Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Know, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, But This Is Fucking Ridiculous

In its annual effort to show people the insouciant irrelevance that only hack rock critics can muster, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame announced its next roster of inductees.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters have chosen an eclectic new class broad enough to encompass jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and the punk-pioneering Sex Pistols, but they once again snubbed rap.

Other members of the induction class announced today were Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blondie.

Miles Davis? See, this is one of the RRHF's main problems -- this incessant need to get all multi-culti on everyone, and throw in politically-correct "kumbaya" picks that have fuck-all to do with either rock or roll. That's not a slam against Miles, but jazz is not rock, and rock is not jazz. You think the Jazz Hall Of Fame plans on inducting Van Halen any time soon? Me neither. I suppose one can give Miles the benefit of the doubt, given his frequent collaborations with quasi-rock guitarists like John McLaughlin, but still, this pick smacks of political correctness and institutional genuflection. Call me crazy, but that seems just a tad un-rock to me.

Now, Lynyrd Skynyrd, eh. I never thought much of 'em, I loathe Sweet Home Alabama and its redneck racism (though much to my chagrin, I did do it in my cover band days), but at least you can make an argument for them. They certainly spearheaded the southern boogie rock movement, lamentable as most of it is, and influence counts for something (indeed, it should be a key criterion for nomination, much less induction, and there is a section of nominees called "early influences", though I have no idea what modern musician demonstrates any influence of, say, the Staple Singers). So I can see where they merit induction.

Sabbath is about the only pick from this list I can really endorse, and it has more to do with taking a look around at the rock music trends of the last....oh, I don't know, 20 years or so, and hearing a great many of them directly or indirectly influenced by Tony Iommi's sinister tritone riffs and Ozzy's methodical chants of the perils of the modern age. Very few bands show the influence of, say, the Stones or the Beatles, even though they are constantly held up as the be-all end-all of the genre. Almost every hard-rock or metal band out there flaunts their Sabbath influences right up front.

(And frankly, even just in the narrower category of '60s rock, I think The Who and The Kinks were each superior bands to the Beatles and Stones. They were far more thematically and musically developed, and far more willing to push the conceptual boundaries of the genre without falling into the twee acid-tinged pastiches of For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite and the like.)

Then we come to the joke picks. I mean, The Sex Pistols? One album gets you in now? Well, sounds like they run quite a tight ship down there in Self-Referential Rock Critic Asshole Land. And Blondie, a cheesy disco band with two or three very minor pop gems and one dumb, campy "rap" thing about men from Mars eating cars or some weird cokehead shit. Nicely done, folks. Shall we induct Rick Dees next, for the timeless greatness that is Disco Duck?

I mean, you don't have to find five performers every year, now do you? If you just ran out of people you thought merited admission, say so. Don't further demean an already largely irrelevant concept by pretending a couple of trendy one-hit goofballs belong up there with Elvis and Led Zeppelin.

Here is the RRHF's list of 500 songs that shaped rock 'n' roll. There's a lot that's good about this list; there's some that's odd. If I were going to pick one song from ZZ Top to put in, that signified what that band was all about, it sure wouldn't have been Legs. But that was their biggest single, I suppose, which is what this is really all about.

For a second consecutive year, hip-hop's prime candidate, Grandmaster Flash, failed to gather the necessary support from the 700 rock historians overseeing nominee selection.

"Rap is the most important cultural phenomenon this country has ever exported," Russell Simmons, a trailblazing hip-hop business owner, said Monday. "I shudder to think that an institution like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can continue to exist and ignore hip-hop."

"It's blasphemous," added Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. "We can't afford to have another piece of black art history go undocumented."

Really? We can't? Why the hell not? Jesus Christ, have they noticed how heavily weighted the lists are to soul and R&B artists?

I note for the record that Public Enemy's Fight The Power is on the list of 500 songs, incidentally. Seriously, I like Chuck D and all, but this insistence that Grandmaster Flash had something to do with rock is just nuts. Certainly there were successful crossover rap and hip-hop artists, who will probably get their props in due time. Run-DMC, Public Enemy, and their peers will get recognized....or, they may just punt and give some love to MC Hammer and Tone Loc. You just never know.

Here is a complete list of RRHF inductees to date. And I, for one, am a better man for knowing that The Impressions are on that list. Whoever they are.

Acts are eligible 25 years after releasing their first recording. Musicians who debuted in 1980 could be elected this year, but the hall's nomination committee found exactly zero names from that field worthy of induction.

That opened the doors for a number of acts that had been given years of chilly treatment from hall voters. They had been excluded due to the disdain of music critics (Skynyrd and Sabbath), a perception that they belonged in a different music genre's shrine (Davis) or the simple fact that their body of work was too small (the single-album Sex Pistols). The final wallflower was Blondie, the New York new wave band that was nominated four times before voters deemed it essential to the hall's gallery.

In other words, they had nothing. Which is astonishing to me. I mean, I'm not trying to engage some silly fanboy obscurantism and sing the manifold praises of Can or Aztec Camera. But shit, how about The Cars, a power-pop dynamo that ruled the early '80s with infectious hooks and the tastiest guitar solos this side of Jeff Beck? And Ric Ocasek still does fine work, producing albums for bands like Weezer, in between marathon sex romps with Paulina Porizkova (I assume).

How about Todd Rundgren, a fantastic multi-instrumentalist and a great American pop/rock songwriter? How about harder groups that are well overdue, like Motörhead or Rush? Both groups are still on top of their game after over a quarter-century, without all the unnecessary hype that accompanies every greasy dump or knocked-up Brazilian model associated with Mick Jagger. How about Frank Zappa, a true American original, the philosopher-king of some of the most unique and scathing musical satire/commentary of the last century. Are we still seriously thinking about Blondie and the fucking Sex Pistols?

It's best not to dig too much into the mentality of weird little clubs like the RRHF, because it's not really about the music. Like the commercials that pillage a few key phrases from the choruses of minor hits from 30 years ago, these things are meant to evoke a frisson of nostalgia, a wistful yearning for a time and place that never really existed, not in the framework that's being sold. Soundtracks for karaoke machines and shitty commercials, that's what it boils down to.

Robert Fripp, in commenting on the decisions about art vs. commerce that every serious musician must eventually make, helpfully offered the zen axiom that in commerce, the musician makes the music, while in art, the music makes the musician. We can extrapolate this idea quite easily to observe how music is consumed at large in the public arena. It is used most frequently in the advertising milieu, to encourage folks to buy shit they don't really want with money they don't really have. Or it can be used to roll out a "live concert tour", where chances are you will pay north of $100 to watch a band ape its hits to a backing track. The goal here is to use the thrill of a captive "event" as a vehicle to get you to pay $6 for a bottle of water, not realizing that you could just save yourself the trouble and pop their CD into your car stereo, drive to the 7-11, and pay $1.49 for the same bottle.

Or you could stay home, crank up the stereo, and drink from the tap. It's a world of possibilities.

I am overly cynical about the uses of music, paradoxically, because I am overly idealistic about the transformational power of truly excellent music. I am currently looking over my new DVD of Rush's 30th anniversary tour last year. (Why yes, I did play Dungeons & Dragons when I was in high school. How did you guess?) To be sure, it is flawed, in the way all great bands are flawed -- there is simply too much to draw from to please everyone. There are worse flaws to have.

Now, what a band like Rush (and there are many others, but they were the first to demonstrate this principle to me as a young aspiring musician) brings to the table is not just their instrumental virtuosity. They were really the antithesis of a shithead prefab band like the Sex Pistols in so many ways. There were bands with a punk ethos that I liked quite a bit back in the day, but the Pistols were not one of them. They were stuck in a contradiction -- either they were fake, or they were cheating their fans with non-existent effort and notoriously awful performances.

But Rush did not worry about the confines of the four-minute radio single, nor did they confine themselves to the usual lyrical tropes of getting some action and driving in my car, looking for some more of said action. They have been content to let the music do the talking, and the work ethic back it up. And I defy you to find a good rock drummer who does not claim at least some influence from Neil Peart. The guy has been the undisputed dean of rock drumming for a couple decades now. The other two guys aren't half bad either.

Motörhead, believe it or not, has a very similar approach to the craft. Pound for pound, they may be the all-around best straight-ahead rock band on the planet. I say this having seen them play a pissant 300-seat club in a cow town out in the middle of nowhere, and bring it like it was Madison Square Garden. That is the quintessence of kicking ass, which is really what rock and roll is supposed to be about.

Yet bands like these get ignored year after year by the "mainstream" "music" press, because most of them are little putzes who just read each others' screeds and try desperately to spot the new trend before it jumps the shark. Some of it is the bands' own fault; they do not fall into the usual "rock star" paradigm. Big-titted groupies are not anxiously waiting to blow Geddy Lee in the stadium parking lot.

