Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins has passed away, and in a time when most of the opinion-mongers we read, see, and hear have allowed themselves to be compromised by the people they're supposed to cover objectively, she deserves credit. She wrote and spoke about the people and issues which drive Texas and the entire country with a truly rare combination of wit, grace, intelligence, and integrity, and her insight will be sorely missed.

On the other end of the spectrum, soul-sucking creatures like Robert Novak will probably outlive my future grandchildren, provided he stays clear of garlic and mirrors.

A Thousand Words

Usually I resist the temptation to do photo phunnies, because I'm just not all that good at them, but this one was money, baby:

Someone should tell him they have pills now that help out with his "little problem".

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Il Ratto Di Tutti Ratti

Gotta hand it to Ari Fleischer -- he knows how to cover his own quivering ass.

On Monday, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer -- who has been given immunity -- began testifying just after noon, with the early focus on his private lunch with Libby on July 7, 2003, in which the name of CIA staffer Valerie Plame came up in conversation. Libby told Fleischer she worked at the CIA and that this was hush-hush information.

After this first go-round, the trial broke for lunch. When everyone returned, attention shifted to the president's trip to Africa right after that lunch. Fleischer said White House communications chief Don [sic -- Dan]Bartlett brought up Plame's name on Air Force One. Later, Fleischer passed along the news to reporters that they ought to look into Plame getting the CIA, where she worked, to send her husband to Africa on his now-famous probe. He identified them as David Gregory of NBC, Tamara Lippert of Newsweek and John Dickerson of Time.

He said their initial reaction was, "so what?" But later in his testimony it was suggested that very quickly Gregory's boss back in Washington (Tim Russert) and Dickerson's colleague at Time (Matt Cooper) somehow knew about the Wilson/Plame link.

Fleischer also said he called Walter Pincus of The Washington Post about this matter but said he did not mention Plame.

There was one apparent strong conflict: Fleischer said he mentioned Plame by name and said she worked at the CIA. Dickerson has said, and repeated Monday in an interview, that Fleischer simply suggested that the reporters look into who sent Wilson.


Fleischer in his testimony also said that about two months after exiting his White House job in July 2003, he read in the papers about the outing of Plame and feared he may have had a role in it himself. "I was absolutely horrified to know I had played a role," Fleischer said. "I thought, 'Oh my God. Did I play a role in somehow outing a CIA officer. . . . Did I just do something that I could be in big trouble for.' "

He then contacted a lawyer and this led to his immunity agreement.

Supposedly Fleischer realized that technically his involvement could constitute a capital offense. I don't know why, but I find that hilarious. Nobody's going to hang for high crimes for this. I'd be surprised if anyone besides Libby does any time, and even he won't do more than a couple years in Club Fed. Probably not even that.

It just doesn't matter -- the interest of the DC pols and the media weasels in this up to their greasy jowls militates toward punting this one as some inside-baseball sort of thing. There's no upside for either group to help unravel this mess, because it would clarify the real situation, that the latter group happily permitted themselves to be useful idiots for a mendacious administration that needed to micromanage the narrative, and get the war they wanted.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Prince Dubya In A Can

Shooter's phone list. Please, for the love of Tony Snow, use responsibly. It would be wrong -- wrong, I tells ya! -- to deluge these poor public service with calls for wacky made-up things like, well, accountability.

Horse Sense

I am not what you would call a "horse person"; when I was a child, my grandmother had a rather ill-tempered pony who seemed to delight in biting me. But I can at least recognize them for the majestic beasts they are, and respect people who happen to be good at working with them. So I was saddened to read of Barbaro being euthanized today, after his struggle against a debilitating leg injury. I don't think it's ridiculous or a waste of sympathy at all, as many have posited. You can feel bad about Darfur and still have some left over for the smaller things.

I believe that most of the people who work with these horses genuinely care for them, but it seems that there should be more to their lives than being playthings for bored sheiks, things that run in circles to amuse reprobate gamblers. While the article refers to the intricate "engineering" of horses, it's generations of selective breeding that gets them that way, and one split-second of bad luck can determine whether the Saudi prince who owns the horse and the Venezuelan dwarf who rides it get a weekend of fame and the horse eventually retires to stud, or the horse gets hurt and becomes dog food.

I dunno. I happen to like and respect animals, and I don't think they're here solely to amuse us and enable our narcissism. And a lot of people spent a lot of money, time, and expertise trying to repair something that didn't have to happen in the first place. On the one hand, Barbaro never would have existed if not for the small industry built around making horses run in circles; on the other, there's something unsettling about endangering animals for our amusement. Sports is one thing; human athletes can make their own choices. This is different, and somehow diminishing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Joe To Hell 2: Joeblivious

Part of the reason people like Lieberman and McCain are the way they are is because they are not only allowed to, but encouraged to cast themselves in false maverick trappings.

Fox News Sunday (Fox) – 9 a.m. in Washington – Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman D-Conn., will be on, sounding hawkish yet soothingly sensible about the war.

Honest to God, at first I figured maybe they were just injecting a little verbal wink there, a coy play on Lieberman's real reputation, as opposed to his conventional show-bidness-for-ugly-people rep die-cast for him by the Serious Stenographers. Guess not:

Face the Nation (CBS) – 10:30 a.m. in Washington – If you don’t have TiVo, get it, because you have to watch this one, too. Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., will talk about the Senate Iraq resolution that will surely dominate news from Capitol Hill next week. Bob Schieffer and executive producer Carin Pratt are gracious hosts, so don’t be surprised if Schieffer refers to Specter as “Mr. Chairman,” for old time’s sake.

What the two Republican senators don’t want to hear: Any question containing the words Bush, White House or president.

What Sen. Webb doesn’t want to get into: Look for McConnell, the Senate minority leader – or Senate Republican leader, as the GOP prefers – to preview a trap his party is likely to spring for Democrats next week: An amendment saying they’ll pay for the troops for the surge into Iraq that President Bush wants, giving Republicans their sound bite: “They’re saying we disagree with the president’s policy, so we’re voting to fund it.” Ss-nap!

It makes my ball-sack hurt; it makes The Note seem not-asinine. That takes real effort.

This ties to the notion I've been beating on lately, that these guys have abdicated their roles as seekers and disseminators of facts to become political bookies, tweakers of odds and purveyors of talking points. Non-sports fans think it's silly when NFL pre-game shows start prognosticating Super Bowl contenders during the pre-season; how fucking dumb is this shit, playing tiresome electoral guessing games twenty-one months before the damned election?

Referring back to Lieberman, there is nothing either "soothing" nor "sensible" about what he's advocating, because what he's advocating (if we think out the practical ramifications instead of reading half-baked snark from WaPo pool boyz) is More Of The Same. What Lieberman is implicitly -- hell, just about explicitly -- saying is that even though the Cheney administration has been right about nothing, they deserve yet another last chance, and if we disagree with that stupidity, then we're emboldening and embiggening the terrists. Sorry Joe, looks like the current policies are doing that just fine as it is.

Lieberman has made this showboating, preening exercise in self-referential "independence" a priority over everything else. He has made it clear that his interests reside more with critiquing and calumniating his own party than in working with them. I find that astonishing -- Lieberman literally prefers making a show of stroking what is perhaps the most incompetent, corrupt administration this nation has ever seen, than working with his own fucking party. Worse yet, this is consistently characterized as "sensible centrism", or some such dickless nonsense.

I realize that these clowns just think they're being clever, that they're bringing some game to the drudgery of the Sunday morning kabuki. They don't seem to get that that's the problem. They're like the guy in the old joke, shoveling elephant shit at the circus, who just can't quit show business. They are responsible for getting an honest handle on these pricks, and not just shoveling the CW forward another yard or two. Matt Taibbi can't do it all for them, but then, he probably isn't allowed to all the kewl kidz parties either.

[Link via Atrios and Think Progress.]

Joe To Hell

Lieberman proudly proclaims his loyalty -- to his own high-mindedness:

"I'm going to do what most independents and a lot of Democrats and Republicans in America do, which is to take a look at all the candidates and then in the end, regardless of party, decide who I think will be best for the future of our country," Lieberman said Sunday.


Speaking of which politician he may support in 2008, Lieberman said, "Obviously, the positions that some candidates have taken in Iraq troubles me. Obviously, I will be looking at what positions they take in the larger war against Islamist terrorism."

He added, "I am genuinely an independent. I agree more often than not with Democrats on domestic policy. I agree more often than not with Republicans on foreign and defense policy."

The senator said he wanted to select someone "I believe is best for the future of our country. ... Party is important, but more important is the national interest. And that's the basis that I will decide whom to support for president."

