Well, It's Definitely Not Disney World

"'Run!' Mr. Santiago shouted, frantically directing us toward a concrete bridge at the bottom of the sloping road. 'Shut off that light, they're coming. Fast, fast. Damn it, shut off that light!'"

"Poncho shooed us into a thicket of bush. We'd nearly been discovered by the Border Patrol. We hid as men with flashlights roamed the field in front of us, taunting us in Spanish and accented English."

Just an account of an immigrant's arduous journey across the U.S.- Mexico border? Nope. It's the latest in the tourism industry. In the Hñahñu Indian's Parque EcoAlberto, a communally owned eco-park in Mexico, women, men and children can embark on a make-believe trek across the Rio Grande River, a journey many real immigrants make everyday. Kind of makes you scratch your head, right? But like the New York Times reports in this article, it's not the first time that groups have tried to raise awareness through "reality tourism." (I just made that up, but it works, right?)

Over 3,000 tourists, mostly Mexicans, have paid $18 to set out across the Rio Grande in groups with guides from Parque EcoAlberto. One of the guides says, "They learn to value the liberty they have in their own countries, that they don't have to run and be chased in their own lives." 800,000 Mexicans cross the U.S.-Mexico border every year. I guess this is one way for them to know what their fellow citizens have endured.

Shots Exchanged on Israel-Lebanon Border

The BBC reports that Israeli troops searching for explosives over the Lebanese border (as they have continued to do since the August ceasefire) came under fire on Monday. The troops returned fire, but no casualties were reported. Lebanon remains a hotspot, with "domestic" problems (as much as anything is truly domestic in Lebanon, which serves as a tug-of-war rope for its neighbors) and continued friction with Israel. If you haven't read Mother Jones' article on the summer conflict and its after-effects, better catch up before the next battle breaks out!

Bush DOJ Has Orders to Sic Dems

Not only has the Bush administration been purging out-of-favor U.S. attorneys across the nation, it has also been using its DOJ to investigate Democrats far more frequently than Republicans, according to TPMmuckraker. From 2001 to 2006, when Democrats made up just half of all elected officials (local and national) in the country, 79 percent of the DOJ's investigations targeted Dems. The data comes from a study by two retired professors, Dr. Donald C. Shields of University of Missouri-St. Louis and Dr. John F. Cragan of Illinois State University. "The chance of such a heavy Democratic-Republican imbalance occurring at random is 1 in 10,000," reported the study's authors.

Mark Foley had e-sex with underage pages for years. Blame alcohol!

Mel Gibson went on a crazy misogynistic and anti-Semitic tirade when pulled over for drunk driving. Seek alcohol treatment, and some counseling from Jews!

Isaiah Washington of "Grey's Anatomy" called his co-star T.R. Knight a "faggot." Seek therapy!

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom banged his campaign manager's wife. Blame alcohol!

It's obvious, Joe. You have an alcohol problem. Seek therapy!

The President's $2.9 trillion budget includes nearly $500 million to fund a nuclear waste dump and $400 million fewer dollars for our poor (literally) national rail service, Amtrak. Oh, and he plans to sell off $800 million worth of National Forest land. More gory details here.

—Jen Phillips

Baghdad's Missing Billions Rediscovered

CPAcash.gif

After former CPA head Paul Bremer got grilled by Henry Waxman yesterday, the press has rediscovered the story of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money that went missing during the heady days after the fall of Baghdad. In particular, it's glommed onto the nifty fact that the U.S. government shipped 363 tons of Benjamins (and maybe some Ulysseses, too) to Iraq—much of which was spread around like play money. In his defense, Bremer explained, "We were in the middle of a war, working in very difficult conditions, and we had to move quickly to get this Iraqi money working for the Iraqi people." Apparently democracy is a lot easier to export than standard accounting practices.

The revealing tale of the cash airlift isn't new, however—we wrote about it in September 2005. It's good to see it being picked up again, though. And it gives me an excuse to post this great photo of CPA officials giddily posing with $2 million in cash, which was given to the security contractor Custer Battles, which was accused ofdefrauding the government.

