Well, actually, it's Derby Week everywhere, but Louisville is the only place that pays any attention.
Still, it's exciting around town, made more-so by the arrival of the nice-to-meechoo-where's-the-buffet B-List celebrities that use Derby as a kind of last stand before hustling off to the hell that is shopping mall openings and state fair appearances.
Last week, deep-pockets party bookers announced that Paris Hilton would be appearing momentarily at both the legendarily awful Barnstable-Brown Party and at a downtown nightclub opening. The over/under on her total time as a stye in Louisville's public eye: 18 minutes, just enough to pose for pictures, surely to include one with Louisville's soon-to-be-scandal-ridden mayor, Jerry Abramson. It has not been revealed how much Ms. Hilton will be paid for her appearances, but we're guessing: a lot. And it would be just like Louisville celeb wranglers to pay top dollar for someone like Hilton, who is just sooooo three years ago.
This weekend brought the revelation that the galaxy of stars (Meat Loaf!) visiting our fair city will include -- where's the drum roll when you need it? -- Valerie Bertinelli. That's the same Valerie Bertinelli who fueled adolescent fantasies back in the 1970s while starring in...oh, whatever that sitcom was. She later married Eddie Van Halen (before he turned into a screeching old woman), reproduced and put on a buttload (literally) of weight. Her recent comeback is a model of the Celebrity Three Step: trim down, sign a weight loss endorsement, and make a camera-hungry trip to the B-List mother lode, the Derby Festival.
There are lots of A-Listers here, too, but they arrive on private jets and don't allow themselves to be paraded around for cover-charge-paying rubes. I ran smack into Morgan Freeman a couple of years ago, and he excused himself politely and disappeared behind closed doors as quickly as possible without so much as a tantrum about my clumsiness. But the B-List: you can't avoid them if you try. They're everywhere. Make one wrong move and there's one of them demanding that you hoist their luggage off the airport carousel or insisting that you're sitting at their table. The only way to get away from them is to give them what they want and ask them to please pose for a picture. That brings a smile to their faces, and most of them are drunk enough they don't even notice that the camera your'e holding is really a wadded up napkin.
Anyway, the B-List contingent this year includes ostensible comedian Joe Piscopo and Raymond's mom, Doris Roberts. Piscopo has already threatened to do his Frank Sinatra impersonation, which has never, ever been funny.
For those of you who like to bet on celebrities, here are the early lines:
Celebrity most likely to have some kind of embarrassing outburst. Socially retarded professional poker player Phil Hellmuth is an early favorite, but as you know you never get rich betting on the favorite. I'm putting my money on perpetual also-ran Kid Rock, whose outstanding antics have traditionally taken place so late that local photographers are already tucked away in their beds. The question with kid Rock is not whether he will act-up, but whether there will be sufficient documentation of whatever embarrassing thing he does to sway the judges.
Celebrity most likely to take a local lover. For years, the winner has been a former sitcom star who adopted as her boytoy a local, hair-aware sportscaster. This year, I don't think she's attending, so we're going to have to go with someone new. I say: Marg Hellgenberger of CSI, an actress getting to that "certain age" that usually implies imminent career death. I like Marg; she doesn't seem the type to go all Norma Desmond on us. So: romance with a wealthy fan outside the Hollywood circle who can, when the time is right, provide her the trappings of insulated retirement and a People magazine spread that implies gentility rather than pathos. Someone in the horse business would fit the bill nicely; I can just see the pictures of Marg looking out through the two story plate glass window at the rolling bluegrass hills. That I'm picturing her in jodhpurs wielding a riding crop is none of your affair.
Bar or restaurant most likely to make the news. A couple of years ago, local beefatorium Jeff Ruby's Steak House made news when Jeff Ruby himself refused to serve O.J. Simpson. Simpson played the race card, which Ruby countered by playing the murderer card. The restaurant errupted in cheers, and has been standing room only ever since. I'm thinking this year it's time for something untoward to happen at Proof On Main, the stylishly artsy restaurant downtown where one of the waiters -- the little fat one who needs a shave -- insists on calling me "my good man" whenever he inquires if I want more water. Of course I need more water, you twit. Do you think my glass is empty because I'm not thirsty? Anyway, maybe it's wishful thinking, but I'm guessing one of the washed-up pro football players in town to suck up the last photons of fame's spotlight is going to blast that guy right in the face.
