Thursday, June 30, 2005

In a Blogging State of Mind? Not So Much

Since DB hit the online airwaves in November of 2004, I've been a happy little blogging machine. Okay, maybe not a machine, but a human acting as though I were a blissful machine.

Or something.

In any event, in the last week or so, the desire to pontificate on the war in Iraq and pimp (our sister station, or sistah station if you like) and rap rhapsodic about The White Stripes (the new album is heavenly, by the way) and Beck (ditto) and Transplants (pretty good, not great) has waned.

Maybe it's the summer. Maybe it's the fact that I've logged nearly 900 miles this week on the highways and byways of white-out smog highway death knell fortress of automobile prison-glory Southern California.

Maybe it's because I'm finally finishing up my first novel... Ball Out, which I'm pretty damned well amped about.

Or maybe it's because I'm thinking Big Thoughts about pounding out a screenplay based upon some of the ideas and stories that I've rattled about my brain over the last 18 months or so.

Will I get Back in Gear at some point?

Does anyone care?


Probably and who knows?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dumpster Bust cordially invites you to get your rock on.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Being Really Busy

I don’t mean to neglect the DB – I really don’t. But events are conspiring the last few days to keep me away, I’m afraid to say.

There’s some really cool things afoot and asunder, however, so I’ll just give a quick update of a round-up style-like. I’m trying to (mercifully) get The Novel (Ball Out) finished up. It’s in revisions right now, and I was curled up with it at the local Starbuck’s until 11:30 or so last night. I’m also seriously looking into working on a screenplay with an LA writer and friend, which to be honest is exciting me to distraction.


9 – 11:30 pm
Ball Out
revisions at Starbuck’s

11:30 – 2:30 am

Reading scripts online – particularly Kevin Smith’s fabulous Chasing Amy

Dumpster Bust Radio #10 is slated to get kicked out sometime this week. Of course, it’s late and behind schedule, as has been the norm of late, but what’re you gonna do? But look for the second part of my interview with’s Eric Olsen and some other fun stuff.

Speaking of fun and interviews: I’ll be interviewing Rob Aston of the punk supergroup Transplants on the morrow! I’m an ultra-huge Rancid fan (Tim Armstrong is an uber-force behind both bands) and really dig Transplants as well, so I’m really looking forward to that one.

That’s it for now – I hope to get back to doing cultural and political mind-splorations very soon…

Monday, June 27, 2005

CD Review - Vetiver's Between EP

Greg Smyth, our UK-based music reviewer, is back on the DB scene with his latest. While always welcome, I'm particularly thankful as I've been making a Push to do some revisions on The Novel (if you're wondering, those things take a hellish long time to get scribbled out!).

You can always find more from Greg at Swing Batter Batter!



The phrase folk supergroup isn't one that's bandied around too often but it's the first sign that Vetiver, who number Andy Cabic and Devendra Barnhart among its members, might be something special. The second hint is that this five track EP, consisting of a handful of Cabic's bedroom demos and some live tracks, is one of the most fantastic works of slow burn to hit your jaded correspondent's desk these last few months.

Busted (Breakdown Version) is possibly the most pitch perfect tribute to Gram Parsons you're ever likely to hear, while Been So Long is both hypnotic in its simplicity and emotionally heart-rending. The real gem, however, is found in Maureen's gentle shuffle, with Cabic's plaintive warble capable of inducing shivers of bittersweet maudlin in even the hardest listener. Regardless of whether the supergroup tag catches on, one thing is certain: you'll be hearing a lot more of Vetiver. You lucky bastards.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Duke Returns! Ong-Bak - Knee Crushing Abandon!

It's been a while since we've had a guest columnist over here on the old DB. Well, I hope it was worth the wait as The Duke checks in with all his filmic wisdom and fury.

I originally thought The Duke was some kind Northern Ireland film critic prodigy. It was only later that I learned he was a little bit of an everything-prodigy.

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando.



Any serious student of motion-film will tell you, should you bother to ask, that most likely, the only thing lacking in, say, La Règle du jeu or Roma, città aperta, is that there were nowhere near enough shots of folks getting hit in the face with elbows and knees.

Any half-arsed motherfucker can punch a drug-lord or shove a boot into the teeth of an international terrorist, but it takes someone special for to maybe bound through the air and elbow a man so hard on the head that the very skull cracks under the weight. And then again and again, on account of the really cool bits get replays.

Ong-Bak, Prachya Pinkaew's 2003 opus of limb-snapping and head-crushing, has more elbow and knee action than any flick this side of, say, Brief Encounter, with its famous scene wherein Celia Johnson jumped the hell off a train-roof and shoved her right elbow into Trevor Howard's yap so hard his shoulders split the fuck in two.

It does for elbows and knees what Say Anything did for big-arse tape-deck things held above a fella's head in the hope that a lady-friend might, by some miraculous development, find some horrible Peter Gabriel recording sexually-arousing. I ain't ever in my life seen elbows and knees utilized with such artistic flair since back in the day when Da Vinci was scribbling all over a buncha yellowed note-pads, back before he turned out to be Mary Magdalene or whatever the fuck that book yacks on about.

In case you didn't know, what Ong-Bak concerns itself with, is something along the lines of this shit right here;

A young fella by the name of Ting leaves his tranquil rural village for to head off into the seedy lady-boy infested streets of Bangkok, that he might recover the head of a Buddha statue that some criminal type has done gone stolen.

He meets up with a fella by the name of Dirty Balls, who has understandably changed his name to George in the days since he knew Ting, and the two of them get involved in awe-inspiring set-piece after awe-inspiring set-piece.

Also, there's a lady who appears to be Dirty Balls' lover, but I don't recall that anyone ever confirms my suspicion. Put it down to bitter experience that's gone an warped a fella's view of the world, but what The Duke would guess is that if a lass is spending a lot of time in a fella's company, even a fella with ridiculous bleached hair and a name like Dirty Balls, she's probably closer to him than she'll admit. But who knows, maybe they just hang out and scam gangsters, and maybe never even once got naked in the same room. Thankfully it don't matter a frosted fuck, since it's all about Ting.

Ting, it transpires, is something of a motherfucking genius type when it comes to the art of Muay Thai boxing, i.e., boxing that involves feet, elbows, knees, tables, taxi cabs, in addition to the ol' left-hook an such. Turns out this is handy as all hell, since every corner these folks turn in their quest for the Buddha head, there's a buncha low-down sonsa bitches ready for to chase them down streets or break stuff over heads or shove them into an underground fighting den.

Ong-Bak is wonderful. In these days of CGI assisted pseudo-carnage, there ain't no words that don't involve fuck for to describe how amazing it is seeing folks genuinely getting flung off of trees the size of houses. Folks landing on the dusty ground, and the thud of spine-on-dirt, that right there kicks the pixellated arse of any number of Matrixes or Underworlds or Constantines.

It doesn't have a plot worth a flying gypsie's fuck, it has a truly abominable techno soundtrack, it has some unspeakably horrifying hair-cuts, but dig this shit right here, would you ever?