Update: Post amended in light of Custer Battles' fraud conviction being overturned later today.

Vote: Best/Worst Senators

There are several reasons to take a look at (and maybe even vote in) this "Best Senator" poll.

First, you can see where your senators rank.

Second, you can actually see what these people look like. (The answer, of course: white, male.)

Third, there's the fact that of the first 49 senators ranked by "integrity, honor, dignity and character" only one is a Republican: Chuck Hagel.

Fourth, there's the fact that of all the Democrats, the only two to not crack the top 50 are Hillary Clinton and Mary Landrieu, of Katrina fame.

Fifth, there's the parade of crooks and crazy men who do better than Joe Lieberman and John McCain, Nos. 98 and 99 respectively.

Spotted on a now outdated Wonkette post.

Oh No! Obama Quitting Smoking!

Word comes from the Chicago Tribune that Barack Obama is… quitting smoking! (Can't resist: "Up Next! Hillary Cuts Her Toenails!")

The real issue is, what happens to Obama's smoking advantage?!? You know, the one that was ridiculously overblown, never actually existed, and was just a product of over-caffeinated political junkies looking for any angle at all to write a counter-intuitive story.

DHS, Dysfunctional as Usual

With news that Dick Cheney's son-in-law is the primary culprit in a Department of Homeland Security effort to block any oversight, I thought I'd point you all to this chart we drew up last year. Follow the link and you'll find that many DHS workers are so unhappy with their jobs, they'd probably rather be working fast-food.

I Hope the Articulate Bill O'Reilly Reads This

Bill O'Reilly and Glen Beck are still covering the Biden/Obama/"articulate" flap that I think a lot of people -- including me -- wish would just go away. O'Reilly and Beck are highlighting it because they feel the whole situation illustrates the plight of beleaguered white people who can't have black friends (honest, this is their argument) because they are afraid they might slip up and say something, maybe even a compliment, that unbeknownst to them is insulting to the black person in the room. The subtext here, of course, is this: "Well, gosh, us white people just try to say nice things about black people, and sometimes black people get all worked up, and we just don't know why, and man, white people just can't get a break."

Look. Just don't be stupid. Is that really so hard? Here's what the New York Times wrote about the issue: "When whites use the word [articulate] in reference to blacks, it often carries a subtext of amazement, even bewilderment." Okay, yes, exactly. Barack Obama is a man of many talents, who has accomplished more in his life than most Americans ever will: If the most you can say about the man is that he doesn't sound like some gang-banger, you're not giving him much of a chance. And you're damning by faint praise. Bill O'Reilly must understand this, and if he doesn't, he would if thought about it for a half-second. As a commenter on this blog wrote in response to one of our previous posts, "When was the last time someone said Chuck Schumer was "articulate"? Or Bill Clinton, or Chuck Hagel? They all are, but people have moved beyond how they talk and onto their other qualities."

The Times continued, "Such a subtext is inherently offensive because it suggests that the recipient of the 'compliment' is notably different from other black people." Again, this should be obvious. If you are amazed that one black man doesn't sounds like a gang-banger, you're letting your assumptions show: You assume that all black men speak Ebonics (or, as I suspect Glen Beck would call it, "jive"). Anyone who doesn't is the "exceptional Negro." (Link again goes to the NYT article, which is well worth reading.)

Allow me to requote a passage I quoted earlier from the Chicago Tribune:

Well-spoken black people hate it when white people call them "articulate." It's the modern-day version of what white people used to say back in the day when they thought that by saying "He's a credit to his race" they were saying something that a black person would welcome hearing.
Those dated words, like Biden's comments, were patronizing at the very least. And they also appeared to carry some pretty negative assumptions about the majority of the race.

The smart, accomplished, and successful Bill O'Reilly is bright enough to understand this, and I suspect he's just playing a dumb-like-a-fox routine. But if he keeps pretending like he's an idiot, I'm going to run out of adjectives to use when blogging about him. I guess the only thing that would left would be...