h o m e 't o o n s w o r d s c a m s t u f f r a d i o   f r e e   d o g p a t c h

daily dog archives 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

By Patrick O'Grady
Mad Dog Media

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Breakfast of champions

  Talk about your blue Mondays. The rusty, broken-spoked Wheel of Misfortune has finally creaked to a halt at "Guilty" for Floyd Landis. No Wheaties in that bowl for you, son. Not this morning.

  It would be gratifying to be able to bark, "Hah! Finally! Gotcha!" But I can't take any pleasure from seeing Landis frog-marched across the front pages once again, this time on the eve of a Tour instead of afterward. Not after reading about the latest study to raise doubts about the effectiveness of the urine test designed to detect EPO.

  It seems clearer every day that the sports narcs may be as remorseless as the black-glove copper Roscoe Rules in Joseph Wambaugh's "The Choirboys," who explained his ticket-writing philosophy thusly: "All I see and some I don't see."

  Landis didn't test positive for EPO, of course; his problem was said to be exogenous testosterone. And not being a scientist, I am, like most of you, forced to rely on the experts in matters such as this. Now, two years and at least that many millions of dollars down the road, the last of them has spoken. And thus Landis has become the first Tour champion to lose his title for a doping violation — just in time to lay a little stink on this year's Tour, which starts Saturday.

  Interestingly, the reaction to Charles Pelkey's story at VeloNews.com was muted; it drew very few letters to the editor. The forum has been equally quiet. Maybe the tinfoil-beanie crowd has belatedly come to the realization that there are no deep, dark conspiracies, not even French ones.

  Meanwhile, can we all agree to ignore stupid shit like this? I realize that I've already violated our agreement by linking to a New York Times story about the various stinkbombs being lobbed back and forth by the McCain and Obama camps, but Jesus H. Christ on an Abrams tank — it's perfectly legitimate for Wes Clark or anyone else to say that McCain's military service and stint as a POW might not, in and of itself, make him a terrific president. And for the Right-Wing Kazoo & Klaxon Marching Orchestra to crank up a bunch of bad noise over it is simply wearisome. I know people who have worn the uniform and seen combat that I wouldn't want within two time zones of the Oval Office. There's more to serving the nation as its president than dressing up as Commander in Chief, as we've seen over the past seven and a half years. Notes Steve Benen: "Sometimes, the irony is so overwhelming, I have to wonder if the political scene is some kind of satirical performance art, and I'm just not in on the joke." Can we discuss the fucking issues here for a change? Gimme a break.

  And now, let's end on a happy note: Adults learning how to bicycle. Awwwww . . . iddn't that cute?

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  If you think Barack Obama is an elitist, clap your peepers on this item about John McCain from Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report. Notes Benen:

He's extremely wealthy, thanks to his wife's family fortune, and owns seven homes. He's been in Congress for a quarter of a century, and has been a Beltway fixture for about three decades. He routinely travels on his wife's jet . . .

  And he doesn't know and doesn't care what a gallon of gas costs. Keep an eye on Benen's site — he has McCain's little comedy act all figured out.

  So has Matt Taibbi over at Rolling Stone. Dude ain't exactly Hunter S. Thompson, but he'll do in the good doctor's absence.

  Meanwhile, Paul Kimmage offers an interesting writeup of Garmin-Chipotle honch' Jonathan Vaughters. John Henderson of The Denver Post takes a squint, too, but it's more geared to a general audience. There's a bit on Danny Pate in today's Gazette, but the web-weenies haven't put it online.

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Today's special from Mountain Mama's

  Kitten In a Sack™. Free-range, organic and fresh, fresh, fresh. Sorry, only one per customer.

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High country news

  A big Western howdy goes out to neo-blogger Hal Walter of Hardscrabble Times. Hal and I go way back, to the mid-1980s, when we both worked as copy editors for The Pueblo Chieftain. He still does, but only part-time and generally from a distance, as he and his wife and son live well outside Weirdcliffe in Crusty County, some 50-odd miles and 4,000 feet up from Pew-blow.

  Hal also caretakes a couple ranchettes and their critters for absentee People of Money, handles various chores for First Organics, oversees a smallish grass-fed-beef operation in tandem with Larga Vista Ranch, practices the art of pack-burro racing and writes for Colorado Central, High Country News, Writers on the Range and (like me) pretty much anyone else who can spell his name right on a check redeemable for American money. Drop on by and make him feel welcome here among the Intertubers.

  Meanwhile, here's one you don't see every day: A cyclist T-bones a bear in Boulder County. Read the comments for extra credit. These cackling feebs make the prototypical tinfoil-beanie Bibleburg wingnut sound like Mohandas Gandhi.

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Boom boom, and out go the lights

  Big fun around the DogHaus last night. A thunderstorm triggered a half-dozen little power blips that crashed the old Mac a couple-three times and then zowie: A transformer explosion took down the entire neighborhood from Cache la Poudre north for around an hour. The neighbors took to walking around and chatting each other up; we whiled away the hour out front in lawn chairs, shooting the shit with Marv', the guitar-pickin' former Chicagoan who lives next door. He's still cranking out the short stories, and I hope to get a few more of them posted here shortly. I may set up a Blogspot account and run it for him so his massive network of friends and family can more easily see what he's up to.

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This just in from the Shit You Already Knew Dept.

  Living in a McMansion on a rural plot far away from your job wastes time, gasoline and money. No kiddin'. Boy, no wonder all the wise guys call The New York Times The Paper of Record. I would've found this a lot more informative if they'd chatted up a single mom from Pecos, New Mexico, who has to make the daily drive to a housemaid's gig at a Santa Fe motel in a rattletrap Chevy. The perils of yuppie country life hold little interest for me in these trying times.

  Thank God we got that out of our systems before 85 octane hit Chanel levels. I was able to work at home in Weirdcliffe, but was routinely making 110-mile round trips for groceries and top-shelf brain eraser. Meanwhile, Herself did the Great Circle Route, driving from our palatial Crusty County mountain bunker to Peeblow for work, then up to Mile High for school, and then back home again, crashing at various friends' houses when not at home. We got out of Dodge just before the housing market popped like a thousand-year-old rubber.

  These days I drive hardly at all — my last fillup was on June 19, and the one before that was on May 19 — but Herself is still logging some highway mileage. Her office is in Denver, but on most weeks she need only be on site twice; the rest of the time she works from home, just like me. When she must drive, Herself keeps the Outback to a steady 65 mph, and as a consequence is getting 32-33 mpg, which is tolerable. A hybrid or some other gas-sipper could nearly double that, of course, but the 'ru is nearly paid off and she expects to get another two or three payment-free years out of the old rice grinder beefore it goes to meet its ancestors. If it blows up sooner than that, she can always drive my low-mileage Forester and I can do my little bit of motoring in my beat-to-shit '83 Toyota longbed.

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There's an invisible man in the sky . . .

  . . . and he's taken George Carlin from us far too soon. Like Richard Pryor, the other great comedian of that generation, Carlin had a bum ticker, issues with drugs and alcohol, and a wit that wouldn't quit until his body did. He and The Firesign Theatre shared a fascination with wordplay, and being in the word business myself I couldn't help but go along for the ride.

  I'm old enough to remember when he was part of a two-man act with Jack Burns. But Carlin didn't really flower until he was off on his own and getting seriously weird. "FM & AM" and "Class Clown" were breakthrough albums, with bits like "Muhammad Ali," "Shoot" and Carlin's rewriting of "America the Beautiful." As he grew older, his material occasionally became too bitter a pill to swallow, but as usual he had his reasons: "Scratch any cynic and you'll find a disappointed idealist," he said.

  I've been laughing at him and with him since the Sixties, and have amassed quite a collection of his work, from a seven-disc set of his albums (1971 to 1977) to "All My Stuff," a 14-disc collection of all his HBO specials. The one thing I don't have on CD or DVD is his appearance at the 1997 Aspen Comedy Arts Festival, an HBO show called "George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy," hosted by Jon Stewart. Stewart did a short interview with Carlin, and the man himself did a masterful bit of standup, almost Shakespearean, "American Bullshit." The finale took up organized religion, "the biggest bullshit story of them all." Now he finally knows how it ends.

  Late update: Here's Carlin doing a piece of the "40 Years" standup, with some chrome and a hood ornament. If you want to watch a good bit, check out Complaints and Grievances.

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Scoots 'n' stuff

  Thanks to everyone who chimed in after I mentioned I was considering a 49cc scooter as a shiny toy/auto substitute. The responses ranged from "Are you a retard?" to "Scooters are cool" and all points in between. I've ridden four of the little buggers now — the Honda Metropolitan, the Yamaha Zuma, the Genuine Buddy and the Kymco People — and I can see why nobody can keep them in stock. They're comparatively cheap ($3,000 tops), fuel-efficient (70-120 mpg) and fun, which cars mostly are not.

  The Met' has the looks of a Vicky's Secret model coupled with the power of a House Democrat (it was the only four-stroke scoot I rode). The others are not as beautiful but more sprightly, yet apparently less friendly to the environment, two-strokers being the equivalent of a canned elephant fart in a diving helmet, greenhouse-gas-wise. Only the Buddy and the People can be had here in Bibleburg, though the Met' and Zuma can be purchased in the Denver-Boulder clusterplex if one wishes to spend $250 on shipping (those darn gas prices again).

  Am I being self-indulgent? Sure. Plenty of people are going to scooters or bicycles because they have to, not because it's cute and fun and stuff. We have a smallish Hooverville just north of here, and I bet they're not shopping for scooters via wireless internet. But if you must have bad news, there's plenty of it, from Obama's disappointing non-stance on the FISA "compromise" to President Noah's inability to supply Arks in a timely fashion to Scotty McClellan squealing too little and far too late. The good news is, a documentary about Hunter S. Thompson is due out July 4.

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As newspapers wither, whither the newspaper?

  Plenty bad news about my former profession lately, from The New York Times, where Lawrence Downes has penned an elegy for the copy editor, to Common Sense Journalism, where Doug Fisher describes what he calls "A Day of Upheaval", one that includes major layoffs (and perhaps some consolidation) at McClatchy.

  Here at home, meanwhile, some good news: a neighbor and his son just cycled off to work together. Dad is trying to leave the old Chevy Suburban parked in these days of $4 gas, and toward that end he bought a Cannondale Bad Boy. I'm glad to see he wasn't put off by an early bad experience — he cross-chained the thing near the flight line at the Air Force Academy, FUBARing the chain (and possibly the rear derailleur) and found himself hoofing it home.

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Another magazine soiled

  One by one, I'm picking them off. A lifted leg, a quick squirt, another lamppost indelibly marked in my inexorable march toward total domination of the global media. Mad Dog Media über alles! We shall march on a road of rubber chickens! OK, the truth is a little less . . . Teutonic. What happened was, I sold a short bit to Men's Journal. And it wasn't even my doing.