1 - It's the best searching for a missing head flick since that Peckinpah number about Alfredo Garcia, and violent and gritty as that picture may have been, it had not one scene that I can remember all about maybe Warren Oates starts flinging his legs around in the direction of some filthy criminal bastards, and all the while his legs on fire.

2 - It has Tony Jaa.

This fella is a motherfucking revelation, bounding and jumping and kneeing and elbowing and punching and kicking in a manner I ain't ever seen since that Jackie Chan flick were he did all the crazy shit with the ladders. This Jaa motherfucker is incredible.

He don't need no wires or CGI or stunt-doubles or special effects, on account of he IS the special effect.

He leaps through tables, he runs up the side of walls, he gets no end of props smashed over his head, he jumps up in the air and slams his knees around a fellas head, elbowing the fuck out his skull, then leaps off in time for to give a swift kick to the teeth before the bastard falls back in a pool of his own gunk.

He leaps and falls with abandon.

3 - It has two of the best chase sequences I've ever seen in my damn life, let The Duke state for the vinyl.

The first is like some shit out of a platform game from back in the days when you just ran from one side of the screen to the other jumping over shit without having to worry about any kind of plot or the threat of a cut-scene all about The Government every ten minutes.

I half expected magic rings or some shit to crop up, or anthromorphized mushrooms.

Jaa just starts running along a street, being chased by a whole fuckload of gangster types, and next thing anyone knows any and all obstacles that could be flung in his way are flung with nary a thought for sense or neo-realist leanings. If you thought there weren't no room in this day and age for a scene all about a fella has to jump through strategically placed hoops of barbed wire in the middle of a crowded street, or bound over any amount of stalls and tables, or jump the fuck over a buncha motorbikes that appear from out of nowhere, then you need to think the hell again.

The second involves a buncha three-wheeled taxi cabs. I ain't ever seen taxi's get smashed up with such giddy invention.

4 - It has the most memorable limb-snapping since Irreversible, and it won't make you feel like a filthy scum-soaked bastard fresh out the gutter with a crack-pipe in one hand and a diseased penis in the other.

5 - It's the flick Kickboxer 2 coulda been.

There ain't much in the world for to get a man jumpin up and down before a movie screen like the sight of a young fella suddenly beating the frazzled fuck out a man three times his size, and all in the presence of a crowd hopped to the last nut on bloodthirsty abandon.

Kickboxer nailed that sensation right there, but for whatever reason, Kickboxer 2 just didn't deliver that same kickbox to the giddy glands.

And if you thought Kickboxer 3 - The Art Of War might've made up for it, you can think the fuck again.

This here Ong-Bak malarkey, though, it gets it perfect. When it flings Tony Jaa into the middle of a fight with some demented maniac screeching about "I'll kill your guts out your head!!!!" or whatever, the whole motherfucking thing scales the sortsa heights you never thought you'd see scaled this side of Bloodsport.

6 - It's got great baddies.

Whilst Ong-Bak lacks a Tong Po, it's got plenty substitute ne'er-do-wells for to get a man sneering and hissing, best of all being a gangster head-honcho fella who sits in his wheelchair smoking through a hole in his neck and giving out orders for to kill motherfuckers left and right with one of those voice-box machines you get on account of all the smoking.

Then there's the crazy bastard who wants nothing more than to smash chairs, tables, bottles over Tony Jaa's hide.

Ong-Bak fucking rules, is all there is to it. Tell you the truth, I wasn't expecting a terrible lot. I'm a bit actioned-out to tell you the whole truth and nothing but. How many times can you see a yap get smacked before you start losing interest? Not many more, is the answer.

Ong-Bak, however, makes a fella feel like he ain't ever seen a lip get split ever once before in his life. It's also incredibly beautiful, like the opening tree-climbing contest, or the wonderful moment when Ting discovers a whole host of underwater Buddhas.

It ain't got much more to offer than Tony Jaa and a couple great characters here and there, but that's much, much more than anybody's ever gonna need.

It's the kung-fu flick equivalent of Guinea Pig - Mermaid In A Manhole. That flick had some sort of narrative hidden away someplace, but really, all it wanted to do was show a mermaid puking out puss and maggots over a bath-tub for forty minutes. Regardless of how flimsy the A to B may have been, you didn't forget that shit in a hurry, and I dare say only the most chronic amnesiacs will forgot how Tony Jaa put a fella's leg between his own, jumped into the air and landed with all his force on the knee.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Anti-Flag: Flag Burning Ban Amendment Passes U.S. House

A constitutional amendment to ban the burning of the United States flag may have its best chance of being passed in many years. In order for any amendment to the U.S. Constitution to become law, it must pass a series of steep bars: two-thirds approval in the House of Representatives, two-thirds approval in the Senate, and, finally, the ratification of two-thirds (38) of the states.

Today, the House approved the proposed amendment, 286-130.

"It's going to be really close (in the Senate), within a one- or two-vote margin," said Terri Schroeder of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has lobbied against the measure. It must also be ratified by the states to become law.

The increasingly conservative nature of the Republican-led, 100-member Senate along with a renewed sense of patriotism fanned by the Iraq war have made proponents optimistic.

I have several strong reactions whenever the subject of an anti-flag burning amendment comes up. The first and strongest reaction I have is that this is a silly issue. Our elected leaders surely must have better things to do with their time (how about Iraq? Seems like that might take up an afternoon or two of not-so-idle deep pondering and debate) than a law etched in stone about lighting up some material that happens to have some colors dabbled on it.

Secondly, however, I’m offended.

I’m offended because I believe the right to free expression is such that we must allow for all non-violent forms of protest – especially those we find most distasteful.

What about burning crosses? What about the Klu Klux Klan?

What about banning white pointy hats?

What about banning placards that read “God Hates Fags”?

How about banning all flags, hats, planks of wood, and placards?

And magic markers, felt-tip pens, and highlighters?

You know, just to be sure.

I consider myself a patriot. I love the flag of the United States, and I get emotional thinking about our soldiers dying to preserve our freedom under its banner.

I love everything that the flag represents, including the freedom of self-expression, assembly, and protest. I love that you’re free to express yourself in the United States in ways that just might piss other people off.

Am I into burning flags? Absolutely not. I find it distasteful, actually.

All the same, I hope this amendment doesn’t pass. And I hope our lawmakers can try and get back to doing something useful for a little while. Selected for Always On, Technorati Open Media 100

While this may sound like bizarro techno-jargon to some, this " power list of bloggers, social networkers, tool smiths, and investors leading the Open Media Revolution" is a pretty big deal. And it's quite an honor that, a website that I'm very proud to be affiliated with, was selected under the Trendsetters category.

If you fancy Vanity Fair's annual New Establishment list of the media and IT titans who matter (like we didn't already know), you might think of the Open Media 100 as the new, new establishment - people you may not know but probably should. Although many of these folks may never grace the pages of the high-gloss pubs, they will most certainly be keeping an independent eye on those who do. As we've all witnessed, this is already happening. Both Dan Rather and CNN news chief Eason Jordon were handed their walking papers after being busted by bloggers.

