Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Retards, Part One

Should we all just chip in and help these morons get a life already?

While Princess Diana's loyal fans gathered outside her former home yesterday to mark the eighth anniversary of her death, it was business as usual for the royal family.


Many of those who came to pay their respects were upset that Charles is now married to the former Camilla Parker Bowles, the woman Diana had blamed for the failure of her marriage.

One of the many anti-Camilla messages taped to the gates at Kensington Palace said, "Adulterers will be punished on judgment day."

Um, wasn't Saint Di also adulterous? Hmmm, yes, yes she was. Whether it was payback or not is irrelevant. But, you know, extra points for the super-creepy "message taped to the gates". Off our meds again, are we?

"Every year is hard but it's been more so this year because Charles married. I can't even say her name," said Julie Cain.


"She (Diana) is our queen of hearts. You never forget your queen of hearts," said delivery driver Raymond Nurse, 44. "Camilla – they will forget her, she's rubbish – but not our Diana."

Sigh. These people are sound arguments for bringing back the lobotomy, or at least a good trepanation or two. It's nice that these weirdos take long enough of a break from combing their dead mothers' hair to come out of their respective basements, but shit. Shouldn't they be getting ready to release some doves at the next Michael Jackson trial?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted....

While the Gulf Coast has spent the weekend getting drowned like an unwanted litter of Frists, Dear Leader has finished off his five weeks of taxpayer-supported fundraising and base-pimping to shill his Medicare scam yet again -- as if it just couldn't wait another week or two while he and his crack team figger out how to handle one of the biggest natural disasters ever to hit the US.

The lovely and talented Watertiger has been all over this phenomenon of the last 72 hours or so, but this post was especially excellent:

President Bush will cut short his vacation to return to Washington on Wednesday, two days earlier than planned, to help monitor federal efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, the White House said Tuesday.


The president had been scheduled to return to the nation's capital on Friday, after spending more than four weeks operating from his ranch in Central Texas. But after receiving a briefing early Tuesday on the devastation Katrina unleashed, the president decided that he needed to be in Washington to personally oversee the federal effort, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Hurricanes are rather unique for natural disaters in that they are predictable. At what point did the entire planet know with virtually absolute certainty that Katrina was going to hit the Gulf Coast with a Category 5 vengeance? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

That's right -- we all knew by Saturday afternoon. Now, you may say to yourself, "But wait, Heywood. What could Dear Leader possibly have done even if he had left his tumbleweed farm right away? After all, even God's Favorite Preznit cannot talk Him out of unleashing a mighty force of nature upon America's Den Of Iniquity. He can only do so much, thanks to the congressional liberals who keep holding him back."

Oh, too true. But there are a few things that could have been done in preparation over the weekend, that would have helped out a lot of American citizens. Tonight's newscast showed how private boat owners have been volunteering to rescue people who were trapped in their houses by the flash flooding. This is wonderful, but in a litigious society such as ours, seems rather risky -- especially when we have a "Coast Guard". A prepared preznit could have had such a "Coast Guard" on standby, ready to rush in as soon as the 160+ mph winds had blown through. Not only are the people in the "Coast Guard" trained rescue professionals, it keeps a lot of private citizens from having a lot of undue responsibility (and possible liability) dumped on their shoulders by an unprepared government.

(I realize that the Coast Guard is, in fact, on the scene and saving lives by the hundreds; my point is that they have so underfunded and sidetracked that the government literally has to dragoon private citizens to risk their lives -- and those of the people they rescue, if they don't really know what they're doing. This is unconscionable. But this should not be perceived as a slam at the Coast Guard, which does fine work.)

Another thing a prepared preznit could (and should) have done -- arranged to open up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to help cushion the very real oil shock that is already underway, and will likely last for months now. Today gas prices jumped 15¢ in California. It was at $2.79 on my way home from work this afternoon; it will probably be around $3.00 by the end of the week. A lot of hard-working blue-collar people -- which, again, Bush ceaselessly claims some sort of affinity with -- take a real hit to the pocketbook from something like that.

This administration burbles an awful lot about the intangibles, like morale. Which would have meant more morale-wise for the immediate victims of the hurricane -- seeing their president on top of the situation, getting back to headquarters early so he can get a jump on the problem; or watching him flit from another tiresome Medicare "conversation", which could have been put off for a while, to a VJ-Day anniversary where he yet again lamely compared this war to World War 2?

I resent that comparison, by the way, and I resent Bush comparing our campaign against aggressive Japanese imperialism to this clusterfuck. The other day I called my dad to wish him a happy 81st birthday. My dad actually fought in WW2, in the Navy. He was on an anti-aircraft ship in the Atlantic, and had some adventures in Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia. Then his older sister took ill and died, so he went home for a brief bereavement leave. Upon his return, he was put on a minesweeper in the Pacific, which was en route to Japan when we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (And yes, the bomb is horrible, and no one else has ever used such a weapon, but no one else had ever committed such large-scale atrocities like the Rape of Nanking or the Bataan Death March, which the Japanese have only just gotten around to even apologizing for.)

Anyway, my point is that my father is a wonderful first-hand resource for thoughts on war, and the need to fight them. Suffice to say that he detests George W. Bush, despises the Iraq War, and is probably livid that such a pissant would even dare to speak of the Pacific campaign in WW2 as if he actually knew a goddamned thing about history or actually fighting in a war.

But once again I digress. The main point is that Bush could and should have been on top of the hurricane situation, and dropped what he was doing to take care of what is literally a national emergency. Instead he headed further west to take care of his photo-ops, and then had the fucking gall to act like he was doing the world some sort of fucking favor by shortening his 35-day vacation to a mere 33 days.

Watertiger puts it quite concisely:

Mighty white of ya, Lt. McFlightsuit. YOU GODDAMNED WASTE OF PROTOPLASM! Where the FUCK were you when this storm was building up a head of steam over the Gulf? NOW you decide to return to D.C., ex post facto? What's the matter - nobody at El Mirage or Rancho Cucamonga was kvelling over your Medicare Reform bullshit spiel? You were getting tired of dodging Cindy Sheehan?

Or maybe you finally took a look at your sub-basement poll numbers?

Gah. What a fucking two-bit coward.

P.S. One more thing: I thought he wasn't ON vacation. I thought he was simply working out of his "ranch" for the month of August.

Fuckin' A. Incidentally, speaking of poll numbers, that's the truly ironic part about this -- Bush would have undoubtedly gotten a respite from his six-month slump just by showing up. He really shot himself in the foot all the way around on this one. He had a real opportunity to show some leadership and take-charge initiative, and he chose the scheduled photo-ops.

No doubt he'll be in Nawlins in a couple weeks, when the waters finally recede and the cholera threat is contained, standing on a pile of rubble in a carefully-selected work shirt, issuing bromides and platitudes through his Li'l Leader bullhorn.

Truly we are blessed.

Also, AmericaBlog is doing truly spectacular coverage on the whole thing, and has quite a bit on the rescue efforts. As of nightfall, efforts to shore up one of the main levees and pump out some water have come to a halt, essentially meaning another dozen feet of water. Tens of thousands of people are literally trapped in the Superdome right now, which is crumbling from the storm damage. Looting and violence are rampant throughout the city, as well as people stealing essentials from the store just so they can eat.

God forbid, but if the death toll from Hurricane Katrina turns out to top 9/11 (plus the estimated $25+ billion in damage so far), we will certainly remember that just as Bush froze reading My Pet Goat when he heard about the Twin Towers, so did he run off to San Diego to play his git-tar when the whole world knew what was about to befall New Orleans. Let 'em eat cake, indeed.

That's what he thinks of you, red-staters. Do you get it now?

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Straight Story

I'd like to see all the fightin' keyboarders and bumper-sticker tough guys talk to (and about) this guy the way they have to Cindy Sheehan:

U.S. Army Specialist Tomas Young has some questions for George W. Bush. He's never met with the Commander-in-Chief who sent him into Sadr City, Iraq in a canvass covered truck during a massive uprising in that city on April 4, 2004. The same city on the same day that Cindy Sheehan's son Casey was killed.

Tomas was lucky. He was only paralyzed from the chest down. Amongst other things he'd like to ask of Bush, is why he won't allow funding for stem cell research which might eventually restore the spine that he lost in Bush's War. A spine, as Tomas explained to us yesterday on The BRAD SHOW, which apparently Bush has never had.

Tomas and his new wife Bree (also pictured), came to Crawford from Kansas City on their honeymoon to "stand" in support of Cindy Sheehan.

Suddenly all those cheap bromides about how Sheehan has been undermining troop morale and all sort of pale a bit more, don't they? Look, that argument was always a non-starter anyway -- if morale is so fragile that a grieving mother could ruin it, what got them to that tenuous point in the first place? Having to "Mad Max" their Humvees because Rumsfeld still hasn't gotten them the uparmored vehicles he promised them? Having a ringside seat to a civil war that could destabilize the region even more than it already is?

I would think that a great deal of morale loss might be contingent on having a so-called commander-in-chief who can't keep his spin straight from one day to the next:

Bush on Saturday : "What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion -- not at the barrel of a gun."

Bush on Sunday : "The negotiators and drafters of this document braved the intimidation of terrorists and they mourn the cowardly assassination of friends and colleagues involved in the process of drafting the constitution."

I think many of us, who are not exactly temperamentally disinclined to fight, would have second thoughts about fighting for such a man. All the purple prose and boilerplate freedom praise for medieval theocrats cannot disguise that the leadership of this country hasn't got a clue about what they're doing, and people die while they fucking figure it out.

Even the famed purple-finger lady showcased at the State of the Union speech has given up on him. Perhaps the Fightin' Keyboarders want to cast her as a Jew-baiter too -- or maybe, just maybe, they can consider the possibility that she knows something that they don't know, and that Dear Leader doesn't want to know.

Give What You Can

As you know, what's shaping up to be the storm of the century is bearing down on New Orleans. Here's a couple links where you can lend a hand to those in need:

Red Cross

Noah's Wish (helps out animals left behind in disaster evacuations)

Earn some great karma and do what you can, folks.

A Confederacy Of Dubyas

This is what we're settling for.

Shiite and Kurdish leaders drafting a new Iraqi constitution abandoned negotiations with a group of Sunni representatives on Friday, deciding to take the disputed charter directly to the Iraqi people.

With the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, standing by, Shiite and Kurdish representatives said they had run out of patience with the Sunni negotiators, a group that includes several former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. The Shiites and Kurds said the Sunnis had refused to budge on a pair of crucial issues that were holding up completion of the constitution.

The Shiites and Kurds reached their decision in meetings that ran late into Friday night, disregarding the Sunnis' pleas for more time.

The Shiite and Kurdish representatives sought to play down the importance of leaving the Sunnis out, saying that with their Baathist links, they had never truly spoken for the broader Sunni population. The Iraqi leaders who drafted the constitution defended it as a document that would ensure the unity of the country and safeguard individual rights.