But to get back to my point, a lot of it has to do with the way music is perceived as a product, with the accompanying consumption rituals. Used to be that the album or tour was the product in itself; now it's just something to sell something else. This is reflected in the vertiginous A&R corporate structure that has the conventional record industry on the verge of collapse. Though the music industry has never been a bastion of ethical conduct, at least back in the day major record companies tended to be run by people like Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic, who wanted to make money, but also genuinely liked being part of a creative process. Thus innovative bands like Led Zeppelin and Yes were given plenty of time to develop a following and a cohesive sound.

Since the mid-'80s, the corporatization of the music industry has sent the creative process into something of a tailspin. Don't get me wrong; there's still good music out there. But bands are no longer given much time to get it together. If the first album stiffs (or just doesn't quite perform as well as expected), a band can easily find itself out.

Using Atlantic as an example once again, consider some of the truly innovative rock bands they had on their roster in the late-'80s -- King's X, Saigon Kick, Enuff Z'Nuff, Mr. Big. (Yes, I know, right now you're saying "Mr. Big?" as if they were Poison or something. But aside from the two power ballads that made them money and got them lumped in with hair bands like Warrant, they were actually an excellent straight-ahead rock band, with arguably the most talented guitar-bass tandem ever, in Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan.)

What did Atlantic do with all those bands? Well, they never knew what to do with the first two in terms of marketing, so they just sent them out on the road together with no promo and no radio support. The other two were more pop-metal in style, but aside from the aforementioned Mr. Big power ballads, neither band got near their due. (Though Mr. Big did get an opportunity as the opening act for Rush on their Presto tour.) Because that was the age of the blockbuster album, and every A&R weasel was expected to find the next Guns 'n' Roses. So bands no longer got cultivated properly by the record companies. They'd just send an A&R guy to hang out on the Sunset Strip, check a couple shows, throw some money at a few spandex bands with a weedly-weedly style guitar player, and see if anyone bought it. When they stopped buying it, the companies were at a loss.

The trend accelerated in the '90s, hitting its low point with the advent of the boy bands. By this time the majors had decided that the smart financial move was to just dump all the promo money into the rollout for one favored artist on their roster, to turn it into that blockbuster. Meanwhile everyone else on the label got short shrift.

Thankfully, the steadily-declining prices of digital equipment, coupled with the development of the internet, have all but rendered record companies obsolete, by democratizing the tools of production and distribution. They're still with us; the dinosaurs didn't die off overnight either. But their time is up, and as the CD itself is rendered obsolete by innovations in portable hard-drive technology (iPods, etc.), even the need for physical distribution channels is gone, and that was the sole remaning strength of the corporate music entity.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is part of that bloated, wasteful entity, as are the loathsome Grammies and the rest of the masturbatory award shows. It's all corporate weasels slapping each others' backs, grateful for yet another holiday season that consumers got bamboozled into shelling out $20 for a Britney Spears CD with one hit and the rest filler. Occasionally they get it right with Green Day or System of a Down, but more often they get it way wrong.

So maybe it's better to let the RRHF have the Sex Pistols and Blondie and such. Maybe it'd be an insult to a band with integrity to get recognized by the kewl kidz, who really peaked in high school when you get right down to it. (And yes, I realize that there are plenty of bands with integrity in there, like Aerosmith, Queen, and U2. Even a stopped corporate clock is right twice a day, provided that the committee signs off on it at the board meeting.)

But just for the hell of it, feel free to throw in your own vicarious nominations in comments.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Memory Hole

This is bad even for Faux "News".

In a stunning display of historical revisionism, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace argued this morning that President Bush never tried to link al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein:

[T]hat specific quote there where you say he couldn’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, he wasn’t saying that they were linked at all. He was saying one was as bad as the other, and when he said in that same answer something about that Saddam Hussein would like to use a terrorist network, he wasn’t saying that they would like to use al Qaeda. So you’re making a link there that the President never made.

Wallace focused on a single statement President Bush made on September 25, 2002. (“[Y]ou can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.”) But that statement was part of a series of statements that intentionally and explicitly linked Saddam and al Qaeda in the lead up to war. For example, this statement by Bush on February 8, 2003:

Saddam Hussein has longstanding, direct and continuing ties to terrorist networks. Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. And an al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990s for help in acquiring poisons and gases.

Virtually none of that was true. The administration’s hand picked weapons inspector, David Kay, concluded “We simply did not find any evidence of extensive links with Al Qaeda, or for that matter any real links at all.”

Jesus, what a shameless hack. If I were Mike Wallace, not only would I disown my idiot son, I'd ask him to change his surname so as to avoid association. I might even remind him that shoveling shit doesn't necessarily require an actual shovel.

These people are just grotesque. I hope Chris Wallace is making a lot of money to sell out his country with out-and-out lies, because that's exactly what he's doing.

[via Atrios.]

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Adults Are In Charge

A BBC article checks further into the allegations that Blair had to talk Bush out of bombing Al Jazeera's Qatar headquarters:

The head of al-Jazeera is delivering a letter to Tony Blair demanding the facts on reports that President Bush suggested bombing the Arab TV station.
He wants a memo published which is alleged to show Tony Blair dissuaded President Bush from bombing its HQ.

Last week the Daily Mirror reported what it said was the contents of a memo showing Mr Blair had talked the US President out of the attack last year.


According to press reports, the memo includes a transcript record of Mr Blair attempting in April 2004 to persuade Mr Bush not to bomb al-Jazeera's HQ in Qatar.

Qatar is an ally of the US and was the location of US military headquarters during the Iraq war.

The White House dismissed reports of the conversation as "outlandish", but US officials have openly accused al-Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda.


[British Attorney General] Lord Goldsmith also denied the Act was being used to prevent political embarrassment.

"It is not being used to save the embarrassment of a politician. That is completely not the case at all."

He also refused to confirm the contents of the memo.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says this latest row follows a history of tension and mutual suspicion between al-Jazeera and the US administration.

Many of al-Jazeera's employees have long been privately convinced that their offices in Kabul and Baghdad were deliberately targeted by the Pentagon in 2001 and 2003 respectively.

Gee, ya think so? Clearly it's true -- if it weren't all Lord Goldsmith would have to do is deny the contents of the memo. Anytime someone feigns neutrality and refuses to confirm or deny, you know there's at least some truth to it.

So let's recap: after "accidentally" bombing their Baghdad and Kabul offices, and after "accidentally" killing one of their cameramen in the field, we were ready to bomb their headquarters in an allied nation that was allowing us to garrison our troops.

The big mystery here to me is what Blair could possibly stand to gain by remaining mum at this late stage of the game. His political career is toast. He may have been able to make the good faith case a couple years ago, but no longer. Perhaps it's honor among thieves.

Whatever the case, it's just the latest in a seemingly endless parade of irresponsible, reckless decisions made by an unserious, uninformed little man, and the usual gang of cronies trying to figure out how to divvy up the spoils. It's nice that Blair was able to talk Bush out of actually doing it, but the fact that he had to be talked out such action is testament to how he -- and they -- think.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Slam Dunk

Kinsley nails it.

One might also argue," Vice President Cheney said in a speech on Monday, "that untruthful charges against the commander in chief have an insidious effect on the war effort." That would certainly be an ugly and demagogic argument, were one to make it. After all, if untruthful charges against the president hurt the war effort (by undermining public support and soldiers' morale), then those charges will hurt the war effort even more if they happen to be true. So one would be saying in effect that any criticism of the president is essentially treason.

Lest one fear that he might be saying that, Cheney immediately added, "I'm unwilling to say that" -- "that" being what he had just said. He generously granted critics the right to criticize (as did the president this week). Then he resumed hurling adjectives like an ape hurling coconuts at unwanted visitors. "Dishonest." "Reprehensible." "Corrupt." "Shameless." President Bush and others joined in, all morally outraged that anyone would accuse the administration of misleading us into war by faking a belief that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear and/or chemical and biological weapons.

Yes, how dare we note the facts that we all can see? How dare we point out that not only is the emperor buck nekkid, but he's been streaking the stadium the entire damned time?

And really, when Vice President Go Fuck Yourself and his unholy minions start whinging about the incivility of it all, you just have to wonder for a minute just what sort of planarian such tactics are aimed at. On one hand, nobody could actually be stupid enough to buy into such hypocrisy, but on the other hand, that "more in sorrow than in anger" horseshit is aimed at somebody.

And it has been pointed out quite voluminously that Big Time's real contribution to the institutions of American government is the consolidation of executive power. You want the imperial presidency? 'Cause that's exactly what he's given us.

