Thursday, November 30, 2006

Freedom, Marching

More consequences of The Decider's decision to head for Iraq, and leave Afghanistan to the Taliban jackals [link via Hullabaloo]:

The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.

The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.

Mr Halim was one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul to the south and east which has become the scene of fierce clashes between the Taliban and US and Afghan forces.

Holy shit. They're drawing and quartering teachers. I don't recall it being that atrocious there (though it was pretty awful by all accounts) even leading up to 9/11. But now, with a hostile, chaotic populace outside Kabul, and a porous border between Paktia/Paktika and Balochistan, the madrassa scum flow back and forth like an overripe sewer tide.

It may be indirect, but it is not too tenuous a connection to make -- this poor man died horrifically because certain people were so smug and self-righteous in wanting to move on to a different war, they not only didn't bother to finish up this one, they pre-emptively (and illegally) diverted $700 million that could have helped.

Not sure how much of the have-a-beer-with-Cooter vote still festers out there, but they are welcome to ponder this latest episode in that context, and maybe someday realize that this is what happens when you give a spoiled, petulant, ignorant child a job of such magnitude. Somebody else pays the price.

My Pet Dawa

A postponed meeting,a leaked memo, a collapsing Iraqi government -- could it be that Bush really has no clue what he's doing?

And it couldn't possibly be because the insurgents are actually effective at what they're doing -- which is disrupting social systems, making a day-to-day existence impossible.

The CW has long been that Hamid Karzai, title notwithstanding, is effectively the mayor of Kabul. Nouri al-Maliki isn't even that -- he's the alderman of the Green Zone, four miles square of concentric concrete rings and heavily fortified checkpoints. The only card he has to play is to show his people that he's not Bush's boy, and there's only so many opportunities to play that card.

As for Bush, people have finally gotten wise to his marked deck, and he has no more hand. He's essentially the slow kid in PE class -- they let him stand on the sideline with a coach's whistle and pretend he's coaching, but he's too slow to realize that the pea in the whistle has been removed. He's over and done, they're just letting him go through the motions, and maybe at least salvage enough of his tattered legacy to at least be able to travel outside the country after his term is done. (Not that he would ever do such a thing willingly.)

Maliki is essentially the new fish in state prison -- he has to sleep looking over his shoulder, his very life is so precarious. He has already leaned toward his Shi'a backers, and has no real options but to continue that drift. Since Bush has nothing better to offer him, it's the only thing that makes sense.

What still doesn't make sense is the extent to which Bush genuinely still appears to actually believe what he's saying. Either he's gone around the bend, or they should nominate him for an Academy Award.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mean Girls

Sometimes it's justified, as in this excerpt from the King of All Media's interview with the excellent Tina Fey:

HS: What is Paris Hilton like?

TF: She's a piece of sh-t. The people at SNL were like maybe she'll be fun, maybe she won't take herself so seriously. She takes herself so seriously! She's unbelievably dumb and so proud of how dumb she is. She looks like a tranny up close.

HS: Was she bad on SNL, was she hard to deal with?

TF: She was awful. People never come in and say "I'm not doing that." So, this guy Jim Downey wrote a really really funny sketch, it was supposed to be Lorne Michaels just finding out that she had a sex tape and telling her she couldn't host the show because SNL has standards... So she was like "I'm not doing it!" and refused to come out of her dressing room. Also, you would walk down the hall and find what just looked like nasty wads of Barbie hair on the stairs... Her hair is like a Fraggle.

HS: Did she give you ideas for sketches?

TF: Yeah, she wanted to make fun of all the girls she hates. She was like "I want to play Jessica Simpson, I hate her." She would come in the room and say "you should do a show about Jessica Simpson because she's fat."

HS: What was the bet you guys had going about her?

TF: The cast had a bet if she would ask anyone on the cast anything about themselves, you know like how are you? where are you from? anything. I think Seth Meyers won because at one point, she asked him if Maya Rudolf [sic] was Italian. [ed. -- Rudolph is half black and half Jewish]

So, we already liked us some Tina Fey, but now she can pretty much do no wrong in our eyes. Paris the Heiress worked every sentient being's last fucking nerve long ago, of course, but this past weekend, the SF Comical had a style section piece on her that emphasized the aggressive uselessness of this person (not worth the time to find and link the article).

At one point, the interviewer asked Paris which five people she'd most like to have dinner with, pretty standard stuff. She couldn't think of five, living or dead. So the interviewer says, okay, just three then. Paris then says herself, her sister, and renewed BFF Nicole Richie. I shit you not. Perhaps a couple fat lines and a Red Bull and vodka would jar what passes for a brain there.

Ordinarily, like most sensible people, I just ignore the skank. But I tell you, there's some days where you just think that maybe bringing the guillotine back and starting from scratch ain't such a bad idea. There is simply no goddamned reason such a person should be worth so much money.

Anyway, our Cool Chick of the Week is Tina Fey.

Douchebaggy Much?

Mister Man confronts someone who actually has some skin in the neocons' Stratego game:

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.
Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon.

Oh my. Sounds like someone missed his wittle nappy time that day. Who gets to check the soiled preznitential drawers after temper tantrums anyway?

Here's the deal, Junior. Just spend the homestretch drumming up a half-billion dollars for your stupid coloring book museum lie-berry, and just let the adults handle things from here on out.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Kramer Vs. Kramer

I don't have anything helpful to say about Michael Richards' weird outburst last week. It seems odd that a man waits until he's nearly sixty years old to suddenly spew racist epithets. So either he's been pretty circumspect about it for a long time, or he's just a hack comic who didn't have some decent heckler retorts handy, and instead stupidly went for something he thought was "edgy". Comics are infamous for that sort of thing; bad comics even more so.

If anything, Richards' rather peculiar apology on Letterman was at least as disconcerting as the actual offense. It's wrong of me to speculate, but that's never stopped me before -- I believe him when he says he's not really a racist, but his demeanor bespoke deeper-seated issues. What they are, I don't know, nor do I want to, but it all struck me as a guy who is very uncomfortable in his own skin or in his current environment, something. That's just my take, and it's not a personal judgment on what sort of person he is. It's strange just how much play the story has gotten in the first place, but you just never know what the intrepid pit bulls of the serious media will lock their jaws onto in any given week.

Or the various inventive ways they go about fleshing out their non-stories, such as finding the inspiration for Richards' timeless Seinfeld character.

For Kenny Kramer, role model for the "Seinfeld" character who shared his surname, each call was a reminder of the intersection between his real life and his sitcom doppelganger. Actor Michael Richards — the on-air Cosmo Kramer — made headlines this week with a racist rant in a Los Angeles comedy club.

Suddenly, everybody wanted to know what Kramer — despite the degrees of separation — thought about the man who played the character based on his life.

Confused? So was Kramer.


The real Kramer, who initially lobbied to play himself on the program, subsequently met with Richards on several occasions. His insight after the actor's meltdown during a stand-up comedy appearance: Richards had little in common with his off-kilter "Seinfeld" persona.

"I know the guy," the real Kramer said of the faux Kramer. "He's not this outgoing ball of fun that people would expect Kramer to be. They think he'd be exciting, lovable, laughable. But he's quiet, introspective, even paranoid. He's a very wound-up guy. But I don't think he's a racist."

Well, if you can't take Kenny Kramer's word for it....seriously, though, isn't it weird how they'll do the extra legwork for a story like this? Priorities, man.

Kramer (the real one, that is) did have this nifty little gem, though:

"You know what the good news is?" he asked. "Judith Regan is now on a plane to California, trying to sign Michael Richards to a book deal: `If I Were a Racist, Here's What I Would Have Said.'"

He even got it grammatically correct, unlike some murderous ex-football player who apparently has never heard of the past perfect tense. Speaking of whom, you have to wade through some portentious racial issuing to get to this money quote, but it's a real beaut:

Eddie Jones, president of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association, criticized News Corp. and publisher Judith Regan for canceling "If I Did It," a book and filmed-for-TV interview with Simpson in which he describes how he would have killed ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ronald Goldman.

"O.J. should have been able to tell his side of his story for the book," Jones said. "He was exonerated and acquitted of all charges, but in the eyes of white America, he is still guilty. It's a modern-day lynching. ... (Serial killer) Jeffrey Dahmer was able to do an interview. The Menendez brothers killed their parents and did interviews.

"Timothy McVeigh killed all those people in (the) Oklahoma City (bombing) and still did interviews and wrote a book.

"Why is it O.J. can't write his book and tell his side of the story?"

Of course, Jones elides the inconvenient facts that none of those people went free, one was executed, one was killed in prison, the Menendez brothers are probably the common-law brides of their cell block -- and none of them was allowed to make a dime of profit from anything that was printed about them.