"The negotiation is finished, and we have a deal," said Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy prime minister and a member of the Shiite leadership. "No one has any more time. It cannot drag on any longer. Most of the Sunnis are satisfied. Everybody made sacrifices. It is an excellent document."

Well, if you can't take Chalabi's word for it....Seriously, why is it that this is the only thing Bush insisted on a timetable for? Ironically, this tends to bolster Bush's general point about timetables -- people can just wait them out. Basically, the Sunnis feel pretty cornered right now, and with good reason. The Kurds and Shiites have a lot of payback to administer. Even without the looming specter of Shia death squads tearing al-Anbar a new one soon as we leave, they can just use the newfound institutions of "democracy" to do it, by federalizing the Sunni areas into penury and powerlessness. They know this, that's why they refuse to sign on.

But back to my original point -- the very fact that Ahmad Chalabi vouches for it is all the more reason to scrutinize both the document and the process. Turning over the country to the Vichy Chalabites just puts him in the position of playing us and Iran off against each other for the next decade or so. I'm sure Chalabi will soon have several palaces, if he doesn't already.

The decision to move forward was a heavy blow for the Bush administration, which had expended enormous energy and political capital to forge a constitution that included the Sunnis. On Thursday, in a last-ditch effort to get a deal, President Bush telephoned Abdul Aziz Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to press him to offer a more palatable compromise to the Sunnis.

The Sunni leaders complained bitterly that the Shiites and the Kurds had offered no real concessions on the two issues that still divided them: autonomy for the Shiite majority and an end to the campaign to root out former Baath Party members from government and society.

The Sunni leaders said they would urge all Sunni Arabs to vote the constitution down when it went before Iraqi voters in a referendum scheduled for Oct. 15. Under a special mechanism agreed to last year at the Kurds' insistence, the draft constitution will be rejected if two-thirds of the voters in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces vote against it. Sunni Arabs make up a majority in three provinces, though it remains unclear if they could muster a two-thirds majority in all three.


From the start, Iraqi leaders and members of the Bush administration have maintained that Sunni participation in the drafting of the constitution, and in parliamentary elections in December, were essential first steps in bringing the Sunnis into Iraq's budding democratic process. The guerrilla insurgency is largely made up of disaffected Sunnis, and the Sunni areas of the country largely boycotted parliamentary elections in January.

Some Iraqi leaders, even some who said they were fed up with the recalcitrance of the Sunni negotiators, said they were worried about producing a constitution formally agreed to by only two of the country's three major groups. Rather than uniting the country, these Iraqis said, there was a risk that such a constitution could drive the groups further apart.

Adnan Pachachi, a former Iraqi foreign minister and a secular Sunni leader, said he agreed with much of what was in the new constitution but was troubled by its more overtly Islamic provisions, like the ones giving clerics a role in adjudicating family law.

Mr. Pachachi, one of the Americans' closest friends in Iraq, said he was growing increasingly worried about the overweening power of the cleric-dominated Shiite political leadership, which maintains extensive ties to the Iranian Islamic government next door.

"They want to inject religion into everything, which is not right," Mr. Pachachi said of the Iraqi Shiite leaders. "I cannot imagine that we might have a theocratic regime in Iraq like the one in Iran. That would be a disaster."

Indeed, under the constitution now completed, Islam will reign as the official state religion and as a main source of Iraqi law. Clerics will in all likelihood have seats on the Supreme Court, where they will be empowered to examine legislation to make sure it does not conflict with Islam. They will be given an opportunity to apply Islamic law in family disputes over matters like divorce and inheritance.

Those provisions have raised concerns here, especially among Iraqi women and secular leaders, who fear that they are laying the groundwork for a full-blown Islamic state.

So. There's your "noble cause", Dear Leader. How do you like it?

Until the Iranian-backed Sistani group started gaining traction, Pachachi was actually the man. But he's in his 80s and from a minority that, by will of the rest of the country, is about to be put on ice. Make no mistake -- the constitution might get bulled through, and they might get their referendum and all, but the Sunnis will keep pushing toward civil war.

Not only that, but let's face facts -- even if the Sunnis had just signed on willingly, it's still a document that takes the country a few steps toward a theocracy that oppresses women. I don't think anyone signed up for that, and all the anodyne "let's take what we can get" arguments don't change that simple fact.

General Wesley Clark has some ideas that make sense -- which naturally means that they won't be implemented.

On the political track, aiming for a legitimate, democratic Iraqi government was essential, but the United States was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action. A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces. Months went by without a U.S. ambassador in Iraq, and today political development among the Iraqis is hampered by the lack not only of security but also of a stable infrastructure program that can reliably deliver gas, electricity and jobs.

Meanwhile, on the military track, security on the ground remains poor at best. U.S. armed forces still haven't received resources, restructuring and guidance adequate for the magnitude of the task. Only in June, over two years into the mission of training Iraqi forces, did the president announce such "new steps" as partnering with Iraqi units, establishing "transition teams" to work with Iraqi units and training Iraqi ministries to conduct antiterrorist operations. But there is nothing new about any of this; it is the same nation-building doctrine that we used in Vietnam. Where are the thousands of trained linguists? Where are the flexible, well-resourced, military-led infrastructure development programs to win "hearts and minds?" Where are the smart operations and adequate numbers of forces -- U.S., coalition or Iraqi -- to strengthen control over the borders?

Indeed. All we heard in the marketing phase of this clusterfuck was how leaner, meaner fighting forces would enable us to "finish the job" that much faster, because of their greater mobility and adaptability. Logistically, that was true enough -- armies travel on their stomachs, and every general back to Sun Tzu knows that logistics are every bit as key to success as training, strategy, and tactics.

However, where the braintrust fell short was strategy. Strategy is more than having an effective playbook and game plan; it is also about adapting to changing or unforeseen conditions. That is where we fell woefully short. Apparently they really meant it about the expectations of rose petals and candy. They meant it so much they failed even to plan for the possibility that they might have guessed wrong.

Whatever. We're here now, and hopefully the voters will recognize that the morons who insisted on all this are considerably worse than their feckless enablers in the "opposition" party. What do we do now, General?

Adding a diplomatic track to the strategy is a must. The United States should form a standing conference of Iraq's neighbors, complete with committees dealing with all the regional economic and political issues, including trade, travel, cross-border infrastructure projects and, of course, cutting off the infiltration of jihadists. The United States should tone down its raw rhetoric and instead listen more carefully to the many voices within the region. In addition, a public U.S. declaration forswearing permanent bases in Iraq would be a helpful step in engaging both regional and Iraqi support as we implement our plans.

On the political side, the timeline for the agreements on the Constitution is less important than the substance of the document. It is up to American leadership to help engineer, implement and sustain a compromise that will avoid the "red lines" of the respective factions and leave in place a state that both we and Iraq's neighbors can support. So no Kurdish vote on independence, a restricted role for Islam and limited autonomy in the south. And no private militias.

In addition, the United States needs a legal mandate from the government to provide additional civil assistance and advice, along with additional U.S. civilian personnel, to help strengthen the institutions of government. Key ministries must be reinforced, provincial governments made functional, a system of justice established (and its personnel trained) and the rule of law promoted at the local level. There will be a continuing need for assistance in institutional development, leadership training and international monitoring for years to come, and all of this must be made palatable to Iraqis concerned with their nation's sovereignty. Monies promised for reconstruction simply must be committed and projects moved forward, especially in those areas along the border and where the insurgency has the greatest potential.

On the military side, the vast effort underway to train an army must be matched by efforts to train police and local justices. Canada, France and Germany should be engaged to assist. Neighboring states should also provide observers and technical assistance. In military terms, striking at insurgents and terrorists is necessary but insufficient. Military and security operations must return primarily to the tried-and-true methods of counterinsurgency: winning the hearts and minds of the populace through civic action, small-scale economic development and positive daily interactions. Ten thousand Arab Americans with full language proficiency should be recruited to assist as interpreters. A better effort must be made to control jihadist infiltration into the country by a combination of outposts, patrols and reaction forces reinforced by high technology. Over time U.S. forces should be pulled back into reserve roles and phased out.

There's a lot of great points there, and the Vulcans would do well to take them under advisement. Sadly, despite all the talk about how we won't "cut and run", it sure seems like that's what they're preparing for. I don't know how that's possible in the context of all those permanent forward-deployment bases we've set up there, but the current attitude of the beleaguered (by their own ineptitude) administration is that they'd be happy to leave it to Chalabi and friends. And you just never know who this guy keeps around as a "friend". Chalabi is little more than the usual distributor of thick envelopes, and as such, I have no doubt he'll have the place humming like his own personal Indian casino in several years.

But despite Dear Leader's hoary proclamations that the best way to honor our dead is to stay this nebulous course, it seems people are starting to finally wonder about the simplistic Yogi Berra wisdom in Bush's little verbal gems. Better late than never, I suppose. Even Bobo, in his own special way, may be starting to realize it, though he'll never fully admit it.

Oh yeah, someone else is registering their approval and endorsement of the new draft constitution:

Iran on Tuesday heralded the submission of Iraq's draft constitution to parliament, saying the text would improve "security, peace and sovereignty" across the border, according to AFP.

"The composition of Iraq's constitution is an very valuable and important step towards the independence and integration of Iraq," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told official media.

"It will help the Iraqi nation to gain security, establishment of peace and sovereignty."

Can't say we weren't warned.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Bitch In The Ditch

Classy. [via Atrios]

With five days left until the end of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan's vigil near President Bush's ranch, Crawford became protest central Saturday as supporters and opponents of the Iraq war rallied, marched and simmered in 101-degree heat.

A handful also got themselves arrested, including a protester whose anti-Sheehan sign was deemed unnecessarily offensive by organizers of a large pro-Bush rally. The man carrying the sign became violent when he was asked to put it down.

Ken Robinson, of Richardson, Texas, who described himself as a Vietnam veteran, was carrying a sign at a “You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy!” rally. The sign read, “How to wreck your family in 30 days by ‘b**** in the ditch' Cindy Sheehan.”

Nice, huh? I think one would need a psychology degree to be able to plumb the psychosis of this "man", or even scratch the surface. It takes someone truly un-self-reflective to respond to Cindy Sheehan's plaintive campaign in such a petulant manner.

And I don't get this "You Don't Speak For Me, Cindy!" stuff. She never said that she spoke for everyone; in fact, she reiterated the opposite on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday night. Again, these people need to take a deep breath and learn to listen as well as they scream. Perhaps reading and critically thinking could be worked into the mix as well.

Kristinn Taylor, an event organizer with, heard about the sign and rushed up to Robinson.

“This is our rally and you can't do that here,” he said, only for Robinson to insist he was within his rights.

Camera crews rushed in and Taylor turned to face them.

“To all the media here, this sign is not representative of the crowd here today,” Taylor announced. Some of the crowd around Robinson came forward to shake his hand, while others chanted, “Idiot, go home.”

The two men then squared off and raised their voices.

“Just get outta here!” Robinson yelled, and aimed a kick at Taylor's midsection. Taylor called for security, and a young Woodway policeman quickly showed up.

