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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Schmecurity

Apparently the Bushies have cribbed their port security plan from their Social Security plan.

A United Arab Emirates government-owned company is poised to take over port terminal operations in 21 American ports, far more than the six widely reported.

The Bush administration has approved the takeover of British-owned Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to DP World, a deal set to go forward March 2 unless Congress intervenes.

P&O is the parent company of P&O Ports North America, which leases terminals for the import and export and loading and unloading and security of cargo in 21 ports, 11 on the East Coast, ranging from Portland, Maine to Miami, Florida, and 10 on the Gulf Coast, from Gulfport, Miss., to Corpus Christi, Texas, according to the company's Web site.


How the holy hell did six become 21 is what I'd like to know. "Oh, by the way, those six you've been talking about all week long? Here's another fifteen we forgot about. Our bad."

And hey, I wonder just how the good folks in Gulfport and Corpus Christi feel about their boy now? Can't say you weren't warned.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R- Va., said he will request from both the U.S. attorney general and the Senate committee's legal counsel a finding on the administration's interpretation of the 1992 amendment.

Adding to the controversy is the fact Congress was not notified of the deal. Kimmitt said Congress is periodically updated on completed CFIUS decisions, but is proscribed from initiating contact with Congress about pending deals. It may respond to congressional inquiries on those cases only.

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley stated in a letter to Bush on Feb. 21 that he specifically requested to be kept abreast of foreign investments that may have national security implications. He made the request in the wake of a controversial Chinese proposal to purchase an oil company last year.

"Obviously, my request fell on deaf ears. I am disappointed that I was neither briefed nor informed of this sale prior to its approval. Instead, I read about it in the media," he wrote.


Awww. Poor Chuck Grassley is feeling a bit unloved. Maybe he should take it up with Bill Frist, who just pulled a serious 180º on the ports issue from his earlier principled critiques.

This is the part in the ventriloquist act when the dummy pretends he's not really a dummy. Good luck with that one, girls. Make sure to explain it to your constituents; I'm sure they'll appreciate the heads-up.

Central to the debate is the fact that the United Arab Emirates, while a key ally of the United States in the Middle East, has had troubling ties to terrorist networks, according to the Sept. 11 Commission report. It was one of the few countries in the world that recognized the al-Qaida-friendly Taliban government in Afghanistan; al-Qaida funneled millions of dollars through the U.A.E. financial sector; and A.Q. Khan, the notorious Pakistani nuclear technology smuggler, used warehouses near the Dubai port as a key transit point for many of his shipments.

Since the terrorist attacks, it has cut ties with the Taliban, frozen just over $1 million in alleged terrorist funding, and given the United States key military basing and over-flight rights. At any given time, there are 77,000 U.S. service members on leave in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Pentagon.


Well, shit, then I suggest we endorse Bill Maher's idea and outsource Secret Service protection to them while we're at it. Not such a hot idea now, Harvard?

[via Americablog]

A Stern Line In The Avocado Dip

Wolcott uncorks that brilliant jab at conservabot über-tool Billy Kristol, who offered his sage assessment on Faux News that we have simply not been "serious" in our prosecution of the Iraq War. Untrue, Billy. That's the whole problem -- this was the best your gang could do. Every single policy measure or emergency response they've mustered since, from Medicare to Katrina, has only confirmed it. They're incompetent chumps who have cluttered the decision-making process -- that damned Beltway bureaucracy they so loudly declaim -- with their hand-picked idiot cronies. They fired everybody who had a clue and dared to speak up with the truth, and replaced them with yes-men.

The Times offers up some standard-issue speculation as to what an Iraq civil war might entail, as if weren't already under way. One section reminded me of something I've been remiss in reiterating:

Some experts have advocated a negotiated breakup of Iraq into three main sectors for the main ethnic and religious groupings. But a violent crackup could not easily be kept stable.

It might well incite sectarian conflicts in neighboring countries and, even worse, draw these countries into taking sides in Iraq itself. Iran would side with the Shiites. It is already allied with the biggest Shiite militias, some of whose members seemed to be involved in the retaliatory attacks on Sunnis after the Shiite shrine bombing last week.

And Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait would feel a need to defend Sunnis or perhaps to create buffer states for themselves along Iraq's borders. Turkey might also feel compelled to move in, to protect Iraq's Turkoman minority against a Kurdish state in the north.

If Iraq were to sink deeper into that kind of conflict, Baghdad and other cities could become caldrons of ethnic cleansing, bringing revenge violence from one region to another. Shiite populations in Lebanon, Kuwait and especially Saudi Arabia, where Shiites happen to live in the oil-rich eastern sector, could easily revolt. Such a regional conflict could take years to exhaust itself, and could force the redrawing of boundaries that themselves are less than 100 years old.

"A civil war in Iraq would be a kind of earthquake affecting the whole Middle East," said Terje Roed-Larsen, the special United Nations envoy for Lebanon and previously for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "It would deepen existing cleavages and create new cleavages in a part of the world that is already extremely fragile and extremely dangerous. I'm not predicting this will happen, but it is a plausible worst-case scenario."


Regional destabilization was one of the primary arguments against invasion from the outset, during that innocent summer of 2002 when we were all just debating the idea academically. And time and time again, I recall that one of the most frequent responses from the hardcore advocates of invasion, in the jargon of the technocrat, was that destabilization would not be a flaw, but a feature. Indeed, it was a cornerstone of the PNAC agenda. And it was easy to see where they were coming from, in abstract principle -- we were looking at a bunch of dictatorships run by inbred clans, keeping a lid on fundamentalist fanatics. Something had to give in the wake of 9/11. So far, so good.

But the holy mission to motivate fanatics to unfuck themselves hit a snag -- it assumed for some reason that they couldn't possibly be more fanatical, or become organized in their fanaticism, or recruit ever more fanatics -- or hell, just retaliate out of nationalist sentiment. The premise was apparently that they would just be so instantly wowed by our winsome combination of massively superior firepower and moral clarity that they'd instantly surrender.

How's that been workin' for ya? Conservatives are now in disarray, as they try to decide amongst themselves whether we just haven't tried hard enough up to now (Kristol) or if we just need to learn when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em (Buckley, O'Reilly, George Fwill). And their figurehead has proven, even as he makes the rounds with the same speech he had in '02, that he was never up to the rigors of the job at hand, with or without starting a war.

Would that this lesson not have come at such an impossible cost in blood and treasure, but the movementarians are now inexorably sliding toward a chaos of thought, a collapsing of the Borg, if you will (and you might). It's about to get even more interesting, and not in a particularly good way.

Getting Their Story Straight

Like the proverbial ant farm that has been dropped and dashed to bits on the ground, cursing its inhabitants with sweet, sweet freedom, the minions at the Corner of J-Pod Cul de Sac and Doughy Pantload Boulevard begin walking back their senior conservatives' newfound heresy on the Iraq War. Enter Serious Thinker Ramesh Ponnuru:

William F. Buckley Jr. has been skeptical about the Iraq venture for some time. Two years ago he said that if he had known before the war that Saddam Hussein had no WMD, he would have opposed the war. The mosque bombing appears to have been the final straw for him.


At least Buckley, gin-soaked poltroon that he is, has a final straw. But note Ponnuru's dismissive tone here: "Oh yeah, Bill says he would have opposed the war if he had known beforehand that Saddam had no WMD." Well, no shit, Sherlock. Everyone would have opposed it at that circumstance. That was the fucking selling point, no matter what ex post facto reasoning of convenience the Kool-Aid Brigade would like to pull out of their asses.

But implicit in this is that Buckley was some sort of conservative outlier, some sort of heterodox maverick, in a circus tent where each clown is so damned sure that he's the one driving the overstuffed Volkswagen. Not gonna fly, Ramesh. Buckley is number one Superfly O.G. conservative gangsta, ya heard? This whole "Bill doesn't speak for the rest of us shit" is dead right out of the gate. Just because Buckley has chosen to mix copious amounts of Bombay Sapphire into his Kool-Aid doesn't mean y'all haven't been drinking out of the same trough for the past three years. Now it's "Bill who?".

This is a refinement and extension of Bill's position in response to new circumstances. It's not a case in which a full-throated supporter of the war turned on it and came out for an immediate withdrawal. He wasn't a full-throated supporter of the war, and he hasn't (yet?) come out for immediate withdrawal.


Again, the passive-aggressive modality, steering Buckley into the corral with the rest of the naysayers. Ponnuru can't come out and call Buckley a traitor, as if he were Howard Dean or something, because that would mean a new career start for Ponnuru, one that would likely involve the exchange of fruit and trinkets for small-denomination bills at the freeway off-ramp.

Perhaps Ponnuru and his fellow armchair warriors might take a tip from Buckley -- who despite his manifold faults, is not an idiot -- and understand that nuance has its place, particularly in hugely important issues such as this.

I myself think that Bill's conclusion is premature.