  Bill Gifford, MJ editor at large, asked via e-mail whether I could contribute a short point/counterpoint for a Tour de France spread — in effect, arguing with myself about whether the Tour ruled or sucked — and so I did. They printed it. A check is, as they say, in the mail.

  Talk about your manna from heaven. The last time I worked for a slick it felt like waking up in a Dumpster with a note nail-gunned to my chest ("We've taken one of your nuts for Lance Armstrong. Do not contact the authorities if you ever hope to see the Olsen twins alive again.") But dashing off a bit of nonsense for Men's Journal was entirely pain-free, and Armstrong and his bedstead-notches were nowhere to be seen.

  So, naturally, and it should go without saying, you should dash off straight away to the local magazine stand and score a copy of the July issue of Men's Journal, if only to cause enough of an uptick in single-copy sales that they think my 600-word brain fart had something to do with it. If you won't do it for me, do it for Bill, who may soon find himself pursued by a canine more fearsome than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Hound of the Baskervilles" — the Level III Schutzhund of three-time Tour champ Greg LeMond, whom Bill profiles in this issue.

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Hershon's Hideaway

  Seems I'm not the only cycling writer sticking mostly to the bike paths these days. Maynard Hershon is doing likewise. And like me, he is writing unkind things about people with whom he shares the roads and trails. Unlike me, he consults with his editors; I just babble on at length, driving subscribers and advertisers off into the void. Tough work, but as they say, somebody has to do it.

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Through a Glass, darkly

  Been a little busy around the old DogHaus lately and haven't had time to post the usual inane drivel. But I got a break today, and I am delighted to tell you that if Ira Glass of "This American Life" should ever come to your town to do a thing, you should drop whatever you're doing and go see the man. He spoke at Colorado College this evening, Herself and I were in attendance with a couple friends, and it was marvelous — especially when you consider that he took the stage for two hours' worth of exposition and Q&A after a 12-hour flight while suffering a nasty case of the flu. I didn't sleep well last night, felt a tad put upon, and was considering not being in the audience, much less on the stage. Just another illustration of the vast gulf dividing the pros and the amateurs.

  He went into some detail about the genesis, structure and mechanics of the show, playing clips from old broadcasts, explaining his use of music to move the tales along, and in general giving us a peek behind the editorial curtain. But what I found fascinating was his sheer joy at being able to do the work. Glass is clearly proud of "This American Life," as he should be, and obviously takes great pains in putting the show together, but it's clearly much more than a job — it's a calling. If ever the hackneyed phrase "labor of love" applied to something, this would be it.

  Glass started tonight's presentation with both house and stage lights down, saying he had hoped to persuade the CC honchos to let him do the whole gig in the dark, since radio is not a visual medium ("Save that for Denver University," he said they replied, drawing a cackle from Herself, a DU alum). And it only got better from there. If your idea of radio is Rush and the drive-time zoo, give "This American Life" a whack. You won't be disappointed.

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That's just (im)peachy

  Rep. Dennis Kucinich has introduced articles of impeachment against the Cheerleader-in-Chief for lying us into the war in Iraq. The bill, which includes 35 articles detailing the administration's high crimes and misdemeanors, is co-sponsored by Rep. Robert Wexler, who has been pushing for the impeachment of Darth Cheney. Says Wexler: "The articles present a stunning narrative of offenses that have go well beyond previous crimes committed by any U.S. chief executive. In fact no president or vice president in history has done more to undermine our Constitution." For more, see www.wexlerwantshearings.com. Me, I say we give them free and fair, top-secret, massively classified military trials on Gitmo and then hang the sonsabitches.*

* Saaaaatire. Hyyyuuumor. Paaaaaarody. Get over yourselves, federales. This ain't Red Roosha. Yet.

  In other news, Tom Boonen has tested positive for Peruvian Marching Powder, a.k.a. dumb dust, nose whiskey and/or cocaine. The silly shit is a 20-something with a penchant for driving fast under the influence of grog, so this should come as no surprise. What does come as a surprise is that a pro cyclist apparently can tap the mirror all day long as long as he doesn't ring the old Dope-O-Meter one day away from a race. Anything else, apparently, is considered "out of competition." Says UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani:

"It seems that it wouldn't be any violation of our rules, because in out-of-competition tests cocaine is not a forbidden substance for the WADA code and the UCI anti-doping rules," UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani said from Switzerland. "There are time limits for out-of-competition tests. Three days before a race is considered out of competition. If you take cocaine one day before a race you will test positive."

  Damn. If relaxed standards like this had prevailed in pro journalism when I was trying to land a copy-editing job at The Los Angeles Times back in the 1980s, I would've slept better during the interview/tryout process. Then again, maybe not, if you know what I mean. If you don't, then I bet Tom does. Especially now, when he may get shitcanned from the Tour de France.

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Tanks, but no tanks

  As the average price of gas nationwide tops $4 a gallon, its toll on working stiffs and capitalists alike creeps quietly into the MSM.

  Here in Bibleburg, a neighbor has bought himself a bike and plans to ride to work as often as is feasible, leaving his Chevy Suburban at home and parking his elderly Volvo at the workplace in case he needs to do a little sweat-free business. I'm a less-frequent motorist than he is, but I'm also cycling whenever possible nonetheless because (a) it's Bike Month, and (b) I'm a great fat bastard who needs the exercise like Darth Cheney needs fresh human hearts with his morning Cheerios.

  Happily, parking the car isn't a big deal for me. Herself and I have no kids, so there are no soccer matches to attend, no track meets to follow, no colleges to visit. Grog and groceries are within easy walking or riding distance. I don't have to look good when I arrive anywhere, and wouldn't if I showed up in a Bentley driven by Gwyneth Paltrow.

  And besides, I've done this before.

  I didn't have a driver's license until the end of my first year in college, and promptly lost it (don't ask). As a consequence, I didn't become an official motorist until 1977, when various law-enforcement entities and insurors relented and my parents gave me a 1973 Datsun pickup for (finally) graduating from college.

  Until then, I got around either on foot, by hitchhiking or mooching rides from friends, or by riding a bike. Between colleges, I cycled to various janitorial jobs; after graduation, I occasionally walked or cycled to work at newspapers in Bibleburg, Pueblo and Denver, Colorado; Corvallis, Oregon; and Fanta Se, New Mexico.

  These days, I work at home, mostly, so "cyclo-commuting" is largely a question of leaving the Subaru parked for a beer run. Still, the less gas we burn, the better off we are. So don't think in terms of offering up some noble sacrifice — instead, as the spirit moves, take a walk, ride a bike, take a break from the infernal combustion engine. Low and slow, bro' (and sis).

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Hey, here's some good news

  Lucas McCain (R-Winchester) wants to wiretap you just like his buddy Alfred E. "Worry" Bush does. What's the point? I mean, at his age hasn't he pretty much heard it all before?

  If McSame gets the Big Gig, meanwhile, it seems he'll be listening to a lot of calls responding to help-wanted ads. The U.S. unemployment rate hit 5.5 percent last month, the biggest jump in more than a decade, and employers showed the door to 49,000 people in May. Let the good times roll.

  But wait, there's more! Oil prices shot up to $138.54 a barrel and the Dow Jones fell 2.53 percent after Israeli transportation minister Shaul Mofaz said that an attack on Iran's nuclear sites looked "unavoidable." Thanks so much, you putz.

  Here in Bibleburg the news is slightly less grim. It pissed down rain for the better part of quite some time yesterday — it even snowed up in Weirdcliffe — which is good for the lawn but bad for the commitment to cycling, as I hate to get my steel plate all rusty by riding in the rain. So I drove the Subaru on errands yesterday for the first time since May 31. It's kinda nice to have a lid on your stuff now and then, even at four smacks a gallon.

  Speaking of which, anyone out there own a scooter? I've become casually interested in them, but I can't decide whether it's a desire for low-cost transportation or just a case of wanting a new toy to play with. I haven't got a motorcycle endorsement on my driver's license, my two-wheeler experience being limited to human-powered vehicles, so it's either take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course or stick to 49cc scooters, which top out around 40 mph and are considered motorized bicycles under Colorado law. A third option, and probably the safest one, is to stick to unmotorized bicycles.

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And the hits just keep on coming

  This is the kind of news day that makes me wish I were still working for a newspaper. Defense Secretary Bob Gates has shitcanned the Air Force secretary and chief of staff for treating nuclear weapons like soggy bottle rockets (my old man must be doing 5400 rpm in his grave); Carly Fiorina, late of Hewlett-Packard, is fronting for John McCain (R-Brain Damage); a long-delayed Senate report accuses Alfred E. "Worry" Bush and his merry men of lying out their collective ass about the threat posted by Saddam Hussein; and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed tells the kangaroo court that will give him an oh-so-fair trial before hanging him that he'd like to be a martyr, thanks all the same. Shit, if we want him dead, and he wants to die, what's the fuss all about? We've already violated every principle the country is supposed to stand for by waterboarding this dude and pretty much anyone else who looks like an extra in "Lawrence of Arabia." What's a box of shells cost? The Chickenhawk-in-Chief could even use Saddam's pistol to send him off to Paradise, assuming he knows which end of a firearm to point at the bad guys.

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And the winner is . . .

  . . . well, depends on who's talking. Obama says he's The Man, but Clinton has yet to give him his props, even though the party seems to be falling in line behind her rival. I'd like to see this particular pissing match come to an amicable end so the Donks can get down to the real deal, which is kicking John McSame's wrinkled ass from Maine to Spokane and Minot to McAllan.

  My interest in party unity does not mean I'd welcome an Obama-Clinton ticket, a notion that's getting a little play out there. Clinton's already shown she thinks second is the first loser, and having her as a backseat driver wouldn't be my idea of happy motoring. But secretary of state? Maybe, maybe. Couldn't be any worse than the one we have now.

  McInsane (R-Alzheimer's), however, might be even worse than the superannuated frat boy currently TP'ing the Oval Office. Dude can't open his yap without a flat-out lie shooting out, parked right at the ends of his forked tongue. Mister Straight Talk's latest speech impediment concerns his support for investigations into the levee failures after Hurricane Katrina — legislation he supported so strongly that he felt compelled to vote it down, twice.

  Meanwhile, someone at GM has been drilling deep and finally struck a gusher of brains. The struggling automaker is closing four truck factories and may 86 the Hummer. Bonuses all around for visionary management, no doubt, but between 8000 and 10,000 workers are gonna take it in the neck. Maybe they can get jobs running McSame's Katrina inquiry.

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Heads up, Bibleburgers

  Kip Biese of Old Town Bike Shop recently got smacked by a motorist — and apparently it was not an accident. He was JRA around 8th Street and Cheyenne Mountain, according to the usually unreliable reports, so if you're in the neighborhood keep an eye peeled for a red SUV with temporary tags, a Kip-shaped dent in the front bumper and a payload of punk-ass bitches who like to call cyclists faggots. He's up and around, and has been spotted at the downtown YMCA, so he's still above ground and breathing in and out. More details as they become available.

