Thursday, June 30, 2005

Remember Us?

While we've been concentrating on the braintrust's flypaper theory in play in Iraq, we get blindsided by that other country we've had troops bogged down in.

The remains of 16 American troops have been recovered in eastern Afghanistan, where a military helicopter crashed after coming under hostile fire this week, the Pentagon said today.

The military originally said 17 service members were onboard the American Chinook helicopter. But Lt. Gen. James Conway, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a Washington press conference that the death toll had been revised down, saying no other troops were lost "that we're aware of."


In the latest case, the helicopter crashed in the mountains near Asadabad and slipped into a deep ravine after it was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades as it approached a landing area, the military said. A second U.S. aircraft flying near the helicopter reported the hostile fire.

Conway described the rocket-propelled grenade hit as a "pretty lucky shot" against a moving helicopter. He said he has seen no other signs of attackers using more sophisticated weapons.

I suppose that last part might seem slightly reassuring (presuming it wasn't your son on that Chinook), were it not for the growing frequency of reports of a growing Taliban resurgency. Note that well, because the idea was that the fabled Northern Alliance warlords we left the country to were supposed to squash the remaining Taliban cockroaches for us.

But there's that old saying, probably circulated by Kipling or some such, that you can't buy an Afghan, you can only rent him for a while.

Violence has increased sharply in recent months. A resurgent Taliban movement is mounting daily attacks in southern Afghanistan, gangs are kidnapping foreigners here in the capital, and radical Islamists are orchestrating violent demonstrations against the government and foreign- financed organizations.


The steady stream of violence has dealt a new blow to this still traumatized nation of 25 million. In dozens of interviews conducted in recent weeks around the country, Afghans voiced concern that the situation is not improving and that the Taliban and other dangerous elements are gaining strength.

They also expressed increased dissatisfaction with their own government and the way the U.S. military is conducting its operations, and they said they are suspicious of the Americans' long-term intentions.

"Three years on, the people are still hoping that things are going to work out, but they have become suspicious about why the Americans came and why the Americans are treating the local people badly," said Jandad Spinghar, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Nangarhar province in the east, just across the Khyber Pass from Pakistan.

Poverty, joblessness, frustrated expectations and the culture of 25 years of war make for a volatile mix in which U.S. military raids, shootings and detention of Afghans can inflame public opinion, many people said.


The Taliban's spring offensive has jolted both the U.S. military and the Karzai government, which had been saying that the Taliban were largely defeated and that Afghanistan was consolidating behind its first elected national leader.

"We were wrong," a senior Afghan government official acknowledged, saying of the Taliban, "It seems they were spending the time preparing."


While the government blames the Taliban -- and its Pakistani and al Qaeda backers -- for the violence, ordinary Afghans blame the American military for drawing militant Islamic fighters to the country and then failing to control them.

You know, maybe -- it's a crazy thought, I know, but hear me out -- maybe if we had truly finished the job in Afghanistan before diverting money to get ready for the so-called low-hanging fruit, the proverbial easy money, we might be getting somewhere.

Instead, we're stuck in two countries dealing with two different culture clashes, two different insurgencies, two different ways of being stuck -- and both were preventable! That's what's so galling; it didn't have to happen this way. A patient hand would have spent that money on Afghan self-defense and infrastructure, rather than getting a forward-deployment base ready in Qatar. A supposed MBA like Bush should have known that roads mean trade, and trade means self-sufficiency and pulling oneself up from the ravages of war.

We had a real opportunity to help the Afghan people, to build a true shining example for the rest of Islam to observe and evaluate on their own terms, to see that we're the good guys. And we pissed it away on the neocon folly.

If you performed like this at your job, you'd be fuckin' fired. What the hell does it take to get rid of all these incompetent disassemblers on our payroll?


As a lifelong Oakland Raiders fan, you'd think I'd know better by now, but then they go and surprise me once again, and not in a good way.

With all the contract squabbles continuing, are the Eagles about to give [Terrell Owens] the heave-ho?

There are reports a trade is in the works with the Oakland Raiders. Owens would go to Oakland for wide receiver Jerry Porter.

T.O. may be trade bait because he wants the Eagles to give him more money.

Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ. Does Al Davis just sit around and huff glue and snort crank all fucking day? Is he fucking insane? Maybe he just figures that the more malcontent assholes on one team, the better. And just when Randy Moss was looking like the free-agent steal of the season, because he's been behaving himself thus far.

This all goes back to my infamous "football as cultural metaphor" post, which to this day has gotten as much response as anything I've ever written (and I'm as proud of it as anything I've ever written). If the Raiders think that larding their roster with prima donnas is going to magically pull them out of their post-Super Bowl 37 death spiral, they're hallucinating. Owens complained after getting to his first Super Bowl . He's a very good wide receiver; trouble is, he knows it. Not to mention that the Raiders are already plenty deep at WR; what they really need is a pass-rushing sack monster, and a better run-stopper at defensive line.

I'm still thinking this is just some bullshit rumor, it's gotta be -- Porter just got signed to a fat new contract, a contract which wouldn't be nearly what Owens is expecting. Porter also probably has another ten or so productive years ahead of him, where Owens will be lucky to have five.

The Raiders really don't need Owens; either their defense steps up this year, or they go 5-11 once again. They had to mangle the salary cap and beg Kerry Collins to restructure his salary just to make it all happen as it is. I can't imagine someone like Owens deferring compensation for a team with only a middling shot at the playoffs this year, much less a Super Bowl berth.

Then again, this is the team that traded Ken Stabler for Dan Pastorini, so anything's possible.

Update, July 2: swears on a stack of jockstraps that "[t]his trade is positively not happening."

Second-best news I've heard this weekend, next to the distinct possibility of the upcoming frog-marching of Herr Turd Blossom, the architect of this whole rotten tumor of an administration.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Poll Smoker

Via Kos is a detailed state-by-state poll tabulating the rising and (mostly) falling fortunes of the preznit and his, um, "policies".

Make of it what you will; I think it bespeaks a very serious failure to communicate between the coastal states and the midwestern states. I find it utterly bizarre that not only is Bush's approval rating 60% in Nebraska, but it went up 2% since last month. I cannot recall the last time any of my conservative friends were able to say what they liked about this administration, without contrasting it (falsely or not) with unnamed "Democrats" and/or "liberals". Some endorsement.

I'm banking that that's the case here with Utah and Alabama and the rest of them; for the life of them they can't say what they like about Bush, but rather compare him favorably with whatever Rush and Sean told them about Dick Durbin.

Feh. Very well then, as long as they're okey-doke when their kids get dragooned into Himself's master plan, which he won't tell us because it's just too super-special.

In the meantime, as high as the highs are (and they are high indeed -- they must be), the lows are far lower. 37% in Schwarzenegger's California -- where Ahnold himself is about to get his ass kicked out the door; 33% in New York; 32% in Vermont. Two out of three Vermonters disapprove of these guys.

Too bad it's too late; they already had their accountability moment. All we can do now is countdown to chimpeachment, and tally up all the last throes, as a resurgent Taliban suddenly start bringing Afghanistan back into the mix, while we're spread thin in Al Anbar.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Scheme Is Not A Plan

Via Atrios, we see that the Brush Clearer In Chief once had different thoughts about the importance of wartime timetables and exit strategies:

In 1999, George W. Bush criticized President Clinton for not setting a timetable for exiting Kosovo, and yet he refuses to apply the same standard to his war.

George W. Bush, 4/9/99:

“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”

And on the specific need for a timetable, here’s what Bush said then and what he says now:

George W. Bush, 6/5/99

“I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.”

[ed. note: article originally ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on 6/5/99]

Of course, that was back when he was trying to burnish his Serious Thinker credentials, and everyone was laughing off the notion of this schmuck even thinking that he had a shot. Consistency has never been Chimpy's strong suit, since it doesn't come with a nifty codpiece and ready-made banner.

As for tonight's desperate cling to fast-decaying shreds of credibility, all I can say is that I hope he's made his peace with whatever god he thinks he believes in. He's running very close to 40-60 approval ratios these days, and since he'll never just go before a crowd of actual reg'lar folks, he once again uses troops as a prop for his meandering nonsense and stubbed-toe oratory. Classy, as always.

I'm sure there were plenty of impromptu drinking games out there (take a drink every time he says "freedom" or "terror", and finish off your entire drink every time he makes up a word or mangles its usage), and I hope everyone got sloshed.

[Thanks to Think Progress commenter pbg for inspiring the post title, dropping some Leonard Cohen there. Nice touch.]

Monday, June 27, 2005

Operation Kevlar Turban™: Meet The New Boss

The Iranian election runoff has resulted in a landslide victory for conservative hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Interior Ministry gave Ahmadinejad 61.8% of the vote over his moderate rival, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was the favourite but garnered just 35.7% support. The ministry declared Ahmadinejad the winner.

Just as the objective reality of Lebanon's recent "cedar revolution" is Hezbollah capturing a significant number of parliamentary seats, just as Egypt holding elections really just means finding a politically astute method for Hosni Mubarak to pass the reins of power over to his son, so too has much of this talk of a westernized Iran been just that -- talk. The people have spoken, and it appears that they mean it.

