Monday, January 31, 2005

"You Do Not Own Their Courage"

Charles Pierce has some words of wisdom on Eric Alterman's blog (scroll down) for the premature would-be triumphalists.


The people who stood in line Sunday did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line in order to justify the dereliction of a kept press. They did not stand in line to make right the wrongs born out of laziness, cowardice, and the easy acceptance of casual lying. They did not stand in line for anyone's grand designs. They did not stand in line to play pawns in anyone's great game, so you don't own their courage, you guys in the PNAC gallery....They did not stand in line to be the instruments of tawdry vilification and triumphal hooting from bloghound commandos. They did not stand in line to become useful cudgels for cheap American political thuggery, so you don't own their courage, Freeper Nation.....They did not stand in line for being the last casus belli standing. They did not stand in line on behalf of people's book deals, TV spots, honorarium checks, or tinpot celebrity. They did not stand in line to be anyone's talking points.

You do not own their courage.

We all should remember that.


Fareed Zakaria, who is always a pleasure to read and to hear (he was the guest on The Daily Show tonight), has some excellent centrist sense on mapping out the challenges ahead. In a rational universe, he'd have been in the running for a Cabinet post, instead of the soft bigotry of promoting trophy incompetents.

Spreading Democracy

First things first -- hats off to all the Iraqi citizens who quite literally risked their lives to vote. Americans could learn something in this regard from Iraqis and Ukrainians, who do not take their rights for granted.

Now comes the hard part -- not only sticking around to preserve the transitional process, but making sure that it's genuine, that this wasn't just all something to legitimize the handing over of power to Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi has already distinguished himself quite poorly, getting us into this mess in the first place with his wild cakewalk estimations, produced as they were from the comfort of a London hotel. Since then, Chalabi stands accused of passing on US intelligence to Iran, and is currently under indictment from the current Iraqi government. Still, inexplicably, he remains a player, because Iraq is (and probably always will be) riven along ethnic and religious faultlines, and Chalabi has proven adept at playing factions off against each other. Chalabi is clearly a corrupt kleptocrat.

If the transition is to remain with the current interim government of Allawi and friends, the challenge then becomes making sure that Allawi does not return to a Saddam-ite thugocracy. "Well," you may say, "even if Allawi is something of a thug, how could he possibly be as bad as Saddam? After all, Saddam was nearly as bad as Hitler." To that I would merely point out that Saddam, like Hitler, like all of them, had to start somewhere. I'm just saying that should Dr. Allawi retain power, we must remain honest and vigilant and observant as to how he treats dissidents, and yes, even insurgents and terrorists and rebels.

Finally, we should beware of Bushie triumphalism. It has already begun, and the media is in the tank for the time being. It is guaranteed to be a staple of the State Of The Union speech later this week. By lowering expectations, and counting on low turnout and high bloodbath quotient, they have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

We should not forget what this effort has cost us thus far, what it will continue to cost us in the near future, and how these people have been dead wrong about damn near everything. They would like to use this fleeting moment of seeming triumph as leverage with which they can enact the rest of their agenda -- including the evisceration of Social Security. Now more than ever, their words and deeds will require scrutiny.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Riffs On Football As Cultural Metaphor

A week ago, we discussed briefly how the coaching schemes of the most successful football organizations tend to involve systems that, instead of being built around the specific strengths of their star players, require their players to work within the system. This has been true at the college level for decades, because of player turnover; free agency has necessitated it in the pro league more recently.

(The salary cap has also necessitated the use of systems over stars. Teams can only afford so many high-priced star players now. Doctrinaire economists would decry this as rank Euro-socialism; football fans understand that without the salary cap, they probably never would have heard of Brett Favre, who is nothing short of iconic in the world of the NFL. Small-market teams like Green Bay simply never would have become competitive in the modern era without the salary cap.)

Sublimation of individual ego in the service of team cohesion seems to be the key to the success of these systems, which would tend to contravene how Americans (and especially star athletes) are brought up to see themselves. And yet, efficiency of the team runs at a maximum, simply because everyone put their egos aside and worked together.

But most of us are brought up to equate the cultivation of individual excellence with proving it by competing against (and defeating) all comers. This is reasonable to a certain extent -- to acquire a skill, once you have spent the sufficient amount of time to have some mastery of fundamentals, competition is the most efficient way to synthesize said mastery and knowledge. And yet, when it comes down to it in a competition, you really just have to be better than the other guy; if you're not self-critical or reflective enough to spot and refine your own mistakes, you're not actually improving and refining your skills.

Business is a particular arena where a genuine pursuit of excellence and skill frequently gets sublimated by the primal urge for predation, both without and within. In terms of human resources, it means you squeeze every nickel till the buffalo shits; rather than pay employees a decent wage to build a better product that discerning consumers will usually pay a little more for, you look at employees as just another corner to cut to make the P/L sheet look just a little bit better. This is rather short-sighted, yet common practice, obviously.

Or you might run a large company, with which you practice predatory techniques in order to increase market domination, or to drive out smaller competitors, even if their products are actually better. Also short-sighted, yet also commonplace.

Yet these things are considered intrinsic to the practice of genuine capitalism, even though they might be only in the technical sense. Indeed, if one were to be able to crunch projected numbers and productivity of happy, well-paid employees who are part of a team, as opposed to miserable wage-slaves constantly worried about being downsized (and thus apathetic to real productivity because incentive has been removed), conventional wisdom would likely be contradicted.

The problem is one of balance, that of weighing needs and requirements of happy, productive employees against the need of the company to generate profit. The assumption is that these two things are at cross purposes; the truth is that they are much more intertwined. The solution is to have a system which recognizes these things, rather than encourages short-sighted idiots to cut every corner they can for a quick buck at the community's expense. Not by enforcing a salary cap, but by fostering an environment that allows individuals to maximize their skills and talents, be recognized and well-compensated, make a product that everybody loves, and still work toward a common good. And not communism or socialism. Even capitalist icons like Adam Smith knew this was not only possible, but desirable in the context of capitalism and true democracy.

I submit that if the Democrats were to take a good hard look at the NFL, they would find what they have been missing -- business savvy, community values, and most importantly, narrative. Narrative is what has allowed a creature like George W. Bush to get even within spitting distance of the most important job on the planet. It is what the Democrats have been missing, and even when they've had it, have not understood the heft it carries with the electorate.

You may have seen the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back To School, and if so, you may recall a scene where Robert Downey Jr., as a punky anarchist student agitator, is on his way to a football game to protest. "Football is a crypto-fascist metaphor for thermonuclear war," he proclaims.

He's right. Football is, rather explicitly, a reduction of first- and second- generation war tactics, with all the quasi-nationalist trappings, both with the teams and with the overt nationalism before each and every game. Formations, set plays and techniques and positions -- that's first- and second-generation warfare there. The fans, the colors, the symbols, all of it -- it's war without the blood. That's fine; our lizard brains still need that from time to time.

Soccer (yeah, yeah, I know the rest of the world calls it "football", but it's soccer, m'kay?) could be seen to represent the next stage of warfare, third-generation. Tactics and formations are not as static and predictable. Nationalism is even more concentrated among the spectators, who after all provide context for the cultural metaphor at work here.

Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) is basically what we're experiencing in Iraq right now -- guerrilla tactics, no uniforms or distinguishing marks or insignia to separate from the civilian, no rules, no set positions or techniques. Possibly most confusing is that there's no hill to take, no enemy outpost to get in our sights. There's no goal post; no end zone. Maybe a village or city has a certain number of the enemy inhabiting it; finding and filtering a couple hundred of them out of a couple thousand (or a couple hundred thousand) by definition requires alerting the bad guys to the point that they get out and away before your regular army has even begun its mission. Meanwhile, several other factions set off car bombs and execute massacres and kidnappings simultaneously in several other cities.

It's no longer football; it's Calvinball. The rules are whatever the guy with the ball decides they are. And there's a lot of balls, thus a lot of guys making up their own rules as they go along. And we have no cultural metaphor for it, nor effective strategy nor even terminology and nomenclature, which are fundamental to establishing tactics and strategy.

We are stubbornly attempting to play Calvinball by the old football rules.

Back to narrative. The NFL provides a wondrously structured narrative that answers all the heuristic questions that the Republicans seem to have such a firm grasp of, yet still elude Democrats. It has a ready supply of characters around which to build its narrative of heroism, perseverance, skill, individual excellence in the context of team spirit and unity, family and community values.

And it works. Watch any of those old NFL Films, with the steady basso profundo of John Facenda burbling over slow-motion heroics of Brett Favre or Joe Montana executing a last-minute come-from-behind touchdown drive, and tell me that by the end of it, you don't think that Brett Favre is one cool motherfucker.

Cynics may say it's style over substance. Realists know it depends on the context; Favre has an actual skill, so when the technique is used to profile him, it's a happy marriage of style with substance. Used to position George W. Bush in front of Mount Rushmore at such an angle that he appears to be the fifth face, it's pathetic and ridiculous, yet it affirms to his base what they have come to feel about him, which is why they voted for him in the first place. Narrative. Heuristics. Mental shortcuts. Really, anyone who's ever taken a psych class as part of a marketing minor knows this. It's the art of bringing out all the dots in such a manner that the viewer/consumer thinks he connected them on his own.

