Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tool Review

As I alluded the other day, I had downloaded what was supposed to be the entire Tool album scheduled for release on May 2. (Don't worry, I also have the real deal pre-ordered from Amazon. I'm not ripping anyone off.) I thought it might be fun and different to write a review over the weekend, before the actual album even gets officially released.

The review is pretty much written, but the problem is that there are quite a few "decoy" tracks out there, supposedly released by the band themselves to, um, throw off the bootleggers and pirates. Can't say as I blame them, and I actually find it pretty funny. Anyway, I already have three completely different versions of some songs, with no real way to discern which of them (if any) will actually be on the album.

So I'm postponing the review until I get my official copy from Amazon. For an idea of what sort of confusion this has caused among the faithful, check this out. I don't want to get caught up in any of that bullshit; I don't have time for it. I just wanted to review some music I like from a band I like. So we'll leave it till next weekend.

Colbert Unleashed

The internets are abuzz with the rundown of Stephen Colbert's roasting of The Decider, as well as the White House press gaggle, at the annual correspondents' dinner. And rightly so -- Colbert ably eviscerated the whole lot of them, stem to stern, barely concealing his contempt behind a veneer of satire.

Check out the video, mach schnell.

CNN's Headline News has been giving much more coverage to the impersonator whom The Decider shared the dais with briefly, going through the usual faux-self-deprecating folkisms for mass consumption.

But when push came to shove, and someone like Colbert brought their own ammunition, Mister Man apparently was none too pleased.

Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, “photo ops” on aircraft carriers and at hurricane disasters, melting glaciers and Vice President Cheney shooting people in the face. He advised the crowd, "if anybody needs anything at their tables, speak slowly and clearly on into your table numbers and somebody from the N.S.A. will be right over with a cocktail. "

Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter what happened Tuesday."

Yeah, I could see where the truth would get the preznit a bit riled, given as he's used to mere truthiness. But how sad is it when the only people to hold these morons accountable for the damage they've wrought are comedians?

Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was “surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story — the president’s side and the vice president’s side." He also reflected on the alleged good old days, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story.

Addressing the reporters, he said, "Let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know--fiction."

Much of the commentary on Colbert's clip, as far as I've seen, revolved around the portion with Helen Thomas, which was okay, but ran a bit long in making its point. To me, the above section -- which was actually fairly early on in the 15-minute segment - is the real money shot. This is a recklessly symbiotic culture at play in Washington -- even the dinner itself drives that point home. It is this clubby, pesudo-collegial atmosphere that gets cultivated, deliberately, by the pols, and it is always at the expense of the wannabe journamalists who let themselves be played as saps, and the ordinary citizens who end up getting lied to, at the very least by omission, because these compromised media chumps have been co-opted into not upsetting the apple cart.

So you have dickheads like Joke Line coming off like some sort of hero maverick riding in on his white horse (which he presumably needed a step-stool to mount, the half-pint motherfucker), declaiming the Democrats' populist impulses. Indeed. How dare the party of the working class even consider returning to its messy, uncorporate, untidy grass roots? How dare they lend credence to the two-thirds of Americans who, despite the incessant filtering of the corporate media and the lying of the think-tank punditocracy, still think that the country needs a serious change in direction? Don't these simps know that Serious Thinkers like Joe Klein know so much better what's good for them?

Klein wallows in his Harry Truman Turnip Day horseshit, apparently unaware of the truest Trumanism of all -- that when faced with the choice of a fake Republican and a real one, usually people will vote for the real one. That is the simple homily that needs to be inscribed in the minds of Klein and the bottom-feeders like him, the self-styled "serious" commentators that have long forgotten what it's like to live paycheck-to-paycheck, to have their jobs outsourced, to have to make a choice between food and insurance, to literally have to worry about losing their house to an HMO if luck doesn't roll their way and their kid breaks a leg or develops a horrible disease.

The other thing Klein and his fellow useful idiots don't seem to realize is that once they're no longer useful as subservient lapdogs for the moneyed opinion-mongering class, they'll be hung out to dry by the very same people whom they fall all over themselves to defend with their "serious" and "nuanced" pronunciamentos.

And that's the real value of Colbert's savage wit, lost as it may have been on all the self-important press wankers in attendance. If they are serious about their professions, about their noble calling, about their tiresome effrontery that their work is somehow special, then they will get inspired and start proving it, by refusing to take shit from an unpopular administration, by investigating its ongoing pile of corruption and cronyism. If they're serious about their profession having the ability to facilitate change, then they have ample opportunity to facilitate change. "The editor made me change it" excuse doesn't really fly when your extra-curricular activities suggest that you may be more concerned with hob-nobbing with the comfortable than afflicting them.

Now, if they're just serious about hanging on to their stupid little party invites and their summer houses in the Hamptons, then they'll just keep doing what they've been doing. In that case, enjoy your shit sandwich, media weasels.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Bush In Hand

Color me surprised; I, like virtually every other observer, had assumed that the Houston Texans were just using Mario Williams to leverage against Reggie Bush in the signing process that tends to preclude the actual draft for #1 picks.

Well, they went ahead and signed Williams. That takes guts. It's not that Williams isn't a talent, it's that Bush's numbers were that good, that they were practically guaranteed. The speculation is that this will shake up the entire draft; I kinda doubt it. The only real question was whether New Orleans would trade their #2 pick down a bit, and now they probably won't, so they can snag Bush. But they probably would have taken Williams otherwise, so the downstream effect should actually be a wash.

Down On The Pharm

Fuck smiley glad-hands with hidden agendas,
Fuck these dysfunctional, insecure actresses. -- Tool, ├ćnema

Strange how all these sanctimonious, moralizing, self-styled smug professional "conservatives" frequently turn out to be exactly what they despise. Perhaps it's the political version of gay-for-pay. Doesn't matter. Just like Sportin' Life Bill Bennett, exhumed and rehabilitated as a color commentator for supposedly respectable journamalistic mediamators, Rash Limpballs will surely rise again, like the legendary phoenix from a ziploc full of illicit dope.

Limbaugh, accompanied by [his attorney Roy} Black, turned himself in about 4 p.m. Friday, was fingerprinted, photographed and released, said Palm Beach County sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera.

He did not appear perturbed. "If you look at his picture, he has a smile on his face," she said.

Well, fucking duh, because he was lit like the goddamned Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

Look, I think it's obvious to any regular reader that I am essentially libertarian on such issues. I don't personally do drugs -- well, not anymore, anyway -- but I still believe in the God-given right of a sentient adult to indulge themselves as they please, so long as they stay home to do so, and not inflict themselves on an already dimwitted public. So my beef is not with Limbaugh's drug problem per se, it's his incessant moralizing and hectoring. Like his partner-in-rhyme Sportin' Life, Rush fails to have even enough basic moral backbone to take his lowlife hypocrite ass and skulk away, once and for all. It would be nice if just once, these self-appointed moral arbiters could dig deep and find the strength to shut the hell up.

Worse yet, their retard fans refuse to grab a clue and understand that they've been played like a Coney Island mark, and just turn off the political talk, go back to vegetating in front of Paula Abdul's Karaoke Hour, and let people who pay attention do the political thinkamatin'. It's not that complicated, people -- if you're not going to read a book or newspaper once in a while, and you're not going to live by the principles you try to ram down the rest of the world's collective throat, then fuck off already and go stuff yourself with nachos and pork rinds.

The news that Limbaugh, a savage critics of others' moral behavior, was addicted to drugs was taken as a sign of hypocrisy by his detractors. His friends and staunchest fans, however, said Limbaugh was merely working through the kinds of challenges that can affect anyone.

This is the best that Pravda could do in squaring Limpballs' incessant moral squawking with his shameless hypocrisy in the matter. And note the mealy-mouthed "[h]is friends and staunchest fans", without actually naming any. Nice touch. Again, no one's contesting that these "challenges" can and do "affect anyone"; the difference is that "anyone" has not made a career -- a quarter-billion dollar career, at that -- of high-handed sanctimony at the libertine lifestyles and lax morals of drug users, who are always, always, hedonistic sybarite godless amoral liberals.

So, you know, fuck you Limbaugh. Fuck your high horse, fuck your moralizing, fuck your inability to keep a woman happy, fuck your incessant lecturing to similar immature morons about morals which neither they -- nor you -- really give two shits about. Fuck your hillbilly heroin, fuck your hypocrisy, fuck your louche political worldview.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Doin' The Winamp Shuffle

Dream Theater -- As I Am
Seether -- Driven Under
Jeff Beck -- Big Block
Porcupine Tree -- Shallow
Todd Rundgren -- Some Folks Is Even Whiter Than Me
Pogues & Dubliners -- Whiskey In The Jar
Bruce Dickinson -- Abduction
Deftones -- Minerva
Frank Zappa -- The Evil Prince
Soundgarden -- Head Down
Tool -- Right In Two (from the new album coming out May 2nd; tune in tomorrow for a pre-release review of the whole enchilada)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Which One's Wynonna?

So I'm listening to some tunes and surfing the internets, going where the muse takes me, as it were, looking for inspiration, and Eureka!. Well, maybe not that good -- more like Pacoima!. This has to be the laziest fucking excuse for a blog that I have come across in quite some time, and that's saying something.