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Hey, Bo Diddley

  Bo Diddley is playing his square guitar in rock-and-roll heaven after heart failure sent him off the terrestrial stage at 79. The way the man rocked, it's a wonder his heart lasted as long as it did.

  Meanwhile, Bike Month is rolling right along here in Bibleburg. About a nanosecond after I posted the Bianchi, boom! It was snapped up by Pal Joey, one of the many stellar wrenches at Old Town Bike Shop. He views it as a fixer-upper — think flat bars, a triple up front, mountain-bike gearing, panniers, the works — and thus its slacker period has come to an end. Back to work, beeeyatch. (The Bianchi, not you, Joey.)

  As for myself, I enjoyed a second day of auto-free bliss, if your idea of bliss is leaving an air-conditioned Subie parked so you can ride or walk everywhere in 90-degree heat. After a short morning run I did about 14 miles' worth of errands on the bike, riding to La Baguette for bread and to Mountain Mama for yogurt and other foodstuffs, and walked to the Ace and back for another handful of hardware (some rear fenders bolt only at the chainstay bridge, while others bolt there and at the seatstay bridge. Duh.).

  I came home to find our stimulus package straining the seams of our mailbox. Woo, hoo, can't wait to open that bad boy. We're using ours to pay our income taxes. How's that for a model of economic efficiency? We earn money, thus incurring a tax liability, and the feds are kind enough to give us the money to pay them with. I don't know who's getting stimulated here, but it sure ain't me.

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Happy Bike Month

  Yeah, I know, Colorado is off the back in many respects, its late observance of Bike Month being only one of many examples thereof. But just ask the 2,500 people who saw their Iron Horse dreams buried under a foot of snow how springlike May is around here. June is a better fit, weather-wise.

  I'm gonna try to park the Subaru for the month again, knowing in advance that I will fail — I have a dentist appointment midmonth in Pueblo, and a 100-mile bike ride to get my teeth cleaned seems a tad excessive, given the woeful state of my fitness. A smart guy would do his dentristry locally, but I've been going to this outfit since we lived in Weirdcliffe and I like 'em. How many dentists can a guy say that about?

  This Bike Month I'll be riding a different steed. Last year's Subaru stand-in, the Bianchi Castro Valley, is for sale (if you're local and hunting a low-mileage commuter bike with a single-ring setup, rear rack, fenders and Shimano dynamo hub/headlamp, drop me a line; specs here). Its replacement is my Soma Double Cross, to which I've added fenders, a rack and panniers, and clip-on headlight and taillight. I like that the Soma has a less relaxed geometry, a lighter weight, two chainrings, lower gearing (bottom end is 34x28), bar-end shifters and top-mounted brake levers. And it's not like I'm short of cyclo-cross bikes, with three of the sumbitches hanging on hooks and two in boxes awaiting parts.

  We went on our maiden voyage today. After doing a couple hours of light hills on the Steelman Eurocross, I rode the Soma over to the Bon Shopping Center for some grub from Safeway and a couple of nuts and bolts from Ace Hardware, as I had yet to mount the fenders. I was in civvies, but wearing cycling gloves, and as I paid for the hardware the clerk wished me a safe ride. Nice start to Bike Month, eh?

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I'll take the wind, thanks

  Judas Priest, the Giro has been cursed with some evil weather this year. It's pissing down rain again and the TV moto is probably wishing his camera lens sported some miniature windshield wipers. Rain capes are the uniform of the day and the Passo del Vivione makes a Bibleburg bike path look like I-25. More bike problems, too — yeah, those 10-speed clusters and soba-noodle chains are a great idea in foul weather; chapeau to the propeller-heads.

  Better weather here today after I sacrificed a Young Republican to the Dark Lord (Darth Cheney). Just 8 a.m. and it's already 60 outside; the high is predicted to be near 80 with light wind. Fat city. I will be committing crimes against cycling just as soon as today's stage wraps.

  Speaking of cycling and the coverage thereof, we have a new local mag' making its debut in June — Peak Region Cyclist. Publisher David Pico promises coverage of "trails, people, places, stops, and manufacturers." I don't have a URL yet, but I'll post one as soon as it lands in the in-box. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for the newcomer at a bike shop near you.

  And we bid farewell to Harvey Korman, a very, very funny guy, who clocked out yesterday at 81. Three years on "The Danny Kaye Show," 10 more on "The Carol Burnett Show," Hedley Lamarr in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" — that pretty much says it all. Unless maybe you'd like to add, "My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives." Shmucks.

  Late update: I confess to being astounded that Hunter S. Thompson hasn't come boiling out of his grave at the "I'm shocked, shocked" routine from the media elites following Scotty McClellan's revelation that, all his lies aside, the press was lip-locked to the White House genitalia during the run-up to the Iraq war.

  The people who used to sneer at the Soviet Union for its national press, Pravda, seem to have overlooked the ascendacy of The Associated Press in this country — if you're a penny-pinching publisher (as if there were ever any other kind), running wire copy is a whole lot cheaper than having your own White House reporter, statehouse reporter, and so on. And if it sucks, well, at least the perpetrators aren't taking up space in the cube farm, sniveling all the time about long hours at low pay.

  And TV is even worse, barring Bill Moyers and the NewsHour on PBS. I quit watching CNN shortly after the initial horror at the 9/11 attacks, when it became apparent that the network had become nothing more than an appendage of the Alfred E. "Worry" Bush administration, and unplugged the cable entirely shortly thereafter. Print media were little better; the one outfit that consistently impressed me was the Knight Ridder Washington bureau, now McClatchy.

  As to the rest of them, just revisit the 60th annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association, and any subsequent version thereof. That is all ye know, and all ye need to know, as HST might say. Selah.

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Blow me

  I had a few layers of epidermis scoured off during my ride this morning, and the wind is still at it out there this evening, stirring up dust, allergens and ill will. The good news is, the backcracker whipped her patented Kung Fu Death Grip on me again yesterday and banished what I hope is the final twinge in that left hamstring. I went for a short "run" beforehand, if you call 10 minutes of cautious jogging bracketed by 25-minute walks "running," and today's 90-minute outing on the Eurocross didn't pop any rivets, so maybe I'm gonna live. The question now is whether I'll enjoy it.

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There goes the neighborhood

  Gen. George Armstrong Bush, Lone Star Air Farce (ret.), will be addressing the 2008 graduating class at the U.S. Air Force Academy at 10 a.m. local time. He should find a few friends in that audience, packed as it is with squadrons of apocalyptic sky pilots from the Campus Crusade for Christ, Focus on the Family and elsewhere.

  I've not had a visit from the Secret Service, which is disappointing. Still, I understand the usual security measures are in force, though they are doomed to failure, since they will leave the academy wide open to the tender mercies of the leading terrorist in the world today, the president of the United States. Here's hoping the grads use him as a textbook example of how not to serve their nation.

  Back in DeeCee, meanwhile, the chattering class is all a-twitter over the new tune that Scotty McClellan is squealing with his contribution to the steaming pile of tell-all books penned by former administration toadies. Bush is out of touch? Do tell. Condi is the Teflon Queen? You don't say. Cheney is the Devil? Surely not. The only thing we don't know is the size of the check this fat fuck got for bringing us yesterday's news. I'm with the Rude Pundit on this one: "He deserves a room in Hell lined with televisions playing his sneering statements of complicity on an endless loop while he's forced to sit on a couch made of the bloated corpses of Katrina victims. Way too little, way, way too late, you miserable bucket of spooge."

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Utah Phillips has caught that westbound freight

  Somehow I managed to miss the final departure of Utah Phillips on Friday at age 73. He had the great good fortune to die at home in Nevada City, Calif., in bed, in his sleep, next to his wife.

  Utah was a folk singer, a Korean War vet turned pacifist, and a proud member of the Industrial Workers of the World, a.k.a. the Wobblies. I saw him perform while I was laboring on behalf of the Corvallis Gazette-Times in Oregon, a decidedly non-union organization. Thanks to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! for bringing him back to my attention. The family requests that memorial donations be made to the homeless shelter he founded, Hospitality House in Grass Valley, California. Don't mourn, boys, organize.

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"Only dead men can tell the truth in this world."

  That's Mark Twain talkin' at you from beyond the grave on this Memorial Day. His short anti-war prose poem "The War Prayer" wasn't published until well after his death, and last year it was made into a short film by Markos Kounalakis, publisher of Washington Monthly, with narration by Peter Coyote, illustrations by Akis Dimitrakopoulos and voiceovers by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Erik Bauersfeld. You can watch it here between beers, barbecues and bouts of lawn care. Thanks and a tip of the Mad Dog helmet to Kevin Drum.

  As long as we're on the topic of warfare and its consequences, here's another item you might find interesting — David Carr, musing in The New York Times about the wars we choose to ignore.

  And finally, my respects to another warrior long gone — Col. Harold Joseph O'Grady, USAF, who flew nearly 300 combat missions during World War II with the New Guinea-based 65th Squadron, 433rd Troop Carrier Group, Fifth Air Force. Activated in February 1943 and sent to New Guinea later that year, the 433rd operated from New Guinea and Biak until 1945, flying C-47's, a few B-17's and C-46's. The outfit transported troops; hauled fuel, ammo, medicine, rations, communications gear and construction materials; and evacuated the wounded. Somewhere amid those unglamorous chores the old man picked up a Distinguished Flying Cross and a note from Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, Allied air chief in the southwest Pacific, saying "how genuinely proud" he was to have such as Hank O'Grady under his command.

  Peace to you and yours.

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Going out with a bang?

  Ol' Hils stuck that big fat foot back in her face again yesterday, invoking the June 1968 assassination of Bobby Kennedy while explaining why she will not drop out of the race for the Donks' presidential nomination. Response has been mixed — for a sample, see Steve Benen. It falls largely into two camps: Either Clinton was saying, "Hey, someone could cap this guy," or, "Hey, it's early days yet, I still have a chance." I favor the former: She was thinking out loud and forgot where she was, which happened to be before the editorial board of the Argus Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D.

  Ever had one of those brain farts? "Did I say that or just think it?" Well, she said it, and not among the friendlies, either. It's indicative of the sense of entitlement that has infected her entire campaign — Hillary deserves the presidency, just . . . just . . . 'cause, that's why.

  Another hint comes in her bug-eyed apology, when she said, ". . . I'm honored to hold Senator [Robert] Kennedy's seat in the United States Senate from the state of New York . . ." This is on a par with Sen. Lucas McCain (R-Winchester) confusing the chore of Commander in Chief with the job of president of the United States. That seat ain't Bobby's, and hasn't been for a long, long time, more's the pity. It belongs to the people, not the Kennedys — or even the Clintons, for that matter.

  Hey, I've said it myself — Obama has a better-than-average chance of flushing a triggerman out of the weeds, and it's no wonder he was the first of the contenders to get a Secret Service detail. But Clinton isn't exactly a pinup girl for the lunatic fringe, either. The mouth-breathers who have problems with black people don't like uppity wimmens any better.