What a dick. Seriously. Central to his cultivated veneer of Serious Policy Guy is the imputation that his fellow Democrats have not put forth their own ideas, that they have not addressed the very real problem fanaticism in Islamic countries seriously.

Lieberman should be forced to explain exactly how and why he clearly still agrees with a manifestly failed foreign policy. Instead he continues to trash his own party, rather than helping work with and publicize the very real ideas and plans coming from his own side of the aisle.

This is ridiculous. Of course, most sensible people at least theoretically put country before party (though there are plenty of Republicans who will never, ever vote for the Party of the Clenis, so make of that what you will). But this is a clear case of the two coinciding -- the Republicans had Congress for twelve years, and the White House for six, and what have you got? Failure and power grabs everywhere you look, and not a goddamned thing to show for any of it.

If that is the legacy Lieberman wants to be a part of, then he should do us all a favor and jump parties, and become the running mate/anchor to McCain or Giuliani. Just slip out the back, Jack. Make a new plan, Stan.

Hop on the bus, Gus. Just fucking go already.

The Whore At Home

The continued employment of Dinesh D'Souza is a clear demonstration that Stanford University really needs to tighten up its "scholar" quals.

As a conservative author, I'm used to a little controversy. Even so, the reaction to my new book, "The Enemy at Home," has felt, well, a little hysterical.

No, "hysterical" is subtitling your two-ply manifesto with the oh-so-subtle scud "The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11".

Look, asshole, you want to play BMOC at conservatard college and flash your wingnut welfare, fine. But how gutless is it to come out with a deliberately, overtly provocative title, and then whine about the incivility of the responses? And it certainly does not go unnoticed that nowhere in the entire article is this "intemperate" (his pearl-clutching term for the mean meanies who don't respect his "scholarship") secondary title.

Say the whole thing, chump: the full title of your book is The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. Now tell me again why that's not supposed to piss people off.

Why the onslaught? Just this: In my book, published this month, I argue that the American left bears a measure of responsibility for the volcano of anger from the Muslim world that produced the 9/11 attacks. President Jimmy Carter's withdrawal of support for the shah of Iran, for example, helped Ayatollah Khomeini's regime come to power in Iran, thus giving radical Islamists control of a major state; and President Bill Clinton's failure to respond to Islamic attacks confirmed bin Laden's perceptions of U.S. weakness and emboldened him to strike on 9/11.

These are thin assertions, to say the least. While the Shah's White Revolution did make some strides in modernizing Iran and consolidating an entrepreneurial middle class, it came at a high price. People get funny when you overthrow their freely elected leader to protect your own oil interests, and then your puppet dictator keeps his power by employing some of the most brutal torture methods imaginable. Does D'Souza realize that by the end, SAVAK was torturing dissidents by jamming broken glass and pouring boiling water into their anuses?

The regime was no longer supportable; Carter, an actual (rather than merely political) believer in Christ's teachings, could not sit idly by anymore, and continue to squint at the Shah's repulsive despotism. Continuing to "support" Pahlevi would have meant more secret police death squads rounding up dissidents by the hundreds, and murdering them. None of that excuses the mullahs, but no one could have predicted that blowback anymore than they could have predicted that Reagan's Afghan freedom fighters would one day knock down the World Trade Center. Blowback is a tricky thing to parse through the prism of recent history; it cuts in a multitude of directions, and does not redound completely to one side or the other.

The rest is the thin gruel of conjecture that wingnut welfare queens like D'Souza keep their jobs with, and is not even worth discussing. Suffice to say that the one real military action Clinton undertook, the Kosovo war (which, for the record, I disagreed with at the time), was met with predictable hostility and profound disrespect by many of the very same Republican lawmakers who haven't been able to resist the shopworn "politics ends at the water's edge" line since then.

There is no reason to believe that, had Clinton initiated serious military action in Somalia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or any other hot spot D'Souza might conjure, there wouldn't have been a barrage of "Pomeranian grenadier" harrumphing at Clinton's careless disregard for troops' safety, which is precisely what they did during Kosovo. That is pure speculation -- but then, so is the entirety of D'Souza's argument, for which he inexplicably gets paid. Well.

Here is everything you need to know about how these people function:

The reaction I'm eliciting is not entirely new to me. As a college student in the early 1980s, I edited the politically incorrect Dartmouth Review and was frequently accosted by left-wing students and faculty. They called me names back then, too. And at the time I didn't care. I often informed them that taking on our iconoclastic paper was like wrestling a pig: Not only does it get everyone dirty but the pig likes it.

Get that? This clown is as establishment as it gets, a shameless rent-boy to moneyed hucksters who manipulate power structures from behind the scenes. But he, like most of them, posture themselves as outsiders, rebels, mavericks, taking on the political correctness of The Man.

Because, as we all know, American government and its policies are now completely overtaken by godless atheists. No? You missed that part too, considering that an actual atheist has absolutely zero chance of getting elected to high office in this country? Well, guess you're just not a Rishwain Scholar then, bunky, 'cause here's the Real Deal from the noted leopard-print iconoclast:

I also argue that the policies that U.S. "progressives" promote around the world -- including abortion rights, contraception for teenagers and gay rights -- are viewed as an assault on traditional values by many cultures, and have contributed to the blowback of Islamic rage.

Okay, and that's really what tears it for most people, I think. This is what is deliberately provocative, and inflammatory, and just plain stupid about D'Souza's tiresome little culture battle, and why his plea for civility is so patently hypocritical. The policies championed by American "progressives" -- which is to say, the majority of people that view the treatment of women as chattel to be, well, wrong -- probably do piss people like Osama bin Laden off. So fucking what? The practical application of D'Souza's thesis, which he doesn't seem to have quite enough guts to just come out and say, would be to crack down on the libertinism in American culture, and put it back in the closet where it belongs.

This is such a tremendously stunted view of human nature, it's impossible to be sure just where to begin. The problem with the moralists is that they act as if nobody started fuckin' and suckin' until they took Leave It To Beaver off the air and replaced it with cheerleader porn to placate the dirty fucking hippie crowd. Or something; it's really difficult to tell exactly what their fundamental understanding of humanity is. It seems to be something along the lines of "if you people would just do what we tell you to do, everything will be great." Well, right back atcha, Chief. We're a great big planet of benevolent dictators, for the most part. True fanatics and ideologues are actually fairly rare; they just exert more cultural leverage because most people have lives.

If supporting the notion that a 24-year-old woman in Bangladesh, who already has six kids she can't feed, should have the right to determine whether or not she wants to carry a seventh hungry mouth to term, and the access to exercise her freedom of choice, if supporting that "caused" 9/11, then it shouldn't even have to be said that the problem is with the fanatics of "traditionalism", the people who have irretrievably perverted longstanding cultural and religious mores to achieve their own political ends.

It shouldn't have to be said, but because professional ninnies like D'Souza are inexplicably allowed to publish and pimp their nonsense, it still bears repeating.

The Pumpkinhead Letters

Heads up (heh), Li'l Russ:

Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you.

This delicious morsel about the "Meet the Press" host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message."

"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."

So which is it, pal -- are you a man, or just a kept man? All that is required to get the whole truth out about these people is to stop letting them push you around.

Moon River

As usual, there's a lot to like about Jamison Foser's weekly column for Media Matters, especially the pointed evisceration of Heather #1, Tweety Matthews, toward the end. Foser's right -- anyone with not one but two national television shows not only has no right to complain about coverage of the war, they have a goddamn obligation to initiate the change they keep disingenuously whinging about.

But it's not Tweety I want to talk about here (or ever, for that matter). In the middle section of the column, Foser outlines Insight Magazine's recent attempt to smear Barack Obama as some sort of madrassa mole infiltrating our government. And he's absolutely correct -- the article was a botched amalgam of the worst sorts of conjecture and innuendo, relying on its readers' conditioned stereotypes of race and xenophobia to connect the heuristic dots for them. Not only is Obama black, but he was raised Muslim; you might as well hand your daughters over to Osama bin Laden right now.

How disreputable is Wesley Pruden, editor-in-chief of its sister publication, The Washington Times, wrote a January 23 column in which he tried so strenuously to distance himself from Insight that we fear he may have sprained something.

Writing about's Obama story, Pruden first described it as having "appeared in an Internet journal," then got a little more specific, referring to "Insight, the Internet magazine." Finally, Pruden admitted: "Insight, which is owned by the owners of The Washington Times but is absolutely, positively and entirely separate from the newspaper..." When even Wes Pruden feels the need to disassociate himself from you, it's a pretty good sign you have problems. But Pruden can't walk away from so easily: His "Pruden on Politics" column runs not only in The Washington Times, but in as well.

