevent defense and slide right in to power.

At the risk of sounding all George Tenetty about it, even if Congress doesn’t flip this year, it’s basically a slam dunk for the Democratic agenda in the years ahead. I’m not talking anything crazy like universal health care or anything, but long term, expect something Kerry-like or Clinton-like. And I think a majority would be cool with that.

Because I’m Feeling Salty

As a respectable journal of political thought, this blog is probably no place for the wild, unsubstantiated vitriol I’m about to spit in the general direction of our Piss-Poor Tin-Pot Despot, aka President of the United States George W. Bush.  But it’s Friday, I’m slightly hung over, and my recent posts have all been far too erudite for my own taste.

So lemme just lay this out here.  Watching Clinton’s appearance on Fox News, Keith Olberman’s defence of same, et al., I am more and more convinced that we are in the midst of a great struggle for the soul of our civilization.  We stand at a historical crossroads.  It’s for us to choose fear or courage.  Bush chose fear for us, and maybe we should remember the words of Yoda – “anger comes from fear.”

It’s time for us to chose courage.  Where’s the outrage, people?  In a sane world, this country would be shut down from a general strike, all of us camped out on the highways and the streets shutting this thing down, DEMANDING that Bush step aside for someone less willing to treat America like the helmetless bitch on his hell-bound Harley.

Our president is a wank.  Maybe the Wank of Wanks (note: that’s “WW”, or W^2).  Let’s call this like it is.  Take the gloves off ye Libs, lord knows the enemies of truth and freedom have been beating us with their bare knuckles for a long time … and they just made that legal for we prisoners of injustice.

The Kulturkampf is on — time to fight to win.

Take a chance, Jim

This is a questionable strategy:

“I don’t think that there’s anyone who grew up around the South that hasn’t had the word pass through their lips at one time in their life,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday. “If you read ‘Fields of Fire,’ that word and a lot of other words are in the book.” “Fields of Fire” is a novel Webb wrote about the Vietnam War.

Spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd said Webb, an author and former Marine, “did not want to make any blanket statements that he has never, ever uttered the word. Jim has not used the word directed at another person. He’s never used it himself as a racial slur.”

Clearly, Webb is playing this conservatively. He doesn’t want to say he never used the “n-word,” (the n-word… this is one of those times when it feels like political campaigns are run by and for 8 year olds) because he’s afraid someone will come out of his past and say, “well, Jim Webb actually did use the n-word once 34 years ago in a locker room…” and thereby neutralize the political impact of Allen’s alleged racism.

I’m not sure this is the right calculation. When Webb came into this thing, it was a long shot. Allen was popular in Virginia. When he was term-limited out of his Governorship, he beat the extremely popular Chuck Robb for the senate seat.

Now Webb is polling within four or five points of Allen for the senate seat– and he’s even leading in one September poll. What he needs to do is draw out the differences between himself and his opponent. And this is a way to distinguish himself that everyone is guaranteed to hear about– not just in Virginia, but everywhere. Because the whole damn country has tuned in for Allen’s implosion.

The Webb campaign might be holding off on that– wagering that the really important difference between Webb and Allen is Webb’s position on the Iraq war, which, by the way, is one of the more sophisticated positions in the Democratic Party. That might be the smarter move, especially if they have reason to believe someone might actually come out and say Webb is a racist– whether it’s true or not.

If I had Webb’s ear, I might tell him to take a chance on the race issue. But they might be smart to keep it close for now and hope that Jim starts to uptick in the polls over the next week or two as the conversation moves from the war on terror and detainee treatment to the Iraq war (I’d be willing to be it does– starting Monday), which is much a much better backdrop if you’re a Democrat.

Shh . . . Don’t Tell The Netroots!

The New Jersey Senate race is critical to Democrats as they hope to take control of the Senate. So what is Robert Menendez doing? Campaigning in South Florida, of course, courting Republicans:

He shook hands with supporters at Versailles Restaurant on Calle Ocho in Little Havana. He was given the keys to the affluent city of Coral Gables, Fla., at a reception attended by more Republicans than Democrats. He received two proclamations from nearby towns, including one with a Republican mayor who declared Sunday “Senator Bob Menendez Day.”

Yes, that Senator Robert Menendez, the Democrat from New Jersey.