Shit, I thought I was a lazy bastard, but cutting and pasting an article and bookending it between two -- count 'em, two -- sentences, the second of which is apparently supposed to be some sort of witticism? That pretty much describes every post there. It takes more energy to post photos of cats. Check out the whole page for yourself, and see if you see even two whole paragraphs of original writing in any single post. I mean, I know how to read a fuckin' newspaper, pally, I don't need the extra milquetoast bon mot from Vanilla Thunder to choke it all down.

Really folks, if you're going to subject yourself to the deep thinking of the kool-aid chuggers, you might as well drink deep and hit the real foamers, who at least give you something (for the love of God, I have no idea what, though) of themselves. This just bugs me though -- these clowns have well over a million hits, for what looks like very little actual work. I mean, who do ya gotta fuck to get that kinda traffic? It's depressing, like realizing that anybody actually finds enough time in their lives to sit through anything called Deal Or No Deal when they could be checking out something more constructive, like Faces of Death.

One of these guys even wrote a book, not that I'm going to part with twenty-four hard-earned dollars to find out it's just a bunch of stuff from other books cobbled together with a couple of too-cute-by-half mini-quips to skirt the fair use laws. Am I engaging in a bit of gratuitous ankle-biting here? Perhaps, but they're selling ad space for cheap cut-and-paste jobs. It just rubs me the wrong way, like Matt Drudge thinking of himself as a newsman. People signing their names onto snippets of bloodless pronunciamentos on someone else's work, like they're proud of that shit.

I dunno. I guess I'm just put off by the sheer diffidence of it all. The Cult Of The Decider (oh hell, let's just call them "Deciderologists" henceforth, shall we?) has many temples throughout the Holy Hive of Blogistan, with a great many energetic high priests, priestesses, and batshit-crazy whirling dervishes. I just wasn't prepared for the eunuchs, I suppose.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fueling Ourselves

To hear it on the "news", gas prices are at the top of everyone's concerns right now. Not enough, mind you, that they're economizing or anything, hell no. Just enough to bitch about how much filling up the ol' Hummer costs these days.

And their preznit, friend to profiteers and bungler of Middle East diplomacy that he is, has a solution ready at hand: hydrogen cars.

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. - President Bush had an Earth Day message for drivers worried about soaring gasoline prices: The nation must move more quickly toward widespread use of hydrogen-powered cars.

Running vehicles on hydrogen fuel cells would help reduce oil consumption, as the technology does not require gasoline, and lower pollution, as they emit only water. But the technology is far from being a reality in the marketplace — the cells are prohibitively expensive and require a new distribution system to replace today's gas stations.

Bush is proposing to spend additional federal research dollars to help speed that process — but it still would be many years off.

At this point, we can only assume that Bush is simply too dim to apprehend the enormous ramifications of automotive manufacturers (assuming the American manufacturers even survive another generation) developing viable prototypes and re-tooling equipment and operations, and of either developing or revising regional and national systems of refueling stations. Throwing a few billion in research grants to fuel-cell development -- some of which will almost certainly be grifted by the usual defense-contractor weasels -- really isn't even a start. It's something that should have been done thirty years ago.

Is Bush getting rid of the Hummer tax credit? Is he urging Americans to conserve and economize? Does he understand how playing nuclear chicken with the Iranians affects oil prices? Has he asked oil companies to maybe do their part, seeing as how they've reaped record profits lately? Is he developing a plan to address the other major culprits in fuel consumption -- industrial production and distribution of goods? Is he aware that on average, Americans' food has traveled an estimated 1000 (most estimates are closer to 1500) miles before reaching final destination, that even the CIA considers that a national security problem? Does he have an agenda that can at least attempt to bring ordinary individuals and business leaders together to work for a common good, to reduce aggregate demand and work toward real energy independence?

Do we really need to even ask any of those questions? Of course not. Fuel cells, ethanol; fuel cells, ethanol. Never mind that fuel cell technology is still many years and many billions of dollars (guess who'll subsidize all that automotive re-tooling and the new breed of refueling stations) away; never mind that the EROEI on ethanol is utterly pitiful and also a boondoggle of subsidization. All Bush knows is fuel cells and ethanol, because as the (sadly correct) meme goes, that's how it was explained to him.

So it's up to us to start rethinking how we consume, as well as how much we consume. That's really the biggest problem, that our consumption patterns don't seem to show that we realize there's a problem, not in the aggregate. As I've said before, it's nice that hybrids are steadily gaining in popularity while SUV sales are finally stalling, but the demographics do not correlate; the Prius buyers were not driving Excursions before, nor are the Excursion drivers likely to make their next choice a Prius. (A corollary to that argument is that I am most likely preaching to the choir on all this.)

So the equation must be put to a hard-headed populace by a responsible government: It is unsustainable to drive a vehicle the size of a hotel room to the post office or the grocery store by yourself, period. You do not need it, you want it. And that's fine, until we have to spend $2 bn per week and thousands of lives to protect your ego. I'm sorry, Mister Hummer Driver, I really am. I wish you had a bigger cock, too, though probably not as much as your girlfriend does. But playtime is over, and we need some real adults to step up and say what needs to be said, before we're all fucked and have to ride bikes to work.

It doesn't take any revolutionary thinking, nor does it require us all to move to communes and stop bathing. We just have to be sensible, just have to quit being stupid and greedy, convinced that we can have it all. We can't have it all, but we can all have a lot, if we smarten up a bit. Maybe drive a smaller truck that gets decent mileage and does something besides glorify your pitiful ego. Maybe hit a farmer's market once in a while; the produce is better and frequently cheaper. Maybe ask questions about where all the food comes from in the era of refrigeration and cold storage and massive hub-and-spoke transportation/distribution networks, and stop pretending that the meat fairy just deposits slabs of shrink-wrapped chicken and steak at the supermarket each day. Shit, it used to be something to buy local, rather than sniffing out every fucking 2¢ deal at Walmart.

But our energy woes and our unsustainable consumption patterns are symptoms of a much larger problem. I imagine the British can sympathize with some aspects of our current plight. In his book Untied States, Juan Enriquez offers a compelling thesis. In 1905, the British dominated the world; the sun never set on the holdings of British dominance, much as it never quite sets on our current collection of adventurism, as non-colonial and bien pensant as it all may be. Fifty years later, the British Empire was almost completely gone.

This is not a moral argument; that ship has sailed over the horizon. When a nation clearly prefers to find excuses for torture to demanding its cessation, there is not much point in appealing to moral standing. This is a financial argument. Empires are very expensive to maintain, even back in the days when warfare was relatively static and predictable, when a big dog could piss on a hydrant without having to worry about the backsplash.

The current American demographic shows just enough people addled and distracted by dispensational rapturist mumbo-jumbo and warmed-over mythic exceptionalism to keep the machine going a little longer. But eventually the bill comes due. The population continues to age, productivity gains taper off, wages continue to stagnate, prices continue to rise, the Chinese decide to start cashing in their T-bills while cultivating other markets, and our current accounts deficit keeps ballooning. Then what? Something has to give, and energy is the weakest link in the chain.

(Not to mention the issue of the environment, that overdevelopment and global warming are real and getting worse, that the Louisiana marshlands that used to help absorb and mitigate the impact of storms like Katrina have been stripped and developed, to the long-term detriment of the ecosystem, and that the aggregate damage is only going to continue to increase.)

It is safe to assume, given current conditions and reasonable future speculation, that the era of American primacy will have passed by 2055, and probably much sooner. Maps will have been redrawn, leaders will have come and gone, some populations will have come to their senses while others will just be entering that batshit stage. One of every three human beings lives in either China or India, and that ratio is only increasing. That is an unstoppable dynamic, economically, demographically, diplomatically -- and at some point in the not-too-distant future, perhaps technologically and militarily. This is not a Chicken Little doom-and-gloom prediction; this is what every reliable analysis of available numbers and trends points to. The empire is simply unsustainable long-term. The numbers don't lie; we just keep lying to ourselves about what the numbers mean.

So the question becomes how best to cushion the landing, to ease our eventual transition from guns to butter. And where it starts is with people examining their individual and group role in the world at large, whether they want to start leading by example or continue to wallow in toys and bullshit financed by ascendant powers. It's a hell of a lot easier to address these issues while it's still relatively voluntary, because we won't always have that luxury.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Last Throe Update

One of the things that's problematic about quantifying the clusterfuck that is Chimpco foreign policy is finding relevant metrics that either haven't been done to death (because apparently people are bored with the fact that we're spending north of $2 billion per week in Iraq now), or approach the situation from a heretofore uncharted angle.

Two unpleasant metrics happened to crop up on the same day in the SF Chronicle. The first refers to the sharp increase in terror attacks, the bulk of which naturally are occurring in the newly liberated and democratic free state of Iraq:

Terror attacks and kidnappings worldwide exceeded 10,000 for the first time last year, propelled in part by a surge in Iraq, according to government figures to be released soon.

Officials cautioned against reading too much into the overall total. The government last year adopted a new definition of terrorism and changed its system of counting global attacks, devoting more energy to finding reports of violence against civilians.