This is true enough. Insight is wholly owned and operated by the Moonie Times, and shares editorial staff, Pruden among them. But Foser stops there, and I'm having trouble understanding why. You can't overstate the fact that the Times is the propaganda organ for the Unification "Church", and its lunatic cult leader/self-proclaimed messiah. There's just no getting around this; it's like failing to mention that the pope is Catholic.

And Pruden is a racist neoconfederate clown, and proudly so. That also cannot be mentioned too often when referring to these people, and I use the term very loosely.

But even as it has enjoyed cozy relations with Washington politicos, from its earliest days the Times has been a hothouse for hard-line racialists and neo-Confederates. Pruden, who started at the paper in 1982, was their wizard. His father, the Rev. Wesley Pruden Sr., was a Baptist minister who served as chaplain to the Capital Citizens Council in Little Rock, Arkansas, the leading segregationist group in town. When President Dwight Eisenhower sent Army troops to protect nine black teenagers integrating Little Rock's Central High School in 1957, Pruden Sr. reportedly told an assembled mob, "That's what we've got to fight! Niggers, Communists and cops!"

In 1993 Pruden gave an interview to the now-defunct neo-Confederate magazine Southern Partisan, which routinely published proslavery apologias and attacks on Abraham Lincoln. Pruden boasted, "Every year I make sure that we have a story in the paper about any observance of Robert E. Lee's birthday.... And the fact that it falls around Martin Luther King's birthday."

"Makes it all the better," interjected a Partisan editor.

"I make sure we have a story. Oh, yes," said Pruden.

George Archibald, a former correspondent nominated for four Pulitzers during his twenty-three years at the Times, told me that when Pruden assigned him to travel to Arkansas in 1992 to dig for damaging information on Bill Clinton, a man named "Justice" Jim Johnson was the first source Pruden instructed him to meet. Johnson was a leader of the Capital Citizens Council chapter that Pruden's father belonged to. (In 1995 Pruden published two anti-Clinton op-ed articles by Johnson, who was later linked to right-wing billionaire financier Richard Mellon Scaife's Arkansas Project, a $2.4 million scheme in which "sources" were paid to help concoct anti-Clinton stories.)

When Coombs joined the Times in 1988, he became a charter member of Pruden's neo-Confederate cabal. Reared by a military family in rural Virginia, Coombs attended a private high school and William and Mary College, where he was known as a hard partyer with a vast collection of rock-and-roll records. After graduating Coombs cut his teeth at several Virginia papers and the States News Service. He pursued journalism as an extension of his family's military tradition. His motto, which he would recite time and again in the Times newsroom: "Journalism is war."

In his 1993 Southern Partisan interview, Pruden proudly recounted Coombs's speech that year at the Capitol hailing Confederate President Jefferson Davis. "I read the speech and it was quite good," Pruden told the Partisan. "I was originally asked to speak, but I was going to be out of town and Fran filled in for me. He was telling me what a thrilling thing it was to stand there and sing 'Dixie' in the statuary hall of the U.S. Capitol. I would have liked to have been there just for that."

While Coombs sympathized with Pruden's Lost Cause nostalgia, his politics were even harsher. "The thing about Wes is, he has other vices," said a Times senior staffer. "He loves a good meal, loves to have his ego stroked, he loves women, the social scene. As for bashing blacks and Hispanics, he shares Fran's views, but he has other preoccupations. Fran is the really hard-core ideological white supremacist."

So. We have overt racists and neoconfederates running an agitprop sheet for the Moonies, who have never been shy about muscling favors out of politicians, especially the Bushes.

And Moon is nothing if not a diversified messiah; he has his fingers in a lot of pies:

Even as the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church falters as a religion in the United States, it remains a robust, diverse business -- especially in the Washington area, where the movement controls more than $300 million in commercial, political and cultural enterprises.

From rundown city storefronts to gleaming suburban office buildings, from ornately refurbished mansions to mundane tract housing, organizations owned or sponsored by Moon and his inner circle of Korean and American followers hold properties stretching from Prince George's to Fairfax counties, according to corporate, property and court records.

This vast and bewildering multinational could be called Moon Inc. It is a sprawling collection of churches, nonprofit foundations and for-profit holding companies whose global operations include computers and religious icons in Japan, seafood in Alaska, weapons and ginseng in Korea, huge tracts of land in South America, a university in Bridgeport, Conn., a recording studio and travel agency in Manhattan, a horse farm in Texas and a golf course in California.

But the paper, while efficient enough at hitting the wingnut butter churn for the pre-frontal lobotomy crowd, is the ultimate loss-leader enterprise, and is costing Super Messiah Cult Guy an unacceptable amount of pelf, reputedly as much as $2 billion since 1982. Moon may have to sell more missiles to Kim Jong Il to recoup his losses.

In the meantime, there is a very ugly power struggle going on at the Times, as Pruden and Coombs are being forced out the door. Problem is, they know where all the bodies are buried, and they've just spent the last quarter-century creating shit out of thin air. Doing it to a contentious former employer would be gravy to knuckle-draggers like those two.

From 18 years experience working with this man as a close editor, I can say categorically that Coombs is a micro-manager, has a very bad temper, abuses employees, and looks down on women (except if he sees one he says has "nice tits" or "nice body," or "nice ass" or who he would like to have sex with, which he often voiced in my persence[sic], including about a particular higher female editor who was his superior.)

Coombs very often voiced dislike for blacks, Jews, Hispanics, privately in his office with me alone, sometimes in the newsroom around the national desk, and always when he got drunk at parties at his home where he drank liquor and smoked marijuana.

At one party at his home after he had consumed copious amounts of liquor and smoked marijuana, Coombs passed out on the outside deck of his home and had to be physically carried to bed by those remaining at the party and his wife, Marian.

A lot of Archibald's screed reads like sour grapes from a disgruntled former employee. The guy was fine with cashing a check from these cockroaches for over two decades; now that he's down the road, he can dish the dirt. Real fuckin' brave there, Cholly.

I don't mean to quibble with the level of detail in Foser's column; it is, after all, a weekly synopsis of relevant items, and as such has to be concise. But, when mentioning the Times or Insight, you're only telling half the story if you don't iterate the fact that it's a money pit run by an egomaniacal cult whackjob, a convicted felon with unsavory business holdings around the world, and a lot of hidden leverage on a lot of powerful people.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Professional Courtesy

Let's return briefly to some lingering issues surrounding the White House Correspondents Association dinner. Jon Carroll opts for the more collegial, overly diplomatic method of describing his thin-skinned brethren at last year's roast by Colbert [emphasis in print version of original]:

[Colbert] also mentioned the media. He congratulated them on their performance early in this Bush administration, noting that they had failed to adequately investigate administration claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that global warming was an unconfirmed theory. "We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to find out."

That may have hit a sore spot. Like congressional Democrats, a lot of reporters are just a wee bit embarrassed by how thoroughly they bought the administration line, particularly during Bush's first term. Sept. 11 made skepticism less fashionable, but journalists, in theory, are supposed to follow the facts and not the fashions. They don't, because journalists are people and people are always influenced by the wisdom of the moment, but they could have tried harder. They're supposed to try harder.

Well, yeah. But before that's going to happen they have to acknowledge that fact, at least to themselves. Does that seem like it's happening, or about to happen? Not remotely, as far as I can tell. If anything, it appears to be the opposite -- they'd just as soon not mention any of the previous unpleasantness, and get right back to pretending to do something. That is not a solution to what got us into this mess, a great measure of which can legitimately be chalked up to the press' profound indifference to how the administration played them.

Think about that. You can even give them some benefit of the doubt -- they didn't realize it at the time, were cowed by the office of the person they were interviewing, 9/11 changed everything, they wanted to do their part, blah blah blah. But by now, it should be obvious even to the Joe Klein short-bus set of the punditocracy that they were all played like the mighty Wurlitzer that they are.

So what's their fucking problem?

Colbert chastised the press for its later tough questioning of administration officials: "What incentive do these people have to answer your questions, after all? Nothing satisfies you. Everyone asks for personnel changes, so the White House has personnel changes, and everybody's like, oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. First of all, that's a horrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg."

Now, that's a fabulous line. The reaction to it, a sort of rueful chuckle moving in waves across the audience (presumably as people dredged up "Hindenburg" from their in-mind data banks), suggests that his listeners were having trouble keeping up.