This is a free country; Simpson has the right to talk whatever shitbird of a publisher into whatever he can get. If he wants to spend the rest of his life spinning his wink-and-a-nod tell-all yarns, go for it. But a lot of people will do what they can to make sure that not only does Simpson not make any money, but that any scum-sucking entremanure showcasing him loses money and credibility in the process.

We heard Simpson's side of the story. We've seen how he's conducted himself since then. He knows he did it, and we know he did it. Sit down and quit making a goddamned fool out of yourself, Eddie. There must be someone out there more in need of your camera-and-microphone-chasing abilities.

Last Throe Update: Baghdad Burning

It gets even worse.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Revenge-seeking Shiite militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left Friday prayers, drenched them with kerosene and burned them alive, and Iraqi soldiers did nothing to stop the attack, police and witnesses said.

Sounds like all that "stand up" training is going just gangbusters. Guess we can "stand down" now, right? Anyone?

Can't wait for the next grumbling pronunciamento from the Serious Thinkers about how future preznits will make the pilgrimage to Crawford to drink in the delphic wisdom of the Churchill of Tumbleweed Gulch. Look, Hanson, maybe if Junior's actually got anything helpful to say, now would be the time to get it off his chest. That might not be quite as unhinged as waiting to see if he turns out to be the Nixon of 2020 after all, but let's run it up the flagpole anyway.

Christ, I am as sick of Junior's wretched, sniveling defenders at this point as I am of him. I don't want them to bother apologizing for their errors, or even to admit they were wrong. Just having the goddamned sense to know when to finally shut the fuck up would be a start. They've been wrong about everything, right about nothing, and continue to be ever more so. How they still get paid is a mystery; most people get fired for such chronic incompetence.

"Hire the handicapped -- they're fun to watch" is not a foreign policy, you bozos. Either get real, or get gone.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Since I didn't get around to doing a proper Thanksgiving post, here's the next best thing: some subtle reminders of whom the Cockpuncher of Thermopylae has seriously posited will be the future intellectual redoubt for foreign policy.

[For some reason, I have had a difficult time getting photos to post lately; if it shows up as an opaque square, just click on it and the actual photo should show. If it still doesn't show, it's Victor Charles Hanson's fault.]

The Crux Of The Bullshit

Apparently the DLC's favorite green-room net-whore has found a new corner to offer his wares:

Today, the New York Times' Mark Leibovich penned a quite harsh treatment of Wittman's political profile and work career on the occasion of Senator Joseph Lieberman hiring "the bull moose" to be his new communications director.


Wittman appears to be politically amoral, but that might not be fair. I've met him numerous times and have marveled at his ability to see the nugget of a political idea that escaped everyone else and then market that dark horse notion into dominating mainstream political discourse.

Is that supposed to be a good thing, in and of itself, the ability to take something that no one gave two shits about -- because, one assumes, that its practical import was essentially nil -- and make people care? I thought I had the market on bloodless cynicism cornered -- twenty years ago, I told my college marketing professor that I felt that a marketer's job was convincing people to buy crap they don't really want with money they don't really have -- but Wittmann's got me smoked. After all, he honed his "dark horse" chops working for the Christian Coalition, perhaps the singularly most unproductive yet destructive force in modern American politics. He worked for Ralph Reed. He knew how big the Abramoff scandal was going to be months before it broke, because he personally knew most of the players.

It should not be misunderestimated what a pernicious influence the work of people like Wittmann has wrought on this country. It allowed people who had rightly been marginalized -- abortion extremists, gay marriage wackos, intelligent design yahoos, and the like -- not only to be taken seriously, but to actually seize control of the terms of debate. It paved the way for talk radio goons like Limbaugh and Hannity, wingut welfare bumwipe peddlers like Coulter. It distilled real concerns of real people into sound-bark yapping points for the usual single-issue putzes to repeat until enough people thought those things were true. It made "red meat" into not only the dominant, but practically the only available group on the political food pyramid.

It's an "ability", true enough, but it's not an admirable one. That I even need to say that is a fair indication of what it's sunk to.

What those heaping scorn on Wittman are missing, however, is what his employment by Lieberman really means.

When political giants tie up, it's not an accident.

Lieberman's acquisition of Marshall Wittman, who is very close to John McCain, signals a calculation by some that McCain and Lieberman might tie up for the 2008 Presidential run. The progressive left will start choking at this point, coughing and convulsing uncontrollably -- but reason needs to be gripped for a moment.

McCain and Lieberman would be a formidable challenge for any Democratic opponent because even though both are now self-described neoconservatives and strongly supported America's botched war against Iraq, to many pundits they would "seem like" the very epitome of centrism.

Well, that's much more of an evaluation on the cognitive skills and intellectual honesty of the anointed commentariat than anything. They all seem to have daddy issues -- the female ones need affirmation, the males need to prove they're just as tough as Big Russ or Big Tweety was -- and it gets in the way of the practicalities of what they espouse.

Or maybe it's because the pundits are now at all the same parties with the people they're supposed to objectively cover. Or hell, maybe it really is just Stockholm Syndrome. It doesn't matter anymore.

What matters is that Wittmann should now be divorced from even the semblance of credibility. He's been pimping McCain and Lieberman for a couple years, even in the face of facts and logic, never revealing his agenda. Unless we're supposed to believe that Holy Joe was just looking for his biggest net-booster, whoever it might turn out to be, to come work for him. Perhaps a blogger ethics panel can be convened to get to the bottom of all this.

In the meantime, I would just like to go on the record as saying that if there are any remaining high-dollar communications director jobs in the offing, I think Senator [Governor; Congressperson] Fill-in-the-blank is doing just a spectacular job, and I hope he/she will run in '08, in order to re-invigorate the true core party principles of catering to [either "Hank Hill Democrats" or "McCainiac Brainiacs", whichever turns out to be more viable and profitable]. Because while values are important, value -- in the sense of getting the most for your campaign dollar -- is all.

If Wittmann was a NASCAR driver, he'd be the one driving the Preparation H car. Taibbi still has the all-time best takedown of this clown.

The Hanson Family

This latest little scud of idiocy from Victor Charles Hanson neatly epitomizes how these guys compartmentalize and process even the simplest things. [link via TBogg]

I hope Bush the father appreciates that millions out there admire his maverick son far more than they do many of his former advisors, and that if Bush II perseveres, history will be kind to his efforts, often solitary, to promote constitutional government at a time when most self-proclaimed liberals had long ago abandoned that effort.

Sure, and if my aunt had balls, she would be my uncle. What part of "abject failure" is Thucydides Gump not grasping here? Every passing month becomes more and more deadly, for American soldiers, for Iraqi civilians. Literally while Gump was harrumphing his disdain into his hapless keyboard, another 160+ of the poorest of Baghdad citizens were being blown to smithereens, albeit smithereens of liberation. (For which the next cycle of retribution is under way.)

When the dust and blood finally are finally settled, Hanson and his scrivening friends will proclaim the justice of the cause, as if the ensuing genocide had been worth it. Apparently dying at the business end of a Shi'a death squad power drill is more noble than meeting your end in one of Saddam's rape rooms, which should be quite a relief to surviving Iraqis.

And, before Gump lapses into his usual homilies about the sanctity of the political process being established, here is your stability, my main man. How do you like it?

BAGHDAD, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Radical anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's political bloc, a key player in Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government, threatened on Friday to withdraw from the cabinet and parliament if Maliki met U.S. President George W. Bush as planned in Jordan next week.

Forget for a second that the situation has now devolved so precipitously that C-Plus Augustus cannot even directly survey the greatness he has wrought, that all he can do is discuss it from some fortified hotel in Amman, and get on camera the one millionth iteration of freedom marching and corners turned. The fact of the matter is that this is out of Bush's hands now, and he doesn't even seem to realize it.

Things and people do not simply conform to Junior's holy writ, as we can clearly see, even if he apparently does not. The options are not "go big, go long, or go home", no matter how many cheesy Hail Mary stories the lapdogs dutifully run, no matter how many more troops America's Straight-Talkin' Maverick wants to push. The options now are "referee a civil war" and "walk away from genocide". Let us at least see clearly the direct -- and entirely predictable and predicted -- causes of these things before we listen to the cheerleading fools yet again. There are simply no more available Friedman Units to postpone the consequences.

Either Bush (and Hanson, and the rest of this sorry-ass lot) are truly that dense, or they know better, and are simply trying to run out the clock just long enough to make this someone else's (preferably a Democrat; better yet, one who appears botoxed) problem.