“I have the right to freedom of speech,” Robinson said.

Robinson continued to protest loudly as police handcuffed him and led him away.

Taylor deserves credit for differentiating her group's main effort (however flawed it may be) from that of Robinson, who is clearly deranged. But I wonder how long he'd been allowed to hang around until the cameras started focusing attention on him.

Regardless, Robinson is correct in asserting his right to free speech, which we all have. In fact, I have it on good authority that Robinson is known to frequent truck-stop glory holes all up and down I-35, from Waco to Oklahoma City.

You can take that free speech to the bank, podna.

These counter-protesters, in their oversimplification of the situation, are ignoring a vital fact, in their reckless trashing of Cindy Sheehan, in their frantic efforts to paint her as some sort of left-field kook: Dear Leader's declining polls, specifially in the area of handling Iraq. They just keep falling:

A new Gallup Poll reflects further erosion in President George W. Bush's job approval rating, continuing the slow but steady decline evident throughout the year so far. The poll -- conducted Aug. 22-25 -- puts Bush's job approval rating at 40% and his disapproval rating at 56%. Both are the most negative ratings of the Bush administration. Bush's previous low point in approval was 44% (July 25-28, 2005) and his previous high point in disapproval was 53% (June 24-26, 2005).

Bush's average approval rating for the last three Gallup Polls -- all conducted in August -- is 43%. The rolling average has been steadily declining throughout the year. Bush's average approval ratings for January, February, and March of this year were in the 50% to 52% range, but they then began declining slowly in subsequent months. Bush's average approval rating in May was 48%, declining to 46% in June, rising slightly in July, and then declining again to the current three-poll average of 43%.

This, for the mathematically disinclined out there, reasonably implies that a preponderance of Americans agree with Cindy Sheehan, or at least objectively agree with her to a greater degree than they do with Dear Leader. Take your pick; either way, the upshot is that all this insistence that Sheehan is just a lefty wacko totally ignores the reality of the situation.

The honeymoon is over; America has fallen out of love -- and patience -- with Dear Leader's incompetence and repetitive boilerplate rhetoric. Freedom is not marching; the bad guys are not getting replaced by good guys; every day underscores the plain fact that we've gotten ourselves into something we weren't prepared for.

We claim to "support our troops", but reports keep coming out that those up-armored Humvees Rumsfeld promised nine months ago have yet to materialize. Pro or con on the war, what kind of fucking support is that? Why the hell are people in the know asserting that the Mexican army gives its troops better equipment than we give ours?

And I have lost patience with John McCain, at long last; his Sunday morning toadying is just irresponsible at this point. McCain postulates that more troops would be better. Okay, where do you propose to get said troops, Senator? This is proof positive that America has lost faith in this adventure -- they're staying away from it in droves.

But even if our 18-year-olds were inclined to sign up -- and their parents were inclined to let them -- it ignores the fact that that moment has passed. We could mobilize 500,000 troops at this point; all we'd be doing is necessitating mass slaughters. We'd have a hundred My Lais on our hands to try to live down. That window has closed. All we can do at this point is manage the draw-down in such a fashion that the imminent civil war takes a minimum of innocent lives. Even that may be impossible by now.

And all the Democrats need to do is tell the truth. Dear Leader got what he wanted every step of the way, so this whole mess is on his shoulders, and that's how history (as opposed to irresponsible hagiography) will remember him. Whatever the case, they need to shit or get off the pot; as a wise man once said, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

In the meantime, at the grass-roots level, I suggest that the counter-protesters who have their backs up about every little thing need to step back for a second and take a look around. There's a reason Bush has given up trying to sell this thing anywhere besides cherry-picked red-state audiences.

Too Good To Be True?

This sounds like impossibly good news, doesn't it?

Montana's governor wants to solve America's rising energy costs using a technology discovered in Germany 80 years ago that converts coal into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.

The Fischer-Tropsch technology, discovered by German researchers in 1923 and later used by the Nazis to convert coal into wartime fuels, was not economical as long as oil cost less than $30 a barrel.

But with U.S. crude oil now hitting more than double that price, Gov. Brian Schweitzer's plan is getting more attention across the country and some analysts are taking him very seriously.

Sounds great, except there's something a bit odd about waiting until the cost of a barrel of oil is more than double what the supposed cost-benefit point is. Especially when you consider that extraction industries, because of the sheer volume of the commodities they produce, typically think in fractions of a cent when it comes to cost-benefit analysis.

In other words, if it "costs" $30 per barrel to produce using the Fischer-Tropsch technology, you can bet somebody would have been ready to hop on it soon as oil hit $30.01 and stayed. Economy of scale would have guaranteed a profit. So there's something more to the story, I can almost guarantee you.

Montana is "sitting on more energy than they have in the Middle East," Schweitzer told Reuters in an interview this week.

"I am leading this country in this desire and demand to convert coal into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel. We can do it in Montana for $1 per gallon," he said.

"We can do it cheaper than importing oil from the sheiks, dictators, rats and crooks that we're bringing it from right now."

The governor estimated the cost of producing a barrel of oil through the Fischer-Tropsch method at $32, and said that with its 120 billion tons of coal -- a little less than a third of the U.S total -- Montana could supply the entire United States with its aviation, gas and diesel fuel for 40 years without creating environmental damage.

An entry level Fischer-Tropsch plant producing 22,000 barrels a day would cost about $1.5 billion, he said.

I hope this is true, I really do. But even if so, a couple things. One is that we still need to start really paying attention to our consumption habits. This wouldn't absolve us from that, it would merely give us some breathing room. Montana's a huge state, but there are also some enormous national parks therein. How much of this coal is in Glacier or the part of Yellowstone in eastern Montana? How much of it should we trash to feed our thirsty gas-guzzlers, or can we start re-defining our "needs", versus merely our "wants"?

The other thing is that while Schweitzer may feel that this is an opportunity for Montana to contribute its natural resources to help alleviate the gas price crunch, the fact is that oil companies will probably see to it that at best, this technology merely enables them to ensure whatever profit cushion they desire. So instead of being beholden to decadent sheiks presiding over populaces of fundamentalist wingnuts, we'd be beholden to Chevron and Shell. Good times.

We definitely do need to find ways to extricate ourselves from the Middle East, once and for all. Let them find out for themselves what life is like without all those decadent western petrodollars propping up the strongmen; let them decide amongst themselves whether they really want a return to the caliphate. Hopefully Schweitzer's coal-oil tech idea comes as advertised.

But that's an exceptionally rare circumstance in life. Chances are one or more of the oil companies sees an opportunity to have taxpayers pay more the procurement technology to produce more domestic oil for them to find lame excuses to justify $3 per gallon pump prices. Pretty much standard procedure for these guys.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Whack A Mole

The federal terror probe in Lodi, CA has taken an odd turn.

In the days after federal agents arrested five residents of Lodi in a terror investigation in June, a clean-cut young man who had befriended the suspects and had spent nights at their homes vanished.

He hasn't been seen in town since, and now members of Lodi's Muslim community suspect they know why: The man, who called himself Nasim Khan, was a government mole, they believe, an informer whose surreptitious tape recordings of one of the suspects are at the heart of the federal probe.

Community members said Khan, who is in his early 30s, sometimes spoke of "jihad" in what they now believe was an attempt to get others to express radical sentiments.

If this sort of entrapment is a genuine attempt to ferret out actual cells that are actually up to something, fine. Having seen for several years now the sheer ineptitude with which these little "sting" operations have gone down -- with little or nothing to show for it all -- color me skeptical. Getting a couple of cranky Muslims to speak clearly into a nutsack microphone, trying to get a couple of inflammatory phrases out of them, doesn't make me feel a hell of a lot safer.

Federal prosecutors last week revealed they had a "cooperating witness" in Lodi. Without naming him, they said he had recorded scores of conversations with Hamid Hayat, a 22-year-old man accused of lying when he denied participating in a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. His father, 47-year- old Umer Hayat, is charged with lying about the same thing.

Hamid Hayat's attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, earlier this month received 47 audiotapes made by the "witness" that go back as far as August 2002.

By all accounts, Hamid Hayat and the "witness" were close friends. Several members of Lodi's Muslim community now say that friend was Nasim Khan, and a relative of the Hayats said Hamid Hayat identified the "witness" as Khan after learning of the content of the recordings.

The "witness" appears to be critical to the case. Prosecutors are using him in an attempt to connect Hamid Hayat to terrorism, while defense attorneys and some community members -- who say he was an aggressive provocateur in conversations -- are trying to find out more about him. Whether he is a civilian informant or an undercover agent could affect what information the defense is entitled to receive.

Moreover, his actions provide a look at one of the ways the government has been searching out Islamic extremists since Sept. 11, 2001. Some experts say such surveillance is critical to the war on terror, while critics say it violates people's freedom to practice their religion.

Obviously, it just comes down to whether the Hayats really did participate in the terrorist training camp. But if this is a put-up job, the government is really going to have to rethink their strategy. Putting 100% of American Muslims on edge because you suspect a tiny fraction of a fraction of 1% of them is just counter-productive, especially if they got nothing to show for it.

The 23-year-old mosque member said he saw Nasim Khan a few days after the arrests at a Sacramento mosque that was hosting a lecture on raising children. After the lecture, Khan approached him, shared a plate of meat and rice with him and talked about the federal terror probe.

"He said, 'We should all be on the same page -- we should have the same story,' " the 23-year-old said. "I said, 'I don't have anything to hide.' "

Weird. If this sort of thing is the best weapon in the counter-terrorism arsenal, I sure as hell don't feel safer.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Assassinate This Guy

In the wake of the most recent episode of Pat Robertson's clinical insanity, this little reminder comes wafting over our transom. I re-nominate my personal favorite candidate for extrajudicial "cleansing", Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, confirmed for the first time that a Pakistani nuclear scientist had provided North Korea with centrifuge machines that could be used to make fuel for an atomic bomb, a Japanese news agency reported.

In an interview Tuesday with Kyodo News, Musharraf said the former head of his country's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, had sent "centrifuges -- parts and complete" to North Korea. The Pakistani leader did not divulge the number of centrifuges that had arrived in North Korea, saying, "I do not exactly remember the number."

Musharraf also said Khan might have sent North Korea uranium hexafluoride, which can be enriched in centrifuges and then processed into fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or atomic warheads.

"Might"? Might? This is an important specific to elide; one hopes for a more declarative offering. Never mind. What we already know for a fact indicates that Khan's efforts have single-handedly endangered more human beings than all but a handful of things or people you can even contemplate. This asshole should be on a slab. He should leave his villa feet first. Period.

Further developments only bolster my argument for taking Khan out, and I don't mean for a nice lunch at a café:

Two men accused in South Africa of involvement in a global nuclear weapons black market face fresh charges after new evidence against them was uncovered linking them to Dr Qadeer Khan of Pakistan, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Gerhard Wisser, a German living in South Africa, and his Swiss colleague Daniel Geiges were arrested in September last year after prosecutors said they had evidence linking them to the Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan network.