“I want to keep a Republican majority, but not if it means losing Bob Menendez,” said Ana Navarro, a Republican political consultant who helped organize three Menendez for Senate fund-raising events at the historic Biltmore Hotel on Sunday. “He’s part of our extended family.”

At home in northern New Jersey, Mr. Menendez comes across as a textbook Democrat, with a 100 percent scorecard from the League of Conservation Voters, Naral Pro-Choice America and the National Education Association. But in South Florida, a place Mr. Menendez has visited dozens of times over the last two decades, Cuban-Americans and others hail him as a freedom fighter for his fervent anti-Castro views, and revere him as an adopted son who has done well for himself.

We Are All Las Vegas Now

After international officials outlawed the export of wild caviar from the Caspian and Black Seas, the market has turned to farmed fish, and I have to say, the whole business comes off as slightly perverse*:

In the mid-1990’s the farmed caviar industry was nothing more than a few marine biologists with a dream. Today it is emerging as a global, multimillion-dollar business. Sturgeon farms in France, Germany, Italy and Uruguay are investing millions of dollars to expand facilities and to develop new technologies, like microchip implants, to create roe with a pop as perfect and a flavor as buttery as traditional wild caviar’s. In Bulgaria, Canada, China, Israel and the middle of a desert in Abu Dhabi, fledgling caviar farmers are breaking ground on new production facilities.

. . .

Perhaps the most ambitious project to make up for the reduced supply is the farm in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, which will breed baerii, or Siberian, sturgeon. Backed by private investors, the $48 million facility is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008, with the first caviar expected to be sold the next year. At its peak the farm will produce 32 tons annually, two times what is produced today in California.

Abu Dhabi may seem like an odd place to build a fish farm, but labor is cheap there and energy is cheaper. And there is a huge market for caviar on cruise ships that dock there, in the city’s hotels and among the Arab elite. Still, the project requires sophisticated water recirculation technologies to function in a desert. For the sturgeon to grow quickly and to produce eggs, for example, the water will need to be cooled to 68 to 72 degrees. And not a drop can be wasted. According to Christoph Hartung, chief executive of the German firm United Food Technologies, which has been hired to build and manage the farm, 95 percent of each day’s water will be filtered and reused.

It gets weirder:

With farmed sturgeon, biologists must rely on educated guesses about when a fish will release her eggs. In general, baerii sturgeon, the breed grown in farms in established European farms and newer operations in Asia and the Middle East, mature within five years. White sturgeon, grown in the United States and Italy, mature in eight.

To be sure, each fish must be individually biopsied. Marine biologists make a small incision, insert a plastic tube and manually suck a few eggs from each fish. If the test roe are black, the eggs are ready. If they are white, the fish will need about another year to reach full potential. Some fish are biopsied four or five times before they get it right, [farm manager Peter] Struffenegger of Sterling [Caviar in Sacramento, CA] said.

In France farmers use ultrasound technology to speed the process. Alan Jones, the managing director of a company called Sturgeon, which is based in Saint-Sulpice, Bordeaux, uses ultrasound scanners to determine the sex of his baerii sturgeon and to identify mature females that are ready for harvesting. (A sturgeon’s gender is not evident until the fish is 3 years old.)

Technology will either make this world cooler and cooler or our excesses will make it implode.

*And I say this as someone who has been fortunate enough to have enjoyed the earthly pleasure of foie gras (don’t hate — it was just once!).

That Was When I Knew The Red Sox Were Somehow Un-American*

I have to admit that I’ve passed by Citgo stations on the few times recently when we’ve either rented or borrowed cars**. Apparently 7-Eleven has noticed:

Convenience store operator 7-Eleven Inc. is dropping Venezuela-backed Citgo as its gasoline supplier at more than 2,100 locations and switching to its own brand of fuel.

The retailer said Wednesday it will purchase fuel from several distributors, including Tower Energy Group of Torrance, Calif., Sinclair Oil of Salt Lake City, and Houston-based Frontier Oil Corp.

A spokeswoman for Dallas-based 7-Eleven said its 20-year contract with Citgo Petroleum Corp. ends next week. About 2,100 of 7-Eleven’s 5,300 U.S. stores sell gasoline.

Citgo is a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, and the foreign parent became a public-relations issue for 7-Eleven because of comments by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

. . .