Hanson fancies himself as the most serious of the Serious Thinkers out there in Strategoland, and as such, his goony fantasies of future leaders seeking Bush's counsel on anything more complicated than trading Sammy Sosa serve to illuminate the serious lack of profound insight in those darkened corners. He seems to think he's laying out the hard truths that no one else has the guts to contemplate, but the fact of the matter is that it's a dangerously silly notion to even entertain that George W. Bush will be regarded as some sort of Nixonian foreign policy sage in years to come. He's got the Nixonian part right, but only in the stopped-clock sense.

On the other hand, if in ten or twelve years, President Hilton decides to order a nuke strike on Tehran or Damascus, we'll have a pretty good idea of where she got that bright idea.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lost In Translation

Glenn Greenwald pretty much knocks this one out of the park, in how Big Time practially itemizes his profound contempt for -- well, basically everything and everyone that might pose any sort of challenge to his authoritah, or that of Le Dauphin. It's a cliché of medieval history, that the regents and viziers are always the worst of the attack dogs.

It is worth reminding ourselves -- as the Vice President just made quite clear again-- that the pathological individuals who occupy the White House do not recognize the power of the law or the power of the courts to limit what they can do. Therefore, the fact that Democrats now control the Congress will be of little concern to them, because the most the Democrats can do is enact little laws or issue cute, little Subpoenas --- but, as the Vice President just said, they think that nothing can "tie the hands of the President of the United States in the conduct of a war." And he means that.

I hope Democrats in Congress recognize that and are prepared to do something about it. This constitutional crisis will exist until it's confronted.

Out of everything we've ever heard and read about the people in this administration, this is perhaps the most under-reported fact about them, in proportion to its vital importance. Cheney has literally made a career, 35+ years in the federal government he detests, of finding a way to consolidate power under a unitary executive. He does not care about checks and balances, as the founding fathers intended. He only cares about being able to do whatever he wants, without any oversight or accountability whatsoever. It really is that simple, and in pretty much any other western democracy -- or hell, even in Ukraine -- there would be daily protests in the streets.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Irony Man

I'm still puzzling over the various implications of Bush's deliberate use of his Vietnam trip to either draw or dispel parallels between that misbegotten war and the current one in Iraq (not to mention the chronically neglected one in Afghanistan).

Four decades after America became bogged down in an unpopular war in Southeast Asia, President George W. Bush finds himself increasingly haunted by an analogy the White House dreads -- Iraq as another Vietnam.

The administration insists there are few parallels. Today's war in Iraq is fought by an all-volunteer military, the U.S. body count is much lower and there is nothing like the anti-war protests that caught fire in the 1960s.


Bush loyalists are so uneasy at the thought of Iraq becoming a Vietnam-style failure that some hesitate to even mention the name of the drawn-out war that polarized Americans a generation ago. They refer to it as the "V-word."

As public support for Bush's Iraq policy has eroded in the face of mounting U.S. casualties and rising violence, the president can't seem to escape the comparisons.

"Iraq is in many ways a quagmire," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's a parallel to Vietnam the administration doesn't want to admit."

The main difference between the two, as the resurgent joke from a couple years ago iterates, is that Bush had a plan to get out of Vietnam.

Reverse Midas Touch

Via Froomkin, Chuck Todd has the low-down on Bush's homestretch momentum killing on the campaign trail.

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that President Bush may have been the deciding factor that killed the GOP's momentum in some key Senate races over the last week. One Republican consultant is convinced that Bush's last-minute visit to Missouri on behalf of ousted GOP Sen. Jim Talent did the incumbent in. According to the network exit polls, Democrat Claire McCaskill crushed Talent among those late-breaking voters who decided in the final three days (a full 11 percent of the electorate). Bush also made a last-minute trip to Montana, where anecdotal evidence indicates the president's rally for Republican Conrad Burns stopped the incumbent's momentum in Billings.

Despite the hoax that the hard-headed establishment kewl kidz want to continue to peddle, the "really like ta have a beer with Cooter" vote is pretty much gone. They've either washed down the beer with the kool-aid, or they've come to their senses and realized that either that's a stupid way to choose a leader, or that Bush is not really as likable and trustworthy as they previously thought.

So yeah, he shows up in Missouri and Montana, acting like it's still 2004, still reciting the same homilies, still singing the same tired song. It didn't work this time, and it's becoming less effective by the week. Fewer and fewer people are hearing the dog whistle anymore, it's that simple.

At some point the media do have to wake up and accept the fact that seven out of ten Americans just don't like the fuckin' guy, don't believe him, don't trust him, don't think he's reliable or competent. There's no mystery to any of this, except to an industry that pretty much collectively decided to stick to a narrative that outlived its usefulness long ago.

Stopping By Wankers On A Slow Evening

[with apologies to Robert Frost]

Whose blog is this I think I know.
He doesn't realize it blows;
His mission quite apparent here
To carry water to and fro.

The nation's most important fear
The threat to marriage from teh queer
To see if any sense it makes
Requires yet another beer.

He never will decision make
To admit to any mistake.
He toddles off to dream in sleep
Of cheeto dust and yellowcake.

The 'nets are lovely, dark, and deep,
The perfect cover for a creep,
And lies to tell before I sleep,
And lies to tell before I sleep.


Much as I enjoy most of what Real Time has to offer, occasionally Bill Maher will lapse into saying things that he seems to think are incisive and politically incorrect in their rather counterintuitive stance, but really expose him as an intellectual poseur in those areas.

Last night's season finale was no exception, as there were two rather blatant examples that I caught right away. One came mere seconds after Maher excoriated WaPo reporter Dana Priest for the shallow, diffident political coverage of the mainstream media, which was true enough, despite Priest's strident attempts to refute.

Maher went on to launch into a tirade over how the networks are more interested in covering sensationalist crap like Scott Peterson, and now O.J. Simpson's upcoming quasi-confession, cynically being pimped by publishing hack Judith Regan as some sort of "closure" for her own history with abusive men.

(Incidentally, where are the legions of gang-faxing evangelicals now, or do they only muster their dudgeon for silly shows that happen to pinch their Jesus nerve with a tad too much iconoclasm? Showcasing a double murderer, not so much. As the good book says, we shall know them by their deeds. Me, I don't think I'll be watching Fox anymore, not even for the real [animated] Simpsons, and I would hope that other than K-Bar, they had trouble finding advertisers. Seriously, fuck all these people, fuck everyone even tangentially involved with this. It's repulsive.)

Anyway, as Maher abruptly dovetailed into ranting about this abysmal sideshow, he averred that he, despite his misgivings about it, would at least check in to rubberneck at the car wreck. This, while he simultaneously rants about the wrongness of the project. Well, make up your mind, motherfucker. Either it panders to the ugliest, basest of lizard-brain impulses, or it's merely kitschy fun.

If you're going to "tune in", even just to "check it out" momentarily, then don't blame the crack pusher. He's just giving the crackheads what they want; if they don't have the goddamned dignity to turn down that glass dick, then the hell with them. I just don't want to hear from someone who "checked out" this atrocity how awful it is that it got on the air in the first place. How the fuck did you think it was going to be?

The other bit that got to me was when Maher interviewed Norman Lear via satellite. It was going fine, when suddenly Maher (rightly) started in about how the word "liberal" had been so falsely, unjustly demonized that genuine libs were reluctant to identify themselves as such. Once again, true enough, and a decent encapsulation of how a couple decades of radio screamers and talk-show thugs have not only hijacked the airwaves, but have co-opted the language to suit their agitprop needs.

Where it went south was when Lear not only readily acknowledged that he is, indeed, a liberal and proud of it, but added that some of the principles he holds dearest are actually conservative. This should have been a slam-dunk for anyone paying attention, but Maher went off on another tangent, thinking that Lear had somehow equated himself with the usual carny barkers and circus geeks.

The obvious corollary to how these people have demonized the "L" word is how they have also calumniated the "C" word. These people are not conservatives, they are authoritarian cultists, they are permanent revolutionaries. They are anything but conservative, in what used to be the conventional sense of that word, with its emphases on fiscal responsibility and leaving people the fuck alone. They have leveraged what are commonly referred to as "social conservatives", but are actually anything but, to drive the red-meat issues they perpetuate to keep their machine going.

The ultimate goal for true liberals should not just be to reclaim their defining characteristics and embrace them, but also to clarify who their opposition is and what they stand for. Getting the government out of the wallets of rich people, and into the personal lives of everyone else, is not and never has been remotely "conservative". It is merely institutionalizing the worst busybody tendencies people with self-righteous certitude tend to exhibit in the personal arena.

Until they're caught snorting crank off a gay hooker's cock, that is.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Soldier Of Fortune

It's difficult to begrudge someone who served in the regular army for the usual pud pay, when the opportunity arises for them to make what the private sector offers by incorporating the risk premium and passing it on to the US taxpayers. Perhaps it's a way for them to recoup some of the opportunity cost. So we certainly hope that the four hostages are returned safe and unharmed.

