Sunday, July 31, 2005

Profiles In Mediocrity

I really need to quit doing this to myself. Again I went through the Sunday morning ritual of eating a great breakfast with my family and relaxing with the newspaper, and CBS' inane Sunday Morning show in the background, as a brief respite from the endless snakepits of the political atrocity-fests. And some of the show was okay; you can't go wrong with Al Green, who is the most peculiarly happy person one can encounter in the already peculiar confines of TV.

But then they had this piece.

Like Michelangelo and his Sistine chapel ceiling in Rome, fellow artist Michael Carmichael has been working on his masterpiece in Alexandria, Ind., for years.

The house painter returns from work each day to his studio to paint a puzzling spheroid -- over and over.

It started out with Carmichael's baseball. Then, 27 years later, it is covered with thousands of coats of paint.

It's a lot of dedication, as Bill Geist of CBS News Sunday Morning first reported on April 25, 2004. And it's paid off in the world's largest ball of paint. It's probably hitting close to 1,300 pounds.

"Some that know a little bit about art, they do call it an art piece," says Carmichael.

I dunno. I have a pretty simple rule about art: if I can do it -- or more to the point, if you can easily train a chimp or a dog to do it -- it's not art. Sorry. That leaves Christo and his stack of colorful bedsheets out too. Pretty much anyone can hang a bunch of orange bedsheets, and pretty much anyone and paint a fuckin' baseball over and over and over again.

Now, if someone were to recreate, say, the Sistine Chapel on the face of the painted spheroid, that would be art. This is just a small-town bonding ritual, which is perfectly nice and fine. I don't really like dumping on small-towners in Bobo's World, because that's basically where I'm at. But I simply do not get this exaltation of the mindless, this ritualized navel-gazing of mediocre pastimes. It's like watching someone mow a fuckin' lawn or something. Perhaps a piece on people who do things that are productive as well as actually creative would be more edifying. Piano prodigies are always good.

Profiling a guy who's repainted a fuckin' baseball thousands of times is not edifying. It's sad.

But the thing that really hit me about the whole story was this:

Carmichael has an even loftier goal: to draw tourists out to the middle of nowhere to see his big ball of paint.

"People have already come from all over the United States," he says.

Spectators also come from Germany, Australia, Italy, Thailand and other places around the world. Carmichael's wife, Glynda, who's painted 8,000 coats, believes it will be just like the "Field of Dreams."

"If we build it, they will come," she jokes.

Glynda hopes to have a souvenir shop that will sell souvenirs such as T-shirts, the paint chips and more.

Mayor Steven Skaggs is hoping the paintball will revitalize the town. Perhaps, one day, a sign will welcome visitors to town with the words "home of the world's largest ball of paint."

David Steele, who heads the city council and the local Groundhog Society, says the town hasn't received this much attention since a giant hairball was discovered there.

"Something that came out of the sewer," recalls Steele. "It was in the National Enquirer, as a matter of fact. We want to be known as a town of balls."

Lord help us all. They want to be known as a town of balls. I'm not even going to bother with painfully obvious testicle/scrotum humor, that's how much this depresses me. This is truly sad -- a heartland Midwest town, that at one time probably had some sort of manufacturing plant, some industrial base, devolving to this nonsense. This is probably a town that once produced something, a good or a product that people wanted to buy, thus allowing the producers to earn an honest living and support their families and communities. Instead of painting cars, they're painting baseballs -- or more accurately, one baseball. Over and over again. And then a few thousand times more.

I know many people consider the accumulation of crap to be a sign of "Americana", but I have never understood this notion. If giant balls of paint and twine really are Americana, then we really are in trouble, because this used to be a country that embraced the principles of dynamism and innovation. Collecting balls of garbage is a sign of mental illness.

You want a goal? I'll give you a goal -- give these folks productive, meaningful jobs, because clearly they don't have them right now, nor does the town seem to place too high a priority on such things. Painting the same baseball 20,000 times is not a goal, it sounds like a punishment from Greek mythology. Maybe someone should have to push the ball of paint up a hill, only to have it roll all the way down just before the top.

Amazingly, it gets even more depressing:

Carmichael was cited as an inspiration to young people, young people such as Andy Cunningham.

"If it weren't for hearing about Michael's ball of paint, I would still be sitting in my room doing absolutely nothing," says Cunningham.

Instead, Cunningham is wrapping the world's biggest ball of plastic wrap.

"It's all solid plastic wrap," says Cunningham. "It's about 40 pounds."

Great. This kid could be, oh I don't know, learning about the wonders of this huge world all around him. He could be learning some sort of craft, whether creative or trade-oriented. He could be striving to play an instrument, learning the wonders of writing twee love songs to women who are only going to break his heart. That too is part of experiencing the myriad ways of the world.

Instead he's making a huge ball of Saran Wrap, and thank God, because otherwise he'd be sitting in his room doing absolutely nothing. Unless Andy is 3, this is not nearly as charming as he seems to think it is.

We have become a culture that is deeply suspicious of intellectualism and knowledge and understanding, a culture that is content with exalting the inane and banal to a status far beyond their merits. People would rather check out William Hung than Yo-Yo Ma. That is the hallmark of a very adolescent, immature mindset, a mindset dominated by inertia and clutter. Of course, there is some degree of yahooism in every culture, past and present, because of the law of averages and fools living up to their names. But considering the immense resources and capabilities the USA has at its very fingertips, the current proportion is simply staggering. It's impossible to ignore.

This is of a piece with shit like pie-eating contests and child beauty pageants, things that are supposed to embody some slice of "Americana" or some such, despite the complete absence of the characteristics that should epitomize this country, like skill and fortitude. I find that insulting. I still think that this nation and its citizens were meant for so much more than gluttony and ennui. I think these people ought to join the fuckin' Peace Corps or something, or take a pottery class at the community college at least. Do something; making giant balls of paint and Saran Wrap is not something, it is worse than nothing. It's fucking stupid.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Surely no one is surprised in the least that Bush is going to make John Bolton a recess appointment.

President Bush will sidestep Democratic opposition to his nomination of John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by making a recess appointment not subject to Senate confirmation, a senior administration official said Friday.

You know what? I fucking bet even money that that anonymous "senior administration official" is Karl Rove. And if so, that should tell you everything you need to know about these gutless fucks that litter the press pool. Even if it isn't Rove or one of his minions, have they not yet learned their lesson about letting government officials leak talking points under the protection of anonymity?

Given the degree of the offense and the subsequent cover-up, we can cut Woodward and Bernstein some slack for the anonymous revelations of Deep Throat. But this? After knowing what we know about these animals? What the fucking fuck is wrong with these so-called "journalists"? Quit giving these anonymous cocksuckers a cushy soapbox from which to propel their destructive agenda. Give them their platform, and make them publicly defend it. You want this incompetent psychopath Bolton to be the public face of the United States at the United Nations, Fucko? Then step up and say so -- and more importantly, explain exactly why it's so fucking important that you simply must circumvent the usual advise-and-consent channels for such important appointments.

Put simply, the reason these assholes keep getting away with their corrupt bullshit is because they have two sets of enablers. One of these sets is the "free press", who sit and wonder why reg'lar Americans despise their profession, even as they undermine their own credibility with each step they take, each anonymous asshole they source.

The other set of enablers, obviously, is the Democrats, and if this imminent move doesn't illuminate them as to exactly what these people think of them, nothing will. The next Democrat that talks about wanting to "work with" this administration (and five'll getcha ten it'll be either "Joementum" Lieberman or DiFi) needs to be fucking targeted for replacement by the Democratic Party. I am not bullshitting here; that is exactly what the Democrats need to do.

Howard Dean needs to use this congressional recess to get a strategy together to start circling the wagons, instead of continuing to function as a circular firing squad. (At least they got the "circle" part right.) This simply will not stand anymore -- the administration has made it abundantly clear that it is not interested in discussing facts, debating ideas, or anything beside rubber-stamping whatever it has already decided. Either the Democrats make the commitment to function as an opposition party, decide on a strategy, and take their game to the Republicans and the American public, or they prepare for obsolescence. There really is no middle path anymore.

Dean needs to issue edicts from on high, as to what the party's strategy will be, and that everyone is expected to stick to the script. Period. This cat-herding shit has got to end, or gutless compromising fucks like Joementum will eviscerate what's left of the party. They should be making sure that every American has heard about Jean Schmitt disrespecting and downplaying Paul Hackett's military service. They should be repeating as much as possible that Karl Rove is a fucking traitor, and ought to be hung from the nearest lamp-post (or at least serve his 150-pounds-of-chewed-bubblegum ass up to his cell block in Club Fed for the next decade).