The purpose of this list is to provide an initial, helpful framework of this emerging industry and highlight its key players who are influencing the adoption of open media and proving the impact it is already having on the technology industry, journalism, and marketing. To achieve this goal, we created the following categories: Pioneers, Trendsetters, Practitioners, Toolsmiths, and Enablers.

Some other Big League names on the Open Media 100 list:

Adam Curry - The Daily Source Code
Craig Newmark - Craigslist
Cory Doctorow, Mark Frauenfelder, Xeni Jardin, David Pescovitz - Boing Boing
Elizabeth Spiers -
Jeff Bates, Rob Malda - Slashdot
N. Z. Bear - The Truth Laid Bear
Ana Marie Cox - Wonkette
Mark Cuban - Dallas Mavericks
Matt Drudge - The Drudge Report
Mickey Kaus - Slate
Dave Pell - Davenetics
Glenn Reynolds -
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga - Daily Kos
Tom Anderson, Chris DeWolfe - Myspace
Meg Hourihan - Blogger
Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales - Wikipedia

May the evolution/revolution of media and technology and information and communication and community continue!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Rescue Me Returns Tonight, C'mon, C'mon

Rescue Me blew me away in its first season on FX last year. It’s one of those shows that comes out of left field and makes you rethink the notion of television as a wasteland of Jerry Springer freak showery and Kelly Ripa vapidry.

Rescue Me has the look and feel of a Martin Scorsese film – dark, atmospheric, surprisingly and explosively funny— and builds off the tone of such gangster stories as Goodfellas and, perhaps more importantly, The Sopranos. Whereas The Sopranos looks at the decaying of American culture through the scope of a New Jersey mob family, Rescue Me aims to pull off an extremely difficult feat: post-9/11 New York as seen through the eyes of people – New York firefighters – who were there and lost the most on that horrific day.

So how does a story that begins at this darkest of places manage to be hilarious and compelling and engaging all at once? It starts with the characters and the writing, all of which center around the astonishingly good Denis Leary as Tommy Gavin. Leary, who is also the Executive Producer and a writer on the show, perfectly encapsulates the burned out, bleary eyed New Yorker who can never quite manage to get his shit together. Tommy’s bright, charming, and cunningly manipulative personality seems to work toward the one goal of letting no one see how much he’s crumbling within. Gavin is an alcoholic firefighter in the midst of losing his family and his mind. Yet Leary pulls off making Gavin a likeable and engaging leading man, the combination of which is the stuff of greatness.

That’s where the sharp edge of humor comes from: jokes mask pain in real life, and no where on television is this captured better than on Rescue Me. The bonus is that on top of this dark backdrop, the audience is treated to some of the funniest and best “guy banter” you’ll see anywhere, all of it smacking of a truly New York aesthetic.

The supporting cast is equally great. Jack McGee, as Chief Jerry Reilly, is so good that it’s hard to believe that he’s an actor playing a fire chief. If you’re looking for New York street cred, this guy embodies it. The end of the first season ended on a tragic note for Reilly (and a decidedly and deeply dark note overall) as his wife sunk into the fog of Alzheimer’s, so I’m very eager to see where his storyline will go as the new season debuts.

According to Rescue Me’s official website, John Scurti, who plays Lou, Kenny Shea, is from Northport, on Long Island, New York’s North Shore. My family and I hail from East Northport, the next town over (to the South, actually), so I can say that Scurti brings a local authenticity to a character that is gruff on the outside, blue collar, and guarded about displaying any activity that might be seen as feminine or soft (Lou writes poetry in attempt to express his feelings).

While much of the show deals with Tommy’s mid-life breakdown (he hallucinates often, seeing his dead cousin, the man who was his best friend and whose wife – Sheila Keefe, wonderfully portrayed by Callie Thorne – he’s having a semi-clandestine affair with) and the struggle to fight fires and keep it together, there’s always a bizarre and quirky quality at play that again reminds me of The Sopranos and perhaps will help to eventually place Rescue Men at the very top of television shows produced this decade. A quick example involves John Gavin, Sr. (played by the great Charles Durning, who is still at the top of his game as a boozed out curmudgeon), Tommy’s father, Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke), and a gay African American midget with a penchant for predicting winning horses at the track by looking ‘em straight in the eye.

The theme song of Rescue Me, the edgy garage-rocker “C’mon, C’mon,” by The Von Bondies, is perfect, crying its plea over grainy, indie shots of a fire truck sliding through purest New York.

Rescue Me, Season Two, premieres tonight at 10:00 on FX.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dumpster Bust Radio: Podcast #9

Welcome to another edition of Dumpster Bust Radio. DB Radio is a podcast that combines Big Picture talk about the issues of the day (everything from politics to movies to what I did over the weekend) with indie music by some of the best unsigned artists on the scene and interviews with musicians and innovators.

This week is no different as I present Part I of an interview with blogosphere innovator and founder Eric Olsen. Since this is a BlogCritics-centric episode, I also provide a gem of an unplugged track from our very own Duke de Mondo (AKA Aaron McMullan). Finally, I give some background on the mystery surrounding the origins of the NT3 (The Nick Trampani Trio).

So, this week on DB Radio:

* Interview with Eric Olsen of – Part I

* Featured songs by The Duke and Matthew Long (another DB Radio favorite)

* Story Time: The Nick Trampani Trio

How can you beat that?

But first, you can access Dumpster Bust Radio by clicking here. A left-click on your mouse will allow you to listen right now on your computer. A right-click will allow you to save it for later or for easy transport to an mp3 recorder. I recommend listening in the car, which is the geek-cool activity of 2005, according to Dumpster Bust Magazine.

Track Listing for Dumpster Bust Radio #3

Dumpster Bust Radio kicks it with podsafe music playing in the background to complement the Featured Songs, which is when you get a break from my tortured vocal yodeling to enjoy some of the best independent and emerging artists on the Planet.

Track #1 (Show Intro) “Black Star” – Apash
#2 “Achtung (…hier kommt der Schlocker)” – Schlockmaster
#3 “So was willst du?” – Schlockmaster
#4 (Featured Song)“I Do Believe You Are the Devil”— Aaron McMullan
#5 (Featured Song)“So Blue” – Matthew Long
#6 (Show Outro) “Blue Bird Tattoo” – Circe Link

Subscribe to DB Radio!
Our site feed:
To download the free software needed to subscribe to podcasts, click here.

Support DB Radio!
If you like the show or are merely a kindly soul, go to Podcast Alley and vote for DB Radio! If you're not a member, simply submit your vote, and then click a link on a subsequent e-mail to verify. It's almost really really easy!

Interview: Eric Olsen of – Part I

Eric Olsen is the founder and publisher of, the website where a “sinister cabal of bloggers” roams and analyzes and reviews and pontificates. During a long and expansive conversation with Eric, we discussed the concept behind BlogCritics and where the future’s headed for the popular website and for the blogosphere at large. We also found time to delve into whether or not it’s possible to talk politics on the Internet, and where Michael Jackson’s career might be headed.