But let's face it -- if this wasn't an inside job by our Iraqi proxies, it's a damned good impression of such.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The mystery surrounding the kidnapping of four American security contractors and their Austrian co-worker deepened on Friday, a day after their convoy was hijacked by about 30 gunmen in Iraqi police uniforms in a rugged desert strip near Iraq's border with Kuwait.

A British spokesman for coalition forces in southern Iraq said the brazen seizure of the convoy, believed to include more than 50 vehicles, was rare in that sliver of Iraq.

A senior Iraqi police official in Basra said the convoy included 43 heavy trucks and six security vehicles, some of them intended for Iraqi police use.

One of the trucks contained weapons destined for Iraqi security forces, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to make public statements. The attackers made off with about half the vehicles in the convoy, leaving the rest abandoned, Iraqi police and witnesses said.


The role of security contractors in Iraq has been a controversial one, with critics complaining that the business is largely unregulated and that contractors often take on dangerous assignments without the benefit of the armor and weaponry that U.S. troops would have.

The Crescent Security Group, one of dozens of such private security firms at work in Iraq, "conducts convoy escort duties for an ever growing number of coalition militaries, embassies, government contractors, private enterprise" and other clients, according to the firm's Web site. It says Crescent employs Western and Iraqi security contractors. It was unclear whether armed Iraqis, in addition to the four Americans and the Austrian, were traveling with the convoy.

The role of private security contractors in Iraq has been murky at best, but the bottom line is that they are not accountable for their involvement in some infamous scandals which have resulted in regular service personnel being court-martialed and imprisoned. Not only aren't private contractors accountable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they're not liable under either the civil law of the country they operate in or domestic law. They operate in a very grey area legally.

William Lawson, the uncle of Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick, one of the soldiers named in the report who is currently facing a court martial, told CorpWatch that his nephew told the family that the company employees were partially responsible for the abuses.

"He tried to complain and that he was told by superior officers to follow instructions from civilians, contract workers interrogating the Iraqi prisoners. They said go back down there. Do what the civilian contractors tell you to do and don't interfere with them and loosen these soldiers up for interrogation."

Lawson says that the company employees should be investigated and prosecuted if necessary. "I've spent 23 years in the military including time in Vietnam. I love this country but I will not allow my nephew to be used as a scapegoat," he said in a phone interview from his home in Newburg, West Virginia.

Don't get me wrong -- none of this absolves Chip Frederick or Charles Graner or Lynndie England or the rest of them, nor does it necessarily impute any wrongdoing to Paul Reuben and his fellow contractors. But it goes some distance in explaining the frustration and futility, the desperation felt by many Iraqis.

There is very little and very slow accountability for the things we eventually find out about here in the states. We have no idea if those things are the entirety of it, or if they merely scratch the surface. And if the latter, as seems likely, then it's now beyond whether we can muster the empathy to simply imagine what all we'd be capable of if we were in their place, what we'd do to counter mercenaries who were not providing security for us so much as for themselves and for the occupying force.

Even so, maybe finding that kernel of empathy would be a start.

Bleg To Differ

The non-Fox Roger Ailes catches the Pantload in perhaps his finest hour.

So let's see if we have all this straight -- this assclown, whose piece-of-shit table prop is already some 18 months late past its original publishing date, not only has the fucking gall to push it back even further to September 11, but still needs someone to help with the clean-up.

Attention, suckas: if you'd like to make nine bucks an hour to be the fall guy for a poorly-considered, poorly-executed propaganda tract, in the slim hope of perhaps securing a choice slot as Hannity's go-to snorkel intern, knock yourselves out.

Everybody else, let this be a warning to you -- unless your family has connections, stay in school.


Taking his un-victory lap to his former non-stomping grounds, Mister Man weighs in with the conventional wisdom of that other fumbling armchair quarterback, Hank the K:

Today, during his first visit to Vietnam, President Bush was “asked about the war here over three decades ago and the comparisons to the war in Iraq today.” Bush said there was a comparison: As in Vietnam, “We’ll succeed unless we quit.”


Bush’s remarks virtually mirror those made by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. As Bob Woodward detailed in his book State of Denial, Kissinger is a frequent advisor to President Bush and has delivered the message to top administration officials that “victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy”:

Kissinger sensed wobbliness everywhere on Iraq, and he increasingly saw it through the prism of the Vietnam War. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out.

In his writing, speeches and private comments, Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of the weakened resolve of the public and Congress.

In a column in The Washington Post on Aug. 12, 2005, titled “Lessons for an Exit Strategy,” Kissinger wrote, “Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.”

He delivered the same message directly to Bush, Cheney and Hadley at the White House.

Victory had to be the goal, he told all. Don’t let it happen again. Don’t give an inch, or else the media, the Congress and the American culture of avoiding hardship will walk you back.

[all emphases in Think Progress article]

Talk about revisiting an exercise in futility. Look, we killed as many as 2-3 million Vietnamese in the course of that war, and still ended up losing. As Oliver Stone once said, these people are just bad losers; they were simply never going to give up. Nor would we give up, in a similar situation, despite our current inability to see at least some parallels -- every invader, every occupier has its noble excuse, and every invaded or occupied citizenry chafes under the rationales, in disbelief and frustration, inevitably culminating in vicious cycles of violence.

And opportunity as well -- while Bush mindlessly babbles about "freedom" this and "God's gift" that, the real world operates under the paradigm of a pure power struggle, of payback and retribution, of nature abhorring a vacuum. That's all Iraq is anymore, and that's all it's going to continue to be, until enough scores have been settled and power consolidated for something resembling a top dog to emerge. We're just refereeing as best we can at this point, relying on corrupted trainees, who are kidnapping and murdering civilians left and right under color of authority -- authority imposed and maintained by us.

The easy japes at Bush's Yogi Berra-ism don't even mention the obvious -- that Bush has consistently refused to even define success, much less establish the parameters and benchmarks -- probably because it's just too obvious. But it needs to be laid out, over and over and over again. He should not be allowed to even utter the word "success" without proffering at least an outline of what his expectations for that word are in the first place.

So when he continues to run the usual nonsense up the flagpole once again, it should be readily apparent that all he's doing is buying time.

When discussion in President Bush's White House has turned to Vietnam, it has usually been by way of what the Administration deems an inaccurate comparison to the Iraq war. Last June, in answer to a reporter's question of whether he drew a parallel between events in Iraq and the Vietnam war, he said, "This is, in many ways, religious in nature, and I don't see the parallels."

That may have changed. Not that the President now sees the quagmire alleged by war critics, of course. But asked on arrival in Vietnam for an economic summit whether this country holds any lessons for the debate over Iraq, the President answered: "Yes. One lesson is, is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while." Bush went on to say that Iraq is part of a "great struggle" between "radicals and extremists, versus people who want to live in peace." He said overcoming "the ideology of hate" is going to take a long time. "Yet, the world that we live in today is one where they want things to happen immediately," he said.

This is cheap and obfuscatory, though certainly not unexpected. Apparently we're all just supposed to forget that this was going to be a cakewalk, a slam-dunk, an unqualified success that would pay for itself so fucking fast that the dirty hippies' heads would spin right off their filthy peacenik shoulders.

But now, now that oil is six times the price it was in 2000, now that we've stirred up a slaughterhouse that will not abate whether we stay or go, now it turns out that it was always meant to be a long-term investment. Now it's a problem with our greedy, thankless expectations of instant gratification.

It's never their fault, not ever; it's always everyone else's for not understanding that when they said "cakewalk" that it was a 10-year cake minimum, that "Mission Accomplished", given its decade-plus prescience, should not be ridiculed for its fecklessness but appreciated for its astounding foresight.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The (Slow) People's Court

NotButtmissile harrumphs volubly:

While Dick Durbin, one of the nastiest partisans in the Senate, calls for bipartisanship (see John's post below), his partner in obstruction, Chuck Schumer, pretends to be offended that President Bush has re-submitted six judicial nominees who were returned to the President at the beginning of the pre-election recess. A "slap-in-the-face," Schumer calls it.

But Ed Whelan reminds us of the real story here:

Senate Democrats took the extraordinary step, before the summer recess and again before the pre-election recess, of returning these nominations to the White House. Not once, I am informed, did Senate Republicans ever deny President Clinton the courtesy of holding nominations over during an intrasession recess (or even an intersession recess within a Congress). President Bush’s action merely restores, as much as possible, the status quo that should be in effect. (In fact, some nominees who were already on the Senate floor now will have to go through committee referral again.)

As Ed concludes, "If Democrats were really serious about being cooperative, they would stop playing these silly games—and stop falsely accusing the President of the very sort of conduct they’re engaged in."