This is not "choice" anymore, motherfuckers, this is all, as in all or nothing. The Democrats performed admirably in the face of Bush's treacherous, lying assault on Social Security -- why can they not do this on every issue? Make 'em waste precious energy explaining to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's patients why frozen zygotes have more rights than they do; make 'em expend themselves in their endless circumlocutions how Karl Rove was just trying to help Matt Cooper with his article, or how Valerie Plame is really Jane Fonda -- despite fellow registered Republican CIA agents stepping forward to defend her status. Every step of the way, the Republicans should be forced to explain why they do what they do and say what they say. Somebody's fucking lying about the Rove/Plame affair, and heat should be applied to the right spot to make them give it up.

I understand that most of the Democrats, especially the senators, are careerists more concerned with looking over their shoulders and watching their backs than just pressing forward with what's right. I understand it, but I don't fucking care. Enough is enough. This is like watching an endless boxing match where one guy has inexplicably volunteered to tie one hand behind his back, and only punch above the belt with his remaining hand, while the other guy repeatedly kicks him in the nuts and belts him upside the head.

This is fucking bullshit, and it is so much bigger than whether you senators get your cushy sinecure from MBNA after you retire. This is our fucking lives, you assholes, and the very soul of the nation, and we're fucking tired of watching you act like you'd just settle for beating Super Nanny for time-slot ratings.

Ahem. Back to our article.

The appointment, which is likely to further roil relations with congressional Democrats, will be announced before the president leaves Washington on Tuesday for a five-week working vacation at his Texas ranch, said the official, who requested anonymity because Bush had not yet publicly disclosed his intentions.

The president was expected to proceed despite the disclosure that Bolton had made a false statement to a Senate committee. Democrats made a fresh appeal Friday that Bush not bypass the confirmation process by using his power to appoint Bolton during the monthlong congressional recess that starts this weekend.

The White House and State Department said the incorrect information Bolton submitted to lawmakers was an unintentional mistake. They emphasized the need to send him to the United Nations before the world body began its annual deliberations Sept. 14.


On a routine, sworn questionnaire that the Senate committee requires of nominees, Bolton answered "no" when asked whether he had been interviewed by an inspector general of a government agency or a grand jury during the past five years.

On Thursday, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying he had learned that Bolton, the former undersecretary of State for arms control, had been interviewed during that five-year period by the inspectors general of the State Department and the CIA.

The interviews were connected to efforts by the two agencies to determine how assertions that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger had found their way into the president's 2003 State of the Union address.

The State Department responded to Biden with a letter saying Bolton did not recall being interviewed by its inspector general's office. It said that after checking records, the department determined Bolton was interviewed on July 18, 2003, about the Niger uranium issue.

Uh, yeahhhhh. He forgot that he'd been interviewed by inspectors general from two different agencies. Could happen to anybody, right?

I expect the Democrats to fight this bullshit tooth and nail. In the event of Bolton's eventual ascendance to the post via recess appointment, I not only expect said Democrats to make the man's life miserable, I also expect them to start closing ranks on fucking everything.

Most of all, I expect them to set their precious future motivational-speaker careers aside for the nonce and get with the fucking program. I expect them to realize that their "colleagues" across the aisle have made it perfectly clear that they are enemies, and as such, deserve no quarter.

None asked, none taken. You are my representatives, motherfuckers, and I expect you to act accordingly. Failing that, I will make to sure to register my disapproval at the voting booth, and get the word out early and often across the internets. Capisce?

In addition to the idiots in the media and the collaborators in the Democratic Party, there actually is a third set of enablers in all this, and that's the American people. It's the idiots who, even with two simultaneous wars going, increasing gas prices, and full knowledge that the gas situation is never going to get better, refuse to do their part by economizing their consumption patterns. It's the morons who are seriously more concerned about homosexuals formalizing their existing commitments, than they are about securing our ports and doing more about homeland security than just feel-good make-work.

It's the assholes who think that a good way to measure a candidate's fitness for office is to guess whether or not they might be a fun person to have a beer with, as if that were a criterion for anything besides having a goddamned beer. It's the retards who think that drug addict Rush Limbaugh is giving them the honest truth, rather than a heavily-skewed (and hallucinatory) vision of the real world.

It's the fucking halfwits that seriously think that a prep-schooled Ivy Leaguer is "one o' them", and that that's reason enough to "trust" him, even though he hasn't been able to keep his story straight about much of anything more than a couple days in a row at a time, and refuses to have an honest discussion with anyone about anything in an open forum.

It's the vile buffoons who thought that sticking fake bandaids on their chins, mocking actual combat veterans, was a legitimate form of political protest, as well as a show of support for their draft-dodging presidential ticket. It's the hopeless dipshits that think that uncivilized and vicious behavior is not only not inflammatory and dangerous to the troops still in harm's way, but acceptable.

It's the gutless hypocrites who are perfectly happy to send everyone else's sons and neighbors over to fight their war for them, and then do absolutely nothing to help in the proclaimed cause. It's the creepy cocksuckers who post stupid shit on their stupid blogs about how George W. Bush is some sort of misunderstood genius, and it's the fucking brain-slaves that read such nonsense and take it seriously.

It's the people who allow the press -- which, after all, works in a free-market paradigm and is thus by definition giving at least a plurality of people what they want -- to keep feeding us pablum, because they keep watching said pablum. It's the people who have absolved their sacred duty entrusted to them by the people who founded this nation of ours, who read a newspaper once a month but never miss an episode of American Idle (intentional orthography) -- and then compound the matter by legislating their deliberate ignorance at the damned voting booth. It's the jerkoffs who allow their politicians to get away with giving the people what they want, because all they're concerned about is what they want, and devil take the hindmost.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- Pogo wildly misunderestimated just how corrupt and stupid we'd let ourselves get. We're fucking doomed if we keep going in this direction, and believe it or not, it all starts with how we allow our public servants to treat us. They will not stop condescending to us and pushing us around, unless and until we decide to get on our hind legs and be men.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Setting An Example

Good news on top of good news. For once, we're not being sarcastic.

An Algerian who plotted to bomb the Los Angeles airport on the eve of the millennium was sentenced to 22 years in prison Wednesday by a judge who used the opportunity to sternly criticize the Bush administration's anti-terrorism tactics.

"We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel," U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said. "The message to the world from Wednesday's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart."


"The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism," Coughenour said. "Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete ... If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won."

Whoa, hey, Sean Penn! Don't legislate your "hate America" agenda from the bench, man! Haven't you read Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin? Who put this Wavy Gravy dude in a judgeship? For the love of Paula Abdul, don't make Jonah Goldberg swivel his fat ass around in his chair and type something snarky about you. After all, that's his contribution to the war he believes very much in, as it goes for all the keyboard kommandos.

It's nice to finally see someone in such a position of authority express a bit of common sense about all this. The point has only been reiterated over the past few weeks, since the bombing in London, as we've watched stoic Brits brush themselves off and go right back to what they were doing.

We don't have to abandon our principles to fight terrorists, and Judge Coughenour demonstrated that quite handily. Moreover, authorities were able to get Ressam to work with them and give up crucial information -- without resorting to torture, or the cop-out of "extraordinary rendition".

One day we'll realize that many of the schlubs we carted off to Guantanamo were innocent -- they were either in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were convenient reward money for unscrupulous Afghan warlords. That's why we never got much in the way of useful intel out of them.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

They Got The "Stroke" Part Right

Via Kos comes a truly bizarre post from the brain-dead cock-knockers at Power Slime that must be read to be believed. It is at once both insanely hilarious and pathetically delusional.

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

Uh, yeah. His biggest fault is that he loves too much, and shame on us for not, like, getting his groove. Yeah, that's the problem. Bush is just too far ahead of the curve to get his due props from us jaded retard ingrates. A genius, really, in the same way "disassemble" means "to not tell the truth". Stephen Hawking, roll aside, for here comes greatness strutting up in a pair of Phony Lamas, jes' waitin' for the chance to clear some brush.

Assrocket must have a gunny sack full of that high-octane government dope, or else they've resumed the MKULTRA program, starting with his walnut brain. I've read some stupid shit from these drooling morons, but that may very well be the stupidest thing any of us will read all year.

As always, The Rude Pundit brings even more smackdown.

Weekend At Cheney's

National Review's The Corner (which, geographically, is the intersection of Shameless Hack Avenue and Dipshit Boulevard) has master thespian Andrew McCarthy in its stable of trenchant commentators. McCarthy informs his political commentary with the same care and craft he perfected in Pretty In Pink. Unfortunately, Duckie isn't there to help.

Today's article on the Plame Leak Investigation is prototypical of the NYTimes's disingenuous approach to all Bush admin matters -- the approach by which the paper pretends to objectivity while pounding a partisan narrative. It's always in the small choices of words.