In a survey of Texas Republicans, 51% believe it may be necessary for the state to secede from the Union. A slightly lower percentage -- 48% -- think Texas would be better off if it were not part of the United States. Raw data here.
My grandmother, who was a delightful, proper lady and hideous racist -- a
combination not uncommon in her generation -- once proposed that we
solve the civil rights "problem" by making a single dramatic gesture:
"Give 'em Texas," she said.
I thought that was a lousy idea when it meant rounding up black people and trucking them off to the deep south, but applied to savagely embittered conservatives I think it may be a stroke of genius. What if we did just give 'em Texas?
Think about it: The governor of Texas recently asserted his state's right to secede from the Union, in the specific context of reacting to a Republican crowd chanting "secede, secede, secede." So I'm assuming he'd be on board. And all those Texans who were chanting: you know they're 100% behind the idea.
For the last couple of years, breaking away from the bad old United States to form a more perfect union of conservatives has been a popular topic among those so far to the right they're in danger of falling off the edge of the flat Earth they occupy. (I'm talking to you, Glen Beck.) Republicans whose skin has been crawling since the election of the illegitimate "Democrat" President, I've got just one thing to say: Texas is lovely this time of year.
Seriously: all the conservatives can move down to the
Gulf Coast, build a big-ass wall around themselves, buy all the guns and ammo they want, waterboard each other all
through the night. They can publish their own newspapers and have their own TV stations reporting 24/7 on all kinds of made-up shit, and since all the reality-obsessed people will have abandoned the state (the rational diaspora, historians will call it) there will be no one to confront anyone with any unpleasant "facts."
Beach front property is going to be going cheap once all those park lands along the coast are put up for
development, so conservatives are going to want to get there early. And everyone should take their SUV because oil will be practically free after they drill, baby, drill all the way out to Cuba. (You know, the Chinese are already drilling there!) At the border, agents will remove the pesky seatbelts and air bags from everyone's car because there'll be none of that government intrusion in old Texas, no sirree. And the first thing everyone is going to want to do is vote on what country to attack first -- I'm guessing Iran, but if I were Mexico I'd sleep with one eye open. And then they can start the public executions. Those'll be big, family events that'll really teach kids a lesson.
And speaking of teaching, the schools are going to throw out all that crap they teach now and get back to basics: sex is dirty and will kill anyone who does it for any reason besides procreation, intelligent design is how the world was made, and now it's time for us all to pray exactly the same prayer right here in the classroom!
It is going to be soooooo cool.
I mean, for conservatives. For conservatives it's going to be cool.
For the liberals who are left behind, it's going to be a nightmare. We'll have to figure out some way to get by without conservatives. Who'll sound the alert when the President shakes hands with the wrong guy? Who'll take a brave stand against volcano monitoring? Oh, it's goin to be just terrible!
Of course, our feelings will be really hurt when conservatives leave, and nothing matters to us liberals more than hurt feelings. We'll probably just lay down and cry, and conservatives can peek over their big wall and laugh at us. And there won't be anything we can do about it, because we won't be able to do even simple things like sticking out our tongues because we won't have conservatives and...well, conservatives are the doers in society and liberals are all loafers and moochers.
It's going to be awful for liberals if this happens, so conservatives are going to want to start packing right now. Here, let me help you.
Blogger Chris Bowers has previously pointed out that lots of things are more popular than the Republican Party, including China and the legalization of marijuana. Now this:
New polling from CNN indicates that anti-American, oil-cartel,
socialist-block-forming Venezuela is now viewed more favorably than the
Yep: 42% of Americans approve of Venezuela, while only 39% approve of the Republican Party. It was better, politically, for President Obama to shake hands with Hugo Chavez than it would be for him to shake hands with Newt Gingrich. Perhaps Democrats should shun Republicans wherever we meet them.
My Republican friends keep asking me when I'll take the GOP seriously
again and why I've stopped writing about ticky-tak political
gamesmanship and GOP consultant tricks. When they're a serious party
with serious ideas, then we can talk.
Norm Coleman, after losing at every level of Minnesota state court, is taking his state case to federal court -- and in the process asking the federal court to take its time.