I myself have little patience for twee faux-thinkers who lard their prose with reflexive pronouns. And I myself wonder just what the hell it would take for Ponnuru and his fellow Serious Thinkers to get the damned message, that even if their casus belli had been legit, this whole adventure has been handled so ineptly, so inexcusably poor in its postwar phase that sensible people can only marvel that its architects are still employed.

Yet Ponnuru lightly chastens Buckley for his "premature" conclusion. Jesus H. Christ, what exactly does it take to make the scales fall from your eyes at this point, Chief? Are we just being obstinate for the sake of being obstinate, simply to avoid acknowledging that someone else might have been right all along about this entirely avoidable fiasco?

Perhaps the mighty Cockpuncher of Fresno State has the answer. At this point, Hanson's impassioned missives are the columnar equivalent of sausage -- lots of filler and floor sweepings. You can't help but assume that if his wife cooked him a Belgian waffle for breakfast, he'd find a way to harrumph a four-point pronunciamento on the parallels of waffles to the latter stages of the Peloponnesian War.

The insurgency in Iraq has no military capability either to drive the United States military from Iraq or to stop the American training of Iraqi police and security forces — or, for that matter, to derail the formation of a new government.


Actually, they've done exactly that. Hanson's premise is undone from the very first sentence, in the second clause, if not yet the first. Even if we left with our tail between our legs, and the rest of the world were pointing at said tail, we'd never admit it, so that first clause is rendered inoperable anyway. (But if you don't think we're just another bombing or two away from a "peace with honor" marketing campaign, you haven't been paying attention.)

But if Hanson can explain why the training of Iraqi defense forces has gone so dismally without some attribution to the capabilities of the insurgency, I'd like to hear his thesis. That would be a pretty neat trick, seeing as how that's exactly how it's come down. Baathists, sectarians, and Kurdish separatists have steadily infiltrated the ranks of IDF conscripts, either thwarting the training outright, or forming units to serve their own needs over that of the country.

So you have Shia death squads murdering Sunnis, Kurdish peshmerga ensuring that they will have some measure of autonomy sooner rather than later (thus inciting similar Kurdish separatist movements in Turkey and Iran), and anti-American Saddamists monkey-wrenching the whole operation just because they can. How else would Thucydides Gump here explain the drop of stand-alone battalions from one to zero?

First, through the use of improvised explosive devices (IED), assassinations, and suicide bombings, they hope to make the Iraqi hinterlands and suburbs appear so unstable and violent that the weary American public says “enough of these people” and calls home its troops before the country is stabilized. In such a quest, the terrorists have an invaluable ally in the global media, whose “if it bleeds, it leads” brand of journalism always favors the severed head in the street over the completion of yet another Iraqi school. [emphases mine]


Y'know, I have been as passionate a critic of the network media's mores and standards as the next guy. I find their content and coverage generally callow and gutless, dancing endlessly around the facts of the story in order to maintain the veneer of "objectivity". But Gump overtly implies here that the media have simply caused the appearance of violence and instability, by their selective focus. In other words, it's not nearly as bad as they make it sound.

Tell it to Bob Woodruff, asshole. He took the shrapnel while you were humping Good Dick Hunting's leg for a dinner date. Perhaps he miracled said shrapnel into his face just to make Chimpco look bad. They are a nefarious, tricksy lot, the media. Anything for a story. Just because you get to hang in the Green Zone for some syrupy "truth tour" doesn't make you Moses handing received wisdom down from Mount Sinai.

Can-do Americans courageously go about their duty in Iraq — mostly unafraid that a culture of 2,000 years, the reality of geography, the sheer forces of language and religion, the propaganda of the state-run Arab media, and the cynicism of the liberal West are all stacked against them.


2000 years? Perhaps Pericles merely means the current culture, but obviously there are cities here that are 8000 years old, eons before Gump's go-to war between Athens and Sparta. Whatever. This is not a matter of a feckless citizenry so besotted with leftist cynicism that they sold their own troops down the Tigris, this is a case of a shamefully hubristic cabal of secretive bastards who got the war they wanted and still fucked it up immeasurably. There is no walking back of those facts, no matter how Hanson would like to have them.

And yet he persists, as today's cherry-pick demonstrates.

Screaming Iraqis and mangled body parts still dominate Americans' nightly two minutes of news from Iraq. And, indeed, Iraq is still a scary place within the Sunni Triangle.


Sure. Just within the Sunni Triangle it's "scary". Basra, al Anbar, not so much. Right. There is relative stability in the south because the Shia are cleaning house with death squads. There is relative stability in the north because the Kurds are getting their ducks in a row by securing their oil interests. And once we leave, who's to say that the masses in the south won't want a taste of the north's petrodollars?

But again, this is all the media's fault for feeding these baseless impressions we have of this applecart we knocked over.

Opposition politicians in the United States charge that our troops don't have enough body protection or heavily armored Humvees — suggesting that our fighters have been almost criminally ignored.


Any troops that have to ride in ghetto-armored vehicles, or whose families have to buy body armor for them to wear in combat, have been criminally ignored. I don't give two shits if it's Hillary Clinton or John McCain who has the temerity to point that out, and neither should Hanson. But he is determined to beat these tiresome tropes right into the ground -- the media, the opposition, the cynics; the media, the opposition, the cynics.

Well, bullshit. Who you gonna believe -- Hanson, or your own lyin' eyes?

But Iraq, like all wars, is not static. What was supposedly true on the ground in Iraq in 2003 is not necessarily so in 2006 — in the way that the situation in Europe in 1943 hardly resembled that of May 1945.

Yet while things have changed radically in Iraq, the pessimistic tone of our reporting remains calcified. Little is written about the new Iraqi government, the emergence of the Iraqi security forces or the radically changing role of the American military.


Actually, there's been an enormous amount of coverage of the Iraqi government, its elections, its people braving violence to show up and vote. The coverage has been there, even when it hasn't been fully warranted; much of it had the redolent whiff of the in-house propaganda puff pieces that the Bushies have become infamous for.

And as much as the December elections got reverential coverage, Hanson's right about one thing -- very little coverage was devoted to the fact that it took over a month to figure out who won. Very little coverage has been devoted to the fact that all of these elections in the past year have been conducted under stringent martial law conditions, and observed from Amman, Jordan. Hmmm, I wonder why that could be? Institutionalized pessimism, I suppose.

Almost every media stereotype about the American military vanishes when visiting frontline bases. The world still sees dated Abu Ghraib photos, not Iraqi civilians receiving topflight care in the emergency room in the American-run hospital in Baghdad.


Christ. Hanson, like the rest of them, still doesn't get it -- the real crime of Abu Ghraib was not simply what was portrayed in the photos (selectively, one imagines Hanson intoning soberly), but that despite the coverups, it's becoming more and more clear that this was policy. This was not a few bad apples venting their homoerotic steam on hapless detainees. The similarities between interrogation techniques used at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and Bagram are simply too close to be merely coincidental. And all Secdef Magoo can do is give smartass ripostes to serious questions about the needless defamation of American reputation.

That the Abu Ghraib photos are now a couple years old (and thus "old news" presumably) is merely a testament to just how difficult it is for justice to penetrate the wall of silence that always surrounds official atrocities. How long did it take for something (which turned out to be far too little) to be done about My Lai? Did the inexcusable span of time somehow diminish the vile nature of the crime? Does it ever, for any crime? Of course not. So one is not the other. It's nice that we're no longer torturing people at Abu Ghraib (supposedly). That does not mean that the Iraqis aren't doing it themselves, nor does it mean that what we already know should go unanswered.

It was nearly an impossible task to remove Saddam Hussein, foster democracy in the heart of the ancient caliphate and restore on a relatively short timetable what took the Husseins three decades to destroy. Meanwhile, all this must be done surrounded by Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia; in the midst of a larger war against Islamic fundamentalism; and while under global scrutiny from a largely hostile audience.

Yet what amazes is not so much the audacity of even thinking the United States could attempt such a thing, but rather that it may just pull it off after all — if only we remain patient.


I think every serious player in both political parties will soon have to address a very serious question -- if you knew then what you know now, would you have done the same thing in the same fashion, and why or why not? It is time the nation had a truly serious conversation about the subject, hopefully short on the usual furbelows of Freedom™ and Democracy®, and how we're changing the region. Because so far only a liar or a fool could say that the region has changed for the better. The Cedar Revolution seems to have petered out; Egypt had a dog-and-pony show of an election that could only have been a bigger joke if it had used Diebold machines; the Palestinians voted in a terrorist organization.

Really, the big winner in all of this has been Iran, and Hanson knows it as well as anyone. He can get his rocks off shooting AK-47's at Balad all he wants, but he knows the truth. We've painted ourselves into a major corner here, and the calls for "patience" fall on deaf ears. It's been three long years since we were told that the mission was accomplished. The country is going broke, and the bloodbath continues unabated. Plaintive whimpers for "patience" must now be tempered with real vision and planning, something that no one in this diseased administration seems able or willing to conjure up.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The System Has Failed

So it appears that either the Dubai Ports World takeover rollout got ahead of the usual bullshit marketing campaign, or these dumbfucks seriously thought that, after almost five fucking years of constant hysteria mongering and solemn invocations of "security concerns", nobody would notice. Then, when caught on the issue, they couldn't even get their story straight as to whether C-Plus Augustus had even been brought up to speed on this shit in the first place.