Interestingly, the administration no longer claims that Hussein actually had such weapons at the time Bush led the country into war in order to eliminate them. "The flaws in the intelligence are plain enough in hindsight," Cheney said on Monday. So-called WMD (weapons of mass destruction) were not the only argument for the war, but the administration thought they were a crucial argument at the time. So the administration now concedes that the country went to war on a false premise. Doesn't that mean that the war was a mistake no matter where the false premise came from?

So does this mean we can take back Slam Dunk Tenet's Medal O' Freedom, then? Can we adopt a resolution censuring Colin Powell for his shamelessly irresponsible water-carrying? Oh, he's sorry now, but he fucking well knew better then, and he allowed himself to be trotted out in order to win over some of the fence-sitters. He knew he was getting jerked around, that Rummy and Cheney essentially had put him on a need-to-know basis, and he still went ahead and played the company-man role.

You know, when you get right down to it, we're in this because the bureaucrats who were supposed to provide oversight failed miserably to function in that capacity. Had they done their jobs with a modicum of honesty and probity at the time, we wouldn't be having this argument. Instead, we get a bunch of ex post facto "we told you so"s from Larry Wilkerson. Too little, too late.

Cheney and others insist that Bush couldn't possibly have misled anyone about WMD since everybody had assumed for years, back into the Clinton administration, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That's why any criticism of Bush on this point is corrupt, reprehensible, distasteful, odiferous, infectious and so on. But this indignation is belied by Cheney's own remarks in the 2000 election. In the vice presidential debate, for example, Cheney was happy to agree with Bush that Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction would be a good enough reason to "take him out." But he did not assume that Hussein already had such weapons. And he certainly did not assume that this view was the general consensus. "We'll have to see if that happens," he said. "It's unfortunate we find ourselves in a position where we don't know for sure what might be transpiring inside Iraq. I certainly hope he's not regenerating that kind of capability."

If you're looking for revisionist history, don't waste your time on the war's critics. Google up Cheney's bitter critique, in the 2000 campaign, of President Bill Clinton's military initiatives, specifically the need for more burden sharing by allies and a sharply defined "exit strategy." At the time, there were about 11,000 American troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, working alongside about 55,000 from allied countries. If only!

Mm-hmm. And you can bet your last buck that had Clinton elected to go into Iraq and take out Saddam, you'd have found Ann Coulter hanging from the rafters on the callow, careless manner in which Clinton regarded the troops. Instead we are inundated with the post-Stalinist "get in line" commentary of her and her fellow travelers, insisting that anyone who tells the truth is some fifth column useful idiot. It's shameless and despicable, and its usefulness to them seems finally to be dwindling.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Is It Douche-y In Here, Or Is It Just Me?

Via Kos we see this little gem which neatly encapsulates the deep thinking behind the big dog-and-(ahem)pony show:

Former FEMA Director Michael Brown, heavily criticized for his agency's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job.

''If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses -- because that goes straight to the bottom line -- then I hope I can help the country in some way,'' Brown told the Rocky Mountain News for its Thursday editions.

You know how you can help the country in some way, Mikey? Go back to the pony show. Oh wait, they fired your dumb ass, too. Never mind. I'll give you ten bucks to clean my fucking gutters, just 'cause I do my best to help the losers of the world when possible. I'm a people person, when you get right down to it.

Brown said officials need to ''take inventory'' of what's going on in a disaster to be able to answer questions to avoid appearing unaware of how serious a situation is.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, critics complained about Brown's lack of formal emergency management experience and e-mails that later surfaced showed him as out of touch with the extent of the devastation.

The lawyer admits that while he was head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency mistakes were made in the response to Katrina. He also said he had been planning to quit before the hurricane hit.

''Hurricane Katrina showed how bad disasters can be, and there's an incredible need for individuals and businesses to understand how important preparedness is,'' he said.

I love this section, just for the sheer disjointedness of it all. The first sentence portrays him as a proactive problem-solver; the second contradicts the first; the third leaves one assuming that Brown felt underpaid for his incompetence (why else would he quit to stay in the same line of, um, "work"?); and the fourth is just a "no shit, Sherlock" bit that underscores this clown's opportunism.

But it's this last part where Mikey shows his true colors, those of a petulant, self-indulgent little whiner:

''I'm doing a lot of good work with some great clients,'' Brown said. ''My wife, children and my grandchild still love me. My parents are still proud of me.''

Oh, they should be, Mike, they should be. After all, you are a fashion god, and you have the horsie show trophies to prove it. I'd love to know which "businesses" are lining up to sign on Mike's disaster expertise, and which ones just want to sniff his ass for lucrative government contracts. There's a special place in hell for people like Mike Brown.

Foe Foe Foe

[Working subtitle: Virgin Mary, Crazy Jerry.]

As in Jerry Falwell, who's on the warpath to save Christmas from all those hedonistic merchants.

Evangelical Christian pastor Jerry Falwell has a message for Americans when it comes to celebrating Christmas this year: You're either with us, or you're against us.

Falwell has put the power of his 24,000-member congregation behind the "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," an effort led by the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel. The group promises to file suit against anyone who spreads what it sees as misinformation about how Christmas can be celebrated in schools and public spaces.

The 8,000 members of the Christian Educators Association International will be the campaign's "eyes and ears" in the nation's public schools. They'll be reporting to 750 Liberty Counsel lawyers who are ready to pounce if, for example, a teacher is muzzled from leading the third-graders in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

An additional 800 attorneys from another conservative legal group, the Alliance Defense Fund, are standing by as part of a similar effort, the Christmas Project. Its slogan: "Merry Christmas. It's OK to say it."

See, they don't seem to have a problem with the overall commercialization of the season per se. After all, if you can't run down to your local big-box retailer to plunk down for the light-up snowman, life-size talking Santa, and a little nativity diorama, all for under $37.99 plus tax, where's the joy in the season?

Fanning the Yule log of discontent against what the Liberty Counsel calls "grinches" like the American Civil Liberties Union are evangelical-led organizations including the 150,000-member American Family Association. It has called for a boycott of Target stores next weekend. The chain's crime, according to the group, is a ban on the use of "Merry Christmas" in stores, an accusation the chain denies.

Huh. So someone's full of shit here. Let's play devil's advocate for a second here, as it were, and say it's true -- why would Target take such a stance? In what way would such a blanket policy benefit the corporate bottom line?

Ooh! Ooh! Mista Kotta! I know! I know! Because more customers might be put off by the perceived Christianization than are expecting the perceived Christianization. That is the only scenario in which such a policy would be functionable, much less even desirable, for any corporation to enact.

Do I think that's the case? No. Then again, I'm much more inclined to believe the pencil-pushers at Target than the barking loons at the AFA, who usually spend their time counting doo-doo and pee-pee references on network TV. Salutations to them for broadening their horizons.

Target cares about one thing, and one thing only -- making more money for Target. Every company has this mission, and it is glorious in its simplicity. If the people who ran Target thought there was more money in it for them endorsing a given religion, they'd do it, and us secular heathens would just have to deal. Indeed, pretty much every other strip mall has some Christian book and knick-knack store or other scrunched between the Kinko's and the crappy wicker craft shop. Ever see any more than three people at a time in those things?

The truth is that, as religious as America comes off when polled on certain loaded questions, most people of faith prefer that faith to be personal to them. They practice it at home and at church. Where they intersect with the public is incidental; if a given place says or does things that offend their sensibilities, they just find somewhere else to satisfy their consumer need. Such is the magic of the free marketplace.

So Falwell and Wildmon may want to check the factuality of their premises. Can it be that they are basing all this on flawed assumptions? Can it be that this is merely an instance of manufactured controversy?

On his show last week, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly offered a list of other retailers that he says refuse to use "Merry Christmas" in their store advertising.

In signing on to "Friend or Foe" this month, Falwell urged the 500,000 recipients of his weekly "Falwell Confidential" e-mail to "draw a line in the sand and resist bullying tactics of the ACLU and others who intimidate school and government officials by spreading misinformation about Christmas."

Standing on the other side of that sand line are religious, liberal and secular organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, whose national director, Abe Foxman, recently bemoaned the religious right's efforts to "Christianize" America.

"This amped-up effort shows how these groups want to push into the classrooms more," said Tami Holzman, assistant director of the Anti-Defamation League's San Francisco office.

"There is no war against Christmas," said Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "There is no jihad against Christians. There is nothing going on around Christmas except these groups' incessant fundraising."

Amen to that. And as bizarre as it sounds that there are actually 500,000 people willing to subscribe to Falwell's weekly crackpottery, it's a drop in the bucket of 300 million citizens. Can it be that this is just another crock of shit to fleece the flock with?