Maybe they really do enjoy having satellite dishes and watching Leo DiCaprio, but this should not be mistaken any longer for culture envy. They are enjoying western gadgets on their own terms, and we keep misinterpreting this as some sort of collective yearning for the sappy, brainless decadence of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. We keep assuming that Iran is split fairly equally between orthodox Islamists and liberalized youth, a 50-50 split obviated by the mullahs' iron fist.

61.8% to 35.7% -- unless the whole thing was completely fixed from top to bottom, there's no mistaking the message of this outcome. They may like TVs and blue jeans, but they clearly resent our threats and meddling, and our clumsy little Axis Of Evil® references.

Iran is not the popsicle stand Iraq was once thought to be, but since most Americans for starters automatically assume that Iranians are Arab, good luck trying to communicate to them just how dangerous this could get in a hurry. Iran could very easily play Russia, China, and even Saudi Arabia off against us, all while they continue to meddle in postwar Iraq's attempt to get back on its feet and get a constitution written.

Had we left things alone, continued the policy of containment on Saddam and used a combination of carrot and stick on the mullahs, and played Russia and China against both of them more effectively, we could very well have gotten both Saddam and the Iranian mullahs toppled from within by now, and all without doing what we've been doing.

Yes, we also might be right where we were in the summer of 2002. I submit that as untenable as that may have seemed at the time, as far as a long-range policy was concerned, it's a damn sight better than being caught with your pants down, and having the entire world see just how ineffective you've been in taking care of the so-called low-hanging fruit.

The whole region has its collective back up now, not a one of them appears terribly infatuated with the idea of a genuine democracy, and more likely they'll continue to go the route of theocratic dictatorships. Hell, we can't even lean on the Saudis to democratize anymore, lest they decide they'd rather be swing producer for the cash-flush Chinese instead of us.

Not that you want Saudi Arabia to be a democracy anyway, you really don't. The Sauds are the liberals in that country, something which just never seems to get sandwiched in between runaway bride/lost doofus in Utah stories. Bush will never acknowledge that fact, because it directly contravenes all the feel-good democracy claptrap he's been pimping all this time. Sorry if this comes off as cultural arrogance, but societies which treat women as third-class citizens, and which violently enforce even dress codes, are clearly not ready to have real democracy dropped into their laps. I don't like it that way, but that's the way it is.

Look. They gambled, the neocons. They lost. You gotta know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, etc., etc. Doesn't necessarily mean we have to walk away or run, but it does mean we better think long and hard about our next move. Despite the Brush Clearer's bravado about resolute resolve and gumption and moxie and the rest of it, this is not poker. This is chess, and we're playing with the people that invented the game. They're not falling for this "cowboy up" bullshit, so we better have a contingency plan, or get ready to start rationing gas.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Chimpocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury

As the erstwhile party of Lincoln continues to besmirch a once-noble legacy, it's almost downright charming to watch the Democratic leadership press for a retraction -- or even more hilariously, an apology -- from Karl Rove.

Have they not been paying attention these last few years? Should Rove have spoken more slowly, for the Democrats to get the picture? This is prison, and you're the bitch, so either sharpen a toothbrush and look for the carotid artery, or get ready to keep grabbing your ankles.

Pravda's Dan Froomkin gets it, at least.

There are at least two reasons why no one should expect any apologies from Karl Rove or the White House for Rove's controversial comments Tuesday night, in which he described the liberal approach to national security as being weak and possibly even treasonous.

1) This White House doesn't apologize.

2) Why apologize when you said exactly what you meant to say?

Karl Rove didn't get George W. Bush this far just by luck. Rove has a brilliant and so far unbeatable strategy when it comes to political warfare: He doesn't defend his candidate's weaknesses, he attacks his opponent's strengths. Unapologetically.

That's it. There's no real trick to Rove's success, the tactics have been obvious and in-their-face since day one. These guys are sharks, utterly without conscience or scruple, and they have been masterful at reading the Dems' inadequacies and inability (or unwillingness) to play as dirty.

Like I said several months ago, only the Republicans would have the balls to run two draft-dodgers up against a decorated war hero, and attack said hero's documented awards and exploits -- and only the Democrats would let them get away with it.

They'll never apologize. I suppose that the Democrats had to at least go through the motions, but clearly the Republicans' response is somewhere between "suck on it" and "what are you gonna do about it, Nellie?".

That's a good question. What are you gonna do about it, Nellie?

Last Throe Update


Four suicide bomb attacks struck the Iraqi police and an Iraqi Army base in a 16-hour wave of insurgent violence that swept the northern city of Mosul on Saturday night and Sunday morning, leaving at least 37 people dead and scores more wounded.

One U.S. commander said the violence was the latest sign that insurgents in northern Iraq were increasingly focusing coordinated attacks on the growing ranks of Iraqi security forces.

The focus of the insurgency's tactics has shifted, obviously, from American troops to the Iraqi forces. Because the Iraqi forces are considered somewhat unreliable and prone to corruption and desertion in the first place, it can be safely assumed that the insurgents are pushing for all-out civil war, starting with the collapse of civil authority.

The people who are prodding Bush for a timetable are wasting everyone's time. Bush couldn't give a timetable even if he wanted to, because while we'll probably start doing a drop-down in troop levels pretty soon, civil war or no, there will be US forces stationed here for the next generation. Count on it. We didn't build 14 bases there for nothing.

In other throe-related news, it seems that Rumsfeld has some splainin' to do. Not only has he stated the obvious -- that the insurgency can and probably will go on for some years (Rummy says "as long as 12 years"), but that American military officials have been making diplomatic overtures to terrorist groups.

The US government has come under increasing pressure at home over the continuing violence, and yesterday saw Mr Rumsfeld confirm what appeared to be a significant shift in policy, from the aggression of the assault on the former rebel stronghold of Fallujah in November last year, to diplomatic overtures to four terrorist groups.

However, he appeared to suggest little progress had been made when he warned that the insurgency could last for as long as 12 years and one of the militant groups yesterday denied it was involved in the meetings.

According to reports, four American officials "came face to face" with militant commanders from Ansar al-Sunna, which has carried out numerous suicide bombings, and several less well-known groups, such as Mohammed's Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq and Jaish Mohammed, during the talks held on 3 and 13 June at a summer villa near Balad, about 40 miles north of Baghdad.

I sure wish these people could get their story straight just once. If something is in its "last throes", you shouldn't have to negotiate with it, nor should you be openly predicting its survival for more than another decade. But this is par for the course for these liars and fools.

Oil is about to break $60 per barrel. Anyone want to take a shot at what it'll be in 2017? Keep driving those Hummers, folks!

How Did Their Oil Get Under Our Sand?

The proverbial fossil-fuel shoe may be finding its way to the other foot, as China attempts to take over Unocal.

If Unocal Corp. accepts an $18.5 billion takeover by China's CNOOC Ltd. the deal's fate may hinge on how a secretive U.S. review panel defines "national security," experts said on Friday.

"The primary question for this transaction is whether they consider energy security to be a national-security issue," said Michael Wessel, a Democrat and a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Wessel said the Bush administration, so far, had restricted the definition of national security.

State-owned CNOOC's unsolicited bid trumped a roughly $16.4 billion offer from Chevron Corp. and coincides with record oil prices, unease over China's $160 billion trade surplus with the United States and concerns about its growing military might.

Of course, this is no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention; indeed, some of our best and brightest have been wargaming some pretty scary energy scenarios.

When the exercise's planners first met last year, oil was in the $40-a-barrel range. As they fantasized where oil prices would be for the war game's start in an imagined late 2005, they said, they set them at $58 but worried they were being absurdly pessimistic. Yesterday, the closing price for a barrel of oil was $59.42.

The war game players also referred several times to other real-life events of today. A major feature of the exercise was how China's voracious appetite for oil is driving up world prices, and only yesterday it was announced the Beijing government, in a bold and unprecedented act, is bidding to buy the U.S. oil company Unocal.

Consider the financial and geopolitical ramifications of all this. Right now, we are essentially borrowing money from China so that we can buy more shit from them. What did we think they were going to do with the huge influx of capital? A whole new class of Chinese citizens is on the rise, looking across the Pacific at us and our conspicuous-consumption lifestyle. Naturally, they want some of that, starting with cars.

So they're buying lots of cars from us (or having us help them manufacture them), and the Chinese government has been proactive in securing access to oil deposits around the world. Unocal provides East Asia with most of its oil already anyway, so such an acquisition probably wouldn't affect US oil supply in the near term. But defining "near term" is even less of an exact science than it was just a year or two ago.

The balance between oil supply, demand, and current production and refinement capacity is, to say the least, precarious. We should have started an Apollo-style great project years ago to offset such an occurrence, and John Kerry made mention of it early on in his presidential run, before he suddenly became politically viable in the wake of Howard Dean's so-called Iowa implosion. At that point, Kerry could no longer be bothered with saying what he actually thought, and was forced to tack to the right, mewling and sputtering all the way, since that is what ill-informed and reflexively dyspeptic NASCAR dads needed in order to affirm their own place in the scheme of things.