When the Democrats come to understand this, not only will they grasp the strength of narrative, but they will have the most important element of authenticity, of truly having the essential bond with the common man. I don't mean this in the cynical sense, but in the real one. True football fans are manifesting concepts like loyalty and community spirit in their teams, things that transcend policy measures and carefully considered positions. You get out there, and you take your game to the other guy. You stand in, take your best shot. You'll take a few hits, but even if you lose, at least you did it on your own terms.

In the triumph of media perception and reinforcement over reality, this is how most Americans see themselves, even though statistically, we're fatter, less-informed, and less empirically-minded than any other industrialized country. This could be blasted as the delusion of a decadent society, but it could also be seen as the vestige of the pioneer spirit, something to be yoked to a movement aligned to positive change.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

All Your Pundit Are Belong To Us

It appears that Michael McManus and Maggie Gallagher have more in common than just an ability to profit from shilling for this sleazeball administration. They're also bankrolled by a network of conservative think tanks and activist groups. No real surprise there. If you've already checked your "journalistic" ethics at the door, there's pretty much nothing you won't do.

It's not that this is anything new, this intermingling of entertainment, advocacy, flat-out advertisement, and actual journalism. It's just never been quite this blatant, never been quite so in the service of government agitprop. Fake commercials to promote contentious education policies. Government paychecks going to supposedly independent journalists to promote social engineering -- and when push comes to shove, that's exactly what it is, the insistence that married existence is superior to all other forms of life. Marriage is great, being single was fine for different reasons. People can figure this sort of thing out on their own; they don't need Big Nanny Gubmint telling them how to run their fucking lives.

Remember when we used to just say that about those darned liberals? Who's the nosy nanny state now? Do we believe, as a country, in leaving our neighbor the fuck alone to live his life the way he wants to -- gay, straight, single, married -- or not? It's very simple.

Friday, January 28, 2005

SpongeBob QueerPants, Part Duh

Columnist/milf Kathleen Parker takes one of the most passive-aggressive paths to moronic moral equivalence I have seen in some time.

Of course she's never heard of SpongeBob SquarePants, and of course she's just as agog as the rest of us at how much of a Big Deal has been made by Jimbo Dobson's Whackaloon Society at the Sponger's cameo in a tolerance video for young children, produced by Nile Rodgers, and featuring other cartoon/puppet icons. Oh, stop the inanity!

Parker takes a matter-of-fact tone at merely reporting the nonsense emanating from Dobson's Focus on the Family activist group, as well as The American Family Association's Ed Vitagliano. (Apparently Ed feels that "the project's subtext is celebrating homosexuality".) Just the facts, you see.

(I love how all these groups make sure to have "Family" in their name, while they spend countless hours worrying about cartoon buggery. It's only a matter of time before someone starts yet another hysterical-ninny group called "Oh, Won't Someone Please Think Of The Children?!?" [OWSPTOTC?!?].)

Yet, when commenting on the (admittedly quixotic) effort made by Rodgers' We Are Family Foundation, she scornfully derides it as the typical utopian feel-good effort by bracelet-and-ribbon-wearing PC assholes. (Yeah, but I'll bet you got both the yellow and the red/white/blue "Support The Troops" ribbons on the back of your Expedition, doncha, Kathy?)

Anyway, in the end, Parker decides that, while Dobson and Vitagliano are just off-base in their overboard sermonizing and lecturing to us heathens, the real unsung story here is how those darn tolerance nannies are just as bad. Uh, no, dearie. The tolerance people are just trying to inculcate the notion that it might be a little bit wrong to pick on people for who they are, that maybe people ought to just leave each other the fuck alone. They are cognizant that intolerant people are, by nature and by definition, merely bullies, and bullies learn their behavior both from irresponsible parents and from passive school staff, who let them get away with their shit. It's really a rather meek effort to counteract more pernicious forms of behavioral dysfunction. Meanwhile, sanctimonious assholes like Dobson thrive (and profit handsomely) on sticking their noses in other peoples' business. They are the Gladys Kravitzes of the activist world.

Additionally -- and painfully obvious even to a self-absorbed fool like Parker -- people like (and including) Dobson have the ear of the leadership of this country, a literal hotline to the President and his closest advisors, as well as numerous members of Congress. Indeed, they're currently insisting that they got Bush elected (which they very well may have), and have been making very public comments about trading political favors and influence. Ever hear of Nile Rodgers flexing his political muscle?

So it's an intellectually dishonest and unfair comparison, both in intent and political power. But to Parker, it's all just a Stalinist attempt to force us all to get along. And we won't, dammit, you can't make us!

We here at Hammer of the Blogs roll our eyes too at the innumerable painfully earnest "Free To Be You And Me" attempts by self-appointed cultural arbiters to make us all play nice like on Sesame Street. But compared with a thuggish little creature like James Dobson, fleecing the flock while he tells us all how to live, right before heading out to beat his dachshund, we'll take the Marlo Thomas crowd.

via Pandagon.

Some Light Reading

In an earlier bit, I alluded to a couple things that should have had some linked attribution.

One was the assertion that Iyad Allawi had admitted to executing six accused insurgents extra-judicially. According to this article, originally from the Sydney Morning Herald (funny how this stuff never makes it over here to Pravda or Izvestiya), the confirmation is apparently the province of several high-ranking -- yet-unnamed -- Jordanian and American officials. So it's not official recorded confirmation, much less an outright admission. Not yet, anyway, though there are already reports (free subscription required) of Allawi's interim government -- barely six months old -- torturing prisoners. Still, the basic point -- that we have deposed one thug for another -- seems pretty valid.

Second is the characterization of Sistani as the sort of fellow who disdains such seemingly innocuous pastimes as music and kite-flying. This could be seen to implicitly cast him as another Taliban-type Islamic cleric, which was not my specific intent. I have no idea whether Sistani intends to bury uppity women and thieves up to their waists and push brick walls on them (early indications seem to be that he doesn't), but a cursory glance at Sistani's own website demonstrates a rather fleeting acquaintance with any honest idea of "freedom". Devotional music is apparently allowed, while music for "diversion and play" is haram (forbidden). There is no mention of kite-flying. On the other hand, anal is permissible, so there's that. (Oral is allowed as long as she doesn't swallow.)

Thanks to faithful reader von Kreedon for keeping me honest.

Oy. He Forgot Poland!

Cheney does Auschwitz.

Classy, no? Bad enough that Himself couldn't even be bothered to attend, he had to send the Vice Cock-Knocker to the ceremony. But the VCK couldn't dress formal?

I have little patience for the arcana of diplomatic niceties, but I also understand that everything means something to these people. On the one hand, they are wonks who would rather argue over the shape of the conference table than solve the problem at hand, but let's face it -- Bush sending Cheney was a slap to Polish president Kwasniewski, for having the nerve to pull his troops out of Numbnuts' little "bring 'em on" fiasco. So a solemn ceremony memorializing one of the most disgusting mass crimes in human history becomes a political head-slap.

Hopefully someone in the ball-licker network media has the temerity to duly note this.

Coalition Of The Shilling

Okay, let's just ask the fucking question, point-blank: is there anyone -- ANYONE -- in the conservative punditocracy that is not on the fucking payroll of these weasels? Anyone? How many more will be uncovered by Eric Boehlert (apparently the only journalist besides Sy Hersh who takes the occupation seriously) using the FOIA?

Another jerkoff got caught plagiarizing GOP talking points for his "reports". And let's not forget about Chuck Krauthammer and Billy Kristol vetting Bush's Freedy McFreederton inauguration speech, and just happening to neglect to disclose this small fact in their subsequent columnar stroking of their golden calf.

Then there's the Big Kahuna of columnist shills, Robert Novak. A man who at least, once bought, apparently stays bought. Still he has just a few conflicts of interest. Novak's son Alex just happens to be marketing director for loony-right publishing house Regnery. Perhaps you remember their epic last summer, Unfit For Command, in which the Swift Boat Liars trashed an honorable, if somewhat off-putting, man. Bob Novak also just happens to be a trustee of the company that owns Regnery and publishes Novak's inside-the-Beltway letter (for several hundred dollars a year subscription). Lots o' coinkydinks there, Bobby.

For an idea of what sort of chum Eagle and Regnery whip up for the Kool-Aid drinkers, check out their, um, flagship publication, Human Events. They're part of the so-called VRWC, where crackpots like Richard Mellon Scaife pay other crackpots like Sean Hannity to "write" "books" that Scaife apparently lines his attic with to get them on to the bestseller list.

There's just no shortage of these asshole Limbaugh Juniors, willing to hock their souls for....hell, I have no clue. What's your price for lying and selling your country out? I guess we could ask lots of people that question.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Vote With A Bullet

So we're going through with the Iraqi elections, even as the violence escalates. Actually, at this point, this is the best choice -- or rather, the least awful of the available choices our blunders have left us with.

As this press conference with an unidentified "senior State Dept. official" from earlier this month indicates, there's a lot of finger-crossing going on here, hoping that this goes through as planned.

But how can it? Most of the candidates are by necessity unidentified, so basically we're asking people to literally risk their lives to get out there and vote, without even knowing who they're voting for. And the election itself will be observed from Amman, Jordan. The election's not safe enough to observe, but it's safe enough to hold? I understand that there's not much in the way of alternatives, and that the show must go on, but still, how can you possibly get reliable, practical results like this?