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Out of CinC

  As the nation prepares to honor its war dead by burning $4-per-gallon gas in quantity, John McCain once again is busy proving he's brain-dead. McCain (R-Alzheimer's) teed off on Barack Obama after his Democratic colleague criticized him for failing to support a bipartisan measure expanding the GI Bill. After ripping Obama a new one for never serving in the military — apparently forgetting (a) that the Constitution mandates civilian control over the armed forces, and (b) the undistinguished service record of the current administration — McInsane delivered this halfwitticism:

"But I am running for the office of Commander in Chief."

  No, you're not, Numbnuts. The CinC gig is only one of the many chores assigned the president of the United States. That's the job you're after. And heaven help us all if you get it. That is all. Dis-miss.

  Later that day: Damn, the heater just kicked on. Check the calendar. Yep, May 23. 'Tis a privilege to live in Colorado. Heavy duty coming up for those of you racing the Iron Horse tomorrow in Durango. Quoth the National Weather Service: "A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 63. East northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming south." Short-term forecast here? Thunderstorms, wind gusts up to 55 mph, and pea-size hail. God is really spinning the old weather wheel up there lately. "OK, plague of locusts, rain of bloody stones, plus a simultaneous mass fart from every critter in the Con-Agra feedlots. Try that on for size."

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Whirlwind tour

  My old college town of Greeley got zotzed by a giant tornado today. The thing really went to town on nearby Windsor, though. Yikes. I saw a tornado once when I was smoking dope studying journalism at the University of Northern Colorado, and covered the aftermath of one while working for The Gazette here in Bibleburg, and I never want to see another one. Unless it's chasing Dick Cheney, that is.

  Actually, forget about the tornado. I'd rather turn my chiropractor loose on Cheney. I went in for an adjustment today and mentioned my tweaked hamstring. Bad idea. She went to town on that rascal, causing me to levitate while making unmanly keening sounds reminiscent of a hamster and a lobster wrestling two falls out of three in a blender. "Therapeutic pain," she called it. Old Five Deferments would give us chapter and verse on which oil companies wrote his energy plan, the WMD snake oil and his plans for air strikes on Iran in under two minutes or your money back. I'd call it $50 well spent.

  Speaking of oil and the high priests thereof, here's some bad news for your holiday-driving pleasure from The Wall Street Journal courtesy of Kevin Drum at Political Animal: Things will be getting worse before they . . . get even worse. The International Energy Agency has begun surveying both supply and demand and finds that the world could be facing a shortfall of as much as 12.5 million barrels of oil a day come 2015. Says Kevin:

"The IEA's concern is with both the absolute condition of the world's oil fields and the amount of investment being made in new projects. Either way, though, a shortfall of 12.5 million barrels is huge. If that's an accurate assessment, prices are going to have to double another couple of times to bring demand into line with supply. $500 oil, anyone?" This is not the driving factor behind my decision to turn a pile of idle Shimano 600/105 parts into a rideable seven-speed, single-chainring, bar-end-shifting Voodoo Wazoo, but it certainly serves as validation.

  Incidentally, gas prices locally have jumped a dozen pennies per gallon since I filled up on Monday. I'm sure it's a simple matter of supply and deman . . . bwaaaaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  And before I forget about it, Hillary Klingon is spiraling out of control like a Bird of Prey with a photon torpedo up its arse. My sis up north in tornado country thinks she's more electable than Obama, but I have grave doubts about anyone going up against a honky male getting a free pass from the media (see the last two elections).

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From the freezer to the frying pan

  Every year it's the same — in the blink of an eye, the weather goes from gray and grim to sun-splashed and scorching, leaving spring coughing in the dust. Our apple trees seemingly flowered overnight, despite a wicked case of fire blight that had left them spindly and wretched-looking; the tulips shot up and exploded like bottle rockets; and I overdid some long-delayed lawn care and exercise and now am enjoying a tweaked left hamstring, a neck whose crimson hue reflects my bloodline (a Florida-Iowa hybrid) and an ice-cold bottle of Cinder Cone Red, a seasonal beer from the fine folks at Deschutes Brewery.

  Another shock to the system: Gassing up after a few weeks of rising oil prices. We're not quite to $4 per gallon for regular unleaded — I just paid $3.66 per gallon for a total fillup of $47.73 — but then again it ain't Memorial Day weekend yet, either. The Forester gets OK mileage; about 23 in town, 30 on the open road. And I'm not driving every day like most folks, so I'm spared the heavy bleeding from the wallet pocket. But still, damn. Herself is driving a ton for the new job, and if we weren't just a few thou' from paying off her Outback I'd think about getting her something that was a little less thirsty, like the old Daihatsu Charade she had back in the day. Miserable piece of shit was apparently made out of old Kirin cans, and with a three-cylinder engine it was as much fun on a climb as Sisyphus's rock, but the thing got 50 miles to the gallon.

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Will Elder, R.I.P.

  One of the greats is gone: Will Elder, one of the original Mad men, dead at 86 of Parkinson's disease.

  Mickey Rodent, Starchie, Superduperman — these were all Elder, as was "Little Annie Fanny," the long-running Playboy strip. Mad editor John Ficarra recalls Elder's collaboration with founding editor Harvey Kurtzman; Kurtzman would write the stories, and Elder would handle the illustrations:

Kurtzman "was known for doing these elaborate layouts, where he'd pencil in what he wanted drawn in every frame and give that to Willie."

"If you think of these panels as sort of a bare Christmas tree, Willie would put on some ornaments, some balls, some tinsel. Then he'd start putting on some things you might not expect to see on a Christmas tree — a bowling ball, an old sneaker, a frozen TV dinner — so at the end, these panels would be jam-packed with visuals that were sort of incongruous to what was going on, but it really rewarded readers who paid attention.

"Frequently, I've heard from people who say, 'You really couldn't read one of Willie's stories in one sitting.' You had to go back and reread it several times because you always seemed to miss things."

  No kiddin'. I dug out an old cartoon compilation, "Comix: A History of Comic Books in America," and revisited some old Elder 'toons. Click here for a larger version of the 'toon to right and give it a good, long look. Lots of Easter eggs in there for the eager hunter.

  Incidentally, if you're a fan of the superhero comics, the "Iron Man" movie is an enjoyable time-waster. Herself and I saw it at a matinee today, and it was almost as much fun to hear the young'uns going, "Bum, bum, bum bum bum, badabadabada bum bum bum bum" afterward as it was to watch Robert Downey Jr. playing industrialist Tony Stark and his armored alter ego. I used to deafen the neighborhood with Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" back in 1970, and it's nice to see that bad noise still has a place in our society today.

  Iron Man was an idea by Stan "The Man" Lee at Marvel, fleshed out by writer Larry Lieber and artist Donnie Heck, and back in the day he was a long way from the red-and-gold dude we've all come to know and love. Neal Adams drew the best Iron Man I can remember, and he's still my favorite superhero comic-book artist, whether we're talking Iron Man, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Deadman, Captain America, Conan the Barbarian, the X-Men or the Avengers. The twisted among you may remember him from Son O' God Comics in The National Lampoon. You'd be appalled to learn how many of these things are in my library. Or not.

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Free at last; free at last

  Our long national nightmare is over — I'm done working the Giro for VeloNews.com for money and can get back to my real calling, which is making shit out of fucktards for free.

  Let's start with Mike Huckabee. This jerkoff, addressing the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky, tries to go all Jon Stewart on the crowd after being interrupted by a large crash:

"That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He was getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him, and he dove for the floor."

  Laugh, I thought I'd die. Just like Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, and . . .

  Listen, anybody who hasn't figured out by now that any stupid shit that comes out of your face will rocket around the world and kick you right in the ass before the echoes die down wherever you said it is too fucking stupid to merit the kind of attention I'm giving this swine right now. David Millar? His Huffy toss at the Giro was on YouTube before the bike hit the ground. John McCain? Slamming Obama for his willingness to speak to Iran and trying to paint him as the hand-picked candidate of Hamas sounds pretty daffy, even for Mr. Strait Jacket, when he's suggested talking to Hamas his own bad self.

  And Gen. George Armstrong Bush, Texas Air Force (ret.)? The dude who said he gave up golf so the friends and family of servicepeople in harm's way wouldn't think the Commander in Chief was out yukking it up while the body count stacks up? Yep, dude is all business.

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Piss in our time

  I'm kinda busy through tomorrow, but I didn't want to let this pass without notice. I wish this numbnuts would just get around to shipping this "Some" dude he keeps jabbering about off to Gitmo, if he's such a threat to the Republic.

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The Italian National Asphalt-Surfing Championships

  Man, the boys are tearing up the tarmac at the Giro d'Italia this year, and not in a good way. They're going down faster than an Italian submarine with screen doors and full ballast tanks. Today it was Nick Nuyens of Cofidis pulling a foot out and getting all sideways in the middle of the sprint — instead of taking a trip to the podium, he took a trip in an ambulance. In honor of him and the rest of the fallen, especially CSC's Stuey O'Grady, I'm drinking a very tasty 2006 Zenato Lugana San Benedetto.

  Despite the carnage (or perhaps because of it), the Giro is much more fun to watch than the Tour, which has become a ponderous tactical exercise (stay out of crashes, win the time trials, defend in the mountains, and for God's sake get those meds dialed in). The Vuelta's a better entertainment, too. What a shame the two lesser grand tours get so little attention from the press. Agence France Presse sent us just 360 words on today's Giro stage, which irked me to no end as I was the guy pushing pixels at VeloNews.com. Thank you; thank you. I'll be here all week. And don't forget to tip your servers.

  In other news, the Limeys have been seeing little green men, and they're neither leprechauns or a flying column of midgets from the Irish Republican Army. I guess building a big-ass fence won't help.

  And from the Unintentional Irony Department comes this from Mr. Mission Accomplished, from The Politico via The Aristocrats:

For the first time, Bush revealed a personal way in which he has tried to acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers and their families.

"I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf," he said. "I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

  Uh huh. And endless photo-ops astride a mountain bike is, like, all respectful and shit. Christ, what a numbnuts.

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A shout out to Herself . . .

  . . . on the occasion of our 18th anniversary. She's celebrating it up north at some library hoo-hah and I'm marking it with an extra-long shift in the barrel over at VeloNews.com, where the Giro d'Italia turned into the Giro d'Ospedale after more crashes than the market in '29. We were such a cute couple back in 1990, when we were wed at Hyde State Park in Santa Fe, and half of us still is. One of these days she's gonna get her eyesight back and that will be that.

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Slipstream in the pink

  Props to the boys from Slipstream-Chipotle, who won the team time trial to kick off the 2008 Giro d'Italia. Christian Vande Velde will wear the maglia rosa, the first Yank since Andy Hampsten to do so. The team was drilling it so hard they shelled 2001 U-23 TT champ Danny Pate, reformed doping champ David "Nutter" Millar and a couple other dudes en route to the podium.