7-Eleven spokesman Margaret Chabris said that, “Regardless of politics, we sympathize with many Americans’ concern over derogatory comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez.”

*For more on the Citgo sign at Fenway, see here.

**And I know it’s just a subsidiary of “the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” but it creeps me out anyway — hey, I’m not afraid to use my purchasing power responsibly!

Faust In Translation

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent trip to New York, as seen through his in-country translator:

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, the day of his now-famous speech, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad entered the General Assembly at the United Nations and sat down with his foreign minister and the Iranian U.N. ambassador. He waved in my direction, and I waved back. Me and Mahmoud, I thought to myself.

I had seen the text of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech before he’d even arrived in Manhattan on Monday, Sept. 18: I was his interpreter, or at least his English voice, at the U.N.

My father was an ambassador under the Shah, and I’ve spent most of my life in the U.S. After a career in the entertainment industry, I had written about President Khatami for U.S. publications and made contacts within his government. That experience, along with my credentials as an apparently trustworthy Iranian, led to my invitation to be Mr. Ahmadinejad’s translator, and to attend some of his public pit stops, as well as an Iranian-only (and me­dia-free) celebration at the Hilton. There, I thought, I’d glimpse the real Ahmadinejad.

. . .

I began to sweat. The realization hit me that whatever I said would be heard the world over, and all I could think of was Ronald Reagan’s infamous “We begin bombing in five minutes” quip into what he thought were unplugged microphones. I had no intention of veering from the text, but it was both tantalizing and terrifying to know that a few extra words here and there would create headlines and headaches across the globe, if not land me either in Gitmo or Evin prison in Tehran.

In fact, I remember little of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech or my reading of it; I was far too busy concentrating on listening to him in one ear, checking where we were in the text, and watching him out of the corner of one eye. After the address was over, I was stopped by an African U.N. security guard; he begged me for a copy of the speech, saying it was the best thing he’d ever heard. I had left my copy behind in the booth. The Iranian diplomat with me promised him a personal copy on Islamic Republic of Iran letterhead. [Emph. added]

Charming . . .

The Convention Of The “Cachet Zip Code” Is Overused And Must End . . . Now

“02138” doesn’t even have a ring to it:

Hundreds of “bright young things” and some of their older counterparts last night raised their glasses in honor of a new magazine celebrating Harvard University — America’s pre-presidential playground, a cocoon for future billionaires, and the crown jewel of the Ivy League.

Guests sipped pomegranate martinis and nibbled on foie gras hors d’oeuvres at the Core Club in Midtown to fete the launch of 02138. A feature in the magazine’s premiere issue identifies “The Harvard 100” — the school’s most influential living alumni — and a number of the “100” were in attendance, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, constitutional scholar and New York University law professor Noah Feldman, and physicist Lisa Randall.

. . .

An editorially independent magazine, each issue of which will celebrate “the Harvard brand,” as one 02138 staffer put it, strikes a delicate balance between navel-gazing and Harvard-related current events coverage. Named for Harvard Square’s zip code, the magazine includes a feature called “The Z-List is the New A-List,” which describes the current Harvard admissions process as “an embarrassment of riches.” The Harvard Corporation, what the magazine calls “a powerful, secretive governing board,” gets a dramatic eight-page treatment, including an ominous illustration of seven darkened faces behind college windows.

And the only thing worse than a magazine written for and about Harvard (or for that matter, the notion that Bill O’Reilly is one of the school’s “most influential” living alumni) is the idea that those who haven’t graduated or attended the school might be interested in such a publication:

The Boston-based publication, which has an editorial office in New York, has received $4 million from Atlantic Media, the parent company of Atlantic Monthly magazine, according to the New York Observer. The first two issues of the magazine will be distributed to some 50,000 alumni of the Cambridge, Mass.-based school. Editors said they have also be been fielding some subscription requests from those who have no affiliation with the school.

“There is a sensibility that many people in the Harvard community share, but that people outside the community might have as well,” Mr. Loss, said. “There’s an element of intellectual curiosity, of social impact, and personal ambition.”


What’s next? “85287” (Arizona State University)? “17837” (Bucknell University)? “11549” (Hofstra)? “99775” (University of Alaska – Fairbanks)?

You get the idea . . .