Note this sentence (which both is in the article and, as of mid-morning at least, is the tease in the online edition that encourages you to click on the article):

"Yet Mr. Bush has yet to address some uncomfortable questions that he may not be able to evade indefinitely."

EVADE? There is no credible suggestion at this point that President Bush is EVADING anything. He encouraged the investigation, he made statements about taking action against wrongdoers, and he has repeatedly said he wants the independent counsel to press ahead because he wants to know what happened. He has also sat for an interview himself and encouraged everyone in his administration to be cooperative.

What a crock of shit. For one, the NY Times has led the pack of media lapdogs, or has Andy already forgotten all of Judy Miller's helpful agitprop in foisting the lies upon the rubes? That's the thing with these guys -- everyone's like a used rubber to them, once their usefulness to the "admin" is over with.

But let's break Andy's "EVADE" paragraph down. Bush "encouraged the investigation" only in the sense that he made sure to mumble the usual boilerplate about rilly rilly wantin' the truth to come out, which was the absolute least that was required of him in this sort of situation. His "statements about taking action against wrongdoers" have been weaseled several times since, to the point where they no longer have any credibility or meaning to anyone but the Kool-Aid drinkers in the base -- which is exactly the way they want it.

Bush "sat for an interview". Well, big fuckin' whoopdee-doo. He had his lawyer present, as always, but just on the basic principle of the matter, so fucking what? That means about as much as his and Cheney's "testimony" for the 9/11 committee hearings -- one hour, lawyers present, no notes allowed to be taken. Why fucking bother with it at all?

But Our Hero, whose acting was even more wooden than Kim Cattrall's in Mannequin (and she, after all, had the excuse of being the title character) presses on. It's not like he has anything else to do.

This is a classic example of how the Times spins the narrative. If President Clinton was the one in the eye of the storm here, does anyone think there is a chance that the Times flatly says he has been EVADING anything? With Clinton, the Times offered us legalistic justifications for false statements on the basis of whether they were "material" or whether they affected a zone of sexual privacy. To the extent the Clintonian spinmeisters actually evaded the investigation, the Times faithfully hewed to their scripts and subtly shifted to the issue to how competent and strategic they were in spinning, as opposed to the fact that they were spinning.

This is nonsense on several levels. For one, the endless stream of Clinton scandals was in no small part actively fueled by the media jockeys at the Times and Washington Post. The thing about the liberal media is -- as has been shown for this entire admin thus far -- they quite frequently go out of their way to show how even-handed they are in political matters, thus their kid-gloves treatment of the sheer mendacity of this admin since the first day they sullied the White House with their foul presence.

For another, one can easily turn the lame Clinton analogy on its head (or at least its side), and point out the obvious -- would hacks like Andy and Jonah and K. Lo be playing the same tiresome semantic games over an issue like this in a Clinton/Gore/Kerry admin, or would they suddenly turn into the tendentious partisan ankle-biters everybody knows they are?

See, the difference here is, I would be just as fierce in my criticism of this sort of misdeed in a Clinton or Gore admin, and people who have been reading my rants since 1998 (and they're out there, God bless 'em) know that for an indisputable fact. In fact, I might even be more fierce in my criticism in that instance, because I expect idealists to behave themselves. Coming from the current gang, I'd be more surprised if they hadn't pulled this sort of shit. It's still despicable, but not exactly surprising.

Anyway, the politically-astute midget from St. Elmo's Fire has one final volley to lob.

Now Bush, who is not evading, is flatly said to be evading. And yet, all the while, the Times evades the issues that (a) its reporter is in jail for withholding information from the investigation (ironically, under the guise of protecting the public's right to know), and (b) that the organized media has argued in the U.S. courts that this whole matter (Bush is supposedly evading about) does not in fact constitute a crime. As my dad used to say, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw wild parties.

Too clever by half. I can only laugh my ass off at these conservatard douchebags pissing and moaning about this supposed bias, because let's face it -- if the media are resolutely liberal and anti-Bush, they're doing a piss-poor job at it. And there was a point in time where Andy and his Ratfuck Pack could posit that the bias just wasn't working because a majority (however slight) of Merkins was in agreement with Bush and his policies. That time has long since passed, and the fact is, in the face of 40-60 polls, the media could get away with being a lot more partisan and a lot more resolutely liberal.

I hope Andy and friends keep fucking with them; at some point the media hacks will regain some semblance of self-esteem and stick it to them just out of pride. I mean, some of them must still have some pride left.

Funny how hacks like Laura Ingraham and Bernie Goldberg never seem to include people like Andy McCarthy (or Arnold Schwarzenegger, for that matter) in their pained jeremiads against celebrities who misuse their exalted public status and foist their political views on us impressionable children. At least Tim Robbins can use facts and rationality to bolster his argument, and he doesn't even have to scream in capital letters.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mission Accomplished

Looks like we start drawing down troop levels next year.

The struggle against the Iraq insurgency passed a crucial tipping point Wednesday with the current prime minister calling for major U.S. troop withdrawals and the U.S. ground commander there acknowledging they will probably come next year.

The commander, however, made clear he did not expect the insurgency to have dropped by then significantly below its current level.

So we leave them in a precipitously declining state of civil war, policed by squadrons of incompetent and corrupt troops. It's a win-win situation!

In Washington, well-placed military sources told UPI that "as many as," "20,000 or 30,000" U.S. troops might be withdrawn from Iraq next year. That would bring the current force levels of around 140,000 -- which many U.S. military officers privately, and most counter-insurgency experts publicly, agree are already far too low to deal with the insurgency -- down to only 120,000 or 110,000 troops.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, did not give any figures but he said the troop withdrawals already being contemplated for as early as next year were "fairly substantial."

Casey made his comments the day after a particularly grim series of incidents in Iraq. Four U.S. soldiers from the Georgia National Guard were killed in Baghdad by a single roadside bomb Tuesday, and 16 Iraqi government workers were killed when their buses were machine-gunned by insurgents.

In other words, we didn't send enough troops in the first place -- despite repeated warnings from people who actually knew better -- so now the solution is to walk away. Very well. Americans had best start getting serious about conserving, or else get used to $4/gallon for gas.

Setting aside partisanship for the moment, this encapsulates the sheer heedlessness of the masterminds' approach to strategery. They knocked over the popsicle stand with lightning-quick efficiency, but it didn't occur to them that the longer they took to rebuild it, the more pissed-off people were going to get.

People get funny when you cordon them off with razor wire in 110º heat, and about 8 hours of electricity per day. Naturally, we would handle such conditions with the patience and good cheer Americans are world-renowned for.

Al-Jaafari said his government would welcome the move provided it had "two aspects."

The first, he said, would be that the United States would step up the scale and intensity of its training of massive new Iraqi security forces. Rumsfeld is expected to give the go-ahead for that with no hesitation.

The second, al-Jaafari said, was that the U.S. plans its withdrawals in coordination with the Iraqi government and its new security forces. U.S. senior officials have already assured Baghdad that will be the case, U.S. military sources have told UPI.

However, some U.S. sources cautioned that there could be major risks in giving the Iraqi government and security forces detailed advance information about future U.S. troop withdrawals.

Both the Iraqi government bureaucracy and the new security forces have been heavily infiltrated, they said, by insurgency agents. The insurgents continue to enjoy excellent intelligence that enables them to attack Iraqi security forces and even massacre them at large gatherings. They remain able to kill officials in the new state structure at will around the country.

The U.S. forces' ability to protect Iraqi officials apart from the most senior remains "minimal," one U.S. military source said.

Therefore, sharing information about the details, times and routes of U.S. withdrawals with Iraqi authorities and forces could greatly increase the risks of disruptive insurgent attacks upon them.

So we know that the bureaucracy and the security forces have been heavily infiltrated by insurgents, but we're walking away all the same. The mantra seems to be "they're better off than they were under Saddam", but that's just dumb. Saddam was one guy; he didn't do all these awful things by himself. Many, if not most, of the insurgents were the people that carried out Saddam's orders. We got the guy that gave the orders to put people through shredders, but did we get the people that actually did the shredding? And if not, aren't we just slapping a bandaid on a gaping wound that we broke open?

And It's A Human!

Not that I'm one to pass along salacious gossip (heh), but apparently Turd Blossom is having an affair. With a woman even.