Boo hoo. Twist in the wind, chumps. After six years of this "Pow! How do you like me now?" bullshit from them, suddenly payback doesn't feel so good.

Here's the actual story:

White House officials said Wednesday that President Bush would renominate six of his earlier choices to sit on the federal appeals court, leaving Democratic senators and other analysts to ponder what message he is sending.

At least four of the nominations have been declared dead on arrival in the Senate by Democrats who have consistently opposed them as unacceptable. All six nominations will remain before the Senate through the lame-duck session of Congress and then will expire.

When the 110th Congress is seated in January, Mr. Bush can deliver another list of judicial nominees to the Senate, which will by then have a Democratic majority.


The four nominees whose chances of confirmation are viewed as nearly impossible are: William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon’s general counsel who was involved in setting many of the interrogation policies for detainees; William G. Myers III, a longtime lobbyist for the mining and ranching industries and a critic of environmental regulations; Terrence W. Boyle, a district court judge in North Carolina; and Michael B. Wallace of Mississippi, a lawyer rated unqualified for the court by the American Bar Association.

It's the Gitmo Judiciary Committee vetting process -- the White House, now realizing its earlier fuck-you choices are no longer tenable, want another crack at the game, and the Democrats are sensibly force-feeding them their earlier choices, and making them look like the douchebags that they are in the process. Again, this is what six years of confrontational theatrics and hysterical kabuki get you when the pendulum heads the other way, as it inevitably does.

Strapped to the table, tubes jammed up their noses, steeling themselves for what's to come. Hey, I thought you guys were down with the torture -- or was that just for everyone else?

In the meantime, spare us all the whinging hypocrisy -- if Bush wanted to put Judge Judy on the Ninth Circuit, these assholes would surely find a way to trump such a decision from the highest virtual towers as proof positive of Bush's vaunted gut wisdom.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Simpsons Golf Course Of Horror

Because it has been empirically proven that, if they're stoned or stupid enough, Americans will watch literally anything, and because they ran out of the attacking animals footage several years ago, Fox is taking a break from their usual high-brow programming to air an "interview", in which one Orenthal James Simpson tells former Bernie Kerik booty-call Judith Regan how he woulda killed his wife and her friend -- if, you know, he had actually done anything of the sort. Which he hasn't, you see, because if he had done it, surely a jury of his peers would have listened to all the evidence, and considered it carefully before rendering a proper verdict. And so forth.

The two-part interview, titled "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened," will air Nov. 27 and Nov. 29, the TV network said.

Simpson has agreed to an "unrestricted" interview with book publisher Judith Regan, Fox said.

"O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes," the network said in a statement. "In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade."

One assumes that the first of the two parts of this "event" will revolve around the "Yeah, I fuckin' did it" angle, without explicitly saying so, because, see, that would be vulgar, possibly even unseemly. The second part should properly cover the "ain't a goddamned thing you can do about it, neither" side of the story, and will be about as enlightening as your average Nanny 911 marathon.

The natural temptation is to burst forth with the usual "what the fuckety-fuck?!?" spasm of contrived outrage at the barrel-scraping mentality of it all. But that would be inadvertently aligning oneself with the usual tiresome kulturkampfers who spend their waking hours fisking animated Simpsons, and going on about some war on Christmas in which, sadly, there never seem to be any actual casualties. Edroso has the right idea about these idiots -- why would anyone in their right mind want to be caught in the same room with them?

As these things generally do, the very notion of a supposedly reputable (heh) television network not only broadcasting an "interview" with a murderer, but milking two parts out of it, says more about its expected audience than it does about the subject, the interviewer, or the network willing to televise it. The only people who are going to bother to even peek in on something like this are the sort of drooling morons who have trouble keeping up with Breaking Bonaduce or Deal Or No Deal. It's the only thing that stops the voices in their heads from telling them to shoot up their workplaces, I guess, but you'd think there'd be a slightly less revolting way by now.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Save The Cheerleader, Save The World

Bob "Team B" Gates. Jimmy "Winston Wolf" Baker. Larry "Fat Larry" Eagleburger. While the smart set divines the entrails of Junior's failures, looks for the upside in Poppy's pragmatic fixers repairing Fredo's fuck-up, and breathlessly awaits the verdict of the Iraq Study Group, they have thus far ignored the tactical truth.

What has been rule number one for this administration? Everything is political; more accurately, everything can be utilized as a political opportunity. The Bushies will be looking early and often to fob off the ISG findings to the Democratic lap, because that's all they have left. If the ISG says everything's both hunky and/or dory, and freedom is indeed on the march, and we're just a Friedman or two away from the mission being accomplished, it becomes an I-told-you-so moment. If the ISG says it's an unholy mess, that civil war is coming whether we stay or go -- in other words, if they're perfectly honest in their assessment -- then it suddenly becomes Nancy Pelosi's responsibility to help Junior unshit the bed, or risk being labeled an obstructionist. Oh no!

The thing is, there's a very good chance that that won't work this time. It depends, as it usually does, on the extent to which the harrumphing centristier-than-thou wise men decide to enable The Decider. It may in fact be their unstated interest, because even contrived conflict drives more ratings, to portray those darned Democrats as a bunch of feckless assholes who just want to tug on Superman's cape for the hell of it.

But now the Democrats have more of a media soapbox, and can put forth a clear, concise, tight plan of action, stated with passion and conviction and vision. Perhaps then they can counter the inordinate level of control the unitary execumative has accorded to himself, and make it ever more clear who initiated this avoidable tragedy, and what the actual and opportunity costs are and will continue to be.

The game is just beginning. What's great is that everyone seems to have their game face on; nothing's taken for granted. It's time to push back.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Wire

If you've never watched HBO's The Wire, you are missing out on what may very well be the best dramatic television series ever to hit the air. HBO has a rep for superlative dramatic series in the first place, with Sopranos and Deadwood, both replete with stellar ensemble casts and innovative storylines and dialogue.

Not to take anything away from Tony Soprano's lurid exploits, or the baroque trochaic hexameter blaspheming of Al Swearengen, but The Wire exceeds even those two, partly by not relying on a central character. One major innovation is that the backstory milieu has changed substantially each season, throughout different aspects of Baltimore's law enforcement, administrative, and political structures, but the same core characters are utilized.

Even more innovatively, since the current season takes place in the school system and at the drug corners, many of this season's actors are teenagers or younger, and every one of them comes across as strong and authentic in their demanding roles. People always claim to want something different, something that doesn't condescend to them, something with ambition and passion and meaning. Well, here ya go.

And if you are familiar with the show, you might enjoy SF Chronicle TV columnist Tim Goodman's weekly rundowns of each episode. He's funny and honest, and frequently spots things that might have passed you by on first view.

The show, never that strong of a ratings performer, is committed to one more season, which creator David Simon says will examine the role of the media. Professional scriptwriters would know much better than I would, but I can't imagine that at least some of the current trend toward serialized story arcs hasn't at least seeped a little bit from The Wire.

This is proving not to be such a grand thing on network television, where viewers generally don't have the time to commit to more than one or two extended storylines, which is further mitigated by the networks' reflexive unreliability about mainatining their end of that commitment. But HBO, by its very nature, attracts a somewhat more dedicated audience. Why pay extra if you're not going to watch it?

The Wire is never easy viewing, nor is it family safe. It's funny, sad, vulgar, and violent, sometimes all at once. Much like real life, and real people. It's reality TV with brains and heart, skill and substance.

The Real Cynics

Nasty, vituperative folk like yours truly are collectively derided for our constant jeering and cynicism of the political process and the players. But none of us evil bloggerses hold a candle to the "professionals", the self-styled arbiters of political trendmongering. Russ Feingold just undermined a lot of calcified, cynical assumptions about the motives behind the (frequently unpopular among the kewl kidz) political positions he's taken. [emphases in original]

Despite all of that, when Feingold stood up and advocated censure -- based on the truly radical and crazy, far leftist premise that when the President is caught red-handed breaking the law, the Congress should actually do something about that -- the soul-less, oh-so-sophisticated Beltway geniuses could not even contemplate the possibility that he was doing that because he believed what he was saying. Beltway pundits and the leaders of the Beltway political and consulting classes all, in unison, immediately began casting aspersions on Feingold's motives and laughed away -- really never considered -- the idea that he was motivated by actual belief, let alone the merits of his proposal.

That's because they believe in nothing. They have no passion about anything. And they thus assume that everyone else suffers from the same emptiness of character and ossified cynicism that plagues them. And all of their punditry and analysis and political strategizing flows from this corrupt root.