Dr Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atom bomb, has admitted to supplying nuclear secrets to countries under embargo, including North Korea, Iran and Libya, which in 2003 vowed to abandon its nuclear programme.


South Africa was among 20 countries named last year by the UN’s atomic agency as recipients of Mr Khan’s nuclear secrets.

I understand the wheres and whys of Musharraf leaving Khan alone; I even understand why we leave him alone. Were we to give Khan his just desserts and dispatch him forthwith, the usually calm and pro-American Pakistani populace would suddenly take a break from gang-raping lower-class women to turn on us and Musharraf.

Nonetheless, I submit that this is a story that should push every other story off the front page, if only to get this matter discussed more proactively. There is no rational reason that an insect like Khan should just be allowed to get away with this as completely as he has. At the absolute minimum, making sure every armchair rube knows exactly who this clown is and what he did would force Pakistan to rethink their protection of him -- they'd at least have to publicly justify it to the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, I guess we just cross our fingers and hope against hope that ol' A.Q.'s handiwork isn't already on its way over here, stashed in the cargo hold of some freighter. Feelin' safer already.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mr. Bubble

Just when you think Bush can't get any dumber or more disingenuous, he goes and proves you amazingly, tragically wrong.

Despite more violence on Wednesday in Iraq, Mr. Bush said, "What's important is that the Iraqis are resolving these issues through debate and discussion, not at the barrel of a gun."

Would somebody please hand this moron a newspaper, any newspaper, from any date over the last year or so? Only at one of these tiresome spoon-feeding sessions can he get away with such nonsense. Really, he might as well have trotted out the old "Mission Accomplished" banner.

It just never ends with this guy. He truly has no sense of reality.

Big Fat Liar

You would think that after getting my extended hate on with Rush Limbaugh the other day, I'd have said all I meant to say about him at the time, but there's a little more, which Oxy was kind enough to remind me of yesterday.

As he went off on yet another full-throated rant on filthy ditch-dwelling liberals daring to criticize Dear Leader, he touched on one of his more generic beefs, one he returns to quite regularly, like the proverbial dog to his vomit. His contention that "liberals" exist only to hate and thwart conservatives struck me in a couple different ways.

One is in the obvious "pot meets kettle" way, that without liberal bogeypersons and feminazis and womyn's studies departments at Hairy Armpit Lesbo Commie U, Limbaugh would have nothing to talk about. Really, he doesn't anyway -- the fact is that the opposition party has been remarkably inept in thwarting any of Dear Leader's attempts to undermine this country and drive it back to the Gilded Age. They did finally get some backbone on Social Security, but let's face it, Bush was his own worst enemy on that one. They couldn't have had a more incompetent marketing plan if they'd had Bob Shrum design it for them.

Which leads me to the second way it struck me, which is just how incompetent Republicans are, if Limbaugh is to be taken even half-seriously. "Liberals" and Democrats can at least point to objective ways in which the Republican agenda has effectively blocked and thwarted the goals they supposedly have in mind. But again, aside from SS, the Republicans cannot remotely make such a claim. Bush got the war he wanted, when he wanted it. He's gotten all the money he wanted for them. He's gotten his tax cuts. He's had to work a little for those things, but everything worthwhile in life requires hard work by good people, does it not?

Anyway, what could the Republicans possibly desire to change, that the Democrats have not eventually rolled over and given to them? Even on Social Security, there's no guarantee they won't eventually compromise somewhere along the line -- indeed, it would be considered par for the course. But Bush has wanted for very little. He's never even had to veto anything, in five years of mismanagement. That's unprecedented, which is another in a long list of words he has no clue how to pronounce or use in a sentence.

But in four days (which seemed like four years) of listening to Limbaugh's disjointed rants, I scarcely heard him utter a peep as far as what he'd like Republicans to do about much of anything. It was all about how the evil protesters were keeping Dear Leader down, how the evil congressional Democrats were idiots and dinosaurs. Well okay, but again, Dear Leader's gotten most of what he wanted, even down to Abu Gonzalez and Singin' John Ashcroft (aka The Titty Fairy). So what's the fuckin' problem, pillhead?

The occasionally useful Keith Olbermann may have the answer, and even if he doesn't he provides an interesting slant on Rush's reign of error.

Understand this about Limbaugh. He doesn’t believe half the junk he spouts. I’ve met him, and had pleasant enough conversations with him, twice - at the 1980 World Series when he was still a mid-level baseball flunky with a funny name, and once in the mid ‘90s at ESPN when he was just beginning his campaign to get a toehold there. He is a quiet, almost colorless man who, if he could be guaranteed similar success in sportscasting, would sell out the sheep who follow his every word - and would do it before close of business today.

But with that ESPN bid having gone up in flames just under two years ago, and sports forever closed off to him, he’s gotten into what the novelist Robert Graves called a “Golden Predicament” - overwhelming success in a field he really had no intention of pursuing - and he has to keep churning this stuff out every day.

I have actually debated a fair amount of staunch Republicans who, when cornered, will characterize Limbaugh as little more than a carnival barker, a shill. And they're right about that, but that didn't stop them -- or many other people -- from regurgitating Limbaugh's lies and misinformation as if they were gospel.

On his daily radio soap opera, on August 15, Limbaugh said “Cindy Sheehan is just Bill Burkett. Her story is nothing more than forged documents, there's nothing about it that's real…” The complete transcript of the 860 words that surround those quotes can be found at the bottom of this entry.

Yet, apparently there was something so unpopular, so subversive, and so crazy about those remarks that he has found it necessary to deny he said them - even when there are recordings and transcripts of them - and to brand those who’ve claimed he said them as crackpots and distorters. More over, that amazing temple to himself, his website, has been scrubbed clean of all evidence of these particular remarks, and to ‘prove’ his claim that he never made the remarks in question on August 15, he has misdirected visitors to that site to transcripts and recordings of remarks he made on August 12.

Limbaugh is terrified. And he has reason to be.


Since we declared Limbaugh “The Worst Person In The World” two nights later for the remarks about Sheehan, he has had the transcript of his pier-drive expunged (even though he initially thought so much of it, that it was posted as a “featured quote” for paying subscribers to his website). Simultaneously, the hapless Brent Bozell, who runs that scam called The Media Research Center, declared that I was guilty of “distortion” in quoting the Sheehan remarks.

Well, as you’ll see below, the only distortion here, is that which lingers in Limbaugh’s ears. His remarks about Sheehan were so embraced by at least one of his fans that they were preserved on another website, and we can present them in full here. You will notice that nothing has been taken out of context, nothing in the minutes before nor the minutes afterwards mitigates against the utter callousness and infamy of his comments about Sheehan.

In the interest of space, I encourage you to read the whole article, as well as the excerpt Olbermann refers to, and see how he's got Fatboy by the short n' curlies. Of course, none of it will matter in the slightest to the dittoheads, but they are their own worst enemies anyway. Let them fester in their welfare red states, praying to the god they only think they believe in to bless them with that Walmart promotion. George W. Bush will fuck them over just like he's fucked everyone else over, they're just less equipped with a cushion to handle it.

One last quick example that I think epitomizes both Limbaugh's brain, and those of his moron listeners, is this: apparently an Islamic-American relations group is pressuring a court district in North Carolina to allow Muslim witnesses to swear on a Qu'ran, rather than a Bible. Now, I instantly found myself thinking about the interesting can of worms opened up here, the discussion that could be had. Obviously the Bible in this instance is just a totem for emphasizing the sanctity of the courtroom oath. Even atheists pretty much go along with it, even though it doesn't literally mean much.

But here's an opportunity, perhaps, to scrutinize what is really a rather outmoded tradition, that in all practicality has nothing to do with anything.

Naturally, Limbaugh didn't see it that way -- he fumed and blustered and slippery-sloped it to how allowing the Qu'ran to be substituted would eventually lead to people "swearing on goats". I kid you not; that's what he literally said. And I understand he was being his usual polemic self, but still....really infantile. Yes, Rush, you just never know -- some o' these swarthy types may not think a promise means anything unless they get to paint a goat's haunches with, uh, "prophet butter".

The first caller surprised me -- he flashed his quals as a lifelong Republican and a former JAG in the armed forces, and supported the idea of allowing the Qu'ran. Frankly, I'm surprised he got through in the first place. He must have told them he was from Merck. Anyway, he laid out his reasons, which basically boiled down to the idea that what's important is impressing upon the person that the oath is serious and inviolable, and if a different book gets that point across more effectively, what's the harm?

The next couple callers answered that rhetorical question, predictably enough, and with practically the same answer -- because we've always done it this way. And their frenetic tone effectively contrasted the calm, sober demeanor of the first caller, who after all was right. Look, you really don't need a book at all, or even an oath. An admonition from the judge should be enough. "You are expected to provide complete and truthful answers in this proceeding. Failure to do so will mean that your ass winds up in jail for perjury. You got all that?" Swearing an oath to someone you only believe in when the chips are down is so step-on-a-crack-break-your-mama's-back.

But that's the base mentality of the window-lickers who listen to this anal cyst bloviate three hours a day. It's sad, because they could be organizing their overalls, or sorting out their seed corn for the next plantin'. No, seriously, it's fucked up, because these people clearly have not taken any opportunity to avail themselves of facts, figuring somehow that soaking themselves in polemic and bluster will somehow absolve them from the drudgery of participatory democracy. This pisses me off, because it's their duty to me, and you, and every other American to read as many sides of the story as they can find, to acquaint themselves with facts and useful knowledge, and take all that to the voting booth from time to time. Hee hee, sometimes I make myself laugh.

It was at about that point that I said "fuck it" and found the soothing, inflection-free tonalities of NPR. Thank God.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

When The Lie's So Big

As in Robertson's case. (Familiarity with Frank Zappa's excellent Broadway The Hard Way CD helps with that sort-of punchline.)

Anyway, here's the lunatic asshole this morning [article has since been updated]:

Earlier Wednesday, on his "The 700 Club" program, Robertson said the media had taken his remarks out of context.

"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP [Associated Press], but that happens all the time," Robertson said on "The 700 Club."

Actually, the lunatic asshole did say "assassination". We all saw the video, retard. God doesn't like liars, Pat.

Anyway, here's the lunatic asshole this afternoon:

Conservative U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson apologized on Wednesday for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying he spoke in frustration earlier in the week.

"Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him."

My, how several hours (and, presumably, having one of his flunkies point out to this senile idiot that not only did he say it, the whole world has seen it by now, not just his own li'l Jeebus Corner) changes one's perspective.

Another little tidbit from the CNN article just cements how much of a....well, a lunatic asshole this guy really is:

But he compared Chavez to Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Adolph Hitler and quoted German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "[That if a madman were] driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can't, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver."

Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazis for his involvement in a 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.

Robertson's rationale for his statement remained unchanged.

"I said before the war in Iraq began that the wisest course would be to wage war against Saddam Hussein, not the whole nation of Iraq," Robertson said. "When faced with the threat of a comparable dictator in our own hemisphere, would it not be wiser to wage war against one person rather than finding ourselves down the road locked in a bitter struggle with a whole nation?"