  Meanwhile, Turkish — a.k.a. Mighty Whitey, Big Pussy, Turkenstein, The Turkinator and other names as well — could give a shit. He's all about climbing trees. Or he would be, if it weren't raining again. That shot is from yesterday when the universe was in better alignment, cat-wise. It rained most of last May, too, when the Turk' was but a mighty acorn instead of a giant white oak, so the big guy may be in for a serious bout of cabin fever.

  In grocery news, there's a new Vitamin Cottage down on South Nevada at Cheyenne Mountain, across the street from Par Avion, which is in dire need of a website makeover. The Vitamin Cottage, while slightly off the beaten path in a former Walgreens buried in a nondescript shopping plaza surrounded by crackhead-infested fleabag motels, is slightly more accessible to downtown Bibleburgers than either the Whole Paycheck on North Academy or the Wild Oats on Powers (which is being rebranded as a WP as we speak). And it's a damn' sight cheaper, too, if you don't get mugged in the parking lot. The cashier urged me to spread the word, so consider it spread.

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Tom Waits for no one

  For those of you sick to death of bullshit press conferences, I have three words: Best. Press conference. Ever. OK, so that's four. You got one of them for free. A tip of the Mad Dog stingy-brim goes out to East Coast Bub for unearthing this one:

  Meanwhile, it's pretty clear who'd be answering that 3 a.m. phone call in a Clinton White House: David Duke. Sez Miz Clinton:

"Sen. Obama's support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on."

  In other political news, Mr. Strait Jacket — pardon me, Mr. Straight Talk — has a storied history of helping wealthy contributors with lucrative real-estate deals, according to The Washington Post. Steve Benen breaks it all down for you.

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April showers (May edition)

  Those fabled flower-feeders are a little late, this being May 7, but welcome nonetheless as Bibleburg has been drier than a popcorn fart. I just finished drastically pruning our ailing apple trees and am hoping the moisture doesn't trigger a resurgence of the fire blight that turned them into something out of a Tim Burton movie last year.

  Big bicycle doin's here this morning. Kristin Bennett, senior transportation planner for the city, advises that Mayor Lionel Rivera and USA Cycling will be making a pair of announcements at America the Beautiful Park, adjacent to the scenic hobo village alongside Fountain Creek. I'm guessing one has to do with the League of American Bicyclists finally designating Bibleburg a Bicycle Friendly Community. The other probably concerns USA Cycling deciding it won't move to Ogden after all due to a massive influx of free shit from concerned Bibleburgers. That's my best guess, anyway. Hit the park at 10:30 this morning for the real scoop. And don't forget the Gore-Tex and a bumbershoot.

  Late update: I was right. USAC CEO Steve Johnson (pictured) says the feds have a stylish new (and free) place twice the size of the old digs over on Delmonico Drive, thanks to Nor'Wood Development, El Pomar Foundation, the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation and a cast of thousands. I popped by and chewed the fat with SJ, ace shooter Casey Gibson, USAC communications guy Andy Lee, Nor'Wood's Fred Veitch and Pikes Peak Area Bikeways Coalition mainstay Al "You Can Call Me Al" Brody. Stay tuned to VeloNews.com — maybe come dinnertime they'll get around to posting the story and photos I e-mailed 'em noonish.

  Meanwhile, The Aristocrats weigh in on Obama's gradual whittling-down of Billary as the armless, legless candidate uses her oh-so-blue-collar nose to punch the ATM buttons for another $6 million in loans to her own campaign. This is like watching a Vegas bluehair grimly feeding the slots, chasing a jackpot that just ain't there. Only funnier.

  And finally, a tip of the Mad Dog newsboy cap goes out to the editorial staff of The Peeblow Cheapdone, the Steel City's finest daily newspaper (otherwise known as Bob Rawlings' water newsletter). My spies tell me The Daily Dog has developed a devoted if deranged readership there, which astounds me as I didn't think anyone at the Cheapdone could read*, especially on the copy desk, where I spent many a long, dark night of the soul acting the fool for fun and profit. Some nights the sound of editors' lips moving drowns out the dull thudding of artillery practice at Fort Cartoon. Haw.

* Just kidding. Jesus. Don't send a Pueblo copper up here to tase me, bro.

  This just in: From our Forward Into the Past Department comes the news that steampunk is The Next Big Thing in Noo Yawk City. Another good reason to live in Flyover Country. I particularly like the enhancement of plastic with polished brass, something we never considered when I was a young fashionista. We favored thrift-store suspenders, vests, fedoras, pocket watches and walking sticks to complement the hair, granny glasses and dungarees, a blend of the Roaring Twenties and Boring Seventies. So it goes.

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Downtime is uptime

  After a tiring week of committing cycling journalism, I stepped away from the keyboard on Sunday to do a nice long ride (for me, anyway) to the north boundary of the Air Force Academy and back. The trip takes about two and a half hours in the saddle for your average 54-year-old fat bastard, especially when the trail is stuffed curb to curb with sun-splashed simpletons lacking any concept of trail etiquette. Whatever. Pushing pedals for free will always beat the shit out of pushing pixels for money.

  I ran into Big Bill McBeef and Miss Vicky on the homebound leg. The Beefy One has not been on a bike for the better part of quite some time, having added working for a living to his habit of gaming and tippling late into the night, so it was good to see his pale Morlockesque ass with an actual living woman of the female persuasion and astride a two-wheeler, an elderly DBR ti' mountain bike that was part of the fleet the Mad Dogs bought back in 1994 or thereabouts.

  Today I managed to squeeze in a 90-minute ride between a flurry of household chores demanded by the imminent return of Herself from her own very long week at some library clusterfuck in Denver. And I hate to admit it, as a member in good standing of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Retro-Grouches, but I'm very much enjoying riding some newish technology. My Jamis Supernova with its scandium and carbon tubes, its SRAM 10-speed, its Easton wheelset and carbon fork, is a very lively ride indeed. I thought carbon seat stays were so much marketing horseshit when I first saw them, but this bike does seem less jarring than other aluminum 'cross bikes I've ridden, even without a suspension seat post — and I have suspension posts on everything, barring the road and time-trial bikes. And the Bianchi Castro Valley. That fucker is heavy enough already, thanks all the same.

  Anyway, chapeau to the Jamis folks. I still have doubts about 10-speed corncobs in evil weather, but what with me being a retired cyclo-crosser it's unlikely to see any unless I forget to put it back in the garage some October evening.

  Meanwhile, it's probably Bike Month where you are, unless you're in Colorado. We prefer June for that sort of thing. Why? Ask anyone who's ever raced the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic on Memorial Day. Last year I sidelined the Subaru for most of June, and I'm thinking about tacking on another couple of weeks this year, as gas prices inch up toward that magical $4-per-gallon number Mr. There Will Be Blood just heard about. I've lightened up and tightened up for '08 — my Soma Double Cross now sports a rack and panniers — so doing business on the bike should be a good bit easier, what with the lower weight and gearing. Fitness will be an issue, as always; some things Visa just won't cover.

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Happy International Workers Day

Home of the brave, land of the free
I don't wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie

— Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, Bourgeois Blues

  OK, lemme see if I've got this right. Americans are tightening their belts as their incomes flatline while food and energy prices skyrocket, yet Exxon Mobil's first-quarter net income of $10.9 billlion, up 17 percent, is disappointing. Hand me my hammer and sickle, honey. Somebody needs an ass-whuppin'.

  Elsewhere, from Ezra Klein at The American Prospect via Kevin Drum comes this:

Somewhere in the house, a phone is ringing. It's your old insurance company, the one you had before your employer decided to make you a contractor rather than a full-time employee. Sorry, they say, but your family just doesn't fit their risk profile. They've got nothing in your price range. What if we pay a little more, you ask, rapidly weighing the consequences of taking out another mortgage or shifting more purchases to credit. Sorry, the even-voiced representative says, this time more firmly, they really don't have anything for you at all.

It is a call — or, sometimes, merely a letter — that millions of Americans have received, particularly those not covered by large employers or the federal government. These Americans are rejected for health insurance because they were sick once, or because they're too old now, or for no apparent reason at all.

(I)t is not a call that John McCain has ever received.... Born the son of a Navy admiral, he was cared for by Navy physicians during his childhood. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy, and the military's care continued until he retired from the service in 1981. In 1982, he won a seat in Congress, ushering him into the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, and in 2001, he qualified for Medicare. When he says, "we have the highest quality of health care in the world in America," he is speaking as a man who has enjoyed a lifetime of government-run care.

  This I like. My dad pulled the full 30 in the U.S. Air Force, and a damn' good thing, too, 'cause we were a sickly bunch. Especially me. I had allergies, asthma, migraines, you name it. I toured dispensaries at Randolph AFB and Fort Sam Houston in San Antone, Fitzsimmons in Denver, and Peterson Field and Ent AFB in Bibleburg. It wasn't exactly the sort of medical care you see on TV, but it kept me from exploding in a pink cloud of hives, snot and erratic brain waves. And it was free — one of the perks of the old man's job, just like buying $2 cartons of humps at the commissary.

  People who say the gummint couldn't pour piss out of a boot with directions printed on the heel when it comes to health care should take a look at how it treats its active-duty troops and retirees. I'd love to see a study of the two bureaucracies, both private and public sectors, and who's really better off in terms of dollars spent for care received.

  And this is not to say that folks in the military are getting something for nothing just because I have to pay a bazillion dollars for an albuterol inhaler, asthma being a pre-existing condition and all. When a clot of draft-dodgers with flag lapel pins offhandedly chucks the grunts into a meat grinder somewhere just because there's a shitload of oil under the sand, they deserve everything we can give them — including better civilian leadership.

  Late update: Tim Jackson, a.k.a. Masiguy, laid it down at high speed on the San Diego velodrome on Tuesday and didn't leap right back up again — word is concussion, three cracked vertebrae in his neck, banged-up left eye, fractured right knee, a cracked rib and a bruised lung, plus surgery to reattach a nearly severed right thumb. We're talking about more than a shredded skinsuit here, is what. You can get the rest of the bad news here. The good news is, Tim is in fine spirits and should be out of the hospital by Friday. If you have some spare Dead President Trading Cards lying about the joint, Blue Squirrel has set up a fund to help the Masiguy guy fill in the gaps around his insurance policy. Stars for your crown in heaven, don't you know.

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No, no no no, he's outside looking in

  Albert Hoffman, the father of LSD, has taken his final trip — the Swiss chemist died April 29 at his home in Burg, a village near Basel, Switzerland, after a heart attack. He was 102.

  According to The Washington Post, Hoffman happened upon LSD-25 in 1938, while exploring a circulatory heart-lung stimulant. When it showed little effect on lab animals beyond some agitation, he shelved the study for five years, then repeated the experiment to help him with another study. This time, he unwittingly absorbed some LSD; later, he wrote about the experience in his journal:

"At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away."

  Three days later, on April 19, Hoffman bicycled home after dropping 250 micrograms of acid in what The Post called "a now-famous 'trip' that has become known as Bicycle Day." That time, he reported some of the flip side of eating acid: "I was seized by the dreadful fear of going insane."