Of course, there is the breed of alternative-energy fantasist which assumes that we can wean ourselves entirely off the oil teat. This is not true. We can and must take several important steps toward doing so, but it will take more than just stepping up investment in photovoltaic technology and such. Centralized mega-agriculture relies most heavily on the oil economy, particularly in terms of transporting food all over the country. Localizing and regionalizing agricultural production and distribution would help immensely, of course, but how likely is that to happen?

Also, Americans would have to completely rethink their leisurely relationship with the automobile, the romanticized vision they have of themselves and their vehicles. It all starts with the biggest, most wasteful SUVs, but really all cars and trucks across the board are simply going to have to be more sensibly used.

It's nice that Priuses and hybrids are flying out of showrooms as fast as they can be manufactured, but unless it's in conjunction with the Hummer/Excursion idiots taking even small steps to re-examine their transportation needs (as opposed to wants) and mitigating the horrendous externalities their gas-guzzling turds inflict on everyone else, hybrids are just a stopgap. The first step in sensible resource management, before even researching alternative technologies and renewable sources, is to confront the consumption paradigm.

So now we begin a rather dangerous chapter in the Great Game played by great powers, that of dodging each others' attempts at encirclement. Militarily, we have the upper hand on China right now, especially in terms of deep-water fleets, which China inexplicably has very little of.

Financially, though, they've got us by the short hairs, and even a slight tug could send our precarious consumer economy reeling. Furthermore, we are put in the rather hypocritical position of countering our own long-standing globalization gospel. The globo high priests are suddenly finding themselves on the road to Damascus, because China has found an advantageous use of the rules we imposed on the rest of the world.

SF Chronicle economics columnist Alan Saracevic gets it, and riffs volubly on the subject:

For years, American business told us that shipping jobs overseas is a good thing. Even if you lose your job, don't sweat it. The stuff down at Wal- Mart will be a lot cheaper. Never mind that you have no money or health care, think about how cheap those flip-flops from Asia are.

Of course, it made absolutely no sense all along. If we have no jobs, how are we supposed to maintain a robust consumer class? How come we're not sending any executive jobs to India? How come you're getting richer and I'm getting poorer?


The great, great irony here, as my colleague Sam Zuckerman pointed out many times this week, is that all this economic muscle in China is a direct result of our trade policy. Simply put, the money we spend at Wal-Mart on those cheap flip-flops goes back to China. They need to recycle those dollars into investments.

While they've been happy investing that money in U.S. Treasury notes for years, it looks like 4 percent returns aren't going to cut it any more. They wanna be real capitalists, in the allegedly real markets.

But apparently many of our fearless, and clueless, leaders in business and politics are not ready to make globalization a two-way street.

He's exactly right. In our ridiculous electoral efforts to concentrate on the clear and present threat of homosexuals marrying hither and yon, we have allowed these hucksters to pick our pockets, line their own, and sell us all down the river.

We should indeed think twice about selling American oil companies to Chinese state-run interests, but the problem is that we have painted ourselves into a major corner here. We can't afford to piss them off; if they really want Unocal, there's not a hell of a lot we can do about it, not with them pulling the financial strings.

We have made it this far mainly because we have heretofore held the rather unique position of being "too big to fail"; that is, the rest of the world knows that if we were to go down, we'd suck most of the rest of them down with them. So they have been helping, but they have also quietly been working toward the time when the level of interdependence is more equalized.

Despite the recent blips in Euro unity, their currency still holds strong, and stands a good chance of overtaking the dollar as the global standard. Latin America is ascendant, both in terms of political unity and as a trade bloc; Africa will eventually get its act together and do likewise. Korea will eventually reunify, once the nauseating Kim regime collapses under its own weight in the North, and Korea will take its place right next to a remilitarizing Japan and a dominant China as a real force in the world economy, since all trends point toward East Asia anyway. If they can't work with us, they'll just continue cultivating the rest of the world as a market.

All the neocon fantasies about democratizing the cultural backwaters that happen to hold the majority of proven oil reserves can't change one simple fact: there is no question as to whether or not we will eventually run out of oil -- the only real question is whether we have the collective will to wean ourselves off it in a relatively painless way now, by examining the modes of consumption, distribution, and access, and taking proactive steps to eliminate the more egregious and stupid forms of waste; or if we're just going to keep dicking around until oil hits $100 per barrel and we're forced to do it on the backs of the people at the bottom of the social ladder.

So far, there's really not much of a question there, either.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Silver Spoons

It seems like a waste of a question, but I guess just the fact that they're asking it says something. The question, of course, being whether any members of George W. Bush's family are or would be serving in the Iraq War or the overall War On Terr. [sic]

McClellan can't even attempt to field a question like this with anything less than his usual evasive weasel-words. I think the question could be even broader -- how many relatives of any of the architects of this screw-up are serving? You'd have known about it by now.

Added bonus: more dogged questioning about Dick Cheney's "last throes" comment. Sweet. This one's gonna hound him to his grave, as well it should. Did they learn nothing from their giant "Mission Accomplished" banner, of the perils of premature triumphalism? Apparently not.

Last Throe Update

As a tribute to the prognostication skills of the very bestest vice president since Spiro Agnew, Hammer Of The Blogs is proud to present a new feature, Last Throe Update. We will keep you apprised of the daily death rattle of the dying Iraqi insurgency.

Friday was surely a day we will look back on as the last gasp, or at least the penultimate hitch of breath, before the long walk into the light.

A suicide car bomber and gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying female U.S. Marines in Fallujah, killing two Marines and leaving another four American troops presumed dead, the military said Friday. At least one woman was killed and 11 of 13 injured were female.

The terror group al-Qaida in Iraq claimed it carried out the bombing, one of the single deadliest attacks against the Marines - and against women - in this country. The high number of female casualties spoke to the lack of any real front lines in Iraq, where U.S. troops are battling a raging insurgency and American women soldiers have taken part in more close-quarters combat than in any previous military conflict.

So Jenna and Barbara Bush are indeed eligible to take a proactive role in Daddy's War. But we'll certainly understand if they decline.

``It's hard to stop suicide bombers, and it's hard to stop these people that in many cases are being smuggled into Iraq from outside Iraq,'' President Bush said at a joint White House news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Thanks, Harvard. As always, don't know how we'd dope out the facts without you to put it into "Dick and Jane" terms for us. Don't forget to remind us that you think about it every single day. Even when you look like you're clearin' brush, you're really thinkin' about all that hard work done by good people. Quite the multitasker, aintcha?

In other violence Friday:

- An Iraqi reporter working for an American news organization was shot and killed in Baghdad by U.S. troops after he apparently did not respond to a shouted signal from a military convoy, witnesses said. The military had no comment.

- Gunmen killed police Lt. Col. Majid Faisl Aziz when he was driving his car near western Baghdad's Amiriyah neighborhood, police Capt. Talib Thamer said. Aziz was a member of the Interior Ministry's major crimes division.

- A Kurdish contractor working for the American military was killed by gunmen in northern Kirkuk.

- In Baghdad, three police officers were killed in separate incidents, two in the Amiriyah district and another in southern Dora, police and hospital officials said.

Like Uncle Dick said, nothin' to see here, folks. Just the storm before the calm. Go back to sleep.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Total Recall

It's bizarre to think that California goobernator Gonad the Bavarian was riding record approval polls a mere six months ago.

Ah, how the mighty fall, when they start believing their own hype just a leetle too much. Perhaps Karl Rove should take heed, or better yet not. The sooner he goes back to molesting collies, or whatever the fuck he did before he inflicted a terminal case of Harvard Yard Retard on this poor self-absorbed country, the sooner we can go back to watching Greg Kihn and Wang Chung try vainly to resurrect imagined lost glories on summer replacement dorkfests.

Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, Herr Gröpenführer. Seems the natives have grown weary of incessant "girlie man" schtick.

Less than a third -- 31 percent -- of the state's adults approve of the job the governor is doing in Sacramento, down from 54 percent in February. The numbers are only slightly better among registered voters, 37 percent of whom are happy with Schwarzenegger's performance and 53 percent dissatisfied.

It's gotten to where the mostly Democratic California State Legislature has such contempt for the guy, and such a lack of fear, they made him take his outdoor cigar-smoking tent down, just to fuck with him.

And now it's budget season, and these guys made Gray Davis' life miserable. Wait and see what they do to the star of such beloved cinematic triumphs as Twins and Junior. Who's the "girlie man" now,schmuck?

Now, if Schwarzenegger really wanted to reform things for the good of the average Californian, I'd support him in spite of his constant cartoonish antics and warmed-over script lines. But he doesn't -- he's been passing around the collection plate in Texas and Florida for this big bucks special election, because he just wants to be seen appearing to be a reformer.

Folks, welcome to the era of meta-governance.

Schwarzenegger's approval rating among registered voters is lower than any number recorded by the Field Poll for governors Ronald Reagan, Jerry Brown and George Deukmejian. He now ranks fourth in unpopularity, behind Democrats Gray Davis and Pat Brown and Republican Pete Wilson.