So far there has been no reaction from Venezuela to Robertson's apology.

You know, I really have no opinion on Chavez one way or the other -- he seems like a fairly odd duck, and has overtly aligned himself with, shall we say, problematic regimes like Cuba and China. And he's clearly an autocrat, which is not a good thing if we are serious about democracy.

However, Chavez has thus far been a fairly benevolent despot, trying to bring Venezuela's poorest up a notch, at the expense of the oligarchy that has run that country (like most other countries in the region, obviously) for generations as their own little fiefdom, at the expense of the masses. Payback's a bitch.

Reasonable people can get into disagreements over what sort of doctrinaire economic theories Chavez is violating with his redistributive policies. But it is impossibly irresponsible -- not to mention stupid, just unspeakably stupid -- to lump him in with monsters like Saddam and Hitler. I simply cannot plumb the depths of Robertson's irredeemable stupidity. All I can say is, in the future, Pat should let the foreign policy people worry about foreign policy, and he can go back to praying to his invisible friend to launch hurricanes and meteors at Disney World during Gay Days.

Frankly, enough is enough. ABC has the broadcast partnership with this fucking freak; I suggest an e-mailed boycott campaign may get them to see the light on this, before the new seasons of Lost and Desperate Milfs begin. Because here's the thing -- this is not just some "private citizen" speakin' his mind, as it's being characterized; this is someone who is as politically connected to the Washington establishment and this administration as anyone could hope to be. Robertson has counseled Bush on his Iraq War policy. Okay? This is not some unknown guy from Pig's Knuckle, Arkansas.

How do you like your gas prices right now? Pretty damn sweet, eh? Well, Venezuela is the fifth-largest oil exporter in the world. What happens if Chavez gets home from Cuba and decides he's had enough yanqui bullshit? It's not like he'll have to sit on his exports for long; the Chinese will take all he can spare, and he'd be perfectly happy to give it to them just to fuck with us further. Then what? Hey, you know who to thank.

I think the administration needs to eat it on this one and publicly excommunicate Robertson. It's for the good of the nation anyway -- this man is a diseased, wicked little troll, whose access to power is as inexplicable and unforgivable as that of Sun Myung Moon. Crazy people simply should not have that much political access; these assholes should be in rubber rooms.

Of course, we're talking about an administration that thinks this is some sort of solution to our insane level of consumption.

The new system will continue to exempt large sport utility vehicles and trucks weighing more than 8,500 pounds -- such as the Hummer H2 and the Ford Excursion -- from fuel economy standards because they are considered commercial vehicles, even if they are not used as such.

So. You ready to get back into the overthrow business just 'cause your Hummer's thirsty? (By the way, someone should tell the people driving the yellow ones that they look like the proverbial short bus. Figures.) You may have to get ready for it soon, thanks to America's Favorite Lunatic Asshole.

As long as the Hummer drivers send their kids first.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Assassination Of Pat Robertson

The fact that Pat Robertson is clinically insane is not news. The fact that Robertson periodically says stupid and inflammatory things -- also not news. I find it curious that in a climate that marginalizes people like Sean Penn or Susan Sontag, no matter how clearly and methodically they present their arguments, people like Robertson and Jerry Falwell get comparatively little heat and brief attention for things like this.

On the broadcast of the Christian television program "The 700 Club," Falwell made the following statement:

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

Falwell, pastor of the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, viewed the attacks as God's judgment on America for "throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked."

But in a phone call to CNN, Falwell said that only the hijackers and terrorists were responsible for the deadly attacks.

"I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23, which says 'living by God's principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame,'" he said.

Falwell said he believes the ACLU and other organizations "which have attempted to secularize America, have removed our nation from its relationship with Christ on which it was founded."

"I therefore believe that that created an environment which possibly has caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812," he said.

Pat Robertson, host of the 700 Club program, seemed to agree with Falwell's earlier statements in a prayer during the program.

"We have sinned against Almighty God, at the highest level of our government, we've stuck our finger in your eye," said Robertson. "The Supreme Court has insulted you over and over again, Lord. They've taken your Bible away from the schools. They've forbidden little children to pray. They've taken the knowledge of God as best they can, and organizations have come into court to take the knowledge of God out of the public square of America."

Mind you, these traitorous, despicable statements were made mere hours after we all watched the towers of the World Trade Center collapse, after we watched people jump dozens of stories rather than be burned alive, after we watched New York City get turned into a smoke-filled nightmare of chaos and pain. So maybe that's how Falwell and Robertson got away with that, because we were all still reeling from the pain and confusion.

Or maybe it's because "men of God" always get a pass. They are never held liable for the horrible things they say. If they were, they wouldn't keep saying them.

I think it's funny (and by "funny", I mean pathetic) that the media has thus far been selling this story as an "oh, that boy" kinda thing. In addition to his public America-hating seditious bullshit during our darkest hour, Robertson has been holding regular "prayer vigils" for some time now, regularly beseeching the bloodthirsty demon he pretends to worship for a vacancy to emerge in the Supreme Court. Objectively, he's publicly praying for John Paul Stevens to die.

I'm not sure whom I have more contempt for, Robertson himself, or the enabling planarians that still give him money. Frankly they can all fuck off and rot in hell.

One thing which never seems to get pointed out by the professional commentariat is the obvious -- Robertson, his followers, and undoubtedly his colleagues and their followers, are stone hypocrites. Everything they do is overtly, deliberately centered around getting religion -- their religion, of course -- as involved in politics as possible. But God forbid politics intereferes in their sacred superstition.

Look, assholes, if you don't want peanut butter all over your chocolate, then quit sticking your chocolate in everyone's peanut butter. That probably sounds filthier than it needed to, but for once, it was actually unintentional.

Another thing that struck me was how the context of all this -- both of Robertson's history and the US' history in political mal-fee-ance -- was framed by the "liberal media" in its coverage. Let's look at a few examples.

Los Angeles Times:

The scope of Robertson's influence drew considerable debate. His syndicated television program, which had only recently been described as reaching an audience of at least a million, has drawn an average audience of 863,000 a day during the 2004-2005 television season, according to Nielsen Media Research.

His political reach was at an apex in the 1988 presidential campaign.

However, a leading national evangelical figure said Robertson's influence among evangelicals in the United States had ebbed.

"He's an old man and there's a group of old women and old men who watch him," said this leader, who asked to remain anonymous because he said he respected Robertson's past ministry and also did not want to alienate Robertson's followers. "The spokespeople for evangelicalism are significantly distanced from him politically and spiritually. The Moral Majority days are long gone. It's a different world."

Bullshit. This is someone who has had his own TV show and network for decades, who has publicly claimed to have spoken and counseled with presidents, including the current seat-warmer. To try to downplay Robertson's wealth and political connections, to insist that he only speaks to a few addled pensioners is about as disingenuous as it gets. His viewers are certainly addled, and most are probably too old and feeble to get the remote and turn it to something more rewarding, like a snuff film, but Robertson still has pull.

In fact, call me crazy, but I've always had a sneaking suspicion that his quixotic presidential campaign back in 1988 was a briar-patch maneuver to secure the extra-chromosome vote to hand off to Poppy Bush. Nothing would surprise me with this gang anymore.

USA Today:

The United States was believed in the past to have been involved in the assassination in 1963 of South Vietnam President Ngo Binh Diem and attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro of Cuba.

Political assassination was put off-limits by former President Gerald R. Ford in an executive order in the mid-1970s.

[Note also the photo of Robertson shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld, which puts him two degrees from Saddam Hussein, and five from Kevin Bacon. -- ed.]

Heh. That's all they have to say about decades of Cold War meddling in over a dozen countries around the world by the US. We might have got Diem and gosh, we tried to get Castro, but were mesmerized by his beard. It's really hypnotic if you're not careful.

Of course, the US Media can always count on the American public to be too gulled by "God Bless George Bush" t-shirts and repeated exposure to American Idol to have any clue as to who Lumumba or Mossadegh or Allende were, and how their respective overthrows affected history and how other countries still view us.

Nice try. Why, we would never think of fomenting or bankrolling a nasty coup against dear Mister Chavez! Gerald Ford made it illegal! Gee, I guess that settles all that don't it?

And of course the Venezuelans are real thrilled about all this too, as well they should be. Should we worry? Maybe. We may be their biggest customer, but Chavez has cultivated ties with the Chinese, including deals for oil and weapons. He's already trying to steer his country toward the day when they don't have to take our shit anymore.

Imagine, for a second, if some asshole crony of Chavez publicly popped off about "taking out" Bush. Regardless of your feelings about Bush, you'd want something done about it, right?

So what are we gonna do? Well, nothing, obviously. We'll all just sit and pretend that Pat Robertson is just a harmless old coot who says funny things once in a while, but no one listens to him.

It's a goddamned lie. The Republican Party has an attic full of crazy aunts; Robertson's just the one who slipped out this week.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Jeebus Rode A Dinosaur

Only in the rarefied, oxygen-free cubicles of the media could scientific fact ever be characterized as being "on the defensive". Perhaps the so-called "scientific community" (note gratuitous use of fingered "sneer quotes", as well as "thumb commas" and "cupped-hand parentheses of scorn") should pay heed to this burbling nonsense, and realize that just because you're right doesn't mean impressionable rubes will care.

A viewing of The Simpsons episode where Lisa finds an "angel skeleton" may be in order. ID believers don't want facts or science, they want comfort. They need their warm pink blanky.

This really is too bad, because faith and science are not incompatible. Indeed, in a rational universe that truly was deliberately designed by an orderly intelligence, they would be somewhat complementary. However, this is not about religion, this is about politics; this is about whipping the believers into a frenzy so that they will trudge to the polls once again next year and vote for the people who are robbing them blind and condemning them to lives of penury and bankruptcy and perpetual war for perpetual peace.

Meantime, these goofballs continue to maintain their stupidity that their codified belief in their invisible friend should be mandatory for all.

When President Bush plunged into the debate over the teaching of evolution this month, saying, "both sides ought to be properly taught," he seemed to be reading from the playbook of the Discovery Institute, the conservative think tank here that is at the helm of this newly volatile frontier in the nation's culture wars.

After toiling in obscurity for nearly a decade, the institute's Center for Science and Culture has emerged in recent months as the ideological and strategic backbone behind the eruption of skirmishes over science in school districts and state capitals across the country. Pushing a "teach the controversy" approach to evolution, the institute has in many ways transformed the debate into an issue of academic freedom rather than a confrontation between biology and religion.

Mainstream scientists reject the notion that any controversy over evolution even exists. But Mr. Bush embraced the institute's talking points by suggesting that alternative theories and criticism should be included in biology curriculums "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Notice how Jodi Wilgoren (who may indeed have been driven by Fred Flintstone to work) portrays this in the usual namby-pamby "even-handed" fashion we've been talking about. Two sides to every story, right? Wrong. This is a story where there is science, which is evolutionary theory -- which, like most scientific theories, is a process, which means it gets continuously updated as more facts are discovered and assimilated into the process -- and then there is not science, which is ID, creationism, whatever label they want to dress it up in this week.