I don't think that was the deal at all. I got the distinct impression that the "rueful chuckle" was a combination of having the truth shoved in their faces and not knowing whether they were supposed to laugh or not. Look, they're herd animals for one thing, but more importantly, this particular breed of journamalist is inextricably tied to the very same people they cover. This is a phenomenon endemic to the DC political media and their human (or in some cases, half-orc) subjects. They attend the same events, fundraisers, parties; their children go to the same prep schools. They know all the same people; they know each other, frequently on a personal basis.

Conservatives are especially bad about blurring the lines between reportage, advocacy, and policy involvement via "think tank" honoraria or convention speaking engagements. But even the generally more staid corporate media characters are at least conditioned not to make waves. That would be bad form, which in turn can be bad for business. That is not a red or blue issue, but a green one.

These people all have careers staked on the perception of credibility, and Colbert mercilessly skewered that, exposing them as credulous, gulled by their own insularity, and their unacceptable chumminess with the very people they write about.

They're not likely to let something like that sneak up on them again in the near future. That is an entirely different matter than something simply being an honest mistake that one is willing to remedy. There was nothing intellectually or journalistically honest about their pattern of mistakes, nor do they seem to be willing to do anything about it.

The Next Generation

John Robb at Global Guerrillas has been patiently, expansively defining the changing terms of the insurgent campaign in Iraq, to the point where he has made a pretty good case for the distinctions of fifth-generation warfare (5GW), as the decentralization of communities and loyalties have reverted to primary allegiances, thus making the fighters and their networks harder to effectively combat.

And the recent episode of the two Blackwater helicopters being brought down, and five private contractors murdered, show that while the Sunni and Shi'a are mainly fighting each other, they are still taking the time to target us. Most disconcerting is the increasing level of sophistication in these assaults. Suicide bombers are for the open-air marketplaces and such. They cannot get military personnel using those methods, so this is what they're doing:

  • Hook. A State Department official protected by a Blackwater PSD (personal security detail) convoy was attacked.

  • Line. QRF (quick reaction force) ground teams were dispatched from the Green Zone to relieve the convoy. These teams were ambushed. One retreated and the others were halted.

  • Sinker. Two Blackwater Boeing Little Birds (small helicopter gunships) were dispatched to provide support. One was shot down and the other was damaged and forced to return to base. Recovery teams found the four bodies (one more died on the other helo that returned to the green zone) from the helicopter crash were stripped of their weapons.

IraqSlogger has the details.

The Blackwater Little Birds are a familar sight above the skies of Baghdad. The tear drop shaped black helicopters with fly erratic patterns to avoid ground fire as they swoop and twirl around PSD moves below. Typically the former military pilots fly fast and just above roof level unlike the heavier Army Blackhawk helicopters which fly low and heavy, making easy targets for insurgents. The Blackwater Little Birds were originally brought into Iraq to be part of Paul Bremer's security detail. They stayed to provide an important security option to the many State Dept details the company is contracted to move and protect. There have been numerous hits by ground fire (including an AK bullet that went right through one pilot's ankle and missed the bones)

Once the Little Birds engaged the insurgents, one door gunner was killed and the rotor blades were damaged, and it returned to base. Another Little Bird was shot down instantly killing all four aboard. The shoot down and crash was described as quick and no radio call was sent before impact. The former 160th and army pilots working for Blackwater are famous for their low-level, high speed flights above Baghdad's rooftops. A tactic designed to avoid small arms fire. The previous event that brought them to the media's attention was the resupply of ammo and return of a wounded marined during the siege of an Najaf in the April of 04 as recounted in "Licensed to Kill, Hired Guns in the War on Terror"

The five dead mentioned include the one door gunner and the entire crew of the relief Little Bird. There are also unconfirmed reports of additional casualties among the Blackwater security detail on the ground.

One very important aspect of the coverage of the war that has been chronically under-reported involves the roles and responsibilities -- and level of accountability -- of private military contractors.

It's something of a boondoggle -- there are thousands of them there, many of them making six figures, on the taxpayers' dime. Many are on high-level security details, making five or six times what Army personnel make for the same job.

Others are involved in logistical or reconstruction efforts, many of these brought in from the Philippines and elsewhere, to a country where unemployment is north of 60% in most parts, and the populace, seeing the only available jobs going to foreigners, become increasingly embittered about the whole situation.

Thus they are now devising these little hit-and-run missions, luring contractors and service personnel into their traps, forcing them to expend lives and equipment. According to Robb, episodes such as this are presaging the transition to 5GW, and as we've seen extensively for the past four years, we still have not figured out how to effectively combat 4GW without massive, indiscriminate violence.

The biggest danger right now is that the "exterminate the brutes" claque gains more traction as the war of attrition continues. They are correct that we cannot fight with full efficiency with one arm effectively tied behind our backs; what they fail to acknowledge is that unleashing full powers of destruction is also its own war of attrition, and would exhaust the last remaining shred of comity with the rest of the world.

It is a choice between worse and worser, and kicking the surge can down the electoral street, for the next administration to deal with, simply allows the pattern to wear on a little more, and a little more.

Idol Threat

I was tempted to dismiss this article out of hand as "no shit" sort of daydreaming, but I always have a soft spot for garage bands, and the article actually serves to neatly encapsulate where a lot of people find their mindset in just trying to achieve a dream.

The problem arises when everyone has the same bright idea, which is when it basically turns into a lottery, which brings me back to why I can't even stand the promos for American Idol, much less the show. These people are laying it all on the line for their shot, and are not chosen for their talent so much as their marketability, or even just the mood of the talent scout that day.

At the judging table in front of us sat two 20-something producers. One was a young woman with sunglasses so large, she could have been napping behind them. The other was a young man with his head propped up in his hands. He said nothing and looked bored.

Suddenly Simon seemed not so rude after all.

Each of us would be given roughly 15 seconds of our chosen song to perform. No questions, no names.

Two of the singers next to me were great, even passionate. Another one, not so much.

Then I stepped forward and sang, belting out the tune with all I had. It's Aretha, after all.

I was louder than the rest, working my vibrato, stretching my arms out. The bored guy perked up a little, but still said nothing. This was the moment I had waited six hours for.

After less than 20 seconds, it was over.

Afterward, the young woman with the sunglasses turned to all of us, thanked us for auditioning, and said we would not be needed for the show. There was no banter between judges. No comments to us about our performances _ snarky or otherwise. Not even a little canned applause.

Instead, we were instructed to go, our wristbands were cut, and we walked out of the stadium.

Given the sheer scale of the show's popularity, I imagine it's practically impossible for the producers to find the time and effort to treat the entrants as if they were actual people. But I guess that's what makes it show business.

She's probably better off without Idol anyway; were she to win that golden ticket and get on -- or even win -- the grand prize is really just an opportunity to have the usual marketing weasels work you over into something they think will move product. And Schou's actual band, Naughty Bird, is pretty good, a garage band with a real singer. She's no William Hung, but then who among us is?

Golden Winger Awards

Check 'em out. Great stuff.

Special mention goes to the cretinous Dan Riehl, who is apparently trying to snatch the coveted title of Dumbest Motherfucker On The Face Of The Planet away from Doug Feith. Riehl actually posited that George "Felix Macacawitz" Allen said "neighbor", contrary to a detractor's alleagation that he said "nigger", even after several college teammates had already come forth with similar allegations, including the infamous deer head stuffed into the mailbox of a family of, um, "neighbors".

If I were working up a parody of one of these guys, something like this seriously would not have occurred to me, it would have been too outlandish. And either I never saw that crazy-ass post when it first went up, or I'd forgotten it in the intervening months of escalating stupidity.

So thanks, The Editors, for bringing that little gem back to light. It's a great reminder, not only of the quality of rhetorical minds we're dealing with across the aisle, but also the ugly fact that only the narrowest majority of Virginians decided they were uncomfortable with someone so oafishly stupid as Felix Macacawitz. The guy looked into a video camera and lobbed an obscure racial slur that took about three seconds to trace back to his mother. That's a special brand of stupid, topped only by Riehl's inventive explanation of other allegations.

All you can say to these goofballs is neighbor please.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Madness Of King George

As expected, Bush is openly defying and challenging the new, not-so-rubberstampy Congress by reiterating his Decidery perfectitude. It does not matter anymore what the clear majority of American citizens want; if nothing else, we should all be clear on that, regardless of our opinions about the war or anything else. This is a naked assertion of power by one supposedly equal branch over the other two.

Rest assured, though, just as soon as a Demonrat gets back into their Reagan Shrine White House, they'll suddenly remember why this "unitary executive" bullshit is precisely that. They're nothing if not intellectually consistent, which is a completely different thing from being intellectually honest.