I mean, we all knew these people were fucking incompetent already, but jeebus, they seem extra intent on proving it as of late.

I am not terribly concerned in particular that DPW got the contract bid. The next highest bidder was a company based in Singapore, so the more generalized concern is that outsourcing this is de rigueur. Either we are serious about port security, or we are not. The fact that we try to rationalize this by pointing at the few dollars we save, while we throw our grandchildren's money at everything else, bespeaks a profound lack of seriousness.

This just in, Harvard. Spend the extra money. Tighten up the homegrown ranks. Have an American company do American port security, and by god truly run herd over it. Of course, were that to happen, it would be just another no-bid contract for Halliburton or KBR (which is now an offshoot rather than a division of the former).

Globalization handjobs aside, Dubai seems to be a singularly bad choice for this sensitive mission. This is a city-state which is rather notorious as a nexus for drugs and arms smuggling, whose royal family was cozy with the Taliban from the early days, and even apparently enjoyed an informal, undeclared cease-fire when they last visited the Afghanistan/Pakistan area. How sporting of us.

As if that weren't enough, Dubai is the current home of Michael Jackson. People, won't you connect the dots?

In the meantime, it seems that even the valiant attempts by the mainstream media to cheerlead the folly have at long last collapsed ignominiously, as the Middle East meltdown continues unabated, and the Iraqi Defense Forces may be even more unprepared than previously thought. When your number of stand-alone battalions drops precipitously from one to none, that may be a clue.

Another clue is that even the lead rats are starting to desert the rapidly tanking USS Chimpco. Well, too fuckin' bad, dears. You wanted this little geopolitical experiment, you got it in spades. That weird feeling on your collective backsides is this fucking debacle being tied to your tail. Still, this is telling, this en masse desertion. After all, these people are whores, and they have nowhere to go from here. It's not as if a grateful "left" (as if such an entity actually existed) would take Buckley and O'Falafel in and reward them for their apostasy.

Nope. These people were warned and warned again, and all they could do was sneer and scoff. And now the quail have come home to roost. Yes, there are many who reluctantly went along with the invasion at the last minute, myself included, but I think most of us walked back from that around the time Colin Powell got as honest with us as he's ever going to get -- that is, when he jumped ship 1½ years ago. And that was at the latest; most people who were paying attention, rather than parroting recooked boilerplate, realized something was seriously amiss a couple months after the mission was supposed to have been accomplished.

Whatever the case, there is no intellectually honest case to be made for the administration's handling of Iraq, at any stage thus far, or in the foreseeable future. This can't be emphasized enough. This is not a case of hindsight merely being 20/20, this is a case of facts that were sat on when they were relevant and immediately actionable, finally coming to light long after it's far too late. This is a case of the reckless mal-fee-ance and shortsighted wishful thinking finally becoming not only apparent, but incredibly obvious.

This is a case of people who have made careers out of pretending to be more competent and more in tune with military and security matters, lampooning and condemning the opposition party, while proving incontrovertibly to be shamefully incompetent and inadequate in those areas.

And what are we worried about? Fucking stunt legislation from useless states where no one with any sense lives.

I dunno, folks. This is so much bigger than the stupid port security scandal; at best, that may simply end up being the proverbial back-breaking straw. But all these things -- including the stunt law in South Dakota -- beg for organized and forceful response. This simply will not stand anymore. This is unacceptable, a domestic policy that veers between malign neglect and god-bothering nonsense, and a foreign policy that is nominally headed by someone who is clearly not in the loop, and utterly ignorant of the ramifications.

It will not be nearly enough to simply eke out a victory in the midterms by triangulating the conservatards' message, and learning to speak in tongues, or whatever the vogue phrase is for catering to megachurch morons. Put simply, this has to go down as an asskicking; the pro-life loons with their stunt legislation must be beaten back to their caves, and the sheer incompetence and shameless cronyism of Chimpco has to be brought to the forefront.

The "conventional wisdom" has it that Democrats are afraid that their votes for the war will haunt them if they try anything funny. Not so. They didn't sign on for this bullshit. If Chuck Hagel can say so, then Chuck Schumer can say so. It really is that simple, and it really is that crucial. This country is at a very dangerous point, where a deflated Republican Party and a gutless Democratic Party could inadvertently make room for a real populist demagogue. People are tired, burnt out from the stress of constant war and fear and a moribund economy owned more and more by China. Enabled by a supine media, it is not unthinkable that a Dobson-type loon could bankroll a serious, politically destructive run at some higher political offices.

So let's hope that the Dems look at how the stars have aligned for them as of late, and just fucking go for it. Take your game to them; these people do not fight well on their heels. And before long, only the wingiest of the wingnuts will be left to defend the battlements anyway. If O'Falafel's folding, a lot more are going to follow suit.

If not now, when, and if not you, then who?

Monday, February 20, 2006

There's Something About Mary

Generally I avoid the Sunday morning political wankfests like the plague anyway, but I particularly avoid Press The Meat, due to my low tolerance for Father Tim's fulsome nonsense and wink-and-a-nod conspiratorial countenance. It's impossible for me to watch even two seconds of this show and not think about how he's in on it all. He's not an objective observer or commentator, he's part of the problem.

And yet, swamp thing Mary Matalin's bravura flackery for Good Dick Hunting got major buzz on the internets today, so I decided to catch the MSNBC rerun tonight while dicking around with a couple of Kreutzer etudes. (I find that having mindless background noise going while I'm practicing pieces and scales and such actually helps my concentration, in an oddly dissociative way that's hard to describe, but that most musicians (especially guitarists) understand. Once you have acquired the basic positions and fingerings of a piece, it's actually easier to develop intermediate muscle memory when you're not obsessing and hovering over it. So I'm big on watching Letterman while playing a Bach violin partita or some such. I am considering getting a life eventually.)

And when it comes to mindless background noise, MTP certainly fit the bill. Particularly ironic is that Li'l Russ devoted the first portion of the telecast to a one-on-one with Michael Chertoff, rehashing everything that went down with Hurricane Katrina last summer. I say this is ironic because I believe that it is actually Katrina that serves as the lodestar in pinpointing Dick Cheney's sense of humanity, his moral compass.

It simply cannot be overemphasized that in a time of immense crisis, when hundreds of thousands of his countrymen truly needed him, he could not be counted on even to cut his fucking fishing trip short. I know about technological advances; I understand that they have state-of-the-art equipment even out in Jackson Hole. That is not the point, and people who claim not to grasp it are simply being disingenuous. When confronted with an enormous disaster -- particularly one that had been anticipated, and one which everyone had been duly warned about -- a real leader steps up and asks, "What can we do to help?". He does not pretend to play a git-tar and dawdle for three whole days; nor does he keep fishing for five whole days.

Suffice to say, that one event tells you everything you need to know about what kind of a man Cheney (and Bush, for that matter) is; his handling of the hunting accident just reinforces that conclusion. Leave it to our intrepid media to dutifully ignore that pattern.

Anyway, Mary Matalin, she of the tiresomely high-profile marriage to fellow circus geek James Carville. Where to start? Pretty much everyone has already unloaded their snark on her appearance, and it was indeed unfortunate, a style that may best be described as Walmart Dragon Queen, somewhere between Katherine Harris and Cruella DeVil. About the only thing missing was a coat made of Dalmatian puppies. Just really unpleasant to look at, in stark contrast to Maureen Dowd, who was pleasant and understated in both appearance and demeanor. MoDo seemed to understand right away that there was nothing to be gained by trying to keep up with Matalin's histrionics, and was content to let Matalin dig her own hole (shudder).

But that's mean and cheap, and by golly, we're about the substance here at the Hammer. So let's look at some of that substance:

MR. RUSSERT: Initially, there was—seemed to be an attempt to blame Mr. Whittington. Was the vice president part of that? Aware of it?

MS. MARY MATALIN: Absolutely not. When I spoke to the vice president Sunday morning, he made it more than clear that it was his fault, no matter what the conditions, no matter how much the shared risk. That this should not be blamed on Harry. What happens here is that’s not the first account. That’s the wire account of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. The very first account, Katharine Armstrong just lays out the facts, and she includes in there how apologetic the vice president was at the immediate scene.

What happens as these stories go from the local to the national is you stop giving out facts. You stop answering questions, and you start making denials. “No, Cheney wasn’t drunk.” “No, it wasn’t Cheney’s fault.” So as it progressed through the week, that’s what happened.

If you go back to Katharine Armstrong’s original description, given in context to locals who understand the frequency of hunting accidents, unfortunately, the culture of Texas, through the eyes of a person who actually saw, who has an expertise, there was no fault described. She laid out the facts: what Mr. Whittington had done, what the vice president had done, and included, clearly, the vice president’s immediate reaction which was profuse apologies.