Now, the problem here is that every religion has a creation myth. Many ancient cultures also had creation myths which were more or less intertwined with whatever tribal religion was in vogue at the moment. Same principle here, the tribes are just much larger. Worse yet, they have money, and want more of it. This is the key. If they want to "teach the controversy", then I guess we also should have sections about Vedic mythology and Norse eschatology in there as well.

Who wouldn't want a biology degree with a minor in Ragnarok? It's all about being well-rounded and learning all sides of the story, right?

Together, they have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive.

Like a well-tooled electoral campaign, the Discovery Institute has a carefully crafted, poll-tested message, lively Web logs - and millions of dollars from foundations run by prominent conservatives like Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, Philip F. Anschutz and Richard Mellon Scaife. The institute opened an office in Washington last fall and in January hired the same Beltway public relations firm that promoted the Contract With America in 1994.

"We are in the very initial stages of a scientific revolution," said the center's director, Stephen C. Meyer, 47, a historian and philosopher of science recruited by Discovery after he protested a professor's being punished for criticizing Darwin in class. "We want to have an effect on the dominant view of our culture."

It's not "like a well-tooled electoral campaign", that's exactly what it is. Goddammit, that's what people like Phil Anschutz and Richard Cougar Melloncamp Scaife do -- they own media properties and sports teams and publishing houses. They own their own very effective means of getting the message out (and if you don't think professional sports functions as a propaganda mechanism on certain levels, then you've either internalized it already, or all the holy invocations and discreet militarism are going right past you).

Whatever the case, these people and their faux-science organizations are nakedly, overtly political. If not, then Jodi Wilgoren needs to go take a look at the "labs" and "scientific methods" employed by the "Discovery Institute". I bet there's not a single lab on the premises; I have no doubt that it's a set of offices at the corner of an industrial park outside Houston, with a P.O. box and a bank of phones.

It's her fucking job to find out one way or the other, not to just regurgitate their talking points and provide a laundry list of members and "donors" (meaning owners).

Then again, maybe that's exactly her job. I really don't know what these fucking people do anymore, but this is not reportage, it's a PR memo.

For the institute's president, Bruce K. Chapman, a Rockefeller Republican turned Reagan conservative, intelligent design appealed to his contrarian, futuristic sensibilities - and attracted wealthy, religious philanthropists like the Ahmansons at a time when his organization was surviving on a shoestring. More student of politics than science geek, Mr. Chapman embraced the evolution controversy as the institute's signature issue precisely because of its unpopularity in the establishment.

"When someone says there's one thing you can't talk about, that's what I want to talk about," said Mr. Chapman, 64.

Wow. I'm guessing that fourth grade was the hardest three years of this asshole's life. Look, asshole, religion has no place in science class. Neither, for that matter, does economics, or history. It's a completely different discipline. Deal with it.

This "rebel without a clue" shit carelessly employed by these button-down douchebags -- I'm sure it resonates with the Stars n' Bars crowd, but they can kiss my pasty white Irish ass anyway.

From its nondescript office suites here, the institute has provided an institutional home for the dissident thinkers, pumping $3.6 million in fellowships of $5,000 to $60,000 per year to 50 researchers since the science center's founding in 1996. Among the fruits are 50 books on intelligent design, many published by religious presses like InterVarsity or Crossway, and two documentaries that were broadcast briefly on public television. But even as the institute spearheads the intellectual development of intelligent design, it has staked out safer turf in the public policy sphere, urging states and school boards simply to include criticism in evolution lessons rather than actually teach intelligent design.

Heh, I knew it. No "institute", no labs for "discovery" or "research" -- just a bland collection of office suites cranking out intellectual chum for people who haven't got the sense to critically analyze what they're reading.

Let's turn this thing on its head for a minute, and walk it back. Much of what tumbles out of the holy pieholes of these self-styled cultural conservatives tends to revolve around their distaste at having the mainstream culture of decadence rubbed in their faces. That's bullshit, of course -- turn your TV off, or keep it on Veggie Tales, or whatever floats your boat. Keep an eye on what your kids are listening to. Pretty much common sense.

Well, I've given this a lot of serious thought too. There are things in the culture I find ugly and distasteful -- contrived "reality TV" shows based on cruelty and humiliation; sensationalized nonsense and celebrity gossip passing for news; forensic-porn and crime shows which highlight the bizarre fact that you can show eyeballs and gore and mayhem and violence during prime time, but God forbid you see a nipple (one of God's wondrous creations) or hear a "dirty" word.

As I have mentioned before, I have a young daughter. Since she was born, I have very carefully considered what sort of spiritual upbringing I want for her. I was raised in a mish-mash of ideas -- mostly lapsed-Catholic family (is there any adjective you see in front of "Catholic" nearly as often as "lapsed"?); Jehovah's Witness grandmother; a few years in the neighborhood Assembly of God church. And I gave up on all of it when I was ten; I simply got tired of hearing the same circular answers to my questions.

Still, I felt and still feel that it did at least lend a sense of perspective. Human beings are naturally vain, and religion can serve as a useful (if limited) mechanism to remind them of their place in the universe. Man needs to be reminded sometimes that it's not all about him. Of course, the inherent contradiction of ascribing supremacy to a humanocentric sky-god tends to obviate even this simple notion of living humbly on the earth and respecting other lives.

So my wife and I have considered whether we want at least a little Sunday school for our daughter. Since she is 4½, she is nearing the age where that would be a conventional option.

And I just don't see the value in it anymore. Even small-town churches, thanks to generous strides in technology, are hard-wired to the movers and shakers, who are not concerned with the nurturing of the soul, but the lining of the pockets. So basically, I don't want these fucking people anywhere near my daughter until she's old enough to see through their grift -- say, college or later.

And that includes them infesting public schools with their bullshit, and inflicting it on everybody's kids. A plurality of us were raised in at least a Judeo-Christian ethos, yes, but many of us are not Christians -- and even many who are simply prefer their spirituality to be their business, and theirs alone. As it should be.

And that's what this stupid cow doesn't get with her stupid article -- this is not a topic that merits "even-handedness". There is a sharp divide, as in the political realm, because one side is just flat fucking wrong, and they have the goddamned nerve to lie about it. The "Discovery Institute" is as Orwellian a name as you could ask for; it is neither an institute, nor is it concerned with discovering anything. It is merely a bankrolled clearing house for every quack and huckster out there with a marketable scam.

I expect the Anschutzes and the Melloncamp Scaifes to do what they've been doing all along; I expect Jodi Wilgoren to do her goddamned job and understand that words actually mean something, that science is a true discipline, not something to be cynically co-opted by a bunch of mind-control freaks in time for the next election cycle.

These successes follow a path laid in a 1999 Discovery manifesto known as the Wedge Document, which sought "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies" in favor of a "broadly theistic understanding of nature."

President Bush's signature education law, known as No Child Left Behind, also helped, as mandatory testing prompted states to rewrite curriculum standards. Ohio, New Mexico and Minnesota have embraced the institute's "teach the controversy" approach; Kansas is expected to follow suit in the fall.

Detractors dismiss Discovery as a fundamentalist front and intelligent design as a clever rhetorical detour around the 1987 Supreme Court ruling banning creationism from curriculums. But the institute's approach is more nuanced, scholarly and politically adept than its Bible-based predecessors in the century-long battle over biology.

A closer look shows a multidimensional organization, financed by missionary and mainstream groups - the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides $1 million a year, including $50,000 of Mr. Chapman's $141,000 annual salary - and asserting itself on questions on issues as varied as local transportation and foreign affairs.

So in just a couple of paragraphs, Wilgoren jumps from the fact that these people have a written manifesto to disrupt scientific progress in the name of their particular vision of what American culture should encompass, to the implication that they're not necessarily wingnuts just because Bill Gates drops a million a year on them.

I don't know what Bill Gates' belief system is, and I'd actually like to know why his foundation donates to these jerks. I have a feeling that, since the Microsoft monopoly scandals of the past decade, Gates has learned the political -- if not the "principled" -- value of dropping a few coins in the tins of all the panhandlers. Congress mellowed out on him once he lined pockets on both sides of the aisle; so too can he keep these inbred political wolves from his door, since they are by nature politically connected to begin with. What's a million bucks to Bill Gates? He probably has that stuck between his couch cushions.

Read the rest of it. These people are on glue, and Wilgoren is merely an enabler. I could spend the next month fisking every word of the article, but by the time I wrote it and you read it, we'd all have lost our vestigial organs and small toes as a result of -- wait for it -- evolution.

Bad Reputation

So now we're going to have special teams of propaganda SEALs to combat anti-Americanism worldwide.

For years, President Bush has called on Karen P. Hughes, his confidante from Texas, to help devise replies to attacks from political foes. Now Ms. Hughes, installed at the State Department, plans to set up "rapid response" teams to counter bad news and defend administration policies around the globe.

The teams, to be set up in the Middle East and elsewhere, are one of several initiatives being prepared by Ms. Hughes, who took office this week as under secretary of public diplomacy. The initiatives are part of what Bush administration officials say will be an aggressive drive to repair America's poor image abroad, particularly in Muslim countries.

You know what also helps with image-rebuilding in Muslim countries? Not invading them under false pretexts. Not cluster-bombing civilians. Not torturing people and taking vacation photos of your dirty deeds. That sort of thing. Very effective, believe it or not.

In fact, I believe that some guy 2000 or so years ago put it quite succinctly -- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Perhaps you've heard that one before.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview this week that the units would "work to deal with misinformation and misinterpretation." During the war in Afghanistan, Ms. Rice said, the administration discovered that it had to rebut "all kinds of lies about what we were doing."

For instance, Ms. Rice said, the administration discovered that allegations of Koran desecration at the Guantánamo Bay detention center, particularly what turned out to be an unfounded report of a Koran being flushed down a toilet, were spread throughout the media in Muslim countries before the United States could respond.

Oh yeah, that was all wrong. We didn't try to flush a whole Qu'ran down a toilet -- it would have just clogged the pipes. There were just individual pages in the toilet. Also one got "accidentally" pissed on, through an air vent. Pretty neat trick.

But completely different from the initial allegation, which was totally false and unfounded. You can see where we're just starting in a hole here, because America-haters always want to assume the worst about us. So no toilets, just random sprays of urine. The sooner we can communicate those distinctions effectively, the better.

Personally, I blame the liberal media.

Various independent reports on the problem of public diplomacy have said that most of America's image problems stem from American policies, like the detainees at Guantánamo Bay and support for Israel.

Ms. Rice, in the interview on Wednesday, said that in the future, more weight would be given to public diplomacy in the policy-making process but that this did not mean that the United States would shut down the Guantánamo Bay detention center.

"What I don't want to imply is that we're going to change policy because it's unpopular," Ms. Rice said. "It's a hard problem. Public diplomacy isn't going to help us with the fact that there's still some hard problems that we're going to have to deal with."