Now, take a quick look at how the Post describes the money quote of this little putsch:

Asked why he was going ahead with his plan without congressional support, Bush said, "One of the things I've found in Congress is that most people recognize that failure would be a disaster for the United States. And, in that I'm the decision-maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster."

He said he worked with the U.S. military and his new defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, "to come up with a plan that is likely to succeed, and the implementer of that plan is going to be General Petraeus."

Now check out how Chicago Tribune's The Swamp transcribes the complete quote [emphasis mine]:

Bush, who asked Congress to have patience with this deployment during his State of the Union to a joint session of Congress address this week, was asked today if he believes it’s “Okay’’ to proceed without their support.

“One of the things that I've found in Congress is that most people recognize that failure would be a disaster for the United States, and in that I'm the decision-maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster,’’ he said. “In other words, I had to think about what's likely to work. And so I worked with our military and I worked with Secretary Gates to come up with a plan that is likely to succeed. And the implementor of that plan is going to be General Petraeus.’’

First and foremost is that obnoxious, fucking condescending tone of his again. I have no idea who told him he thinks he needs to "explain" what he think words happen to mean, as if we're all just as intellectually stunted as he is, but it drives me up the fucking wall, and I wish to hell someone would call him on that shit. It's bad enough that he doesn't know how to pronounce "dissemble"; the real problem is that he seriously thinks we don't know what it means.

But let's dissect that important sentence -- which, recall, is missing from WaPo's account of the contextual quote -- from a practical, operational angle. What is it about this particular plan that makes him think it's "likely to work", considering that almost no single person with military knowledge who doesn't work directly for him or for one of his butt-boy "think tanks" thinks this is anything but a kick-the-can tactic? Seriously, why specifically does he think this is "likely to work", when everything has failed? He keeps insisting that his opponents should have to come up with a plan if they disapprove of his; the least he can do is elaborate as to exactly how this plan is superior to the others he supposedly sifted through en route to this one.

And again, keep in mind the sentence leading up to that, the one that he supposedly had to explain what it meant, because we're all stupid. "Precludes disaster". I don't think "precludes" means what he thinks it means. I think he means "hopefully mitigates" or "stops the bleeding", or something along that line. Because if he seriously thinks that this is something designed to "preclude" disaster, then he really is delusional.

I know this hurts the tender wittle feewings of the 82nd Chairborne, but there is no "moving forward" anymore, nor is there any "precluding disaster". It's already a disaster; that these people need to be told this, over and fucking over, demonstrates how completely vestigial they have become to serious debate about this. They're a withered pinkie toe on the body politic, and there'd be lot less future bloodshed in these misbegotten petrocracies if they'd just recognize this at long last, and do us all a favor and step the fuck off.

I can't reiterate strongly enough just how central I believe those couple sentences are to how Bush's mind works. He literally tells Pelosi this will work because he told them it had to work. He thinks this latest surge will not only allow things to "move forward" and "preclude disaster" but that it's integral to doing so. But again, those days are gone. There is only triage now, and minimizing needless death and destruction.

It's out of our hands, it has been for some time. The political solution -- a Shi'a-dominated parliament that barely convenes in the Green Zone anymore -- is driving the military solution, which is a death-squad infiltrated military, using us as its enablers in what will eventually be witnessed as a massive sectarian cleansing, if not outright genocide.

Their big "solution" is expanding the chaos outward. It doesn't matter anymore whether continuing developments are by design or incidental. The "accidental" is now intentional, for all practical purposes. Chuck Hagel cannot be the only one who realizes this, and the Democratic senators who stand with him are standing tall, which is great. Hopefully they also understand that, given Bush's attitude, it is going to get worse before it gets better, because they are dealing with people whose guiding principle is that power belongs to those who exercise it.

The Good News They Won't Show You

This little nugget is only available on the intertubes; for some reason CBS News has chosen not to show it on, um, their news program, which, if I understand correctly, can be viewed on a nightly basis.

Perhaps Michelle Malkin and fellow muckrakers can get to the bottom of all this librul treachery, Kevlar style. I for one look forward to their shiny happy on-site news briefs.

Rigged Game

Remember how all the talk about Ohio's rigged and defective voting machines were just enough to throw the vote, and how that was all dismissed as conspiracy chatter? Well, what do you think the odds are that this will get coverage commensurate with its importance?

CLEVELAND — Two election workers were convicted Wednesday of rigging a recount of the 2004 presidential election to avoid a more thorough review in Ohio's most populous county.

Jacqueline Maiden, elections coordinator of the Cuyahoga County Elections Board, and ballot manager Kathleen Dreamer each were convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct of an elections employee. They also were convicted of one misdemeanor count each of failure of elections employees to perform their duty.

Prosecutors accused Maiden and Dreamer of secretly reviewing preselected ballots before a public recount on Dec. 16, 2004. They worked behind closed doors for three days to pick ballots they knew would not cause discrepancies when checked by hand, prosecutors said.

Yep, nobody here but us chickens. Fortunately, we find that this was a small-scale ballot-cooking op -- as far as we know, anyway.

Special prosecutor Kevin Baxter did not claim the workers' actions affected the outcome of the election — Kerry gained 17 votes and Bush lost six in the county's recount.

Maiden and Dreamer, who still work for the elections board, face a possible sentence of six to 18 months for the felony conviction. Sentencing is on Feb. 26.

A message left for Elections Board Director Michael Vu was not immediately returned Wednesday. The board released a statement that said its goal is to restore confidence in the county's election progress and pursue reforms in addition to those made since 2004.

The main reform has already been accomplished -- getting rid of professional vote-fixer Ken Blackwell.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Object Of My Affection

These authoritarians do not deserve to be free. Their fondest wish is to worship their protective totem, and ban all criticism. Good, because he's about to be hung around their collective necks for at least the next generation.

This is the dribbling fool these hacks are staking their reputations and their supposedly sacred honor on:

In an interview, Pelosi also said she was puzzled by what she considered the president's minimalist explanation for his confidence in the new surge of 21,500 U.S. troops that he has presented as the crux of a new "way forward" for U.S. forces in Iraq.

"He's tried this two times — it's failed twice," the California Democrat said. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.' "

Asked if the president had elaborated, she added that he simply said, " 'I told them that they had to.' That was the end of it. That's the way it is."

Bad enough that they're monarchists at heart; what's infinitely worse is that their king is a first-grader.

Razor Scooter

Since the Scooter Libby "revelations" earlier this week, I have been a bit skeptical of the notion that Libby, thinking that he's no longer up for an eventual pardon from a hobbled preznit, is trying for leverage by bringing Rove and Cheney into this. There's no specific reason for this, other than the understanding that Libby is the company man's company man, and these people don't roll easy. Libby's had plenty of time to get his case together, and this is what they come with? It smells like some sort of obfuscatory dodge, a way to cloud things, pass the buck a little further down the field. It's a stalling tactic, even if a factually correct one. Maybe they're counting on a lack of political will to expand investigations into Rove and Cheney. There are worse presumptions to be had.

Seems someone else might have a similar hunch:

David Johnston and Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times take a look at the arguments coming from Scooter Libby's lawyers (that Libby was hung out to dry to protect Karl Rove), and, well, color them unconvinced.

First, despite the fact that reporters (and Patrick Fitzgerald) have been swarming all over Plamegate for almost four years, this supposed White House cabal against Libby escaped detection. And they still can't find anyone to support that idea. In fact, Libby and Rove seemed to have worked pretty closely together. “They didn’t show any ankle — it was always a team effort,” as Lawrence Wilkerson, a former State Department official, puts it.

Second, it's not clear that Libby was really hung out to dry. The only evidence seems to be that it took White House spokesman Scott McClellan a week longer in September of 2003 to lie to the press about whether Libby had been involved in the leak of Valerie Wilson's identity than it did for him to deny Rove's involvement.

And third, "[e]ven if the assertion is shown to be true, it is not clear how it would help refute the charges that Mr. Libby had perjured himself."

We'll see how this develops, and I could be entirely off-base, but it just seems too pat (bad pun intended) for an opening gambit. It's a cornered-animal move, and the only people who open with a cornered-animal move are desperate people and cheap-shot artists. Libby, like his dark overlords, is a whole lotta both.

And the real crux of this case cannot be overstated -- these people conspired to lie, to defame and delegitimize a critic of their war policy, which has consistently proven to be the construct of ideologues and fabulists. They did it sotto voce through their reliable conduits in the lapdog media, tainting that already debauched profession. They were and are unrepentant about any of this, about misleading people, about bullying people, about causing all the death and destruction that's already taken place, and will continue to take place.