You can see where this is going already. The strategy is clear from the outset -- it's all the press' fault. They blew a picayune story out of proportion; they got their facts mixed up; they started a feeding frenzy; they operate in bad faith when it comes to Chimpco, because as we all know, Chimpco has been more than fair with them from day one.

In other words, it's all a big conspiracy. Except Mary has some trouble keeping her story straight on that account. Note in the excerpt above how she blames the "wire account" from the local Corpus Christi newspaper, the outlet Cheney's camp first approached with the story. Yet later, Matalin claims that the press strategy they chose was the best one possible because they felt a local outlet, which supposedly had some profound understanding of the hitherto alien cultures and mores of hunting folk, would give the story fairer play.

This was another extremely off-putting aspect of Matalin's entire appearance -- the sheer contempt and disdain she demonstrates for all things "Beltway", juxtaposed with her (and the Republicans') false idolatry for Bobo's World and its supposed mysteries. It's a transparent attempt to claim working class mores for themselves, when one has fuck-all to do with the other. I worked on my grandparents' dairy for years when I was a kid; killed chickens for dinner, raised cows and pigs for slaughter. Even went deerhunting once. And I've worked my share of blue-collar jobs. I have nothing whatsoever in common with Matalin and her fellow assholes, and I deeply resent their clumsy overtures at some wistful vestige of Americana.

The pretentious exaltation of all things small-town is just so transparently dishonest. There is nothing to exalt about a bunch of inbred politicos camping at the ranch of a donor who basically runs the county, to raise money while they get sauced and drive up and shoot fat birds that can barely fly. That is not sportsmanship; that is sadism. It's the American version of fox-hunting, a despicable practice that outlived its usefulness years ago. There's nothing wrong with actual hunting, but that is not hunting; it's merely killing.

MR. RUSSERT: But they were quoting her directly, and many suggested that she also told the papers that she had first thought that the vice president had had a heart attack, so maybe she didn’t see the whole event.

MS. MATALIN: She saw enough to be able to describe the—what happened and who was where and what happened immediately afterwards. Yeah, that’s the problem with this. That’s why—that is exactly why you’re—Tim, you’re going right to the point of why we wanted to have—rather than just throw something out there that night or the first thing the next morning, why we wanted to take our time. Speak to the sheriff so we’d have the voice of authority. Have Katharine be able to share with other witnesses, and she could be an eyewitness. That’s why we wanted to take our time because there were differing accounts, and there was mass confusion. And all—the whole first night was a very human reaction to get Harry and his family attended to.


That's another trope Mary leans a bit too heavily on throughout -- we're only human, you see. We're not alien Borgs like you unfeeling bastards who only care about stupid facts. We're real people, real Americans. Oh, say can you see....

Like her glow-in-the-dark king-size novelty flower broach, Mary's schtick wears thin real fast. Look, lady, when the (nominally) #2 person in this country's government goes on yet another taxpayer-funded vacation, and accidentally shoots someone, we have a right to know about it. It's that fucking simple. Everything else is window dressing. Cheney had both Secret Service and his own medical staff. There were more than enough people around to tend to Whittington and his family. There is simply no good, logical reason for them to have sat on this story as long as they did. Either Cheney was drunk, or they were scared shitless that Whittington was going to die during the night, and wanted to make sure they had their story straight.

Or both.

MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned “speak to the sheriff,” and this is another issue raised. The “Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said at least one deputy was turned away shortly after the shooting because security personnel at the Armstrong ranch were not aware of the agreement between the sheriff and the Secret Service.” What was the agreement? Why wasn’t the vice president interviewed that night after Mr. Whittington was brought to the hospital? Why wasn’t he interviewed by the sheriff that night? Why did they—we wait 14 hours for an interview?

MS. MATALIN: The vice president was informed of the decision to be interviewed the next morning. The original request was that he be interviewed at 10 o’clock. He asked if he could move it up to 8 o’clock because he wanted to—shoot his day up to get to Corpus Christi to see Mr. Whittington. Now it took The Washington Post an entire week to speak to the culture of rural enforcement in a hunting area in south Texas. And it was through the voice of none other than the Democratic state party chairman.

This is rural law enforcement. They hunt from October till the end of February. There’s a presumption of accident. There was—everybody knows everybody down there. Somebody had talked to some ranch hand and said this is an accident. They never go screeching in there. Some deputy who had heard it another way went to some other border post, and nobody there wasn’t going to be allowed in to talk to anybody or let anybody in to see the vice president. That’s just national security. But the suggestion there by the press, not the locals, was that Cheney was covering up. That it’s always done this way. No, it’s not always done that way. If someone had done some reporting or even called the Democratic state party chairman, they would have learned it’s always done the other way where there’s a presumption of accident.


Notice that she provides absolutely no insight to Russert's question. Why did the Secret Service --by their spokesman's own admission -- turn the local sheriff away? She doesn't answer. Instead she recooks her previous trope about reg'lar folks knowin' best, that there was no point in "screeching" in, jes' another huntin' accident.

I don't know what kind of morons Matalin goes hunting with, but hunting accidents are not commonplace, and they're never taken lightly by law enforcement. Ever. For one, a fair percentage of the time there's either foul play, negligence, or intoxication involved. For another, it's just common sense. Even if everything's on the up-and-up, and everybody's story squares, and no crime took place at all, it's still up to the cops to make that determination. Certainly not the property owner, and certainly not the shooter.

Someone was grievously injured by a firearm discharge. Accident or no, it is up to the cops to make the determination as to what the fuck happened. It really is that simple, and anyone who doesn't realize this -- including Mary Matalin -- should proceed forthwith to their local police station and ask them for yourself. They do not say "oh, it's just another hunting accident", and if they do, they shouldn't be cops, period. There's no such thing as "just another" hunting accident, any more than there's "just another" auto accident. Hunters know this more than anyone else.

But again, I'm actually pretty sure that Matalin knows all this, because she has made sure to couch her snide little responses in this bullshit "heartland" boilerplate that's meant to reassure the base. It's all a big code -- "they" (the "media elite" and the "blue states") think you're rubes out in flyover country.

Sadly, it works. And you know what? They are rubes, as long as they keep falling for this shit. They believe that Mary Matalin understands their concerns. They think that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney give a shit about them. They think a "local gal" like Katherine Armstrong would piss on them if they were on fire. Sorry, folks, but they really don't share your concerns and your values. They're using you, because they know you'll keep falling for the code words, the "us vs. them" narrative.

So I dunno what to tell ya, heartland folks. You want to believe some troll that's been botoxed and spackled within an inch of her life, over your own lyin' eyes, knock yourselves out. Maybe suckers deserve exactly what they get, especially when they seem to want it so badly.

Of course, there's so much more to what transpired -- David Gregory's unnecessary apology to that useless tub of shit Scott McClellan; Paul Gigot dutiful bootlicking; MoDo's quick evisceration of the Dragon Queen's bullshit, replete with DQ's off-putting head-shaking and Gore-like sighing. Check out the rest of the transcript; it's all there, and most of it's to be expected.

What I find curious is that Chimpco's camp thought that this would be the most effective tack to take -- to send their most notorious flack to hump the same old "it's the press' fault" talking points. It reeks of desperation; it's an indication that they may be ever-so-temporarily thrown off their spin game.

If only there were an opposition party that could make truly effective use of the chronic disarray of the ruling claque.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Security State

Via Wolcott comes an interesting little story about Henry Rollins' unwitting appearance on the radar of Big Brother:

According to News.com.au, American punk rock icon and writer Henry Rollins was reported to the National Security hotline during his recent Australian tour because of a book he was reading on a flight to Brisbane.

A furious Rollins was informed he was "nominated as a possible threat" for reading "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam In Central Asia", writes Kathy McCabe.



Of course. Who else would be a prime candidate for becoming a terrorist threat, than a fairly well-known white guy reading the wrong book on an airplane?

I, for one, feel much safer now.

Debbie Does Dickie

SF Comical token conservahack Debra J. Saunders vents her grievances against the mean ol' librul co-workers who keep giving her shit over Cheney's little hunting mishap. Um, and the attendant coverup. You know, that little thing.

PEOPLE WANT to know what it is like to be a conservative columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. Suffice it to say, there are days -- as in the Monday after Vice President Dick Cheney shot a buddy in a quail-hunting accident -- when I'd rather be working for a conservative rag, like the Weekly Standard.

If I close my eyes, I can imagine the scene. I'm not at The Chronicle, I'm breakfasting with other journalists -- and because they're conservative too, they don't think I'm a total freak. We all agree, speaking passionately about hunting protocol, that it was wrong for Harry Whittington to take it lightly. We shake our heads, gravely disappointed that Whittington forsook an individual's profound responsibility -- which is taken too lightly by the liberal media -- to warn others when he is standing where they are shooting.