Our last best hope apparently is either Iyad Allawi -- a thug who got his start blowing up cars and movie theaters (say, doesn't that make him one o' them thar terr-ists?), and lately had his tough-guy quals confirmed by admitting to personally executing six accused insurgents extrajudicially with a handgun -- or Ayatollah Al-Sistani, who is known for inveighing against pernicious evils like music and kite-flying. Keep in mind that Allawi and Sistani were Plan B, once Chalabi turned out to be exactly the kind of treacherous weasel people had been saying he was for years.

Yes sirree. That's the smell of freedom in the air.

So here's to having hope that it will work out sooner rather than later, but unfortunately knowing better. It will take a lot of death squads and torture chambers to keep a lid on this kettle, as Saddam knew all too well. We're a part of that, whether or not we actively take a role in it. It will happen, if it isn't already.

Keep The Feith

Stovepiper, raconteur, and incompetent retard Douglas Feith is leaving the Pentagon.

Ah, but don't you fret. The man whom Gen. Tommy Franks once called "the stupidest fucking guy on the face of the planet" won't be leaving till summer, so he'll be around for awhile to smudge a few more policy documents.

Feith would go on working on "big-ticket" issues until he leaves, including the U.S.-declared war on terrorism, the development of a new U.S. global defense posture and the Quadrennial Defense Review, a Pentagon planning tool redone every four years, Ruff said.

Well, that's a relief. He oughta be asking us if we want fries with that, but instead he's deciding the fate of billions of people and trillions of dollars. That makes sense.

I'm sure a nice consultancy gig at Faux News is waiting for Dougie; after all, why worry about the likes of Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher when there's an entire network functioning openly as a propaganda arm?

Sahl-omonic Wisdom

I remember seeing Mort Sahl on TV back in the mid-1970's, so I was probably only about 8 or 9 years old. Still, I was taken aback by what popped through the TV screen at me -- an intelligent, visceral anger, tempered by truth and observation. Sahl had already been pretty much blackballed by then, relegated to very occasional talk show appearances, and basically had said "fuck it" and walked away. The machine had done its work, and of course citizens were too addled by cocaine and disco music to give much of a shit. There's only so much fight one muster in the service of heedless morons.

Apropos of nothing (or not), I came across this interview with Sahl, from 1968. Sahl had been hanging with Jim Garrison, who spent years valiantly trying to investigate the Kennedy assassination, trying to pull up the corner of the rug just to catch a glimpse of what had been swept under it. Sahl's belief in the truth willing out, in the public actually caring enough about the truth to act upon it, and his brief mention of RFK, who would be assassinated later that summer (also under highly suspicious circumstances), are actually rather poignant, removed as we are by 35+ years of the inexorable force of history.

Two quotes from this interview are incredibly relevant, and should be food for thought, fuel for action:
  1. "If America goes, it will surely be an inside job."

  2. "The road to fascism is paved with liberal bricks."

Just a little something to consider, in the midst of our ongoing spreading of the freedom.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Pressing His Luck

Check it out, before it goes down the memory hole.

The transcript doesn't quite convey how irritable and snippy Bush seemed at times, as if this was all just a huge intrusion. After all, the press conference was originally meant to address the administration's stunning lack of ability to even get Republicans behind this magical Social Security plan that is not "privatization", nor is it "private accounts" anymore, but we can't explain the details to you just yet, see?

So the marketing term for the time being is "personal accounts", until that falls on its face, and they have to pull yet another seemingly innocuous phrase out of their asses.

Every facet of this scam (and that's precisely what it is) has been handled as crassly and cynically as possible. Black people are encouraged to get on board because of their lower life expectancy (thus fewer retirement benefits); never mind that not only does an abbreviated life expectancy translate into more survivor benefits, but no one seems particularly interested in exploring the wheres and whys of blacks' life expectancy in the first place. (Hint: It's mostly economic.) Surely we can devote some of this money and energy into figuring out how to get them more in line with everyone else. But no one even bothers to ask the question.

And apparently Bill Clinton and Daniel Patrick Moynihan have been roped into support for privatization -- Moynihan posthumously, for added convenience and bullshit. What Bush fails to mention is that Clinton and Moynihan wanted to set up personal accounts on top of current benefits, using the budget surplus. You remember the surplus, don't you?

Then you have the notion that, because the system could be bankrupt in as soon as 40 years, it's an imminent crisis. Well, lots of things will bloom into full-blown crises in much less time. China plans on expanding its economy another 8% this year, after a 9% expansion in 2004, which is huge. This will translate into an even more accelerated use of fossil fuels. There is no debate about whether we face imminent supply and production catastrophes by the end of this decade -- it's going to happen, primarily because of China's rapidly increasing demand, and our absolute refusal to even pretend to conserve. China is already using its capital to secure oil supplies around the world -- Sudan, Iran, Venezuela. So just keep on driving your Hummers, folks. Anyway, why is this not being addressed as the actual crisis that it is? Indeed, what is our energy policy, aside from quietly opening up ANWR last week for some exploratory sampling?

Another imminent crisis involves China. China's (and Japan's) central banks have been propping up our Drunken Sailor In Chief by buying bonds and T-bills. China in particular benefits from this arrangement for now, because of the huge trade deficit. Basically, they're selling us cheap goods, and lending us the money with which to buy them. So are we doing anything to start rectifying the situation? No, we're getting in deeper. Most major oil-producing countries have already moved their reserves from dollars to euros, because of the dollar's slide against the euro. This has the concomitant effect of accelerating that slide, not to mention jacking up oil costs. Look for the chickens to come home to roost soon enough to cause a fairly major recession, if we're lucky. In the meantime, Bush's economic policy is to use accounting tricks to show deficit reduction -- if you don't count the money for the war (now yet another $80bn), and if you don't count the SS transition costs, which will be huge no matter how they amortize them. Try that sort of creative accounting with your home budget; just count the bills you feel like counting, and see how far that gets you.

There are more crises up ahead, which we'll discuss in the very near future. In the meantime, this morning's meltdown showed just how badly Bush functions when he's knocked off his talking-points rhythm, and why he is such an abject failure.

It's not even close anymore, folks. The honeymoon's over, and this factual perception will be cemented over the next few weeks, between a State of the Union speech that's guaranteed to be larded with yet more eye-rolling bromides about Freedom and Liberty, and a Potemkin election in Iraq that is almost certain to satisfy no one, and thus continue the inexorable slide into civil war.

As always, thanks again, values voters.

Minute Rice

The confirmation of Condoleezza Rice was a foregone conclusion; the spineless Democrats had all but conceded beforehand, thus putting up only a token fight. It's sad that we talk and talk about how serious we are about matters of national security, yet when it comes time to discuss the incompetent, it's all just Kabuki theater from the outset (like the majority of the political process). Still, Rice got the most "no" votes since Henry Clay, apparently. That says something. Not enough, but something.

Another fact that says something is this:

"We have been the authors of much of our own misery and as a result of that I cannot find it in my heart or in my mind to vote for a promotion of Dr. Rice," declared Sen. Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat who supported the Iraq war.

When Evan Bayh -- who is as hawkish a Democrat as they come, and universally considered to be a serious person, as opposed to a partisan bomb-thrower -- says things like that, it's a sign. Bayh is also said to be mulling an '08 presidential run, so that of course may have something to do with it, but he's from one of the redder states, so he can't really fuck around, nor has he been prone to in the past.

(While we're at it, let's take a minute to reflect on how Barbara Boxer has been treated in this process. She asked very solid, sensible questions of Rice, and of course Rice got pissy at having her so-called integrity impugned. Well, sorry Condi, but we're 1,400 dead, 15,000 wounded, tens of thousands of innocent civilians, and $300 billion into this thing, largely because you kept making fearmongering sales pitches about "smoking guns" and "mushroom clouds". Don't be all shocked that a few people might actually have the spine to question you.)

It's also been educational to watch Republicans engage in the very same craven identity politics they've cursed the Democrats for lo these many years. It's always interesting watching people become exactly what they despise. And Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) deserves special mention for insisting that it's just plain wrong to go rehashing silly things like facts and questions in a confirmation process. Christ. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it, but there it was. Of course, you'll never see it on the liberal network news, which has spent its time pondering the deep questions like, "Do the Democrats want to die taking this particular hill, in the political sense?". Pathetic. Either we're serious about national security, or we're not. This administration has clearly shown, time and again, that it is not serious about it.

Naturally, Bush wants his work wife rubber-stamped ASAP, and is growing ever testier at the notion of questions and facts being re-hashed. How dare they?!

Well, they dare. Finally. She's still in, and she'll be hoist on her own inept petard soon enough. But at least they made her work a little for it. It's a start.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Taking A Poll

I'm one of those people that places precious little faith in the validity of polls, regardless of whether or not they're indicating a politically preferable viewpoint. It just seems like a blurry snapshot of popular mood and misinformation, in the context of fairly inscrutable methodology. Only when multiple polls from several different organizations consistently point in the same direction can we safely begin to draw conclusions. So here are a few sets of rather illustrative numbers for us to crunch:

NY Times

Washington Post


This last link is not a poll per se, but rather a numerical breakdown of relevant policy consequences, from a very interesting site called The Numeralist

Anyway, what do our polls and numbers tell us? That the Bush policy proposals and initiatives are largely failed, or in the case of SS reform, future failures, at least in the general public perception. Indeed, second inaugurations should show solid approval ratings, and Bush's was the lowest since Nixon's. (And Nixon had to do some Christmas carpet bombing to earn his.)