This is not an inside-baseball story; this is the heart of it all, of creepy warmongerers and their useful propaganda tools, of secrecy and corruption and lies. This is going to bring some people down, if done right, if reported right. We'll see.

In the meantime, if "Scooter"'s ethical underpinnings can be divined from his fictive discursions, festooned with episodes of pedophilia and bestiality driving the narrative, perhaps we gain a better understanding as to whether or not he will do whatever it takes to save his own ass, and those of his masters. These are treacherous people, and they have already shown that they can play the willing dupes of the media to their own hidden advantage. Stay tuned.

[Update: Josh Marshall has probably the most succinct explanation of the wide-ranging implications of Scooter's treachery, and that of the White House itself, how it has poisoned the ability of senators from both parties to work on equal footing in matters of national security, how Italian intel's involvement in cooking the Niger documents has strained intelligence-gathering ability and cooperation in that part of the world, and on and on.

It is crucial to find a compelling narrative to communicate the true measure of duplicity and corruption at work here; the web has been so deliberately and completely tangled that only the most diligent and patient can unravel it all, and the media and the general public are too engaged in their endless pas de deux of post-ironic cynicism to dig that deep. But if a handle can be gotten on all the intricacies of this, enough so that the public will care, and enough so that the media will believe the public will care, which in turn legitimizes their effort (in their mindset), there are doubtless many much darker truths to be found in the nooks and recesses of this utterly corrupt and unaccountable administration. Not only do we not know what we do not know, we may actually not even want to know the full measure of official mendacity, of abuse of office, and contempt for policy, principle, and people.

So far it has been portrayed as a self-referential scenario of silly nicknames and beltway clubbiness, of a grandstanding diva journamalist who helped pimp an unnecessary war and had a reputation for fucking her sources. But Scootergate is much deeper and darker than that; it comes very close to objectively, conclusively demonstrating what most of us take for granted now -- that they knew their intel was bunk, that facts were suspect and stovepiped, that only cherry-picked anecdotes and sharp elbows were going to get them the war they craved. And now that Ari Fleischer is on the short list to drop a dime, we may get more than we bargained for.]

There's Something About Mary

Hugh Hewitt, whose swinging man-ta's give Jennifer Love a run for her money (and uh, what a run it is), lobs a "gentlemanly" scud at Wolf Blitzer's chin cozy:

The Vice President clobbered Wolf Blitzer today, once again demonstrating for the American people the important line that separates public life from private life. Wolf Blitzer is a fine reporter and a gentleman. I don't understand how he can not understand this line, or not be embarrassed in retrospect. As should be CNN.

Even when he's wrong he's right. Blitzer and CNN should be completely embarrassed, and they owe their viewers an apology, but of course not for the reasons Hewitt thinks.

The entire "interview", if you want to call it that, deserves to be fisked, but here's the part Hewitt is referring to:

BLITZER: You know, we're out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you: your daughter, Mary. She's pregnant. All of us are happy she's going to have a baby. You're going to have another grandchild. Some of the -- some critics are suggesting -- for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, "Mary Cheney's pregnancy raises the question of what's best for children. Just because it's possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn't mean that it's best for the child." Do you want to respond to that?


BLITZER: She's, obviously, a good daughter --

CHENEY: I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf.

And obviously I think the world of both my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.

BLITZER: I think all of us appreciate --

CHENEY: I think you're out of line.

BLITZER: We like your daughters. Believe me, I'm very sympathetic to Liz and to Mary. I like them both. That was a question that's come up, and it's a responsible, fair question.

CHENEY: I just fundamentally disagree with you.

BLITZER: I want to congratulate you on having another grandchild.

I guess Blitzer should consider himself lucky Big Time wasn't packing, which might explain why he was so gutless in defending his line of questioning. What exactly does Cheney "just fundamentally disagree" with here -- that Bush boosting mullahs such as James Dobson use Cheney's own daughter and future grandchild to bait the extra-chromosome crowd? That because Mary Cheney and Heather Poe live in Virginia, Poe has no parental rights to the child in the event anything happens to Mary?

And Blitzer is the one that's out of line? Bullshit. He was out of line, but only in his abject spinelessness, his mewling and cringing at Cheney's loose-limbed tirades throughout the entire interview.

Look, it's simple. It doesn't matter what the issue is, whether it's their constant bungling of every country they cluster-bomb, or the GOP's religitard backers using Cheney's donut-bumping offspring as rhetorical chum. Whenever they are called on their bullshit, they will always, always fight back with bluster and lies.

Journalists have to stop being worried about stepping on unpopular toes, or losing the "privilege" to interview someone most Americans already hold in contempt. It's bad enough that they were lapdogs when the polls were high, but we're in Nixon territory now, and have been for over a year.

It's too bad Blitzer apparently uses a peanut shell and a rubberband for a jockstrap, because it's going to require someone with actual balls to counter these tactics. Instead he met the rigors of his job with the usual courtly diffidence, and to add stupid insult to unnecessary injury, people like Hugh Halfwit still have the nerve to kick him for it.

The only thing to be truly lost by fighting back is the impression that you're a coward.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Habeas Crapus

John Ashcroft was bad enough. Abu Gonzales is a caricature of a stereotypical despot's thug:

"The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas,'' Gonzales told Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Jan. 17.


Later in the hearing, Gonzales described habeas corpus as "one of our most cherished rights'' and noted that Congress had protected that right in the 1789 law that established the federal court system. But he never budged from his position on the absence of constitutional protection -- a position that seemingly would leave Congress free to reduce habeas corpus rights or repeal them altogether.

The Constitution also doesn't "expressly" empower smug little fuckwits and their hatchet men to throw American citizens in the dock and torture them for four years without charges.

But hey, whatever. Someday -- soon, we hope -- it'll be Gonzales' turn to test that theory out from the wrong side.

Kill The King

I have confidence that I am with the majority of sentient humans when I say that "professional" spammers (or even amateur pranksters) ought to be staked to an anthill, vivisected with a rusty spoon, and slowly fed their own entrails. There is no room for compromise on this, frankly; 250 things per day in my inbox, ranging from financial and pharmaceutical scams apparently designed to gull the impossibly large market of single-digit IQ's with access to credit cards, to the vilest types of pornography imaginable (and I'm not exactly a prude). And that's every day; Sundays, holidays. I spent part of Christmas Day clearing shit with headers advertising boner pills and grandma porn, before my unsuspecting 5-year-old daughter gets on to play her Dora the Explorer games.

Now, when you openly brag about your spamming practice to the point that you proclaim yourself the Spam King, then maybe the anthill's not quite enough. Maybe, as they say in Bush's imaginary West, hangin's too good fer 'im.

Richter is no stranger to the spam community. Known as the "spam king of Colorado," Richter had been sued by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) for sending unwanted messages to New York-based users of Hotmail, Microsoft's Web-mail service.

That suit was eventually settled, with Richter paying millions of dollars in damages and agreeing to change his e-mail marketing practices.

I dunno. Seems to me that the worst thing you can do to a wannabe pirate, a pretend bandito who is in reality nothing more than a wriggling parasite in the alimentary canal of the interwebs, is fucking bankrupt them. They don't have the self-respect to just grab a gun and blow their brains out, unfortunately. So let's make sure at least that these sorts of enterprises will only bring them financial misery. Fuck "millions of dollars in damages"; this motherfucker should be pushing a shopping cart, and I don't mean a virtual one.

This is not a First Amendment issue, nor is it an entrepreneurship issue. Freedom of speech is not merely limited to not being able to shout "fire" in a crowded theater; oddly, you're also not allowed to wallpaper people's houses with flyers announcing your stupid idea, and then stand outside the house with a fucking bullhorn 24/7 reiterating said scam. And there's nothing remotely entrepreneurial about some piece of shit holed up in Colorado with bunch of bots, pestering the rest of the planet all fucking day with this miserable crap.

This is not satire; this is not schtick. I hate these fucking people, and seriously wish they would shrivel up and die painfully. Failing that, people like Scott Richter need the harshest punishment possible meted out to them -- actually having to work for a living.

Bachmann Feeler Overdrive

Looks like Droopy's got some competition for Junior's affections:

While [Junior] was signing autographs for members of Congress after the speech, the sixth-district Republican put her hand on Bush's shoulder. However, it wasn't just a tap. After he signed an autograph for her, Bachmann grabbed [Fredo] and did not let go for almost 30 seconds.

After signing the autograph for Bachmann, [Oedipus Tex] turns away, but Bachmann doesn't let go. In fact, the video shows her reaching out to get a better grip on him.

Oh my. Who will the first to claw Miss Thang's eyes out in a good old-fashioned Beltway catfight -- the missus or the jilted "independent" good-time girl? Stay tuned for more soapy greatness.