For years, political insiders in the Lone Star State have whispered about Rove’s close friendship with lobbyist Karen Johnson, a never-married, forty-something GOP loyalist from Austin, Texas. The two first became close when Johnson sat on the board of then-Governor George W. Bush’s Business Council over a decade ago. Their friendship reportedly deepened after Bush appointed Johnson—a little-known spokesperson for the Texas Good Roads Association—to a seat on his Transportation Department transition team in 2000. The plum appointment enabled Johnson’s lobbying firm, Infrastructure Solutions, to snare such high-paying clients as Aetna and the City of Laredo. Sources say Johnson now frequently travels between Washington D.C. and Austin, where she frequently appears at Rove’s side at parties and unofficial functions.

Now, the easy pickins here would be to wonder aloud how all this would sit with the vaunted base, but that's a fool's errand. The evangelistas don't really care when it's one of their own breaking the adultery commandment. Commandments, when you get right to the crux of the biscuit, are merely useful tools with which to pass judgment on The Other. Turd Blossom's one o' Them, so they'll deny, defend, and evade even if a cum-stained dress turns up. Hell, Paul Wolfowitz' extramarital relationship scarcely got a second glance when he got shooed into the World Bank job. Apparently only the Clintons' marriage is worthy of scrutiny by the clucking-hen brigade.

Nor do I really give a shit if it's true or not, though the notion that even a guy who looks like Porky Pig could get a little on the side certainly proves that power is an even greater aphrodisiac than previously assumed.

(And not to be too sexist about it, but this seems to be something almost exclusive to women. Men will not generally hook up with a hag just for the power. Money, sure, but never power. No self-respecting man would be caught near a woman who looked like Karl Rove, just for the whiff of power; it would almost certainly be overwhelemd by the whiff of pork rinds.)

Nope, the passage that really caught my eye was this [emphasis mine]:

Although there is no evidence that their relationship is anything but professional, the close association between the married White House aide and the comely lobbyist has long raised eyebrows in conservative Texas circles. Asked about the pair, a prominent political journalist who has written extensively about Rove says, “I’ve heard the stories, but I would never write about Karl and Karen. If you want to keep your job as a reporter in Texas, you make believe you don’t see them together.

I think there is your answer to why the Washington press corpse is so callow and gutless, why this gang keeps getting away with all their shit. Shame on the pussies in the press for allowing themselves to be so cowed. Especially in the age of the internets; there is nothing stopping one of these jerks from surreptitiously snapping a photo and publishing it anonymously, if one must acquire their coveted scoop in the most craven manner possible.

Funny how they all suddenly got morals 'n' scruples after dragging Puffy's crooked dick through the wringer. Only then did they learn their lesson. With toothless media watchdogs like we have now, it's no wonder the robber barons had so little resistance in taking over.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hearts 'n' Minds

Afghan mob attack U.S. base. Just what we needed.

More than 1,000 stone-throwing Afghans tried to break down an outer gate at the main U.S. base here Tuesday while demanding the release of eight detained villagers, and Afghan troops fired warning shots and used clubs to beat the mob back. U.S. troops also fired into the air.

It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties in the melee outside the base’s main gate as protesters chanted “Die America!” Black smoke billowed from burning tires. An Associated Press reporter was hit by a stone and an AP photographer was punched by a protester.

In southern Afghanistan, meanwhile, a provincial governor said about 50 suspected insurgents and two Afghan soldiers died during an overnight battle. It was one of the deadliest clashes in recent fighting between the government and militants heading into parliamentary elections.

The good news is that 50 more of the Taliban bastards are gone to their reward. The bad news is twofold: their numbers in the here-and-now are still growing; and the regular Afghan populace is getting sick of us, thanks in no small part to reports of us torturing innocent Afghans to death and pissing on the Qu'ran. (Yeah, yeah, the pissing incident was an "accident", that just happened to occur through an air vent. Sure.)

The eight men arrested late Monday “had materials used to make improvised explosive devices in their possession and are thought to be planning future attacks against coalition forces,” the U.S. military said in a statement.

Well, I hope they have their goats in a row on this one, because these folks are running out of patience with our "mistakes", as we surely would if the roles were reversed. If there's evidence, then let the public know about it and maybe even see some of it; if not, be prepared to let these guys go and keep an eye on them. It's not worth fueling a rejuvenated insurgency if we're not sure.

Demonstrators said they were angry that American soldiers arrested the men without consulting local authorities.

“We have supported the Americans for years. We should be treated with dignity,” said Shah Aghar, 35. “They are arresting our people without the permission of the government. They are breaking into our houses and offending the people. We are very angry.”

The U.S. statement said the military tried to contact local Afghan authorities before the raid but was unable to do so.

It sounds like the military parameters need to be a bit more circumscribed as well. Clearly the Afghans are tired of the occupation, and now that the warlords have gotten their pelf from selling everyone that pissed them off to us as Gitmo fodder, they are likely to be fomenting much of the unrest -- as well as aiding the insurgents. Plus our good buddies in Pakistan who, try as they might, just can't seem to contain those darned fiercely independent regions!

To which I say bullshit. Crack the fuck down on these "fiercely independent" regions, make them get with the program and understand that they are part of a federated, centralized government that does not condone rebellion or treason or putting tribal bullshit above settled law.

As I keep saying, we could have done this right, if Bush and his fellow travelers hadn't been in such a goddamned rush to hit the so-called low-hanging fruit. We could have doubled our troop presence in Afghanistan, and put those additional troops up and down the Pakistani border, forced Pakistan to allow us to work with them in supervising all border crossings. The Taliban would have been put out of business overnight; the only reason they've lasted this long is because they've been tacitly allowed to scuttle back and forth across the border, constantly regrouping and gradually gaining strength.

As with Iraq, it may simply be too late at this point to walk away with any net benefit. They're starting to hate us now, they want us the hell out, and the insurgency is resurgent.

Feel safer?

Something For Nancy Grace

Missing non-white woman, pregnant even. Eight days now. Heard anything about it, or are they still stuck on Aruba?

Last Throe Update

Really, they're almost done for. This is their very last gasp -- or perhaps, the penultimate gasp. Who can tell? Certainly not those whom pretend to be in the know. Rummy? Dickie? Shrubbie? Niedermeyer? Bueller? Anyone?

Twelve employees of a government-run company were gunned down in buses on their way home from work today near the Abu Ghraib prison, an interior ministry official said, while a group linked with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi released a videotape of two kidnapped Algerian diplomats and threatened to kill them.

Welcome to civil war, folks. Do we step aside and play matador, or do we bolster the steely resolve and Hungry Man demeanor our preznit demands of us, though he himself cannot even ride a bicycle, nor has he asked for even the simplest of, for example, gas rationing from us.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Rove Rage

As the Bushies and their acolytes continue to engage in the time-tested Chewbacca Defense on the Rove/Plame game, the reality is that more facts are starting to come out, and the web of lies and deception is unraveling.

Whether the media care enough to do their jobs and investigate all angles and see this through, whether congressional Democrats care enough to hold the Bushies' feet to the fire on anything and everything, and whether the American public gives enough of a shit to do something about all of it at the next election -- well, that's another subject.

Fitzgerald has spent considerable time since the summer of 2004 looking at possible conflicts between what White House senior adviser Karl Rove and vice presidential staff chief I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a grand jury and investigators, and the accounts of reporters who talked with the two men, according to various sources in the case.

Libby has testified that he learned about Plame from NBC correspondent Tim Russert, according to a source who spoke with The Washington Post some months ago. Russert said in a statement last year that he told the prosecutor that "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative" and that he did not provide such information to Libby in July 2003.

Prosecutors have also probed Rove's testimony about his telephone conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in the crucial days before Plame's name was revealed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak.

Rove has testified thathe and Cooper talked about welfare reform foremost and turned to the topic of Plame only near the end, lawyers involved in the case said. But Cooper, writing about his testimony in the most recent issue of Time, said he "can't find any record of talking about" welfare reform. "I don't recall doing so," Cooper wrote.

Both Libby's attorney and Rove's attorney declined to comment yesterday, as did Fitzgerald's office. The possible conflicts in the accounts given by Russert and Libby were first reported yesterday by Bloomberg News.

And throughout it all, there are paramount questions: what purpose did Rove's disclosure serve for the administration's agenda; i.e., why did he do it, as he clearly did? And what did Bush and Cheney know, and how long have they known it? This also is crucial -- have they been sitting on this knowledge for two years running, and dodging the issue with weasel words? Forget partisan politics for a second -- do their supporters find this sort of behavior acceptable, if indeed they've known about this the whole time?

It's coming down to a very unpleasant dilemma for Bush supporters to confront -- either Bush knew and has helped cover the knowledge up the whole, or he's so utterly incompetent, he really has had no idea what his helper monkeys are doing after hours.

Several years ago, back around the Harken mini-scandal I believe, I once said that Bush was either a crook or a schnook. That assessment holds truer than I ever thought it would. It's basically one or the other -- or both. After all, stupidity is how criminals usually get caught.

