Friday, March 31, 2006

I Got Your Good News Right Here

I keep hearing the plaintive calls from the usual twits for the media to "objectively" cover all the "good news" stories pouring out of Iraq. Surely every repainted school or rebuilt hospital offsets x amount of pulverized human beings, and it's up to each of those morons to do their own moral calculus. To that end, I encourage each of them to check out this piece from Orville Schell in the latest New York Review of Books:

Foreign news bureaus are either in or near the few operating hotels such as the Al Hamra, the Rashid, or the Palestine. Like battleships that have been badly damaged but are still at sea, these hotels have survived repeated bomb attacks and yet have managed to stay open. A few hotels like the Rashid, where once there was a mosaic depicting George Bush Sr. on the floor of the lobby, are sheltered within the Green Zone. A few other bureaus have their own houses, usually somewhat shabby villas that have the advantage of being included inside some collective defense perimeter that makes the resulting neighborhood feel like a walled medieval town.

Wherever in the city the news bureaus are, they have become fortified installations with their own mini-armies of private guards on duty twenty-four hours a day at the gates, in watch towers, and around perimeters. To reach these bureaus, one has to run through a maze of checkpoints, armed guards, blast-wall fortifications, and concertina-wired no man's lands where all visitors and their cars are repeatedly searched.

The bitter truth is that doing any kind of work outside these American fortified zones has become so dangerous for foreigners as to be virtually suicidal. More and more journalists find themselves hunkered down inside whatever bubbles of refuge they have managed to create in order to insulate themselves from the lawlessness outside. (A January USAID "annex" to bid applications for government contracts warns how "the absence of state control and an effective police force" has allowed "criminal elements within Iraqi society [to] have almost free rein.")

Yes, this all sounds like the media's fault. And they should also complain to CBS' Lara Logan, who's actually there, and has made an honest effort to report both good and bad, despite Laura Ingraham's self-serving horseshit.

Likewise, they need for it to appear that only "radical leftists" want Bush impeached, when in fact plenty of ordinary folks, the kind Bush pretends to be, want it to happen as well, if only for the sake of accountability, at long last.

Window cleaner Ira Clemons put down his squeegee in the lobby of a city mall and stroked his goatee as he considered the question: Would you support your congressman's call to impeach Bush? His smile grew until it looked like a three-quarters moon.

"Why not? The man's been lying from Jump Street on the war in Iraq," Clemons said. "Bush says there were weapons of mass destruction, but there wasn't. Says we had enough soldiers, but we didn't. Says it's not a civil war -- but it is." He added: "I was really upset about 9/11 -- so don't lie to me."

Sounds like yet another typical leftie Hollyweird douche nozzle who wants to spread his hate of America.

It's really simple. If Mental Ben or any of the other Fightin' Keyboard Kommandos would like to show us all the good news stories out there, then let one of them strap on a camera already and give Faux News an exclusive, from the Iraqi heartland to the American one. Just do it, guys. We're all waiting for you to put your money where your big mouths are.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ben Caught Stealing

[Yes, I know, it's already been used, by quite a few folks. That's the meta-irony of it -- plagiarizing a one-liner used to describe a plagiarist.]

There are plenty of lessons to be had from observing the meteoric rise and flame-out of Ben Domenech's professional mainstream blogging career. Unfortunately, the people who need to learn those lessons the most -- the goofballs who misrun the Washington Post and its sister website -- seem to have learned the least valuable lessons.

However much the Post may try to disassociate itself from the dotcom (a bit disingenuous, since they tried to do exactly the opposite when the usual 'tards brayed about Dan Froomkin), they at least should share in some responsibility for having failed to properly vet Mental Ben. If a few enterprising bloggers can unearth a half-dozen instances of plagiarism in their spare time, why couldn't a putatively leading bastion of "legitimate" professional journamalism? The mind wobbles.

Worse yet, upon the discovery of his journalistic misdeeds, Domenech instantly and irrevocably went into damage control mode, and tried to put the finger on everyone else. He claimed that his editors had plagiarized Salon for his movie reviews -- a charge that, even if true, would only underscore the impression that he's underqualified as a writer (an impression you could also get by, um, reading his nonsense). He even swiped a couple of Doughy Pantload chestnuts from the National Review. Fergodsake, kid, if you're gonna steal, make it worth your while at least.

The jackass even tried to drag P.J. O'Rourke into his little shitstorm, which blew up in his face.

So we all know what happened by now, anyway. And of course it's the plagiarism, and the lack of heavy vetting, that the Post is apologizing for. Well, that's nice, but that's the least of their problems. The real problem here is that the Post even felt the urge to take on someone with Mental Ben's easily followed track record. This is a guy who famously called Coretta Scott King a communist on the day of her funeral. This is a guy who reflexively red-baits and cheap-shots his ideological opponents with bellicose straw-man arguments and whiny fabulism. This is a guy who spanks his tiny meat to Red Dawn and lectures grown-ups on the sanctity of stayin' God-fearin' and reg'lar marryin', as if he'd figured it all out at the ripe old age of 24.

(Speaking of which, when you try to pass off your serial plagiarism as a youthful indiscretion, and it was only seven years ago, you're either a liar, a moron, or more likely both, because you're actually dumb enough to believe that sensible people will fall for your bullshit explanation.)

So it's really Mental Ben's illustrious body of work, and his obvious family connections (he was a speechwriter for idiot Texas Senator John Cornyn, and his daddy was Jack Abramoff's butt-boy in the Interior Dept.), and the glaring lack of a "Blue America" counterbalance, that Pravda should be apologizing for. That's where they really let their readers down, and no amount of parsing about website versus print edition is going to change that. You put your name on it, folks, it's still your fault if the operation's a bit slipshod.

The thing is, I actually like the Post's site quite a lot, and there's much to recommend it. The problem is of a more institutional nature, and is a classic example of why I bitch about the pernicious corporate media so much. They hired this little prick in the first place to genuflect to conservative readers (or, equally possible, vindictive assholes in the administration who are known for routinely intimidating political enemies) in the usual fake show of "objectivity".

Objectivity is yet another in a long line of words that has been beaten out of its former shape; it now essentially means that if you write a news story, you must present the other side as if it had equal validity, even if it's utterly ridiculous. That's how the "intelligent design" movement picked up so much steam, before a decent judge finally put a bullet in its rabid head. (Don't worry, it'll be back as soon as they market-test a new name for it.)

The LA Times has a pretty good rundown of the situation, and Billmon has a great take on the Post's motives, and the institutionalized cowardliness that has permeated the mainstream media. This is just the latest of many episodes that have served to undermine the media's claims to legitimacy. Every time they get called on it, they whine about the insatiable barbarians of the blogosphere, yet it's precisely those barbarians who end up doing a significant portion of the legwork for them these days. Without the blogosphere, we would have had possibly months or years on end of Domenech's tiresome nonsense; without the bloggers, most people would never have heard of Jeff Gannon™, because the "legitimate" media just wouldn't have gotten around to it, or they'd have been too afraid to step on the wrong toes.

It is a sad state of affairs that the vaunted fourth estate feels the need to bend over backwards for an unpopular preznit, and cater to his minions and flunkies. As always, we should commence a hearing on blogger ethics, post-haste.

Possibly most off-putting was Mental Ben's valedictory, predictably a self-serving diatribe muddled with cheap finger-pointing and partisan whining. He's pretty good at dishing it out; taking it, not so much.

As you all know, I am a conservative, but not a partisan....

I have heard that phrase and variations of it so many damned times from Bushies that I lost count long ago. They're pathological, these people. Any conservative who supports Bush at this point -- after he's proven himself to be nothing but a big-spending Wilsonian who loves him some Jeebus -- is full of it, pure and simple. They are either social conservatives who don't care what else Bush does as long as he guts Roe v. Wade (which would be Mental Ben there), or they just hate paying taxes (but love being able to use all the services that taxes provide).

This smarmy "I'm not a partisan but I play one on TV" shit just drives me up the damned wall. Look, we get it. You couldn't get laid in college, so you convinced yourself that they were all assholes, and you were the good guys. Really, somebody do society a huge favor and fuck these guys while they're still in school, so they'll leave us all alone in their adult lives.

Lest you get the crazy notion that poor Ben's just a nice who been done wrong, he launches one final, pathetic scud at his tormentors:

To my friends: thank you for your support. To my enemies: I take enormous solace in the fact that you spent this week bashing me, instead of America.

Yeah, right back atcha, chump. George W. Bush is not America, and two out of three people who consider themselves Americans (but are apparently not good Americans in the opinion of this callow punk) have had their fill of Bush and his failed policies and his incompetent cronyism. So who's really the one "bashing America", fool?

And as much as he pretends to be gracious to his employers-for-last-week in his Redstate screed, he takes a slightly different tone for the hardcore 'tard crowd:

“While I appreciated the opportunity to go and join the Washington Post,” Domenech said, “if they didn’t expect the leftists were going to come after me with their sharpened knives, then they were fools.”