Jesus H. Christ. Can she possibly be that stupid? Apparently so. Look, dear, the question is no longer whether the fault was that of Harry Whittington or of Dick Cheney. The questions lie in Cheney's disgusting behavior at the time, and in the days that followed. Cheney's own story about whether he was drinking or not conflicts with Katherine Armstrong's initial assertion that no alcohol was served at lunch that day, with Cheney's lame and transparent admission -- four fucking days later to Brit Hume, mind you -- that he had "a beer". Right, this from a guy who got two DUIs at a point in time when they were actually fairly difficult to get.

So far, no one's been able to keep their story straight, and the release of the details of the incident have been extremely peculiar. Apparently Karl Rove, who just happened to start his first consulting business with deceased ranch patriarch Tobin Armstrong's bankroll, talked to Katherine Armstrong at 8PM Saturday night, barely two hours after the shooting. Yet the whole thing got sat on until Katherine was pushed out to tell the local paper about the incident Sunday afternoon, a full 18 hours later.

But yeah, this is all Harry Whittington's fault, and that's what the scandal is about -- assigning blame. Whatever.

At The Chronicle, I'm like the nerd with a bull's-eye taped on his back. Nothing can stop the barrage. I try to be pre-emptive. As I pick up political reporter Carla Marinucci for the drive into work Monday, I speak first: "No Cheney jokes."

She tells five -- before we reach the freeway ramp.

And at work all day, certain individuals (who don't know who they are) lie in wait -- anxious for the moment they can buttonhole me and launch their little salvos.

Insert your own orange vest/yellowcake uranium joke here.


You can see where this is going. This is somebody who is worried that a snafu committed by someone she supports will make her (and by association, all so-called principled conservatives) the butt of everyone's jokes.

This is not a columnist who is maybe even a little bit concerned that her notoriously secretive vice-president shot a man, possibly while drinking, and took a suspiciously long time to release even the scrubbed details of the incident. (And recall that while Whittington is apparently recuperating well now, it was actually not such a sure thing at first. He was in intensive care for several days. nobody knew whether the guy was going to live or die, which is probably at least part of the reason for the delay in getting the story out.)

Nope, the whole reason for Little Debbie being so worked up about this is because of all the cheap shots (get it?) directed at Chimpco and their true believers.

Inquiring minds want to know: Aren't I going to write about Cheney?

What am I supposed to say? Accidents are bad? OK. Accidents are bad.

For the record, here it is: Dick Cheney should not have shot Harry Whittington.


Nice one, smartass. Can't imagine why people have been shaking their heads about this story all week. The cavalier attitude about all this, like it's just a big fucking joke, speaks volumes.

Not that most reporters will leave the brouhaha there. There is the familiar refrain, which is always the follow-up when you don't bash the Bushies enough: What about the White House's handling of the incident?

As if there's a good way to announce that the vice president shot someone by mistake.


As if there's no better way to announce that the vice president shot someone by mistake, than by sitting on the story for nearly a full day, then having a flunky step forward with a sanitized version of the events, then having Cheney wait four days before speaking publicly about it, and even then only to Faux News. Yeah, I can't think of any better way to have handled any of that, either. People must just be looking for things to pick on poor, misunderstood Dick at this point.

But again, as you can see from the petulant tone of the entire column, it's really this pissy attitude about all the cheap shots that have been taken at this great guy by the peanut gallery. Keep this in mind, because just last month, this same fool decided to trot out the ol' Chappaquiddick smackdown on Ted Kennedy:

If by some bizarre twist of fate the Senate fails to confirm Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, I have a suggestion for President Bush's next pick: Edward Kennedy.
After all, if some Democrats can make a federal case out of Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton -- target on his inclusion of that membership in a résumé he submitted 20 years ago and his present failure to remember being in the group -- then I'd like to see how they tackle Chappaquiddick.


Saunders' extremely tenuous contention is that if we're going to dredge up the past, let's dredge up everyone's past. Well, for the record, I think Kennedy got away with one at Chappaquiddick. I think it was bullshit, I think it was a disgrace, and I think he acquitted himself extremely poorly, both as a man and as a representative of his constituency.

However, whether we agree with the outcome or not, the fact is that Kennedy had his day in court, and had his dirty laundry aired, his past discussed and rehashed in the 35 years since. And indeed, I would submit that Chappaquiddick actually served to commence an era where pols would finally be held accountable -- some would say too accountable -- for pretty much everything they say or do. There are many other instances of such egregious abuses of power, of course, but Chappaquiddick was so universal and visceral, so tawdry, it could not help but resonate, and higher standards of comportment and accountability for pols is at least expected since then, if not always sought as strenuously as it should be.

So I'm not really sure what sort of wisdom Saunders thinks she's imputing here -- if anything, the fact that Kennedy has had to deal with Chappaquiddick being brought up countless times in the years since the matter was adjudicated only underscores the necessity of exploring Alito's past, which he couldn't run away from nearly fast enough.

I've never understood what senators were thinking in allowing Kennedy on the Judiciary Committee in the first place. While Kennedy seems to consider himself a champion for the little guy, he is a walking tribute to a system that, in its low moments, allows the rich and powerful to get away with crimes that would put others behind bars. He is a discredit to the system.

In 1991, Kennedy had to scrunch down in his seat when his colleagues accused now-Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

On Wednesday, Kennedy seemed like a crazy man when he suggested that the committee subpoena records relating to Alito and the Princeton alumni group. I know some people who don't buy Alito's "no specific recollection of that organization" answer. For my part, the older I get, the more credible I find it when other people claim lapses of memories.


Note Saunders' smug, self-satisfied tone throughout, as she continues to grill Kennedy for his ancient perfidy. Cheap shot after cheap shot; might as well call him a fat drunken mick while we're at it. The tone sounds oddly similar to that which she is now declaiming barely a month later, no?

But I especially like her defense of Strip Search Sammy's sudden amnesia by comparing to her own forgetfulness. Yeah, that's the sort of rigorous intellectuality they're looking for in the Supreme Court. Great defense.

In the end, this is all about smear. Some Democratic senators, like Dianne Feinstein, are ready to stick to the issues. I respect her questions. Alas, others -- like Kennedy -- dive deep into the sewer to make Alito look bad. They put what he did or said decades ago under a microscope. If they can't make Alito seem racist or sexist, they dig for some association, no matter how negligible, with a racist/sexist group. If Alito says he wasn't aware of how insidious the group was, he's lying -- or, critics intone with knowing cynicism, it's fishy.


Um, yes. And it wasn't a "deep dive into the sewer", either. It's the least we can expect. The CAP did everything they could to prevent minorities and women -- the latter of which includes Little Debbie -- from getting "unfair advantage" in the Princeton admissions process, which was just another way of finding quasi-legal maneuvers to keep 'em out. It was an entirely relevant avenue to pursue in vetting Alito's quals, just as his reluctance to admit or endorse any of these past sins is relevant.

And yeah, Chappaquiddick's still relevant too. Kennedy has slightly absolved himself since by being a truly good, principled liberal senator, but Mary Jo Kopechne still drowned because of his abject cowardice.

And if, say, six or eight months from now, that piece of birdshot that still sits outside Harry Whittington's pericardium happens to work its way in and kill him belatedly, what then? Do we still get to fuck with the ghost of Dick Cheney in the year 2040, or are there going to be reliable conservahacks who whine about that as well?

I don't think the question even needs to be asked. There's always a reliable rent-a-hack to be found; I scrape several off my shoes at the end of each day. But in this case, we are talking about a writer who also spared no hyperbole in weighing in on Bill Clinton's incessant lying and weaseling, when it was convenient to do so.

At least when Clinton shot his friend in the face, there wasn't a gun involved.

Bobo's World, California Edition

Hick town boycotts Baghdad By The Bay.

The faded sign outside Kay's Cafe in the city of Highland sports a cartoon caricature of a grinning chef holding a frying pan.

City officials, who use the drab yellow diner as a kind of impromptu town center, are looking a lot like the diminutive chef on the sign these days as they hold San Francisco's feet to the fire.

The prod that woke this bedroom community at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, whose 2005 population city officials estimate at 50,860, was a decision by San Francisco voters to pass an advisory measure banning military recruiters from schools.

Calling San Franciscans a bunch of "kooks and nuts" and castigating supervisors for their "tomfoolery," the City Council unanimously approved a resolution "prohibiting the expenditure of city funds for attending conferences, training seminars and/or workshops to be held in the City of San Francisco."


Yeah, I'm sure San Francisco will sorely miss their seersucker suits and Safeway coupons. Jeebus, this isn't even the mouse that roared, it's more like the cricket that thought it was chirping louder than all the other crickets, but really wasn't. Either way, whether Highlanders like it or not (and obviously they don't), this was a measure that was voted in by citizens. Democracy in action, and all that good stuff.

Funny how we are all subjected to this sanctimonious trumpeting about the wonders of the democratic process, when what it really boils down to is whether or not people are voting for something we approve of or not. Note to Highlanders across America: that is not democracy, it might best be described as a mildly benevolent dictatorship.