Translation: the problem is not that we're leaving human beings -- who have not even been charged with a crime, mind you, much less allowed any legal representation -- chained in their own filth for days on end, or threatening them with dogs and prison rape. The problem is that the rest of the world is finding out that we're doing those things to those people.

Clearly the problem is one of letting people know what's going on. Good thing Dear Leader's crack team is on top of it all.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

We Listen So You Don't Have To

So I've started a new job recently, basically sitting in a corner of a warehouse entering data all day. Like all warehouses, it is dirty, smelly, and dangerous. Perhaps my previous forklift-driving experience will be utilized at some point.

This is not nearly as much fun as it sounds like. However, a job's a job, so my endeavor is to make the day somewhat more pleasant (or at least less unpleasant).

So I was at the Target the other day to get a little boom box for my little corner of heaven. As big-box behemoths go, Target is actually not bad at all -- compared to the narrow, vertiginous aisles and slovenly, trudging morlocks of Walmart, it's frickin' paradise. The people are friendlier, less likely to abruptly park their shopping cart in the middle of the lane like there's no one else there, and there's more room in general. Not that I mind bumping shoulders with strange milfs all that much, but they might mind having to work around me. Can't say as I blame them.

In front of me at the Target check-out line was an elderly man, purchasing a couple of toiletries and the ever-popular "Support Our Troops" magnetic ribbon. I couldn't really tell which version it was -- the sharing-with-others "I Support Out Troops" model, or the more imperative "I"-less iteration, which may as well have an exclamation point appended to it. Arbeit macht frei and all.

Anyway, rather than merely finding snappy ways to inveigh judgment on this poor man who had the misfortune to be within my sight range (O, tremble all ye vertebrates at the mighty snark of Heywood!), I simply found myself wondering why it had taken this man this long to take the plunge and decide that his magnetic opinion finally begged to be publicly registered. Seriously.

As I began lazily sifting through various motives -- none of which, at this late stage of the game, could possibly be all that accurate -- it occurred that I may have completely misread his intentions. Perhaps he had read of Cindy Sheehan's standoff in the Texas scrub, patiently waiting for something resembling an explanation from Preznit Nappy Time, and something had clicked for him. Maybe the situation made him scrutinize his feelings about US policy a bit more, and he had decided that, for him, supporting the troops meant bringing them home forthwith. Maybe he felt that the war and occupation would be over when they're over, but in the meantime, he still felt basic solidarity with his soldiers and countrymen, regardless of future circumstances.

I don't know; indeed, I'll never know. But it occurs to me that most of the pro-war folk have got theirs. Someone who has waited a couple years to say their piece and advertise their pet phrase may actually be approaching the whole thing from another perspective. Challenging assumptions, even with baseless speculation, can occasionally be somewhat constructive.

So I take my newly bought electronic bounty back to my OSHA-winked-at stall, to embark anew on wildly entertaining experiences with small-town radio media. Oh, frabjous day!

In the name of fairness and equanimity -- as well as the sheer lack of decent hard rock stations in the area that don't lard their programming with twenty fucking commercials every fucking hour -- I flipped it over to the enemy the last two mornings for intermittent bursts of spastic polemic.

In this area of California, the word "Rush" does not instantly connote extended song structures, or Geddy Lee singing about modern-day warriors and the temples of Syrinx. No, for most people here "Rush" automatically means the formerly-fat, oft-married, drug-addled dipshit who spouts nonsense in a passive-aggressive "I'm just a funny guy" palaver. Because he happens to do all this in a basso profundo and get paid a shitload of money for it, many folks tragically take this moron seriously.

Friends n' neighbors, I submit to you that you simply cannot appreciate the enormity of the task before you -- unfucking the political mentality of the average American -- until you force yourself to endure some of Oxycontin Limbaugh's peculiar verbal noodlings. It is seductive, it is pernicious, it provides the template currently in vogue across the jingosphere. It is a toxic gumbo of pejorative, demeaning names culled from Mad Magazine and repeated ad nauseam, tethered to the most cherry-picked sack of lies outside the NSA, all drenched in a gooey newspeak sauce, the better to convince all the proles that ignorance really is strength, that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

Unlike Sean Hannity, who is merely a shameless meat puppet who will say pretty much whatever his corporate masters tell him to; and unlike Michael Savage, who apparently gets paid by the aggregate amount of spittle puddled around his mic stand at the end of each show; Limbaugh is the undisputed leader of talk radio's Völksicher Beobachter movement. And it revolves around the simplest of all concepts -- one side is always right, and the other is always wrong, and their motives are invariably suspect. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Facts and events are largely orthogonal to the theater production -- the real strength is in impugning every deed and word of the opposition, as well as in the repetition of it all. It's essential to the bonding process Limbaugh initiates with his dittoheads; it's also essential when the stories and excuses in the talking points change, as they invariably do with this gang of shape-shifters.

So Cindy Sheehan and her fellow protesters, in the Limbaugh model of discourse, become a bunch of "squatters in a ditch", keeping poor Dear Leader from his daily diet of power naps and Little League games. Now more than ever, it's crucial for Limbaugh to characterize Sheehan as such; any less might draw attention to the fact that the Iraq approval polls have hovered in the mid-30s for several months, or that these ditch-squatters inspired over 1500 separate candlelight vigils across the country this past Wednesday night.

(Frankly, I can take or leave the feel-good ritualism of the candlelight vigil. It does nothing for me, pro or con. But that's just the way I'm wired. Some people enjoy parades; I honestly don't get the concept. They look like barely-concealed conformism and militarism to me. Still, when groups of people align in 1500 different towns across the country in a simultaneous show of support, that's not a few disenfranchised kooks; that's a movement in the offing. That's formalized discontent gaining momentum.)

There's no turning back for Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Malkin, and the rest of the Horst Wessel gang. Never mind that O'Reilly once swore to his viewers, in another of a long line of staged moments of heterodoxy, that he "will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again" in the absence of WMD; that was then and this is now. Never mind that a clear majority of the country understands where Cindy Sheehan is coming from and agrees with her, despite cheap shots at her appearance and desperate attempts to cast her as a Jew-baiter.

(Incidentally, if the media ever bother to do their jobs and get around to examining Larry Franklin's espionage, and the role that AIPAC plays in lobbying people like Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz, we'll see just how much of all that is actual Jew-baiting, and how much is really just good old-fashioned influence-peddling and foreign-policy meddling. Doesn't matter to me if they're Jewish or Presbyterian, Israeli or Norwegian, a crook's a crook.)

Another disconcerting and off-putting feature of Limbaugh's program is the sheer volume of commercial time -- much of which, in the time-loathed spirit of the equally-execrable Paul Harvey, is done by Limbaugh himself. I simply don't have the patience to sit through it all, but my rough estimation is that it appears to be a "10-5" model -- ten minutes of content, then five minutes of commercials. I guess the guy's gotta pay for his pills somehow.

On Wednesday morning's show, during a rant about how troops' morale is so fragile -- despite being allowed to take part in Dear Leader's Perfectly Planned Glorious Crusade Great War On Terror Grand Scheme Against Vietnam Entrenchment War O' Liberation -- that it surely cannot withstand repeated viewings of Cindy Sheehan's pained, rumpled visage interrupting the preznit's nappy time and bike ride, he took a rather poignant call.

The caller, "Debbie" from Indianapolis (the mention of which city prompted the ever-politically-incorrect Limbaugh to spout that since it was derived from the word "Indian", the NCAA was going to force a name change -- oh, megadittoes there, fatboy, way to stick it to, um, Whitey), prefaced her remarks with a tiresome anecdote about how her 13-year-old's first word -- before even "Mama" or "Dada" -- was "ditto". Oh, too charming by half, Deb.

Anyway, Debbie went on to to tell us that, like Cindy Sheehan, she too had a son in the Marines. Unlike Casey Sheehan, Debbie's son was still alive (though Debbie did offer that he and his platoon had run over two mines in one day at one point). Debbie, who by this point was nearly sobbing into her phone, went on to declaim Cindy Sheehan for her Crawford standoff, insisting that it undermined the dignity of people serving in the military, as well as that of the fallen.

Naturally, Limbaugh was enamored of the poignancy of Debbie's call -- so much so that he replayed the entire exchange on Thursday morning's show -- and I certainly don't doubt her sincerity. But as we've discussed, sincerity is a non-issue. Cindy Sheehan is also sincere. She also happens to have facts and context on her side, putative Jew-baiting notwithstanding.

What it boils down to is this: Limbaugh -- and Debbie, for that matter -- have characterized Sheehan's stand as some sort of template which all must abide by. Sheehan has said nothing of the kind; she has said that she wants an explanation for her son, and by association, perhaps a preponderance of American citizens would also like to hear this explanation. If Debbie doesn't want to hear the hamster wheel clicking while Dear Leader thumbs through his mental Rolodex for his usual rafts of shopworn Freedy McFreederton boilerplate, she doesn't have to listen. Debbie and the rest of them are entirely welcome to continue to believe in the ever-shifting excuses and rationales for this fucking mess.

But that has fuck-all to do with who Cindy Sheehan "speaks for". At the very least, she speaks for herself. As for her efforts to ventriloquize the intents and wishes of her fallen son, they seem far more realistic and far less offensively speculative than those of O'Reilly or Malkin or Limbaugh.

And that's because they don't want to admit -- can't admit -- that when all's said and done, despite their false ministrations and puny team-building rhetoric, they are wrong and they know it. They know goddamned well that they liberated Iraqis from a tyrant only to leave them to the moo-lahs. They know that despite our genuine efforts to democratize Afghanistan, we were all too eager to leave the majority of that misbegotten country to the foul warlord culture that nurtured animals like the Taliban in the first place.

They know that, despite Dear Leader's armchair-general efforts to cow Iran and North Korea by hitting the "low-hanging fruit", those countries have been emboldened by our flailing in Iraq, and have taken advantage of the opporunity to radically accelerate their nuclear programs. They know that, in the face of Bush's strutting bluster about how "all options were still on the table" with regard to dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, that Russia, still a power player with very serious interests in that region, called his bluff:

Russia warned on Wednesday against using force to stop Iran's nuclear program, saying any such action would have grave and unpredictable consequences.

"We favor further dialogue and consider the use of force in Iran counter-productive and dangerous, something which can have grave and hardly predictable consequences," said a statement posted on the ministry's Web site


Earlier this month U.S. President George W. Bush said military force remained a last resort to press Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

"We consider that problems concerning Iran's nuclear activities should be solved through political and diplomatic means, on the basis of international law and Tehran's close cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency," the Russian statement said.

So much for the Pooty-Poot lovefest, eh? It's all of a piece -- Bush is a petty, smug little man who thinks he can get his way with swagger and bluster, which explains his popularity with hacks like Limbaugh and O'Reilly, who after all are clearly like-minded people. I don't know who the fuck is actually fooled by that stupid shit -- clearly neither the Iranians nor the Russians are.