He's right about that, which brings me back to my main point, the big lesson that should be drawn from this by the big media organizations, but probably won't. The Post really botched this one; after the way they dropped the ball on the Froomkin deal a couple months ago, they have shown themselves to be singularly inept at handling the concerns of their readers, and consistently maintaining the integrity of their news-gathering processes.

Look, folks, quit worrying about trying to be everything to everyone, and just report the damned news, as the facts avail themselves. Don't worry about "Republican" facts, or "Democratic" facts, or "liberal" or "conservative" facts. Just find the facts, leave the lame equivocations and fake objectivity to joke news orgs like Fox, and get back to what's important. As with the Vichy Democrats, the people you are trying to appease are never going to be happy with you. Accept that and move on.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mother, Should I Run For President?*

The Houston Chronicle deserves a serious "attaboy" for turning over yet another of Mother Bush's rocks.

As Barbara Bush spent two hours championing her son's software company at a Houston middle school Thursday morning, a watchdog group questioned whether the former first lady should be allowed to channel a donation to Neil Bush's Ignite Learning company through Houston's Hurricane Katrina relief fund.

"It's strange that the former first lady would want to do this. If her son's having a rough time of it, couldn't she write him a check?" said Daniel Borochoff, founder of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a Chicago-based charity watchdog group. "Maybe she isn't aware that people could frown upon this."

Some critics said donations to a tax-deductible charitable fund shouldn't benefit the Bush family. Others questioned whether the Houston Independent School District violated district policy by allowing the company to host a promotional event on campus.

Oh, I'm sure there's a waiver in HIDS policy that allows members of the royal family to do whatever they feel like. Houston's their little fiefdom.

Jeebus. And we all used to laugh and laugh at the utter ridiculousness of Saddam Hussein's nepotism. Maybe we can appoint Kneel Bush the head of the US Olympic Committee or something. Maybe he's got pictures of Paul Tagliabue in a compromising position with a hapless ruminant. Imagine watching Kneel run the world's most profitable sports league into the ground. I bet the over/under on that would be three years tops.

[Bush] gave specific instructions that part of the money be sent to the Scottish Space School Foundation. She asked that group, in turn, to use the money to buy eight Ignite systems — valued at $3,800 each — for Harris County schools with large numbers of Hurricane Katrina evacuees, according to Bush and fund officials.

"I said to George one day: 'Maybe it's sort of selfish of me, but I'd like to give something that I could see the results of,' " she told the crowd. "The thing I knew about was the [Curriculum On Wheels]."

She said she hopes the donation will encourage other companies and individuals to give both time and money to public schools strapped by Hurricane Katrina.

Bush said her son's company could not have afforded the donation on its own.

"They gave a lot. They couldn't give more," she said. "They'd love to give more, but they're a little, small company."

This is where it starts to get awful thick. Check out the list of "investors" in Kneel's "little, small company". Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Several Middle Eastern sheiks, which is par for the course in any Bush family venture. The usual family cronies and bootlickers.

And dear old Mom and Dad. So not only is Babs using a tax-deductible contribution on an epic national tragedy to pad her S&L thief son's pockets, but also her own. I don't know if that's legal, but it sure as hell ain't moral. Funny how the big fish in that pool of high-handed morality seem to keep on turning up stanky.

I dunno. I think instead of letting Kneel hump the legs of Sun Myung Moon and the UAE sheiks to start another taxpayer-fleecing scam, maybe he could start paying back all the money he "lost". Like that'll ever happen.

Soul Brutha #2

Maybe we collectively misheard the preznit when he soberly pronounced that he had looked into Vladmer Poot'n's eyes and seen his soul. Perhaps he really said that he had seen his hole:

Russian officials collected intelligence on U.S. troop movements and attack plans from inside the American military command leading the 2003 invasion of Iraq and passed that information to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, according to a U.S. military study released yesterday.

The intelligence reports, which the study said were provided to Hussein through the Russian ambassador in Baghdad at the height of the U.S. assault, warned accurately that American formations intended to bypass Iraqi cities on their thrust toward Baghdad. The reports provided some specific numbers on U.S. troops, units and locations, according to Iraqi documents dated March and April 2003 and later captured by the United States.

Nice, huh? Of course, since both the Russians and the French had lucrative business deals going with Saddam at the time, it's not that much of a surprise. Still, what the hell, Pooty-Poot?

"The information that the Russians have collected from their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha is that the United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are impossible, and that they have changed their tactic," said one captured Iraqi document titled "Letter from Russian Official to Presidential Secretary Concerning American Intentions in Iraq" and dated March 25, 2003.

So there's a mole in CENTCOM Doha then, do we understand this correctly? Note also that we apparently had had second thoughts about occupation at the time. Turns out, obviously, that our initial instincts were correct.

Another captured Iraqi document, dated April 2, 2003, said Russian intelligence had reported to Hussein more detailed and potentially damaging information: The Americans had their heaviest concentration of forces, 12,000 troops and 1,000 vehicles, near the Iraqi city of Karbala and were moving to cut off Baghdad.


One senior Republican Guard commander, Raad Majid Rashid al-Hamdani, issued a warning in line with the Russian intelligence when he told Hussein's son Qusay that the main U.S. attack was coming past Karbala. But Hamdani was largely ignored by Qusay Hussein and other generals, to his dismay, he told the authors of the study while describing the internal debates in an interview. "It was the kind of arguments that I imagine took place in Hitler's bunker in Berlin. Were all these men on drugs?" he said.

Yes, it's amazing what utter nonsense people will allow themselves to believe, when they have intimidated all the doubters from coming forth.

Reach Out And Punch Someone

Much was made this week of Bush's various "Mission (Still In The Process Of Being) Accomplished" photo-ops. First a theoretically unscripted Cleveland event in which he retreated to the usual boilerplate whenever he got caught flat-footed by a question -- which was pretty much every question. Then the press conference where he tried to rope-a-dope Helen Thomas, in order to show off to his base, and merely came off as being rude and interruptive to an old lady who had asked some pretty relevant questions.

Then it was back to the pre-screened "town hall" type of git-together, this one in West Virginia. The media dutifully relayed this as a chat with "military families", but the fact of the matter is that they were military families who support Bush. Because the media has been lackadaisical and shamelessly irresponsible, this is widely assumed to be a difference without a distinction.

And judging from the most-overplayed "question" from the Wheeling stop, one can only speculate as to the criteria used to select the troglodytes that would be allowed to lob softballs at Bush.

Q Mr. President, I have a son that's special forces in Iraq. And I have another son -- (applause.) I have another son that's in the Army. He left college to join the Army. He's out in Hawaii. He's got the good duty right now. (Laughter.) But I thank God that you're our Commander-in-Chief. And I wouldn't want my boys -- (applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, thanks.

Q Again, I thank God you're our Commander-in-Chief. You're a man for our times. And I'm supporter of yours. And I think it's good that you come out and tell your story. And I think you need to keep doing more of it, and tell the story and the history of all this. And God bless you. And I thank you for your service.

Nicely done. Great question. You spend all day working on that one? This bullshit makes me want to puke, the way this gets floated objectively, as if it were legitimate. It is not legitimate. It is merely the ramblings of one fool. And it is foolish, make no mistake. It does not take a genius to figure out where things would stand if we'd left well enough alone, if we'd continued to keep Saddam in his box, ragged though that box was. The people who still support this clusterfuck whine that where we're at now, while "not perfect", is simply the least awful of possibilities. Obviously, that's not true -- keeping Saddam in the box was that least awful of temporary solutions.

Again and again, Bush tiresomely insists that he inherited this situation, that Clinton thought there was a threat, that the Europeans thought there was a threat. And he's right; they did think that. Lots of people who opposed invasion thought so too. This is a distinction completely lost on Bush and his remaining supporters. We had options before we went in; now we don't. We're stuck, and we're fucked, and this thing is going to end up costing over a trillion dollars by the time it's done. We were promised -- insultingly so -- that this would be easy, and it would pay for itself in no time. And the few naysayers in the administration that dared to talk about facts instead of neocon fantasies were shown the door unceremoniously.

So when this dumb asshole stands up and makes a spectacle of himself and how he thanks his god for Bush having the opportunity to fuck up the world, I want to pimp-slap him upside his fool head. I want to smack the media morons who give idiots like that a soapbox on which to publicly drool a series of useless non-sequiturs.

And I have a special loathing for the DLC appeasers who want to reach out to people like that, to waste valuable time and effort genuflecting to people who do not function from logic or reason or facts, who aren't going to convert anyway, not as long as they're in the mental fog they're in. I don't know how much simpler I can put this -- any opposition efforts involving people like the above questioner, should be about either ignoring them or helping them to come to their senses. There is absolutely no reason to meet that person halfway.