Not only do they believe in nothing, they think that a Belief in Nothing is a mark of sophistication and wisdom. Those who believe in things too much -- who display political passion or who take their convictions and ideals seriously (Feingold, Howard Dean) -- are either naive or, worse, are the crazy, irrational, loudmouth masses and radicals who disrupt the elevated, measured world of the high-level, dispassionate Beltway sophisticates (James Carville, David Broder, Fred Hiatt). They are interested in, even obsessed with, every aspect of the political process except for deeply held political beliefs -- the only part that really matters or that has any real worth.

Exactly. A huge part of it, as I wrote recently, is the dynamic of the overall coverage -- you could just as well have had Terry Bradshaw giving you the scores on election night as any of the journamalists entrusted with the task. Part of it is that they think they are giving the people what they think they want, instead of what they need, which is facts and information of value, rather than endless speculation and second-guessing. Why not just interview Russ Feingold and ask him point-blank about the rationales for his more "controversial" positions, instead of lazily imputing assumptions and projections onto his public statements?

The other huge part, again, is the institutional conditioning. As Greenwald writes, it is a very ossified, empty view of things. These people have spent their adult lives clawing their way to the middle, and there they remain ensconced. Their default position is to deliberately conflate idealistic passion and commitment with hysterical emotionalism -- except, of course, when it's the organized hysterics and their pet causes. Then we get another eye-rolling exercise in objectivity. They could learn something from the example of Ed Bradley, who seemed to have an actual life and interests outside of the usual rituals of humping the legs of politicos and quasi-celebrities.

But they deliberately choose not to learn from Bradley's example. There's less money down that road perhaps, less face time, I don't know. Maybe it really is just sheer laziness; Bradley at least actually worked for his living, in that he acquainted himself with his interview subjects well before meeting them, in order to have tight, meaningful questions. When the process has devolved into little more than journamalistic Big Macs, those little details get lost by the wayside, and you just have a processed product headed by a faintly recognizable name, lobbing interchangeable softballs, and making sure above all else that due respect is given even when it isn't earned. God forbid you get gang-faxed by Brent Bozell or something.

Fear, timidity, careerism, laziness. These are all ingredients of an inedible corporate newsburger, and maybe a steak would be nice once in a while. We'll see how many (if any) of these folks who felt free to divine Russ Feingold's intent will see fit to second-guess themselves.

Last Throe Update

Too much democracy whiskey carnage-y:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A pair of suicide bombs ripped through a crowd of would-be police recruits in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 35, and authorities found 75 bodies in the capital and Baqouba, an unusually high number even by Iraq's grim standards. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rebuked lawmakers for putting party and sectarian loyalty ahead of Iraq's stability, and said he was planning a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle.

Fuck. Just fuck.

The Forgotten War

Not to distract from all the finger-pointing over Iraq, but I still wonder from time to time what we plan on doing about Afghanistan. It seems to be at least as intractable a situation, with every bit the potential to bite us in the ass if resolved poorly. This exhaustive Frontline profile, replete with very informative and knowledgeable interviews, drives home a hard, inescapable conclusion -- that the resolution of the Afghan campaign relies very heavily on the cooperation of Pakistan, and they are running a "two-track" operation.

Musharraf claims that he is firmly on the side of the Americans, that he is battling hard. He talks all the time about the great sacrifices that the army has taken, the hits they've taken. They've lost hundreds of men in western Pakistan fighting the Taliban. What are we to believe?

Well, they haven't been fighting the Taliban, because the Taliban have an open Web site in Pakistan. It's in Pashtu, and it doesn't include Dari, which is the main language spoken by most Afghans. The Taliban leaders wander around in Pakistan clearly organizing offensives into Afghanistan.

They wander around freely? Where?

You can find them in tea shops in Quetta.

Can you find them in Peshawar?

Yes, you can find them in Peshawar, but the former ministries and major commanders in the Taliban are mostly from the south, from the Durrani tribes. …

So way down south, South Waziristan?

Yeah, they're down south, south of South Waziristan in the Quetta area. When you move over to South Waziristan, North Waziristan, you'll find Afghans like Haqqani who are mullahs, who were anti-Soviet during the jihad, and pro-Taliban.

Musharraf says he's out to get him.

Yes, but they don't get him, and the reason is that they don't want to get him. The reason is that Musharraf is following still a two-track policy. There's no doubt that he's done a great deal, especially in cooperation with us, against Al Qaeda.

But he doesn't pick up -- I mean, assuming Haqqani is close to bin Laden. There's no question, is there, that Haqqani has some knowledge about where bin Laden might be?

Yes, but most knowledge is in the hands of ISI, not only about where Osama bin Laden is, but where [Ayman] al-Zawahiri is and where other Al Qaeda elements are along the frontier. Now granted, it's more difficult to get at them because of the unrest in the tribal agencies today. However, they know exactly where they are.

The ISI knows --

The ISI knows exactly where Osama bin Laden is, al-Zawahiri is. They know exactly where Hekmatyar is, and they know where Haqqani is.

Wait a minute. How can you say that the ISI knows exactly where bin Laden is?

Because it's ISI's job to know where bin Laden is. It's also because of the history of ISI's relationship with bin Laden, which is 30 years old.

Let me give you an example: Gen. Mahmood [Ahmed], a lieutenant general in the Pakistani army, he's from a very distinguished Pakistani military family. He's very well known and respected in Pakistan. He was in charge of ISI at the time of 9/11. Musharraf made the commitment to President Bush to cooperate against terrorism and to cooperate with us in Afghanistan, to go after the Taliban. However, there are numerous media reports that he was dismissed during the offensive against Taliban by the United States because he was still allowing weapons and materiel to go to the Taliban from the Quetta area up into Kandahar.

So any reason to think that's not true?

I have no reason to think that's not true.

You believe that he was continuing to support the Taliban?

I think so.

And Musharraf would have known that?

Yes, he would have known that. He had to fire him when everybody else knew it, that ISI was still under his leadership providing weapons to the mujahideen secretly or that ISI was still providing ordnance to the Taliban even after 9/11 and even after the so-called change in Pakistani policy. But today I understand that Mahmood has returned to the Afghan section of ISI and is working there.

Hamid Gul is also somebody who's out there. He was formerly head of the ISI, and he's outspoken in his support for the Taliban and his anti-Americanism. I don't think that he's sitting at home in retirement. He's very active.

So what kind of ally is Musharraf?

I think Musharraf is a good ally. … But I think in this part of the world, we always have to remember that there are things that you see and you hear, but they don't conform to reality. When we hear from Musharraf that he's cooperating with us fully, I don't believe it. I believe that he's following a two-track policy.

This is exactly the problem. We have entrusted Musharraf with the responsibility of being our point man in South Asia, but are either ignorant of his primary interests, or powerless to further emphasize our own. It's obvious enough that Musharraf has to work in his own interests first, but it's not always known exactly what those interests comprise.

Peter Tomsen mentions elsewhere in the above interview that Pakistan's grand strategy in the region was always to destabilize Afghanistan, in order to transform it into a helpless client state. The ISI themselves installed and armed the Taliban in the first place. The idea was for Pakistan to achieve some "strategic depth" for itself, in its escalating border clashes with India. The de facto annexation of 20 million more Muslims, and some of the most impenetrable, hostile terrain on the planet was seen as a net plus by Pakistan's military planners, of whom Musharraf is the current leader, so long as he furthers their overall objectives.

Which means that they are simply biding their time, until we leave Afghanistan to continue its disintegration into medieval drug-dealing fiefdoms, and the cycle begins anew.

As an added bonus, be sure to read this interview with Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akram. Amazing stuff, too much to excerpt.

Feel safer?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nuts And Boltons

We've all read some crazy shit tumbling from the winger cloaca, but this floater [via Wolcott] is the wingiest I've read in some time:

Silly me. Final developments indicate that the president clearly had no idea what this lame duck senate (our highly touted Republican majority) would do, because it has now been made clear that the Bolton nomination will not get out of committee. Just like it never got out of committee. A committee run by Republicans.


And what can we hope for when it comes to Bolton, one of the very few, good, straight-talking men in Washington? Perhaps the president would like to see him in his cabinet (here I go again projecting logic into what the president might do). Or, as I noted earlier today, perhaps John Bolton is that Republican wild card I've been looking for when it comes to the 08 presidential race. Bolton. Romney. Giuliani. That's a good start at least.

Jesus. Are they all like this? I assumed it was just K. Lo, but apparently this sort of sheer nonsense is contagious.

Forget the snark. Let us try to be serious for one second (studiously ignoring haunting image of Bolton's non-matching blinds/drapes ensemble). The people have spoken, have they not? Yes, they have. And what have the people said, as of last Tuesday? That the current setup is not working. John Bolton is an integral part of that setup, the epitome of their operative dynamic. He is not being nominated because there is no longer even the illusion of political muscle to make it happen. It would be a waste of everyone's time.