While nowhere near being the preeminent fundamentalist figure he was during the halcyon days of the Moral Majority more than a decade ago, nevertheless, Falwell can still command media attention. Moreover, unlike the Rev. Pat Robertson, whose awkward commentaries have become so common that they have become boring, Falwell picks his targets a bit more carefully.

These days he has latched onto a doozy of a controversy: In a recent edition of Falwell Confidential, the online "insider weekly newsletter to The Moral Majority and The Liberty Alliance," he maintained that Christmas is under attack. Christians, Falwell advised, should, "draw a line in the sand and resist bullying tactics by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the American Atheists and other leftist organizations that intimidate school and government officials by spreading misinformation about Christmas."

"Celebrating Christmas," Falwell declared, "is constitutional!"

(Coincidentally, the organizations Falwell points out as responsible for attacking Christmas are several of the same groups he blamed for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He later issued a rather understated apology.)

Targeting left-wing Grinches trying to drive Christmas out of the public square, Falwell wrote, "In many public venues, and in our schools and workplaces, many Americans have discovered that they are not permitted to erect Christmas decorations, exchange Christmas cards or sing Christmas carols."

Guess what, Jerry? You can't just hang your birthday cards up in public places either. Look, there is a nugget of truth to his complaint -- I certainly have no problem with Christmas carols in school and nativity scenes in the public square. I'm not sure who's actually bothered by bland, rote expressions of holiday spirit, but it ain't me, and obviously I'm pretty fiercely anti-religion. I would note for the record, though, that these are the same mutts that howl at the moon any time anything remotely ecumenical is done to reach out to Jews or Muslims in schools and public places.

If they were honest (you know, like it says to be in the Ten Commandments) they'd come clean and just say they want Christianity in the public square, not just the generic "religious expression". They don't want Muslims out in full force celebrating Eid al-Fitr, or Jews celebrating Chanukah in the town square. They want taxpayers to fund their public enclave. And they have acted in bad faith in the past with these things, using them as leverage to get more overt displays and expressions of faith in public offices and schools.

On the Fox News Channel, ranting about liberals out to destroy Christmas is as ubiquitous and inaccurate as the station's "fair and balanced" credo. Last year, according to Media Matters for America, "In a 'Talking Points Memo' devoted to "[h]ow Martin Luther King would view things today,'" O'Reilly said that King "would be appalled by the secular culture" and by "the attacks on Christmas, the demonizing of Christianity."

In addition to plugging Gibson's book, Fox's Bill O'Reilly recently ranted about the anti-Christmas practices of two major retailers, Sears/K-Mart and Kohl's. On his November 9 2005 broadcast, O'Reilly told his audience:

Here's what we found out: Sears/Kmart would not answer our questions. Spokesman Chris Braithwaite simply ducked the issue. Their website banners: "Wish Book Holiday 2005." They were the worst we had to deal with. OK? Sears/Kmart. JCPenney says its catalog is always called "Christmas catalog." Federated Department Stores -- Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Burdines -- says the words "Merry Christmas" will be used in most advertising. Same thing at May, Filene's, Lord the company will deal with Christmas. Dillard's, however, will use the slogan "Discover Christmas, Discover Dillard's." So there you go. Shop where you like the atmosphere. Just remember, Kohl's and Sears/Kmart, basically, not all right.

Wow, sounds like a real conspiracy there, fellas. Sure you're not just out to hump a few crappy books and get the rubes all whipped up about nothin'? Is this an indication that the "God Hates Fags" thing has already jumped the holy shark?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

National Therapy

Perhaps, being human (I presume, but just in case, welcome to our non-human readers), you have experienced some sort of trauma somewhere in the course of your life. It may not be merely a random collection of isolated events; it may be continuous in some form. It may not even be "real", in the sense that other people would necessarily find it traumatic; it may, as we say in the 'hood, just be "all in your head". Maybe it's just the usual frustration and alienation common to most people who are paying attention to the world around them.

Doesn't matter all that much either way -- to you it's still there, and very concrete. It must either be dealt with or avoided. Each strategy takes some form of actual effort to carry out, and each has its benefits and problems. People who are deemed successful at their personal strategies are said to be "well-adjusted". Really, it all depends on the severity of what they were dealing with -- again, whether real or imagined.

Frequently people attempt to mask their anxieties with various addictions -- drugs, sex, gambling, whatever. Anything to take their mind off the problem at hand. Conversely, they may project the anxieties on to others, accusing friends of doing what they themselves are doing. Each is merely a coping mechanism; neither is particularly effective for dealing with the problem itself.

Sometimes these demons manifest themselves much more fiercely, resulting in pathological behaviors, sociopathic, even psychopathic, destructive (self or others) behavioral patterns, etc. Everybody knows somebody who has bottomed out in such fashion, frequently with tragic results. Loved ones might attempt, in the therapeutic parlance, to have an intervention.

Interventions, like funerals, tend to be more beneficial to the bereaved than to the subject. An exception (in my humble secondhand knowledge) is if the person is simply too out of it to have realized up to that point what sort of pain he was causing his loved ones. This is rare. Usually the person is well aware that they're fucking up royally, they have just prioritized much differently than rational people expect.

But occasionally those things are successful, and the person with the problem attempts some sort of proactive rehabilitative program, and gets on with their life, or what's left of it. Even once rehabilitated, there is always the potential for recidivism, for falling back to old ways and bad habits. This is not so good.

So what do you do when such irrational behavior has taken place on a collective level? How does a huge nation set about the task of unfucking itself, and getting out of its vicious cycle of denial and projection?

I commented way back in January, right before the wave of purple-fingered freedom swept Iraq, about the advent of Shiite death squads. Sure enough, it turns out that some of them have been found to be torturing civilians to death in horrific ways:

British-trained police operating in Basra have tortured at least two civilians to death with electric drills, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, admits that he knows of "alleged deaths in custody" and other "serious prisoner abuse" at al-Jamiyat police station, which was reopened by Britain after the war.

Part of rehabilitation will be coming to terms with the fact that we don't even know what we don't know -- and that many people prefer it that way. Not me. If something is right, then it's right, and there's no need to hide your light under a bushel, right? If these people took a power drill through the skull, we should find out if it was for a just cause, n'est-ce pas?

There is something so shamelessly duplicitous about all this, when you get right down to it. Bush lectures from the podium in Panama about how "we do not torture" even as Cheney insists on exemptions for just that for the CIA. Plus extraordinary rendition, plus what we already know about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. So perhaps we need to parse "we", "do not", and "torture", the way we used to parse "is" and "alone" in a more innocent time.

I believe the American people are starting to do just that, just as they instinctively know that it doesn't matter what the technical classification of Willy Pete happens to be, they just know they'd be furious if it were used on American troops, much less American civilians. This too is a cause for national therapy, even without the requisite photo of a naked screaming Iraqi child, scorched by napalm or Willy Pete, fragged by a daisy cutter bomblet, whatever.

And if Big Time and his rotten little henchmen want to chuck stones at perfidious Democrats who have reasonable doubts about the Great Strategery, what does he have to say to the democratically elected leaders of Iraq?

Cairo -- For the first time, Iraq's political factions collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces Monday as the Bush administration battled pressure at home to commit to a pullout schedule.

The announcement, at the conclusion of a reconciliation conference here backed by the Arab League, was a public reaching-out by Shiites, who now dominate Iraq's government, to Sunni Arabs on the eve of parliamentary elections that have been put on shaky ground by weeks of sectarian violence.


In Cairo, about 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, many of whom will run in the election on Dec. 15, signed a closing memorandum that "demands a withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces."

The statement said: "The Iraqi people are looking forward to the day when foreign forces will leave Iraq, when its armed and security forces will be rebuilt, and when they can enjoy peace and stability and an end to terrorism."


The statement, while condemning the wave of terrorism that has engulfed Iraq, also broadly acknowledged a general right to resist foreign occupation. This was another effort to compromise with Sunnis who have sought to legitimize the insurgency. The statement condemned terror attacks and religious backing for them. It also demanded the release of innocent prisoners and an investigation into allegations of torture.

So if Jack Murtha's a cut-and-run pussy, what does that make Ibrahim Jaafari? No matter. Murtha never proposed cutting and/or running in the first place -- his proposal was entirely reasonable, and involved keeping troops safely nearby in friendly countries like Kuwait and Qatar.

But if there's one thing this administration understands well, it's how repeating the same falsehoods over and over again tend to take on a life of their own, and the benefits nearly always accrue to the propagandists. Especially in the absence of an effective opposition party.

Not so much this time, though not because the Democrats have suddenly grown a backbone. No, they're content to keep their powder as dry as possible until the next election cycle begins after the holidays, then hoo boy, watch out Republicans! Prepare to be pimp-slapped by the likes of Rahm Emanuel, fool! No doubt Rove and the rest of them are quivering in the corner at the very prospect of getting Rahmed.