Someone also needs to tell that halfwit questioner -- and Bush himself -- that Bush is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He holds no such stature over the American citizenry at large. I resent this "commander-in-chief" "educator-in-chief" jokey-joke shorthand. This is not a garrison state, nor a military junta. Not yet. Like the "military families" trope, that too is a difference that actually does have a distinction, contrary to muddled popular belief.

Here's the thing: if Bush wants to communicate with as many "military families" as possible, he'd come to California, which has actually sustained more casualties than any other state, even West Virginia. Of course, despite the fact that 1 in every 9 Americans lives in California, Bush never sets foot anywhere outside Camp Pendleton, because he knows we can't fucking stand him. You'd think he'd take note of the sheer numbers there and find a clue, but then again, we are dealing with a singularly fourth-rate intellect. I don't mean that as mere snark, I truly believe that he has consistently and repeatedly demonstrated that he is utterly incapable of extemporaneous thought, of any but the most simple acts of processing information. There's always been someone around to wipe his ass for him, throughout his entire life, and he has some weird pathology that still allows him to think he's achieved everything in life on his own, because he's just such a great and intelligent leader. Take a look at the vile creature that passes for W's mother, a person who earmarks her "charitable" contributions for her own son's company. That must have been some childhood.

At any rate, you want to talk "military families", recall that Cindy Sheehan, whatever one's opinion of her, is a military mom. The Tillmans are a military family, who had two sons serving in Special Forces in Afghanistan. Neither was stationed in freakin' Hawaii, so I'll be goddamned if I can understand why, in the apparent pecking order of considered opinion that military service putatively confers, Mary Tillman's carefully considered and registered opinion far outweighs the plaintive bleats of Mr. "No question, Yer Highness, I just wanna thank Jeebus for your continued fuck-ups."

Now, let's contrast some of His Majesty's boilerplate with the reality provided by His own government rather than the eeeevil librul media:

The second part of a lesson that we must never forget is the enemy, in that they're not a nation state -- in other words, they don't represent a nation state like armies and navies used to do -- need safe haven. They need places to hide so they can plan and plot. And they found safe haven, as you all know, in Afghanistan. And they were supported by a government that supports their point of view, which is a government that absolutely can't stand freedom. That was the Taliban. If you were a young girl growing up under the auspices of the Taliban, you didn't have a chance to succeed. You couldn't go to school. If you dissented in the public square, you'd be in trouble. If you didn't agree with their dark vision, whether it be religion or politics, you were in trouble. In other words, they can't -- they couldn't stand this concept of a free society -- and neither can al Qaeda. See, we're dealing with ideologues. They have an ideology.

State Dept. Report on Human Rights Practices 2005: Afghanistan

Afghanistan's human rights record remained poor due to weak central institutions, a deadly insurgency, and the country's ongoing recovery from two decades of war. While the government struggled to expand its authority over provincial centers, a few areas remained under the control of regional commanders. There continued to be instances in which security and factional forces committed extrajudicial killings and torture. Extensive reporting of human rights abuses led to increased action against abusers. The following human rights problems were reported:

extrajudicial killings
poor prison conditions
official impunity
prolonged pretrial detention
abuse of authority by regional commanders
restrictions on freedoms of press, religion, movement, and association
violence and societal discrimination against women and minorities
trafficking in persons
abuse of worker rights
child labor

Terrorist attacks, armed insurgency, and violence continued during the year. Taliban and other antigovernment forces threatened, robbed, attacked, and occasionally killed local villagers, political opponents, and nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers. Increased Taliban, al-Qa'ida, and other antigovernment activity, particularly in the south and southeast, compounded security challenges faced by the government. UN agencies and NGOs temporarily cancelled or curtailed their activities at various times during the year.


There were reports of politically motivated or extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents. For example,in the spring, Kabul's police chief allegedly tortured and killed a civilian, but it was unknown whether there was an investigation.In December police beat and killeda detainee at the Kabul police station. The lack of an effective police force, poor infrastructure and communications, instability, and insecurity hampered investigations of unlawful killings, bombings, or civilian deaths, and there were no reliable estimates of the numbers involved.

There were no updates to the January 2004 hanging of four alleged bandits in Farah, the March and April 2004 killings of four detainees in Herat, or the August 2004 investigation of the 17 bodies found at the Shindand market place.

The United Nations Mine Action Center for Afghanistan (UNMACA) reported that landmines killed 132 and wounded 647 persons in the first 11 months of the year (see section 1.g.).

Terrorists and insurgents, including Taliban, al-Qa'ida, and Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, killed numerous civilians during their attacks. There were reports that the Taliban and its allies summarily executed NGO workers and other persons. Attacks on international organizations, international aid workers and their local counterparts, and foreign interests and nationals increased significantly during the yearand prompted some organizations to leave (see sections 1.g. and 4).

This all just basically reiterates what everyone already knows, that Karzai is little more than the mayor of Kabul, that the Islamic extremists we went over there to take care of have been hiding out in the weeds, quietly gaining strength, causing mayhem across the countryside. We probably could have prevented that, had we not gotten distracted from what we were supposed to be doing there.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices; however, there were reports of abuses. For example, credible observers reported that local authorities in Herat, Helmand, and other locations routinely tortured and abused detainees. Torture and abuse consisted of pulling out fingernails and toenails, burning with hot oil, sexual humiliation and sodomy.

In Kabul, prisoner Abdul Rahman alleged that local authorities beat him with rubber hoses and wood batons during his four-month-detention.

According to the UN, police in the northern district of Faryab reported that a commander and former district governor severely beat a group of teachers and detained them in his private jail during the year.

NGOs reported that security forces used excessive force during their fight against Taliban and al-Qa'ida remnants, including looting, beating, and torturing civilians. Violence and instability hampered relief and reconstruction efforts in different parts of the country and led to numerous human rights abuses.

On September 23, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that security forces arbitrarily detained civilians and committed cruel, inhumane, and degrading acts. This claim was based on reports HRW received from family members of detained civilians and interviews conducted with released detainees.

In March Harper's Magazine reported that in May 2004 a 21-year-old citizen was taken to jail in Gardez, masked with a bag, and had his hands tied. Authorities poured cold water over him and punched and beat him with sticks. The man claimed that he was threatened with an attack by dogs, subsequently bitten and scratched by dogs, and denied food. The man alleged that he was held for seven or eight nights in Gardez before being taken to another facility and tortured nightly for at least eight days, before being transferred to another facility.

You get the idea. Suffice to say that Dear Leader's talking points have all the structural integrity of Swiss cheese. It is not by any means a matter of girls freely attending school and women throwing off the burqa; in fact, it is rapidly returning to its conditions under the Taliban. Good luck convincing the Kool-Aid Brigade of that, though.

Report on Human Rights Practices: Iraq

The following human rights problems were reported:

pervasive climate of violence
misappropriation of official authority by sectarian, criminal, terrorist, and insurgent groups
arbitrary deprivation of life
torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
poor conditions in pretrial detention facilities
arbitrary arrest and detention
denial of fair public trial
an immature judicial system lacking capacity
limitations on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association due to terrorist and militia violence
restrictions on religious freedom
large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs)
lack of transparency and widespread corruption at all levels of government
constraints on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
discrimination against women, ethnic, and religious minorities
limited exercise of labor rights

The law provided a structure for advances, and despite the violence the government set and adhered to a legal and electoral course based on respect for political rights. This agenda included most importantly the right of citizens to change peacefully their government through nationwide, free, and fair elections. The elevation of the state minister position on women's affairs to a full Ministry of Women's Affairs and the steady growth of NGOs and other associations reflected notable government and civic interest in human rights issues, especially those that were separable from internal security concerns.

Civic life and the social fabric remained under intense strain from the widespread violence, principally inflicted by insurgency and terrorist attacks. Additionally, the misappropriation of official authority by groups—paramilitary, sectarian, criminal, terrorist, and insurgent--resulted in numerous and severe crimes and abuses.

Pretty much what the awful, lying media has been selectively reporting, yes?

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

A climate of extreme violence in which people were killed for political and other reasons continued. Reports increased of killings by the government or its agents that may have been politically motivated. Additionally, common criminals, insurgents, and terrorists undermined public confidence in the security apparatus by sometimes masking their identity in police and army uniforms (see section 1.g.).

Members of sectarian militias dominated police units to varying degrees and in different parts of the country. Two Shi'a groups, the Badr Organization (Al-Badr Mujahideen, formerly the Badr Corps), and the Army of the Mahdi (Jaish al-Mahdi), were active within the Ministry of the Interior's (MOI) security forces, principally the police. The politically powerful Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) created the Badr Corps as its armed wing in the 1980s in Iran, while the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr created the Mahdi Army in Baghdad's Shi'a poor areas after the fall of the former regime. Kurdish authorities retained regional control over police forces and internal security, which effectively empowered the two militias of Kurdish political parties to continue to provide police and security forces in Kurdistan. Police officers, who also were militia members, abused their official powers to pursue personal and party agendas (see section 1.d.). Many of the extralegal killings appeared based on sectarian animus, although some were reportedly for profit.