Yeah, you wait. He won't be able to resist running his mouth at the budget game the legislature pulls on every governor. And people -- other than the mall-zombies he trolls for -- are just tired of that shit, the endless script-laden hyperbole. It's become clear to all but his most blind acolytes that he has no real ideas, this was all just Act I of Arnold's would-be magnum opus.

The governor's numbers haven't sunk to the dismal levels of former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, who was recalled in October 2003 and replaced by Schwarzenegger. Davis's 22 percent approval rating in August 2003 was the lowest ever recorded by a Field Poll, DiCamillo said.

Besides Davis, the only governors to fall below Schwarzenegger's current 37 percent approval were Pete Wilson, at 33 percent in September 1992 and May 1993, and Pat Brown, at 35 percent in October 1961. Despite those low numbers, both won re-election.

"We've seen these type of reversals and downturns before, but almost always because of an external event, like the declining economy for Wilson or the energy crisis for Davis,'' DiCamillo said. "But here, almost nothing has changed. It's almost a self-inflicted thing.''

There's no "almost" about it. It's entirely self-inflicted, and was entirely avoidable. Indeed, he had a starfucking media lapping out of his hand for the first 18 months, scarcely bothering to mention his trips to New York to host $5000-a-plate fundraisers at the home of his buddy "Wood" Johnson, Band-Aid heir and owner of the NY Jets.

But once the novelty wore off, it was only a matter of time before Schwarzenegger's sheer inexperience and off-putting bravado wore thin. It's just happened faster and harder than anyone could have anticipated. Perhaps it's because, aside from the occasional social issue for him to showboat his differences over, Arnold has cast his lot with the increasingly unpopular Bushies.

And he's really stepped on his dick with this special election -- nobody likes the idea, because it's the "answer" to questions that nobody outside his big-business buddies were asking. But he can't back down now, because he loses the remainder of his rapidly evaporating juice. He seems to think it will come down to some big scripted showdown at the election booth in November, mano a mano, and this time it's personal. But a thousand cuts will be inflicted throughout July and possibly August, in the budget process, exposing the inherent weaknesses in his budget plan, which still has yet to make up any of that shortfall that cost Gray Davis his job -- a shortfall, incidentally, that would have been recouped a year ago just by leaving the car tax alone.

I hate paying registration fees too, but I hate seeing all these schools and firehouses across the state closing down even more. But hey, the people spoke, even if they were mostly mumbling drunkenly.

Welcome to your hangover, folks. Vielen Dank, Scheißkopfen!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Where Seldom Is Heard A Discouraging Bobo

Shorter Bobo: War is heck, and to paraphrase a great orator/disassembler, the course should be stayed. Preferably without having to risk any Bobo Junior skin, he of cloven hoof and prognathous jaw.

On the good foot, it appears Bobo is swiping from yours truly, albeit ineptly:

One of the many problems with fighting an insurgency is that it is nearly impossible to know if we are winning or losing. It's like watching a football game with no goal lines and chaotic action all over the field.

My original version was better, and more accurate. Bobo's simile, like most of the intellectual hairballs he hacks up, means nothing -- "a football game with no goal lines and chaotic action all over the field" is not a football game. It may be soccer, or lacrosse, or whatever, but it is no longer a football game.

The real nut of the problem, as I presciently wrote several months back, is that we still think roughly in football terms, as far as appropriate cultural metaphors for war are concerned. But this is not football at all, nor was it ever. There will be no "hail Mary" plays, because there are no plays at all, there are no formations, there are no static points of reference, there is no delineation of field of play. Football is very tightly regimented; this is a free-for-all.

There are cities, and there are the people who live in the cities, and then there are the insurgents that weave throughout that cultural framework. Some use civilians as human shields or forced safe houses; some are the regular citizens' unemployed brothers or cousins who have given up any other hope of regaining a normal foothold on what life they had before Bush and Rumsfeld decided that they were smarter and knew more than the rest of the world.

That's why we're losing traction on this thing, because we keep looking to morons like Bobo to explain shit to us, when he has no clue.

It's just wrong to seek withdrawal now, when the outcome of the war is unknowable and when the consequences of defeat are so vast.

Sadly, he's right about this, but only telling half the story, as usual. For one, he refuses to draw or even mention any sort of hypothetical line where it would no longer be "just wrong to seek withdrawal". At this point, my serious guess would be that if Iraq continues to devolve towards civil war, we're outta there. The alternative would be re-instituting the military draft, and that would seal certain doom for the Republican Party in '06 and '08, and they know it.

So we'll probably do a serious drop-down in troop levels by next spring, secure our 14 new bases and the $1 bn embassy, and call it good, while the Iranian-backed Shia in the south move in and pay back the minority Sunni for several decades of grief under Saddam.

But hey, Bobo's read about George Washington and FDR and shit. So there's that.

Some of you will respond that this is easy for me to say, since I'm not over there. All I'd say is that we live in a democracy, where decisions are made by all. Besides, the vast majority of those serving in Iraq, and their families, said they voted to re-elect President Bush. They seem to want to finish the job.

Well, you can't knock people for having pride in their job and family and country. And even people who oppose the war -- contrary to the propaganda flatulating rhythmically from the sphincter of the Party of Bobo -- want to do right by the troops, to make sure that lives were not wasted, not given in vain.

But to paraphrase a smart guy, how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake (or a lie, take your pick)? Even a Bobo oughta know when to say when.

I wish I had the answers; I wish I could unveil some big obvious master plan that somehow magically escaped the attention of the rest of the world. But I do know that what we're doing hasn't been working, isn't working, and I'll be damned if the people who were entrusted with having the master plan seem to have any clue what they're doing. They seem perplexed by anything more complicated than catapulting the propaganda, and that's something that Bobo, in all his faux evenhandedness, seems only too glad to studiously ignore.

Would we cheat all those purple fingers by cutting and running? Yes. Are we doing them some sort of huge favor cordoning them off in their towns with razor wire, to sit in 130º desert heat with 8 hours of electricity a day and no jobs, for an indefinite period of time? Not really.

So the first thing to do is to shatter the rickety false dichotomy treehouse that Bobo and his pocket-protector ilk have erected in their intellectual backyard. There is more to choose from than "stay" or "go", just as there was always more to choose from than "invade right now". I don't know if Bobo is just willfully stupid, or just blinded by the swinging ball-sacks of those he teabags in print for a living, but it's a rather selective view of possible futures, colored by wishful hindsight of possible pasts.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself; I'm A Man Of Wealth And Taste

Woe betide the miscreant who dares stroll within reach of James Wolcott's virtual scalpel. Here he carves up a traitor-sniffing warmongering douchebag like a Thanksgiving turkey -- and a real one at that, not some cheap plastic preznit stunt turkey.

In the comments section, a poster notes a similar sentiment kited by the Mephistophelean (my characterization, not the poster's) Daniel Pipes, who used the phrase "education by murder" to describe this brutal awakening. For neocons, the learning curve is an arc of death.

Now we know that the neocon Project for a New American Century said that a "catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor" might be needed to unleash the forces of transformation envisioned by Perle and company, but 9/11 certainly fit the bill. Now we're being told that that wasn't enough, Americans are still too complacent on the couch, and that another 9/11 is needed to piggyback on the first 9/11 and then maybe we'll get serious about terror--"that nothing absent another significant attack on the homeland will wake us from our media induced stupor."

Blogging from the front lines of Laguna Beach, California, van der Leun sounds awfully resigned and so-be-it in consigning imprecise thousands of his fellow countrymen to extinction--he could at least give us a round number of the death toll necessary for the national wakeup call instead of indulging in rhetorical hooga-booga like "Not one body more. Not one body less"--because he's frustrated that most Americans aren't as keen as he is to unleash "all the terrible power that we command." He's projecting a macro tantrum, in other words. Millions of Americans may have fat souls, and the fat bodies to house them, but that's no reason to suggest they deserve to die just because they're dozy.

Yes indeedy. The Fightin' 101st Airborne Keyboard Battalion is pretty damned tough with other folks' lives, always eager to send someone else's kid over to pick off hajis at 50 meters so they don't get turned into VBIED chum. I think if there were any Rumsfelds or Wolfowitzes or Cheneys humping rucksacks around Al Anbar in up-armored troop transports, we'd never hear the end of it.

So what's the deal with jerkoffs like van der Leun, anyway? Were they just born without consciences altogether, or is that they're just content to rent them out for a buck-fifty a word?

Regardless, it's a corollary to one of the most famous phrases of the 9/11 lexicon -- the Islamofascists may indeed hate Americans for their freedom, but assholes like van der Leun hate their fellow Americans who have made the decision to not live like cornered animals, like rats in a sewer, chasing shadows and selectively picking their "imminent threats" based on production capacity and potential profitability, while Pakistan and Saudi Arabia rub our noses in it.

Jesus' General has a more direct proposition to the would-be tough guys in the pajamahadeen, especially those near the usual age of conscription. These future movers and shakers of the corporate cocksuckerocracy no doubt expect their war to be fought by those with "less" to lose; that is, the people who have not been fast-tracked for success by pushy stage parents since they were interviewed for kindergarten.