And it's not as if it was done in a vacuum. The military failed to meet recruiting levels all last year, and was forced to literally move its recruiting goalposts. This has resulted in widespread reports of aggressive recruiting tactics, in some cases practically dragooning high-school kids into the army without being allowed to discuss it with their parents first.

Now, if that's the way we want to do it, if we're willing to meet the need at any and all costs, then just reinstate the draft and have done with it. The added bonus to that is that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld grandchildren and nephews, while they will obviously be given a way to weasel out of service, would at least have to deal with some public scrutiny on it.

It was a bold move for a city that is virtually unknown outside of San Bernardino County, but it turns out little Highland was simply the first to pile on.

San Francisco Supervisors fanned the flames of middle American contempt for the city by the bay with talk about impeaching President Bush. Then Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval opened the floodgates of national ridicule this past week on the "Hannity & Colmes" show on Fox News when he said the United States should not have a military.


That was indeed an incredibly stupid thing for Sandoval to say, and his subsequent attempts to qualify and explain himself were so pathetic, he should simply resolve to never try extemporizing in front of a camera again. Really, if you can't outwit a couple of numbskulls like Sean Boy Hannity and Alan Colmes, you might not even belong in public office. Sandoval's remarks were completely stupid, and entirely indefensible, and quite literally out of touch with reality.

All that said, so we really want Americans turning on other Americans for the stupid things they and their representatives say or do? Shall we boycott Sugar Land if they happen to lose their fucking minds and vote Tom DeLay back in, presumably out of sheer spite? Should we boycott Oklahoma for inflicting the festering presence of that moron Tom Coburn on the United States Senate?

You want to get into a cycle of retribution here, a San Berdoo armpit like Highland is a great place to start. San Francisco is not going to be harmed by the windmill-tilting of ankle-biting hick towns. But holes like Highland (which I am actually familiar with; my father lives in a nearby city out there) would never be able to handle it if they were on the receiving end of such nonsense. It's already symptomatic of the dead and dying ghost towns that fester across America, places where the manufacturing bases have been sucked right out and outsourced to Bangalore or Shanghai or wherever, leaving the kids who didn't get the opportunity to escape, and the ignorant codgers whose hobby in life is finding new and innovative ways to tell those damned kids to get off their lawn.

Highland officials are eagerly passing out to the media, and anyone else interested, copies of e-mails they've received from people all over the country, many expressing support for their position.

San Francisco's government "is full of a bunch of whacked-out liberals," shrieks one e-mail from a resident of Napa.

Another commends Highland for boycotting "this city of derelicts, drug addicts and ultra-left-wing liberals" who should be "quarantined so (their disease) doesn't have a chance to infect any of our other cities."

Getting into the spirit of things, City Councilman Larry McCallon railed against San Francisco last week for sins including a lack of support for traditional marriage, family, the Bush administration and the military, if not God himself.

"I was raised in Kentucky and everybody all over that area calls California 'the land of the kooks and nuts' or 'the left coast' because of the things that happen in San Francisco," said McCallon, the retired owner of a laundry chain who does Baptist missionary work in his spare time. "There are a lot of people up there who have some weird ideas, who are extreme in their views."


I think this is the heart of the matter. People who have never been to California have a lot of assumptions about the state and its population -- that we surf all the time, that we're all crunchy liberals who stand around and play hackey sack with our hemp shoes, then fire up the bong and make free love all night, waking up at noon the next day to start all over again.

And that's just stupid. Certainly there are morons like that in this state, but California did not become the fifth-largest economy in the world by smoking pot and forming hippie daisy chains. And the fact of the matter is, once you get outside Los Angeles and San Francisco, a preponderance, if not an outright majority, are rather conservative.

I think it's funny that apparently Kentuckians (and obviously, many other southerners) are not shy about fulminating their erroneous assumptions about how California operates, yet they squeal like a pig whenever outsiders make assumptions about how they do things. Indeed, they get their back up when people who have been there call them on their bullshit. So I give less than a fuck what some Kentucky crackers think about this state. Enjoy your moss farm, Cooter, even poor Californians make twice as much money as you do. Plus, there's things to do here.

But what's really pathetic is that many Californians, particularly along the length of the Central Valley, have allowed themselves to be suckered in by this thinly-veiled Sodom and Gomorrah contempt for San Francisco in particular. And SF is flawed, to be sure. Willie Brown ran the place like his personal fiefdom, rewarding cushy sinecures to inept cronies, while aggressive panhandlers continued to cluster along every other street corner. Property is overvalued, there's a lot of crime, a lot of useless people clogging up the streets, abysmal traffic, way too politically correct, etc., etc. But, like all great cities, SF has a lot of character too. Every place has good features and bad, good people and bad.

What the fuck makes Highland think it has some sort of fucking moral standing? Go back to getting all your disinformation from Faux News and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. Believe me, civilization won't miss you. Enjoy your moral perfection in your stagnating hamlet.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The New And Improved Marion

After 45 years of polluting American airwaves with his feckless nonsense, Crazy Marion has decided that maybe it's time to change tack a bit. One of his fellow loons from Human Events Online (whose byline claims is "a professor at the University of Texas" -- of what, I shudder to think) has the coveted exclusive interview, with one of the clunkiest headlines in recent memory. Is this thing edited by sixth-graders or something?

Virginia Beach, Va. -- These should be diamond days for Pat Robertson. He'll be 76 next month. The 45th anniversary of the first Christian Broadcasting Network telecast is coming on Oct. 1. Next week, he was supposed to be the main speaker at the closing banquet of the National Religious Broadcasters convention.

But instead of basking in the renown that could be his as the founder of five major Christian institutions, he has received enormous criticism for statements such as his recent contention that Ariel Sharon's stroke was God's punishment.

....

For example, when I read him what Southern Baptist Convention leader Richard Land said of his statement about Prime Minister Sharon -- "I am both stunned and appalled that Pat Robertson would claim to know the mind of God concerning whether particular tragic events, such as ... Sharon's stroke, were the judgments of God. Pat Robertson should know better." -- Robertson replied that Sharon was "doing something that violates God's will. ... All I'm doing as a faithful Bible teacher is teaching the Bible. And if Dr. Land doesn't believe the Bible, I'm sorry. That's his problem."


Uh-huh. And what, pray tell, does the Bible also have to say about slavery, the subjugation of women, the sacrificing of one's children to the demands of the voices in one's head, and the eating of shellfish? These Biblical literalists are not all that unlike the Scalia-type strict constructionists, who think they can extrapolate original intent to cover things like the constitutionality of covert domestic electronic surveillance.

But at least Marion gets bonus points for refusing to budge on his disgusting outburst re Sharon. That is, after all, exactly what the morons who keep him in business expect from him. Never give an inch; never admit you're wrong. Everything is divinely inspired and sanctioned, which provides excellent cover for the willfully blind.

Robertson did say that he was taking precautions to avoid more eruptions: Before broadcasts, "I didn't use to review the news. Now prior to the air we go over the news stories. ... I now have a former news producer from 'Good Morning America.' I'm going to have an earpiece in my ear. ... He's going to be whispering in my ear. ... He's going to be in the control room. As the news comes up, (he'll say), 'Why don't you say this, why don't you suggest this, let's discuss this.'" [emphasis mine]


Res ipsa loquitur, no? This explains a whole hell of a lot right here. Marion hasn't bothered to even marginally educate himself on the world events he sees fit to spout off about. Intellectually, there is no difference between this clown and some dirty, stringy-haired loon wearing a sandwich board saying, "The End Is Near". And now some GMA reject is going to help him polish his electronic turd every morning. Sweet. What, you get tired of rounding up sock puppets for Diane Sawyer to interview, pal?

Concerning many other controversial statements, Robertson noted the impact he has had: "They say when a big ship goes through the water it makes waves, and I'm sure I've made waves. I've said stupid things."


Jeez. Delusions of grandeur much, Marion? Let's get something straight -- you don't "make waves" because of your self-supposed endowment of being a "big ship", you just fuck up publicly. We hear about it the way we hear about, say, Martin Lawrence waving a gun in an intersection, or O.J. Simpson murdering his wife, or Larry King getting married again.

If anything, Marion's gotten off quite easy over the ridiculous things he's said and done over the years. He has now admitted to commenting about current events that he is ignorant of. He has been a friend to murderers and tyrants, an investor in blood diamonds, a grifter with friends in high places. And no one ever held him accountable for any of it. Inexplicably, he is still allowed to be something of a behind-the-scenes political player; amazingly, morons still give him their money.

At the heart of some of Robertson's disputes with other Christians is a theological difference. All evangelicals believe that God answers prayer (although often not as we might choose) and speaks to us through the Bible. Robertson, like some other charismatics, believes that God speaks to him directly "all the time."