During the year there were a number of deaths either at police hands or at the hands of militia members and criminals wearing police uniforms. For example, on May 5, the bodies of 16 Sunni farmers from Mada'in, detained by men wearing police uniforms, were found in a mass grave near Sadr City, an impoverished Shi'a neighborhood of Baghdad. They had been fatally shot in the head, and the corpses showed signs of torture. MOI officials promised an investigation into the killings, but no results were available at year's end.

On May 15, eyewitnesses said armed men in police uniforms took Sunni Council of Scholars (Ulema) member Sheikh Hassan al-Naimi from his Baghdad home. Several days later his body was found with a gunshot wound to the head and signs of torture with an electric drill. The MOI promised to conduct an investigation, but no results had been released by year's end.

On July 12, nine Sunni men suffocated after police locked them for several hours in a vehicle with no air-conditioning. Officials denied intentional wrongdoing, claiming lack of training in operation of the vehicle. No one was punished for this incident.

On August 24, during the early morning hours, men in commando uniforms driving police vehicles took 36 Sunnis from their homes in Baghdad's Al-Huriya neighborhood. The bodies of the men were found the following day near the Iranian border. MOI officials promised an investigation of the incident, but no results had been released at year's end.

There was no new information regarding the MOI investigation into the case of officers in the Basrah Police Internal Affairs Unit who were involved in the December 2004 killings of 10 members of the Ba'th Party and the killings of a mother and daughter accused of engaging in prostitution. Similarly, there was no new information regarding the October 2004 arrest, interrogation, and killing of 12 kidnappers of 3 police officers.

Insurgents and terrorists killed thousands of citizens (see section 1.g.). Using intimidation and violence, they kidnapped and killed government officials and workers, common citizens, party activists participating in the electoral process, civil society activists, members of security forces, and members of the armed forces, as well as foreigners.

Insurgent and terrorist groups also bombed government facilities, mosques, public gathering spots, and businesses resulting in massive losses of life and grave injuries. There were no indications of government involvement in these acts.

Until its fall in 2003, the former regime murdered, tortured, and caused the disappearance of many thousands of persons suspected of or related to persons suspected of opposition politics, economic crimes, military desertion, and a variety of other activities. The 2003 and 2004 discovery of mass graves (defined as unmarked sites containing at least six bodies) provided evidence of the vast dimension of these practices. During the year the location of nine additional mass graves was confirmed, including in Karbala, Nasariyah, and a mass graves complex south of Samawah. The total number of confirmed sites at year's end was 286, and investigators continued to review evidence on additional mass graves.

That's only part of that section, mind you. Here's some other noteworthy items, many of which have not been addressed in detail by the media.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The TAL expressly prohibits torture in all its forms under all circumstances, as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. However, security forces employed such practices. Insurgents and terrorists frequently committed torture and other abuses (see section 1.g.).

The vast majority of human rights abuses reportedly carried out by government agents were attributed to the police. Militias, including members of the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army, penetrated some police units. The minister of interior was an official in SCIRI, the sponsor of the Badr Organization; the governor of Baghdad was a SCIRI member and a leader in the Badr Organization, as were five other provincial governors selected by their respective Governorate Councils under CPA Order 71. On June 7, President Jalal Talabani praised the Kurdish and Badr militias, calling them necessary to sweep away the remnants of the dictatorship and defeat terrorism. Police officers, some of whom were members of militias, abused official powers and resources, including police vehicles, to pursue personal, criminal, and party agendas (see section 1.g.). Criminals impersonating police officers also carried out illegal acts including kidnapping (see sections 1.a, 1.c., and 1.g.).

According to a January Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, police torture and ill treatment of detainees was commonplace. In interviews with 90 prisoners, 72 asserted that they had been tortured or mistreated. The reported abuses included beatings with cables and hosepipes, electric shocks to earlobes and genitals, food and water deprivation, and overcrowding in standing-room-only cells.

On February 6, Baktiar Amin, the former minister of human rights, noted to then prime minister Allawi that detention centers under the MOI's control were a "theater of violations of human rights." In addition to poor living conditions and arrests and detentions carried out without judicial orders, the minister stated that the MOI systematically tortured and abused detainees. Specific violations were attributed to personnel of the Major Crimes Unit, the Intelligence Directorate, and local police.

The thing that really gets me, and should get everyone (especially the families of the service personnel) is that it is becoming more and more clear that our efforts at reconstructing and rehabilitating Iraq are ultimately going to end in further institutionalized carnage. Period. It does not matter whether we stay for another decade, or leave tomorrow. These people will continue to nurse their grudges, and resolve them whenever and wherever they can. And just as they did under Saddam, the majority of these grudges will be settled under color of authority. It's that simple.

And these are the people we're recruiting and training, but because it was more important to look like we were doing something than to actually accomplish anything useful, the Iraqi police and armed forces have an awful lot of internal problems that will sorted out eventually, violently.

The reason all this should weigh especially on the minds of these families, as they fawn and preen over the mess Dear Leader has made, is because it is they and their families who truly have made significant sacrifices, and they are not going to see the payoff that Bush keeps selling them. Iraq is a failure, unless you're Iran, in which case it couldn't have gone better.

And I just don't see the utility anymore in continuing to lend credence to these mildly-retarded analyses from people whose main qualifications seem to be their religious beliefs. I don't see the point in the opposition party trying to me-too its way into this heavily-loaded "debate" on "national security", fraught as it is with unserious genuflections to moronic and unrealistic assessments of the current conditions. Catering to this crowd will do nothing except inspire scorn and contempt among that target demo, who were never up for grabs in the first place, and de-motivate the opposition's base.

Stop listening to Bullwinkle. Grow a pair. Find your principles and stick to them. Remember that if you build it, they will come, that the 50 million people who didn't bother to vote last time are a much better potential market than the mouth-breathers whose faith in their wampeter is unshakable.

To paraphrase a second-season Sopranos one-liner, treat your target demo like you'd treat a girl you want to fuck. Yeah, you meet her halfway in a sense, by watching her movie instead of yours, or letting her pick the restaurant. But when it's time to close the deal, what do you do, at least subconsciously? Through confidence, body language, and even voice and grooming, you convince her that out of all the billions of men out there, you are the one that knows what she wants, how to make her crazy, how to freak her abso-fuckin-lutely solid.

It's just crazy. The Democrats waste all this time, chasing their tails, trying to figure out how to speak the lingo of pro-life activists and southern reconstructionists. Fuck 'em already. Let them keep voting against their self-interest; let the people of West Virginia in their noble red-staterism continue to vote for the gutting of mining safety regulations. It's a much easier -- and infinitely more constructive -- task to set about convincing non-voters to get off their lazy asses and vote already.

Because here's the deal, Democrats -- politically speaking, this past year has been nothing short of a perfect storm for you. An unpopular preznit whose administration has been revealed as both corrupt and incompetent; the party in power up to its eyeballs in lobbying scandals and influence-peddling; the domestic agenda clearly written by the crazy aunts in the attic; the gleeful evisceration of individual rights. If you can't make hay out of all this and shred the Republicans this November, then why the fuck should any of us bother with you anymore?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tuesdays With Moron

It is incumbent upon every reality-based soul out there to openly and frequently ask the burning question: do these people seriously believe what they're saying?

Bush, speaking on the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, assured Americans that his administration is pursuing a strategy "that will lead to victory in Iraq," an outcome about which polls show the public is increasingly skeptical.

Throughout the past three years, Bush and Cheney have been either unwilling or unable to even define "victory" in any but the broadest rhetorical talking points. "Standing down as Iraqis stand up" is not a plan, it is less than a bumper-sticker sentiment, without any concrete policy measures to achieve such a bland, vague objective. The factual results are, by all indications, somewhere between piss-poor and miserable. Repeatedly clapping and insisting that they do believe in fairies is not helping. Incessantly blaming the media for not giving the same priority to repainted schools as they do to exploding mosques and wholesale slaughter is proving more and more to be a lame distraction, even to some folks who were previously in good standing in the Kool-Aid Brigade.

Perhaps they have had enough time to seriously consider their own moral cowardice in all this, these self-styled would-be tough guys. After all, the longer this mess goes on, and the worse it gets, it becomes more and more difficult, even for fundamentally dishonest and disingenuous people, to rationalize and justify and obfuscate what one knows deep down inside to be morally reprehensible.