Please find excerpts from the first part of the interview below. To listen to the full first hour of the interview, make your way to Dumpster Bust Radio: Podcast #9.

Look for Part II of the interview soon.


Eric Berlin: What is

Eric Olsen: BlogCritics is a collective of over 1,000 writers. Each of those people have their own [web] sites and their motivation for participating is that – in nearly every case – have considerably more traffic and higher search engine rank. We are a Google News source and contribute reviews to the Advance family of sites, which is 10 sites that are affiliated with the major local newspaper in 10 different markets.

You add all that up, and for writers that want to get at a new and larger group of readers, we’re a good source for that.

What’s the unique draw on the Internet for people to visit

It’s a general interest Web-magazine that happens to be written by bloggers. It is also a very fine microcosm of the blogosphere because of the large group of writers who we are drawing from. It functions something like a pyramid, where the best really does rise to the top.

Over three years, we’ve gotten better and better. The writers have gotten better and better. I think we’re one of the better sources for news and information, opinion, reviews, and simply entertaining writing on the Internet. We have a very high volume – as much as many news services. We have in fact become a news service – that’s why Google News wants us.

We average about 65 to 70 stories every single day, so there’s literally something being published round the clock. And our writers come from all over the world – I think we’re up to something like 40 countries now.

It’s a place to the advantage of both the writers and the readers – they can interact – because we have open comments. You as the reader can participate in the ongoing discussion: you can agree, you can disagree, you can bring in new facts, you can reference materials that you think are important. I think that’s something that sets us apart from the traditional media.

Political discussion can be especially heated on the Internet. Do you think it’s possible for people of opposing views to have meaningful political debates on BlogCritics and on the Internet in general?

Well sure. It’s possible and I think it happens on the Internet all the time. The issue with politics is that the more partisan the participants – and the people who do participate are going to tend to be partisan – you’re going to see less actual movement. People are pretty well set in their ways.

That does not reflect, though, the 95% plus of people who aren’t writing the stories or aren’t even commenting. We get on average 500 comments a day, but that’s still in the neighborhood of a couple percent of the readers. So we never hear from the vast majority of the people who are reading. Therefore, the people who do comment tend to be the most partisan.

So I do think there is a lot of movement, a lot of changing of minds, among the 95% or so of people who don’t comment.

What’s the future looking like for BlogCritics? What’s the business model, and where are things headed?

The business model is two things – advertising and the affiliate model. We are an Amazon affiliate, so on every post we try and link to at least one Amazon product. The other thing that does, which really keeps our costs down, is to provide artwork, which is terrific. We’re getting our artwork, in essence, for free. The way the affiliate model works is that we encourage our readers to purchase from Amazon through us, to “click through” to Amazon by clicking on pictures of album covers or book covers or whatever, and then we get a percentage of that sale.

The future: I have to optimistic or I would have to give up! The business model – for both advertising revenue and affiliate sales – boils down to traffic. So the bottom line is driving more traffic.

What’s the holy grail in terms of Web traffic? What’s the mark that you have to hit and stay at where you can say, “This is where we really want to be.”

That’s a really good question, and I’ve thought about that a lot. As with any other form of media, over time that number keeps going up. That said, I would say that right now if we could reach 50,000 a day, we would reach another level. And once you’re there, you’re really guaranteed that it will only continue to grow, because once you reach the Top 10, traffic-wise… you know, it’s really amazing that there’s such a difference between being Top 20 and Top 10, but there is.

If you make it to the Top 10, it’s not just that your numbers are what they are, you get a lot more attention just because you are where you are. This is a business where success absolutely breeds success. It’s a classic power curve situation, where the higher you are, the more advantages you get.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

President Bush on Iraq: We Will Settle For Nothing Less Than Victory

More than two years ago, President George W. Bush proudly declared that major combat operations were over in Iraq.

Today, with more than 1,700 deaths and 15,000 casualties suffered by U.S. and coalition forces, Bush stated during his weekly radio address, "We will settle for nothing less than victory.”

But what does that mean? It’s possible that many are asking that question today, and perhaps beginning to wonder why the conditions for victory weren’t more fully explored during the quick ramp up to war those several years back.

In any event, support for the war in Iraq is reaching an all-time low.

About six in 10 in a Gallup poll taken in early June said the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops - the highest level of support for withdrawing U.S. troops since the war began.

Meanwhile, the insurgency is becoming ever more clever and sinister in delivering guerrilla-style attacks on coalition troops and Iraqis tied to the reconstruction. IEDs – Improvised Explosive Devices – are particularly hazardous and difficult to defend against.

These fearsome homemade weapons are responsible for many of the more than 1,700 deaths and 15,000 plus casualties suffered by U.S. and coalition forces since the invasion of Iraq two years ago this month. And they're getting more deadly and numerous.

"They've gone up exponentially in number and they're getting more powerful all the time," said Lt. Col. Michael Kurilla, whose 24th Infantry Regiment's First Battalion patrols the western half of this northern Iraq city that has the highest number of attacks by insurgents of any city in Iraq.

As the military is experiencing difficulty in filling its recruitment goals, some reports find the morale of the U.S. military in Iraq to be low and the state of security to be sketchy at best. Newsweek’s Baghdad bureau chief describes the situation in the bleakest of terms:

Living and working in Iraq, it's hard not to succumb to despair. At last count America has pumped at least $7 billion into reconstruction projects, with little to show for it but the hostility of ordinary Iraqis, who still have an 18 percent unemployment rate. Most of the cash goes to U.S. contractors who spend much of it on personal security. Basic services like electricity, water and sewers still aren't up to prewar levels. Electricity is especially vital in a country where summer temperatures commonly reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet only 15 percent of Iraqis have reliable electrical service. In the capital, where it counts most, it's only 4 percent.

The most powerful army in human history can't even protect a two-mile stretch of road. The Airport Highway connects both the international airport and Baghdad's main American military base, Camp Victory, to the city center. At night U.S. troops secure the road for the use of dignitaries; they close it to traffic and shoot at any unauthorized vehicles. More troops and more helicopters could help make the whole country safer. Instead the Pentagon has been drawing down the number of helicopters. And America never deployed nearly enough soldiers. They couldn't stop the orgy of looting that followed Saddam's fall. Now their primary mission is self-defense at any cost—which only deepens Iraqis' resentment.

The four-square-mile Green Zone, the one place in Baghdad where foreigners are reasonably safe, could be a showcase of American values and abilities. Instead the American enclave is a trash-strewn wasteland of Mad Max-style fortifications. The traffic lights don't work because no one has bothered to fix them. The garbage rarely gets collected. Some of the worst ambassadors in U.S. history are the GIs at the Green Zone's checkpoints. They've repeatedly punched Iraqi ministers, accidentally shot at visiting dignitaries and behave (even on good days) with all the courtesy of nightclub bouncers—to Americans and Iraqis alike. Not that U.S. soldiers in Iraq have much to smile about. They're overworked, much ignored on the home front and widely despised in Iraq, with little to look forward to but the distant end of their tours—and in most cases, another tour soon to follow. Many are reservists who, when they get home, often face the wreckage of careers and family.