Frank Rich has more on how this could eventually envelop the entire administration.

PRESIDENT BUSH'S new Supreme Court nominee was a historic first after all: the first to be announced on TV dead center in prime time, smack in the cross hairs of "I Want to Be a Hilton." It was also one of the hastiest court announcements in memory, abruptly sprung a week ahead of the White House's original timetable. The agenda of this rushed showmanship - to change the subject in Washington - could not have been more naked. But the president would have had to nominate Bill Clinton to change this subject.

When a conspiracy is unraveling, and it's every liar and his lawyer for themselves, the story takes on a momentum of its own. When the conspiracy is, at its heart, about the White House's twisting of the intelligence used to sell the American people a war - and its desperate efforts to cover up that flimflam once the W.M.D. cupboard proved bare and the war went south - the story will not end until the war really is in its "last throes."

He's right. It's been something to watch this story take on a life of its own at long last, to gain the momentum it takes to roll past the 24/7 news cycle of crap and fluff. Considering its proliferation of helpful graphics and crawls and breaking news briefs, network news has devolved into a surprisingly inert product, barely registering above reality TV on the intellect meter a great deal of the time. So for a story like this, with its twists and turns and sequence of revelations, in the face of deliberate obfuscation by its principal players, it's a start.

Considering the monumental ramifications at the heart of it, it really shouldn't have taken so long to break, but again, with such an inert and complaisant media presence, I suppose we should all be grateful they're even bothering to cover it now, knowing what we all know.

Now, if there was a blowjob involved -- aside from the ones in Karl Rove's future in prison -- they'd have uncovered every miserable detail long ago.

Only 36 hours after the John Roberts unveiling, The Washington Post nudged him aside to second position on its front page. Leading the paper instead was a scoop concerning a State Department memo circulated the week before the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife, the C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame, in literally the loftiest reaches of the Bush administration - on Air Force One. The memo, The Post reported, marked the paragraph containing information about Ms. Plame with an S for secret. So much for the cover story that no one knew that her identity was covert.

But the scandal has metastasized so much at this point that the forgotten man Mr. Bush did not nominate to the Supreme Court is as much a window into the White House's panic and stonewalling as its haste to put forward the man he did. When the president decided not to replace Sandra Day O'Connor with a woman, why did he pick a white guy and not nominate the first Hispanic justice, his friend Alberto Gonzales? Mr. Bush was surely not scared off by Gonzales critics on the right (who find him soft on abortion) or left (who find him soft on the Geneva Conventions). It's Mr. Gonzales's proximity to this scandal that inspires real fear.

As White House counsel, he was the one first notified that the Justice Department, at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife. That notification came at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales 12 more hours to inform the White House staff that it must "preserve all materials" relevant to the investigation. This 12-hour delay, he has said, was sanctioned by the Justice Department, but since the department was then run by John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused to recuse himself from the Plame case, inquiring Senate Democrats would examine this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18½-minute tape gap. "Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence," said Senator Charles Schumer, correctly, back when the missing 12 hours was first revealed almost two years ago. A new Gonzales confirmation process now would have quickly devolved into a neo-Watergate hearing. Mr. Gonzales was in the thick of the Plame investigation, all told, for 16 months.

So Bush, per usual, was stupider like a fox in nominating a complete unknown. Fortunately, the daily media and the Democrats have not let it distract them from the T-bone at hand, though the Sunday morning wankfests were still on it.* Which is fine; if Roberts is a stealth Scalia rather than merely a center-right O'Connor replacement, that information too needs to be brought out. After all, we're going to be stuck with this guy for the next thirty years or so; we need to be diligent about finding out what he thinks about certain issues, and seeing how it jibes with the direction we want our country to head in.

I mean, we are an engaged, dynamic citizenry with a font of information at fingertips, and a passion -- nay, an unquenchable thirst -- for knowledge, are we not?

Thus is Mr. Gonzales's Supreme Court aspiration the first White House casualty of this affair. It won't be the last. When you look at the early timeline of this case, rather than the latest investigatory scraps, two damning story lines emerge and both have legs.

The first: for half a year White House hands made the fatal mistake of thinking they could get away with trashing the Wilsons scot-free. They thought so because for nearly three months after the July 6, 2003, publication of Mr. Wilson's New York Times Op-Ed article and the outing of his wife in a Robert Novak column, there was no investigation at all. Once the unthreatening Ashcroft-controlled investigation began, there was another comfy three months.

Only after that did Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, take over and put the heat on. Only after that did investigators hustle to seek Air Force One phone logs and did Mr. Bush feel compelled to hire a private lawyer. But by then the conspirators, drunk with the hubris characteristic of this administration, had already been quite careless.

It was during that pre-Fitzgerald honeymoon that Scott McClellan declared that both Karl Rove and Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, had personally told him they were "not involved in this" - neither leaking any classified information nor even telling any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the C.I.A. Matt Cooper has now written in Time that it was through his "conversation with Rove" that he "learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A." Maybe it all depends on what the meaning of "telling," "involved" or "this" is. If these people were similarly cute with F.B.I. agents and the grand jury, they've got an obstruction-of-justice problem possibly more grave than the hard-to-prosecute original charge of knowingly outing a covert agent.

Most fertile - and apparently ground zero for Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation - is the period at the very outset when those plotting against Mr. Wilson felt safest of all: those eight days in July 2003 between the Wilson Op-Ed, which so infuriated the administration, and the retaliatory Novak column. It was during that long week, on a presidential trip to Africa, that Colin Powell was seen on Air Force One brandishing the classified State Department memo mentioning Valerie Plame, as first reported by The New York Times.

That memo may have been the genesis of an orchestrated assault on the Wilsons. That the administration was then cocky enough and enraged enough to go after its presumed enemies so systematically can be found in a similar, now forgotten attack that was hatched on July 15, the day after the publication of Mr. Novak's column portraying Mr. Wilson as a girlie man dependent on his wife for employment.

On that evening's broadcast of ABC's "World News Tonight," American soldiers in Falluja spoke angrily of how their tour of duty had been extended yet again, only a week after Donald Rumsfeld told them they were going home. Soon the Drudge Report announced that ABC's correspondent, Jeffrey Kofman, was gay. Matt Drudge told Lloyd Grove of The Washington Post at the time that "someone from the White House communications shop" had given him that information.

Mr. McClellan denied White House involvement with any Kofman revelation, a denial now worth as much as his denials of White House involvement with the trashing of the Wilsons. Identifying someone as gay isn't a crime in any event, but the "outing" of Mr. Kofman (who turned out to be openly gay) almost simultaneously with the outing of Ms. Plame points to a pervasive culture of revenge in the White House and offers a clue as to who might be driving it. As Joshua Green reported in detail in The Atlantic Monthly last year, a recurring feature of Mr. Rove's political campaigns throughout his career has been the questioning of an "opponent's sexual orientation."

THE second narrative to be unearthed in the scandal's early timeline is the motive for this reckless vindictiveness against anyone questioning the war. On May 1, 2003, Mr. Bush celebrated "Mission Accomplished." On May 29, Mr. Bush announced that "we found the weapons of mass destruction." On July 2, as attacks increased on American troops, Mr. Bush dared the insurgents to "bring 'em on." But the mission was not accomplished, the weapons were not found and the enemy kept bringing 'em on. It was against this backdrop of mounting desperation on July 6 that Mr. Wilson went public with his incriminating claim that the most potent argument for the war in the first place, the administration's repeated intimations of nuclear Armageddon, involved twisted intelligence.

Mr. Wilson's charge had such force that just three days after its publication, Mr. Bush radically revised his language about W.M.D.'s. Saddam no longer had W.M.D.'s; he had a W.M.D. "program." Right after that George Tenet suddenly decided to release a Friday-evening statement saying that the 16 errant words about African uranium "should never have been included" in the January 2003 State of the Union address - even though those 16 words could and should have been retracted months earlier. By the next State of the Union, in January 2004, Mr. Bush would retreat completely, talking not about finding W.M.D.'s or even W.M.D. programs, but about "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

In July 2005, there are still no W.M.D.'s, and we're still waiting to hear the full story of how, in the words of the Downing Street memo, the intelligence was fixed to foretell all those imminent mushroom clouds in the run-up to war in Iraq. The two official investigations into America's prewar intelligence have both found that our intelligence was wrong, but neither has answered the question of how the administration used that wrong intelligence in selling the war. That issue was pointedly kept out of the charter of the Silberman-Robb commission; the Senate Intelligence Committee promised to get to it after the election but conspicuously has not.

The real crime here remains the sending of American men and women to Iraq on fictitious grounds. Without it, there wouldn't have been a third-rate smear campaign against an obscure diplomat, a bungled cover-up and a scandal that - like the war itself - has no exit strategy that will not inflict pain.