They can send their attack dogs after Cindy Sheehan all they want; most people recognize her few missteps as something to be expected from people who aren't professional media whores, but rather truly regular people. She's not a pretend reg'lar guy like George W. Bush, she's a normal person who had a normal life, raising kids and doing charitable work for the Catholic laity, until the Vulcans had this bright idea to fuck everything up for Jeebus.

So the conservabot commentariat know all these things, but they are stuck with this chump. It's their job -- for which they are very well paid, despite their delusions of persecution -- to feed and water the plants and vegetables who tune them in, to dole out a daily dose of bullshit to the ruminants milling in the kraal. Limbaugh in particular likes to pretend that he's "educating" people, but he's really indoctrinating them, inculcating them.

And no matter how many more documents get released demonstrating that this administration is a toxic swill of incompetence and corruption, there is still a subset of cretin that has become so addled by the bullshit shoveled by Limbaugh and friends, there's just no getting to them.

But most people are in the middle, and they can be reasoned with. The facts are on the side of the opposition, seeing as how the party in power has no use for them. It is incumbent upon the Democrats to recognize these facts, and secure Bush's failures as the albatross they surely are.

Last night's return of Real Time With Bill Maher was certainly welcome. I found myself very impressed with Paul Hackett. Hackett was a last-minute substitution for Cindy Sheehan, as Sheehan had to hustle back home to care for her ailing mother. As it turns out, Hackett will prove to have been the better choice anyway. Eventually Sheehan has to go back home for good and try to get on with her life, and the people who are currently so outraged about her will forget her name by Christmas.

Hackett, on the other hand, has a real political future ahead of him -- he's funny, smart, engaged, and unafraid to speak his mind. I found myself wishing he'd run for something out here. I'd love to replace a treacherous, servile enabler like Dianne Feinstein with a pit bull like Hackett. If the Democratic Party is going to survive and thrive and return to its lost glories, it needs more Paul Hacketts, pure and simple. This is the future of the party, folks.

I was initially thrilled to see Chris Rock on the panel; for some reason, I have always had an affinity for black comedians, starting with Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, and culminating in Rock and Dave Chappelle. I don't know if it's a different sense of pacing and comic timing, or just the nothing-left-to-lose mentality of sticking it to The Man. Suffice to say that Rock's Bring The Pain was this generation's Live At The Sunset Strip, as far as I'm concerned. Rock has real chops and timing, and when he's on top of his game, he's almost unbeatable.

And when Rock first opened his mouth to spout off about gas prices, it was funny. Republican hacks Kellyanne Conway (who looks like nine miles of bad road these days) and Asa Hutchinson were busily trying to massage Dear Leader's incoherent policies into something palatable to the coveted triple-digit IQ demographic, and Rock plopped the "gas price" shtick right in the middle of it, throwing the two elves off their game.

Problem was, it was pretty much all Rock had to say all night -- gas prices are too fuckin' high. Well, yeah, don't I know it. I just paid forty fuckin' dollars to fill up my Honda Accord so I can commute 30 miles each way to the daily fuckin' grind. But hey, Chris, what are you driving? Why do I get the feeling that it's much more likely to be a Hummer or an Escalade than a Prius? And if that's the case, then you're part of the fuckin' problem, buddy. Even if the entire Middle East resolves itself back-to-front overnight, we still can't get around the simple math. We still have to be proactive about reducing aggregate consumption and waste now. Even if we start drilling in ANWR tomorrow and it turns out to have 10 times as much oil as we thought; even if Iran and Saudi Arabia suddenly reject their oppressive sectarian cultures and proclaim their undying love for us.

Even if gas prices drop by a buck tomorrow. That's how serious, how imminent this problem has become. Peak oil means, quite literally, that we'll never have any more oil than we do right now; it's all downhill from here.

I don't care that Chris Rock is "just" a comic. I think that's a cop-out. Jon Stewart has engaged in a similar cop-out whenever people refer to The Daily Show. You cannot have as many professional politicians and historians and serious people as they have as guests, and not have a desire to do serious commentary. I think TDS does serious commentary; pointing out the absurd hypocrisies of the people in power is a valuable service that the mainstream network media simply has no interest in providing. Just because it's presented in a humorous and entertaining format doesn't mitigate its value.

I think Jon Stewart should embrace his role in the punditocracy, rather than try to dodge or run from it. No one expects him to be Peter Jennings, but TDS has really struck a cultural nerve, and they've done it with mostly fact-based satirical commentary. It's news, just as surely as anything George Orwell wrote was news. Stewart tragically downplays his role, but with creatures like Nancy Grace and Rita Cosby mucking up the "serious" news channels with their pernicious nonsense, it's an opportunity to step up and assert himself.

Perhaps it's just Stewart's way of not getting too precious about it all. That's fine, but he and his cohorts should know that they are appreciated, that we do in fact get the absurdity of it all, that we don't just regard what they're doing as just another comedy show.

So neither Jon Stewart nor Chris Rock are absolved by the nature of their occupations. Maher is a good example of this; he has never shied away from being topical and engaged in his material. He understands that there's no drop-down in a mere "comic" doing serious commentary -- indeed, that's where a lot of the real deep cultural mining is going on, particularly in this era of tiresome slacker post-irony.

Back to Maher's show last night, in which the final guest was none other than Phyllis Schlafly, looking not unlike a wizened Ronald McDonald in an ornate buttressed wig roughly the color of a baboon's ass. Schlafly was there to pimp her book, yet another exhaustively moronic tract insisting that the Ten Commandments are the basis for all Western thought and judicial ethos. As Maher rightly pointed out that only two of the commandments -- stealing and killing, obviously -- are even illegal, Schlafly trotted out the injunction against bearing false witness, as if 3 out of 10 made her point for her where a mere two just wouldn't do it.

It's the typical mindless emo-boilerplate, perpetuated by these pearl-clutching ninnies who can't understand why it's such a bad idea to make the whole country believe in their invisible friend -- an irritating habit in a six-year-old, but infuriating in people who are supposed to be adults. We get it lady, you have an invisible friend and you rilly rilly like him. Good for you. Now either fetch me a beer, or get the fuck out of my face already.

I didn't think he'd actually do it, but Maher launched the "gay son" Scud on Schlafly, as her son's deviant lifestyle is fairly well-known among people who have acquainted themselves with Schlafly's incessant idiocy. Nice touch.

Undaunted, Schlafly grimaced and kept pimpin' away. At that point, Maher should have just started interjecting random graphic descriptions of gay sex. "So, do you think your son -- the fruit of your blessed loins -- spits or swallows? Do you think he's ever pulled a train at a Fire Island mixer? Do you ever wonder whether he lets his husband come in his ass, or if he makes him pull out and drop his load on his back?" That sort of thing. Fuck these people.

Anyway, nice to see Maher back -- like Jon Stewart, an oasis of unflinching reality and sanity in an increasingly insane and intellectually dishonest commentariat. It's a welcome antidote to Tweety Matthews' schmoozefests with Norah "Newsmilf #1079" O'Donnell and the effervescent Bobo, pegging the bullshit meter on a weekly basis.

[update: Frank Rich's latest column pretty much nails all the same points. But hey, I prefaced mine with a nice rambling story. More value for your entertainment dollar -- that's the Hammer Promise.]

The public knows that what matters this time is Casey Sheehan's story, not the mother who symbolizes it. Cindy Sheehan's bashers, you'll notice, almost never tell her son's story. They are afraid to go there because this young man's life and death encapsulate not just the noble intentions of those who went to fight this war but also the hubris, incompetence and recklessness of those who gave the marching orders.

Specialist Sheehan was both literally and figuratively an Eagle Scout: a church group leader and honor student whose desire to serve his country drove him to enlist before 9/11, in 2000. He died with six other soldiers on a rescue mission in Sadr City on April 4, 2004, at the age of 24, the week after four American security workers had been mutilated in Falluja and two weeks after he arrived in Iraq. This was almost a year after the president had declared the end of "major combat operations" from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.

According to the account of the battle by John F. Burns in The Times, the insurgents who slaughtered Specialist Sheehan and his cohort were militiamen loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric. The Americans probably didn't stand a chance. As Mr. Burns reported, members of "the new Iraqi-trained police and civil defense force" abandoned their posts at checkpoints and police stations "almost as soon as the militiamen appeared with their weapons, leaving the militiamen in unchallenged control."


Casey Sheehan's death in Iraq could not be more representative of the war's mismanagement and failure, but it is hardly singular. Another mother who has journeyed to Crawford, Celeste Zappala, wrote last Sunday in New York's Daily News of how her son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was also killed in April 2004 - in Baghdad, where he was providing security for the Iraq Survey Group, which was charged with looking for W.M.D.'s "well beyond the admission by David Kay that they didn't exist."

As Ms. Zappala noted with rage, her son's death came only a few weeks after Mr. Bush regaled the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association banquet in Washington with a scripted comedy routine featuring photos of him pretending to look for W.M.D.'s in the Oval Office. "We'd like to know if he still finds humor in the fabrications that justified the war that killed my son," Ms. Zappala wrote. (Perhaps so: surely it was a joke that one of the emissaries Mr. Bush sent to Cindy Sheehan in Crawford was Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser who took responsibility for allowing the 16 errant words about doomsday uranium into the president's prewar State of the Union speech.)

Mr. Bush's stand-up shtick for the Beltway press corps wasn't some aberration; it was part of the White House's political plan for keeping the home front cool. America was to yuk it up, party on and spend its tax cuts heedlessly while the sacrifice of an inadequately manned all-volunteer army in Iraq was kept out of most Americans' sight and minds. This is why the Pentagon issued a directive at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom forbidding news coverage of "deceased military personnel returning to or departing from" air bases. It's why Mr. Bush, unlike Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, has not attended funeral services for the military dead. It's why January's presidential inauguration, though nominally dedicated to the troops, was a gilded $40 million jamboree at which the word Iraq was banished from the Inaugural Address.

THIS summer in Crawford, the White House went to this playbook once too often. When Mr. Bush's motorcade left a grieving mother in the dust to speed on to a fund-raiser, that was one fat-cat party too far. The strategy of fighting a war without shared national sacrifice has at last backfired, just as the strategy of Swift Boating the war's critics has reached its Waterloo before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury in Washington. The 24/7 cable and Web attack dogs can keep on sliming Cindy Sheehan. The president can keep trying to ration the photos of flag-draped caskets. But this White House no longer has any more control over the insurgency at home than it does over the one in Iraq.

Exactly. If the opposition had half the persistence and consistency that the demons of the administration have, you'd have a real discussion of the issues at hand, because people would be up in arms about this shit. This simply cannot stand anymore. Anyone who is genuinely concerned with what the plan of action is, what the true goals are and how they are supposed to be achieved, and whether leaving Iraq in the hands of medieval imams is really what we went over there to accomplish -- people who really care about those issues past the constant lies and obfuscations from these bastards need to decide which side they're on and get with the program.

The administration and their media minions certainly understand the principle of "divide and conquer", hopefully the Democrats learn it over the next 15 months. Enough with the cat-herding -- now is the time to get the message out, and do it with conviction.