Well, we can wonder forever how Bush manages to accrue even marginal job approval ratings; I chalk it up to the unending climate of fear and uncertainty generated by a nakedly ideological administration that prizes loyalty over competence. But perhaps we can light a candle and curse the darkness; hopefully, the people are starting to come to their senses about what this feckless little man has done to this country, and what he wants to continue to do.

If all the job called for was playing dress-up and prancing and strutting about on an aircraft carrier like some phony conquering hero, he'd ace it. As Bill Maher once said, Bush is having to work a lot harder than he thought he'd have to, and he's clearly not up to the rigors of the tasks at hand.

Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk

Bull Moose, who knows more about the evangelical right than I do, sagely comments on the Bush administration's continuing propensity to treat the evangelical movement like a Coney Island whitefish.

The NY Times reports that their sacred hearts are specifically broken over Bush's decision to punt on amending the Constitution over gay marriage. (Of course, the memo is dated January 18, so yesterday's head-patting phone call to the pro-lifers had not occurred yet. You can probably add that to their list of grievances now.)

What I find particularly loathesome, in a visceral way in which I did not quite despise these activists up till now, is the ugly political manner in which they're willing to sell out Social Security for their stupid fucking pipe dream, which will accomplish nothing.

"We couldn't help but notice the contrast between how the president is approaching the difficult issue of Social Security privatization where the public is deeply divided and the marriage issue where public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side," the letter said. "Is he prepared to spend significant political capital on privatization but reluctant to devote the same energy to preserving traditional marriage? If so it would create outrage with countless voters who stood with him just a few weeks ago, including an unprecedented number of African-Americans, Latinos and Catholics who broke with tradition and supported the president solely because of this issue."

The letter continued, "When the administration adopts a defeatist attitude on an issue that is at the top of our agenda, it becomes impossible for us to unite our movement on an issue such as Social Security privatization where there are already deep misgivings."

Message sent and received. They know privatization's a scam masquerading as a crisis, which will affect the most vulnerable if it passes, but no matter. Apparently nothing on God's green earth is more important to these fools than making sure homosexuals can't formalize their partnerships which already exist. Talk about trying to close the barn door well after the horse is over at the neighbor's farm. God damn them all to hell anyway. These people are simply rotten and foul to the core. (Gay marriage opposition activists in particular, not religious people in general.)

Not to mention the fact that their quickie analysis of what Americans do and do not support is highly questionable; the most recent polling indicates that support for SS privatization is already dropping, and support for leaving people the hell alone has been steadily gaining. Imagine that. Thank their God that they can't keep their idiot pieholes shut, too -- Dobson delivered that SpongeBob faux pas on a fucking platter.

Once again, this is where crisis becomes opportunity for the opposition party. The Democrats should play up these memos in front of every liberal media microphone they can find. These are incredibly serious times, and this country faces some incredibly serious challenges in the years ahead. It is past time that these unserious, shamelessly foolish people have any sway at all at this level of government. Kick them back to the East Overshoe school board where they belong.

Mo' Better Freedom

Craig at The Crazy Years has some additional thoughts about freedom in the face of never-ending war and chaos. Check it out.

I'd Tell You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You

It had to happen.

So it turns out that we now have ten-man covert humint teams operating within the DIA -- that is, under the auspices of the DoD, though Larry "Curly Joe" DiRita insists in his eminently parsable syntax that they don't answer "directly" to Rumsfeld. Oh, well in that case, carry on.

In interviews, however, members of Congress from both parties questioned whether the secret missions being carried out by the units might amount to covert actions - a legal definition for missions in which the United States government denies any role and that can be undertaken only by presidential directive and with formal Congressional notification.

Some members also said the House and Senate intelligence committees had not been fully informed about the new approach, even though they oversee the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"To cut out Congress and set up an under-the-radar capability which Congress doesn't know about is not O.K.," Representative Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said in an interview.

Oh, it's cute when they act like they're supposed to be in the loop. Wait till Harman finds out we're still carpet-bombing Laos, just to stay in practice.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Abuse Of Iraqi Women Alleged


The allegation itself is no longer surprising, is it? What is a bit surprising and unsettling is this:

Seven of the people I interviewed are plaintiffs in a pair of class-action lawsuits brought by a group of American attorneys, including Khoshaba, working with the left-leaning, New York–based Center for Constitutional Rights, against two private companies, the San Diego–based Titan Corporation, which hired translators who worked at Abu Ghraib, and the Virginia-based CACI International Inc., which provided interrogators. Three of the people I interviewed are not part of the lawsuits. (The suits seek redress for all detainees, not just women.)

Bad enough when military personnel abuse prisoners under color of authority. What exact authority (and legal protection, for that matter) do private corporate contractors have? Of course, many US prisons are now run by private corporations as well, and as I've always said, you think Abu Ghraib was bad, wait till you hear what goes on in American prisons.

In the late 1990s, Saddan received an award from Saddam Hussein for a water-management system he’d devised. He had his picture taken with the then-dictator. But, Selwa insists, her husband wasn’t close to Hussein. “He worked for the government, and we supported [the regime]. But my husband was not important at all,” she says.

Frank “Greg” Ford, 50, a former California National Guard sergeant who was in Samarra from April through June 2003 and is now a corrections officer at Folsom State Prison in Represa, California, remembers Selwa’s husband differently.

“He was considered Saddam Hussein’s right-hand man,” says Ford, who served in the military for 30 years and has worked as a Coast Guard medical corpsman. “I saw photos of him shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.” Ford says an “in-house” source -- as well as an Iraqi who had known the family for decades -- told them about Saddan.

You know, I think we've all seen photos of Don Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein. Let's ram a Glow-Stick of Freedom up his ass and see what he's hiding, shall we?

To be fair, Ford is actually something of a good guy, as these prison screws go. He's trying to be a whistle-blower, and heaven knows this whole sordid operation could use a few more of those brave souls.

The article gets worse and worse. Plenty of allegations of rape and beating of female detainees, often as leverage against the husbands, who were the actual suspects. And these women cannot formally accuse their rapists, because in a society that still practices so-called "honor killings", they'd be sentencing themselves to death.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually the truth will out, and it will take years for us to live down the blowback from George W. Bush's hubris and folly.

But I understand he wants to encourage a "culture of life". So there's that.

Tinker, Tailor, Torture Guy, Fixer

Newsweek has an interesting episode in the ongoing Alberto Gonzales saga.

While Gonzales's account tracks with the official court transcript, it leaves out a key part of what happened that day, according to Travis County Judge David Crain. In separate interviews, Crain—along with [defense lawyer] Wahlberg and prosecutor John Lastovica—told NEWSWEEK that, before the case began, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge's chambers. Gonzales then asked Crain to "consider" striking Bush from the jury, making the novel "conflict of interest" argument that the Texas governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant (who worked at an Austin nightclub called Sugar's), the judge said. "He [Gonzales] raised the issue," Crain said. Crain said he found Gonzales's argument surprising, since it was "extremely unlikely" that a drunken-driving conviction would ever lead to a pardon petition to Bush. But "out of deference" to the governor, Crain said, the other lawyers went along. Wahlberg said he agreed to make the motion striking Bush because he didn't want the hard-line governor on his jury anyway. But there was little doubt among the participants as to what was going on. "In public, they were making a big show of how he was prepared to serve," said Crain. "In the back room, they were trying to get him off."

Well, well. Two lawyers and a judge, on the record even. I'm sure the usual kool-aid drinkers in the conservative pajamahadeen will have an excuse for this too -- they always do. And it should be noted that the allegation is neither terribly surprising nor tragic.

The real novelty of the story is that it would say a lot about what's wrong with this country right now if Gonzales' appointment got derailed by this shit instead know, the whole beatings and forced sodomy stuff. Waterboarding. ('Scuse me, freedomboarding.)

A Billion Here, A Billion There....

Bush wants $80B more for Iraq, Afghanistan

Remember during the campaign, when Kerry got scolded for his "wild" $200bn estimates? By the time this is done with, we'll be wishing it had only cost that much.

That's a lot of money to pay to start a civil war and a regional conflagration.

Gotta Have Faith

Last week, we saw how same-sex marriage opponents found themselves played by George W. Bush. After evangelicals mounted their direct-mail campaigns, mobilized the troops, and made at least some of the difference in November, Bush had decided to punt on the issue of fighting to amend the Constitution of the United States to placate these mouth-breathers, perhaps the first sensible thing he's done yet.

And once again, scarcely a week later, values voters find themselves played like a pawnshop Strat. Bush Hails Progress Toward 'Culture of Life'.

Speaking by telephone as the protesters gathered in the biting cold for their annual antiabortion march from the Ellipse to the Supreme Court, Bush said that although outlawing abortion remains a distant goal, it is one that seems to be moving slowly into view. "The America of our dreams, where every child is welcomed . . . in life and protected in law, may still be some ways away," Bush said. "But even from the far side of the river . . . we can see its glimmerings."