  Despite the bummer, Hoffman didn't forsake his brainchild. After striking up a correspondence with German novelist Ernst Junger, who had experimented with mescaline, the two each took .05 milligram of LSD at Hoffman's home, surrounded by violet roses, Japanese incense and a Mozart concerto for flute and harp.

  "Ernst Junger enjoyed the color display of oriental images," he later wrote. "I was on a trip among Berber tribes in North Africa, saw colored caravans and lush oases."

  Hoffman investigated some other fun substances, too, discovering and naming many of the active ingredients in "magic mushrooms," including psilocybin and psilocin. He headed the research department for natural medicines at Sandoz before retiring in 1971, about the time I was getting seriously interested in the subjects of his inquiries.

  I never had a bad acid trip, though once at a party in Denver I grew bleakly antisocial and wandered off to sit atop a parked tractor-trailer rig and argue with the voices in my head. Another time, a college roomie and I, having nothing better to do, loaded up on orange sunshine and motored off in his VW bus to the drive-in for a screening of "Night of the Living Dead." I was briefly concerned when it occurred to me that (a) he had never seen the movie before, and (b) never taken acid. But I needn't have worried — we both howled with laughter throughout the flick.

  It was always fun to pop that teensy little tab in company and then wait for that illuminated expression to wash across your buddies' faces. I much preferred the less authoritative mescaline and psilocybin, though; they were body drugs and laughers, and it was easier to maintain a semblance of normality should one be needed. I once picked up a girlfriend at her parents' house for a date and chatted amiably with her parents despite a skull full of mescaline, and often went to classes in a hallucinogenic state, which may help explain my woeful GPA in high school.

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Drill 'er up, sir?

  No wonder Oilcan Georgie was a failure as a petro-potentate. He has no idea how much oil America consumes or how long it takes to bring Texas tea to market. If only Congress had let Big Oil sink its gold-plated proboscis into Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, says Oilcan Georgie, we would all be driving for dimes instead of dollars. In short, he is full of shit. But you already knew that.

  Equally full of shit is Hillary Clinton, who has joined John McCain in his absurd call for a gas-tax holiday. Notes Kevin Drum:

I'd say there's approximately a zero percent chance that Hillary Clinton or John McCain actually believe this is good policy. It would increase oil company profits, it would make hardly a dent in the price of gasoline, it would encourage more summertime driving, and it would deprive states of money for transit projects. Their staff economists know this perfectly well, and so do they.

But they don't care. It's a way to engage in some good, healthy demagoguery, and if there's anything that the past couple of months have reinforced, it's the notion that demagoguery sells. Boy does it sell.

  I recently wrote a column in which I said I'd vote for whichever of the two Donks gets the TKO come the DNC in Denver. But I'm starting to rethink that stance. It's become painfully clear that Clinton will say anything, do anything, to get that nomination. She's turning into a bigger Republicunt than Joe Lieberman. And I don't vote for that crowd.

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Something's rotten in Denmark

  So you think four bucks a gallon for gas is extortionary? Move to Denmark, where Greg Nagen says he's paying more than $9 and the tax on new cars is 180 percent. Based on what he's seeing there, he doubts rising fuel prices will have much effect on Americans' driving habits. Writes Nagen:

If present trends continue (as they always do) then just 50 years from now gasoline in New York will cost more than $72,000 per gallon and U.S. dollars will be used as toilet paper in Denmark. A hundred years from now, gasoline will cost more than $1.3 billion per gallon and the value of the dollar in Europe will have to be measured with an electron microscope.

And it won't make a difference: American cars will be the size of city blocks and people will happily blow a hundred million dollars on car juice just driving around the corner to run a few lousy errands — griping about the exorbitant cost of gas all the way.

  In other happy-motoring news, the Florida Senate has voted to ban the fake testicles that dangle from many a trailer hitch in the penis-shaped state. The measure is the work of GOP Sen. Cary Baker, a gun-shop owner from Eustis, who seems hellbent on confirming Florida's reputation as the nation's largest open-air insane asylum.

  Meanwhile, in our Signs the Republic May Not Be Worth Saving Department we have this from The New York Times: All three mayor presidential candidates are sucking up to the fan base of the WWE. "Can you smell what the Barack is cookin'?" Oh, Christ.

  And finally, we bid adieu to The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin, a casualty of the Internet age. Requiescat in pace.

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Grounds for divorce

  In an interesting New York Times article about how cost-cutting consumers are changing how they spend comes this delicious news nugget:

[Donna] Dunaway, who works in an auto-parts factory, used to splurge on the ingredients for homemade lasagna, her husband's favorite, before food prices began to surge this year.

"Now he's lucky to get a 99-cent lasagna TV dinner, or maybe some Manwich out of a can," she said. "I just can't afford to be buying all that good meat and cheese like I used to."

  Check the price of a visit to the ER, Toots. Then get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans. If I ever started serving Herself heat-it-and-eat-it Banquet Beef Enchilada Meals instead of the real deal, she would use the savings to have me dropped into deep water chained to 600 pounds of TV dinners. And rightly so.

  There's nothing so elaborate on the menu this evening in Bibleburg. I got an inexplicable craving for Mom's meat loaf the other day and one of those bad boys is baking in the oven as we speak. I didn't feel strongly enough about it to motor north to the Whole Paycheck, so this one's a King Soopers blend of organic and industrial foodstuffs: organic ground beef, ketchup, eggs and bread crumbs; industrial pork, onion-mushroom soup mix and Worcestershire sauce. Mashed potatoes with butter and chives are a must, as is a massive green salad and a dram or two of wine.

  Speaking of wine, my man Jeff at Coaltrain Wine & Liquor tells me we're looking at a bump of $3 or more per bottle at the low end, where my tastebuds spend most of their time, when the new rosés arrive. Fuck it, I'll buy 'em anyway. They can have my rosé when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

  In other news, automated bike rentals are coming to the nation's capital, according to The Washington Post. A public-private venture called SmartBike DC is behind the deal, and Clear Channel has an advertising arrangement. Hm. Wonder if this means their bonehead drive-time DJs will stop inciting motorists to run over cyclists. Check the Weather Channel; nope, Hell remains unfrozen.

  And finally, it looks like the late Chairman Meow will have a fine crop of tulips standing watch over her grave this spring. We have a couple of live ones around the Politburo, too, but I still miss my old comrade.

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On a shovel, leaning

  So I took a break. So sue me. The weather has been excellent lately, if a bit windy and allergenic, so instead of crouching in front of this picture-window-sized monitor and enumerating various complaints and grievances a la George Carlin (albeit with less wit), I have been spending my time outdoors, riding bicycles, running, and watching the grass turn green and the flowers proliferate. The occasional pint has been raised and lowered. There is plenty of bad news; no need to hurry. If we miss one nightmare, another will be along shortly. Public transportation should be so reliable.

  The last column I wrote for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, a screed about scofflaw cyclists, generated a number of bouquets and brickbats. A couple readers asked to reprint it, and a couple others asked if I had grown even crazier than usual thanks to overdoses of this, that and the other. That seems about right for journalism: If you're batting .500, you're right in the old ballpark. I'll post the bugger tomorrow if I have a moment. Right now I'm drinking an ice-cold Mirror Pond Pale Ale and don't feel like generating any more HTML than is necessary.

  For the cat fanciers among you, Turkish is enjoying the warmer weather. Like me, he sees it as an opportunity to get outside, get filthy and smell bad, then come indoors and eat everything. Mia Sopaipilla is not allowed outdoors because she's just too damn' trusting and the foxes are too damn' bold. Turk, by contrast, is as paranoid as a Chinese Communist and the size of a tube of traction sand studded with razor blades. He had a stare-down with Luke, the champ cat of the block the other day, and while it probably helped that I went out into the yard and pegged a couple of pebbles at the big orange sonofabitch to encourage him to be elsewhere, I give Turk credit for following him across the street, talking shit: "You better never let me catch you 'round here — I hit you so hard and fast, you think you been in a gang fight."

  Myself, I wouldn't mess with Luke unless I had a pistol close at hand and a better insurance policy, but then I am regrettably short of claws and thick fur. And Herself has taken me to the vet too many times to find testosterone poisoning amusing.

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And now, a word from the military-industrial complex

  A Pentagon "information apparatus" has used military analysts — most of whom have ties to military contractors — "in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance," according to The New York Times. Says The Times:

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the . . . military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration's war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

The analysts . . . often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration's neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.

  It's worth reading the entire story, because it's not humanly possible for me to generate the incalculable amount of snark this revelation deserves. Eisenhower was right.

  And in case you're wondering, no, that is not a photo of the Republic slipping into darkness. It's the Passover moon as seen from Bibleburg.

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You know it's spring when . . .

  . . . Herself rides a bicycle. I cleaned and greased her Soma Double Cross yesterday and off she went today with The Hobbs, a girlfriend of similar stature who recently ponied up three large for a Terry road bike (the industry thanks you, Hobbs).

  Today's outing being a trail ride, The Hobbs was astride some hideous garbage-wagon mountain bike that weighed more than she does. It's tempting to squeak out a falsetto "Follow the yellow brick road" when these two roll off, but after a half-century of letting my mouth write checks that my ass can't cash, my self-preservation circuits finally include a number of fail-safe measures. The Hobbs can outrun me without breaking a sweat and Herself knows where I live. Hell, she has a key to the joint.

  Me, I broke out the road bike for a pointless rollaround that took in downtown, Old Colorado City, Manitou Springs and part of the course for a criterium being run at Colorado College (I wasn't entered, my collegiate career having screeched to a halt in 1977, but it was on the way to where I was going). Colorado having only two seasons (winter and roadwork), the rest of the ride was a Tour de Orange Cones, but it still beat working.

  Before setting out, I performed a saddle transplant between my road bike and the Jamis Supernova. The Selle San Marco Ponza may be the worst cyclo-cross saddle ever, having a roughened center strip that grabs you by the shorts during remounts, but it makes an OK road saddle. And now the Jamis has a Selle Italia Flite, like the rest of the 'cross bikes in the garage.

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'Worst. Debate. Ever.'

  That's how Steve Benen headlines his review of last night's debate between Clinton and Obama. Sounds less like Lincoln-Douglas than a double Jerry Springer show. Glad I gave it a miss. Says Benen:

(T)he result was as dull as it was pointless, with a discussion that tells us nothing about the candidates, their visions, or their ability to govern. E&P's Greg Mitchell called it "perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years." The Washington Post's Tom Shales called it "a step downward for network news," and noted that the moderators delivered "shoddy, despicable performances." Will Bunch noted, "Quickly, a word to any and all of my fellow journalists who happen to read this open letter. This. Must. Stop."

  Salon's Walter Shapiro added:

Broadcast to a prime-time network audience on ABC and devoid of a single policy question during its opening 50 minutes, the debate easily could have convinced the uninitiated that American politics has all the substance of a Beavis and Butt-Head marathon.