There really are almost too many threads to reliably follow in all this, which does help explain some of why it's taken so long for it all to gain traction. There simply aren't enough Americans who are politically rigorous enough to care about it enough to follow along, and this administration certainly won't do anything to help -- indeed, as with everything else, they've done all they can to thwart simply bringing information to the light of day. That's what they do, after all, when they're not busy concocting cockamamie schemes to grift rubes out of their pensions.

But the nut of this story is this -- that this White House has engaged in a systematic pattern of mendacity and obfuscation in order to either deflect attention from -- or outright embarrass or intimidate -- people who have been presumptuous enough to go public with their fact-based misgivings.

Worse yet, all this corruption has been in the service of things they've been completely wrong about. They fucked up, they know it, we know it. They lamely try to insist that long-term results will vindicate them, but even on that count, they appear dead wrong, for at least the next generation -- and by then we'll have our hands full with a whole 'nother set of problems.

The American media, if it cares even an iota for what shred of credibility they retain, needs to communicate these facts to the American public. They started a war on very shaky intelligence, and the evidence grows practically by the day that they knew said intel was shaky, but saw what they wanted to see. They can whinge all they want about how other major Western intel agencies had concerns too, as did Bill Clinton, but neither Clinton nor any of those allies were itching to start a war.

That's the thing -- they wanted this war; they wanted to invade, clearly. And they were wrong about the nature of the enemy; they were wrong about the presumed eagerness of Iraqis to be "liberated"; they were wrong about the organizational structure of the Iraqi society. And they've played dirty against the people who were right, and had the nerve to say so.

*A notable exception to the wankfests was Face The Nation. As noted here, Abu Gonzales did some dancin'.

What did White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card learn from Alberto Gonzales and when did he learn it...and what did he do with that knowledge? This "whole new can of worms" (to quote CBS News' Bob Schieffer, on this morning's Face The Nation) is to me the breaking news question of the day. Why? Because on today's Face The Nation, Alberto Gonzales admitted that he called Andrew Card right after he was notified that the Justice Department had opened its investigation of the Plame leak...even though he formally notified The White House staff 12 hours later.

On Face The Nation, Gonzales said the Justice Department contacted him at 8pm and, after responding by saying something to the effect that everyone had gone home for the night, Gonzales asked if it would be okay if he waited until 8am the next day to notify The White House Staff to "preserve all records" etc. Gonzales got permission to do so, but then - again this is Gonzales speaking on Face The Nation - he said he contacted Andrew Card to informally tell him what had happened.

I wish you could have seen Bob Schieffer's face as he came back from commercial break to his next guest, Senator Joe Biden, who he then took up this issue with. Bob Schieffer said to Joe Biden (I'm paraphrasing here...I'll post the transcript when it's available) "You know, everyone in The White House has these BlackBerrys. And you have to wonder what sort of message Andrew Card emailed at 8pm to the other people in The White House...what sort of documents could have been shredded in those 12 hours." There was little Joe Biden needed to add to what Bob Schieffer said. But Watergate - and the famous 18 1/2 minute gap on the audio recording (remember Nixon's secretary, Rosemary Woods posing for a picture in which she tried to demonstrate how she could have accidentally erased those 18 1/2 minutes from the tape?) - suddenly became the "pink elephant" in the room. You could see it on Schieffer and Biden's faces.

Biden, craven hack that he is, is exactly right. There's no reason for a 12-hour gap with the technology even the average Joe Shmoe has, much less the freakin' White House. Did they take shredding-party tips from Arthur Andersen and Kenny Boy Lay? As with those scandals, we'll probably never know the full extent of it.

Occasionally I'll catch CBS' Sunday Morning; its assemblage of mindless human-interest pablum fits well into the relaxing Sunday morning tableau of newspaper-reading over breakfast. Strangely, late in the show they will jump from some "Bill Geist profiles a hubcap-collector in East Overshoe, Kansas" nonsense to a studio opinion piece from either Ben Stein or Nancy Giles. Stein, naturally, is much more directly partisan than Giles, and more of a righty than Giles could be considered a lefty. Anyway, today was Stein's turn.

Stein, being a Nixon White House veteran, and thus well-acquainted with the black arts of official mendacity, proffered his advice to Bush to stick with Karl Rove, that this whole story was essentially a contrivance pushed into the spotlight and kept there by the likes of Chuck Schumer.

Of course, Stein had no explanation for why, if there's no there there, it's taken two years for all of these putatively innocuous discrepancies to be brought to light. He also has no explanation as to why other CIA agents, such as registered Republican Larry Johnson, seem to think that the outing of Plame's name was a genuine breach of trust, as well as national security. Johnson thought enough of this episode to deliver the Democratic Party's radio address yesterday; usually this function is reserved for a ranking party member to rebut some bit of nonsense gabbled by Bush in his Saturday morning radio address (which, truth be told, interferes with W's preferred watching hours for Dora the Explorer. Thank Unca Dick for TiVo!).

Stein certainly has a right to voice his opinion, as corrupt and unprincipled as it is, but it is somewhat irresponsible of CBS to just air this bullshit without any sort of counterpoint response. There were holes in Stein's argument one could drive a truck through, but without air time for said truck driver, they're just huge holes, aren't they?

(Full disclosure: in 2000 I was a contestant on Win Ben Stein's Money, so I have met and talked with Stein, and actually think very highly of him as a person. He came across as a genuinely decent and gracious person, and took time to talk at length with all the contestants. All that said, I still think of him as a nice guy, but his politics suck, as do his rhetorical methods for defending some of the most corrupt personages to disgrace the once-hallowed halls of American government. Stein is of a piece with Coulter and Limbaugh and the rest of them -- shameless, tendentious hackery, unequivocal in its partisan short-sightedness and hypocrisy. If it were Clinton or Gore, they'd all pile on like Rove at the fried chicken basin at Hometown Buffet.)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Importance Of Being Arnold

After months of pimping his big ideas for "reform", and running around the country picking up tens of millions of dollars in "donations" from people in other states who just happen to care about California state referenda, California governor/speech therapist Arnold Schwarzenegger is seriously thinking about cancelling the special election.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political advisers have discussed calling for the cancellation of the special election the governor has set for November.

A day after a state Superior Court judge ordered a Schwarzenegger-backed redistricting initiative off the November ballot, consultants for the first time considered how the election could be called off in a conference call Friday morning.

The discussion illustrates just how far the governor has fallen in the seven months since he first floated the idea of a vote this year. The election has been seen as Schwarzenegger's make-or-break moment in his nascent political career, and a retreat could have profound political implications.

Awwww. They're almost cute when they're that naïve, aren't they? Not so fast there, Chief.

Even if the governor proposed calling the election off, it's unclear whether the Legislature would go along.

In a twist that shows just how much political fortunes seem to have changed, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, who has been critical of the election, indicated Friday he would not be in favor of canceling the vote.

"The toothpaste is out of the tube, and it will be hard to put it back in, '' Núñez said.

One problem is that all of the initiatives that have qualified will appear on a ballot, whether it's this November or the next regularly scheduled election, which is next June.

Núñez said he would "have conditions" for Schwarzenegger before he would agree to cancel the election. He said he would demand that the governor agree to back off of his budget initiative in favor of a compromise and also agree not to campaign for another initiative that has qualified for the ballot. That initiative would hamper labor unions' abilities to raise money for political campaigns.

"Unless we have a guarantee that this stuff won't come back, we might as well get it over with,'' Núñez said.

Well, that tells you everything you need to know -- Schwarzenegger blinked, and blinked big, and the supposedly reviled Democratic Legislature not only is ready to take him on, but prefers it that way. It's an unmistakable signal; they've got him by the short hairs now, and they're not terribly inclined to let go.

Arnold is about to join Jesse Ventura at the "guys who were out of their league" unemployment line, while the Junior 2: Twins (But Not The Danny DeVito Type) script gets developed.

Clearly, Arnold is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. He looks weak if he pulls what's left of his pet project, and looks even weaker if he lets it go and the initiatives all get trounced. And there's no upside for the Democrats in working with him now; there's no need to negotiate with roadkill.

I'm Fabian Núñez, bitch!

While Murphy acknowledged that "we have gotten off our game'' this year, he said Schwarzenegger is not discouraged by the problems he's encountered.

"He understands the big picture, that this is a big state and it will be tough to change,'' Murphy said.

He suggested that Schwarzenegger is still a great campaigner and still could push his reforms through.

"He's still the governor. He's still Arnold Schwarzenegger. And there's a lot of time left,'' Murphy said.