It turns out that the American people have finally started to give up whatever good faith they had been holding out for this gang to get its shit together. Independents and moderates are giving up on the Bushies in droves, and on the selfsame issues of personality that got Bush installed in the first place. The notion of having a beer with a gutless lying tool suddenly doesn't sound like such a hot ticket. Imagine that.

And note just how sotto voce this little gem just floated over the transom. In the British media, naturally [emphases mine].

Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year. A report produced by American and British pressure groups warns Iraq will be caught in an "old colonial trap" if it allows foreign companies to take a share of its vast energy reserves. The report is certain to reawaken fears that the real purpose of the 2003 war on Iraq was to ensure its oil came under Western control.

The Iraqi government has announced plans to seek foreign investment to exploit its oil reserves after the general election, which will be held next month. Iraq has 115 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, the third largest in the world.

According to the report, from groups including War on Want and the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the new Iraqi constitution opened the way for greater foreign investment. Negotiations with oil companies are already under way ahead of next month's election and before legislation is passed, it said.

The groups said they had amassed details of high-level pressure from the US and UK governments on Iraq to look to foreign companies to rebuild its oil industry. It said a Foreign Office code of practice issued in summer last year said at least $4bn would be needed to restore production to the levels before the 1990-91 Gulf War. "Given Iraq's needs it is not realistic to cut government spending in other areas and Iraq would need to engage with the international oil companies to provide appropriate levels of foreign direct investment to do this," it said.

Yesterday's report said the use of production sharing agreements (PSAs) was proposed by the US State Department before the invasion and adopted by the Coalition Provisional Authority. "The current government is fast-tracking the process. It is already negotiating contracts with oil companies in parallel with the constitutional process, elections and passage of a Petroleum Law," the report, Crude Designs, said.

Earlier this year a BBC Newsnight report claimed to have uncovered documents showing the Bush administration made plans to secure Iraqi oil even before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US. Based on its analysis of PSAs in seven countries, it said multinationals would seek rates of return on their investment from 42 to 162 per cent, far in excess of typical 12 per cent rates.

Taking an assumption of $40 a barrel, below the current price of almost $60, and a likely contract term of 25 to 40 years, it said that Iraq stood to lose between £74bn and $194bn.
Andrew Simms, the NEF's policy director, said: "Over the last century, Britain and the US left a global trail of conflict, social upheaval and environmental damage as they sought to capture and control a disproportionate share of the world's oil reserves. Now it seems they are determined to increase their ecological debts at Iraq's expense. Instead of a new beginning, Iraq is caught in a very old colonial trap."

Well, gee, I guess we can all put two and two together and take a stab at what Chalabi's little secret meeting with Big Time was about the other day. Hint: it wasn't about the so-called Energy Task Force.

Now, we have some tough choices to make here in the U.S. of A., and we don't seem terribly inclined to make them. Oh sure, more and more of us are getting pissed at the lying. But we continue to lie to ourselves. In terms of long-term US strategic and economic interests, we're screwed royally whether we stay or we leave tomorrow. Jim Kunstler puts it well:

Maybe we ought to ask: what happens to the oil supply of the Crusader West when none of its representatives maintains a garrison in the Middle East? I use the term Crusader not to be cute, but to remind you how Europe and America are viewed by many people of the Middle East. They don't like us. They have a longstanding beef with us. Some of them would like to punish us.

America is leading the current crusade because we are the society most desperately addicted to oil, and the Middle East is where two-thirds of the world's remaining oil lies. The one thing that we apparently cannot bring ourselves to talk about is our addiction itself. The commuters whizzing around the edge cities and metroplexes of this land probably got a big charge out of Congressman Murtha's anti-war blast taking over drive-time radio on Friday. I wonder if they thought about how it might affect their commuting.

This whole spectacle -- both the inept war itself and our debate about it here at home -- is particularly shameful for the official opposition, my party, the Democrats, because we could be talking about the so-called elephant-in-the-room, namely how we live in America and the tragic choices we've made, and the things we might do to change that -- but the party leadership is too brain-dead or craven to do that. As long as we don't, we're going to be wrassling a tarbaby in the Middle East.

Unless an anti-war opposition has a plan to withdraw from the project of suburban sprawl, we're going to have to keep soldiers in Iraq, if not in the cities, then out in desert bases guarding the oil works and keeping planes ready to fly in case some al-Zarqawi-type maniac mounts a coup in Saudi Arabia. It would certainly be legitimate for the Democratic party to oppose the idea that we can continue to be crippled by car-dependency, or that we ought to keep subsidizing that way of life -- which Vice-president Cheney called "non-negotiable." We'd better negotiate that or somebody else is going to negotiate it for us, and that is exactly what they are doing with IED's in Iraq and elsewhere.

That's exactly it. It's nice that the demand for Hummers has waned so precipitously that GM is shitcanning 30,000 Americans and Canadians, but that is not remotely a solution to the bigger problem at hand. It is going to require a great deal of discussion and debate, and real scrutiny of where we are at, and what the true sustainability of our little petroleum paradise is now. We can't pull out and sacrifice access; we can't stay in and lose our souls.

The first step is to admit that we have a problem, and we -- the American citizenry -- have still somehow not reached that point. Shudder to think what it's going to take to get there.

The Al Capone Strategy

Looks like they're going after Pinochet again -- this time on tax evasion charges.

Former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet was arrested Wednesday and charged with tax evasion, passport forgery and other crimes associated with his possession of hundreds of illegal bank accounts, many of them in the United States.

Pinochet, who turns 90 later this week, was placed under house arrest at his suburban estate east of Santiago -- a process he has experienced twice before for allegedly committing human rights abuses while ruling Chile from 1973 to 1990. Pinochet's lawyers successfully quashed those court cases by arguing that he was mentally unfit to stand trial, and on Wednesday they told reporters that the same arguments should apply to the current charges.

Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? And chances are Pinochet will skate on this too, like everything else. That's okay -- it's not like they're really going to send a 90-year-old man to prison, no matter how much of a sumbitch he is. The point is that they're going to hound this rotten old bastard to his grave, and that's something. Augusto Pinochet will never know another moment's true peace for as long as he lives, and that's a pretty good thing. Coulda been better, mind you, but whattaya gonna do?

The indictment came eight months after a U.S. Senate report revealed that Pinochet had used various aliases to stash money in more than 125 accounts at six U.S. banks, including Riggs Bank in Washington, where he kept $8 million. Other accounts have since been uncovered in banks in Britain and Gibraltar.

Oh gee, they say it like it's a bad thing. Recall also who's in charge of Riggs Bank -- none other than the monkey's uncle himself, Jonathan Bush. There are coincidences in life, and then there are stacks of coincidences. The Bushes' longtime proximity to blood money and international money laundering is one such stack. Perhaps Pravda can put the ever-intrepid Boob Woodward on the case, if his arms aren't too tired from hoisting the administration's water for three years.

For years, Pinochet's claims of dementia have frustrated prosecutors in pursuit of him for crimes they say include the murder and torture of thousands of people after he took power in a 1973 military coup. In addition to Wednesday's indictment, other prosecutors are preparing charges against Pinochet for his role in Operation Colombo -- the 1975 disappearance of 119 members of the Revolutionary Leftist Movement, whose bodies were eventually found in other Latin American countries.

Chile's Supreme Court ruled in September that Pinochet's immunity as a former president could be withdrawn for the Operation Colombo case, and a medical panel that recently examined Pinochet did not rule out the possibility of a trial.

Again, why not helpfully point out that two of those people Pinochet tortured and killed were American citizens? Not that it automatically makes them better than native Chileans, but apparently that's all that gets us motivated on these things. Furthermore, you'd think that the newspaper of record in the nation's capital might also take a second to point out Pinochet's terrorist at in said capital, the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt. That these details consistently get elided whenever and wherever Pinochet merits mention for his nefarious deeds is telling.

Pinochet's wife and son were arrested in August and charged as accomplices in tax evasion for helping him move money between the accounts; they are currently free on bail. Judge Cerda set Pinochet's bail at $23,000 -- an amount that Pinochet's lawyers said he could not afford because all of his money has been frozen by the courts.

"It's sad that a man who dedicated his life to the country is now facing this situation," said Gen. Guillermo Garin, a spokesman for Pinochet.

Transcripts of recent testimony by Pinochet, leaked to the Chilean press, suggest that Pinochet has switched his earlier strategy of evading questions and now appears to be justifying his actions, such as the transfer of funds to his children.

"My children are lepers, like me," Pinochet reportedly told Cerda.