And when their wampeter keeps toddling out with the same feeble rhetoric he's lathered them up with for three years running -- and even disavowing statements that have been part of the public record for quite some time now -- even these fools start to suspect that something's up. There was a time when some of Chimpco's headier fantasies could be brushed away with claims of cynicism or realpolitik. That is no longer the case. When they are using the same tired arguments, and parsing past admissions in an attempt to make reality bend to their will, one is forced to confront that question. Either they are at an unprecedented, truly breathtaking level of cynicism and disingenuousness, or they're flat-out delusional. Take your pick.

Cheney, meanwhile, dismissed assertions made by former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi that the nation is in the throes of civil war. He said Iraq is holding together as a new constitutional democracy even as terrorists are desperately trying to cause its dissolution.

Right. What does Deadeye Dick know about Iraq, that our former CIA asset Allawi does not know about his own country? As I mentioned earlier, you extrapolate the numbers, and it is literally impossible to ignore such daily casualties. Yet they persist in their selective vision, despite all rational indicators regarding Iraq's precipitous slide into civil war.

For a long time after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it made sense to argue that the fighting in Iraq was not a civil war, but a Sunni-led insurgency against the U.S. occupation forces and the series of transitional, interim and “permanent” puppet governments supported by those U.S. forces. For a long while, the majority of those killed in Iraq were either combatants on one side of these battle lines or another, or they were civilian “collateral damage” killed by the United States or who died in spectacular car bombings and other terrorist acts carried out by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s religious right. That is no longer the case.

Sometime over the past twelve months—long before the demolition of the Golden Dome in Samarra—that balance shifted dramatically. It might truly be said that the Iraq War became the Iraqi Civil War when the number of those killed in sectarian and ethnic clashes, in death squad activity and in assassinations, torture and executions surpassed the number killed in the war between the United States and the resistance. It’s hard to say exactly when this happened, but it took place last summer, at least, and it has continued to this day.

John Pace, the former United Nations human rights chief in Iraq, might have been announcing the start of the Iraqi Civil War when he declared that as many as 1,000 dead Iraqis per month were turning up in morgues with obvious signs that they had been bound and gagged, tortured and executed.

The central argument of Chimpco's latest charm offensive is to blame the media, of course. This is both asinine and untrue. Such "reasoning" implicitly supposes that if the media either downplayed the violence, or even ignored it altogether, that somehow events would be playing out differently. To be sure, some of the pre-screened supporters on Bush's whistle-stop boilerplate circle jerks seem to actually buy into such a notion. The most charitable way I can put it is that those people are not thinking this through. They are merely hearing what they want to hear, believing what they wanted to believe all along. It's a wish their hearts are making, while their brains are apparently sound asleep.

As always, if the armchair quarterbacks wish to show the proles conclusive proof that the media are being unnecessarily pessimistic about Iraq, then by all means go over and show us all the good stuff. I keep hearing the plaintive wail, "Why won't they show the good we're doing there?" Very well, then, go over there and show the other side of the story. Have another "Truth Tour", maybe this time one where you can leave the Green Zone without full military escort. Because it's such a safe place, thanks to the progress we're making.

Seriously, I'd love to see Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of them do exactly what the keep daring the despised media to do -- get off the hotel balcony and show us the real Iraq. Of course, this despicable trope completely ignores all the journalists from around the world who have been killed or injured trying to do just that. I'd like to see Ingraham give her little smartass lecture to Bob Woodruff, or to the family of Michael Kelly. Really, above and beyond the sheer fatuousness of their arguments, these people are just beneath contempt. They are clutching at last straws, unaware that a few segments of the media are starting to wake up, tiring of the constant abuse from an unpopular preznit and his vile minions, and maybe getting the first signs of backbone.

Meanwhile, if either of these stories are even remotely true, we may be digging ourselves an inescapable hole anyway, with or without a true full-scale civil war.

Iraqi police have accused American troops of executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, in the aftermath of a raid last Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The villagers were killed after American troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals and blew up the house, the document said.

A U.S. military spokesman, Major Tim Keefe, said that the U.S. military has no information to support the allegations and that he had not heard of them before a reporter brought them to his attention Sunday.


Accusations that U.S. troops have killed civilians are commonplace in Iraq, though most are judged later to be unfounded or exaggerated. Navy investigators announced last week that they were looking into whether Marines intentionally killed 15 Iraqi civilians - four of them women and five of them children - during fighting last November.

But the report of the killings in the Abu Sifa area of Ishaqi, eight miles north of the city of Balad, is unusual because it originated with Iraqi police and because Iraqi police were willing to attach their names to it.

That the Iraqi police are actually willing to sign off on this formal accusation and push it is huge, regardless of the veracity of the charges. There were bound to be incidents where the Iraqis might cynically try to publicly distance themselves from us, so as to demonstrate some independence. But not on something as awful as this. This is so fucking bad, it's just unforgivable. I hope like hell that there's some twist, that it was set up to make people think we did it. But I'm also old enough to recall the name My Lai. Things happen.

And while much has been made of Bush's implicit admission that we'll still be in Iraq after he's out of office (and hopefully out of our lives for good), all I get from his obnoxious, petulant tone is that someone else gets to clean up the mess he made. And like he has his entire life, he'll escape any real accountability for the damage he's inflicted.

Finally, it's instructive to note that, after all is said and done, that even the vaunted "Axle of Evil" policy is an abject failure. Iran, seeing us next door with our pants around our ankles, is nothing but emboldened. With the Chinese and Russians on their side, they promise to be a thorn in our sides for quite some time. And there's not much we can really do about it. Air strikes, sure. But then they retaliate, and it's on, it's been brought. And there's no guarantees as to how the rest of the world will come down on the issue next time. We have no more credibility; Chimpco has played all their "wolf" cards.

And North Korea is itching to stir up whatever shit it can, now that it has nukes.

North Korea said Tuesday that it had the ability to launch a pre-emptive attack on the United States in its latest threat since being told it must stop its illegal trade activities.
"Our strong revolutionary might put in place all measures to counter (a) possible U.S. pre-emptive strike," the North Korea Foreign Ministry said, according to the Korean Central News Agency. "Pre-emptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States."

The ministry also said the North had built atomic weapons to counter the U.S. nuclear threat.

"We made nuclear weapons because of a nuclear threat from the United States," the ministry said.

Whatever cakewalk fantasies once existed in regards to Iraq, there have never been any such illusions about North Korea (or Iran, for that matter), even when we were at peak strength. But again, the worst part of it is that we are exposed. Any student of empire knows that the big dog never undertakes any military campaign half-assed, lest he fail and be exposed to all enemies. This is not to say that Iraq would have been successful even with twice the manpower; it still probably wouldn't have. But Rumsfeld insisted on doing it all on the cheap, and fired dissenting voices that, as it turns out, knew much better than he did.

So now they all know the extent and limitations of our military capabilities, and they know how much we've been weakened trying to occupy a country already weakened itself by a decade of sanctions. And with every passing day, as our "leaders" continue to posture and preen and deny reality in a futile attempt to cover their asses, they know the truth about the people running this banana stand. Incompetent, at odds with reality, dangerously delusional, and in constant denial, out of fear that the public might suddenly get wise and send them all home.

But yeah, I hear a few dozen cherry-picked military families are peeved that we don't hear enough of the good stuff. Fine. You pick the story, then, and contrast it with the events that are actually driving the narrative. Rebuilding schools and hospitals is nice, but in the context of daily murder and kidnapping, rather orthogonal to the direction of the overall situation. A responsible leader would know that, and at least plan accordingly, if not come clean once and for all.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Last Throe Update

This must be the progress we keep hearing about:

About 100 masked gunmen stormed a prison near the Iranian border Tuesday, cutting phone wires, freeing all the inmates and leaving behind a scene of devastation and carnage — 20 dead policemen, burned-out cars and a smoldering jailhouse.

Pretty sophisticated level of organization for a bunch of dead-enders.

The insurgency's strength, spiraling sectarian violence and the stalemate over forming a government in Iraq have led politicians and foreign policy experts to say Iraq is on the brink or perhaps in the midst of civil war.

Fortunately, we have our smartass Secretary of Defense to stipulate to us that an Iraqi civil war would not look like the American version. Seriously. The guy who is supposed to be coordinating this country's defense efforts uses that as a rejoinder to a perfectly sensible question.

I was particularly struck by the clip of Iyad Allawi yesterday, referring to the daily body count of "50 to 60". Now, do the math and extrapolate those numbers to an American-sized population, roughly twelve times that of the Iraqi. If there were two major sectarian groups in this country that were murdering 600-700 people per day, would we have to ask about whether or not there was a civil war in effect?

Of course we would. Our "leaders" would continue the pretense of "progress", their minions would continue to make wisecracks like it's some fucking joke, the retards who support them would continue their moronic braying, and the media would steadfastly refuse to hold any of them accountable for their actions and words.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sweeps Week

In case you happened to miss the subtle week-long rollout for Operation Showboat, er, Swarmer (like that was any better), Time of all publications has the skeptic's take on this cynical exercise, propitiously timed as it was on the cusp of us commencing our fourth year of what can most charitably be characterized as an abject failure, a reckless, unrewarded waste of life and limb.