I suppose that "reading too much" into the numbers, like most other things in life, depends on perspective. Where one stands depends on where one sits, and so forth. This is not exactly a secret. So perhaps "officials" may wish to consider that the outmoded definitions were undercounting the level of attacks. Either way, it doesn't alter the fact that yes, the drastic jump in the numbers can be fairly attributed to the redefining of the terms. Still, that doesn't mitigate the observable facts about the war on terror thus far.

In 2004, the National Counterterrorism Center, the government's new hub for monitoring terrorism, counted 3,192 terror attacks — including more than 28,000 people wounded, killed or kidnapped.

The 2005 tally will exceed 10,000 attacks and kidnappings, according to a federal official familiar with the center's work on the subject. The official spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because the numbers had not yet been officially released.

Terrorist violence in Iraq is up in every category in 2005, including armed attacks and kidnappings. The official said Iraq will represent more than 50 percent of the total increase in terrorist incidents. The year before, the center said there were 866 terror attacks against civilians and other noncombatants there.

That's a pretty tall jump, obviously, so again we may consider it fair to attribute some percentage of the increase to redefinition. But that depends in part in the specifics of that redefinition.

Federal officials attributed the increase in the tally to three factors:

_ The increase in terror incidents in Iraq as the insurgency tried to disrupt elections and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other Sunni Muslim fighters attacked Iraqi Shiites.

_ More resources devoted to finding attacks documented by non-governmental organizations, the news media, Web sites and other sources.

In 2004, about 10 people at the counterterrorism center spent two months tallying the attacks. Last year, about 15 people spent roughly nine months on the work. That meant the center's analysts were able to do a more robust job of counting thousands of people kidnapped in Nepal, for instance.

_ A new, broader definition of terrorism adopted last year, before the release of the 2004 numbers, included all "premeditated violence directed against noncombatants for political purposes."

The previous definition focused on international terrorism and required that the terrorists victimize at least one citizen of another country. This definition would exclude from the count much of the sectarian violence in Iraq. Also, only attacks resulting in more than $10,000 damage or serious injuries were counted.

The counterterrorism center's Web site and various government officials have stressed that counting attacks is more art than science. For instance, on the morning of Aug. 17, 2005, there were 350 small bomb attacks in Bangladesh. The counterterrorism center considers that one attack.

There's a lot there that is, to say the least, either somewhat counterintuitive and/or fairly disingenuous. For example, that terrorism had been defined by its internationalism and by racking up damage costs. Where does that leave, say, the massacre at El Mozote of Salvadoran villagers by Salvadoran military? It was countrymen murdering countrymen, and one could reasonably stipulate that the material damage of huts and subsistence tools likely totaled less than $10K. So what? It was political in nature. It was terrorism, pure and simple. Too often in the past, terrorism had been downplayed when it came to the numbers game. Curiously, one might find some coincidences between such fudging of numbers, and the preponderance of brutal authoritarian states that terrorized their own people, often with U.S. complicity, or at least knowledge and tacit approval.

And 350 small bomb attacks in Bangladesh being counted as one. This seems incredibly odd, whether it's because all 350 attacks were committed by the same organization, or maybe there were no casualties or damage, which suggests that there's much more to that story. Either way, when the definitions have been problematic in the first place, then the numbers are artificially skewed, and analysis is bound to be off the mark. And analysis is what drives the bureaucracies that plan these things to crunch their numbers, their budgets, their strategies. So maybe what they've had all along is a GIGO problem.

An even grimmer statistic involves the increase in the rate of military suicides over the past few years.

The number of U.S. Army soldiers who took their own lives increased last year to the highest total since 1993, despite a growing effort by the Army to detect and prevent suicides.

In 2005, a total of 83 soldiers committed suicide, compared with 67 in 2004, and 60 in 2003 — the year U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq. Four other deaths in 2005 are being investigated as possible suicides but have not yet been confirmed. The totals include active duty Army soldiers and deployed National Guard and Reserve troops.


Of the confirmed suicides last year, 25 were soldiers deployed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — which amounts to 40 percent of the 64 suicides by Army soldiers in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003.

The suicide rate for the Army has fluctuated over the past 25 years, from a high of 15.8 per 100,000 in 1985 to a low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001. Last year it was nearly 13 per 100,000.

The Army recorded 90 suicides in 1993, with a suicide rate of 14.2 per 100,000.

The Army rate is higher than the civilian suicide rate for 2003, which was 10.8 per 100,000, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the Army number tracked closely with the rate for civilians aged 18-34, which was 12.19 per 100,000 in 2003.

Well, we've already seen how much the government cares about preserving -- or hell, increasing -- veterans' benefits, and maybe even stepping in to help their families get by while they're deployed in this mess. One assumes that the majority of suicides are a result of either post-traumatic stress, financial implosion, or family disintegration, and it seems like there's an opportunity to step in and help alleviate any or all of those three, if the political will existed to do so.

Tax cuts, schmax cuts -- this is beyond whether or not one is for or against the war itself. This is about whether one truly supports the troops, enough to armor them and their vehicles sufficiently, enough to help their families out while the breadwinner is stuck overseas, enough to help the soldiers out when they get back home, which includes any job re-training and any PTSD help they may need. If the goddamned CEO from Exxon can walk away with half a billion dollars, then we can all fucking well step in and do what it takes to help soldiers and their families cope with the immense stress that they have been forced to deal with.

"These numbers should be a wake-up call on the mental health impact of this war," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "One in three soldiers will come back with post traumatic stress disorder or comparable mental health issues, or depression and severe anxiety."

Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader in Iraq, said solders there face increased stress because they are often deployed to the warfront several times, they are fighting urban combat and their enemy blends in with the population, making it more difficult to tell friend from foe.

"You don't get much time to rest and with the increased insurgency, your chances of getting killed or wounded are growing," he said. "The Army is trying harder, but they've got an incredibly long way to go."

It's nice that they're deploying more psychiatrists to the front to help out, but it's just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what needs to be done to help, and does nothing in terms of accountability. When an Army reservist who's been schlepped over there for his third tour finally decides he's had enough, because his family's broke, his wife's leaving him, and he's seen too much awful shit over there, that's ultimately on the people at the top who failed to plan effectively for contingencies that they had been repeatedly warned about. There was no reason for any of this to happen, except that Bush and Cheney got the war they were itching for, and Donald Rumsfeld thinks he's never wrong about anything, or at least doesn't give enough of a shit to make it right.

I don't even have any snark, any smartass comments on this subject. It's just too depressing to contemplate, and it's a fucking shame that the people who are most culpable in this, the people who initiated all these problems because they thought they were smarter than everyone else, will never be held nearly as accountable for their sins as they damned well oughta be.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Rage Against The Media Machine

Well, at least they didn't make her sound nutty.

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.

Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day.

She smokes a cigarette. Should it be about Bush, whom she considers "malevolent," a "sociopath" and "the Antichrist"? She smokes another cigarette. Should it be about Vice President Cheney, whom she thinks of as "Satan," or about Karl Rove, "the devil"? Should it be about the "evil" Republican Party, or the "weaselly, capitulating, self-aggrandizing, self-serving" Democrats, or the Catholic Church, for which she says "I have a special place in my heart . . . a burning, sizzling, putrescent place where the guilty suffer the tortures of the damned"?

Perhaps Finkel cherry-picked his quotes for added zazz. Perhaps we all really do come off as this unhinged, at least to the average person who, lest we forget, is not a political junkie and does not read 25 blogs a day for rhetorical sustenance.

And yet, I know for a fact that the tone is similarly strident in most of the righty blogs -- and their political side won. Again. Will this guy be following Mr. Mom Goldstein around as well, listening to him rant volubly about the perfidy of the "left" whilst cleaning the grout? Will he treat us to a sampling of Michelle Malkin's ludicrous crypto-racist ramblings? Ann Coulter's girlish dream of Supreme Court Justices felled by rat poison -- which typically works, it should be noted, by causing massive internal anti-coagulation, which is probably even more unpleasant than it sounds. I mean, there's your irresponsibly rhetorical outrage, dickhead.

O'Connor hits on the nut of it when she attributes the source of her (and our) anger as that feeling of powerlessness, when you feel that no matter how much better your ideas are, how much smarter and more adept your politicos may be, or even that maybe you have an equal right to have your voice be heard, you're still gonna lose, because of money, because the system is irreparably gamed and snatched away by Diebold and friends, because too many of our fellow citizens are more motivated to vote by cheap rhetoric about the horrors of gay marriage than by the fact that the average American CEO makes 500 times what the workers do. All that and more may justifiably be fueling our anger, but at least it's generally informed anger, contrary to the implicit tone of the Pravda piece.

When covering the subject of rhetorical anger, as practiced by their competitors in the pajamahadeen, "legitimate" journamalists have in the past tried to play cute with the more rabid right commenters such as Coulter or Limbaugh. It always gets presented just the way they like it, because they all profess to being C. Thomas Howell in Red Dawn; i.e., the anger keeps them warm.

But when they cover leftist commentators, it is with this hacky "more in sorrow than in anger" vein. Yeah, the Rude Pundit lives up to his name, but he also makes a lot of excellent points in the process. Yes, Maryscott O'Connor is a bit of a rageaholic, but how can anyone stay truly informed about the world and the bastards running (ruining) it, and not be outraged?