Yeah. I think that's what Gray Davis was telling himself at one time.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Don't Hate The Playa, Hate the Game

Ya gotta love the quickness with which the usual congressional grandstanders hoped on their high horse when it was revealed that the ultra-violent video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas also had hidden sexual content. See, because as bad as pretending to run over people and bust a cap in they ass is, poorly-animated nookie is much worse.

Um, Congress, can I introduce you to the internets? The internets, this is Congress. At the risk of stating the painfully obvious, it is impossibly easy to find real graphic sexual content, for free, much easier than loading a mod and using it. I guarantee you, the GTA porn mod something a kid will only use twice -- once to see if it can be done, and once to show a friend. "Yeah, that's pretty cool."

Then they'll go back to downloading free porn. I guarantee you, if the internets had been around when I was 15, I'd have only come out of my room for more beef jerky and Mountain Dew, to power up for the next "session".

Analysts and even executives from competing companies said they did not expect the game's popularity to falter even if some retailers took it off shelves permanently. Over all, the "Grand Theft Auto" series has sold more than 21 million games, making it the best-selling game on record. The problem with the San Andreas version emerged in recent weeks after game enthusiasts discovered a hidden scene in which the player can have simulated sex with a naked woman. The scene was apparently hidden in the game by its creators, working for Rockstar Games, which is owned by Take-Two. The scene is viewable by players only after they install a modification program into their game consoles.

Ah, but at least our elected representatives get to look they're doing something. Hey, how about taking advantage of a corrupt administration on the ropes, and fucking finish them off already, before wasting time on video games?

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

Big Brother refuses once again to release the rest of the Abu Ghraib photos, in violation of previous promises to do so.

On June 2, 2004, CCR, along with the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace filed papers with the U.S. District Court, charging the Department of Defense and other government agencies with illegally withholding records concerning the abuse of detainees in American military custody. Since then, the organizations have been repeatedly rebuffed in their efforts to investigate what happened at the prison.

In June, the government requested and received an extension from the judge stating that they needed time in order to redact the faces of the men, women and children believed to be shown in the photographs and videos. They were given until today to produce the images, but at the eleventh hour filed a motion to oppose the release of the photos and videos, based on an entirely new argument: they are now requesting a 7(F) exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold law enforcement-related information in order to protect the physical safety of individuals. Today’s move is the latest in a series of attempts by the government to keep the images from being made public and to cover up the torture of detainees in U.S. custody around the world.

Nice. Remember this the next time these people come to you, hat in hand, trying to get you to go along with their Social Security scams or some such -- they think we're all children. They think we can't handle the truth. They are deathly afraid of anything resembling an open discussion of the facts.

Like most insects, they scuttle back under their rocks at the first sign of sunlight. Will we let them get away with it yet again, or are we preoccupied with Judge Cutie? (wish I'd thought of that one)

Rarely Be Da Question Axed -- Izzle Our Chizzle Learnizzle?

Sociologists are trying to get the San Bernardino school district to add ebonics to its curriculum.

Incorporating Ebonics into a new school policy that targets black students, the lowest-achieving group in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, may provide students a more well-rounded curriculum, said a local sociologist.

The goal of the district's policy is to improve black students' academic performance by keeping them interested in school. Compared with other racial groups in the district, black students go to college the least and have the most dropouts and suspensions.

Oh, well shit, why don't we just get X-Boxes for everyone, if we're worried about keeping them from getting bored? Anything that's not entertaining is certainly not worth doing, and learning is just so boring.

A pilot of the policy, known as the Students Accumulating New Knowledge Optimizing Future Accomplishment Initiative, has been implemented at two city schools.

Okay, how's that been working? Who-what-where-when-why, people. Look into it. I have a feeling that there may be a reason why no figures regarding test scores or overall success rate are forthcoming from SANKOFAI -- an acronym which itself is a little-known ebonics term, usually referring to a beat-up Honda Prelude that has a $6000 set of rims and a 900-watt stereo system with 12" subwoofers.

Example: "Yo' sankofai is mad bumpin', dawg! An' check out them muthafuckin' rims!

Mary Texeira, a sociology professor at Cal State San Bernardino, commended the San Bernardino Board of Education for approving the policy in June.

Texeira suggested that including Ebonics in the program would be beneficial for students. Ebonics, a dialect of American English that is spoken by many blacks throughout the country, was recognized as a separate language in 1996 by the Oakland school board.

"Ebonics is a different language, it's not slang as many believe,' Texeira said. "For many of these students Ebonics is their language, and it should be considered a foreign language. These students should be taught like other students who speak a foreign language.'

Actually it is slang, not a formalized language with grammatical structure and proprietary linguistic patterns. It is largely a collection of modified words and phrase patterns to keep The Man from understanding what people are talking about. This is not exactly a secret.

How do I know? I spent every summer from 1975-1985 in either Compton, Bellflower, or Phoenix, being the only white kid in predominantly black neighborhoods. Some of the best moments of my childhood were spent standing ont he street corner in Compton doing the "dozens" [yo mama jokes]. I'm not sayin' I'm O.G. or anything, but I know the people, I know the culture, and I know enough about linguistics in general to know that "ebonics" is a scam perpetrated by sociology departments looking to validate a perceived inferiority complex (and to make it look like they're doing something).

Look, it's simple -- ebonics is a regionalism just like American Southern Crackerspeak is. Now, do we want to start incorporating various crackerisms and malaprops like "nucular" into a formalized educational structure, or should we gently remind people that no one besides Death Row Records has a paying position for someone who talks like a rapper?

Len Cooper, who is coordinating the pilot program at the two city schools, said San Bernardino district officials do not plan to incorporate Ebonics into the program.

"Because Ebonics can have a negative stigma, we're not focusing on that,' Cooper said. "We are affirming and recognizing Ebonics through supplemental reading books (for students).'

Beginning in the 2005-06 school year, teachers will receive training on black culture and customs. District curriculum will now include information on the historical, cultural and social impact of blacks in society. Although the program is aimed at black students, other students can choose to participate.

So it's all about the affirmation.

Teresa Parra, board vice president, said she worried the new program would have an adverse effect.

"I'm afraid that now that we have this the Hispanic community, our largest population, will say, 'We want something for us.' Next we'll have the Asian community and the Jewish community (asking for their own programs). When will it end?'

This is exactly it. The ebonics debate has been going on for years, obviously, and it is really just the usual identity politics writ small. If they worried half as much about getting these kids to read (which generally requires having parents who read), they'd be doing these kids a much bigger favor. Instead they want to cater to their assumptions about the kids' self-esteem.

Ratibu Jacocks, a member of the Westside Action Group, a coalition of black activists, said they are working with the district to ensure the policy is implemented appropriately.

"This isn't a feel-good policy. This is the real thing,' Jacocks said.

Jacocks said he didn't believe the new policy would create animosity. He said he welcomed the idea of other ethnic groups pushing for their own programs.

"When you are doing what's right, others will follow,' Jacocks said. "We have led the way before the civil-rights movement opened the door for women's rights and other movements.'

There is a huge difference between ensuring that minorities and women have equal rights in society, and wasting taxpayer dollars in an already disintegrating California public school system catering to kids who don't speak very good English. Quit wasting my money massaging their egos and teach them something useful, for Christ's sake, so they can have productive careers and more opportunities available to them.

[via gsand at The Perfect World.]

Friday, July 22, 2005

My Mother The Card

Cooter decides to take Ma Cooter away from her usual duties of posing for the one-dollar bill to embark on a bold new innovative effort -- The Social Security Vaudeville Tour!

JUL. 22 3:51 P.M. ET Former first lady Barbara Bush teamed up with her son the president on Friday in trying to drum up support among older Americans for his Social Security and Medicare plans.

He called his 80-year-old mother "my favorite senior citizen," and she tartly reminded him that at age 59 he was almost one himself -- with hair starting to turn white.

"You can see where I got my white hair from," the president retorted.

Bang! Zoom! To the moon, Alice! Oy, are hijinks about to ensue? Of course they are.

At a senior center, and then before an invitation-only audience at a downtown civic center, the mother and son team promoted Bush's embattled Social Security restructuring plan and the new Medicare prescription drug program that takes effect Jan. 1.

And like a vaudeville team, they kept stepping on each other's lines and zinging each other.

At the Wesley Woods senior center, both Bushes emphasized the importance of getting seniors to sign up for the new prescription drug plan, part of a Medicare restructuring enacted in December 2003.

As Bush started to talk up the plan, his mother turned to him and said, "Weren't you going to tell people they ought to ask doctors, lawyers, people they trust whether this is a good deal for them?"

"Yes, I am," he said, repeating what she said, and adding, "This is a good deal."

"It saves them money," Barbara Bush said.