It's put up or shut up time, ladies, unless you wanna continue pulling a Jonah Goldberg. And I'm sure you do; your trust fund depends on it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

You Say "To-May-Toh", I Say "Chimpeachment"

It's a long way down for our favorite incompetent preznit.

Five months after President Bush was sworn in for another four years, his political authority appears to be ebbing, both within his own party, where members of Congress are increasingly if sporadically going their own way, and among Democrats, who have discovered that they pay little or no price for defying him.

In some cases, Mr. Bush is suffering mere political dings that can be patched up, like the votes by the House this past week to buck him on withholding dues to the United Nations and retaining a controversial provision of the USA Patriot Act.

In others, the damage is more than cosmetic, as in the case of stem cell research, an issue on which a good portion of his party is breaking with him. In a few instances - most notably the centerpiece of his second-term agenda, his call to reshape Social Security - he is dangerously close to a fiery wreck that could have lasting consequences for his standing and for the Republican Party.

Funny how the fate of the world can turn on a few unexpected points, a couple of unanticipated side effects of things done and said here and there. Remember the crowing not even eight months ago, how the Republicans were on the brink of driving the Democrats (with a little help from them, to be sure) into forced obsolescence, or at the very least, utter irrelevance. Remember the cocky, strutting preznit, crowing about his "style" of spending the "political capital" he'd "earned".

Uh, perhaps you want to check with your political accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, if they haven't shredded the records yet.

And if you think the worm has turned with some measure of quickness here, just imagine if there was a unified Democratic party with guts and ambition, ready to capitalize on the Republican gaffes, instead of a contentious gaggle of seersucker motherfuckers whining because Howard Dean has the guts to take his fucking gloves off and put up his dukes like a fucking man. Just imagine.

It's been a long spring for the brush-clearer-in-chief, but a true opposition party, and a media that was interested in more than just whoring itself on every available street corner, could have really made it bad for him.

The cumulative effect of his difficulties in the last few months has been to pierce the sense of dominance that he sought to project after his re-election and to heighten concerns among Republicans in Congress that voters will hold them, as the party in power, responsible for failure to address the issues of most concern to the public.

"The political capital he thought he had has dwindled to very little, and he overstated how much he had to begin with," said Allan J. Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington.

"Congress is like Wall Street - it operates on fear and greed," Mr. Lichtman said. "The Democrats don't fear him anymore, and they're getting greedy, because they think they can beat him. The attitude you see among Republicans in Congress is, my lifeboat first."

Yup. Rats can always be counted on to desert the proverbial sinking ship. The sooner the Republican Party completes its self-immolation in the ill-advised rhetoric and superstition of its oversized mumbo-jumbo faction, the sooner it can find some measure of absolution in casting off this lot and reclaiming its soul of truly principled conservative thought, as opposed to the current stream of brain-dead reactionary horseshit.

In the last week, Mr. Bush has responded by lashing out at Democrats, casting them as obstructionists, a strategy that carries some risk given that it seems to acknowledge an inability by Republicans to carry out a governing platform. Searching as well for a more positive message, the administration, which has always been reluctant to acknowledge that events are not unfolding precisely as planned, has embarked on a public relations campaign intended to reassure Americans that Mr. Bush is attuned to their concerns.

Expecting this cluster of pathological disassemblers to explain exactly how a minority party can be so effectively obstructionist is like expecting them to have a plan for anything that faces this nation right now. Seriously. What is their plan for Iraq? Wait it out and see what happens. Oh. Good one. What is their plan for the economy? Continue to secure oil supplies so that the oil-based economy doesn't collapse, and pray that either the housing bubble doesn't burst or the Chinese don't decide to start cashing in their T-bills.

These people do not seem to have much of a plan for anything at all, and worse yet, they enjoy spending millions of dollars trying to gin up jingoistic sentiment for all these non-plans. Look how the Social Security road show went. This was such a hopeless clusterfuck, even with pre-screened audiences and heavily-rehearsed sales pitches they couldn't sell this lemon anywhere. How goddamned pathetic is that?

The article goes on, in far too evenhanded a fashion, but you get the idea. This man is unpopular, period, and the malaise is starting to spread to his own party. Chuck Hagel and John McCain may be sharpening their teeth for the presidential campaign season, but the fact is that they are telling the truth in their apostasy, and nobody in the Republican field has said "boo" about it yet.

That should tell you all you need to know. Everyone's keeping their powder dry until the midterms, and then it's on, and it looks more and more like a Democratic turnaround, which effectively cooks Bush's goose then and there. They will make his life miserable, and the American people will probably be just fine with it.

If Americans got Clinton fatigue, after eight years of peace and prosperity, over a few blowjobs, it's likely that the more facts that finally trickle out about intel fixing and such, the more Bush fatigue will set in, even more than it already has. Who wants to sacrifice their kids to a bunch of people that can't seem to get their story straight about anything?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Operation Kevlar Turban™: Electile Dysfunction

It had to happen, the serendipitous combination of two of our popular series from back in February. The Iranian "Rock The Vote" campaign was a success -- except for the tragic fact that the phrase roughly translates to Farsi as "Stone The Un-Islamic Adulteress Whore Pig-Dog Infidel". You can see where that might be a problem.

Let's see where we might find parallels to, say, the operative dynamics of our own election from not so long ago.

The hard-line, working-class mayor of Tehran will face former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a millionaire cleric, in a runoff election for Iran's presidency next week, according to first-round results announced Saturday.
If Ahmadinejad's second-place finish holds, the runoff set for Friday sizes up as a contest between candidates who say that Iran would become a stronger nation by turning outward, as represented by Rafsanjani, and those who see its success as rooted in the religious zeal that served as the foundation for this theocracy, as advocated by Ahmadinejad.
In his $5 million campaign, Rafsanjani vowed to bring an insider's heft to the reformist program of the outgoing president, Mohammad Khatami, to open Iran's cloistered economy to foreign investment and to promote "detente" with the United States, which severed ties with Iran after Islamic radicals took over the U.S. Embassy in 1979. Rafsanjani is "probably the biggest heavyweight figure in the country, whether he wins the presidency or not," said Mohammad Attrianfar, a newspaper publisher who supported him.

Ahmadinejad campaigned as a paragon of modest loyalty to the ideals of the theocracy. His career includes a stint as an instructor for the basij , a militia long feared for its strict enforcement of Islamic social codes and zealous attacks on student demonstrators protesting the closing of newspapers and jailing of professors.

Ahmadinejad is also well-known for his folksy malaprops which belie his upper-crust edumacation, as well as his publicly-professed love for clearing brush on his arid dirt farm out in the countryside.

Ahmadinejad has often repeated the phrase that Iranians "love freedom", except of course for women, who should not be driving cars or showing ankle, especially when Aunt Flo is visiting.

Meanwhile Rafsanjani, who has been consistently derided by his opponent as a "Tehran insider", has also had to contend with a shadowy 527 group called "Swift Boat Jihadis For Truth", which insinuate rather overtly that maybe Rafsanjani's revolutionary zeal is a contrivance, and maybe his claim of being halfway up the Euphrates during Ramadan 1985 might not quite be cartographically jake.

Also his wife, a wealthy hummus heiress, is a mouthy bitch.

"It's one thing for Tehranis to have an affinity for him, especially south Tehran," a working-class area, said Karim Sadjadpour, resident analyst for International Crisis Group, a Brussels research group. "But in Isfahan? Shiraz? Yazd? He was close to second even before the Tehran votes were counted."

Well, that settles it. If they like you in the heartland area of Yazd, you must be the gen-yoo-wine populist deal. Yazdians can see right through the patrician artifice of a career politician like Rafsanjani, with their working-class authenticity. They just know when a Tehran insider is trying to put one over on them, y'know?

There were indications that hard-liners chose to mobilize for Ahmadinejad to avoid splintering the vote. Three days before the election, Khamenei's representative to the Revolutionary Guard urged loyalists to vote for the candidate with the least pretentious campaign.

"They have mobilized their forces to vote for him," said Farzaneh Firozi, 38, after casting her ballot, for Moin, in Tehran. "Everyone at the polling station was talking about it. All the women with me, all the ones in chadors, were all voting for Ahmadinejad."

And all the women that weren't wearing chadors got the living shit beat out of them.

The election night drama was fueled by a dispute between the hard-line Guardian Council, one of three clerical bodies that oversee the elected government, and the Interior Ministry, an arm of the elected reformist government. The council's operatives monitor the voting, but the process is officially conducted by the Interior Ministry.

Funny story about that. Seems that several members of the Guardian Council were calling likely Rafsanjani supporters and telling them that the precinct locations had been moved, the voting date had been changed, they weren't really registered, etc. Fortunately representatives from the Interior Ministry managed to straighten some of it out, but there were still a shortage of voting machines, causing long lines in Yazd, as well as Ohio.

The stakes grew even higher this week after President Bush issued a statement on the eve of the vote saying that Iran's electoral process "ignores the basic requirements of democracy."

Why, did Diebold dump their fucked-up touch-screen machines on them, too? "I voted for Rafsanjani, and stupid machine says 'Ahmadinejad'!"