Funny -- when "liberals" use this sort of flowery prose, conservatives fall all over themselves to decry it as the worst brand of "Hillary-speak", the rhapsodizing of the traitorously disappointed for "the America that can be". Don't like the America that is, Chief? Well, love it or leave it!

Although banning abortion is a top priority of the Christian conservatives who make up the core of his electoral base, Bush chose to make his remarks by telephone from the presidential retreat at Camp David rather than address the protesters in person, and he spoke only indirectly about the goal of outlawing abortion. Similarly, in his inaugural address last week, the president did not use the word "abortion," though he made what many abortion foes regarded as a reference to the issue by saying "even the unwanted have worth."

Huh. The base ought to be asking themselves why this fucking guy's on vacation again already, and from what. It sure seems awful con-veeen-ient, the timing of this little three-day weekend. Didn't you just have a full week of partyin', Harvard?

I should be clear -- I am actually relatively conservative on this issue. I basically default pro-choice on utilitarian grounds; I figure that for any decent person, it's an impossibly hard choice to make, and for those who don't agonize over it, why the hell would you want them to be parents?

Still, I do understand where the pro-life crowd is coming from, though I don't understand their priorities, nor do I get why they don't fight this hard against any of the myriad conditions that plague many of the already-born.

But I digress. The point is that, here again, the evangelical Christian right has not gotten the respect they feel they're due. For now, anyway. All eyes are on Rehnquist's imminent replacement, but it's actually the next SC justice you have to worry about. Rehnquist's a known quantity; short of a corrupt moron in the Scalia/Thomas mold, replacing one conservative with another is basically a wash. Now, if Stevens or O'Connor are next to retire, as seems likely, that's where the fight will be.

Me, I wish the Fourth Amendment were as fashionable a fight as Roe v. Wade. It's been rendered practically moot at this point. But as for R. v. W., it seems most likely that it will be eroded by some sort of "states' rights" tactic. This is ironic, not only because the red states have the highest abortion rates, but because it also points out how hypocritical the states' rights crowd is, since you'll never see them arguing for things that many states have already voted into law by referendum, such as medicinal marijuana or right-to-die initiatives (and yes, gay marriage). Nope, they're for states' rights as long as it's something they agree with in the first place.

Anyway, in the meantime, the Christian right activist groups are 0-for-2 in the last couple of weeks. Oh, they might like to think that the preznit's phone call was at least a draw, but come on. You got party domination across the board, you got a self-professed evangelical ally in the White House who has proclaimed his "mandate", and best of all, God's on your side. So why does his support have to -- literally -- be phoned in? Could it be that he knows the truth about his rapidly dwindling political capital, and this makes it clear he's not going to waste a precious political dime on these guys?

If I were running, say, an opposition party, a party that has had some issues and problems with public displays of religiosity, I'd want to exploit these two recent episodes a bit. I think that a crack may start to develop. These people are not swing voters, but they are getting sick of being played, and someone might convince the Dobsons and Falwells, since they are by nature hubristic, that, oh I don't know, maybe a third-party run is viable.

Of course, that would require a proper opposition party.

But I'm A Cheerleader!

Central banks 'shunning dollar'

This has actually been going on for a while, particularly in oil-producing countries, which are transferring their reserve holdings over to euros.

Ah, but Himself has that Harvard MBA, does he not? So there must be a plan....after all, these guys would never be so stupid as to undertake anything major without a plan....oh, never fucking mind.

The last three months of 2004 saw the dollar slip by 7% against the euro, taking it to repeated all-time lows of more than $1.30.

The US is running a budget deficit of close to $500bn a year, funded largely by China and Japan buying large amounts of US government bonds.

Some economists have suggested that the two could ease their purchases, making it more difficult for the US to support its borrowing.

Yeah, they could do that. They could also get tired of propping our stupid asses up, realize that they've got us by the short hairs, and not only stop purchasing, but start selling what they've got. After all, if it's just going to keep declining against an ascendant euro, and Caligula might as well appoint his horse to run the Treasury Dept. for all the economic acumen are tax dollars are getting us, why would China and Japan want to keep taking it in the shorts? Trade deficits only get you so far. Right now we're just a loss-leader for them, until they achieve market saturation in cheap DVD players and such.

I'm not an economist, nor do I play one on TV, but I recognize the thrashing of a dying animal when I hear it.

Similarly, the current account - the difference between the amount of money going out of the US and coming in - is deeply in the red, the result largely of large trade deficits.

Both factors have helped to push the dollar lower. However, the falling dollar does mean that central bank holdings of dollar reserves are losing value.

Yeah, but at least he's firm and resolute about not letting SpongeBob SquarePants get married to Squidward. Thanks again, values voters!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Words Mean Things

I'm going to say a word, and you think to yourself about what this word conveys to you, what it means -- and just as importantly what it does not mean. Ready?

Our mystery word for the day is "freedom".

This is a word that, perhaps through heedless, thoughtless overuse by George W. Bush's feckless speechwriters and planners, has lost much of its power. It is a word that should have the power to inspire, but when it's used every thirty seconds or so, in the face of a lot of contradictory facts, its primary power becomes one of eye-rolling and involuntary grunting and sighing.

It becomes helpful at a certain point to lay out just what this word does and doesn't mean, and we are well beyond that point. We are at the point that every time Bush makes a speech, it sounds like he's trying to qualify for a class field trip to the Lincoln Memorial or something, a fistful of hoary cliches that miss only what King Crimson guitar genius Robert Fripp once termed "the resonance of rightness" -- which is to say, the entire point.

What freedom means is that a person is the master of his or her own destiny; he/she is beholden primarily to his/her own conscience and desire. It is in turn presumed by the powers that be that individuals, in the context of fulfilling their chosen course, can be generally trusted to do so in concert with the interests of society at large, that the interests of other individuals need not be subverted or sabotaged in order to exercise one's right to affirm their pursuit of happiness. At such a point, in a free society, the law would become involved, without regard as to how much you may or may not have "donated" toward encouraging a political party to see things your way.

Freedom is not young punks pulling an energy scam on the largest state of the republic with impunity, simply because they have contributed enough money to be involved in the decision-making process and get the right people to look the other way. Nor does freedom involve extraction industries being allowed to pollute at will, with the proviso that they voluntarily disclose how much mercury and arsenic they're pumping into your groundwater. Freedom means that you read enough Lincoln Steffens and Upton Sinclair to realize that there are practical reasons why we stopped practicing laissez-faire economics and industry oversight long ago. Reasonable regulation is not communism, nor is it an abrogation of freedom; indeed, it is an affirmation of the idea that the poor and powerless ought also to be free of chemicals and toxins which will make their lives much more nasty, short, and brutish.

If your home and your village are cordoned off by razor wire and soldiers with machine guns, you are not free. If your house is busted into at 3AM without warning or warrant, and you are hooded, handcuffed, trussed up and bound off to prison without charge, to be beaten and terrorized, to be forced into naked pyramids and simulated blowjobs, to be hooted at by some cackling hillbilly, you are not free. You might be more free than when the old dictator could do those things, and worse, to you and your family, but that part of the food chain, the new boss may differ from the old boss primarily in methodology and degree of outright sadism. Either way, you have no legal recourse, because your ass belongs to someone else. Avoiding this situation is a fundamental requirement of being actually free.

Regardless, freedom does not brook with fineries or qualified distinctions. It draws its line quite plainly, and everyone must decide on which side of this line they will stand. It does not find legal fripperies with which to spirit unpersons away to the gulag for an indefinite period of time, nor does it find loopholes with which to cast its lot with thugs and torturers, merely by the asserted righteousness of its cause.

Freedom understands that the spirit of the law is what informs the letter of the law, and that without the former, the latter is merely window-dressing. It requires respect of these observations from all its friends and allies, doesn't excuse them for the sake of expediency, and implicitly understands that the ends do not justify means.

Freedom does not entail turning the world-class capital of your republic into an armed encampment, rooftop snipers carefully watching fools drunk with ill-gotten gain, reveling in their snakeskin shitkickers and anally-electrocuted-rat pelts at how free they are, how God Himself smiles beneficently from Heaven on down, protecting their man because he is so well-loved, he requires unprecedented levels of banana-republic-style protection of El Presidente for his divinely-willed re-investiture.

Freedom also understands the intrinsic value of dissent, not just in the taken-for-granted First Amendment sense, but also as a management tool. Because freedom assumes first that every person is innately qualified to run his/her own life, it follows that each person also has an opinion worth at least hearing and considering, even (sometimes especially) when the opinion is different. Freedom doesn't hide in a bubble with yes-men, and have its campaign crowds screened for mindless loyalty; it doesn't need to, or want to, for that matter. Freedom knows that real truth withstands reflection and scrutiny and honest debate; it's the scams that you must keep under wraps, and even then, only release under the most guarded and loaded marketing terms your propaganda machine can come up with. Freedom means having enough damned common sense to know that a good idea is self-evident -- it doesn't need to be lied about, or marketed, or have its message honed with focus groups and such. Freedom does not need to hide behind a chickenshit 527 with a bogus backstory, to get its message across.