Because of the casualties, the reports from the field, analysis from experts, and nose diving polls, Congress finally seems poised to take a serious look at coming up with a timetable for withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced plans to introduce a resolution calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq beginning in October 2006. The effort follows a failed Democratic amendment to a spending package requiring the Bush administration to provide an exit plan within 30 days. The Democrats’ amendment was killed by Republicans in committee.

The bipartisan resolution is sponsored by Reps. Walter Jones Jr. R-NC), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Neil Abercrombie (D-HA), and Ron Paul (R-TX). Rep. Jones told reporters at a press conference yesterday that at least 7 other Republicans told him they plan to study and consider the resolution carefully.

Republican leaders have rejected calls for troop withdrawal and will try to prevent the bipartisan bill from reaching the floor as well.

A recent statement by Rep. Jones (yes, the Freedom Fries guy) may best sum up the uneasy mood of the nation:

"The American people are getting to a point here. How much more can we take?" he added. "Have we achieved our goals, and if not, what are those goals?"

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Earthquakes: Shake, Shake, Shake Your Booty

Yet another earthquake hit California, this one a 5.3 midsized jolter that emanated from about 15 miles east of my pad.

I've lived in California for about seven years and this was the first one I really felt in a long, long time (I actually slept through the decently sized one this past Sunday).

Let me say that earthquakes freak me out a good little bit. However, they rank below tornados on my scare-o-meter. Let’s just say that when I’m between the coasts, I cower at a cloud formation that even looks at me the wrong way.

Everyplace has its geographic up and down side, I suppose. I know of people who are retreating from the idea of ever moving to Florida after the state was ravaged last year by hurricanes. And this is from native New Yorkers, who are contractually obliged to move to the Sunshine State upon retirement.

What scares me is the conventional wisdom that a big earthquake hits California every 10 years or so. Maybe we’ve dodged the bullet this week, though, with the nasty one that hit off the Northern California coast and now the few little ones we’ve had down here in SoCal.

I soothe myself with logic and odds: if SoCal has been around X number of years, the odds of it disappearing into the sea in my lifetime are relatively tiny. This helps chill my nerves in terms of flying, asteroids, getting hit by lightning... all kinds of stuff.

I dig SoCal a whole hell of a lot. The weather is phenomenal, the people and diversity are great, the food and wine is varied and plentiful, and the beaches are the best in the United States.

I just hope I live to tell the tale.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Michael Jackson Did His Part, Now Who Will Step Up Next?

Michael Jackson took one for the team.

And by team, I mean the military-industrial-media-infotainment complex, the sinister (but entertaining!) organization that aims to infiltrate the brains of the Western World with images so delightful and fluffy and exuberant and wonderful that you wouldn’t for the life of you be interested in learning about what’s going on with, all together now:

- Iraq
- Osama bin Laden
- Health Care
- The Economy
- Social Security
- The House of Representatives
- Carrot Top

And so on.

MJ stepped up – you really have to hand it to him. In sports parlance, you could say he “sacked up,” but that might lead to all sorts of fanciful innuendo so I’ll lay back in the cut on that one. He came out and put on a show that the whole world was ready and willing to take and embrace in its collective water cooler theatre. The military-industrial-media-infotainment complex (I like to call them MIMIC, but again, that’s just me) really hit it out of the park by Selecting the aging whacko pop war horse. You’ve really got to hand it to them.

Indeed, after several smash rating seasons of OJ: He of the Bloody Glove, who would have thought the Gloved One himself could have Ascended to take the throne.

The Celebrity Trial Throne.

But that’s the past. People want to see some action. People are fickle. People want to see sex and scandal and gore and analysis and Crisis.

And they also want to see courtside reporters and breaking news and wonderful blissful logos and neon and interrupted broadcasts (General Hospital can wait, no worries there) and magic caustic wisdom by People Who Profess to Know.

The Hangover Times have already begun. It’s been a good run, a good decade really, filled with OJ and Peterson and Kennedy(s) and That Guy From That Show From Back in the Day and That Other Music Producer Dude.

And on and on.

But can a new celebrity be trotted out in time for the new season to begin?

Undoubtedly MIMIC is even now furiously working to bust out a Fall season of superstar scandal to bedazzle the ages.

Just think big with me here, people:

Will Donald Trump be caught with his hand (and or hair) in the cookie jar?

Can Willis from Diff’rent Strokes, Erkel from Family Matters and Screech from That Screech Show get away with stealing the Priceless Rubies from the Louvre?

Will Paris Hilton successfully deploy the Rambaldi device in time?

That would be something, wouldn’t it?

Man, I barely know what to do with myself while I’m waiting.

Monday, June 13, 2005

A Novel Update

I've been slogging through a What Am I Doing? and What Am I Trying to Accomplish? malaise for about a month now. Dumpster Bust is as strong as ever, I've got interviews rolling in and piling up, our friends from BlogCritics are coming over to the site, the podcast is kicking it, etc. So what's the problem, right?

If you've ever looked at the About Me area over on the right, it mentions my novel-in-progress, Ball Out. Except the ball hasn't gone very far lately (okay, you can replace "lately" with "in 2005"...). So, what I'm trying to say, or maybe what I've been trying to tell myself, is that it's time for the damned thing to get done already.

I spent part of the morning at my local Starbucks (the coffee's good and there's lots of places to sit, which lets it nudge out over the incredible coffee and no good places to sit factor at Peet's) writing scenes that lead up the very finalist of final scenes in the story. Of course, once I'm "done," I have an incredible mountain of rewriting and agonizing to climb, but just getting back on the wagon a little bit felt incredibly good. Refreshing and reinvigorating too for good measure.

I'll be talking about my progress on Ball Out here from time to time. I think, in the end, I aspire to get paid to write professionally (which is now the case... but just not as much as I would like!) and keep Dumpster Bust alive and thriving at the same time.

Now all I have to do is do it...

The Inside: Good Enough to be Great?

There’s only one reason why I made it my business to tune into the premiere of The Inside last week, a new moody and atmospheric drama on Fox about an FBI special crimes unit.

Tim Minear.

Minear, a writer and producer who emerged from Joss Whedon’s unparalleled television universe (Angel, Firefly), has emerged as one of the key players to watch on the TV scene. After the critically heralded Wonderfalls was cancelled following a short run last year, Minear is now bringing his uniquely edgy and comically attuned vision to the police procedural.

Since I don’t watch very many “cop shows” (FX’s The Shield being the big exception) I was a little leery after watching the first several minutes of the premiere episode of The Inside. A dead body turns up, and a bunch of cops (or in this case, Feds) show up to investigate the scene. “How many times have I seen this?” I thought, as my highly sensitive and easily activated Boredom Alert System pinged from blue (neutral) to yellow (alert).

But as with Angel — which proved to be much more than just another “vampire show” and in some ways surpassed the brilliant and groundbreaking Buffy the Vampire SlayerThe Inside builds upon a great ensemble cast, sharp dialogue, and off-beat pacing to slowly, surely, and inevitably snare the viewer into what can only be described as a revelatory experience: watching something on television that you haven’t seen before.