He explains it this way: "It's not conceited. We ask for leading. ... God did speak to me directly concerning (Regent) University, and it was real simple. He said, 'I want you to buy the land and build a school for My glory.' ... You read Jeremiah. He said, 'The word of the Lord came to me.' ... You read the Torah, 'The word of the Lord came to Moses,' 'The Lord said to Moses, tell the people.' The Lord spoke to Joshua. The Lord spoke to David."


The Lord's speaking to me right now. He says you're a douchebag, Marion. Prove me wrong on either or both assertions. I double-dog dare you. "Charismatics". They're the looniest of the lot to begin with, with the twitching and the babbling in "tongues". Faith healing, shit like that. Fucking carnies in suits, is all they are. If it weren't for their Jesus grift, they'd be running the Tilt-A-Whirl at the county fair, selling dime bags of stomped-on crank on the side.

Many Christians see Robertson's position as arrogant, but Robertson also sees himself as emulating the 16th president: "If Abraham Lincoln wouldn't give impromptu (speeches), maybe Pat Robertson shouldn't be impromptu." At the least, he said, "I will study more and be more reserved."


I don't think Lincoln ever referred to himself in the third person, but if Marion's willing to emulate him right to his ultimate fate, then maybe we have something to look forward to.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lawyers, Guns, And Money

You know the rules only apply on the witness stand
And you never get in trouble if you stick with your plan....

-- Corrosion of Conformity, Heaven's Not Overflowing (1994)


I can't help but almost be charmed by the insouciant hectoring of the media, at yet another episode of Dick Cheney being....well, himself. He has never been anything but predictable: joyless, taciturn, curmudgeonly, stingy with even expository facts that everyone already knows. Yet the media are very upset, because he has once again told them to fuck themselves.

Why, by Wednesday a casual observer might have supposed that there might even be something approaching modest rebellion, that the lot of the media might actually grow some spine and march en masse out of the hamster McClellan's next assault upon sensibility and the English language. Alas, it was not to be so. I, for one, am shocked. And here they pretended quite vociferously that they might actually protest, that they might finally be ready to tell Big Time to his pinched, twisted face that They Would Not Take Any More Of His Shit.

But that was a couple days ago, and times they have a-changed since then. Cheney's blasting of an old man's face with birdshot has already -- in less than a week -- made the jump to cultural cliche/national joke. The only way it could have ended any differently is if Harry Whittington had died. Even then, who knows? This administration has made an art form out of demonstrating its clear contempt for the country, its citizens, its laws, its principles. It has been remarkably consistent in this pursuit, and it has gotten away with it quite well. Why change a good thing?

And now Whittington himself steps forward to absolve Big Time from his non-crime, and indeed practically beg abject contrition for his sin of standing within the scatter range, proving once again the old adage that there's no fool like an old fool. S'alright, Harry, just see that you don't embarrass Mister Man ever again. Now go get your fuckin' shine box.

So Whittington, already a longtime flunky of the Bush regime since he was just fucking up Texas, has done his part. And the media have done theirs. They wait patiently for Cheney and friends to give them a handle, instead of finding one themselves, and just grabbing and yanking with all their might. That has been their problem all along -- they keep waiting for help from the people they're supposed to be investigating. Jesus Christ. Why don't you just ask Robert Blake for dating tips while you're at it?

Cheney has always been a scowling, venomous presence, in whatever governmental capacity he has metastasized. He skulks about in a cloak of secrecy, secure in the knowledge that no matter how much the nattering nabobs of the Washington press corps bitch and moan, they'll still end up doing half the work for him.

All it would take is the group departure from just one press conference, as I described earlier. Surely this is not so much to accomplish, even for the most overfed of herd animals. Leave the Hamster alone with that crazy fuck Les Kinsolving for the press briefing; let that be the story. Maybe just one of you punks, while wondering aloud why Cheney took 18 hours to have the ranch owner (also a Bush flunky) call the media, why he took almost four days to speak publicly (and then to yet another flunky from a network of flunkies), could also wonder aloud why anyone should be surprised at all by this seemingly insensitive behavior.

We are, after all, talking about a man who took nearly a full week to cut his fly-fishing trip short after an American city was destroyed in the greatest natural disaster to hit this nation. Is there something we have missed here? Is there some misunderstanding as to how Richard Bruce Cheney has always operated -- and more importantly, will always operate? The man is as predictable as Michael Jackson at a Boy Scout Jamboree -- he has already spent the last 30+ years drawing the diagram for you.

All that is required of you, o guardians of the free press, is to report the clear and obvious facts that are already known to those who have been paying attention the whole time. And perhaps show, instead of meekly tell, the liars that you won't just sit there and faithfully stenograph their bullshit anymore. Is that so damned hard?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Operation Kevlar Turban™: I Ran So Far Away

Cab Drollery links to a very timely letter from the Pak Tribune, attributed anonymously to a former Pakistani fighter pilot, which highlights the consequences of Bush's buffoonery vis à vis the vaunted Axle of Elvis, more specifically Iran. Definitely check it out.

Basically, our options with Iran currently are:
  • unilateral sanctions (ineffective);

  • multilateral sanctions (not going to happen w/out Russia and China);

  • Israeli strike(limited utility and certain reprisal);

  • American invasion (you thought Iraq was a fucking quagmire);

  • bargaining (which here is not one of the five stages of grief, but rather a tacit acknowledgement that previous bluster was, como se dice, ineffective to say the least).


There is actually one other option supposedly on the table, which the UK Telegraph helpfully spells out: an all-out American strike.

Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" to block Teheran's efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

They are reporting to the office of Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, as America updates plans for action if the diplomatic offensive fails to thwart the Islamic republic's nuclear bomb ambitions. Teheran claims that it is developing only a civilian energy programme.


Normally, I'd be inclined to take all this with a grain of salt -- after all, one thing the military does to death is draw up plans for any and all eventualities. No doubt there are contingency plans to invade Canada somewhere. They'll never be used, but just in case....

"This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment," said a senior Pentagon adviser. "This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months."


Well, color me surprised. Seriously, though, it's hard to know exactly where the official psy-ops end and the reality of it begins. War campaigns always get an early rollout, to gradually soften up the populace to the idea of military aggression. This time around though, it's proving to be a bit touchy. Not because of public sentiment so much -- yes there are polls, but without public displays of dissent, they're just polls -- but because of consistent stats of military recruitment troubles. Nobody in the armed forces wants to take a bunch of reservists on their third go-round in Al Anbar, and send them next door to Iran, not to mention Moqtada al-Sadr's promise to fight within Iraq should Iran be attacked by us.

No, the sad fact of it all is, as the letter-writer pointed out, we are in a box of our own making here. Iran is not Iraq; the orthography is the only thing the two have remotely in common. They are much larger, much more powerful, much more entrenched in regional and international politics. We cannot do anything about them military without at least having Russia and China sign off and agree not to interfere, which is probably not gonna happen. The Euros won't help us; our snotty little remarks during the buildup to Iraq saw to that.

Maybe we can get Big Time some sniper training, and he can take Ahmadinejad out. Good luck with that one. In the meantime, nice work as always, folks. At least you kept the homos in their place.

Deadeye Dick

Big Time shoots fellow hunter. You just can't make this shit up:

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, spraying the fellow hunter in the face and chest with shotgun pellets.

Harry Whittington, a millionaire attorney from Austin, was "alert and doing fine" in a Corpus Christi hospital Sunday after he was shot by Cheney on a ranch in south Texas, said Katharine Armstrong, the property's owner.


Oops. Shit happens, though. Hunting is dangerous, obviously, and not just for the prey, even in the canned hunts that scumbags like Big Time engage in. But here's what I thought was interesting:

The shooting was first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. The vice president's office did not disclose the accident until nearly 24 hours after it happened.


Hmmm. Maybe it's nothing, maybe it's something. Seems passing strange that something like this gets sat on for a full 24 hours. One would think that someone in the intrepid librul media would have got wind of this before.

Or is Big Time allowed to invoke national security concerns when he peppers someone with buckshot, or taps an American's phone lines, as opposed to when he enjoins his minions to smear an undercover CIA agent whose husband got a little too uppity?

Cheney is an avid hunter who makes annual hunting trips to South Dakota to hunt pheasants. He also travels frequently to Arkansas to hunt ducks.


Yeah. That's when he takes Combover Tony Scalia with him, and they discuss how Big Time's Energy Task Force meetings cannot be made public.

Because otherwise, someone might get nervous and "accidentally" miss.[cue trite ominous music]

(Maybe someone can talk Ann Coulter into going hunting with Cheney. I mean, that would just be a fucking tragedy if she were to accidentally get a hole blown through her. As always, Annie, I'm just kidding. Pretty hilarious, no?)

Tweety Hearts Bobo

Both of them are welcome to kiss my entire ass, just as soon as they're finished stroking each other. Which may be a while, knowing those two.

Just to be extra-clear on this, considering whose knobs Bobo polishes daily for his allowance, Bobo lecturing anyone on "Stalinist discipline" is not terribly unlike (to paraphrase a currently vogue analogy) Barry Bonds lecturing the kids on why Rafael Palmeiro is a steroid-addled douchebag. Mister Pot, say hello to Mister Kettle.