Freedom has requirements and responsibilities of its adherents and practitioners. It requires its voters to stay informed, because information is vigilance, and only vigilance protects the republic from without and within. It requires its voters to take their responsibilities seriously and soberly, and to understand that poking their noses into their neighbors' sex lives pales beside such notions as national security and economic standing and resource management. Rank tribalism and sectarianism are the sworn enemies of individual freedom, and are in fact the roots of fascism, once laced with the appropriate religio-nationalist symbolism and rhetoric. To allow these things to be used to divide citizens against each other is anathema to freedom.

George W. Bush talks incessantly about freedom, but he clearly has no idea what it really means, and why this knowledge matters. It's up to us to get serious about what it means to us, and act upon it.

That's Why They Actually Play The Games

So much for NFL playoff predictions, eh? It would have been nice to see a Super Bowl matchup of the two "Cinderella" teams, but youth and inexperience generally gets trumped by age and skill, I suppose. Neither game was really even close, but both were still pretty good nonetheless.

And this should be a fine Super Bowl, especially with the return of Terrell Owens. Still, Belichick just seems unstoppable at this point. Really, aside from the freak burp in their rhythm that came from them overlooking Miami six weeks or so ago, they've been flawless. Injuries don't seem to matter; the defensive scheme that Belichick and Romeo Crennel have devised is something to behold.

Indeed, both the Patriots and the Eagles are impressive in this regard: each team functions on a true system, where it hardly matters who is put into a skill position. The system allows them to perform at a consistently high rate, because it forces the team members to work as cohesively as possible.

This is a lesson that can be applied anywhere you have a team scenario, from corporations to government. Why have a high-paid figurehead, always at the ready for the proverbial golden parachute the moment things go south? You could save money and have a much more efficient machine with a system that maximizes individual excellence, while paradoxically minimizing individual glorification.

There are more lessons, big and small, that can be gleaned from the true national pastime (baseball, contrary to popular cliche, is really the repast of stat diddlers and pussies like George Will, who couldn't throw, hit, or field a baseball if a gun were at his head). We'll get at those lessons shortly. In the meantime, the official revised Super Bowl prediction: Patriots 37, Eagles 24.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Nooners Ponders The Imponderable

Peggy Noonan, possibly the only columnist besides David Brooks who requires kneepads to ply the trade, weighs in, sort of.

The administration's approach to history is at odds with what has been described by a communications adviser to the president as the "reality-based community." A dumb phrase, but not a dumb thought: He meant that the administration sees history as dynamic and changeable, not static and impervious to redirection or improvement. That is the Bush administration way, and it happens to be realistic: History is dynamic and changeable. On the other hand, some things are constant, such as human imperfection, injustice, misery and bad government.

Nooners is half-right, but disingenuous even on that half. Here's the area of the Suskind article whence came the "reality-based" phrase:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: ''Look, I want your vote. I'm not going to debate it with you.'' When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, ''Look, I'm not going to debate it with you.''

So it's not an intuition that "history is dynamic and changeable", so much as the obvious knowledge that we are, for better or worse, the prime movers in the world. We cough, the rest of the world catches the cold. As such, we make shit happen. This is a wonderful power to have, except that right now, this impossibly grand power is in the hands of people who not only have drunk the Kool-Aid, they've whipped up more batches and won't take no for an answer at this frat-party keg-dive. Drink, motherfucker, drink!

It is no longer about "right" and "wrong", "good" and "evil". It's about "can", and "do" and "will". There is no "try".

It would be a happy fantasy that one, just one, self-respecting Senator of either party would react to being addressed in such a childish manner (''Look, I want your vote. I'm not going to debate it with you.'') thusly: "Fine. You don't get my vote until we discuss the issue at hand. Period.".

Once again, no one has to take this guy's shit, and I'll be damned if I can figure out why anybody does. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees. Do any of these lackeys understand this?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Hail To The Cheef

Remember the early days of NYPD Blue, when the show had a certain amount of hipness and heft? This was mostly due to its willingness to place rough "street" language side-by-side with unflinching portrayals of Dennis Franz' pendulous man-tits and 150-pounds-of-chewed-bubble-gum ass. Around this time, Saturday Night Live did a classic parody. It involved Kevin Nealon as a self-important Steven Bochco-type producer, regaling the "interviewer" of his PC limo-lib street smarts and savoir faire, as we say in the 'hood.

When the "interviewer" asked about new and upcoming projects, Bochco/Nealon offered up a series, a touching portrayal of a police chief who just happens to be mentally retarded, and the inevitable discrimination he faces.

"It's called Cheef," intoned Bochco/Nealon soberly, before spelling it out, "C-H-E-E-F".

The significance of this? Well, it seems like West Wing jumped the shark many moons ago, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the preznit dramedy genre itself is played out. Something more contemporaneous, perhaps....I'm just sayin'. Potential scriptwriters, sharpen your crayons.

The Poodle Bites (Come On, Frenchie!)

IranMania reports that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has pre-emptively dismissed the continuation of the US-UK coalition in the instance of an invasion of Iran [excerpt from end of article]:

Blair's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has already expressed Britain's wariness at the possibility of war with Iran, saying in November that it was "inconceivable".

"I don't see any circumstances in which military action would be justified against Iran full stop," he told BBC radio.

Jack Straw, why do you hate Freedom?

More [earlier section of article]:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose popularity has been badly dented by his decision to back the US-led conflict in Iraq, would be extremely wary of getting his nation involved in another conflict, added Katarina Dalacoura from the International Relations department at the London School of Economics.

It "would not make sense for them (the British government) to do that, especially given all the flak they have received over Iraq," she told AFP.

"The EU does have a policy on Iran, it has taken specific steps to contain the nuclear issue and reach an agreement," she explained.

"I think it would be very damaging to relations between Britain and its European partners if they were to go along with the Americans on this... I think Blair would draw a line on Bush, even though he may of course not do it as openly."

Actually, I tend to believe that, at least for now, the Bush claque believes this as well, and they're just engaging in the usual preliminary sabre-rattling. Hersh's article certainly rings true, but even fanatical idealists understand at some point the immutable fact that our armed forces have been greatly attenuated in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran has more people than both of those countries combined. As Iraq has shown, even the proverbial "low-hanging" fruit, tempting as it may have seemed, had a bit of an unpredictable kick.

So unless they're remarkably stupid (which, sadly, is entirely possible), it's much more likely that a missile attack, or series of them, is in the works, rather than a full-on ground invasion. Clearly, though, without a damned good set of reasons and evidence -- not just some blurry satellite photo Colin Powell pulls out of his ass to jibe with some doctored Italian yellowcake receipts -- this will alienate us from our allies, once and for all.

Not only that, the marketing campaign that would be required to sell an Iran war to the American people would finish what this mendacious crowd has started, and rip this nation asunder. It would have to; the only way to sell this newer, bigger pig-in-a-poke is to ratchet up everything -- fear, paranoia, xenophobia, our sense of entitlement to as much oil as we damned well please -- all of it.

Make no mistake. The mullahs are not good guys. And the reform movement in Iran has sadly taken too long to incubate into full flower, and might be kept down for yet another generation. But that's a far cry from bombing a population center -- which is what it would take pretty quickly, as the mullahs won't just sit back and let us pick off a few of their missile silos unanswered.

So. Any conservatives still want to put all your money on Condi Rice to handle this? Frankly, I cannot see how anything she's "accomplished" warrants anything but a no-confidence vote.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Defending Ashlee Simpson

Speaking as someone who has been playing and studying music for about 25 years now (19 years of guitar, plus bass, drums, keyboards, and the occasional vocal squawk), I have immense respect for the pursuit of musical craft. As such, I suddenly find myself in the untenable position of defending Ashlee Simpson.

It's not that I like her music. I don't, at least what little I've heard of it. It's the same over-produced, over-hyped, under-talented, pre-fab teeny-bopper crap that's come down the pike forever.

But since her Saturday Night Live fiasco, the backlash has been high. This petition sets the tone, yet there is no debate. The cold, hard fact of the matter is, it's canned music, just like most of what the major record companies produce. It's canned music, and these folks are merely pissed that they caught a glimpse of the hand holding the can opener.

It's not that Ashlee is interrupting their appreciation of the Brandenburg Concertos or anything, she just pulled a rather blatant Milli Vanilli. As always with music critics (especially the professional ones), it's not about her, it's about them, the listeners, the Lord God King Bufu of Music Appreciators. Fucking snapperheads. You're not fooling anyone, petition people. You got bamboozled, and now you're hurt and embarrassed. First the Monkees, then Milli Vanilli, and now this.

Well, you know what? If you like the song, just enjoy it. Don't worry so much about how the sausage gets made. Believe me, it's a fool's errand. A lot of high-integrity groups use a bit of "sweetening" here or there in their live performances -- including rock legends like Rush and Aerosmith, people you'd never expect to use backing vocal tracks here or there. They do it. I've seen it, I've heard it, and it's okay.

It happens not because of a lack of integrity, but because of what the majority expects. They want to hear the CD-quality cut, but it never occurs to them that they can save the $125 and stay home and listen to the CD, and not pay $8 a beer. The musicians give you what you want to hear, because you don't want a new and interesting musical experience, you want an event with your favorite hits the way you remember them, with all your drinking buddies.