The Inside also establishes a downbeat, almost noir tone that sets the stage for what appears to be a show about federal agents who go after serial killers. It’s the emphasis on character, however – particularly the glimpse into a mysterious abyss of questions surrounding several of the main players – that made the show worth watching and will keep me coming back throughout the summer.

Rachel Nichols stars as Special Agent Rebecca Locke, the new member of a special task force that has some kind of vague authority to follow cases wherever they might lead. This, I believe, will give the show flexibility as it will allow for both undercover and procedural plotlines.

The old crotchety boss is given a nice twist by way of Peter Coyote in the role of Virgil “Web” Webster. The character arc of the show will likely focus upon the reason that Web selected each member of the elite team. He has, we’re told, an ability to pick assets and then control them to suit his needs. Special Agent Paul Ryan, portrayed by Jay Harrington, professes to be Web’s “conscience.” So, already, there’s an entertaining trio of characters put in play: the manipulative yet effective boss, the brainy upstart recruit, and the wizened and impassioned voice of reason.

Then there’s the great Adam Baldwin as Special Agent Danny Love. I’ve been a fan of Baldwin’s every since his loopy portrayal as the evil alien in the first Men in Black film, but to me he’ll forever be a man named Jayne. The hilariously narcissistic rouge he brought to life on Firefly should go down as one of the great yet short-lived character roles in the history of television. On The Inside, Baldwin is keeping it a little bit close to the vest thus far, but still managed to land a few great one-liners (and grimaces).

That’s the thing, too, about Minear and The Inside: there’s more than a healthy dose of humor and humanity to leaven the darkness. That, far above the serial killers and the plot twists and revelations and chases, will keep me coming back throughout the summer.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

George W. Bush and the Ascension of the Hyper-Rich

According to a new report by The New York Times, the rich aren’t just getting richer under the presidency of George W. Bush.

They’re getting hyper-rich.

The people at the top of America's money pyramid have so prospered in recent years that they have pulled far ahead of the rest of the population, an analysis of tax records and other government data by The New York Times shows.

While Bush and partisan Republicans have long argued that the long series of tax cuts enacted by the current administration have benefited the poor and middle class – or at least benefited all levels of income earners equally – it’s becoming increasingly clear that this simply isn’t the case.

President Bush said during the third election debate last October that most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans. In fact, most - 53 percent - will go to people with incomes in the top 10 percent over the first 15 years of the cuts, which began in 2001 and would have to be reauthorized in 2010. And more than 15 percent will go just to the top 0.1 percent, those 145,000 taxpayers.

In fact, by analyzing income and tax data, it appears that the higher up the income ladder you climb, the less subject you are to paying taxes in the United States.

Perhaps this phenomenon should be dubbed reverse-progressivism.

And while the top income earners in the United States are paying less in taxes, their wealth is accumulating in a manner that boggles the mind.

From 1950 to 1970, for example, for every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent, those in the top 0.01 percent earned an additional $162, according to the Times analysis. From 1990 to 2002, for every extra dollar earned by those in the bottom 90 percent, each taxpayer at the top brought in an extra $18,000.

One of the chief virtues of living in a capitalistic society is the promise of economic mobility. Among the dangers of rapid wealth accumulation of a tiny percentage of society is the transition from meritocracy to aristocracy as well as the loss of mobility for those born without great fortunes.

But in fact, economic mobility - moving from one income group to another over a lifetime - has actually stopped rising in the United States, researchers say. Some recent studies suggest it has even declined over the last generation.

What will the eight years of the Bush Administration look like from the vantage point of the future? What kind of society are we creating today that future generations will be left to contend with?

Do we really want these years to be seen as the time when ordinary folk struggled to pay off debts and afford basic services like health care as a new class of hyper-rich Americans emerged?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bravo's Blow Out Hits on All Style Cylinders

Why do I love Blow Out, Bravo's reality television series about “celebrity stylist” and aspiring hair empire entrepreneur Jonathan Antin? It’s fun, it’s breezy, and has that right combination of bitchiness, tension, and gossip that you like to see from a reality show. And it’s about a service -- getting a hair cut -- that nearly everybody utilizes. But it really works because it’s about the American Dream.

During the first season, we saw the opening of Jonathan Salon Beverly Hills. Antin, a charismatic, driven, petulant, and ultra-LA kind of suave-glam dude, dreams of sitting atop his profession and will allow almost nothing (punk haircutters disrobing in front of clients, trainees who can’t remember the “clip and cut,” employees who won’t eat meat, etc.) to stop him. We witnessed this dream taking shape along with a flavor of the wacky, off-kilter world that is Beverly Hills*, USA.

Last night’s premiere, kicking off Season Two, backs up and takes a wider view of the Universe According to Antin. And it’s an expansive one at that: we get to peak our head into Jonathan Salon West Hollywood along with the now thriving Beverly Hills “shop,” as it’s called. And there’s still the heavy dose of fashion show models who demand the very best in hair care.

“I get $500 per haircut, and almost $5,000 for a house call,” Antin tells the camera at one point. “You do the numbers.”

And then there’s the Golden Globes. One beautiful LA morning saw Antin scrambling to fix up the hair of Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat (Maeby Funke), and then race across town to do the same for Veronica Mars’ Kristen Bell. All in all, according to this non-fashionite, I had to admit that Antin’s services were well worth it as both lovely young ladies underwent a complete follicle transformation.

But it’s the launch of a Jonathan line of hair care products that is really obsessing the man who would take on Videl Sassoon. A redeye flight to Baltimore showcased a race to pump out product, with millions of dollars, nervously anal executives, and sterile lab surroundings contrasting oddly with Antin’s power-glam West Coast persona.

The end of the episode saw a zonked out and teary eyed Antin slumped over his therapist’s couch, talking about how what he really wants is a family one day.

Question: has a reality show camera ever entered the therapist’s office before?

On Blow Out, you just never know where the adventure’s going to take you.

* The first time I ever walked down Rodeo Drive, in the heart of Beverly Hills, I felt physically assaulted by how different, how bizarre the vibe was. It was funny. So funny, in fact, that I began to giggle a la Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Book Review: Obsessed - Ted Dekker

Any novel that invokes World War II automatically gets my attention. Obsessed, by Ted Dekker, promises a thriller draped around dark secrets, evil intent, prized possessions, and an obsession with the potential to spiral lives out of control. Throw in WWII and a Big Bad bad guy who can deliver, and you’re golden for a rip-roaring story, right?

Well, maybe not.

Obsessed combines three main storylines. In the “present day” 1970s, Stephen Friedman is a Los Angeles realtor striving for the American Dream. Upon learning that his mother — with whom he had been separated at childbirth during the Holocaust – had died, leaving him cryptic clues about his past and the vaunted and valuable Stones of David – Friedman embarks on an increasingly reckless adventure to find his inheritance and some connection with his Jewish roots.