Good. They are enablers of a vile human being. The hell with the lot of them. Perhaps the next generation can try to rehabilitate the name, without shuffling thick envelopes of blood money around the Caribbean.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"A Very Bad Enemy To Have"

I became a football fan when I was very young, probably about 5 or 6 years old. What I liked in particular about the Raiders was their motto at the time: "We'd rather be feared than respected."

I have no idea why that resonated with me, especially since I was rather slight in build at that point, and bookish. But it did, and I appreciated the fact that the Raiders' motto was not just empty bluster - they meant it. Their defense, largely made up of misfits and castoffs like John Matuszak, Ted Hendricks, and the like, went after whoever had the ball with nothing short of sublime fury. Teams were scared shitless to come into the Coliseum -- it truly was the Thunderdome of the '70s. Quarterbacks knew they were going to get fucked up when they visited Oakland.

And the Raiders had personality, they branded instantly with the working-class environs of Oakland. The players were all memorable characters, with nicknames, swagger, attitude to burn. And talent. No one who watched the pre-Super Bowl XV hype can forget watching John Matuszak hulking through the French Quarter the entire weekend before, hitting every bar, grabbing every hot chick within reach, burning the candle at both ends and finding still more ends to burn. Then showing up for the game and terrorizing Ron Jaworski into throwing three interceptions, and shellacking the hapless Iggles 27-10.

Oh, they had their screwups too, like any team, but they were always tremendous fun to watch, and you always knew that no matter how hard they partied the night before, they'd play like hell for the entire 60 minutes, never conceding a goddamned inch.

A Republican reader at Talking Points Memo puts in two cents that every Democrat operative needs to internalize, and now [emphasis mine]:

....Democratic politicians tend to be wimps. Anyone can see how easily they get pushed around by interest groups in their own party; when criticized aggressively, they tend to seek sympathy rather than hitting back. This encourages Republican political operatives to use rough tactics.

I don't think this is a matter of ideology. In fact, I don't know what it is. I just know if I were a Republican politician there wouldn't be many Democratic politicians I would be afraid of. Maybe it's a reflection on my own personality that that I take for granted the importance in politics of generating concern that one might be a very bad enemy to have.

Now, before anyone fixates on this person's pre-emptive "[m]aybe it's a reflection on my own personality...." I'd point out that the letter appears to be very well-written and thought out. This person is not being an asshole or a partisan firebreather, imho. It's a very cogent assessment of what works with the American public at this point in time. This is something we forget sometimes when we focus hard on the pols themselves. Somebody voted for them.

True, some of those voters are addled, or clueless, or clinically insane. There's no other explanation for how a creature like Tom Coburn gets into the US Senate, other than a preponderance of cephalopods in Oklahoma. But some of them simply responded to the tone in which the message was presented.

This does not mean that the Democrats have to alter the content of their message, nor does it mean they have to devolve to the craven antics of the lunatic Jean Schmidt, who might as well just start packing her shit and preparing to head back to Ohio now. I certainly don't want the Democrats to dumb themselves down or water their message to make it more palatable to the Trading Spouses demographic.

But they simply must start investing more in the deconstruction of workable tactics and viable impressions. In many ways, they can't win for losing -- they branded as bloodless and overly cerebral, so they get a smart passionate guy like Dean out there and he gets tagged as a firebrand for one stupid whoop-it-up moment that got rerun like a syndicated Seinfeld.

Still, they should be encouraged by the fact that until that point, Dean was leading the pack with his passion and intelligence, and had made serious inroads in the still-developing field of Internet fundraising. There's a lot there to work with, and the sooner the Dems start tying that strategy to developing a serious bench of sore losers, the sooner we can all be rid of the animals that are hellbent on ruining the country.

So get guys like Paul Hackett and Barack Obama out there as much as possible, and develop a kick 'em when they're down mentality. Good teams put away bad teams, and they do it with smart players and smart playmaking. Kerry was just a bad choice with a lame strategy. It's not entirely his fault, he's just better as a senator than as a presidential candidate. It's a huge step, and the only reason a potted plant like George W. Bush made it is because of the tremendous machinery behind him.

Ignore the machinery, and just take your game to them, Democrats. That's what The Tooz would tell you. He may have only gotten 33 years out of his time on this planet, but rest assured he made the most out of them. Are you?

[update: a commenter at Atrios mentioned this excellent Mother Jones profile on Paul Hackett, who as you recall lost narrowly to Jean Batschmidt, in a 70% Republican (and apparently somewhat mentally unhinged) congressional district in southern Ohio. Definitely check it out; Hackett literally epitomizes exactly what I'm talking about here -- he's smart, passionate, funny, engaged in the issues, and totally unafraid to tell assholes to just go fuck themselves already. That is what is needed to turn this mutha around.]

“These guys in the Republican Party adopted this tough-guy language,” Hackett tells me, still steamed, an hour later. “They’re bullies. They’re offended when somebody takes a swing back at them.”

Damn straight. Come to think of it, it's not right that Ohio should have this guy to themselves. Fuck it -- Paul Hackett for President in 2008! Official slogan: This time, why not somebody who makes you want to give a shit?!

Come on, who else in this party do you actually wanna vote for, honestly?

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Dear Leader, apparently confounded by jet lag, had a petulant little meltdown in Beijing this morning, culminating in him being thwarted by a tricky locked door:

only cements his growing reputation as a willful, arrogant moron.

The president had called the news session with US reporters at his hotel.

His earlier meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao did not permit media questions.

Mr Bush answered a range of questions before one reporter said: "Respectfully, sir - you know we're always respectful - in your statement this morning with President Hu, you seemed a little off your game, you seemed to hurry through your statement. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Was something bothering you?"

The president answered: "Have you ever heard of jet lag? Well, good. That answers your question."

The reporter asked for a follow-up question but the president then thanked the attending journalists and said: "No you may not."

He strode from the lectern to the door, trying both handles and then breaking into a laugh.

Hell of an exit strategy, Cletus. And a heartfelt thanks once again, values voters, for foisting this retard on a hapless world. You deserve exactly what you get; the rest of us deserved far better than this useless pissant.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Pantload -- Now Doughier Than Ever!

Seems the LA Times, in the misplaced spirit of outreach to the mentally-impaired community, has sacked longtime contributor Robert Scheer, and filled his column space with the Pillsbury Waterboy. Talk about a step down.

Goldberg's veritable treasure trove of foreign policy knowledge and insight was spotlighted earlier this year, as you may recall. He got into a notorious pissing contest with well-known Iraq analyst Prof. Juan Cole, in which Cole essentially sat on Goldberg's chest and smacked Goldberg upside the head with Goldberg's own spindly arms, all the while saying, "Why're you hittin' yerself, Jonah? Why're you hittin' yerself?" To say that it was ugly is a serious underestimation. Goldberg's momma is merely ugly; Cole's smackdown was downright fugly.

So Goldberg is well-established as a reckless cheerleader for the gang of pelf-hungry fabulists running this country. He's gotten by to this point on his mommy's connections and a pop-culture bonhomie that would be charming in, say, a lifestyle columnist, but not in someone who purports to be a serious pundit.

So what does Goldberg choose to subject his unwitting audience to in his inaugural LAT column, that couldn't already have been gleaned from his tiresome excursions at The Corner of J-Pod Alley and K-Lo Cul-de-sac?

What if Bush did lie, big time? What, exactly, would that mean? If you listen to Bush's critics, serious and moonbat alike, the answer is obvious: He'd be a criminal warmonger, a failed president and — most certainly — impeachment fodder. Even Bush's defenders agree that if Bush lied, it would be a grave sin.

Already the Doughboy is vacillating between "so what?" and "no shit, Sherlock". So at least he's consistent.

But do you remember way back when, back in the previous benighted millennium, when it wasn't about the sex, it was about the lying? You know who two of the more exhaustive media whores were for that homespun aphorism? Doughboy and Mama Doughboy, Luciferanne Goldberg. So it's interesting to see some inferential data demonstrating that perhaps it was about the sex after all.

Perhaps we could take up a collection to get Goldberg a blowjob, and get him out of our media channels once and for all. Come on, Fatboy, we'll all chip in so you can clean out the pipes at long last, and get on to something more useful, like inventing a new flavor of SnackWells.

My friends at the Journal are right to suggest that some Bush critics are paranoids, but here's the thing: Luce wasn't slandering Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Indeed, the evidence that FDR lied is far greater than the evidence that Bush did.


Roosevelt won his unprecedented third election on the vow that he wouldn't send American boys to war: "While I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." This was almost surely a lie.

"Roosevelt repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl Harbor," writes the historian Thomas A. Bailey. "He was faced with a terrible dilemma. If he let the people slumber in a fog of isolationism, they might fall prey to Hitler. If he came out unequivocally for intervention, he would be defeated" in the 1940 election. This view was seconded by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in a rave review of Bailey's book in 1949. Schlesinger now spends his time lending gravitas to the moonbattier "Bush lied" table-thumpers at Arianna Huffington's website.