So lighten up on the poor girl. It's not her fault you don't know shit about music. Now, if you want to go after that fucking tool William Hung, where do I sign up?

Told Ya These Guys Were Goofy

It just gets better and better.

I'm not sure which is the bigger problem here -- that these guys want to waste their time worrying about gay cartoon characters, or that they think teaching children to be more tolerant is such a horribly subversive ideal.

Mr. Rodgers suggested that Dr. Dobson and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been confused because of an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called "We Are Family," which supports gay youth.

"The fact that some people may be upset with each other peoples' lifestyles, that is O.K.," Mr. Rodgers said. "We are just talking about respect."

Mark Barondess, the foundation's lawyer, said the critics "need medication."

Nile Rodgers is too nice of a guy. Barondess is absolutely correct.

On Wednesday however, Paul Batura, assistant to Mr. Dobson at Focus on the Family, said the group stood by its accusation.

"We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids," he said. "It is a classic bait and switch."

Yes. They're really trying to turn your kids queer, with campy cartoons and cheesy disco songs. They won't be happy until Old Glory sports sequins. Oh, won't someone please think of the children?!?!?

Ahem. Perhaps the backlash should commence with a little "briar patch" politics -- the more time these morons spend worrying about SpongeBob, the more foolish they look (and just when that seemed practically impossible).

Also, this is just yet another reminder, as if we all needed one, that these are the same folks that constantly whine about government intrusion. They bleat about wanting to be left alone, yet they seem entirely unable to, uh -- ¿como se dice? -- practice what they preach.

Couldn't We Just Drop Wine Spritzers & Cher CD's On Them?

This is one of the funniest stories I've read in some time. No judgement call, really; in fact, there's something to be said for the notion of non-lethal chemical weapon research. And it was apparently rejected pretty quickly anyhow.

But it's still funny.

Large And In Charge

Via Pandagon, we see once again exactly what sort of clown the values voters have laid on us. (As Steve Guttenberg once poetically put it, "Um....a juggling clown?").

Notice how deftly Himself dodges pointy Pravda questioning on meaningless topics like an exhausted and thinly spread military, as well as the (non-) cooperation of "friends" like Pakistan:

Pravda: There [are] signs of a manpower squeeze in the regular Army. The National Guard and Reserves have been pressed to their limit. Do you plan to ask Congress to authorize additional National Guard or regular Army units?

Himself: No, what we're going to do is we're going to make sure that the missions of the National Guard and the Reserve closely dovetail with active Army units, so that the pressure that you're speaking about is eased.

Pravda: Why do you think [Osama] bin Laden has not been caught?

Himself: Because he's hiding.

Pravda: Our allies have done all they can do to help catch him?

Himself: We're on the hunt.

Pravda: Do you think others are on the hunt, too? Are you happy, content with what other countries are doing in that hunt?

Himself: Yes.

Pravda: Anyone you're not happy with? (Laughter.)

Himself: Look, bin Laden is elusive, and he is in a remote part of the world. And we are -- I am -- I can't think of anybody in the world who is our ally who isn't willing to do what is necessary to try to find him. And so I am pleased about the hunt, and I am pleased that he's isolated. I will be more pleased when he's brought to justice, and I think he will be.

Oh, he is a stitch, isn't he? "Because he's hiding". No shit, Sherlock. How many American kids have died trying to smoke this motherfucker out of his hole, no thanks to Pakistan's pro-Osama army and intelligence agencies (not to mention citizenry)?

And Bush comes back with this fucking "talk to the hand" bullshit. It's like a very special Ricki Lake or something, where Bush smarts off with this "Because he's hiding" crap and the audience collectively moans, "Whooooo!". "Oh no you didn't", where the second "d" in "didn't" is more of a glottal than a proper linguadental phonetic. That sort of shit.

If you like his firm resolve and clear planning on the war(s), you'll love his sense of purposeful, studied fixity on the intended privatization of Social Security:

Pravda: Back on Social Security. How can you -- you talk about cutting the deficit in half over the next five years. How can you do that and have personal accounts, which are going to have some sort of transition costs -- we won't debate the number, but most people say it will be at least $100 billion. How can you do that, and do personal accounts?

Himself: Well, that's what we look forward to working with Congress on, to work with them in such a way that we can handle the concerns of those who say the transition costs may be too much. That's part of the negotiations. I look forward to Congress asking that question. That's not the threshold question. The threshold question is for some who say, we don't have a problem. And once we get people talking about how to fund it, how do you handle the transition costs? I think we're making progress when that happens. It hasn't happened yet, because we're still trying to -- I am making the case that people that have got to understand we have a problem that should be addressed now. But part of the discussions, Jim, that go on, will be how to deal with it -- that particular aspect, as well as a lot of aspects, on how to make the system sound and sound fitting.

You know, "I have no fucking clue; we're making this up as we go along" would be much shorter, Harvard.

Pravda: Will you talk to Senate Democrats about your privatization plan?

Himself: You mean, the personal savings accounts?

Pravda: Yes, exactly. Scott has been --

Himself: We don't want to be editorializing, at least in the questions.

Pravda: You used partial privatization yourself last year, sir.

Himself: Yes?

Pravda: Yes, three times in one sentence. We had to figure this out, because we're in an argument with the RNC [Republican National Committee] about how we should actually word this. [Post staff writer] Mike Allen, the industrious Mike Allen, found it.

Himself: Allen did what now?

Pravda: You used partial privatization.

Himself: I did, personally?

Pravda: Right.

Himself: When?

Pravda: To describe it.

Himself: When, when was it?

Pravda: Mike said it was right around the election.

Himself: Seriously?

Pravda: It was right around the election. We'll send it over.

Himself: I'm surprised. Maybe I did. It's amazing what happens when you're tired. Anyway, your question was? I'm sorry for interrupting.

Jesus H. Tap-dancing Christ. I'm not sure which is worse, that this moron is allowed to use this nonsense as some sort of excuse for not having his story straight, or Pravda not bothering to Barry Bonds this out of the goddamned park.

Look, it's very simple -- until 2002, "privatization" was the marketing term for this scam. Then the directive came down from on high (Cheney) that it was no longer the term; indeed, Bush and Cheney both studiously avoided the term, what with all its negative connotations of future lottery losers living on soup-kitchen scraps and dog food until death's sweet embrace fetches them from their sidewalk grate on some sub-freezing night.

Now "privatization" is back in vogue, the new black, along with loaded catch phrases like "personal savings account" and "ownership society". Bush had forgotten this, of course, and he thinks extemporaneously like old people fuck. So you get more of the usual babble and evasion. Read the whole transcript -- the question never did get answered. Really, none of them did, not even a little. It's all "we're working with Democrats on this", when these guys have yet to reach across the aisle without a pair of brass knuckles.

Is this guy fooling anybody? I understand conservatives' reservations about Kerry, and I understand the peculiar priorities of the Christofascists (well, I don't understand them, but I acknowledge the existence of these warped priorities, but I digress), but do even they think this guy is actually competent, that he isn't a fucking baboon? I read this joke of an interview transcript and keep thinking, "What am I missing here? What the hell is the appeal of a guy who has no clue, no answer, no plan, no nothing?"

And shame on Pravda for not even trying. In a way I can see it -- it would be not unlike picking on a retarded kid -- but this particular retarded kid has his finger on the button, and likes using it. One of these scribes has got to start stepping up and doing his damned job.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Holy Shit

As the estimable Bull Moose has already pointed out, quick-witted fundamentalists are starting to figure out that they may have been played. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of wingnuts.

I should hasten to point out that, despite my current heathen atheism, I was raised in a moderately religious family, with the usual accoutrements -- devout grandmother around whom the rest of the family was more-or-less centered, church and Sunday school into my teens, that sort of thing. Nothing terribly unusual. So I am not predisposed against spirituality per se, just the obnoxious political religiosity espoused by folks such as Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council:

"Clearly there is concern" among conservatives, Perkins said. "I believe there is no more important issue for the president's second term than the preservation of marriage."

This is so far beyond stupid, I'm not sure the English language has a word for it. Even a slow third-grader should be able to hit a few dozen issues before landing on that one. But no, Tony is apparently sincere in his bizarre belief that this is Job Numero Uno for Bush. Forget war, poverty, jobs, economy, crime, punishment, and the heartbreak of psoriasis. Nope, keeping fags from getting married is the big one.

Frankly, Tony seemed a lot more rational in Psycho.

Speaking as the proverbial happily-married white male heterosexual with a child, I can say that I am far more irritated by people who treat marriage as a fling or a whim, than seriously committed people who happen to be of the same sex.

You want to preserve the tradition of family, Tony? Then go after Britney Spears, who got married twice in 2004. Take on Donald Trump, who is making an ass of himself pimping his third trophy marriage, with whom he'll undoubtedly have to start yet another trophy family. Forget if he can afford it or not; is this the sort of attitude towards marriage and family that the FRC lets slide? I am dead serious about this.

Here is a full press release from Crazy Tony's organization:

"Freshly equipped with the demands of the American people, the president should lead the United States Senate in moving ahead to check the pending judicial assault on marriage. While Social Security and tort reform are important initiatives, there was far less outcry for reform of these laws from the American public. No doubt there are many in the Senate, even within the president's own party who oppose such policy initiatives; however, there is no evidence such indifference or opposition is deterring the president from including them in his second term agenda. He should have at least the same resolve if not more to protect the institution of marriage," Perkins added.