You want to talk mindless Stalinist discipline, here ya go. Anyone who seriously refers to the severely retarded John "George Bush is a misunderstood genius" Assrocket as "talented", or defends the virtues of the Doughy Pantload and Jesse's Girl, has instantly and irrevocably abdicated any and all rights to serious debate. Might as well try to talk up the profound legal expertise of Ann Coulter.

Fuck, Bobo is such a tiresome, tendentious little shit, like the rest of the gutless, unprincipled assholes he rolls with. He and Tweety need to hook up in Cape Cod and just tie the knot, once and for all.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Land Of The Freep, Home Of The Craven

I'm with The Rude Pundit on this one. I look around at the current level of "mainstream" discourse, and it just boggles the mind. Of course the media are somewhat preoccupied by murderous fugitive limeys, except for the relevant part of that story -- that Neil Entwistle apparently murdered his family over financial problems, a botched murder-suicide where he lost his nerve when it was his turn to eat a bullet.

Which certainly doesn't excuse any of it, obviously, but what if the intrepid media were to tear the lid off that story? It's awful, but it happens more than we'd like to admit. People do some pretty desperate shit when they're faced with financial ruin, and the system is gamed more than ever against the little guy's chance to even recover, much less have a hope of getting ahead.

But it's to be expected that that aspect of the story gets short (or more accurately, no) shrift; there's just too much class rhetoric and anecdotal backstory to unpack in the context of a shortened news cycle or ten-second sound bark.

But enough about Entwistle and the like -- what's astonishing to me is the context of the political discussion at large, and more importantly, what's not being discussed. Every American citizen with a pulse now knows, with at least as much certitude as he knows tomorrow's weather, that the Bush administration has deliberately lied and obfuscated about every major issue facing this nation over the past several years. Iraq. Katrina. Medicare. Social Security. The budget. The deficit. Education. It's all out there, and it's all available, and it doesn't seem to matter. It matters to us, of course, but it seems to matter to them only inasmuch as they know it pisses us off. It's another chance to sneer, another opportunity to engage willfully in the politics of sheer spite.

Oh, the usual suspects in Congress are drawing plans and crafting careful pronunciamentos about the outrage of it all, but it really is outrageous, and it doesn't seem to be gaining much traction, either in the media or the public. They'll talk about the scandal du jour, but seem reluctant to connect all the dots, to illuminate the clear and deliberate path of corruption, greed, incompetence, and hubris that defines everything these people have done in the last five years.

But consider. We are mercilessly, systematically torturing what are more and more turning out to be innocent political prisoners, people who were sold as reward bait to calumnious bastards who figured it was more important to look like they were doing something, than to actually do something. We all know it's going on, and we are defined by either rolling our eyes indulgently at Bush's denials, or by shrugging it all off as the cost of doing business. Except it's not the cost of doing business, and we know it.

So we continue to muddle along in self-denial, because those are the marching orders from the top, but also because we're willing to follow them. Politically, we have become little more than soccer hooligans, using words as semiotic cudgels to show tribal identification. All the while, the principles we pretend to espouse fall by the wayside. Look over in the ditch, there they are, like so much roadkill. Wave to them as you pass by slowly.

As it happens, this weekend is the CPAC, the annual county fair of the conservative lunatic fringe (as opposed to, say, principled conservatives, if such creatures can still be found in the wild). Yesterday's featured creature speaker was none other than our personal favorite, Cunty McCuntler:

Coulter on Muslims:

"I think our motto should be post-9-11, 'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.'" (This declaration prompted a boisterous ovation.)

Coulter on killing Bill Clinton:

(Responding to a question from a Catholic University student about her biggest moral or ethical dilemma) "There was one time I had a shot at Clinton. I thought 'Ann, that's not going to help your career.'"

Coulter on moderate Republicans:

"There is more dissent on a slave plantation then amongst moderates in the Republican party."

Coulter on the Holocaust:

"Iran is soliciting cartoons on the Holocaust. So far, only Ted Rall, Garry Trudeau, and the NY Times have made submissions."

Coulter on the Supreme Court:

"If we find out someone [referring to a terrorist] is going to attack the Supreme Court next week, can't we tell Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalito[sic]?"



So. Let's see -- "raghead", very constructive. I think I've been pretty proactive in condemning many of the fanatic tendencies of certain political arms of the Muslim world, but there is just nothing to be gained with cheap racial slurs. But as we will discuss shortly, that's precisely the point. Then we have her little "joke" about assassinating a president, which was just as sidesplitting as her "joke" a few weeks back about poisoning a Supreme Court justice's dessert. For shits and giggles, we presume. Cuntler is such a jokester, you understand.

Now, some will say -- have already been saying in the face of the cunt's current spate of humor -- that we should just ignore her. Like a crummy commercial, she'll just go away.

Super. How's that been working for ya?

It is not enough to merely remark over and over and over again that we are dealing with contemptible people. By definition, we must continue to hold them in contempt. This means active, not passive, resistance. This means throwing every bit of her inciteful rhetoric out there for all to see, taking it from the realms of cartoon chat shows and political junkie wankfests, and letting the general public in on the game. You see, what the cunt is counting on is that she's speaking to like-minded cult members. They won't stray off the reservation, for the most part, and the ones that do are relatively easy to pick off or dismiss as disaffected cranks.

So we must recognize the source of all this shit. We blame the politicians, we blame the media. Fair enough; they certainly have much to atone for. But someone is voting for Tom Coburn; someone is watching Hannity & Colmes. Someone is attending the CPAC and lapping this insanity up with a soup spoon.

These are also the people that must be held responsible for the stupid things they say, for the retarded logic they espouse. They are idiots, they are fools, and the best they can do is the usual half-baked boilerplate about how Democrats do "it" too. Really? Anybody out there think that Al Gore would have stayed on vacation for another four fucking weeks after getting a PDB that gave the name and mode of an impending attack? You think a single Republican politician or commentator would have let him get away with it?

Anyone think the Republicans wouldn't have been halfway up Gore's ass in a heartbeat if he'd even thought about committing American lives and $400 billion of American money to a war of aggression based on cooked intelligence? Does any serious person believe that a Democratic president would have let an American city drown? (Especially on that last, the freepers never tire of pointing out how Dems are utterly beholden to the identity politics of blacks and poor people. Well, then by that logic, a Democratic president would never have let a poor black city like New Orleans go under. It's disgusting to contemplate any way you slice it, but that is the result of the "logic" these morons live and breathe.)

By the way, not that I want to give a righty wingnut bumwipe any links, but this coverage of Cuntler's "speech" may further edify you as to the nature of the delusion these people continue to operate under.

Ann Coulter, Human Events legislative correspondent, was definitely Friday’s biggest draw at CPAC 2006. From the get-go the conservative columnist had the crowd cheering and was frequently interrupted by applause. Many of Coulter’s talking points came from recent news events -- such as “the great Danish cartoon caper” and President Bush’s Supreme Court nominees.

“Muslims are the only group who kill because people call them violent,” she said of Islam’s rage over the printing of Muhammad cartoons.


Yeah, yeah, we get it -- they kill because they're nuts, we only kill for good reasons, like preserving our God-given right to drive Hummers everywhere.

Democrats have three major planks, she explained: “Abortion on demand, gay marriage and banning the Boy Scouts. Someday they’ll find a way to combine them all and figure out how to abort all future Boy Scouts.”


Again, it's all just cheap posturing and bomb-throwing, but that doesn't mean she should ever be allowed to get away with it. Democrats are really missing the boat here -- they should be shouting from the rooftops and trying to embarrass these morons. Come out swinging -- challenge this stupid cunt on her hyperbolic nonsense. Every single thing I've ever read or heard from her is quite easily defensible precisely because it's all so shamelessly over the top.

I do not understand why the Democratic Party doesn't get serious about marginalizing people like Coulter and Limbaugh. It shouldn't be that hard -- pretty much everything they and their ilk say is easily disprovable, or in the case of Coulter, borderline illegal. I didn't realize you could just crack wise about murdering presidents and Supreme Court justices.

It makes sense to assume that a true marginalization campaign has not been undertaken simply because their audiences, like fanatics of all stripes, are largely self-selecting. You're just not going to convert them. But I submit that they should be aggressively marginalized all the same, because of the mess they and their fake philosophy has gotten us all into. After all, Cheney and Rove were the keynote speakers for this fucking freakfest last year. And the best way to marginalize these loons is to drag them, kicking and screaming, out into the sunlight. Make sure the average Murkin knows as much about them as they do about the wannabes on whatever reality show people are wasting their time with this week.

Truth and accountability are the garlic and the stake for these soul-sucking vampires, but when those valuable tools just sit in the corner, unused, they're not gonna do us much good.

And hell, maybe someday someone will throw something a little more damaging than a pie in Ann Coulter's face. Oh, hey Ann, I'm just kidding. Really.