Four Black Hawk helicopters landed in a wheat field and dropped off a television crew, three photographers, three print reporters and three Iraqi government officials right into the middle of Operation Swarmer. Iraqi soldiers in newly painted humvees, green and red Iraqi flags stenciled on the tailgates, had just finished searching the farm populated by a half-dozen skinny cows and a woman kneading freshly risen dough and slapping it to the walls of a mud oven.

The press, flown in from Baghdad to this agricultural gridiron northeast of Samarra, huddled around the Iraqi officials and U.S. Army commanders who explained that the "largest air assault since 2003" in Iraq using over 50 helicopters to put 1500 Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released. The area, explained the officials, has long been suspected of being used as a base for insurgents operating in and around Samarra, the city north of Baghdad where the bombing of a sacred shrine recently sparked a wave of sectarian violence.

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.

Back to Iraq has some additional info on the big photo-op:

“Operation Swarmer” is really a media show. It was designed to show off the new Iraqi Army — although there was no enemy for them to fight. Every American official I’ve heard has emphasized the role of the Iraqi forces just days before the third anniversary of the start of the war. That said, one Iraqi role the military will start highlighting in the next few days, I imagine, is that of Iraqi intelligence. It was intel from the Iraqi military intelligence and interior ministry that the U.S. says prompted this Potemkin operation. And it will be the Iraqi intel that provides the cover for American military commanders to throw up their hands and say, “well, we thought bad guys were there.”

It’s hard to blame the military, however. Stations like Fox and CNN have really taken this and ran with it, with fancy graphics and theme music, thanks to a relatively slow news day. The generals here also are under tremendous pressure to show off some functioning Iraqi troops before the third anniversary, and I won’t fault them for going into a region loaded for bear. After all, the Iraqi intelligence might have been right.

But Operation Overblown should raise serious questions about how good Iraqi intelligence is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by earnest lieutenants that the Iraqis are valiant and necessary partners, “because they know the area, the people and the customs.” But when I spoke to grunts and NCOs, however, they usually gave me blunter — and more colorful — reasons why the Iraqi intelligence was often, shall we say, useless. Tribal rivalries and personal feuds are still a major reason why Iraqis drop a dime on their neighbors.

Third verse, same as the second, same as the first. I'm sure we'll be banging our collective heads against the same wall this time next year.

Bonzo Goes To Film School

Apparently Jason Apuzzo, self-styled arbiter and tireless declaimer of stereotypical "Hollywood values", has sufficiently recovered from the mauling administered by Kung Fu Monkey's John Rogers last month to show his face in public again. Saints be praised, here comes the weekly affirmation for the National Peggy Noonan Quilting Bee:

So here’s the bad news: Hollywood doesn’t need the Heartland anymore.
There’s basically no pressure for Hollywood to change what it’s doing, because there are plenty of Blue State audiences and DVD sales out there to make even something like the gender-bending “Transamerica” a hit, so long as the film doesn’t cost too much.

I’ve heard conservatives tell me for years that ‘market forces’ will eventually force Hollywood to change, become more mainstream. The argument goes something like this: Hollywood’s product will eventually become so toxic, so nakedly political, that there will eventually be a backlash’ from the public - at which point things in Tinseltown will magically change for the better.

Guess what? It ain’t happening. Hollywood simply doesn’t need the Red States any more. Hollywood’s more interested in how a film plays in Mexico or France these days than in Kansas. After all, Charles Krauthammer may hate “Syriana” - but the Germans and the Brits love it! So do the Spanish and the Italians. That’s the global economy for you - Hollywood’s now out-sourcing its audience.

Well, if Brooke Anderson's folksy pre-Oscar take on things is any indication, why on earth would Hollywood -- or for that matter, any corporate entity whose primary motive is (get this) making money -- bother with the logistics of schlepping their product into every one-stoplight podunk town, half of whom will bitch about the movie instead of seeing it in the first place, because Sean Hannity told them to? They won't see Brokeback Mountain because of "all that sex and skin". I haven't seen the movie either (but yes, I am secure enough in my masculinity/heterosexuality/whatever social construct to see it once it hits DVD), but from what I've heard there is actually very little "sex and skin". Apparently people have been led to believe the movie is non-stop ass-fucking and blowjobs. Perhaps they were thinking of Spartacus.

These folks have been preconditioned to take a negative view toward it, toward Syriana, toward whatever the potboiler movie all the conservative cranks haven't seen but know is un-American (through osmosis, presumably). They would rather continue to pretend that the benevolent Petroleum Fairy works with Jeebus to arrange for unlimited supplies of oil for us to waste, than maybe gain a little insight into the corrupt network of people working to get it here at maximum profit and political disruption.

Whatever. Frankly, I gave up on such people long ago; they don't want to be converted, and I certainly have no interest in converting them. And I have no idea why any gay Jew sodomite anal-sex-fetish anti-American pro-mass-abortion pro-homos-marrying ACLU card-carrying liberal Hollywood bastard would want to waste their time or money trying to cater to them either. You want The Sound of Music, ladies? Go rent it, then.

So yeah, you could actually concede Apuzzo's larger point to him -- Hollywood doesn't care about what the "heartland" "wants". Nor should it. It's a business, people. Guess what, Walmart doesn't give a damn about what the "heartland" "wants", either. They're just better at pretending that they do.

But obviously those terms are loaded anyway. The "heartland". The "red states". Bullshit. Most states are in fact purple, but because the "news" media thrive on manufactured conflict, they continue to portray this red state/blue state nonsense. Exactly how do a half-dozen bell-ringing biddies ranting about movies that they will never see come to represent anything more than a lame anecdote about what "heartland" "values" are? The terms are loaded before they even get used. Honest debate is pre-emptively quashed.

This is the Republican agenda writ small, people. It's straight out of Orwell. How can people have a sensible discussion about anything -- politics, culture, music, ethical values -- if the terminology has already been rendered meaningless?

There is what liberalism actually is and what people have been told that it is, over and over, day after day, year after year, by Limbaugh and the rest of the Horst Wessel gang. There is what the "heartland" is -- communities being held together by little more than duct tape and prayer, ghost towns with naught but ignorant codgers and meth addicts, outsourced and downsized and co-opted to where only retirees and small children can afford to live there without going completely insane from the lack of anything truly meaningful in terms of quality of life -- and the incessant reverential flag-waving hoo-ha we all know is coming anytime CNN sets foot in Kansas or Nebraska.

And there is what "values" are -- understanding that what makes this country truly special is that it is the only one that promises the pursuit of happiness to every individual within its borders, and trusts each individual to decide what that means to them -- and what it has come to mean, a nosy society of Gladys Kravitzes, assholes who not only don't mean well, they don't even pretend to mean well anymore. All they know is that they're perfect, and you're a threat, so they're going to infest every school board and law-making body until they've imposed their personal morality on everyone else.

There's your fucking "heartland" "values", Chief. No thanks.

All of this may be depressing to read, but here’s the good news: if the price of entry into the movie game is $5-$20 million, conservatives can play too.

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” grossed over $610 million worldwide on an initial investment of only $30 million. And guess what? There’s no reason to assume that conservative productions made on even lower budgets couldn’t be successful, as well. George Lucas even said recently that the economics of ‘blockbuster’ filmmaking no longer make sense, and that Hollywood’s future is probably in making films at about the $15 million level.

Phillip Anschutz’s Walden Media turned a lot of heads in conservative circles last year by pumping about $180 million into “The Chronicles of Narnia.” It was a great, successful experiment - but you won’t see another “Narnia” until 2007 - and in the meantime Hollywood will go about its usual business, merrily bashing Bush.

Here is where Apuzzo goes off the rails. Mel Gibson does not strike me as a political conservative, but rather a social one. And he captured lightning in a bottle with Passion. That fueled a specifically religious coordination of worshippers and congregations, many of whom went to see it multiple times. Do you know why Titanic is the all-time box-office champ? Because every 14-year-old girl in America decided she had to see it as many times as possible. Repeat traffic amongst the target demo is what drives blockbusters, and that's a hard thing to pull off even for experienced film marketers. Niches are easy to exploit, but they're very difficult to turn mainstream. And Gibson himself was instrumental in that aspect of the marketing, going on every wingnut 700 Club-type show he could find, to get the word out to his target demographic. The hivemind and the media attention did most of the work for him after that.

But regardless, to reiterate, Gibson does not seem politically motivated to become a careerist "filmcon", for lack of a better term. While socially conservative and obviously quite religious, he comes off as being politically rather neutral or libertarian. That is not the same thing as these recooked Trotskyite movementarian cultists who populate the neo/theocon activist ranks, with their (extremely unconservative) mission of eternal revolution revolving around an ever-changing cast of disposable wampeters (note how they are all starting to run from their failed codpiece hero, now that the chips are down and they can no longer deny what an incompetent fool he has been all along). It is not the same thing at all.