I keep thinking of a riff from Bill Maher's show last year, where Jason Alexander, thinking out loud, was trying to figure out what motivated Bush's base, in the face of all contrary logic, reason, and facts. He kept stammering, shaking his head, trying like hell to find the right words to express his bemusement and dismay. Finally, he just blurts out, just a shade away from George Costanza's naturally dyspeptic state, " wrong with these fuckin' people?"

Imagine if they did a news story on that. Not the usual fish-out-of-water, city-slicker reporter goes to small town and pays reverence to the heartland crap. There's plenty of that taking up landfill and litter box across the country. No, the question is, what makes someone whose side keeps winning remain angry and hostile and abusive to others, so much so that they insist on allowing incompetence and corruption trump their own interests, and those of the working-class families that they so solemnly pretend to revere.

Riddle us that one, Mister Smart Guy Newspaper Reporter. We know what makes sore losers tick, but what's the deal with chronically sore winners?

Update: Billmon has a better theory about this nonsense, that it's Pravda's payback against all those shrill lefties that publicly embarrassed them these past few months. The lefties demanded facts from the reporters and columnists; they held the ombudschump's hairy feet to the fire when she fucked up royally; they demanded accountability from the editors; they forced Pravda to send Mental Ben right out the corporate poop-chute and back to his virtual rubber room in less than a week.

And again, the Post thrives and depends on access to a degree unimaginable in any other media market except perhaps New York. One understands that they operate in the belly of the beast and all, but they could at least pretend not to enjoy surfing in Cheney's stomach acids so damned much.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Operation Kevlar Turban™: The Rollout

Seldom do the esteemed members of the Chimpco foreign policy team look as coordinated as they do when they're busily trying to desensitize an already numb American public to the prospect of another pre-emptive war. As with the subtitles of most bad sequels, This Time It's Nucular.

And already the marketing rollout has taken on that antiseptic sheen, the promise of a new day, a day in which a war can be waged cleanly and efficiently, without all those problematic pictures of hapless children, accidentally incinerated or shredded by errant daisy cutters. When those images perchance invade our nightly cocoon of commercials for hemorrhoid cremes and SUVs, safely ensconced within carefully chosen missives designed to further condition an already cynical populace, Our Leaders get a bit nervous. After all they, unlike most of us, know about Hume's Paradox, that force is always on the side of the governed, that if the control systems fail for them this time around, they might end up having to work for a living, or worse.

Fortunately for them, their control systems do have a great deal of effectiveness. For example, name one corporate media outlet that has portrayed this tiresome sabre-rattling with Tehran as anything but necessary rhetoric responding to a bellicose jerk elected under somewhat suspicious circumstances, who says he's been appointed by God to initiate conflict with the infidels.

Rather than point out the painfully obvious -- that this gang could find a way to fuck up a shit sandwich, that they've fucked up every single policy initiative, domestic and foreign, that they've attempted. With a Republican Congress, a largely complaisant and cowed opposition party, and a previously sympathetic post-9/11 public sentiment, they still managed to fuck up everything they've tried, from Iraq to Katrina to Medicare to the educational system. Nothing is worth doing unless it can be done in bad faith, apparently, by larding the appropriate commissions with useless cronies and spending more time selling the snake oil than bottling it.

So why the hell would an attack on Iran be any different, especially considering the fact that Iran is actually capable of defending itself, and we have long ago used up all our wolf cards? That is how a responsible media entity should be framing this nonsense, and that is exactly the approach they will never take. Why? Who knows? Maybe they're afraid of losing their cocktail weenie privileges, of no longer being invited to party with all the kewl kidz.

Or maybe the reason is much more plain and in our faces, that they, like their more blatant counterparts in the professional commentariat, know better, but they also know that that's where the money is, and the truth be damned. Pick an issue, any issue, and check the proportionate level of commentary. If you have an immigration rally of, say, 500,000 people demonstrating, and 200 or so counterprotesters to one side burning a Mexican flag in a bout of nativist paranoia, who will be the invited pundits to comment on this? Well, chances are that there will be one pro and one con, as if both sides were objectively and demonstratively equal, or you get one hard-right Pat Buchanan nativist/isolationist/closet racist, and one mealy-mouthed appeasing Joe Lieberman type who Just Wants Us All To Get Along.

Applying this "news commentary" model to any given issue, and keeping the extremely misproportioned level of debate intact, quickly reveals the systemic problem here. There is always a thumb on the scale.

Today's grandiose thumb of commentary, courtesy of Ron at Center Face and endless rehashings of the Peloponnesian War, is provided by the always hilarious Sage of Fresno, the lovely and talented VD Hanson. Ron performed a pretty surgical fisking of this chump already, but as he points out, I loves me some Hanson, so let's continue the pile-on.

Currently, there are many retired generals appearing in frenetic fashion on television. Sometimes they hype their recent books, or, as during the three-week war, offer sharp interviews about our supposed strategic and operational blunders in Iraq — imperial hubris, too few troops, wrong war, wrong place, and other assorted lapses.

Apart from the ethical questions involved in promoting a book or showcasing a media appearance during a time of war by offering an "inside" view unknown to others of the supposedly culpable administration of the military, what is striking is the empty nature of these controversies rehashed ad nauseam.

VD hits the ground running with his disingenuousness. First is his passive-aggressive dismissal of expert voices via the throwaway riff of "the three-week war", as if the subsequent three-years-and-counting had fuck-all to do with anything. Second is his insinuation that the generals talking out of school is less than ethical. This actually has some truth to it, but not for reasons useful to Hanson's plaintive jeremiad du jour. The "ethical questions" Hanson alludes to arise more from the fact that these ex post facto on-camera assessments provided by the generals might have had more utility to the troops under their command while they were still commanding them.

It's a problematic situtation any way you slice it, to be sure -- a civilian leadership that lets itself get pushed around by the military can end up as little more than the public arm of a junta in a banana republic. Still, Colin Powell is welcome to kiss my entire ass, okay? He knew that what he was doing was wrong, and yet he waltzed right into the UN, forcing the abject theater of covering up Guernica, and unfolded his little dog-and-pony show vetted through Curveball. And now he wants a do-over. Nice try, Chief.

(Oh, and by the way, as far as Hanson's sneering at the generals' putative book-pimping is concerned, be sure to read VD's byline at the bottom of the column, which, uh, pimps his most recent treatise on -- you guessed it, the Peloponnesian War.)

Imagine that, as we crossed the Rhine, retired World War II officers were still harping, in March, 1945, about who was responsible months during Operation Cobra for the accidental B-17 bombing, killing, and wounding of hundreds of American soldiers and the death of Lt. Gen. Leslie McNair; or, in the midst of Matthew Ridgeway's Korean counteroffensives, we were still bickering over MacArthur's disastrous intelligence lapses about Chinese intervention that caused thousands of casualties. Did the opponents of daylight bombing over Europe in 1943 still damn the theories of old Billy Mitchell, or press on to find a way to hit Nazi Germany hard by late 1944?

The implication here, for those of us too dense to get VD's meat-cleaver allegorical subtleties, is that victory is imminent; why are we still worrying about the few eggs we dropped en route to the foregone conlusion of success? Is there some special news channel that only Hanson and Bush get? I mean, even Faux News hasn't been this pathetically blindered, have they?

First of all, whatever one thinks about Iraq, the old question of whether Iraq and al Qaeda enjoyed a beneficial relationship is moot — they did. The only area of post facto disagreement is over to what degree did Iraqi knowledge of, or support for, the first World Trade Center bombing, al Qaedists in Kurdistan, sanctuary for the Afghan jihadists, or, as was recently disclosed by postbellum archives, Saddam's interest in the utility of Islamic terror, enhance operations against the United States.

Substitute "Pakistan" for "Iraq", and see if you can figure out what the difference is in the argument. I'll give you a clue -- it's an n-word that the preznit can't pronounce. Even a Fresno State perfesser should be able to understand that Iran sees that we invaded Iraq on false pretenses, while leaving Pakistan -- a country that had neck-deep involvement in 9/11 -- completely untouched, because one had the bomb and the other had bupkis.

And when some terrorist cell finally does get a bomb, and it has Abdul Qadeer Khan's fingerprints all over it, I fully expect assholes like Hanson to whinge that we simply must take care of the Iranian Problem, all the while artlessly dodging Pakistan's complicity. Suffice to say that everything in Hanson's above paragraph is either pure speculation, flat-out untrue, or far more true when applied to Pakistan, who again mysteriously managed to completely avoid being the casus belli scapegoat in all this. I mean, bin Laden has been hiding there for several years now, many of the al Qaeda recruits were trained there, and Pakisatan's intel chief was found to have wired $100K to Mohammed Atta, even as he sat there at breakfast on 9/11/01 with Porter Goss and Bob Graham and looked them right in the eye. Yeah, Pakistan's a friend like syphilis is.

Second, the old no-blood-for-oil mantra of petroleum conspiracy is over with. Gas skyrocketed after the invasion — just as jittery oil executives warned before the war that it would. Billions of petroleum profits have piled up in the coffers of the Middle East. Secret Baathist oil concessions to Russia and France were voided. Oil-for-Food was exposed. And the Iraqi oil industry came under transparent auspices for the first time. The only area of controversy that could possibly still arise would have to come from the realist right. It would run something like this: "Why, in our zeal for reform, did we upset fragile oil commerce with a dictator that proved so lucrative to the West and international oil companies?"