Meanwhile, a horrific tale is unfurled concerning several women in a Nazi labor camp in Poland near the end of the Second World War. While it’s not a concentration camp, the conditions are desperate and made all the worse by the sadistic German commandant, Gerhard Braun. Braun’s son, Roth – who, by way of comparison, ends up making his pops look like a cuddly Colonel Klink – emerges as Friedman’s chief adversary.

While the set-up of the story is clever and interesting, its execution gets bogged down more often than not. The concepts of obsession and passion are studied at length throughout the novel. While lacing a thriller with thematic elements and philosophy is helpful and can even be glorious when applied artfully, the delivery is spoon-fed and over-the-top in this novel. I was reminded of Stephen King’s brilliant On Writing, in which he talks about writing a first draft of a manuscript with nothing in mind but the story. Then, during revisions, themes that are naturally embedded in the tale may be coaxed and eased into prominence. With Obsessed, it seems that the theme may have come before the story.

If we can assume that Mr. Dekker wished to impart some kind of theme, moral, or message through his writing, it would seem to be of a spiritual or religious nature. I was deep into the story before I realized that the novel might be attempting to offer more than mystery and thrills. Leafing through the book jacket and reviews of other Dekker novels presented on the first several pages of the hardcover edition, I noticed several references to “religious fiction” and “Christian fiction.” While I wasn’t overtly aware of this kind of storytelling in Obsessed, such as with the Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, I did feel as though I was being offered something I did not necessarily ask for.

Further, Friedman and the “rabbi” (an older man who took in Friedman after he emigrated to the U.S.) are both Jews and survivors of Holocaust-era Europe. During a brief passage of the book, we’re told that the rabbi, who isn’t really a rabbi but is given that title affectionately by Friedman, had actually converted from Judaism to some form of Christianity and worships at a Unitarian church. Friedman has leanings in this direction as well. While it’s not inconceivable that two Holocaust survivors might leave Judaism for Christianity, it is – and I say this with some knowledge of history and a level of Judaic education – highly unlikely and therefore detracts again from the story and leads one to consider what other persuasive messaging is being offered.

Ted Dekker is an able writer and successfully builds a number of scenes into a frenzy of action and suspense. As the story progresses, however, the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit very elegantly into a whole. For example, Roth Braun and his father have developed a pseudo-religion, it seems, out of the ashes of National Socialism. The chief end is to secretly provide selected Jews with hope and even happiness, and then to snatch it away in a way that causes as much misery and suffering and pain as possible. The theory goes that when the victim dies (at the hand of the Brauns, of course) power is transferred to the murderer. While this concept may have fit nicely into a standard psychotic serial killer story, it doesn’t gel very well within the confines of a novel based upon real events of the Second World War.

I ended up with odd and conflicted thoughts about Obsessed. I liked it in parts but was left feeling uneasy in the end. The pages zoomed by but I’m not really sure what I learned in the process.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Hit Me Baby One More Time: Or Not, Depending

A great idea doesn’t necessarily translate into a great product.

Therefore, I don’t think I was alone in being irrationally amped up for the latest in this summer’s onslaught of reality television programming, Hit Me Baby One More Time.

The concept is simple and brilliant: bring back one-hit wonder artists from the 80s and early 90s and have them compete for some kind of back-from-the-has-been-dead (has been undead?) title. It would be a chance, I thought, to see what artists like Sophie B. Hawkins, Vanilla Ice, and Irene Cara look like today and if they’ve still proverbially “got it.”

As Loverboy took the stage to perform their magnificent 80s ode to the working man, “Weekend,” live on stage Thursday night, I got a little bit worried. It wasn’t so much that the band looked twenty years past its prime… well, okay, it was that the band looked twenty years past its prime. What’s worse was that they sounded thirty years off the mark with a tired, uninspired performance that caused me to say, live from my living room, “I wish they would just play the original and have done with it.”

The next few segments did not improve my initial impressions. A Flock of Seagulls came out and got to show the nation that they’re more than a hairstyle (or a state of mind). The musicians sounded great, too, upbeat with that great 80s synth-pop vibe. Unfortunately, the vocals couldn’t keep up.

It’s just not a good sign when your mind drifts to thinking about the ravages of age when you’re watching a rock n’ roll performance.

Tiffany and CeCe Peniston (she of “Finally” fame) were lackluster as well.

By the time Arrested Development (not the brilliant sitcom, kids) glided onto the stage, my finger was hovering dangerously close to the “Any Other Channel” button on my remote control. Fortunately, I decided not to pull the trigger and was rewarded with a energetic, grooving, and melodic rendition of their pre-grunge days hit, “Tennessee.” The group sounded and looked fresh, like the kind of act you would simply love to stumble upon at a New York or Atlanta club.

Thank the Lords of Reality TV (hallowed they be) that Arrested Development was awarded the most votes by the live audience at the end of the show. It’s a smite odd that the winner is awarded to a donation to the charity of their choice. You’d think that after a generation out of the spotlight, some of these bands could use a little cash.

One bad move on the part of the producers. It’s a great idea to bring the winning performer back at the end of the night to do their thing over the closing credits. But please (Lords) let them do a different song than their one hit. I mean, give us a little “Mr. Wendel.” Give us something.

I’m severely tempted to say that I won’t watch Hit Me Baby One More Time again, but I can’t. I need to see what Vanilla Ice and Sophie B. and Cameo (Lords! I beseech thee to bring Cameo forth!) are up to these days.

I think we all like seeing who still has a little magic left.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Dumpster Bust Online: A New Look

It was time for a new look, and I hope everyone likes it. Or at least doesn’t cringe in abject horror.

I think it gives everything a sleeker, cleaner look, and will hold up better over the long haul. Of course, if anyone wants to volunteer to do a custom redesign… well, that would be more than lovely, wouldn’t it?

One bad thing: I was a complete dumbkopf and forgot to save a bunch of things I should have saved before the switch (like my blogroll!) so that little Lego castle is going to have to be rebuilt from scratch.

Any and all comments always welcome! Hit the comments link below or shoot me an e-mail:

Look for Dumpster Bust Radio: Podcast #9 in the Sunday-Monday corridor (I hope!) and all kinds of other goodies and surprises are in store as well…

[Evil laughter permeates, followed by sickly coughing, ending in large sip of lukewarm coffee…]

Filibusters: A Modest Victory

It’s been pretty hot out lately, hasn’t it?

I went on a long walk the other day under the hot sun and started thinking about the recent deal in the Senate. Brokered by the so-called Gang of 14, it basically will allow some judges currently up for judicial appointment to be given “up or down” votes while preserving the right of the minority to filibuster judicial nominees under “extraordinary circumstances.”

I started getting fairly thirsty after a while, and was then reminded of the whole glass is half-full or half-empty analogy.

While there are doubtless many people who are upset with this deal, it makes sense to take a step back and look at the Big Picture for a minute (preferably while drinking a tall, cold glass of the beverage of your choice).

#1 – A historic precedent is preserved
The filibuster has been around since before The Year of the Flood, as my mother likes to say. It’s a historic and important part of our democracy, and something that shouldn’t be lightly dislodged to please the political tides of the moment.