As for Anschutz, he's a real piece of work, but I submit that Narnia succeeded precisely because it did not have any overt political agenda. For one, most people of a certain age (that is, back when Americans used to read something other than fake memoirs and D-list celeb confessionals) are familiar with the books. That transcended political and religious affiliations. Second, the movie, aside from a couple of moderate scenes of battle and peril, was geared toward children. There was a concerted effort to market the movie toward evangelical Christians, but again, that is largely orthogonal to the movie's success.

If anything, the marketing campaign was successful on that count because it reminded evangelicals of their (rather loose) connection to Lewis' profound ethical philosophies, and it also convinced them that the movie would be inoffensive to their beliefs, and that Aslan might be an acceptable analogy to the risen Christ. Fine, but when all is said and done, the bottom line is that they had to make their money back like anyone else, and they were careful to soft-pedal the implicit Christian message in their mainstream marketing efforts.

Anschutz’s $180 million could just as easily support twenty films - maybe about the War on Terror? Maybe about loopy Marxist academics? Maybe about snotty West Hollywood liberals who drive gas-guzzling SUVs? Anything’s possible.

Wouldn’t it be fun if a conservative company followed the model of Participant Productions, and pumped out a few low-budget conservative films each year? Such a company could kick-start a conservative film revolution.

You know, I have heard this stuff bandied about for years and years. Apuzzo's take on it is nothing new, he's just learned the basics on how to me-too his own little counterpart to the decadent Sundance Festival (Official slogan: "It's just like Sundance, minus the interesting, commercially viable films and the pussy."). Whoopdee-fuckin'-do. Here's the deal, sporto -- if the movies were any good, if people were clamoring to see them, they'd be out there. True story. Hollywood and its awful denizens may indeed care to some extent about pushing what ignorant stodgy curmudgeons are predisposed to assume is a "liberal" agenda (again, with all the negative false connotations they've been heavily conditioned to associate that pejorative with).

But they really do care more about making money. As Rogers points out, they're far more concerned with figuring out just how the fuck Big Momma's House 2 managed to turn almost $30 mil in its opening weekend, than worrying about what Michael Moore's next project is. Hell, by the the cons' own definition of the libs, that they're amoral and decadent, it stands to reason that the pursuit of money would indeed trump all, even boutique political causes. So what's the fuckin' problem, fake Randians?

And Apuzzo needs to really think about his own question, as regards funding conservative film projects. Why isn't it happening, like at all? Why isn't Phil Anschutz complementing his Narnia investment with some smaller fare caricaturing the lib stereotype? Why aren't the immensely wealthy religious grifters bankrolling anything bigger than crummy Kirk Cameron Left Behind movies in the nether regions of basic cable? Why haven't the oh-so-principled solons of movementarianism pooled their noble efforts and honestly-acquired wealth to give the biddies in Lebanon, Kansas -- and all the Lebanons of the vaunted "heartland" -- their fondest desire? What's stopping them?

Really, Jason, why aren't your heroes putting you and your cohorts to work? After all, if these are truly the values that represent America, and this is truly what the majority wishes to see, then it should be that magic confluence of sacred principle and practical use of capital, no?

So why aren't they doing it, champ? Does George Clooney's eeeevil reach really extend that far? Or have you just been blowing smoke up your own -- and everyone else's -- ass this whole time?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Straw Dogs

The AP actually takes on the preznit's nasty rhetorical habit of using straw-man arguments to present his "case".

When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

Yep. Reductio ad absurdum arguments go hand-in-glove with the straw man. I don't know if I want to bother getting into the chicken-egg aspects of all that, but a cursory glance of any of the popular conservative pundits and blogs (no, I'm not going to name or link to any of them) will show those exact same tactics used with predictable regularity.

Bush routinely is criticized for dressing up events with a too-rosy glow. But experts in political speech say the straw man device, in which the president makes himself appear entirely reasonable by contrast to supposed "critics," is just as problematic.

Because the "some" often go unnamed, Bush can argue that his statements are true in an era of blogs and talk radio. Even so, "'some' suggests a number much larger than is actually out there," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.

"It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people," Fields said. "All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent. What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff."

It's turning out more and more that that's all they have to offer, which is why even their own base is starting to desert them. Between Buckley and Fwill and Nooners and the rest of the rats swimming franticcaly away from the U.S.S. Chimpco, you'd think they hadn't endorsed this fucking clown not once, but twice, and condemned the high-falutin temerity of the three-digit IQ set who dared to point out that this guy was nothing but a ball-scratching moron.

Nice try, folks. You wanted him, you got him, and you're stuck with him.

Of course, Bush really shovels on the bullshit come election time. If the last three are any indication, this year's oughta be a screamer. After all, these are the utterly shameless draft-dodgers who threw triple-amputee Max Cleland under the bus. There is literally nothing they won't do or say to mischaracterize an opponent, and the more upright and well-meaning that opponent, the more shameless they are.

Campaigning for Republican candidates in the 2002 midterm elections, the president sought to use the congressional debate over a new Homeland Security Department against Democrats.

He told at least two audiences that some senators opposing him were "not interested in the security of the American people." In reality, Democrats balked not at creating the department, which Bush himself first opposed, but at letting agency workers go without the usual civil service protections.

Running for re-election against Sen. John Kerry in 2004, Bush frequently used some version of this line to paint his Democratic opponent as weaker in the fight against terrorism: "My opponent and others believe this matter is a matter of intelligence and law enforcement."

The assertion was called a mischaracterization of Kerry's views even by a Republican, Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) of Arizona.

Oh, that was back when McCain still retained some small shred of dignity. The man is an embarrassment now. I seriously do not understand how McCain can go home and face his family every night as a man, after what those fucks said about him and them in the SC primaries in 2000. No pride.

Shit, Charlie had nothing on Bush's team, as far as what they could make McCain do. Charlie broke his arms, but Bush broke McCain's spirit, turned him into the worst sort of toadying bootlicker. It's nauseating, much like Bush's oratory and cheap rhetoric.

Tom Cruise Sucks

Just want to make sure that when Mini-Me Googles himself, maybe he can spot something else to get jiggy about. Go ahead and sue me, halfpint -- I gots nothin'. Besides, your brainwashed child-bride might suddenly get her memory refreshed that there are actually men taller than she is, and then you're in trouble.

In the past, I've actually stuck up for Cruise at times. I think he's done some good work, and not necessarily reaped the official rewards for it (though he's obviously gotten the financial rewards). But enough is enough. His weird little control-freak tactics have simply gotten out of hand.

Tom Cruise stopped Comedy Central from airing an episode of 'South Park' that mocks him - by threatening to refuse to promote 'Mission Impossible 3'. The now infamous episode of the cartoon 'Trapped in the Closet' pokes fun at the actor's Scientology beliefs and shows the actor trapped inside a closet.

The show, which was first aired last November, was set to be repeated on Wednesday night on Paramount cable channel Comedy Central. Paramount, owned by US media giant Viacom, is the studio behind the latest 'Mission Impossible' sequel.

However, the show was removed from the schedule at the last minute because Cruise reportedly went to Viacom executives demanding the episode be pulled otherwise he would "boycott" all promotion for 'MI3'.

Someone tell this little homunculus that in a society that respects free speech, sometimes you just gotta deal with things you don't like. People may not respect your whackjob cult. They may not care that you're OT7 or whatever. They may not understand just How Important You Are, because they're still full of engrams and thetans and whatnot.

Cruise will get his come-uppance soon enough -- Parker and Stone always get the last word, and now you can count on them adding some shithead character to the mix. Look for South Park's next lovable munchkin, "Dom Cruiser", a rough-trade high-schooler whose insatiable appetite for cock provides nearly as many bellylaffs as his incredible lack of height.

Can't say you weren't warned, runt.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Schmuck Of The Irish

WHY should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the lithe streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

No Second Troy, W. B. Yeats

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Mighty Wind, It's Blowing You And Me

Jeebus H. Tapdancing Kee-rist. It just gets stupider. Tonight's NBC "News" led off with the solemn making of goo-goo eyes between Brian Williams and Potatohead Russert, over the preznit's calamitous 37% poll ratings.

Father Tim drove me clean over the edge with his somber intonation that this poll leads him to believe that something may, just may, mind you, be "in the wind". Lemme get this straight -- the polls have been mostly in the mid-high 30's since Katrina, since last September, and this fucking overpaid medicine ball with a combover suddenly gets a heads-up in his Spidey sense?

I mean, he's just fucking with us now, isn't he? I guess someone needs to get paid to give handjobs to the Republicans and play grab-ass with Norah O'Donnell, but does he have be so brazen about it?