Yes, the oil companies have really taken it in the shorts, haven't they? Why, look what's happened to that poor ol' mom-and-pop operation down the street, ExxonMobil:

Under Mr. Raymond, the company's market value increased fourfold to $375 billion, overtaking BP as the largest oil company and General Electric as the largest American corporation. Net income soared from $4.8 billion in 1992 to last year's record-setting $36.13 billion.

Shareholders benefited handsomely on Mr. Raymond's watch. The price of Exxon's shares rose an average of 13 percent a year. The company, now known as Exxon Mobil, paid $67 billion in total dividends.

For his efforts, Mr. Raymond, who retired in December, was compensated more than $686 million from 1993 to 2005, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Brian Foley, an independent compensation consultant. That is $144,573 for each day he spent leading Exxon's "God pod," as the executive suite at the company's headquarters in Irving, Tex., is known.

Despite the company's performance, some Exxon shareholders, academics, corporate governance experts and consumer groups were taken aback this week when they learned the details of Mr. Raymond's total compensation package, including the more than $400 million he received in his final year at the company.

Hard times, my friends. If only the preznit had kept the little guys at Exxon in mind before running off on his little idealistic Crusade O' Jeebus' Love. When, oh when will someone be brave enough to step up and speak for the oppressed petroleum companies? Only the Cockpuncher of Thermopylae knows for sure.

A third dead-end subject is Iran. The Bush administration is hardly hell-bent on preemption, unilateralism, and imperial grandeur in blocking Iran's rapid ascendance to nuclear status.

Instead, there are, and always were, only three bad choices. First, we could let the multilateral Europeans jawbone, using the cowboy George Bush as the bad-cop foil while drawing in the United Nations, the Russians, and the Chinese, or the Arab League, in hopes of delay. Perhaps as we bought time we could pray that after 26 years either the Iranians would liberalize their regime or the democratic experiment in Iraq would prove destabilizing to the neighboring mullahs.

Yeah well, that Churchill fella -- you know, the father of the preznit, to hear Hanson and his ilk rub their musk glands on and on about it -- was known for the old "jaw-jaw is always better than war-war" bit. So yes, perhaps we press on with the tiresome, glacial procession of negotiations at this moment in time, unless Pierce Bush is signing up for combat duty, in which case we're listening.

The second tact [sic -- even a Fresno State hack should know the difference between "tact" and "tack"] was live with a nuclear Iran as if it were a Pakistan — and perhaps hope that something like a nuclear democratic India emerged next door to deter it.

Okay, let's break this little chunk down and walk it back, shall we? First is the obvious -- we have found a way to live with both India and Pakistan as nuclear powers (again, the latter of which has a demonstrably virulent anti-American streak). Second is that Iran, if Hanson is allowed access to a map at his cow college, is next to Pakistan. Third, and more to the point, Iran is sandwiched between two simultaneous American wars initiated against Iran's fellow Islamic nations (that would be Iraq and Afghanistan, for those of you who took a class from Hanson). What the holy hell did we think they were going to do -- invite us over for pork chops and tequila?

The third choice, of course, was to tarry until the last possible moment and then take out the installations before the missiles were armed. The rationale behind that nightmarish gambit would be that the resulting mess — collateral damage, missed sites, enhanced terrorism, dirty-bomb suicide bombers, Shiite fervor in Iraq, and ostracism by the world community — was worth the price to stop a nuclear theocracy before it blackmailed the West, took de facto control of the Middle East oil nexus, nuked Israel, or spread global jiahdist fundamentalism through intimidation.

Christ, don't these people ever run out of precious bodily fluids with which to wet their rhetorical bed? You'd think they'd be too dehydrated to move at this point, and perhaps they are. One day we will have to dig the warbloggers' (and that's all Hanson is when you get right down to it, a pedigreed warblogger) desiccated corpses out of their parents' basements, perhaps saving the swept Cheetos crumbs for posterity.

I try to read a newspaper oh, every month or so. I'll be damned if I have heard a peep out of Israel on any of this. Israel's nuclear arsenal is reputed to be in the 200-300 range, of operable warheads. If you have a gun cabinet full of AK-47s and M-16s and the like, and the crazy fuck down the road gets a .22, yeah, you might keep an extra eye on him, and maybe even lock your doors at night. But you're not going to run over there like an asshole and perforate him in the middle of the night while he's sleeping, unless you're even nuttier than you think he is.

As for control of oil, that may even be Iran's real goal. But you know what? It's time we got serious about weaning ourselves from that tit anyway. Something that Hanson's dark masters at NRO spouted off on the other day was prime grade-A bullshit right along this particular vein [emphasis mine]:

Not only does Iran's wealth come from oil — which no importing country is ascetic enough to deny itself....

Okay, this is a level of disingenuous that makes Hanson, in his twee Serious Thinker pastiche, look like a rank piker. First is the typical neocon trope of equating even basic common-sense conservation steps with Pol Pot-style enforced agrarian asceticism, or at bare minimum the smug, insufferable posturing at the very notion of using less of an ever-scarcer resource that comes mostly from a very unstable region. Let's see -- gas was over $3 last summer, we are in a disastrous war in Iraq, the political climate in Afghanistan has turned back against us, and we're seriously discussing a nuclear first strike against Iran. And we still refuse to conserve. It's nice that Prius sales are up and Hummer sales are down. I seriously doubt that they're correlated; I would be surprised to find a Prius owner who had previously owned a Hummer or an Excursion. I wager that the vast majority of them drove Volvos and Accords before moving to the hybrid. The point is that if that is the aggregate movement, then it is static from a conservation standpoint. I think the SUV owners are holding out for the promise of sweet, sweet domestically-produced ethanol, blissfully unaware that the EROEI on ethanol is dramatically lower than that of petroleum, and thus will either require much higher prices or (gasp!) government subsidies.

Do you want to subsidize these cocksuckers' compensatory vehicle follies? I sure as hell don't. If Hanson and the rest of the NRO hackerati want to pay for it, and crow about the magic of the free marketplace and the Holy Grail of free choice at all costs, let them. But the bottom line that the NRO editors elide in the above excerpt is that we could conserve enough to make a real dent in our level of energy dependence, without us all having to ride broke-down Schwinns to work like a bunch of worker ants from a Mao-era propaganda film. It is not nutty utopian asceticism to point out that our current level of consumption is wildly unsustainable. It's not even close. This is actually good news of a sort; it means there's a lot of room to close the gap, with relatively modest pain. It might mean that you can no longer drive a hotel room to the supermarket, but either you care about the troops, or you just say that you care about them.

Equally fossilized is the "more troops" debate. Whatever one's views about needing more troops in 2003-5, few Democratic senators or pundits are now calling for an infusion of 100,000 more Americans into Iraq. While everyone blames the present policy, no one ever suggests that current positive trends — a growing Iraqi security force and decreasing American deaths in March — might possibly be related to the moderate size of the American garrison forces.

Of course, more American troops have already been killed in April than in all of March, and Iraqi forces have been defecting in droves and engaging in revenge killings under color of authority, but what's a few details between fellow kool-aid drinkers?

More troops might have brought a larger footprint that made peacekeeping easier — but also raised a provocative Western profile in an Islamic country. More troops may have facilitated Iraqization — or, in the style of Vietnam, created perpetual dependency. More troops might have shortened the war and occupation — or made monthly dollar costs even higher, raised casualties, and ensured that eventual troop draw-downs would be more difficult. More troops might have bolstered U.S. prestige through a bold show of power — or simply attenuated our forces elsewhere, in Japan, Okinawa, Korea, and Europe, and invited adventurism by our enemies. Too few troops were the fault of the present Administration — or the chickens that came home to roost after the drastic cutbacks in the post-Cold war euphoria of the 1990s.

That one paragraph contains so much bullshit, so many instances of sheer intellectual irresponsibility, that only my desire to not protract this too much further keeps me from fisking it by the sentence, if not by specific phrases -- and indeed, Ron does exactly that in his fisking of Hanson's nonsense.

So let me just make this point about the "more troops" argument: Rumsfeld and Cheney were warned over and over again, in the pre-war planning phase, that more troops would be needed, not for the actual war, but for the post-bellum occupation phase. They knew this, they had been warned, they forced Shinseki out for warning them, and then they proceeded to do exactly what they were warned about -- let the army regulars melt into the woodwork with their weapons and ordnance, let looting go on unabated, get to repairing infrastructure long after it was too late. The lack of troops was not a condition caused by Clinton-era cutbacks and base closings, it was specifically an operative policy dictate from Rumsfeld. That Hanson even bothers trying to gloss over something that is so easily refuted in the public record is indication of either his stupidity, his cynicism, or his outright intellectual dishonesty. Probably all of the above.

And yeah, we weren't prepared for the chaos of fourth-generation warfare, and perhaps there is a touch of hindsight in scrutinizing how Afghanistan was handled in the immediate post-Taliban phase. But we were also willfully ignorant of recent history, that the Taliban came to power precisely because we had made a Cold War-era deal with the devil, and that fostering the Northern Alliance as a replacement for the Taliban was just another deal with another devil. Perhaps there was indeed no way to do Afghanistan perfectly right, but it seems to have gone back to horrifically wrong in a relatively short period of time. Much of this seems to be due to Pakistan's rather cynical (to put it diplomatically) use of its mountain borders and adjacent regions. And our idea of leaning on them is to give India a ludicrous nukes-for-mangoes deal that is getting laughed out of the (once again) Republican congress.