Well, we'll see what the exit polls have to say on the night of the runoff, and then just make it line up with the guy we want. Should be fun. You like the crazy wingnut, or the moderate wingnut with a shitload of money?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

What Happens In Abu Ghraib Stays In Abu Ghraib

It took an ACLU lawsuit to make it happen, but there's more from the vile Abu Ghraib fun photo archive that's about to become public. See, the reason that it's taken over a year -- and a lawsuit -- is because we are children who must be kept shielded from the truth by the "adults" who are lawn-darting this nation just as surely as Rosie O'Donnell has king-size cankles.

As many as 144 photos and still images from four videotapes could be made public in coming weeks, as soon as the Pentagon finishes editing them to conceal the identify of the victims.

The digital photos are from the same batch amassed by Army Spc. Joseph Darby, who was based at Abu Ghraib. Darby turned the photos over to military investigators last year.

And instead of the huge "thank you" he deserved for making a game attempt to hew to putative American values and traditions, Darby has received nothing but grief for his troubles. Even his sister's family received so many death threats, they had to move to another state.

Sometimes you figure that maybe Darwin was wrong after all.

Later, some photos showing naked Iraqi prisoners being forced to simulate sex acts were broadcast and published. The ensuing controversy triggered wide criticism of U.S. policies on handling prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other military prisons.

Perhaps the Pentagon could have defused some of the criticism by sponsoring a "funny caption" contest. Example:

Abdul and his friend Mohamed are playing a fun party game in which they attempt to pass a strategically-placed walnut from person to person without using their hands. Careful, Mohamed -- don't get too excited or you'll drop the walnut!

Here are some more fun photos. Feel free to make up your own photo phunny captions, and tell me that the punks that did this shit don't deserve some serious hard time for disgracing America like this. Remember, these photos have been out for awhile -- the ones that are to be released can be presumed to be worse.

Quoth Rummy about this tempest in a teabag:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said repeatedly that only a handful of low-level Army troops were involved in the abuse. The abuses "took place on one shift in Abu Ghraib -- not the shift before, not the shift after, but on one shift," Rumsfeld reiterated this month, adding: "As a result, dozens of people have been prosecuted and are being punished, as they should be."

Rummy, per usual, falls prey to what George Orwell warns strictly against -- using passive voice construction and being vague with quantitative facts. How many "dozens" of people, Rummy? What sort of punishment? Will they be forced to toss the salad for the amusement of a "shift" of snickering Neanderthals as well?

To date, eight soldiers have pleaded guilty or been convicted at court- martial in the scandal. Despite the findings of several military reviews pointing out flaws in the operation of military prisons, no military or civilian personnel at the highest levels of the military chain of command have charges brought against them.

Ah, so not "dozens", but eight, which is two-thirds of one dozen. See how Rummy does this shit, this passive-aggressive lying tactic of his? How many dozens, asshole? Two, five? Ten, twenty? How about less than one dozen? Why the fuck is this prick saying "dozens" when he means eight? Say eight, cocksucker, because it most certainly is not "dozens".

I am certain that Oxycontin Limbaugh and the rest of the kneepad apologists for this metastasized tumor of a government will assume the usual position posthaste. They never fail to live down to expectations.

Jacko Comebacko; Or, How Can We Miss Him If He Won't Go Away?

Well, we've certainly taken enough cheap (though well-deserved) potshots at everyone's favorite child-molesting freak, Michael Jackson. Pravda recently had an interesting article on the likelihood of a (urp!) comeback by the self-crowned king of pop.

Jackson's fortunes as a performer were in a tailspin long before the words "Jesus juice" entered the popular lexicon. By 2000, Jackson had borrowed $270 million from Bank of America, apparently to fund a lifestyle that includes shopping sprees and the immense overhead of running his Neverland ranch.

To secure those loans, Jackson put up his share of a music catalogue that he co-owns with Sony, as well as the rights to his own music. Last month, Bank of America sold the debt to an investment firm that specializes in troubled loans, a clear sign that the bank was worried Jackson would default.

That's the thing that's always gotten me about this goofball. In the past, whenever his well-publicized circus of a life gets covered in the media, there's usually been someone to step in and defend the guy, saying something along the lines of how shrewd a businessman Jackson is, because he bought the Beatles catalog and made a lot of money on it.

I submit that there's a substantial difference between being a truly shrewd businessman, being possessed of significant skills and acumen and management expertise, and simply being lucky. Indeed, Jackson's been fabulously wealthy for over twenty years now, and the Beatles catalog appears to be about the only sensible thing he's ever done with his money, which he's since squandered on llama chow and video games for his preteen boyfriends.

He's not a shrewd businessman at all; he's not been underestimated by his detractors one iota. He's a fucking moron, and the only thing that's kept him going all these years is that he had an enormous bankroll to start with. You can do a lot of fucking around for a long time on a couple hundred million dollars.

And it's not as if his coterie of hangers-on and useless siblings were ever going to say anything to him. You think Tito and Jermaine were going to have a chimpanzee intervention and risk losing their spinner-rim allowance?

So now the llamas have come home to roost.

His last album, "Invincible," should have been called "Highly Vulnerable." It went double-platinum in 2001, which would be superb numbers for just about any other artist, but disappointing for Jackson, whose 1982 album "Thriller" was the second-largest selling album ever, with massive hits such as "Billie Jean" and "Beat It." Only one single from "Invincible" -- which reportedly cost $55 million to make -- even penetrated the Top 10. If Jackson wants to target the 18-year-olds who make up the sweet spot of the pop market, he'll be selling to a crowd that knows him mostly for the freak show of zoo animals and molestation charges that his life has become.

Yeah, if you're going to spend $55 million to make a single album, you better have the goods to recoup it. I worked on the fringes of the recording/music industry for years and I know how much it costs to do things. A good performer with good songs, who is prepared and understands how to record and mix and get things done in a professional manner, shouldn't have to spend 1/10th of that amount in an entire career, and that's recording in luxury vacation studios like Compass Point in the Bahamas, like Iron Maiden used to do in the '80s.

You show up for a few hours in the morning, lay a few tracks, go out and soak up the sun and drink banana daiquiris all fucking afternoon and get ripped, and do it all over again the next day. Two or three months later, you should have a pretty good album of tunes, without too many headaches. And that's pre-digital, before all this technology really democratized the ability to get a good produced sound without spending loads of money. It's really not that difficult. Anyone that tells you how hard it is to record and produce an album is full of shit. The hard part is writing a truly good, catchy, tight song in the first place. Everything after that is gravy.

I'd love to see a behind-the-scenes accounting of how this $55 million was spent; if I was a Sony exec I'd want Michael Jackson's multi-colored nutsack on a fucking plate. Here's a tip for you kids who might be thinking of entering the wonderful world of the music industry -- the most important word in the entire game is recoupable. The corporate studio functions like a bank, basically, for a performer that's cutting an album. They front you the money, sign you to a piddling royalty rate (I'd bet that even someone of Jackson's stature probably doesn't clear 25%), and then you don't see dime one from your sales until all the money the record company fronted you has been recouped.

You have any idea how many units of Invincible would have to move to recoup $55 million? Not only will Jackson never see a dime from it, chances are Sony will be lucky to make back even $10 million, much less $55 million. Especially considering all the promo Jackson insists on every time he takes a dump, and all that promo dough comes upfront out of the record company's budget. Neither Sony nor Jackson will ever see that money again; might as well have flushed it down a toilet, or given it to another of his molestation victims for a settlement.

So we've pretty well destroyed the long-standing canard that Michael Jackson is some sort of gifted businessperson, or even any good with money at all. Let's take a look at what his options are now, according to Pravda's experts:

· Say you're sorry. No exulting allowed. "He should apologize to the public for the lack of clarity about his actions," says Howard Rubenstein, a public relations specialist who once worked for Jackson. "He should appear modest and contrite. He should praise the American justice system, which allowed him to present his case."

Rubenstein isn't specific about the forum for this apology but feels it shouldn't be face-to-face with skilled interviewers like Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer. It was Jackson's decision to speak off the cuff to a TV pro -- Martin Bashir, a British journalist -- that landed him in this mess in the first place. The man needs a script, says Rubenstein, along with firm instructions to stick to it.

· Leave the country. "He should move to Paris," recommends Dan Klores, a public-relations specialist whose clients have included P. Diddy and Mike Tyson. That emotion is seconded by many in the damage-control biz. Jackson is still beloved in other countries -- particularly Japan. He is sure to find life abroad quieter than in Neverland ranch.

These are both actually good ideas, regardless of whether Jackson has any notion of picking up what's left of his career. And there's a good chance that one or both will happen. Of course the apology, again like virtually every dump this freak of nature takes, will have to be on his own freaky terms -- either some big overblown, overhyped navel-gazing media event, or some heavily-gauzed "intimate setting" clucking-hen-fest with some pseudo-journo like Diane Sawyer or Baba Wawa, neither of which is deserving of any remotely journalistic appellation.

(Seriously, if you've actually sat through anything either of these dimwits has shat on the TV screen in the past ten years, go to the bathroom right now, look yourself in the mirror, straight in the eye, and slap yourself as hard as you can. Go on, do it. We'll wait.)