The MSM had best face up to their systemic malaise, before it proves fatal to them -- they are part of the problem. They have seriously convinced themselves that people will think what Timmeh and friends tell them to think. They're just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic at this point, if this is supposed to pass for serious analysis.

The only other rational possibility is that they really are part of a long-standing corporate disinformation policy to favor "establishment" pols and mores. I hate to sound like the local SDS rep, but hell, they're not even bothering to bury their shit anymore when they take a dump in the nightly news sandbox.

I'd say something faux-revolutionary like Russert being the first up against the wall when the time comes, but that fat useless fuck would just knock the wall over.

Chickenhawks vs. Chickenshits

Kudos and huzzahs all the way around to the gutless wonders polluting the shell of the Democratic “Party”. Just when I think I can’t get more disgusted with their fawning, mewling behavior, they go and prove me wrong yet again.

Russ Feingold stepped up on this. He did his job, and a few -- very few – fellow Democrats had the courage of their convictions to do the same. Feingold is asking a question that is fundamental to this nation’s continued ability to function properly, and he deserves a serious answer, as do the rest of us. I want Bill Frist to stand up and tell the American people that he would have no problem with Hillary Clinton inheriting Bush and Cheney’s super-secret superpowers in ’08. I want Bullwinkle and the rest of the Vichy DLC to explain exactly why, after this administration has proven to be either incompetent or corrupt (or, more frequently, both) on everything, we should trust that the NSA’s secret domestic spy program begins and ends with al Qaeda members and those who are but one degree of separation from them.

Hell, while we’re at it, I’d like just one (1) prominent Democrat to hog every MSM mike in sight and shame God’s Own Party into either publicly owning or disavowing South Dakota’s stunt legislation, before this gets out of hand. You don’t kill that cockroach now, you’ll have a dozen more like by mid-summer. Count on it.

Yes, yes, I know the learned solons of the Party have A Plan. I can tell. It’s working fabulously. Apparently this plan involves waiting for Bush’s approval ratings to hit, oh, 25 or 20 percent, and then all hell breaks loose. Then perhaps they will feel empowered enough to unleash the beast, their secret weapon. And all will fear the raw strength, speed, and surgical precision of political ninjas such as Rahm Emanuel and Joementum Lieberman. It's the political martial art of Jeet Kune Joe -- The Way Of The Ineffectual Raised Hand In A Futile Attempt To Ward Off The Blows Raining Down Upon You.

You want to know why people keep voting for a proven dipshit like Bush instead of you, Dems, look in the fucking mirror. Nobody in their right mind wants to vote for a party who not only handed their balls over to their mortal enemies, long ago, they don’t even want ‘em back.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Profile In Douchebag: Richie Rich

There are many jerkoffs within the crumbling House of Bush to loathe. Some have inexplicably been given positions of responsibility over the lives of their fellow citizens, who actually have to do something for a living besides grift the working class. Some, like Pierce Bush, the son of S&L thief/Moonie bootlicker/call-girl customer Neil, are merely the latest generation of useless bastards from a clan that never should have been given a chance to run anything in the first damned place.

Pierce, who recently transferred from Georgetown to UT Austin to continue his major of being an upper-crust parasite, apparently fancies himself as knowledgeable about world events n' stuff. There is currently a bit of a buzz about a letter to the editor of the Houston Chronicle, complaining about how Unca George's little deal with Dubai got squashed (or at least diverted).

When the political firestorm over Dubai Ports World broke out last month, President Bush's nephew sent the Houston Chronicle an electronic letter to the editor, defending his uncle's drive to allow the United Arab Emirates company to buy a firm that helps run six U.S. ports.

To the University of Texas at Austin student, opposition to the deal — it had been approved by the administration before being scuttled Thursday — sent an "ignorant and offensive" message that the owners were being discriminated against because they are Arab. The protests of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and other congressional leaders seemed "racially prejudiced," he said in the letter, which the Chronicle published.

Yeah. It's not that people are weirded out by the DPW deal just because, um, two of the 9/11 hijackers were from there, al-Qaeda had used Dubai's banks to launder and move funds, and Dubai's royal family were tight with bin Laden and the Taliban. No. It's because they're Arab. Right. Sit down and shut up, Opie.

"I'm not writing them because the president's my uncle," Pierce Bush, who turns 20 this month, said in a telephone interview. "It's kind of my own opinion separately. I'm a strong supporter of my uncle's values."

One of his family's strengths, he said, is that it accepts differing points of view. If he disagreed with one of the president's decisions, he said, he would be free to voice his opposition.

But would he be dashing off letters to the editor if they were critical of his uncle?

"In terms of him being pissed at me, I don't think it would be a good idea. In fact, I guarantee it wouldn't be," said the collegiate Bush, who's unsure if the president is aware of his letters. "If he was against the ports deal, I don't know if I would've written the letter."

Let's hope that UT has some sort of logic and reason class for li'l Pierce, so's he can sort out the serious contradictions in his own statement there. He says it's "kind of [his] own opinion separately", but also immediately iterates his strong support of his uncle's values, which apparently include running the country into the ground, starting wars for no goddamned reason, and watching old people die in their attics and pretend that no one saw it comin'. But whatever. The bottom line is that he had nothing new to add to the argument, by his own admission, yet felt compelled to add his extremely biased 2¢ to the mix.

And best of all, he admits that if his own coveted free n' fair opinion hadn't jibed with Unca Dubya, why he'd have just kept his piehole shut. Too bad he didn't follow that instinct to begin with. But you know, either you're speaking as a member of your political family, or you're speaking as an average concerned American. Pick one, you smug little shit.

It is indeed odd, watching Bush frantically try to resuscitate this fucking ports deal, all while ignoring the rather obvious argument that perhaps we ought to be taking care of it ourselves, if we're so damned concerned about security. The nebulous issue of "cost" keeps getting brought up as a reason why not, but I'll be damned if I've seen any numbers at all on the subject. And anyway, could it possibly be more than the $1 bn per week we spend in Iraq?

But the more you look at this, the more it makes sense -- Junior's reluctance to discuss the deal (now that he, uh, knows about it, that is), and why Pierce might be so darned concerned as well.

Seems that Pierce's daddy has some bidness deals with Dubai as well:

In October 2001, shortly after the United States began bombing Afghanistan, Neil attended an international technology conference in Dubai. He was fishing for investors for his latest business venture -- Ignite Incorporated, an interactive education software company that he founded in March 1999. Ignite says its goal is to help students improve their standardized test scores. And that's where No Child Left Behind comes into play.

Neil Bush's company sells software to prepare students to take comprehensive tests required under "No Child Left Behind." Schools that fail the tests will face termination of federal assistance. The contracts for these test programs are very lucrative. Ignite is currently running a pilot program at a Middle School in Orlando, Florida--where Neil's brother Jeb is governor. The company hopes to sell the software throughout Florida at $30 per pupil per year.

In mid-February, Houston school board members unanimously agreed to accept $115,000 in charitable donations that would be funneled to Ignite. The Houston Independent School District trustees had initially delayed a vote on the matter in December, saying they were concerned that Bush's Austin-based company might be benefiting from his family name. But in February, the nine board members approved the funding without discussion.

So gee whiz, I guess it's just Pierce Bush's personal ethics system which compels him to boldly speak out on this issue of all things. Not his uncle's dwindling political capital and penchant for massive fuck-ups. Not his daddy's bidness deals with the same people. Nope. He just cares so much. Plus, you know, why exactly is it "news" what the spoiled punk nephew of an unpopular preznit thinks about anything, much less matters of national security?

Let it also be noted for the record that this morning's Today Show interview with this little prick was conducted by none other than Campbell Brown, who just happens to be engaged to former CPA and current White House spokes-tool Dan Senor. Perhaps someone should convene a blogger ethics panel about all these fine journamalistic conflicts of interest. Start with Brown and continue through Tweety and Timmeh. There's plenty of digging to be done there, as evidenced by the clear skew of the latter two's usual guest panels.

I can't find a transcript of it yet, but I'd swear that I heard Brown ask Pierce about possible future political aspirations. Ordinarily I'd say I don't see how that could possibly happen, but then I thought the 2000 candidacy of W was a bad joke. I didn't see how that could happen, because I didn't realize just how badly his backers and his fixers wanted it. W came off as back-slapping idiot in that introductory campaign, a mediocre governor of a state that has very limited gubernatorial powers in the first place. And sure enough, he's proven himself to be just that, a glad-handing moron.

Rather than continue his sorry family's dynastic pretension, I think that Pierce will follow in his daddy's footsteps instead of his uncle's. He'll be a lackey to the powerful, a butt-boy for the distributors of thick envelopes who really run the world. He'll be a smooth corporate shill to the Moons and the sheiks of the world, people who literally think they have the divine right to run everybody else's lives. After all, he can relate.

Oh, and by the way, Piercy, if you agree with your uncle's policies so much, remember you're always free to sign up and help fight the War On Terra.