Heh. It never fails with these chumps, but FDR is an over-reach of truly, well, Pantloadian proportions, when comparing Chimpco's perfidy in getting us into this mess. For one, the strategic alliance between Germany and Japan was one that was running full-tilt through their respective neighbors. By the time we finally got into it, the Japanese had brutally subjugated Manchuria and were headed straight for control of Indonesian oilfields and Philippine commercial sea lanes. And Hitler and Mussolini were headed into North Africa, because the Wehrmacht needed oil, and the biggest European source at the time was Romania, which obviously wasn't nearly enough to feed the monster. So they were acting very quickly and forcefully, and we almost waited until it was too late to jump in as it was.

This is a difference on an order of magnitude with what Saddam's thuggish crime family was doing in Iraq. Yes, they picked fights with two of their neighbors -- the much bigger one fought them to a draw in a conflict that killed over a million people, and the much smaller neighbor called its much bigger friends to squash the problem. So Saddam was not exactly a keen military strategist who could pose a serious threat to his neighbors without practically advertising it. Was he working on nuclear capability and WMD? Probably. So was North Korea -- successfully. So was Iran -- also successfully. In focusing on the weakest bad apple, the much stronger two got even further ahead at their own nefarious games -- with a little help from our "friend" Pakistan. So, you know, nicely done all the way around there, fellas. Anything else you want to fuck up royally while you're down there?

See, the brain surgeons in the Goldberg claque, in thinking they were so much fucking smarter than all the hippy dippy trippy moonbats, thought they were going to make a big, bright, shining example out of Iraq. They would demonstrate that people around the world, envious of American excesses, would welcome the opportunity to throw off the chains of Saddam's Stalinist state, and eat at Mickey D's and watch porn on their satellite systems.

Suffice to say that this gamble didn't pay off, and the upcoming third historic election (in one year, no less, three momentously historic elections, each more so than the last, no doubt) unfortunately won't change that. And all Goldberg and his ignorant ilk have been able to conjure up is reflexive snide foolishness about how the people who are observing the facts dispassionately really don't want it to work.

It really is difficult to figure how a set of people, supposedly college-educated and relatively intelligent, could reach such an abhorrent conclusion in any remotely honest manner. Yet they have, and continue to beat the non-existent point into the ground as if it were some sort of triumphant proof -- even though they've been wrong about everything the entire time. They were wrong about Saddam's capabilities; they were wrong about how to go about securing the borders. They were wrong about gutting the army and the Baathists, leaving a lot of broke unemployed pissed-off men with nothing to do, and lots of seething rage at the daily humiliation of being occupied and pushed around. They were wrong about buying into that snake Chalabi's bullshit about being greeted with candy and flowers.

Most of all, they clearly had no fundamental understanding of how intertwined the culture is with the faith in that part of the world. They didn't realize that terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas also function as charitable organizations there, and thus have the common man on their side, by and large. And they fired a lot of able translators who could have helped them suss these facts out a lot sooner, because they were gay.

So to turn Doughboy's argument back on him, if FDR did lie to get us into WW2, only a moron would argue that it wasn't for the best possible outcome. And while it calls for speculation, it would be intellectually dishonest to still assert that Saddam could not have been contained, when the only "evidence" ever produced to the contrary was pulled out of Rocco Martino's ass.

Does Doughboy think that nobody knows how to Google this shit, or does he just assume we all take his word as gospel?

Just three days before Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 4, 1941, the Chicago Tribune and Washington Star-Ledger broke the story that FDR had already drafted a plan for war with Germany, a plan that entailed a 10-million-man army invading Germany by the middle of 1943. Democrats and Republicans alike saw this as further proof that FDR had been lying all along. Some suggest that a U.S.-flagged schooner sent into Japanese waters that same day was intended to provoke a fight. Roosevelt got Pearl Harbor instead, which was a surprise but nonetheless "rescued" the president, in Hofstadter's words, from the "dilemma" of needing to start a war the American people opposed.

Does this make FDR a bad president? No. While I have my problems with FDR, most historians are right to be forgiving of deceit in a just cause. World War II needed to be fought, and FDR saw this sooner than others.

Look. I'll admit that even I thought for quite some time that there must be WMD out in the Syrian desert, that Saddam had holed them away thinking he'd be able to hold out or something. Of course, there's no internal logic to this assumption many of us held -- after all, if he had them, why didn't he use them, in the face of being deposed? -- but I think many felt that, with all the ongoing assertions about WMD, Powell's insistence on actual fact-based intelligence, and what we already knew about Saddam, that they must have had the goods on him somehow. No one would go to war on a flimsy Nigerien document, would they?

They would. They did. And they did it on bad faith, with massive amounts of sneering and bluster, firing and retiring any military experts who got in the way of them doing it their way, which as it turns out was the wrong way. So again, comparing FDR's dilemma to Bush's dilemma is not even apples and oranges; it's apples and comic books. Hindsight is not going to absolve Bush the way it supposedly did FDR (to the extent that FDR actually had to be absolved in the first place); indeed, every bit of information that finally squeaks through the wall of secrecy is more damning than the last.

Even the most cursory reading of any presidential biography will tell you that statesmanship requires occasional duplicity. If great foreign policy could be conducted Boy Scout-style — "I will never tell a lie" — foreign policy would be easy (and Jimmy Carter would be hailed as the American Bismarck). This isn't to say that the public's trust should be breached lightly, but there are other competing goods involved in any complex situation.

He's actually right on this. The old A Few Good Men cliché has a lot of merit to it: most people really can't handle the truth, and a great many seriously would rather not know. Everybody enjoys a nice steak or hamburger, but no one in their right mind would want to work in a slaughterhouse.

But that does not absolve citizens from their responsibility to pay attention, stay informed, keep their eyes on the civic ball, and basically try to live up that whole "do unto others" bit we hear so much about. Nobody expects people to be Simon-pure; that's impossible. So we give it another, more innocuous name -- "good faith". It's about making an honest effort to do the right thing, as best you can.

Forget absolute pure honesty for a second. Does anyone seriously believe that this administration went about all this in good faith? Right down to the timing of the marketing of this catastrophe beforehand, they conducted themselves in the utmost cynicism and treachery. They didn't want to roll out their new improved war product in August, so they waited until everyone got back from vacation, and made it an issue for the 2002 midterms, forcing a nervous and exhausted populace -- and their representatives -- in the tenuous position of supporting what they knew in their guts was cynical bullshit, in the futile hope of helping out their team.

The Bush Doctrine is not chiefly about WMD and never was. Like FDR's vision, it balances democracy, security and morality. Still, the media and anti-Bush partisans have been bizarrely unmoved by the revelations of Hussein's killing fields, his torture chambers for tots and democracy's tangible progress in the Middle East.

But this is a flat-out fucking lie. Iraq, while no longer the Stalinist terror state it was under Saddam, is not a democracy; it is an Iranian-influenced theocracy. Goldberg and the rest of the purple-finger brigade seem to think that the mere act of holding elections makes you a democracy. Well, Iran has elections; perhaps you heard about the one this past summer. Saddam had elections as well.

Second, the war and occupation have not contributed to our security or the security of the region; indeed, it has undermined it in several obvious ways. (In fact, several major conservabloggers at the time, most notably Steven den Beste, noted that destabilization of the region would be a feature, not a flaw.) It has drained our military and our treasury (but not the precious tax cuts, praise Jeebus). It has killed our credibility with the other 95% of the planet's inhabitants, many of whom are economically ascendant in our wake. And it has taken the focus away from getting the actual people who perpetrated and enabled 9/11.

As for morality -- well, this is actually rather nauseating, especially coming on the heels of yet more reports of the current regime operating their own torture chambers, as well as us (you know, the good guys) melting women and children with "Willy Pete".

And we knew damned well what Saddam was doing to his people back in the '80s, when he was still our son-of-a-bitch. Somehow we managed to put aside our high-handed morals 'n' ethics then, selling him chemicals after Halabja, sending Rummy and Bob Dole over to reassure him of our friendhsip, knowing about his penchant for torturing the children of his political enemies, knowing about the rape rooms and the torture chambers, knowing about the brutal insanity of his evil sons. Some of us, the Pantload might like to know, were pissed about it back then, too.

And if Goldberg wishes to get Simon-pure on that point, and get real about moral responsibility, then I'll be the first to step up and sing amen to that. But like the rest of his career of shameless, tendentious hackery, it's just for show.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Monkey Business

When Chuck Krauthammer starts agreeing with me, you know the apocalypse is well nigh, verily and forsooth.