  And let's add to the steaming pile this discussion between NPR's Steve Innskeep and Juan Williams, which amounts to a feeble defense of inanity. Lovely. Nevertheless, I intend to vote for whichever of the two survives this turd-slinging contest. The Donks could serve up a plastic sack of runny owlshit with a happy-face sticker on it — doesn't matter, I'm all for President Owlshit. Anything would be a step up from what's squatting like a poison toad in the Oval Office right now. But if the Democratic candidate turns out to be Clinton, I'll pull that lever with one hand and hold my nose with the other. The sack of shit has less stink to it.

  Meanwhile, we're back in the icebox. Thirty degrees and three inches of snow, with a chance of more and/or rain. The YMCA beckons.

  Gas pains: Denver gas prices set a record, according to The Denver Post: $3.29 per gallon for regular unleaded. We're at $3.31 in Bibleburg, up a half-buck from last year, but still below the national average of $3.39, says AAA. California and Hawaii are really in the hurt locker, inching up toward that four-buck-per-gallon indicator the Cheerleader-in-Chief claims to know nothing about. For more fun with fuel prices, see the AAA's Fuel Gauge Report. Then spend your rebate check on a bicycle.

  Worse and worser: People who know more about these things than I do have looked to Harley-Davidson as a bellwether for the future of the bicycle industry in these interesting times. Alas, the news is not cheery: According to Bloomberg, Harley's first-quarter profit fell 2.5 percent as U.S. sales declined. The Milwaukee-based company also predicted 2008 earnings per share will drop as much as 20 percent as it cuts 360 non-production jobs; temporarily closes plants, affecting 370 union workers; and reduces shipments to dealers. And here's the kicker: Harley's product, like a nifty new bicycle, "is a discretionary item," says Richard DeKaser, chief economist at National City Corp. in Cleveland. Especially if you already have a couple too many in the garage.

  Light the fuse and run: That's what we did in high school when we spent our evenings drinking Coors, smoking ditch weed and blowing up mailboxes with M-80s. Seems The Decider never graduated from that teen-age phase; Foreign Affairs proposes that any short-term gains from the so-called surge are coming at the expense of the long-term goal of a stable, unitary Iraq. Only difference is, Dubya's getting more boom and leaving a bigger mess for someone else to clean up. Oh, yeah: And we never killed anybody. Thanks and a tip of the Mad Dog tin pot to Cursor.org.

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'Who the fuck cares?'

  Joe Bageant, author of "Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War," weighs in on Bittergate. Meanwhile, Steve Benen chronicles Mr. Strait Jacket's ability to take principled, immutable stands on both sides of any issue as Mia Sopiapilla does her impression of the flipflopping flim-flammer.

  Meanwhile, in unrelated news, somebody may or may not be working on a "Wallace-and-Gromit"-style "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" movie, loosely based on the story from FFFB No. 5. Groover McTuber, Dealer McDope, Country Cowfreak and the rest of you Gilbert Sheldon fans can see a YouTube clip here. Norbert the Narc need not apply.

  Late update: Judas Priest, it's snowing again. Must be April. Flowers today, flurries tomorrow.

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Not drinking the McKool-Aid

  Michael Cooper must've gotten kicked off the Straight Talk Express, because he's calling John McInsane on some of his more obvious bullshit over at The New York Times. The foundation of Mr. Strait Jacket's "economic policies?" Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. Here's Cooper:

Mr. McCain, who made no mention of his previous pledge to balance the budget by the end of his first term, outlined a long list of tax cuts he favored in the speech, which was delivered on the deadline for filing taxes. He called once again for making the Bush tax cuts, which he voted against, permanent, and for cutting corporate taxes, phasing out the alternative minimum tax and doubling the value of exemptions for each dependent to $7,000 from $3,500.

One of Mr. McCain's tax proposals would take effect even before the Republican Convention: He called on Congress to suspend the 18.4 cent a gallon federal gas tax from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Mr. McCain said that doing so would provide "an immediate economic stimulus," but some environmentalists said that the change might encourage more people to use their cars, while Mr. McCain has made combating global warming central to his campaign.

An analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal think tank, estimated that the overall cost of Mr. McCain's tax cuts would be three times as much as the $100 billion he estimates that he can save.

  Italics mine. Let's see, how would I stimulate the economy using what I'd save — about $2.58 per tankful — by being spared the federal gas tax? Four fillups would equal a bottle of Domaine de la Petite Cassagne 2004. But since I only gas up about once every three weeks, it'll be three months between purchases. A wino like me could get the DTs that way. And then maybe this economic-stimulus plan would start sounding sensible.

  Meanwhile, as The Associated Press reminds us, his gas-tax holiday is likely to face strong opposition "not only from Congress but the states. The federal gasoline tax helps pay for highway projects in nearly every town through a dedicated trust fund. In the past, such proposals for gas tax holidays have not fared well as lawmakers and state and local officials prefer not to see changes in their revenue source."

  Guess Mr. Strait Jacket wasn't kidding when he told The Wall Street Journal editorial board that he didn't "really understand economics."

  In other news: GOP Senate candidate Bob "Sweatshops Rock!" Schaffer, still a tool.

  Extra-credit reading: One of my neighbors, Marv', has been a professional musician since he was a teen-ager in Chicago; he's 80-something now and still a hell of a picker, with a couple/too-many bands and a side gig bringing a little music to hospice patients. When he's not playing, building guitars or helping a Manitou pal with an endless home-improvement project, he also writes a bit, and I'm going to start posting some of his recollections here. This first story is called "The Song."

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A bright, bright sunshiny day

  Oh yeah. This is what I'm talkin' about. Seventy-one delectable degrees. Even warmer tomorrow, but with wind, dammit. I celebrated with a ride to the North Gate of the Air Force Academy and back. Sure beats the hell out of watching Billary and McInsane dogpile on Obama for being "elitist." I don't see any blue collars or calluses on any of these jumped-up peckerwoods.

  Ran into Other Bill and Melissa the Missile on Sunday while trying to shoehorn a quick hour ride between shifts in the barrel over at VeloNews.com. We all agreed that we're a tad burly, as Jim Harrison describes himself, and could benefit from more time in the saddle and less on the old barstool. Both of them had been on the dread Sunday road ride to the AFA — Other Bill called it quits at the bridge after getting shelled and chasing back on a couple times, and MtM turned around when the ride hit Pine Drive, which is not for the gravitationally challenged.

  Me, I was just rolling around, per usual. Not good enough any more, judging by the size of the shadow I cast. Maybe it's time to start getting shelled again.

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Dysfunction Junction goes ga-ga for No. 2

  The Dark Lord, Darth Cheney, landed his TIE fighter in Grand Junction just long enough to offload a few thousand shrinking Empire dollars for Bob "What Sweatshops?" Schaffer today. The local lame-o Cox Newspapers bumwad, the Grand Junction Sentinel, provided the traditional scabby-kneed hummer, which was reprinted by the equally feeble Rocky Mountain News. Happily, my informant was on hand and submitted a much more edifying account:

I swear to God, the devil himself. I'm an atheist, but I swear I feel like I actually saw the devil himself. The first thought that went through my mind was, "Keyser Söze — this is what "Verbal" Kint meant when he talked about seeing Keyser Söze." The devil himself. I know it's weird to think of a scene from a movie, but that's what went through my mind.

He had that trademark smirk, you know the one, where his upper lip rises on his left side. He was making a most insincere parade wave from the back seat of his limo. Oddly, the windows had only the factory tint, so I could see him quite clearly. No joking, it was creepy. For the first time in my life I laid eyes on a man I know to be a mass murderer and war criminal. There have only been a handful of human beings in the last hundred years who could be described this way, and in front of me was one of them.

Cheney not only symbolizes, but epitomizes everything I detest and abhor. And there he was, passing in front of me, not six feet away. What do you say when you see evil like that? Well, in keeping with the sort of political discourse that I thought he might be most familiar with (having uttered these same words himself on the floor of the Senate), I yelled at him to FUCK OFF. I also made an accompanying hand gesture.

As Verbal said, "and like that . . . he was gone."

There were about 50 local protesters, not bad for a Friday morning in right-wing Dysfunction Junction. Nonetheless, when it came time for Dick to leave they hustled him away via another route, thereby avoiding the 15 or so of us who had stayed around. Pretty sad when the vice president of the United States chooses a route to avoid 15 lonely dissenters. But that's Dick for you.

There was a retired Army soldier who showed up impeccably dressed in his fatigues while holding an American flag. He said he was there to support his vice president. He showed up 15 minutes after his vice president had already gone by. I couldn't help but notice the irony: he was supporting his vice president with much the same competency that the vice president was supporting the rest of the troops. I didn't want the guy to feel bad, so I thanked him for his service to his country. Being from a military family, I support the troops, even if Dick Cheney just sees them as a means to a fortune in defense contracts.

  The Dick's nominal superior, Gen. George Armstrong Bush, Lone Star Air Force (ret.), will visit Bibleburg in May to address the 2008 graduating class at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He will be a lot harder to flip the bird to. Blind to irony as usual, the Gazette notes that in his last address to AFA graduates, in 2004, Numbnuts said:

"Like other totalitarian movements, the terrorists seek to impose a grim vision in which dissent is crushed, and every man and woman must think and live in colorless conformity. So to the oppressed peoples everywhere, we are offering the great alternative of human liberty."

  During this visit, reports the G:

Those who get tickets to see the 2008 graduation can expect traffic jams as streets are blocked off for the president's motorcade or helicopter flight and tight security at Falcon Stadium. The Secret Service will lock down the stadium, so everyone who plans to attend the ceremony will have to be there hours before it begins.

  There's probably no truth to the rumor that a designated "free-speech zone" will be established in Walsenburg.

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One Dick to rule them all

  One of my many informants reports that the Dark Lord, Darth Cheney, will be headlining a fund-raiser for Repuglicant Senate hopeful Bob Schaffer tomorrow in Grand Junction:

"He's coming out of his undisclosed cave long enough to top the A list at a fund raiser for a some Republican (Bob Schaffer) at the home of some people the local press laughingly call 'not politically active.' Maybe not politically aware, or perhaps just not living, could be the only explanation why anyone would host our war-criminal-in-chief. And you thought Bibleburg was conservative. Anyway, you're invited to the festivities, which will most likely include signs, shouting and the flipping of the occasional bird at some big limo with dark windows."

  Seems like a good fit. Cheney won't be happy until everyone who isn't related to him is either imprisoned, in the Army or dead, and Schaffer thinks the fabled Marianas sweatshops are a great template for creating a national guest-worker program — so much so that he took a junket there with Jack Abramoff. Says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

"They had a great thing going because they were able to slap Made In The USA labels on clothes and other items made in Saipan by female guest workers imported from other parts of East Asia to work in sub-Third World labor conditions. That is, when the guest workers weren't busy getting beaten, raped or coerced into having abortions. Jack's job was to find politicians willing to travel with him on junkets to the Marianas, hang out at the casinos and come back to the states and say how well the labor conditions actually there seemed to be."