"Let's be clear. Both here and abroad, the judicial assault on man-woman marriage is well underway. Liberal activist judges have no compunction about abrogating laws passed on this issue by 70 percent majorities. No serious constitutional scholar believes that this assault will be deflected by legislative and executive passivity. For our nation's leaders to be advocating that we wait for the Defense of Marriage Act to be struck down by the courts before they act to protect marriage is like a fire chief telling a local hotel to wait until there is a fire to install a sprinkler system. Leadership is needed now to protect the institution of marriage and our children and their future."

Somebody please get this motherfucker a strait-jacket before he hurts himself.

And here is yet another press release from yet another pack of addled misfits threatening action if the Preznit doesn't capitulate:

They pushed hard for his re-election, and now that President Bush is starting his second term this week, conservative Christian leaders across the country want their agenda put in motion as soon as possible.

They demonstrated that victory would not be quiet for them when they pounced in fury, and with effect, after an influential senator said he would try to block prospective Supreme Court justices who would end abortion rights.

They want abortion, same-sex marriage and embryonic stem-cell research banned. They want judges who will let prayer back in public schools. They want churches to receive taxpayer money to run social programs.

And, political observers say, they are better poised than ever to get what they want.

It's easy to look at the priorities of these people and say they're all fucked-up, but what's clear is not only must they be confronted, they need to be slapped down, and hard. This is just not going to stand. It's not a matter of high-tailing it to Canada, it's a matter of taking America back from these goofballs. And that's really what they are, pure and simple. Prayer back in schools? Same-sex marriage? How these issues can even get on the list of priorities, much less top it, is nothing short of astounding.

Now, most religious people are not like this. They are content to live and let live. But these politico-religious fascists (and that's really what they are; they propagate an agenda of control with symbolism, cheap rhetoric, and the overt politicization of religious issues) are incredibly well-organized and funded, and their support, while fairly narrow, is wide enough to make a difference, and impossibly deep.

They will never be swing voters. Never. It's an absolute waste of time to try to co-opt them. What the Democrats must do (and even if you're tired of them, as I frequently am, this country needs an opposition party to function correctly) is identify and reach out to the religious voters who are swing, who have their priorities straight, but just want their faith acknowledged and respected, rather than patronized. That's not so much to ask, and I think it begins by fighting fire with fire -- by identifying the Falwell/Robertson/Perkins wing for what they are, and the underlying fascist tendencies of their philosophy and support, and force a schism, force moderate believers to cast their lot with common sense and pluralism.

Otherwise we're fucking doomed. These guys are all kinds of serious, and they're just killing time until The Rapture sucks 'em up out of their cars and what-not.

Bush's Greatest Hits

From Salon (subscription or day pass required).

Peter Dizikes does yeoman's work here, getting all the sordid stories (34 of them!) in one place. A good 30 of them are at least as bad as any of the myriad Clinton scandals (most of which pissed me off at the time as well).

Good thing Bush got rid of that independent counsel. There's a lot of stuff here that only the most brazen kool-aid chugger would deny merits thorough investigation.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Meet Your New Mommy

Probably the most amazing thing about the ongoing Republican domination of the political arena lo this dark decade has been the almost complete role-reversal it has implemented with the currently hapless Democrats.

For years the meme has been that the Republicans are the "daddy" party: strong on defense, thrifty on spending, pragmatic, able to make the tough decisions, etc. The party of reality and empiricism, principle, hard facts and numbers over feelings. Or so went the CW.

Of course, that made the Democrats are the "mommy" party: caring and nurturing to the point of squishiness, empathic at the expense of pragmatism and tough decision-making, soft on discretionary spending, willing to compromise on defense if everybody agreed to play nice for a while longer. The party of intuition, compromise, and weasel-words, run by bien pensant ideologues with sociology, urban planning, and philosophy degrees, because Biz Ad was too Establishment, man.

Leaving aside the inherent misogyny of this false dichotomy, we can look at how George W. Bush and his crew have been running things, in terms of results and processes, and see quite clearly that this meme has been effectively turned on its head.

Yes, we're running two wars in roughly the same theater, and attempting a monumental geopolitical revision of that area; and yes, these guys are hard for tax cuts like Ron Jeremy for Nina Hartley. But considering their increasingly outrageous deficit spending (which deliberately doesn't even include a low-ball estimate of war costs), and the inability to decrease discretionary spending, the tax cuts look more and more like the sop to the ultra-wealthy that they are, rather than a true economy-boosting measure.

Bush, considering his elite education and Harvard MBA, is apparently completely unable to discuss even simple economic matters, or else he thinks he has to heavily water it down so us rubes will get it. He seems proud of the fact that he is ignorant of most basic world facts and current events, and doesn't read newspapers (or, unless he hides it well, books). To listen to him describe his decision-making process for everything, it all involves either praying or trusting his gut. And look how well that's worked for him (and us). He is the ultimate icon of legacy and anti-meritocracy, heading a party which, for better or worse, has always been a champion of true individual excellence and merit over all else.

The results of the Bush administration's policies, foreign and domestic, speak for themselves loud and clear. Barring a post-election miracle turnaround in Iraq, it's an unmitigated disaster, and no matter how many times Bush babbles useless bromides about freedom being on the march or hard work being done by good people, it's still a bust, and a mistake. It's damaged our credibility with allies that, like it or not, we will need in the relatively near future economically, and it's stretched our army perilously thin. If they're seriously thinking of taking on Iran in any near future, they're either stupid or crazy. Or both.

Domestically, as the Social Security privatization propaganda machine is demonstrating, is at least as bad. After a laughably ridiculous "town hall" meeting in which Bush did little but lie, he couldn't even share a few numbers from his plan with the townsfolk. Why? Because he has no numbers. Oh, there are probably numbers somewhere; they have people to do that. But Bush clearly has no clue as to what they are. Cheney will sit down with Bush and a box of flash cards when that point of the marketing plan comes up. Right now the whole point of stirring up the privatization debate -- aside from distracting people from daily suicide bombings in Iraq -- is to get them thinking about eventually doing away with Social Security, which is the conservatives' wet dream. They'd rather just let folks keep their cash and spend it on lottery tickets.

So they've been entirely dishonest about the numbers of every major initiative, from Medicare to Iraq to deficit reduction projections. It literally never stops with them. When called on any of it, they lapse into weasel-words, the same as they do when called on regarding the planning and decision-making processes for all these initiatives. Bush has been shameless from day one about pooh-poohing an idea until it looks like it has traction, then it was his idea all along. He was against appointing the 9/11 Commission before he was for it. (And then he picked Henry Kissinger to head it. Apparently Idi Amin was busy.) He was against testifying for the commission before he was for it, and even then, not only could he not go on the record, but he had to have Cheney with him. Gee, why not just take out an ad saying "We just have to make sure we've got our stories straight".

The discrepancies surrounding the lack of WMD evidence to back up the stovepiped intel have been handled no less cynically. When they can't quite seem to keep their stories straight about whether or not they had the goods on Saddam, there'd be another terror alert. And now that it's official, and the WMD search has been called off, the lapdog media slavishly puts it off the front page. Shameful.

And the way they've gotten away with this is by exploiting the politics of emotion, the mindless road-rage dynamics personified by right-wing talk-radio orcs like Limbaugh, Savage, and Hannity. It's very seductive, and very anti-empirical. It's impossible to prove a negative, of course, but just as an intellectual exercise, imagine Gore or Kerry trying to get away with half the nonsense Bush and Cheney have. You'd be hearing daily about feckless "Democrat wars" (as we did briefly, during Kosovo) endangering American troops' lives, and thus heuristically reinforcing the rotten notion that Democrats (and "liberals") hate the military so much that putting soldiers in harm's way means little or nothing at all to them. (This, in spite of the enormous inequity of Democrats vs. Republicans who have actually served in the military.) You'd be hearing about reckless Democrat deficit spending. You'd be hearing calls for independent counsels to investigate every business contact Gore or Kerry ever had, and how they were directly profiting from their office. Yet how many times does Halliburton have to get caught stealing taxpayer dollars before either someone goes to jail, or Cheney's connection gets scrutinized, rather than merely fluffed periodically as a filler talking point?

Keep in mind, the Republicans are the winners; they control the White House and both houses of Congress, and have for several years, in addition to six years of Congressional majorities. Yet they're still pissed. They whine about "obstructionist Democrats" blocking their judges, when the fact is they did the same thing to Clinton far more often. They whine about Democrats disagreeing with their idiot plans to fuck up the country even more, when that's all the Democrats really have the power to do anymore, is to disagree. They are the sorest winners in history. Why do you think that is? Could it be that that's all that mobilizes their base anymore? Certainly it can't be the facts; policies, results, processes. It's fear, and tribalism, and various strains of religious hooey that we'd do better to start vaccinating ourselves against.

Bottom line, there is very little true "daddy" party left in these guys, which is why they are truly ripe for the picking by a reform-minded Democrat Party that seems to have learned its lesson about profligate entitlement spending and such.