Let's be clear. Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological "theory" whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God. It is a "theory" that admits that evolution and natural selection explain such things as the development of drug resistance in bacteria and other such evolutionary changes within species but also says that every once in a while God steps into this world of constant and accumulating change and says, "I think I'll make me a lemur today." A "theory" that violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science -- that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution -- or behind the motion of the tides or the "strong force" that holds the atom together?

In order to justify the farce that intelligent design is science, Kansas had to corrupt the very definition of science, dropping the phrase " natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us," thus unmistakably implying -- by fiat of definition, no less -- that the supernatural is an integral part of science. This is an insult both to religion and science.

Amen. However, I submit that scientifically sensible conservatives like Chuck have been enablers of a sort -- they let it get this far because they were too busy cultivating the Cro-Magnon wing for political purposes. Well, this is what you get when you soft-pedal this nonsense under the guise of faux ecumenicism. They get emboldened, they start assuming that political equality subverts the laws of nature and grants them scientific equality as well. They start getting this insane idea that "both" sides of "the story" must be taught as if they were merely opposing viewpoints. Hell, who's science to say that the moon isn't made of green cheese? You ever been to the moon, smart guy?

So it's nice that Chuck is finally, erm, finding God on this one and laying down some wood, but it's going to take some effort to get the sheeple back into their holy corral and out of our science classes. The Dover case is going before the Supreme Court, regardless of the ruling, so we better pack a lunch.

Last Throe Update

Another day, another massive suicide bombing.

BAGHDAD, Nov. 18 - At least 65 people died in the Eastern Iraqi town of Khanaqin today after suicide bombers detonated explosives inside two Shiite mosques during Friday prayers.

Suicide bombers also killed at least six people near the Hamrah Hotel, a Baghdad hotel popular with international journalists. The dead were believed to be all Iraqis.

The attack in Khanaqin, about 90 miles northeast of Baghdad near the Iran border, occurred when the two mosques were full of worshippers, according to an Interior ministry official.

A third suicide bomber targeted a nearby bank in the town, which is mostly Kurdish and Shiite.

A member of the local council told Reuters that the death toll could eventually exceed 100 people.

Good thing Cheney reassured us this was all about to stop. I'm sure this is all somehow John Murtha's fault.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dickie's Such An Asshole

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney has been hospitalized for a severe rectal problem.

Surgeons at Our Lady Of Perpetual Straining Hospital worked on the vice president's sphincter for over three hours last night, after Cheney damaged his sigmoid colon during a rather contentious speech attacking Democrats for questioning the administration's veracity on pretty much everything.

"Apparently the vice president injured himself pulling massive amounts of rhetoric out of his ass," said Dr. Ben Dover, chief proctologist at the hospital. "Let's face it, the ass can only hold so much before it starts to distend and deform. I mean, you see some strange stuff here -- dildos, maybe the occasional rodent. But this, Jesus, he practically had a goddamned mini-storage in his ass."

When asked if the damage was permanent or life-threatening, the doctor politely demurred. "The condition is highly treatable," Dover offered, "but we believe it's symptomatic of a much deeper problem. Mr. Cheney has been pulling a great deal out of his ass for years now -- far more than medical science ever thought could be fit into there in the first place. So there is some long-term damage; you could just about park a Buick in his colon at this point. He has to remain clenched at all times just to keep his internal organs from falling out. And he sustained some severe paper cuts along the alimentary canal, as well as re-opening some scarred-over anal tissue.

"Things can eventually return to normal down there, but only if Mr. Cheney stops. He seems to be pathologically addicted to pulling shit out of his ass. I guess you could say he's a very unique type of 'crack addict'." Dover chuckled at his own mildly amusing assessment.

"The first step is for Mr. Cheney to admit that he has a problem, but as long as he keeps pulling out crap like this:

Most of you know, I have spent a lot of years in public service, and first came to work in Washington back in the late 1960s. I know what it’s like to operate in a highly charged political environment, in which the players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully. In such an environment people sometimes lose their cool, and yet in Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition. And the suggestion that’s been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.

it's very difficult to offer a positive long-term prognosis. 'Good faith'? I'm surprised he didn't get struck by lightning while pulling that one out of his ass. We believe that was the one that caused the perforations near the rectum.

"All we can do is keep stitching up the paper cuts, and pray that Mr. Cheney eventually enters ass rehab. It could save his life, and it would certainly make walking and sitting more comfortable for him."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Great Unraveling

Anyone who thought that Fitzmas was some sort of end had it ass-backwards -- it was just the beginning. Indeed, the past week or so has seen an amazing unraveling of the once-dominant party.

Bush's petulant speeches on the way out to his utterly pointless Asia junket, coupled with the near-mutinous conduct of congressional Republicans, emphasize that this is the beginning of the end for the Bushies. Nobody who's up for re-election next year wants to be caught in the same camera frame with Dear Leader. The administration disingenuously insists that it does not condone torture, even as it insists on a CIA exemption for it.

Even the morlocks who trudged to the polls last year just to keep the fags down may be starting to see the shameless duplicity here.

Then you have the revelation (at long last) that not only has Saint Bob Woodward been little more than a faithful water-carrier for the power claque, but that his admission of being told about Valerie Plame's CIA status by a third senior administration official all but proves a conspiracy to defame Joseph Wilson. (Unless, of course, you're one of the Tinkerbell faction, who dutifully claps along with Bush's Iraq speech retreads, and assumes it's all just an amazing coincidence. Anything's possible when you have the intelligence and intellectual honesty of a 4-year-old.)

And it just keeps coming. Now a memo turns up disucussing oil company CEOs meeting with Cheney and the so-called Energy Task Force to, uh, come up with an energy policy. Say, how'd that one turn out, anyway?

Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on the document. She said that the courts have upheld "the constitutional right of the president and vice president to obtain information in confidentiality."

Yeah, and Cheney made sure to go duck hunting with Combover Tony Scalia to make sure of just that, didn't he, Lea Anne? Fucking gutless corrupt bastards.

The executives were not under oath when they testified, so they are not vulnerable to charges of perjury; committee Democrats had protested the decision by Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) not to swear in the executives. But a person can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for making "any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation" to Congress.

You know, I'd personally consider it a bonus if an ancillary consequence of all this was that Ted Stevens got bounced. If there's a more worthless sack of shit in the US Senate than Ted Stevens....well, it's Tom Coburn. No, maybe it's John Cornyn. Rick Santorum? Bill Frist? Jim DeMint? Jesus H. Christ, are there any halfway respectable Sente Republicans besides McCain, Hagel, and the broads from Maine? It's like a big fucking practical joke or something.

Finally, in the "why sell your soul when you can just give it away?" department, we find out about the use of the incendiary white phosphorus (known as "Willy Pete" in military jargon) during last fall's offensive on the Iraqi city of Falluja. You may recall that one as the propitiously-timed (right before the election) attack, because the original one back in April 2004 didn't pan out so well. This is the sort of planning we've come to expect from the MBA Preznitency.

Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. military had not used the highly flammable weapons against civilians, contrary to an Italian state television report this month that stated the munitions were used against men, women and children in Falluja who were burned to the bone.

"We categorically deny that claim," Venable said.

"It's part of our conventional-weapons inventory and we use it like we use any other conventional weapon," added Bryan Whitman, another Pentagon spokesman.

Venable said white phosphorus weapons are not outlawed or banned by any convention.

However, a protocol to an accord on conventional weapons which took effect in 1983 forbids using incendiary weapons against civilians.

The protocol also forbids their use against military targets within concentrations of civilians, except when the targets are clearly separated from civilians and "all feasible precautions" are taken to avoid civilian casualties.

The United States is a party to the overall accord, but has not ratified the incendiary-weapons protocol or another involving blinding laser weapons.


The Italian documentary showed images of bodies recovered after the Falluja offensive, which it said proved the use of white phosphorus against civilians.

"We don't target any civilians with any of our weapons. And to suggest that U.S. forces were targeting civilians with these weapons would simply be wrong," Whitman said.

What's significant here is how quickly the story changed. Just last week, the Pentagon insisted that WP had been used in Falluja strictly for purposes of illumination.

I think the classification of WP is couched in roughly the same technical parsing that Whitman's excuses are. I doubt civilians were deliberately targeted; we just didn't give much of a fuck. Like the hapless Katrina victims, if they didn't get the fuck out after being warned, oh well. Lovely.

And the icing on the cake has to be sending Big TIme out to do the dirty work again, to rally the rapidly dwindling base. Let's see -- you got an increasingly unpopular preznit beating the long-useless Plan A into the ground, and the next wave is to send the even more unpopular VP out to do the same thing, which already isn't working anymore. Genius. Pure fucking genius.

Maybe they'll get that statue in the Baghdad square after all, of Bush royally screwing the pooch.