As for moving out of the country, that would probably be good for him both financially and psychologically, but Jackson really doesn't seem to have the stuff for it. This is a guy who has literally spent his entire adult life having other people take care of him, and his financial circumstances are about to bring that to a screeching halt. Umbrella Holding Guy? Gone. Llama Patrol? Gone. Procurer Of Young Boys From Broken Homes To Fondle Between Rounds Of Super Mario Bros.? Gone.

More seriously, he'd have to sell the ranch, and despite the notoriety, the price will probably plummet now, because it's basically distressed property. The dipshits that will show up to a potential dipshit attraction simply aren't allowed out of the house with enough money to make such a purchase commercially viable.

· Think long-term. Jackson should take a hard look at the rehabilitation of former junk-bond magnate Michael Milken, says Mark Fabiani, who spun the media on President Bill Clinton's behalf during his impeachment crisis. Milken served time for finance-related crimes in the '80s. Since his release, he has quietly turned himself into a force in the world of medical research and charitable giving, largely through organizations such as the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

The key to this approach, according to Fabiani, is patience. "There are two really successful models for doing this," he says. "One is the 'Hail Mary' model, which Martha Stewart pulled off, where you do a bunch of dramatic things as soon as you're free and clear.

"The other is the Milken model. He's undertaken a years-long effort to regain his reputation and most people would say he's succeeded. But it took discipline."

Neither of these models is particularly analogous to Jackson's case. The Martha model requires money to throw into the publicity-machine incinerator. These people do not work on credit, Jackson is broke, and it's highly unlikely that they'll take a giraffe as collateral.

The Milken model is out because it requires intelligence and motivation. Milken basically transformed himself into sort of an idealistic motivational speaker, because that was the best use of his particular skill set at that point. Do you think Michael Jackson has even a single component of such a skill set? Can you imagine him trying to give a speech on anything besides himself? That's the only thing he knows, and nobody's going to pay to see that. We all know far too much about this creepy asshole as it is.

It's not clear that Jackson is capable of even attempting a return to form in the studio. One image-management expert who quit Jackson's network of advisers months ago because he didn't like the way Nation of Islam representatives kept showing up on their conference calls, thinks that he is now too unhinged to record again.

"People have no appreciation of the shape that this guy is now in," said this expert, who requested anonymity because he wants to continue to work. "I really doubt he's in the condition needed to make great music again."

This is the main problem for Jackson at hand, and kudos to Pravda for pointing out the elephant in the room. See, musicians make music. This sounds like some sort of cryptic Ayn Rand "A is A" crap, but it's true. Eddie Van Halen built a studio in his backyard early on because he wanted to be able to get up at 4AM and lay some tracks if he felt inspired. Yngwie Malmsteen reputedly keeps about 100 of his 150+ Stratocasters in various places throughout his Miami mansion (which also has its own custom-built recording studio) so that wherever he is in the house, there's always a guitar to pick up and play. Frank Zappa kept up his herculean 10-12 hours per day in the studio after he was diagnosed with the prostate cancer that eventually killed him.

Even a nobody schmuck like me, I have seven guitars within arm's reach of me right this second, and I frequently grab one to dick around with while I'm reading and surfing the internets. The point is not whether the music is commercially viable or even any good; the point is that musicians make music, because playing music is fun, even more fun than playing with young boys and llamas and fake noses.

Michael Jackson is not a musician, he's a performer, and there's a very important distinction there. He doesn't really play or compose per se, he buys songs from other people and adds his own stylistic grunts and giggles to it so it sounds like it's his song. He rents musicians to play it for him, and throws money at whoever the hip producer of the month is to make it sound contemporary.

We can debate the finer musical points on all this machinery required to crank out some chart-topping turd some other time, but the bottom line is that all these cogs in the machinery cost money, and Jackson has used up all his money and his goodwill. Who in their right mind thinks that it would be a career boost to play on Michael Jackson's next stab at Billboard glory?

The thing is, Jackson long ago decided that he'd rather be a chart whore than a great musician, so that's what he became. And now the well's pumped dry, because he felt that being seen hanging with Princess Di and riding bumper cars with 11-year-olds was more important than continuing to make music.

· Head to Vegas . Think Celine Dion, who has her own theater at Caesars Palace and packs them in for nightly shows. And she's Canadian!

Sounds good, except Vegas, for all its faults, is dead serious about making money, and no casino is going to shell out big bucks for a fucking flake like Michael Jackson. How many times per week is Michael going to call in sick, faking a sore throat, with a zoo animal braying in the background?

Vegas performers may be slick and cheesy and predictable, but they have work ethic, and they are expected to show up. I don't think any rational person expects Jacko to show up. It's telling that so far only Donald Trump has made any sort of overture in that regard. That should say it all. They deserve each other. Perhaps they can trade hair tips (i.e., swap toupées).

When it comes to recording, Jackson shouldn't pander to the hip-hop crowd, says Daniel Glass, the president of Artemis Records. "He should go in the other direction and make a really lush album of pop standards, using the songs he owns in the catalogues he controls."

Jackson owns half of Sony/ATV Music, which holds the copyright to hundreds of hits. These include tunes like the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love," Glass notes -- catchy can't-miss music.

"I would put great artists in the choir, hire people like Eddie Van Halen for guitar solos," he adds. Would people buy it? "I think people like to buy great albums, and this could be a great album."

Uh yeahhhh, I think Eddie might decide he has to sort out his sock drawer that month. Again, the guy's got an aura of shit around him, the stench of Jesus juice and prepubescent monkey-butter. Who would want to associate themselves with that, without a lot of money that simply no sane person would be willing to float to a financial idiot like Michael Jackson?

It's just too bad Jacko's pushing 50 now, because with his ball-handling skills, he coulda had a fallback career in the NBA.

Will The Last Throe To Leave Please Turn Out The Lights?

When normally reliable ABC News meat puppet Terry Moran starts getting uppity, it's a sure sign that the wheels are coming off your agitpropmobile.

After McClellan outlined the president's plans, leading up to a key June 28th speech, ABC correspondent Terry Moran asked a pointed question, which referred back to an assessment recently made by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Q Scott, is the insurgency in Iraq in its 'last throes'?

McCLELLAN: Terry, you have a desperate group of terrorists in Iraq that are doing everything they can to try to derail the transition to democracy. The Iraqi people have made it clear that they want a free and democratic and peaceful future. And that's why we're doing everything we can, along with other countries, to support the Iraqi people as they move forward….

Q But the insurgency is in its last throes?

McCLELLAN: The Vice President talked about that the other day -- you have a desperate group of terrorists who recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. A free Iraq will be a significant blow to their ambitions.

Q But they're killing more Americans, they're killing more Iraqis. That's the last throes?

McCLELLAN: Innocent -- I say innocent civilians. And it doesn't take a lot of people to cause mass damage when you're willing to strap a bomb onto yourself, get in a car and go and attack innocent civilians. That's the kind of people that we're dealing with. That's what I say when we're talking about a determined enemy.

Et cetera, et cetera. (Not to be confused with the tiresome malaprop "ect.". Unlike "ect.", etc. actually stands for something, actually means something. "Ect." simply means that you don't know what etc. stands for, because you're not paying attention to what you're doing. It's a small but potent distinction; it bespeaks attention to detail. I'd bet $100 that George W. Bush uses "ect.".)

Anyway. Note how artlessly, as always, McClellan attempts to elide the details and evade the thrust of Moran's unusually persistent questioning. One can assume that McClellan is probably all teary-eyed and wistful for the dog-tag salad days of Jeff Gannon™, he of the creampuff questions and 8" of swinging man-root.

Naturally, McClellan never did give Moran a straight answer, despite about five or six game attempts on Moran's part. But that's understandable -- if McClellan told the truth, that Cheney didn't know or care what he was estimating the potency of, that words to these people are only for impact and never actually mean anything substantial, McClellan would be looking for another job forthwith.

Another ominous portent for the non-reality-based claque is the impending defection of one of their stalwarts, Chuck Hagel. Hagel, who actually showed up for duty while W was preparing for his career in manure spreadin' and brush clearin' by branding Deke pledges on the ass with a red-hot coat hanger, is surely burnishing his maverick rep for an '08 run at the current philosopher-king's place of residence.

Yet Hagel has the gravitas that a callow chump like Bush can only dream about, if Bush could indeed have any dream besides one in which he's walking down the halls of his high school in his underwear, and everyone notices except him.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

These are pretty strong words. If they'd been uttered by Howard Dean, every Bush flack and Nixon hack would be jockeying for position on Hannity & Colmes to verbally cast his treasonous ass into the fiery pits of hell.

But it's Chuck Hagel here, actual Vietnam vet, serious policy guy, non-bombthrower, no rep as a loose cannon. His only rep is similar to that of John McCain, that he strays off the reservation too often for the comfort of the suits pulling the strings. Holy shit, he says what he actually thinks!