[Link via Atrios.]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Smells Like Britney Spears' Pussy

The SiteMeter never lies; you people don't just come for the cheap scatological references and the half-assed NFL predictions. It's not just for the inferences of Schwarzenegger's reputed gay porn career, or the Tourette's-like use of the phrase "monkey butter" to describe Bobo Brooks and his wretched career.

It's also about the State of the Union speech, and the idea of chimpeachment. It's a philosophy, a philosophy of hope and change -- and, um, monkey butter. The other stuff's just icing on the cake, so to speak.

Special fun SOTU bonus: By the numbers.

Top Ten Surprises At The 2007 State Of The Union Address

10. A drunken, disheveled Dennis Hastert has to be forcibly removed from the Speaker's seat after showing up early, chaining himself to the chair, and knocking back a fifth of Yukon Jack and a Costco bag of Baken-Ets.

9. Speech repeatedly interrupted mid-sentence by overzealous standing ovations and woofing from James Inhofe and Thad Cochran. This eventually causes Bush to forget where he is, and he ends up accidentally proposing ending the death tax for Iran and North Korea, and tactically nuking unwed mothers.

8. Cheney goes commando, insists on telling everyone just to see the look on their faces.

7. TelePrompTer cuts out, forcing Bush to improvise. After 25 seconds, he's already lapsing into "izzle" talk.

6. 2008 White House Correspondent's Dinner emcee already selected -- kid-pop singer Raffi, who as it turns out, also does a kick-ass Ari Fleischer impersonation with a ball-gag and buttless chaps.

5. Jar filled with formaldehyde, some hard-boiled eggs, and what is reputed to be Saddam Hussein's penis is placed strategically on Cheney's podium as a silent warning to all.

4. Condoleeezzza Rice wears stiletto heels and a pleather skirt; Robin Givhan gets a week's worth of drooling "columns" out of it.

3. New Cabinet post proposed, Department of Baldfaced Lies, aka "Ministry of Truth". Tony Snow offers to clone himself to fill the position, but the nod goes to a homunculus conjured from John Negroponte's back hair. It may in fact be Negroponte himself.

2. Attempts to prise Bush's spindly cock from Senator Droopy Dog's mouth prove fruitless, and the Jaws of Life have to be rushed in at the end of the speech. Lieberman naturally apologizes for not finishing, begs for another chance to do it right.

1. America considers its options -- popular uprising to protest and remove this empty-headed stain from power once and for all; scooping out its collective eyes with a melon-baller and finding the nearest gas oven to stick its head into; changing the channel. Naturally we choose C, but the melon-baller is tempting.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


This must be the civility I keep hearing about:

Obama's announcement of a presidential exploratory committee — presaging a formal announcement scheduled for early February — must have elicited a Howard Dean-like reaction from Clinton because one of his key points was aimed at her.

In the video posted on his Web site, Obama said the U.S. is "mired in a tragic and costly war that should never have been waged." Clinton voted for the war in Iraq and has yet to follow Edwards and others in apologizing for the vote. This places her on the opposite side of most Democrats, as a CBS News poll showed earlier this month.

CBS reported Tuesday that "A CBS News poll taken earlier this month found that 77 percent of Democrats surveyed wanted a decrease or full withdrawal of troops from Iraq. And another CBS poll asked viewers of Bush's Wednesday night speech if they supported the plan to send more troops to Baghdad. 82 percent of Democrats opposed it." Obama and Edwards opposed the troop surge before Clinton, and she could only fall in line behind them. Hillary Clinton isn't one to play catch-up for long.

Obama's announcement included the fact that he's planning a formal announcement of his presidential bid on Feb. 10, giving Clinton only a few weeks to regain the momentum she thought she had and probably accelerating her plans to announce her candidacy. She's caught in her own quagmire, stuck with the foundational strategy that won her husband the presidency twice.

She has to maintain the moderate pose while pushing a liberal agenda. She faces the growing pressure from Obama, Edwards and the Cindy Sheehan wing of her party that is shoving her uncomfortably leftward. Clinton knows that if she gives in, she loses the Clinton cloak and will have to seek the presidency as just another one of a crowd of anti-war liberals. And she can't win that way, because — as the 2006 post-election polls showed — either party's nominee will depend on the truly moderate voters of both parties to grant the margin of victory. So what will Clinton do?

Clinton will do what she and her husband have always done. When they speak of the politics of personal destruction, they aren't really complaining of how they're being treated. Psychologists call this "projection." When they speak of it, the Clintons are talking about another fundamental element of their politics.

Barack Obama may not be immune to these attacks but Clinton — concerned about his ascendance — may have already used her best ammunition. In a mini-memoir written a decade ago, Obama spoke of his use of illegal drugs.

This long-forgotten story was reborn in a Jan. 3 Washington Post piece that may have been another Clinton maneuver to cut into his momentum. What else is there? Team Clinton will make sure we find out. For Clinton, whatever there is won't be enough to make up for her sliding scale position on the war. The Democrats are so far gone on that issue that Clinton will have to toe the Jack Murtha-Nancy Pelosi line sooner or later. The longer she waits, the harder the anti-war faction will be on her. The only other weapon she can use is her pals in the 527 Media. Former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld got off easy compared to how Obama may fare.

The cynics among us might believe that Hillary used the Associated Press like a rented mule in her "Rumsfeld refused to testify" play last summer. And they would also believe that the AP's gushing review of Terry McAuliffe's book — a Clinton puff piece — might also have been maneuvered by Hillary's AP pals.

But even those who aren't cynical will understand the connection when The New York Times's troika — publisher Pinch Sulzberger, Managing Editor Jill Abramson and columnist Maureen Dowd — begin whittling away at Obama. If Hillary sounds the alarm, they will not be alone in challenging Obama. The urgency of her SOS will be measured two ways.

Uh-huh. That this could be posted without the slightest trace of irony or sarcasm, from a "news" network positively rotten with Chimpco crack whores, tells you everything you need to know about the incredibly debauched nature of the media, and their role in the poltical-industrial complex. Hillary is the big cutthroat; forget how the Bush people used Pat Robertson's minions to push-poll the rubes in South Carolina about John McCain's negro love child back in the 2000 primaries.

Sell the conflict, build the smackdown, prolong the inevitable, milk the ad revenues. Funny how none of that is actually of any value to people not in the bidness, but them's the breaks. It's going to be a long eighteen months, but we already knew that, didn't we?

Matt Yglesias has more:

One thing I found myself thinking about last week was how quickly lots of liberals -- myself included, really -- have tended to be willing to accept the notion that John Kerry was some kind of uniquely unappealing candidate for national office in terms of his personal qualities. But of course before Kerry was super-lame, there was Al Gore and he was . . . super lame.


No matter who it is the Democrats nominate, that person is going to wind up mocked as obviously the wrong the choice; obviously just an absurd person who absurd primary voters picked over dozens of more appealing choices.

Just for the record, I'm not a big Hillary fan. I've never understood the ease with which she and her husband have reflexively "triangulated" issues of principle, giving ground to the worst sorts of idiots and social baboons. Things like flag burning and violent video games, while not pleasant issues, simply do not warrant the time of serious people.

Still, she deserves some credit. She has proven to be a smart and effective senator, winning cooperation and even grudging respect from diametrically opposed people like Sam Brownback. And anyone who can put up with the self-indulgent perorations of Robert Byrd and terminal oafs such as Tom Coburn or John Cornyn deserves props, just for the willingness to do some rhetorical shit-shoveling.

So far, the Democratic candidate that seems to be hitting the best notes is John Edwards. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the hype machine that Obama or Clinton have. But the real thing to watch out for -- for all of them -- is the catty, sniping little mean girls of the "serious" media, the Heathers (female and male) of the talk shows, the panel wankfests, the regurgitated gossip chatter columns, etc. They relish the unearned, obscene power of manufacturing consensus opinion in the Beltway and in the TV studios and "news" rooms, but they are completely unserious about the responsibility that goes along with it. They'll sniff McCain's ass for a while longer, but he looks to be hitting self-destruct mode already, and probably won't make it through summer.

So whoever is nicest to the Heathers, or gives the best talking head, strokes their preening self-importance, will probably get anointed as the prospective front-runner. The rest of them will be stamped as "aloof" or "not viable" or "doesn't speak cracker well enough to win in Jeebusland", or whatever handy bullet point they can concoct. And the first one to fuck up in front of a camera will be Howard Dean-ed within hours.

Why? Because they are allowed to get away with the notion that they are civil and serious, when most of them are neither.