"And save money, yes," said the president. "See? That's why she's here -- to remind me what to say."

"And save their lives," he added.

When Bush said he and his mother would go around the room to shake hands, she pointed to the right and told him, "You go that way."

"She's still telling me what to do," Bush said, going dutifully to the right.

Too bad she won't tell you to fucking go home, asshole. They should have done a ventriloquist act, with Cooter sitting on Mommy's lap as the dummy. See, that would have been funny.

In his civic center speech, Bush expressed concern that the benefits of the plan may not be initially appreciated by many of the 42 million eligible Americans who receive Medicare benefits. Literature and forms go out Oct. 1 and enrollment begins Nov. 15.

Low-income seniors -- individuals earning less than $15,000 a year or couples earning less than $19,000 -- would have roughly 95 percent of their prescription drug costs covered under the plan.

Turning to Social Security, Bush vowed that nothing in his proposal for individual investment accounts would reduce benefits for current retirees or those close to retiring. "Seniors have nothing to worry about. ... What you should be worried about is whether your grandchildren are going to get any checks," Bush said.

"I'm here because I'm worried about our 17 grandchildren," said Barbara Bush.

At another point, Mrs. Bush told her son she was proud of him.

"I was thinking how great you look in your new brown suit," she said.

Bush gave her a long look and said, "You turn 80, and you run out of things to say."

That brought groans from the audience, and he quickly amended it to say his outspoken mother indeed still had "a lot to say."

Uh, yeah. Nice save, Harvard. Way to dump on the old folks. That's one thing about Bush that seems to go unnoticed by the media when they refer to his supposed jocularity -- his humor has a real mean, frat-boy streak to it. It manifests itself in the put-down nicknames he typically gives people as well.

And yes, I'm well aware that I'm being somewhat hypocritical here, because obviously my sense of humor is pretty nasty too. But, um, I'm not the guy bankrupting the country with two dead-end wars, and itching for more. So there's that.

Despite crisscrossing the country for months to promote the plan, his top second-term domestic priority, Bush has had little success in building public support for it.

Bush's trip came the same week in which House and Senate leaders threw in the towel on trying to get committee action on the legislation before the August congressional recess.

The president has run into solid Democratic opposition and scattered Republican skepticism about his proposal to let younger workers divert a portion of their Social Security withholding taxes into private stock and bond investment accounts -- in return for a reduction in future guaranteed benefits.

Bush has also said Congress should take additional steps to assure the long-range solvency of the national retirement program.

I say let him waste time with this useless little sideshow. His popularity is dwindling by the hour, and touring the rest homes with Mommy ain't gonna help. He doesn't have an actual plan for Social Security (besides gutting it and leaving it as carrion for hedge-fund vultures), the Democrats no longer need to play ball with him, and the Rove-Libby-Plame game is only picking up steam, much to the chagrin of SCOTUS nominee Bob Roberts.

Plus he'll be going on vacation for six weeks, any day now, so there's that. I just wish there were enough reliable Democratic senators around to keep these bastards' feet to the fire; most of the current group generally seems a bit too content to let things happen, rather than make them happen.

At any rate, if you're hurting from splitting a side reading the vaudeville transcript, just think how much your ass would hurt if they passed the SS scam. Ouch!

Weekend Poll

As a quick diversion from the summer heat, we're asking this musical question, in the spirit of Grover Norquist's eternal quest to put Reagan on the dime:

If George W. Bush were to be put on a unit of currency, what should it be?

[Note: you are not limited to actual units of US currency; thus, for example, "$3 bill" is acceptable. Anything goes.]

Results on Monday. Have an Arbusto weekend.

Who Gets The Top Bunk?

The noose tightens around Turd Blossom's extra chins:

Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people familiar with the case.

Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, one person said. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn't tell Libby of Plame's identity, the person said.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, according a person familiar with the matter. Novak, who was first to report Plame's name and connection to Wilson, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor, the person said.

It'll be interesting to see how quickly and thoroughly this buries the Roberts nomination. The Dems can definitely afford to punt on that for now, and milk this puppy for all it's worth.

After all, it's what the Republicans did the entire Clinton administration.

The varying accounts of conversations between Rove, Libby and reporters come as new details emerge about a classified State Department memorandum that's also at the center of Fitzgerald's probe.

A memo by the department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research included Plame's name in a paragraph marked ``(S)'' for ``Secret,'' a designation that indicated to anyone who read it that the information was classified, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

State Department Memo

The memo, prepared July 7, 2003, for Secretary of State Colin Powell, is a focus of Fitzgerald's interest, according to individuals who have testified before the grand jury and attorneys familiar with the case.

The three-page document said that Wilson had been recommended for a CIA-sponsored trip to Africa by his wife, who worked on the CIA's counter-proliferations desk.

Bush had said in his State of the Union message in January 2003 that Iraq was trying to purchase nuclear materials in Africa. Days after Wilson's article -- in which he said there was no basis to conclude that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material in Africa and that the administration had exaggerated the evidence -- the White House acknowledged that the Africa assertion shouldn't have been included in the speech.

The memo summarizing the Plame-Wilson connection was provided to Powell as he left with Bush on a five-day trip to Africa. Fitzgerald is exploring whether other White House officials on the trip may have gained access to the memo and shared its contents with officials back in Washington. Rove and Libby didn't accompany Bush to Africa.

One key to the inquiry is when White House aides knew of Wilson's connection to Plame and whether they learned about it through this memo or other classified information.

Remember all the pre-war ministrations from the Bush toadies to "connect the dots", that the preponderance of circumstantial evidence allowed for a certain amount of intuition to be used in arriving to a given conclusion? Well, we'll see if the steno pool wakes up and start connecting those dots, or if they get bogged down in memo minutiae and derail the narrative.

It's very simple: Karl Rove (and likely others, including Libby) used classified information to engage in an effort to discredit a critic of the Bush administration's reasoning and plans for going to war in Iraq. To suppose that neither Bush nor Cheney knew anything of this conspiracy of subordinates is to acknowledge an unconscionable level of incompetence and disconnectedness; to admit that they knew is to invite -- wait for it -- chimpeachment.

Because when you get right down to it, there's no way any previous president would have allowed this to go on for this long -- two years running -- and there's certainly no way any previous Congress would have allowed him to get away with two straight years of stonewalling and disassembling. But the only way this administration is ever really going to come clean about anything is if they're forced to -- and at that point, the whole façade will finally start to crumble.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Musharraf's Jihad

Since we pick on Pakistan so much, we thought we'd take a second to give credit where credit is due. Pervez Musharraf is quite literally laying it on the line, calling for jihad against Islamic extremists -- many of whom obviously train or get radicalized in some of Pakistan's madrassas.

The President of Pakistan has called on his people to undertake a jihad, or holy war, against religious extremism in a speech about the wave of arrests that he has ordered in the aftermath of the London bombings on July 7.

"I urge you, my nation, to stand up and wage jihad against extremism and to stand up against those who spread hatred and chaos in the society," said President Pervez Musharraf in an hour-long televised address.

Security forces in Pakistan said today they have arrested 228 suspected militants and extremist clerics in a series of raids on religious schools and private homes over the last week after three of the four London bombers were found to have links to the country.

General Musharraf expressed regret that the investigation into the July 7 bombings had shown strong links between Pakistani militants and the British men that carried out the attacks, but he also stressed that Britain must tighten its control over its own fundamentalist groups.

"There is a lot to be done by Pakistan internally," he said. "And may I suggest there is a lot to be done in England also. The current strategy to deal with this is to encourage and support each other rather than speaking against each other and blaming each other and weakening the overall cause."

General Musharraf condemned the July 7 bombings in strong terms, saying that he doubted that the "perpetrators of this act can be called human beings," before reiterating his request that British authorities do more to close down extremist groups in the UK.

"There is Hizb Ur-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun, who operate with full impunity in that area," he said, referring to two radical Islamist groups in Britain. "They had the audacity of passing an edict against my life and yet they operate with impunity."

General Musharraf said that the campaign to gain control over fundamentalist groups in Pakistan would continue, and that all Islamic schools, or madrassas, would have to register with authorities by December.

Madrassas, especially those that impose strict, spartan regimes of Islamist teaching on young, impressionable men, are seen as important sources of recruitment to radical Islamic groups in Pakistan. Two of the London bombers are thought to have visited a series of madrassas when they visited Pakistan earlier this year.

The President also announced measures to increase government control over unauthorised weapons and provocative literature designed to spread religious hatred. He also promised that prohibited militant groups would not be allowed to re-organise under new names or to raise funds.

Whatever our misgivings about certain sizable segments of Pakistan's citizenry, Musharraf does seem like he wants to do the right thing, so good luck to him. He deserves props for the effort.