But to bring it all full circle, I reiterate what I said earlier, what needs to be tattooed on the foreheads of Hanson and his fellow chickenhawk tubthumpers -- even if you are able to make a solid case for action against Iran, why in the hell would you trust these idiots not to fuck it up like they have every other thing they've touched?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Golden Parachutes, Silver Linings, Lead Weights

The current drumbeat to shitcan esteemed Risk champion (and part-time SecDef) Donald Rumsfeld is amusing enough, but more for what it reveals about managerial priorities within the organizational structure of Junior's bubbleocracy. From a standpoint of competence and functionality, it really doesn't matter much whether Rumsfeld is fired or not. He'd be replaced either with another incompetent flunky; or a general willing to shred his reputation by associating with these animals and letting them reduce him to yet another incompetent flunky; or in a spirit of cynically misplaced Bushie ecumenicism, Holy Joe Lieberman. (That last possibility might not be all that bad, as it would allow for the Nutmeg State to fill Lieberman's seat with an actual Democrat.) Hell, since this gang has heretofore operated on little but spite and bile, it's not beyond them to consider the notion of replacing Rummy with Tom DeLay.

Unless and until Chimpco collectively decide to change course -- which obviously is never going to happen, no matter how eagerly Democrats want to roll up their sleeves and Work Together with these morons -- the principles at work are set for failure. In terms of moral courage, yeah, the whole lot of them should resign immediately and perhaps consider the virtues of honorably sucking on an exhaust pipe. But we are talking about people with neither the moral courage nor the political imperative to do much of anything constructive. Rumsfeld's resignation would almost certainly be accompanied by the subsequent conferral of the nation's highest tinfoil-plated honor, the Slam Dunk Medal of Freederific Conduct. After which a forgetful nation turns back, with astonishing credulousness, to the spectacle of Katie Couric -- who is to serious journalism what Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill is to the art of winemaking -- pretending to be a serious news something-or-other.

No, these people have fucked things up royally, and do not seem particularly inclined to unfuck themselves. It is unfortunate that we all must continue to live with their incompetence and shameful lack of moral principle, but we can always start taking responsibility, remembering whom to blame for the rise of these assholes, and make goddamned sure none of them -- the neocons, the theocons, the Schiavo/Falwell wing of the Grand Old Police Blotter -- get off the margins again, much less back into the halls of power.

That's accountability, and the closest people like Rumsfeld and Cheney will ever see of anything roughly akin to accountability is to make sure their mistakes are irretrievably hung around their necks for all time. So leave Rummy in -- at least until November. It's not like they were going to replace him with someone remotely competent anyway.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Fire Fred Hiatt (From A Cannon)

For those who may foolishly think that the blogosphere has unfairly highlighted the "legitimate" media's incessant need to suck up to the administration by acting like irresponsible apologists, Fred Hiatt helps set the record straight with his umpteenth tired-ass apologia:

PRESIDENT BUSH was right to approve the declassification of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq three years ago in order to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. Presidents are authorized to declassify sensitive material, and the public benefits when they do. But the administration handled the release clumsily, exposing Mr. Bush to the hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy that Democrats are leveling.

Rather than follow the usual declassification procedures and then invite reporters to a briefing -- as the White House eventually did -- Vice President Cheney initially chose to be secretive, ordering his chief of staff at the time, I. Lewis Libby, to leak the information to a favorite New York Times reporter. The full public disclosure followed 10 days later. There was nothing illegal or even particularly unusual about that; nor is this presidentially authorized leak necessarily comparable to other, unauthorized disclosures that the president believes, rightly or wrongly, compromise national security. Nevertheless, Mr. Cheney's tactics make Mr. Bush look foolish for having subsequently denounced a different leak in the same controversy and vowing to "get to the bottom" of it.

Jesus. How many times does Hiatt manage to contradict and circumvent himself in those two intrductory paragraphs of sheer foolishness? Look, this was a game of political pushback, pure and simple. The Bushies, smug in their secure knowledge that they had cherry-picked the available intel to get the war they wanted, were very upset about Wilson stepping forward to flesh out the whole story, and laying waste to Bush's patently false assertions.

That they decided to push back is not necessarily the problem, in and of itself. The problem, as Hiatt and the rest of kneepad squad at Pravda know all too well, is that Chimpco used a CIA agent's identity as political currency, and didn't even have the balls to own up to it. They ham-handedly filtered out the info through Libby and his chickenhead, and then sanctimoniously lectured us all on how leakers would be punished by the administration. Which, three years and a hell of a lot of revelations later, still has yet to happen.

This is a group of people that took pains to impress upon the proles how much more "character" they had than the evil Clintonistas. Is it too much to ask that the "free press" does its job and afflicts the comfortable for once? There are a million ways a journamalist can eviscerate this administration's mealy-mouthed defenses and endless litany of dog-ate-my-homework excuses for very serious policy errors and official mendacity. And yet this dipshit Hiatt sees fit to engage in logical contortions that should qualify him for the Cirque du Soleil.

I can't help but wonder if Rove doesn't have something on Hiatt. Short of photos of compromising positions with unfortunate ruminants, what the hell could make someone such a mewling toady for a preznit that two out of three Americans do not like?

More importantly, you'd think that at least Hiatt might actually read his own paper once in a while, but apparently not, or he might have thought twice before sharpening his electronic crayon and inflicting his shameless boobism on us.

As he drew back the curtain this week on the evidence against Vice President Cheney's former top aide, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the first time described a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" -- using classified information -- to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" a critic of President Bush's war in Iraq.

Bluntly and repeatedly, Fitzgerald placed Cheney at the center of that campaign. Citing grand jury testimony from the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fitzgerald fingered Cheney as the first to voice a line of attack that at least three White House officials would soon deploy against former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

So contrary to Hiatt's idiotic assertion, Fitzgerald does have the goods on these guys. Somebody's full of shit here, and so far Fitz has dotted every "i" and crossed every "t", where Hiatt has become notorious for playing fast and loose with the facts, to squeeze them into his prefab nonsense.

One striking feature of that decision -- unremarked until now, in part because Fitzgerald did not mention it -- is that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before.

United Nations inspectors had exposed the main evidence for the uranium charge as crude forgeries in March 2003, but the Bush administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained they had additional, secret evidence they could not disclose. In June, a British parliamentary inquiry concluded otherwise, delivering a scathing critique of Blair's role in promoting the story. With no ally left, the White House debated whether to abandon the uranium claim and became embroiled in bitter finger-pointing about whom to fault for the error. A legal brief filed for Libby last month said that "certain officials at the CIA, the White House, and the State Department each sought to avoid or assign blame for intelligence failures relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

It was at that moment that Libby, allegedly at Cheney's direction, sought out at least three reporters to bolster the discredited uranium allegation. Libby made careful selections of language from the 2002 estimate, quoting a passage that said Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure uranium" in Africa.

The first of those conversations, according to the evidence made known thus far, came when Libby met with Bob Woodward, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post, on June 27, 2003. In sworn testimony for Fitzgerald, according to a statement Woodward released on Nov. 14, 2005, Woodward said Libby told him of the intelligence estimate's description of Iraqi efforts to obtain "yellowcake," a processed form of natural uranium ore, in Africa. In an interview Friday, Woodward said his notes showed that Libby described those efforts as "vigorous."

That may actually be the reason for all these circumlocutions from the Pravda editorial staff. It seems ludicrous that they'd all fall all over themselves to sacrifice their collective credibility for a hack like Woodward, but stranger things have happened.

Perhaps a blogger ethics panel is in order.

Libby's next known meeting with a reporter, according to Fitzgerald's legal filing, was with Judith Miller, then of the New York Times, on July 8, 2003. He spoke again to Miller, and to Time magazine's Matt Cooper, on July 12.

At Cheney's instruction, Libby testified, he told Miller that the uranium story was a "key judgment" of the intelligence estimate, a term of art indicating there was consensus on a question of central importance.

In fact, the alleged effort to buy uranium was not among the estimate's key judgments, which were identified by a headline and bold type and set out in bullet form in the first five pages of the 96-page document.

Unknown to the reporters, the uranium claim lay deeper inside the estimate, where it said a fresh supply of uranium ore would "shorten the time Baghdad needs to produce nuclear weapons." But it also said U.S. intelligence did not know the status of Iraq's procurement efforts, "cannot confirm" any success and had "inconclusive" evidence about Iraq's domestic uranium operations.

Iraq's alleged uranium shopping had been strongly disputed in the intelligence community from the start. In a closed Senate hearing in late September 2002, shortly before the October NIE was completed, then-director of central intelligence George J. Tenet and his top weapons analyst, Robert Walpole, expressed strong doubts about the uranium story, which had recently been unveiled publicly by the British government. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, likewise, called the claim "highly dubious." For those reasons, the uranium story was relegated to a brief inside passage in the October estimate.