Now, it's pretty clear that Tammy and Pammy and K. Lo have nothing but time to waste; however, we like to at least pretend that adults run the country, and not a bunch of fucking clowns who sit around trying play Pin The Second Career On The Santorum. As Wolcott says, this barely qualifies as a political rotisserie league; it's like insisting that Jeff George needs to be on your fantasy football team, forever and always, even though the rest of your league is watching you with a mixture of bemusement and pity.

It's such a sign of desperation that Bolton would even be jokingly mentioned as even a dark horse '08 candidate that it's not worth bothering with. Suffice to say that Gary Bauer has a better shot. As for cabinet member, okay, which department? Rummy has just been replaced by one of Poppy's henchmen, to at least put the illusion of competence on a severely botched job. Nobody else has their head on the block, as far as I know, not that Bolton would be qualified anyway (not that quals have ever been a problem with these people). That Bruce doesn't even bother specifying which cabinet post (as if they were all interchangeable) Bolton might be suited for reinforces how fluffy the whole notion is.

And as for the post he's held, which is now being taken from him? He was so unsuited for it in the first place, they had to give it to him as a recess appointment, under cover of night practically. This should have been a clue.

To return to my original point, the people have decided (at least for now) that bluster, incompetence, and alienating our friends are no longer acceptable. Bolton was part of that policy arm, and as such, he's a goner. He can count caribou shit in Nome for all I care, but he had no business being chief diplomat in the first place, and even Bush knows better than to try to sneak this chump back in the henhouse.

In the meantime, it's pretty damned funny watching these goofballs float their fantasy picks, like there's any political upside for a chronically unpopular administration taking even more unpopular individuals in after overwhelming electoral defeat. They're a couple days from wanting to dig up Spiro Agnew and prop him somewhere inspirational.

Fed Ex

Great stuff re the Fedney split, and the sanctity of marriage. Check it out.

Everything To Everyone

Before the next would-be moral scold tries to "help" the Democratic Party by haranguing it over its putative issues with evangelicals (I'm lookin' at you, Barack Obama), they might do well to read Digby's trenchant observation:

You can't be all things to all people, people. If the large swathe of religious voters who are incorrectly alleged to have voted Democratic are widely seen by all these chatterers as religious liberals then great. More people concerned with social and economic justice would be a very welcome and logical addition to our coalition. (And even if it isn't true I have no problem if people think it is.) But if this unsubstantiated mass migration to the Democrats is used by Amy Sullivan and the like as a cudgel to force Democratic tolerance for such abominations as creationism or right wing "family values," then I see no margin in allowing the error to go unchallenged.

Let's keep it real and ensure that it is well understood that the religious voters who voted Democratic are not people who expect the party to abandon gay rights or choice because they "delivered" the election. Those people voted in huge numbers, as they always do, for the Republicans.

The data shows that religious voters moved to the Democrats in the same numbers that every other demographic did, (except young voters and hispanics who voted Dem in significantly larger numbers than 2004.) We can draw no lessons on social policy at all from the rather small percentage change among these very religious voters except that they wised up, like a whole bunch of other people. Good for them. Welcome to the circus.

Exactly. This is not the start of a beautiful relationship, this is not the sudden poaching of self-satisfied values voters over to the Democratic big tent. Having a big tent is nice, but the Dem leaders should take note of some of the clowns who populated the one on the other side all these years.

There is simply no point in wasting effort trying to peel off incremental demographic slices of people like this:

So the the top issues for evangelicals were Iraq (who knows whether they viewed it negatively or positively,) gay-marriage and abortion. A stampede it surely ain't.

But if you really want to see where everything becomes clear, check this out:

Over 52 percent still felt Bush was a better Christian than former Democratic President Bill Clinton, while 13 percent felt the reverse was true. About a third rated them evenly.

I know I should be thrilled that 30% believe that Clinton and Bush are equal, but really, that is very thin gruel. George W. Bush started an immoral war that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, endorsed torture and indefinite imprisonment, presided over the most corrupt government in American history, never goes to church and has never once admitted error or sought forgiveness --- and yet 87 percent of these people believe that Clinton's eight unauthorized hummers make Bush the better Christian or at least no worse. I think we all know what Jesus would have to say about that.

And bravo to the 13% of evangelicals who know that unjust war and torture are more heinous in the godly scheme of things than infidelity. I assume these are the folks who are voting for Democrats because they share their values of of social justice and the common good. Too bad there aren't more of them.

Amen. I think you just have to step up and put your best foot forward as a party, and declare your principles as proactively and concisely as possible. Keep the statistics and empirical data handy to buttress the more elaborate arguments, but lead with the simple logline.

Not only is there no point to wasting energy making cynical overtures to megachurch mossbacks, there's no need. From an academic niche marketing standpoint, the goal of trying to co-opt the evangelicals is that they're already motivated; you're just trying to change the direction of motivation. But in the process, you end up bringing your own principles over to them, in a futile attempt to meet them halfway.

There is no meeting them halfway; they have already declared their warped priorities quite clearly and vociferously. There is no mistaking where they stand, nor their resolve to stay there. It's a waste of time, money, and valuable energy trying to convert these people who have deluded themselves that gay marriage and abortion are the biggest threats to American society. I'm sorry, but it just is.

They've made their decision to be dangerously unserious, but paradoxically, they are very serious about their stance, even in the face of scandals like Ted Haggard. They may eventually come to their senses, but again, it is not the job of a political party to play sob sister/psychotherapist to nosy authoritarian bullies. Frankly, they should be written off by both parties; their gnashing bluster over pretty much every issue makes their energy more trouble than it's worth to harness. It's like trying to turn a wolf into a pack animal.

It makes much more sense to devote at least most of those prospective niche marketing dollars to motivating the vast pool of non-voters out there. Some of them are lazy and ignorant, sure, but it's a safe bet that many of them have simply been turned off by either the dynamics of the political gamesmanship, or the rank cynicism.

So give them something to believe in, something they can get behind, something with passion and purpose. And do it with discipline and focus. One thing about the operative aspects of the Republicans is that they knew how to stay on message. Right now, they are frantically trying to convince themselves and each other that their problem is the messengers and not the message, but of course it was both. They had corrupt, venal messengers delivering a hopelessly corrupted, inept message. But they were able to maintain the charade for this long because of a well-oiled, disciplined machine. Imagine such a machine being put to good use (though it must be acknowledged that by definition, such a situation may not be viable; still, it doesn't hurt to try).

Conversely, the problem on the "left" is twofold. One is that the "center" has moved so far right over the past generation, it's hard for left or center-left -- or even actual centrists -- to stake solid ground. They spend valuable time spinning their wheels, noses in their Berlitz Dog-Whistle language books, valiantly aping their more practiced counterparts on the right, and getting nowhere in the process. The solution to this problem is to simply stake your ground, tailor the message where you can, and motivate your base.

The other problem derives from the first, and revolves around that lack of focus I mention. It could be epitomized by the dipshits with their "Meat Is Murder" and "Free Mumia" signs showing up to anti-war rallies or globalization protests. It is this sort of cheap dilettantism that lends credence to the common misperception that the entire blue half of America is unserious, willing to don a Che shirt and hit the rally just to look for some strange. The solution to this problem is maintaining discipline and focus, and just not even giving these goofballs the time of day. You want to free Mumia, then start a "Free Mumia" rally. Otherwise, fuck off.

So. Let's not overcomplicate this with ham-fisted Jesus Camp outreach strategies, and what outreach there is should emphasize New Testament values, because you're never going to pull the OT fire-and-brimstone lot -- and even if you did, you'd lose your base, and your soul, in the process.

The Rumor Mill

Glenn Greenwald has some excellent points about how "legitimate" media go about ginning up their little "controversies":

It's a "movement" of one, because all of this comes from James Carville's stray comment placed in TNR (and he's also the only one Kornblut quotes). But now this will be conventional wisdom -- tacitly accepted everywhere and never examined -- that Dean is in trouble, that a major faction of the Democratic Party wants Dean out as DNC Chair, that there is a war among various Democratic factions over Dean.

This will all now be "fact" even though Carville has no constituency whatsoever, represents nobody, has no way to oust Dean, and is simply venting long-standing animosity he has towards the insurgent, anti-establishment Dean (who, unlike an envious Carville, actually represents and is supported by large numbers of people). But Carville's one comment, to lazy reporters, means now that there is some major tension among "Democrats" and that some imagined "jury" is still out on Howard Dean. All of that is based on nothing.