  What a swell bunch of guys.

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Gas pains

  Colorado is just a few pennies away from paying a record high price for go-juice, according to The Rocky Mountain News. And there's no relief in sight, thanks to commodity speculators, a weak dollar and the ever-popular supply-v.-demand dynamic — Bloomberg reports that oil has reached a record $112.21 a barrel after the Energy Department reported a decline in U.S. crude supplies.

  The upshot: U.S. consumers are paying a record $3.343 a gallon, 55 cents higher than a year ago, says AAA. Colorado is a smidgen below the national average, and Bibleburg has some of the cheapest gas in the state. I paid $3.15 a gallon for regular unleaded yesterday.

  Meanwhile, truckers have been paying through the snoot and then some for diesel, and they're getting pissed. Barbara Ehrenreich chats a few of 'em up here.

  Man, them there bicycle thingies look better every day, don't they? Unless your name happens to be Greg LeMond, that is. Trek's Cheddarhead-in-Chief, John Burke, slipped the old cheese log to the three-time Tour de France champ yesterday, announcing that Trek would be dropping LeMond Bicycles from its line and going to court to croak their 13-year licensing agreement.

  Seems LeMond aired out his tonsils one too many times on the subject of doping in cycling (and who might be involved), and it came back to bite him in the wallet pocket. I have nothing but sympathy for the guy, as I've occasionally paid the price for being overly fond of the sound of my own voice.

  The chamois-sniffers who think bike racing began and ended with Lance Armstrong are out in force, deriding LeMond as a whiner, glory hound, what have you. These pootbutts need to get laid. If they paid more attention to the news pages and less to the sports section we'd all be better off, regardless of who wins the Tour, or how.

  Speaking of the news pages, San Francisco is continuing its fine tradition of acting the fool, this time playing hide-and-seek with the Olympic torch. There's probably no truth to the rumor that the torch wound up in Darth Cheney's fabled undisclosed location, where he used it to light his noxious farts for the entertainment of the Chimp-in-Chief.

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Two-way Tejon

  My old buddy Rusty Mitchell used to call Bibleburg "a cemetery with lights." Occasionally, when she was in a more charitable mood (as in, after a couple of libations), her verdict was "suburb without a city."

  Thirty years later, things haven't changed much. There are a few more acceptable eateries, a pub or two worth patronizing, even a Whole Foods. But the town elders are still trying to figure out how to "revitalize" the moribund downtown that their predecessors wiped their fat asses with during the urban-renewal craze that was sweeping the nation like a particularly retarded dance.

  The 21st-century solution? Two-way traffic on Tejon between Bijou Street and Vermijo Avenue, which hasn't seen same since I was a 17-year-old stoner with a full head and then some of hair. In a piece of puffery typical of the local fish-wrapper, local businessman Chuck Murphy professes himself to be "delighted":

"It's been a long time coming," Murphy told the Gazette. "This will be a real boon for downtown."

  Murphy, whose business was not described, did not elaborate on his reasoning. Nor did the Downtown Partnership, in arguing that while the conversion will raise traffic volume from 7,500 vehicles daily to 11,000, it will simultaneously encourage people to park those cars at nearby city parking garages and stroll the downtown streets.

  Uh huh.

  If Bibleburgers were inclined to use city parking garages and their own flabby legs for locomotion, they would already be doing so. During the daylight hours, the city's parking garages draw a smaller crowd than a Marilyn Manson concert in Vatican City, because downtown offers very little in the way of consumer goods that any sane person with a high-speed internet connection would want to buy. Come nightfall, anyone strolling through downtown is liable to find himself sucked into a street brawl as our local libertarians discuss whether the right to swing one's fist really stops where the other fella's nose begins, as Oliver Wendell Holmes once proposed.

  Meanwhile, Tejon has been two-way north of Bijou and south of Vermijo all along. Whether this has had anything to do with whether those sectors have been filled with the entrepreneurial spirit never comes up for discussion. I have friends doing business on the north and south ends of this apparently crucial retail arterial, and neither has ever expressed a preference for one- or two-way traffic. What they yearn for, running a bike shop and a running store, is more customers who are interested in fitness, which starts with getting out of the fucking car. Whether a near-doubling of auto traffic will bolster their bottom lines remains, as they say on TV, to be seen.

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Leaving on a jet plane

  Sure, it's a John Denver song, but it took Peter, Paul and Mary to make it worth listening to. Anyway, Herself is off again, this time via pressurized aluminum tube to the Left Coast for some welcome downtime with an old pal from our days in Fanta Se.

  My idea of a good time is not flying anywhere, especially Orange County. It's basically El Paso County, served by the same witless newspaper chain but closer to the Pacific. I visit Southern California only when paid to, and Bicycle Retailer & Industry News hasn't needed me out there badly enough in the past couple years to cough up any shrinking Yankee dollars for the privilege. Nevertheless, each to his (or her) own.

  Elsewhere in Southern California, Moses finally made it to the Promised Land via Beverly Hills — Charlton Heston is dead at 84. I didn't care for the politics he came to embrace, but I sure had a good time watching his movies, even the ones that sucked. I was just thinking about one of the non-sucky ones the other day. I don't remember when or where I saw "El Cid" (I was 7 when it came out), but I wonder whether El Busho watches it weekly, imagining himself as the Man On Horseback, protecting honky Christendom from the ravaging Moor. If so, he's in good company — Wikipedia says Martin Scorsese considers it "one of the greatest epic films ever made."

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Dreams unrealized

  Among time's many casualties lies optimism. Forty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, and Robert F. Kennedy — who himself would be gunned down just two months later — spoke of King's legacy and his own hopes for the future before an audience in Indianapolis.

  What would they think of this country four decades later? God only knows. But can you imagine one of today's presidential aspirants naming Aeschylus his favorite poet? The current occupant of the Oval Office couldn't even spell it. McCain seems more influenced by Rome than Greece. Clinton prefers channeling Sylvester Stallone. And Obama's off bowling somewhere. He who learns must suffer indeed.

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Cat house

  Herself is out and about, doing a job of work off-site, and I'm home alone with the cats for a few days. This is not always a bad thing, as I get to reorder the carefully structured domestic routine into a sloppy bachelor-style chaos. I can have breakfast for dinner — for example, last night was eggs, a chicken-pepper-potato hash and Mirror Pond Pale Ale, though for breakfast breakfast I usually skip the beer course. And I can sleep past 7 a.m., if the cats let me, which this morning they did not. Mia Sopaipilla decided it would be amusing to leap onto a sleeping Turkish about 4:30 a.m., the Turk disagreed, and in short order all three of us were up and headed for the basement. Only two of us stayed there.

  Turk and Mia are taking some getting used to as sleeping companions. The late, lamented Chairman Meow had a strict bedtime regimen — she would spend a few minutes in the sack with us as we read, and then abruptly leap from the bed and head downstairs to her own bunk. But Turk and Mia will hang out all night if you let them, each cuddled up to a different side of you. Roll over in one direction or another and you trigger a few active moments of feline relocation, grooming and occasionally, ambush. Mia is not above deciding to sleep on your head. Turk prefers to stretch out alongside you like a furry tube of traction sand.

  And, of course, "all night" means one thing to a human and quite another to a cat, which has no objection to getting up and at 'em around 3 or 4, having spent much of the workday napping while you were busy paying the mortgage with the sweat of your brow. This is why I keep the pistol in a drawer instead of atop the nightstand.

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And now, here's Patrick O'Grady with the weather

  The meteorological roller-coaster that is April in the Colorado Rockies continues today, with a high in the mid-50s, followed by rain, snow, window-rattling winds, plagues of toads, hailstorms of bloody stones and the rise of the Undead. Oh, Lord. I hate April.

  I couldn't bear another run in the cheek-blistering wind yesterday, so Herself and I went to the Y to move some weight around. Not a lot of the old eye-candy at the Y on a Tuesday afternoon, I can tell you with authority. And somebody was in dire need of a brisk foot-washing (not me).

  In other, more significant news, the infamous torture-supporting memo written by John "Intense Pain or Suffering" Yoo has been declassified. Bottom line, wrote Yoo, the president can do whatever he likes, and fuck anyone who says otherwise. Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School and the Washington College of Law at American University, begs to differ: "This is a monument to executive supremacy and the imperial presidency," he told The New York Times.

  These days Yoo pours his bullshit into the skulls of law students at the University of California-Berkeley instead of onto the desk of the president of the United States. Perhaps for extra credit a few of them could suspend the learned professor over a slow fire — say, by a strand of piano wire looped around his withered nutsack — and poke him with sharp sticks until he recants his antidemocratic notions.

  Late update: Who's working the copy desk at The New York Times these days? Judas Priest. Some numbnuts Newspaper Guild hack let Sheryl Gay Stolberg get away with writing, "The first hint that President Bush might be detached from the nation's economic woes was in February, when he conceded that he had not heard about predictions of $4-a-gallon gasoline." When has this guy — or the rest of his family, for that matter? — been attached to much of anything beyond the Bushes' own narrow self-interest? But never fear: Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson is on the job while the Cowboy-in-Chief rockets around Europe, pissing on various wingtips and trying to shoehorn Wattalottaland into NATO while the rest of us plead with Jesus to forget about the wine and change the water to gasoline. Says John Feehery, a "Republican strategist" who'd probably like to buy this quote back with interest: "Paulson is doing a pretty good job of looking like he's doing something." If only we could say the same of his boss.

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  Ladies and gentlemen, the April Fool.

  While we're on the topic of 'tards, clap your peepers on this tale of a gent who was bucketing along in his Ford Exploder about 2:15 this morning, sans seat belt, when he rolled it, was ejected and subsequently run over by at least three cars, one of which also rolled and crashed. Quoth the Rocky Mountain News: "None of the other cars stopped, but one driver called to report rocks on the road." Another nominee for the Darwin Awards.

  Meanwhile, here's a new piece of Videocy for you — Mia Sopaipilla getting all medieval on me from my own office chair. I had planned to use the Canon SD600 on this one, but wound up shooting it with the Flip Ultra 'cause I'd forgotten to clear the SD card on the Canon. Duh. There are some muddy bits in the compressed QuickTime video, and I'm not certain whether the fault lies with the Flip, iMovie HD or me. But I suspect the latter.

  Late update: Aha, eureka, comes the dawn, etc. As I expected, I am a vidiot. You can tweak the export settings in iMovie HD to come up with a slightly larger, vastly improved bit of video. Thus, now you can catch the hi-def version of Mia's escapades at the Videocy page. I've even enabled auto-play, so all you have to do is sit back, gobble the popcorn and enjoy.

  Even later update: Here's a sad story from The New York Times about a place I used to call home — Española, New Mexico, which long has been the junkie capital of the universe. I lived there when I first went to work at The New Mexican in Santa Fe, and only rarely was I made to feel as though I didn't belong.

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