But the White House Iraq Group, formed in August 2002 to foster "public education" about Iraq's "grave and gathering danger" to the United States, repeatedly pitched the uranium story. The alleged procurement was a minor issue for most U.S. analysts -- the hard part for Iraq would be enriching uranium, not obtaining the ore, and Niger's controlled market made it an unlikely seller -- but the Niger story proved irresistible to speechwriters. Most nuclear arguments were highly technical, but the public could easily grasp the link between uranium and a bomb.

A lot of this hinges on whether Chimpco's "error" can be considered a "good faith" situation, an honest mistake based on a desire to do the right thing. Almost since the very beginning of the invasion, evidence -- actual, documented evidence -- has steadily come out that counters that good faith argument. Indeed, given the lies and political games these guys were all too happy to indulge in, an excellent case of bad faith can and should be made. A responsible journalist would connect the dots and set about making such a case, because his job is to provide information to the people, not cover for those in power and conduct himself like a shill for the Republican party.

I read the Post's daily online political discussions, and I note the consistency with which all the reporters, when asked about these lapses in their judgment by irritated readers, retreat to their fallback positions that they're doing their best, they care about getting the facts, and maybe they're just a bit wowed or intimidated by the prestige of the office.

Well, bullshit. Get over it, and quit acting like a bunch off goo-goo eyed farm girls that just got off the Greyhound at Hollywood and Vine. This is fucking serious. These people are literally preparing to hit Iran with nuclear strikes, with simultaneous debacles going on in two adjacent countries. They are incompetent and corrupt, and they have misused their power to attack every person who had the nerve to sensibly point out that they were full of it.

And all these chumps can do is softsoap the whole charade, and whinge at all those mean bloggers for doing their research for them, and expecting them to report factual information.

Editor & Publisher sums up WaPo's dilemma quite nicely:

No wonder the Post, in today’s editorial, calls Wilson’s trip to Niger “absurdly over-examined.” This is what people say when they want to change the subject instead of having to renew an indefensible position. The Post's editorial page has been wrong from the start on Iraq so we must at least applaud its consistency.

Amen. These people -- and all journalists who hope to remain "legitimate" and "credible" -- had better get with the program. The paradigm is shifting anyway, thanks to technology, but the majority of of these guys seem to be in on their own demise. They are part of the problem, because their currency is access, and they'll do anything to get it. They'd rather go to off-the-record meetings to schmooze with Bush than grow spines and remind him that their job is to report. They'd rather posture under the guise of "objectivity" than concentrate on the facts of the story. They seem intent on being the engineers of their own undoing.

Freedom On The March

Demonstrating yet again that the plaintive cries for "good news" out of Iraq are utter bullshit, a provincial security assessment of each of Iraq's 18 provinces has been released. This report was put together three weeks before the massive mosque bombing in Samarra and the subsequent reprisals; even without those events, it paints a very grim picture.

WASHINGTON, April 8 — An internal staff report by the United States Embassy and the military command in Baghdad provides a sobering province-by-province snapshot of Iraq's political, economic and security situation, rating the overall stability of 6 of the 18 provinces "serious" and one "critical." The report is a counterpoint to some recent upbeat public statements by top American politicians and military officials.

The report, 10 pages of briefing points titled "Provincial Stability Assessment," underscores the shift in the nature of the Iraq war three years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Warnings of sectarian and ethnic frictions are raised in many regions, even in those provinces generally described as nonviolent by American officials.

It's a matter of perspective, as well, as to what is "nonviolent". The southern Shiite region is considered mostly relatively stable, but much of that is because Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army is running things. Yeah, there's not much sectarian strife when these guys just barge into classrooms and behead uppity teachers in front of their students, as happened recently in Ramadi. Problem solved!

There are alerts about the growing power of Iranian-backed religious Shiite parties, several of which the United States helped put into power, and rival militias in the south. The authors also point to the Arab-Kurdish fault line in the north as a major concern, with the two ethnicities vying for power in Mosul, where violence is rampant, and Kirkuk, whose oil fields are critical for jump-starting economic growth in Iraq.

I would hazard a serious guess that this will be the next huge cause for concern. The only area that is considered stable in the report are the three Kurdish provinces. They are quietly getting their act together, securing their oil fields, preparing to generate income, getting their own military units stocked with their ethnic peshmerga fighters.

They are not going to want to share their oil wealth with the rest of the country. At some point, they are going to secede, involving Turkey and Iran. Then all hell will break loose.

But at least the Iraqi Kurds will have freedom, right?

The patterns of discord mapped by the report confirm that ethnic and religious schisms have become entrenched across much of the country, even as monthly American fatalities have fallen. Those indications, taken with recent reports of mass migrations from mixed Sunni-Shiite areas, show that Iraq is undergoing a de facto partitioning along ethnic and sectarian lines, with clashes — sometimes political, sometimes violent — taking place in those mixed areas where different groups meet.

And American fatalities are declining because there is already a de facto level of disengagement in some of the most violent areas. We have decided there is simply nothing we can do in those areas, and it's probably true. Still, this is a problem entirely of our creation, and the consequences of pulling out for good will be a sectarian bloodbath.

The report, the first of its kind, was written over a six-week period by a joint civilian and military group in Baghdad that wanted to provide a baseline assessment for conditions that new reconstruction teams would face as they were deployed to the provinces, said Daniel Speckhard, an American ambassador in Baghdad who oversees reconstruction efforts.

The writers included officials from the American Embassy's political branch, reconstruction agencies and the American military command in Baghdad, Mr. Speckhard said. The authors also received information from State Department officers in the provinces, he said.

The report was part of a periodic briefing on Iraq that the State Department provides to Congress, and has been shown to officials on Capitol Hill, including those involved in budgeting for the reconstruction teams. It is not clear how many top American officials have seen it; the report has not circulated widely at the Defense Department or the National Security Council, spokesmen there said.

A copy of the report, which is not classified, was provided to The New York Times by a government official in Washington who said the confidential assessment provided a more realistic gauge of stability in Iraq than the recent portrayals by senior military officers.

Translation: Junior hasn't had anyone read it to him yet. He's too busy plotting his next fuck-up in Iran (more on that later).

Read the whole report. Notice that even in provinces listed at governmentally "stable", such as Najaf and Karbala, the report expresses concern at inreasing levels of influence and association with the Iranian government. Gee, if only someone could have foreseen such a problem....

The Family That Preys Together

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell may be fairly referred to as the Katherine Harris of the 2004 election. Blackwell notoriously gamed the system as much as he could for his party masters, used his state office for partisan gain, and notoriously disqualified thousands of Ohio ballots because they were the wrong sort of paper stock. For his loyal service, like Harris, Blackwell is attempted to capitalize on his perfidy by parlaying it into higher office, by running for governor of Ohio.

Turns out Blackwell's got his little fingers in some conflict-of-interest cookie jars, as well as some businesses whose products he has actively campaigned against on social and moral grounds.

Although he opposes potential November ballot initiatives to permit slot machines at Ohio’s horse-racing tracks, Republican gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell holds stock in the world’s leading maker of slot machines.


Blackwell, who opposes abortion rights, also holds stock in Barr Pharmaceuticals, maker of the controversial Plan B, or the morning-after pill, to prevent pregnancy. Many Catholics and conservative Christians believe that emergency contraception can cause an early abortion.

So let me get this straight -- a conservative scold turns out to be a sanctimonious hypocrite, profiting handsomely from that which he condemns? Really, I am shocked. You could knock me over with a feather.

And these self-righteous fools wonder why we hold them in such contempt. Well, because you insist on letting yourselves get rooked, over and over again, by people like Ken Blackwell. At a certain point, people just figure that maybe it really is morally wrong to allow suckers to keep their money.

But here's where it gets really good:

Blackwell also revealed this week that he owned stock last year in voting-machine manufacturer Diebold while his office negotiated a contract with the North Canton company, although Blackwell said the stock was bought by his financial manager without his knowledge.

They hardly even bother trying to hide it any more. They know there are just enough morons who will reflexively assume it's a witch hunt by the librul media. Shit, if only there were a truly liberal media. I think there's a huge story in how Ohio went down in '04. I think there's a tremendous disconnect between our reaction to the Ukraine elections at the time (discrepancy between exit polls and election returns was too large to be ignored) and the Ohio election (exit polls are useless because they didn't jibe with results). I do not understand how a company like Diebold can get away with dozens of reports of defective machines (all defects, curiously, accruing only to Bush), lack of transparency in implementation and maintenance of source code, and a well-known Republican bias announced in writing by the company's CEO.

There is enough muck in this Ohio mess to qualify the state as a Superfund site. What say we leave Brangelina and Tomkat alone for a couple days and do some investimagating, o keepers of the journamalistic flame? Maybe we can pry Tweety Matthews' lips from the Bugchaser's schlong just long enough to make him look into a real story.

Yes, and maybe monkeys will fly out of Donald Rumsfeld's ass at his next bullshit session with the "real" journamalists.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Taking A Leak

There is no need to belabor the backstory on Bush being revealed as the Leaker In Chief, and already the usual goon squad of lackeys and shills are on the prowl to falsely differentiate between "good" leaking and "bad" leaking. The term "leaking" itself is pretty loaded to begin with, obviously, since it is an all-too-common mode of disseminating official talking points without having to bear the direct scrutiny and responsibility for them.