Meanwhile, even his friends are catching on to his game:
This newspaper has endorsed Republican Coleman for every statewide race
he’s run – governor in 1998, U.S. senator in 2002, and most recently in
his re-election bid this past fall...The public perception at this point appears not to be one of letting
Sen. Coleman fully seek redress of his legal grievances, but rather one
of obstructing the Democrat-controlled Senate to prevent it from
reaching that magic number of 60 votes. Adding Mr. Franken would mean
59 Democrat votes in the Senate. To continue to obstruct doesn’t bode
well for Minnesota, nor for Sen. Coleman’s career, should he continue
But if it takes thwarting democracy to give defeated Republicans the power to bring government to a halt, then defeated Republicans are going to thwart democracy. Because, after all, nothing matter but adherence to their ideology, and their anger at the American people for voting for Democrats.
A couple of days after we got married, my wife and I took a side trip on our trek to begin my career in Hollywood to visit Four Corners. Standing in four states at once, we made out. It was a kind of assertion of our marriage, like opening a joint checking account or breaking-in the new house. We repeated the story for the millionth time a few days ago, telling friends about our non-honeymoon honeymoon.
National Geodetic Survey officials say the Four Corners marker showing
the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is about 2.5
miles (4 kilometers) west of where it should be, the Deseret News
Are we still legally married, or does this give her a loophole?
Regular commenter Frank referred to this CNS report that waterboarding led to the break-up of a 9/11-style attack on the "the tallest building on the west coast", Library Tower (now the U.S. Bank building) in Los Angeles. The reports states:
The Central Intelligence Agency told CNSNews.com today that it stands
by the assertion made in a May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that
the use of “enhanced techniques” of interrogation on al Qaeda leader
Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) -- including the use of waterboarding --
caused KSM to reveal information that allowed the U.S. government to
thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles.
The CIA source who confirmed the account is not named, and no further reference is made to a contemporary confirmation. Instead, confirmation seems to be taken from released Justice Department memos that are currently under fire for being little more than a papering-over of illegal acts.
CNS source-fudging aside, the piece is an echo of a Washington Post op-ed by former Bush speechwriter Marc Theissen that also referred to the just-released memos and makes an impressive case on behalf of "enhanced" interrogation, saying:
Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques "led to the
discovery of a KSM plot, the 'Second Wave,' 'to use East Asian
operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into' a building in Los
Angeles." KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at
Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest
building on the West Coast.
The problem is that the timelines don't match. According to this 2007 release from the Bush White House, the plot to attack "the tallest building on the west coast" was broken up in 2002, before KSM was even in custody:
In 2002, we broke up a plot by KSM to hijack an airplane and fly it
into the tallest building on the West Coast. During a hearing at
Guantanamo Bay two months ago, KSM stated that the intended target was
the Library Tower in Los Angeles.
In other words, they broke up a plot to attack a west coast building, and some time later KSM "stated" that the intended target had been the Library Tower. (Timothy Noah has an excellent accounting of the contradictions here.) That's not exactly a ticking time bomb, and it certainly isn't the kind of high-value intelligence that could be used to justify torture.
There's no way to know whether the account of the sequence of events in the 2005 memo was a misunderstanding of the timing or a deliberate misstatement. At the same time, there's really no way to tell whether the account released by the White House in 2007 is the truth or a mistake. But given the importance of this argument -- given that the only conceivable justification for torture is the ticking time bomb scenario the KSM story seems to indicate -- we really ought to more closely investigate this sequence of events to get at what really happened. Perhaps we can all agree that some kind of look at the underlying evidence -- a trial, a 9/11 Commission style investigation, something -- ought to be undertaken.
The object of the investigation should not be the CIA operatives who carried out the orders. I've said before that confronted with a real ticking time bomb, I'd do the torture myself and take my chances with a jury of my peers. The CIA operatives charged with guaranteeing Never Again, and who asked for and were granted guidance from the Department of Justice, shouldn't be subject to sanction.
It is, instead, the people who granted that guidance and sanction who need to be investigated. The disturbing aspect of this is that there appears to have been no ticking time bomb, and it looks as if maybe the Executive Branch ordered or allowed illegal mistreatment of captives as a matter of course, in an abandonment of more than 200 years of American law and tradition. That's what we need to investigate, because that's the real crime.
UPDATE: It appears also that torture wasn't used just to solve security problems. Apparently. Senior officials pressured interrogators to amp up the abuse to gain information to solve a political problem:
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the
interrogation issue said that (Vice President) Cheney and former Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al
"There were two reasons why these
interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,"
the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity
because of the issue's sensitivity.
"The main one is that
everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11).
But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially,
were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that
(former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were
That's the problem with torture: like everything else government does, it expands.