And yet, at opportune moments, it will be regurgitated by various members of the corporate media food chain as presumed fact. It may indeed have some nugget of fact in it; Chuck Schumer looked perhaps a bit uncomfortable Friday night when Bill Maher asked him point blank if Dean's big-picture 50-state strategy caused any rancor in contrast with the preferred "pour more money into strategic seats" strategy of Schumer and Rahm Emanuel.

Ultimately, Schumer punted on the question with a diplomatic averral that both tactics were valid and used at points throughout the campaign. But there was also the implication -- which we'll likely hear more concretely about in the weeks to come -- that maybe Dean should have borrowed more money and thrown, say, $10 million into Tammy Duckworth's campaign, for example.

This will get very inside baseball, of course, so it will turn off a great many casual observers. All those people will retain from the discussion is the stray meme the media has circulated, like a bunch of catty high-school girls -- Howard Dean is going to be replaced by Harold Ford.

And that would truly be a shame, because Dean has done exceptionally well. Look at the results; none of the Beltway douchebags were willing to prognosticate such a complete turnaround, which shows you what they know.

If people are going to take any lesson from all this, it should be that one -- more often than not, these people have no real idea what they are talking about. They read each others' nonsense, crib notes from one another at all the kewl kids parties, inject a couple cc's of what passes for their own thoughts and preferences into the mix, and it's cooked up as some sort of knowledge.

This was encapsulated very well, once again on Bill Maher's show last night, when Maher asked his panel for their preferred '08 presidential ticket. (I know, I know.) Salman Rushdie and Rainn Wilson made their picks as a judgement call, but Candy Crowley instinctively went for what would make the best copy for her and her fellow "professionals". Didn't miss a beat; it's as if it never occurred to her to have any dog in the fight.

Journalism, always a peculiar profession to begin with, has become incredibly debauched with these pathetic overtures to "objectivity", as if there could be any objective middle between a party which, while flawed, at least makes an honest effort to do the most good for the greatest number of American citizens, and a party which stays in power by pandering to the basest lizard-brain impulses of backwater yokels and religious hucksters.

There is no objective center between science and schmience; there is no middle ground between seeking diplomatic solutions and catering to naked jingoist bloodlust. There is no point to seeking compromise between giving Paris Hilton yet another tax cut, and making sure every American child has the opportunity to get a decent education. Most of us, C-Plus Augustus may be surprised to find out, do not have the luxury of being useless until our fortieth birthdays, coasting through life, failing upward on the waning strength of our family pedigrees.

And this awfully thin veneer of "objectivity" helps drive the dynamic. I don't know if it's corporate conditioning, Stockholm Syndrome, or what, but it will be interesting to see how it reconstitutes itself now that Democrats have resumed a level of true power. Will they rightly characterize this as a return to the hallowed principle of divided government, of oversight, of the end to the pilfering rubber-stamp nonsense we've had for six years, or will we now see a bunch of picayune "they do it too" stories, painfully contorting the rules of logic -- and yes, objectivity -- to equate the sins of William Jefferson with the literally dozens of Republicans who were in Jack Abramoff's hip pocket?

It's a point I've made many times over the years, and one that Matt Taibbi iterates pretty well in his Rolling Stone election post-mortem -- that over time, campaign tactics have dovetailed with superficial sound-bark campaign coverage to produce what is nothing more than a political analogue to sports broadcasting. The parties, especially the Republicans, have effectively branded the polarized, tribalized camps, making it essentially a Raiders-Niners rivalry. The media, out of laziness, institutional diffidence, bottom-line cost-benefit analysis, technological dependency, etc., have played that aspect up. It's an easy sell; there's a reason ranters like Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace are given nightly face time on the euphemistically-named "Headline News Network". This would be fine if it were informed anger they were peddling, but it's not. It's heat without light; it's a wheel-spinning exercise of bluster and vituperation. After a while, casual observers, which by the law of averages comprise the majority, are conditioned to believe that the football rivalry is the entirety of what politics is about, rather than it being the formalized setting of public policy.

And you're either a football fan or you aren't, you either thrive on the energy and the rush of head-to-head strategizing and execution, or you don't. Even worse, the political animals are not even playing by the fairly rigorous enforcement mechanisms of the NFL; this is the late, unlamented XFL, with its distractingly bright colors and smash cuts, its cheesy pro wrestling aesthetic, its emphasis on visceral impact over making the effort to keep fans informed and entertained.

It all turns into a sinister electoral leverage, where vocal minorities get reeled in on peripheral, useless issues, and the next thing you know, you have purportedly serious candidates telling you with a straight face that if the gay couple on your block is allowed to formalize their living arrangement, society will collapse. The retardation of it would be hilarious, if the practical effects of it weren't so readily apparent.

Nothing new here, sadly, it's the same-old-same-old bread 'n' circuses deal. And it's a creepily symbiotic relationship, in that as easy as it is to blame the greed and laziness of the corporate media, there's still enough blame left over to put on the people who keep lapping it up and accepting their "conventional wisdom".

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cornercopia, Part 2

It's the gift that never stops giving, really. Is there something in the water these people drink and (except for Pantload) bathe in, or is it all just an ongoing hoax, a giggling bet amongst them to see who can pull the most laughable nugget of offal out of their virtual asses, as Edroso has postulated?

K. Lo, in the rapture of an electoral thrashing, has apparently decided to become a one-person employment agency for a two-term incumbent who couldn't pull 39%:

There's an idea too...Rick Santorum for U.N. (POTUS apparently didn't like my SECDEF idea. Jeff Sessions (who is wonderful on judges) for SCOTUS. Of course, in the minority now, I don't think the Senate can afford life without Sessions.

You have to hand it to these people -- beneath the cheery ignorance of their ridiculous ideas and their bogus endorsements for card-carrying morons, there is actual work involved. It takes real effort to craft so many preposterous ideas into just a few helpless sentences.

Santorum for the Supreme Court. Santorum for SecDef. Santorum to replace John Bolton (which I'd actually endorse if Santorum would adopt Bolton's tonsorial tics).

Hell, you can float Little Ricky's name for the lead in the next Scorsese film, or to replace Buckethead in the revolving door of Guns 'n' Roses guitarists, for all that'll get ya. He's still a guy who, after twelve years of getting to know him, got tossed by his constituents like a dead fish.

It's true that perhaps the only political personage who could benefit from a relationship with such a chronically unpopular person is Fredo, but you have to figure he's not quite that eager to step on his dick yet again, when there's not even the potential of any political upside.

K. Lo shouldn't worry so, especially when it's not terribly clear whether she's more worried about Santorum's well-being or America's. Santorum will find a place either on the rubber-chicken circuit, exhorting hotel convention rooms of fellow hypochristians for hefty wads of cash, joining the other people on Fox News who have no idea what the hell they're talking about, or writing an "inspirational" "autobiography" and then doing the first two things. As for America, we got along just fine without Santorum's incessant moralizing and halfwitted foreign policy stumping, and now we can again. Successmanship!

Perhaps K. Lo should turn her human resources skills to helping out one Felix Macacawitz, who is reportedly job-hunting as well these days. If there's a job out there that can help Felix with his anger-management and sense of entitlement issues -- say, Altoids/Purell carrier for Fredo -- maybe he can appear rehabilitated enough in time for K. Lo to start touting him as Jeb!'s running mate in '12.


J Pod flies a bit too close to the sun.

You can't name a president who's had a good second term in modern history (well, maybe Coolidge). Wilson was felled by illness. FDR came up with a crazy scheme about packing the Supreme Court. Eisenhower had Sputnik, Sherman Adams' vicuna coat and Francis Gary Powers. Nixon had Watergate explode. Reagan had Iran Contra. Clinton had Monica. Bush has had...well, you know.

No, I don't know. Is it possible that if you forced yourself to recite the list out loud for the entire class, you might begin to grasp the importance of it? Or is it simply that your paycheck depends on you never understanding it?

As for the Clenis, yes he had Monica, and yes it was tacky and tiresomely disingenuous, but that's because it's exactly how your side wanted it to be. What it really was, when you get right down to it, was a tremendous wasted opportunity for the country, for the world, hamstringing a guy who had the rare combination of talent and desire to do great things. And all in the name of encouraging thieves and charlatans who have nothing but small, mendacious things on their radar.

Even (maybe especially) when these weasels try to be fluffy and superficial with their breezy little observations, they still invariably manage to betray deeper, more systematic levels of cognitive dissonance. I understand JPod's larger point about second terms being derailed by scandals and events, but sometimes those scandals are simply of the person's own choosing. No one forced Clenis to get hummers from an intern, but nor did anyone force Reagan to turn a blind eye to his minions' infernal dabbling in Iran-Contra. Nor did anyone force Bush to ignore Afghanistan like a Ritalin-addled fourth-grader, to spend the next x amount of years fucking the dog in Iraq.