And what’s more, without the filibuster, Jimmy Stewart and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington would have lost its dramatic punch. Heck, the filibuster was already ancient back in those long gone days of black-and-white films.

#2 – Minority rights are protected
While Senate Democrats made a number of concessions, they maintain the historic right and responsibility of the opposition party to vigorously represent an alternative viewpoint.

Slightly less than half the country did not vote for the current President or the ruling party in both houses of Congress. Sweeping away the advice and consent of these teeming millions in appointing lifetime judgeships in the highest courts in the land would be a bad thing indeed. Lewis Lapham, former editor of Harper’s magazine, makes the point that democracy is like a suspension bridge: tension is needed from two sides to keep the structure erect. Remove the tension from one side a la the nuclear option, and we’d likely see more than London Bridge falling down, as the children’s schoolyard song goes.

#3 – They had the votes
The truth is that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist likely had the votes he needed to drop the dreaded “nuclear option,” which would have lowered the number of votes needed to end debate (or cloture) from 60 to 51. If not for the work of 14 moderate Senators – people like John McCain of Arizona and Robert Byrd of West Virginia – a major and potentially dangerous change to Senate rules would have been passed.

The Minnow would be lost.

#4 – The nuclear option: bad for Congress, bad for the country
So while conservative groups are screaming that they’ve lost their opportunity to attain absolute power, and some left-wing groups will whine that too many concessions were made, it’s important to realize that something really bad for democracy almost transpired.

It’s important to think about how our nation usually thrives when power is shared and compromises are made between rational yet opposing viewpoints. Changing the rules so that one ruling party can cram its particular variety of judicial nominations down the throat of the opposition is antithetical to the values our nation was founded upon.

In the end, the Gang of 14 stepped in to provide that function that Thomas Jefferson likened to pouring steaming hot tea into a cooling saucer so that it will not scald the palate. The institutions and sometimes archaic rules of the Senate work – as does democracy – even though it’s often messy and tedious and frustrating. The Gang of 14 realized that democracy was on the fringe of being scalded and stepped in just in time to cool things down.

#5 – The real showdown ahead: The Supreme Court
This recent episode may be but a prelude to the major battles ahead over Supreme Court nominations.

Will the compromise on filibusters hold? Does anyone really know what “extraordinary circumstances” are? Will the recent triumph of political moderation be but a blip on the long, slow slide toward extremism that we’ve seen during the presidency of George W. Bush?

Man, that’s a lot to take in. I’m getting thirsty again.

This article originally appeared in the Bellflower-Downey Post

Blog’s All Here: Let the 2008 Presidential Race Begin!

The ’04 presidential election cycle saw the Internet playing an important role in politics, news, and media.

No one knows what will happen in the years leading up to 2008, but it’s a sure bet that the Internet, online fundraising and, significantly, blogs will play an increasingly central role in the communication of politics and the politics of communication.

Already, in mid-2005, there is a 2008 Presidential Wire in place to keep track of up-to-the-second ’08 developments.

From ABC’s Note:
Patrick Ruffini, President Bush's former campaign webmaster, current political blogger and all-around 2008 fanatic, has created an engine that scours the web for 2008-related stories and blog posts and puts them together on one page.

The execution is iffy; we'd like fewer PR News Releases and would prefer that the most interesting posts be highlighted in some way.

Still — props to Patrick for creating his second must-read site.

How often is Hillary Clinton traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire? What organizations are hearing speeches delivered by Bill Frist? Is John McCain setting himself up for general election victory but GOP primary failure?

Now we’re going to be able to watch the show unfold online, every step of the way.

There’s a nifty statistics bar on the right-hand side of the page that tracks and ranks who is hot in the world of political coverage online. Democrats are listed in the obligatory blue while Republicans are in red. As of the moment I’m writing these words, John Edwards is at the top of the charts, with 24 stories (a rise of 50%, a green arrow helps to show us). Newt Gingrich is holding his own in second place with 19 stories. Hillary Clinton tops the list of “Most Clicked” with a 6.27 “average clicks per story” rating. A bit surprisingly, Bill Frist is in last place (22nd) for “Most Clicked” with a 1.12 rating.

For political junkies like me, it’s both a time to weep and rejoice.

Oh, and to hit the refresh button every seven seconds.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Virus Alert! Osama bin Laden’s Still at Large, But Your Computer May Not Be For Long

Like many a worthy and eager (and, okay, zealous… perhaps overzealous… but don’t push it, ‘kay?) journalist before me, I published information about a rumor earlier today.

Here’s the original story:
I can't confirm this story as I'm in a television-less environment, but I've received word that CNN is at this moment reporting that al Qaeda leader and reputed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden has been captured.

What will this mean for the war on terrorism?

What will this mean for the world?

In any event, this is -- assuming the news is accurate -- a moment to celebrate for the civilized world.

Everyone at my organization was sent an e-mail that said the following:

Turn on your TV. Osama Bin Laden has been captured. While CNN has no pictures at this point of time, the military channel (PPV) released some. I managed to capture a couple of these pictures off my TV. Ive attached a slideshow containing all the pictures I managed to capture. I apologize for the low quality, its the best I could do at this point of time. Hopefully CNN will have pictures and a video soon. God bless the USA!

Now, if I had read the middle of the paragraph carefully – the bit about the attached slideshow – alarm bells would have likely gone off in my mind’s Mission Control Center (or Bureau of Bullshit Detection, if you like).

However, in the frenzied race that is online news (and chat and criticism and analysis), I raced forward to print the rumors. Thankfully, I couched the rumors heavily as such, but it now seems obvious to this sheepish writer that this was merely a somewhat clever tact to get people to open up some kind of god-forsaken virus.

So if anything, I hope this little minor episode will remind people to not believe everything you read (particularly in e-mails and on the Internet!) and to never, EVER open attachments that you are in the least suspicious about.

At least I didn’t do that.


Thanks all.

Notes From the Perimeter -- June 2005

It's late and I'm tired and my mind is a jumble and a tumble of scattered thoughts and ideas that I can't get together to spit out and get straight and square and organized. I wish I had a better excuse like I'm Drunk or I Just Finished the Ironman Triathlon or Something but unfortunately it's more on the regular workaday life woes tip.

When I start thinking and formulating with regard to one idea I realize that I better Organize and get straight to work on Priority A because otherwise I'll be late in getting B - K finished in proper sequence and so on.

I exaggerate. I underestimate.

And I hate feeling tired and cranky and lazy and knowing that I have to get up in short order to get that train a thumping once more.

In any event, I'll likely be talking Big Picture talk about media on the next edition of Dumpster Bust Radio (Podcast #9, let the Revolution begin in earnest...). Lots of media thoughts the last few days.

I also have a new editorial coming out in the Bellflower-Downey Post talking about the recent deal on filibusters in the Senate. So that will get published here in a few days.

/ rant
\ sleep mode

DB PS Note: Dumpster Bust online is over six months old! There is much reason to rejoice...