Super Bowl Shuffle

So much for predictions. Who knew that the Saints were going to need special footballs fitted with handles, and the Pats were going to hand back a heretofore insurmountable (in championship game history) 21-6 halftime lead?

Ah well. That's why they play 'em, and the AFC game was especially good throughout. We'll hear plenty of hype about the historic event of two black coaches making it to the Super Bowl for the first time, but the fact is that Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy are simply good coaches, and by all accounts good people, so good luck to them. And Prince for the halftime show; for once it'll be worth watching.

When In Doubt, I Whip It Out

It looks like Terrible Ted Nugent has once again upset those establishment squares, man, with his freaky takes on the American lifestyle.

Hours after Gov. Rick Perry kicked off his second full term in office, Ted Nugent helped him celebrate at a black-tie gala, but not all attendees were pleased by the rocker's performance.

Using machine guns as props, Nugent, 58, appeared onstage as the final act of the inaugural ball wearing a cutoff T-shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag and shouting offensive remarks about non-English speakers, according to people who were in attendance.

Uh-huh. And? It's fuckin' Ted Nugent, ferchrissakes. What'd they think he was going to do, show up in a tuxedo and serenade the crowd with a lounge-lizard rendition of Wang Dang Sweet Poontang? Subtlety has never been the guy's strong suit, or any suit, for that matter.

But this comment from a bemused bystander is priceless, just for its sheer cluelessness:

"I think it was a horrible choice," GOP strategist Royal Masset said. "I hope nobody approved it."

Okay, let's backtrack for a second and read that one again, verrrrry slowly. What do you mean, you "hope nobody approved it"? Do musicians typically show up at the Texas Governor's Inaugural Ball from off the street, uninvited, to berate a captive, horrified audience? I mean, other than Kinky Friedman.

The only thing surprising about any of this is that apparently no one had a cell phone handy with which to capture the hijinks for YouTube posterity. Can't these yokels take a break from seducing their cousins to share a timeless viral video with the rest of the world? Who doesn't want to see a 60-year-old lunatic, wearing a confederate flag, brandishing a couple prop (one hopes) AR-15's, ranting about them durned Meskins?

I am disappointed, Texas. I thought everything was supposed to be bigger, even the secondhand buffoonery of washed-up chowderheads like Nugent.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Crystal Balls

Now that the water-carriers for the right have been completely exposed as either hucksters or dupes, they have reverted to yet another rhetorical diversion. They never run out of them, of course; the only alternative is to own up to their manifest intellectual failings. They would be more likely to give up the midnight binges of Yoo-Hoo and pork rinds.

Instead, they have moved ever so slightly to tacitly acknowledging that a clusterfuck of catastrophic proportions is indeed unfolding in Iraq, that it is not merely a conspiracy of America-hating journamalists, most of whom can't find their balls with both hands and a flashlight in the first place, forget finding the stones to speak Truth to Power.

Crucial to said contrived acknowledgement is the caveat that the people who opposed the war from its public inception at Bush's 2002 West Point graduation speech were not "right" either, or were "right" for the "wrong" reasons, or some such projected nonsense. Also essential is the sarcastic presumption that they owe no real recognition to anyone else, that we're not as fucking smart as we think we are, much less as smart as they think themselves.

Edroso nails the heart of this craven idiocy:

Speaking only for myself -- as someone who is decidedly not a dove, but who thought this war was a bad idea from the beginning -- I make no claim to analytical or any other kind of brilliance. If anything, I just have a lick of common sense, drummed into me by my late mother, who did not trust fancy salesmen who refrained from showing their merchandise; this trained me to look askance upon a war against someone who hadn't attacked us, justified only by the assertions of untrustworthy Republican poltroons.

Central to their presumptions is that anyone who opposed the sack of magic beans being shilled by Chimpco was automatically a pacifist. That was so patently untrue, given the fact that the vast majority of anti-war speakers and activists professed from the beginning to have wholeheartedly supported the necessity of action in Afghanistan. But like most everything else they believe, the notion had just enough of a whiff of truthiness to satisfy their own need for rationalization. Basically, as Roy says, there was no real art to understanding that this was all bullshit, doomed to failure. It was just common sense, skewed in the post-9/11 analytical haze.

Bottom line is that the single event to sway the necessary remaining wedge of Americans (including, regrettably, myself) was Saint Colin Powell putting the remainder of his dignity and integrity on the line for these neoclown boobs. (And really, how Powell manages to live with himself is truly a mystery. Tens of thousands of people have died unnecessarily, a half-trillion dollars wasted, no sign of either abating, at least partially because he gave his endorsement for this foolishness, knowing full well what had been concocted to justify it all.)

Well, lesson learned, at least for most of us. The folks that never intend to learn anything steadfastly ignore the obvious fact that as far back as four years ago, some people certainly did predict not only the abject failure of this venture, but even the corrupt mendacity of the propagandists enabling the lies to continue.

Or does it go deeper than that? Jeff Wells makes an argument that it does [all emphases in original]:

[Charles] Manson was left alone, [LA County Deputy Sheriff Preston] Guillory told [journalist Paul] Krassner, because "something big was coming down." Krassner asked "Why were you given such an order?" to which Guillory replied "I don't know. We didn't question our superiors." Krassner pressed: "Did you at least speculate as to the reason?" Yes, Guillory conceded: "Oh, we just figured they were gonna kill Black Panthers."

We were getting intelligence briefings that Manson was anti-black and he had supposedly killed a Black Panther. Manson was a very ready tool, apparently, because he did have some racial hatred and he wanted to vent it. But they hadn't anticipated him attacking someone other than the Panthers.

There's a lot of that these days, though much less speculative than Guillory's thoughts and several orders of degree more complicit. "No one could have imagined them taking a plane" and crashing it into the World Trade Center. No one could have foreseen the severity of Katrina. "No one anticipated the level of violence" in Iraq. But it's irrelevant here whether the celebrity Scientologist went off script or stayed on mission. The point is that Manson and his followers were untouched before the killings because authorities anticipated mayhem, not because they didn't, and for whatever reason they wanted to see some blood shed. In this respect, and almost certainly without suspecting it, the family became an undeputized branch of the LA County Sheriff's Department.

Does this mentality of power remind you of anything? Recall that destabilization of the region, as has been iterated many times in many places, was a feature rather than a flaw. The idea was that the wogs would sort out the worst characters on their own, and we would be left with shiny happy ay-rabs ready to give us their oil at pennies on the dollar, as well as endless gratitude.

And if that didn't work as advertised? Well, the planners and their buddies just happen to make enormous profits from the astronomical risk premium generated by the endless violence. See? Win-win, all the way, provided you inhabit that insular 1% that runs things.

It was evident even before the invasion that the war's intention included making a failed state of Iraq. That that's not yet conventional wisdom shows just how much too many still want to believe bad policy is made in good faith.

And as American and Iraqi bodies continue to pile up, and as Iraq slides toward failed-state status, the willful obstinacy of these barmy goons seems actually to increase, amazingly. It does not occur to most of them even to ask why, after four years of complete failure -- including that of a "summer surge" just last year -- another surge is somehow supposed to work. It doesn't occur to them to wonder about a contingency plan for this latest surge, given that actual military people from Wesley Clark to Oliver North are in agreement that it's a waste of lives, time, and money.

It doesn't occur to them to wonder, seriously, about the sanity and mental capacity of George W. Bush, who smirks and snickers and expresses increasingly bizarre body language when talking about impossibly grim events, who appears more and more disconnected from reality, from the opinions of people who actually know something about the country we're stuck in, from the consistent will of the clear majority of American citizens. Really, what sort of moral cretin actually has the goddamned nerve to assert that perhaps Iraqis have been insufficiently grateful for the carnage that's been unleashed upon them, for losing 5% of their population in just four years to war, murder, or displacement?

No, they would rather lob increasingly lame scuds out of desperation to protect their shriveled egos and compromised intellects. It galls them that they were so irretrievably wrong, and that the pacifist pussies and traitors were right. Sadly, it appears to gall them far more than the continuing waste of life that more and more becomes the mens rea of Bush's cataclysmic foreign policy. The time for chalking all this up to just a series of well-intentioned mistakes is done, and has been for some time.

The idea that we're all just supposed to keep going along with this bullshit, that we're all supposed to agree to double down everything on 33 Black just because they cavalierly insist that they were "wrong" for the "right" reasons, is revoltingly insane. They would do themselves and the rest of us a huge favor by just having a nice big glass of shut-the-fuck-up, and maybe taking a couple weeks off to reflect on whether they want to keep pumping their long-dry well.