The bottom line is quite apparent, and the response to those who would attempt to finesse the finer points of leaking is simple -- if Bush wanted to defend himself from Joe Wilson's scurrilous denunciations, then maybe a press conference would have been in order, rather than filtering it down through Scooter Libby's good-time girl (even though she had proven quite adept at swallowing pretty much anything and everything by then).

I dunno. The deniers and defenders keep asking for proof of Bush's bad faith in all this. How many memos must come out of Britain, how many more instances of Bush's clear disregard for law and for credibility do they have to be slapped upside the head with?

We are long past the point where it should simply be assumed that the remaining 30-35% of core supporters are operating out of either ignorance or pure spite. Fuck 'em already. I wouldn't want someone so brain-dead to suddenly jump to my side anyway, that it took them this long to figure it out.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Gospel Of Thomas

Jesus said, "Don't lie, and don't do what you hate, because all things are disclosed before heaven. After all, there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and there is nothing covered up that will remain undisclosed."

-- The Gospel Of Thomas, Logion 6

Rep. Tom DeLay vowed today that although he will quit Congress, he has no plans to leave national politics. Instead, he plans to fashion a role for himself as a grass-roots leader of social conservatives.

The former House majority leader's plans met with mixed reaction from other Republicans, including some social conservatives.

Some said DeLay, a formidable fundraiser and self-described born-again Christian who still enjoys broad support within the religious right community, could quickly become a force to be reckoned with.

-- Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2006

While I have certainly never been shy about taking shots at the publicly pious, I have generally taken pains to differentiate between spiritual individuals (even though I may disagree with the specifics of their belief system) and the predations of the politically-organized bands of holy soldiers that lay waste to the country's political landscape. It is their cynical manipulation of religion as much as their sheer mendacity that is so off-putting. Even more so is that suckers continue to line up for an endless supply of the nonsense these hucksters generate.

Needless to say, Tom DeLay has been the poster boy for these wicked political machinations since the day he decided he was tired of killing his fellow cockroaches, and wanted instead to infest the government of the United States.

Paul Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, a grass-roots conservative organization, scoffed at the notion that DeLay would become a leader of social conservatives. "As an elected official, when he called conservatives together, he was in a position to do so," Weyrich said. "On what basis does he operate from the outside?"

Leaders of the movement may be nervous about DeLay's plans, said a political analyst who asked not to be named because of a close relationship to DeLay, "because there is a new big guy on the block who knows how to do this better than anybody. They might be thinking about their own existence…. I think the way Jack Kemp tapped into the libertarian side of Republicans, he can do the same with evangelicals and fundamental conservatives."

DeLay, along with being a primary source of the corruption in the House -- and what was once the conservative movement, for that matter -- is a symptom of a much larger problem, that of the unholy confluence between movementarians and professional evangelicals. The neocons, many of whom are merely disaffected Trotskyites from the sixties, have capitalized on this alliance in a spectacularly destructive fashion. Not only will it take decades to undo the policy damage they've wrought on the country as a whole, but the dumbing down of their followers may take generations to counter, if it can be countered at all.

Kristen Marz, 36, a DeLay supporter, spoke with a reporter in Sugar Land's Town Center while loading groceries into her SUV on Tuesday.

She would have voted for DeLay this fall despite his legal troubles, Marz said.

"I think he's a good guy," she said. "I don't think he did anything wrong, but it seems like he did, so he's suffering the consequences. I think he decided to stop now rather than drag his name and his family through another election. Wouldn't you? … I guess it all caught up with him."

Seriously, I'm just not sure how somebody gets through life being that fucking stupid. You'd think that even involuntary functions, like breathing or hydration, might be a bit much for such a gastropod. And yet, this idiot no doubt votes every other year for Bugchaser, and worse yet, she's proud of that shit.

It's not as if she's the only moron, obviously. Who else but committed evangelicals could hold sway over all three branches of American government, make trouble for television networks who dare to show something that offends their delicate sensitivities, pollute the political climate so badly that any candidate for office higher than dog-catcher must genuflect to them, and still whine like the little bitches they are about how much they're persecuted?

This week, radio commentator Rick Scarborough convened a two-day conference in Washington on the "War on Christians and the Values Voters in 2006." The opening session was devoted to "reports from the frontlines" on "persecution" of Christians in the United States and Canada, including an artist whose paintings were barred from a municipal art show in Deltona, Fla., because they contained religious themes.

"It doesn't rise to the level of persecution that we would see in China or North Korea," said Tristan Emmanuel, a Canadian activist. "But let's not pretend that it's okay."

Wow. Being barred from a municipal art show. Gosh, these poor buggers are just getting tossed to the lions right and left, aren't they? Hey, at least that schmuck made the brave acknowledgement that it doesn't rise to the level of China or North Korea. That took real guts, man. Hope the atheist Nazis who run the country don't toss your rebel ass into the gulag for daring to speak Truth To Power.

Among the conference's speakers were former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) as well as conservative Christian leaders Phyllis Schlafly, Rod Parsley, Gary Bauer, Janet Parshall and Alan Keyes.

Good Lord. Just reading those names gives me a fuckin' headache. These people have done more damage to this country, just by holding people back literally for generations with a ginned-up mix of superstition and fear, than they will ever know.

Anyway. So where did these brave souls of heartless persecution hold their secretive meeting, far away from the ever-watchful eye of the godless Big Brother? Was there some sort of Underground Railroad that facilitated their discussion? Is Phyllis Schlafly really an evangelical Harriet Tubman in a Bozo wig?

To many of the 400 evangelicals packed into a small ballroom at the Omni Shoreham Hotel [emphasis mine], it was a hard but necessary look at moral relativism, hedonism and Christophobia, or fear of Christ, to pick just a few terms offered by various speakers referring to the enemy.

Here's the website for the DC Omni Shoreham Hotel. On the one hand, it is somewhat conforting to know that only 400 people attended (though at $2K per head, no doubt). On the other hand, this bespeaks either profound levels of cynicism, or an astonishing display of delusion. (Or, as always, both.) Either way, enough is quite enough. These people are simply either too dangerous or too stupid to be entrusted with responsibility over the lives of 300 million Americans. Not Christians, not Jews. Not religiously or ethnically hyphenated hybrids. Americans. This is a team, and our success or failure as a team depends on having qualified personnel, people who are smart, knowledgeable, and have an understanding of the world and our role in it. These idiots are none of those things, obviously.

So here's the deal. It's going to take a two-pronged approach, I think. The first prong is completely political, and thus requires a serious, coordinated, consistent effort by the Democratic Party. DeLay's post-Congress career takes one of two directions, depending on whether he does time or not. If he does time, he resurfaces as a Chuck Colson type, schmoozing the political evangelicals. After all, that's where the real money is. If he somehow avoids time, then he goes into lobbying.

Either way, every Democrat worth their salt must resolve to make the rest of Tom DeLay's life hell. That will be the only way to to prevent him and his kind from infesting this nation's policy-making apparatus ever again. Make an example of him. Lay down the facts again and again and again, until the very word "DeLay" makes people nauseous and irritable, like an episode of The View. Literally make it impossible for him to ever even operate on the margins of public life again without constant scrutiny. Put it this way -- even if DeLay does ten years of hard time in the state pen, and comes out deciding just to run for dog-catcher in Sugar Land, make an issue out of it. DeLay wanted strong-arm tactics and scorched-earth campaigns, give it to him. Impale him on the sword he used with such glee for so many years.

The second prong is much trickier, and cultural rather than political in nature. It will require care and tact, and the participation of much more than merely politicians. There are reasons that religion and politics do not mix well, and these reasons must be clearly and calmly explained to people of faith. It is to protect them just as much as the rest of us. This is where religious moderates and leftists will be instrumental.

This would not be a cynical attempt to encourage religious people to completely divest themselves from the political arena. Quite the opposite. But there is a sizable minority of people out there, however well-intentioned they believe themselves to be, who have subsisted on this destructive, artificial culture war they keep initiating every time some piece of shit like DeLay sucks up to them for votes.

To be sure, it's impossible to take the piss out of all the true believers, which is why they need to be seriously marginalized, along with their sideshow carny spokesmen. It's hard to believe, but there was a time when these third-rate Elmer Gantrys were not even close to being real political players. "Pat" Robertson, Tony Perkins, Sun Myung Moon, all of them, need to go back to church and stay there. The question needs to be posed to the people, however diplomatically it can be posed: Do you want to continue down the destructive path of mindless dogmatism and self-righteous sectarianism, or do you want to run a serious, efficient, pluralistic society that respects and protects everyone's rights -- Christian, Jew, Hindu, Wiccan, atheist?

This does not mean that people should or should not believe in whatever they feel they need to believe in. It means that it's none of the government's business, nor is it in the national interest to promote and protect one belief system over all others. It is high time that these demagogues were held accountable for their words, deeds, and strategies, and that their congregations were also held responsible for shirking their civic duty over manufactured culture pushbacks.

And the downfall of one of the most corrupt members of Congress in recent memory provides the perfect impetus to get that wedge issue going. Hang DeLay around the neck of every Republican that refuses to denounce his actions, and around necks of the self-styled pseudo-Christians who are far more obsessed with telling everybody how holy they are than with showing us by actually following the teachings of Christ. You know, loving your neighbor, helping the poor, blessed are the peacemakers, all that.

DeLay is their pig. It's time to make them live with him and his shit.