You can see why this might be cause for alarm in the neo-con policymaking circles. Their ivory-tower wet dreams may be undone by the untermenschen on the ground, who may take umbrage at being consigned to IED fodder in a rapidly accelerating civil war, while the think-tank drones are in the rear with the gear. True to Trotskyist form, the neo-cons will be forced to continue and increase their unholy alliance with the theo-cons, while the serious policy-making arm of the party of Lincoln continues to wither from disuse.

A Wall Street Journal poll chronicles the continued slide in popularity for the brain trust, most notably for the geniuses at the top of the heap:

President Bush's job approval rating remains in a slump, far below his post-9/11 high, with less than half of Americans saying he is doing an "excellent" or "pretty good job," and 55% ranking his performance as "only fair" or "poor," a Harris Interactive poll shows.

All I want to know is what the 45% are smoking, and is it medicinal. My anecdotal experience is that self-described conservatives tend more and more to have the fallback position, when challenged on core principles versus actual policies, that the current gang is at least "better than Kerry would have been".

Obviously this is intellectually dishonest, as you can't prove a negative, and the poll questions aren't asking something so speculative anyway. Or they might feel that Bush could do "better" if not for those obstructionist Demo-rats. This is what I call the "Scooby Doo" defense -- they would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for those meddling kids. Opposition parties are supposed to oppose, and that function is critical in avoiding a rubber-stamp banana republic. ¿Comprende, amigos?

So that's no excuse either; it's part of the landscape, like it or not. Indeed, it seems very safe to speculate that had Kerry won, he would have had to deal with a Republican wingnut-dominated Congress that would have screamed to high hell 24/7 on Faux News if Kerry had said so much as "nice weather today".

No, the poll merely asks what you think about the job each person is doing, and while I continue to take issue with the ulterior motives of the willfully blind who could give an answer like "good" or (choke) "excellent" in reference to this guy, let's just accept it and point out that regardless, the poll numbers are consistently slipping. As pointed out before, Bush's poll numbers are a good twenty points lower than Bill Clinton's were when he got impeached.

As Vacation Boy continues his never-ending sabbatical from all non-brush-clearin' related activities, don't be surprised if you start hearing the word "chimpeachment" more and more. Catchy, ain't it?

And as the Downing Street Memo slowly but surely gains traction and resonance among the three-digit IQ set, as more and more unsavory reports about some of our tactics get coverage, the more unpopular these people will get.

The administration's solution seems to be a heady mix of saber-rattling and shoulder-shrugging. With all of our international credibility squandered, neither does us much good. Oh, we could still take out Syria, though they are reputed to have a sizable chemical weapons cache, which would surely mean more grisly US casualties.

Or we could do some surgical strikes on Iran's nucular plants, which would piss off Iran just enough to decide to take Israel down with them -- if such an event as us attacking Iran didn't warrant Russian or even Chinese involvement in the first place. Believe the Pooty-Poot's soul stuff all you want, but he's a very cagey guy, and this is clearly an alliance of convenience. Thwarting Putin's commercial endeavors in Iran with acts of war throws the whole game into the air.

And judging by recent reports of dismal recruiting numbers, and overt attempts to dragoon teenagers into the armed forces, don't look for bolstered troop levels any time soon, unless you're ready for a draft.

And maybe we are ready for a draft; maybe this sort of thing requires that we all have some skin in the game. Maybe we need the point hammered home that none of this is free, that ribbons and songs don't mean squat, that all this oil we keep pissing away has a cost attached. Maybe the masters of the universe should try diddling with geopolitical realities using the lives of their own kids as well as everyone else's. Maybe the threat of draft lotteries will force Americans to turn off American Idol for five minutes and pay attention, to wait and see if Pierce Bush will be drafted right along with the kid down your block, or if this war is only for the poor to fight.

Is there even a sliver of doubt in your mind as to how that question resolves?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Pit Bullshit

Many Northern Californians were horrified to hear of the recent fatal mauling of 12-year-old Nick Faibish by his own pet pit bulls.

The horror continues as Nick's mother continues to dig her own hole.

Hours before being mauled to death by the family pit bull, 12-year- old Nicholas Faibish had been told to stay in the basement separated from the dogs, said his distraught mother, Maureen Faibish, who called The Chronicle on Saturday, trying to make sense of what she called a "freak accident.''

"I put him down there, with a shovel on the door,'' said Faibish, who had left the boy alone with the dogs on June 3 to run some errands. "He had a bunch of food. And I told him, 'Stay down there until I come back.' Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me.''

This is sort of like that point in Dave Chappelle's infamous Rick James skit where the videotape gets rewound, as James first denies, then immediately admits, trashing Eddie Murphy's expensive suede couch in a cocaine-induced stupor. Let's rewind that paragraph and take a look at Maureen Faibish's operative logic: Clearly she knew these dogs were dangerous in the first place, or she wouldn't have taken the bizarre precautionary step of locking her son in the basement.

Worse yet, it's Nicholas' own fault for disobeying his mother. Like the late Rick James, it appears that Maureen Faibish simply does not understand just how self-contradictory she is, nor how the more she says, the more she incriminates herself.

But wait, there's more!

Faibish felt compelled to call The Chronicle, she said, because she was upset by comments in a Saturday column that disparaged family members who own pit bulls.

In the column an Oakland surgeon who often treats bites by pit bulls said, "when you have an animal like that in your house you are recklessly endangering your family.''

"They made it sound like we put our kids in a war zone,'' Faibish said in a phone conversation. "That's not true. My kids got along great with (the dogs). We were never seeing any kind of violent tendencies.''

Uh-huh. That's why she locked the kid in the basement, because they were just big ol' wuvvable puddytats.

Look, I'm the first guy to step up in defense of pit bulls. I've known several people who had them, and they all seemed like great animals, very loyal and friendly. The problem here is that pit bulls are too loyal; that is, they bond with one and only one human. They will fight and die for that human. This is not a secret; pit bull owners typically advertise this attribute in a positive light.

And the human whom these dogs had bonded to, Faibish's father, was out of town. When their alpha male is gone, this can be problematic for the temperament of a pit bull. They can be very unpredictable, and decide to contest whoever happens to be in the room, in the absence of the alpha male. Such was the fate of poor Nicholas Faibish.

It should also be kept in mind that almost all breeds of dog, when they do attack, do it in self-defense (or what they think is self-defense, such as a child messing with their food). And when they attack, they typically do it only as much as it takes to drive away the "offender".

Pit bulls are one of a handful of breeds (such as rottweilers and doberman pinschers) that can and frequently do attack for reasons other than self-defense (or even for no reason at all); and more dangerously, they attack with killing in mind -- they will not stop until either the opponent is dead or the alpha male calls them off (which is not always even successful). This is well known to most people whether or not they own such dogs; it should have been especially well known to the Faibishes.

She talked to The Chronicle by telephone and later at her father's home where, sitting on a couch and wrapped in a blanket, Faibish held back tears as she spoke about her son and the day he died.

"It's Nicky's time to go," she said. "When you're born you're destined to go and this was his time."

Unbelievable. Just un-fuckin'-believable. Does anybody really believe that part of God's divine plan was for Nicholas Faibish to have his face chewed off by his own dogs? I understand that grieving people can say some really stupid things, but this is incredible. This is unforgivably, monumentally, stupid and callous, and ultimately why I strongly believe that Maureen Faibish should be prosecuted for criminal negligence.

More deep thoughts from this moron:

Clearly struggling with her emotions, Faibish said the death of her son had become "a media frenzy.'' On one hand, she continued to defend pit bulls and her dogs.

"Even after the whole thing,'' she said, "I'm not mad at my dogs. I just love them to death.''

I'm not sure how such an utterly despicable person lives with themselves. I suppose saying stupid things like the quote above is part of the coping mechanism for such a person. She could say that they had been great pets and this was a freak accident and yada yada, but even after doing what they did to her son, she loves them, she's not even mad at them.

Ella and Rex II were "family dogs," Faibish said. They spent most of their time inside the house, slept in bed with the children every night and woke Maureen Faibish up every morning by licking her face. Ella was trained to lick her makeup off and kiss her ear.

Ewwwww. I like dogs and all, but I have never understood these weirdos that let their mutts lick their faces. Do you let them do it before or after they lick their own balls and eat their own (or another animal's) shit? I mean. That "dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's" bullshit is a nauseating bit of fiction. It's just fucking nasty.

Nor, she said, would she caution families who have pit bulls as pets. In the wake of this tragedy, some parents are wondering if they should keep their pit bulls.

"Oh, they should keep their pit bulls,'' Faibish said. "Even though my son has been killed in a tragic accident, I don't think they should be banned. You've just got to worry about them when they are in heat. I didn't know Rex was going to be so possessive.''

Again, this is just self-serving nonsense on Maureen Faibish's part. No, all people should not be banned from keeping pit bulls as pets because of this tragedy (though some steps should be taken to curtail irresponsible owners, such as mandatory training, fencing, and liability insurance requirements); yes, she did know that something was up with these dogs because, for the thousandth time, she deliberately took the precautionary step of locking her son in the basement. If they were harmless, loving dogs, what was she attempting to protect her son from?

I don't know if sending Maureen Faibish to jail will do her or her family any good; in fact, it probably won't. But accountability for this has got to start somewhere.