Friday, August 31, 2007

Take This Job and Love It

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Careful What You Wish For

Hope this is what you wanted.
Hope this is what you had in mind.
'cause this is what you're getting. -- Tool, Ticks & Leeches

Sandra Day O'Connor is finding out what a lot of Americans have known for years -- that we do not have a functional health care system, we have an insurance system. I suppose it would be easy to simply brush this away with the sheer blistering contempt of the first commenter in that post, but personally I'm actually kind of bemused.

I sort of get the same vague sense of unease I would from, say, a mining disaster in a deep red state, small towns festooned with ribbons and vigils and other such totems, maybe a preening asshole of a mine owner trying to convince everyone that his unsafe death pit wasn't his fault. Isn't this what you wanted, the unfettering of free markets from pinhead bureaucrats and regulatory obstruction? Didn't your guy promise you that since business always knows best and proceeds accordingly, that you are better off with an industry that scoffs at pissant fines that pile by the hundreds, written in scrip by a toothless oversight agency?

For once, I'm actually not being mean or sarcastic -- wasn't this the idea, at the end of the day, in backing self-styled free-marketeers, in giving them responsibility for keeping an eye on inherently dangerous industries? You voted for people who were pretty upfront about their desire to return to a Gilded Age industrial oversight policy. Remember? Hey, here's an idea -- let's trust gross polluters to clean themselves up. Let's let mine owners cut corners and treat fines as the cost of doing business. What could possibly go wrong?

It's the same with the health-care industry, except even more so, since it obviously affects everyone pretty directly, and both parties are more or less firmly ensconced within the desires of the insurance, pharma, medical, tort reform, or finance lobbies. They are certainly not in thrall to the "let's see if we can help people without grinding forty bucks out of them for an aspirin" lobby.

It's a problem to the extent that the simple "has insurance/has no insurance" dichotomy actually illustrates very little. Plenty of people have practically useless insurance policies, for which they pay through the nose. This is not exactly a secret, but politicians are never going to bring it up. It's much easier to gin up sentiment with some "single-payer" substitute that ignores costs, keeps the insurance/pharma guys squarely in the loop, and will only end up further stratifying an already balkanized (as the Mahablog post aptly puts it) system.

And again, one has to ask Justice O'Connor of all people, whose vote put these numbnuts in office, what the hell did you expect? Not that there are nearly enough Democrats with the balls and/or brains to stand up the industry, but when you yourself put the foxes right into the damned hen-house, and were proud of that shit, don't be so surprised when the inevitable happens.

Fred Dawn

So 'merka's once 'n' future king, Joe Don Baker Fred Thompson, has finally decided to answer the New Hampshire Union-Leader's challenge to shit or get off the pot by, well, punting -- he'll formally enter the day after the debate. Great timing, especially since the paper had already pre-emptively floated the notion that Thompson would attempt that very tactic in order to avoid the rigors of an actual debate.

This is no small issue for Thompson's putative viability, illusory as it is -- Romney has already proven that he can paper up the straw polls with his hefty bankroll, and Mike Huckabee of all people seems to have the most pound-for-pound momentum out of Iowa. Giuliani and McCain seem to be fading fast from disdain and disinterest, respectively. Plus they've already been, you know, debating for several weeks now, and Thompson's honeymoon seems to be well and truly done already. He's got some catching up to do, considering this started as the would-be Summer of Fred.

So I will just reiterate my earlier predictions, once again, that Thompson's candidacy is just a sideshow for the rubes, grift them of some money for Ol' Fred's finder's fee, round 'em up and send 'em to whomever offers Our Boy a fair sop. As TPM commenters noted, Thompson looks like hell, and he was a notoriously lazy man in some notoriously lazy gigs well before he got old and sick. Running for president is at least as much work as actually being president (well, unless you're Vacation Boy the Texas Tumbleweed Chaser), and even if Thompson had no medical issues, it's a gig that would wear out a man 15 years younger.

But Thompson's not so lazy that he can't see that this is an insanely easy way to pick up a couple mil and have everyone line up to kiss your ass for a while. Not a bad summer hiatus' work, and then he can go back to Walking Tall Law & Order, ego and bank account well gratified, with thousands of grifted goobers wondering what the hell to do with their advocacy blogs. Maybe Tancredo will still be in by Thanksgiving, who knows?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bow-Tie Vigilantes

I'm already about bored of this stupid "Larry Craig goes a-cruisin'" story, mainly because it changes literally nothing in the public discussion, either with regard to political or sexual matters. It really is, pardon the bad pun, a circle jerk. It's still funny, mind you, but since you know there's another closet conservatard in the next stall waiting to be discovered, the law of diminishing returns kicks in ever more quickly.

And while I suppose there's enough circumstantial evidence to corroborate his allegations, the anonymous (so far) guy who claims to have blown Craig in a bathroom stall in Union Station in 2004, okay, whatever. Just awful convenient, is all. But again, nothing will change -- not policy, not how Craig's manly-men supporters view themselves and project their sublimated energies onto their political leaders, not a damned thing. It's just something for assholes like me and Letterman to have fun with for a week, until Junior comes back from vacation and finds something else to fuck up.

But I am mildly intrigued by Tucker Carlson's bold and rather loopy tale of a park bathroom cruising that supposedly led to a bruising.

Tucker Carlson brought this home in an interview he did yesterday in which he got "bothered" in a public restroom when he was in high school and then got a buddy and went back to beat up the guy before he was arrested. To be fair to Carlson, we haven't yet heard whether the "botherer" grabbed Tucker's crotch or just tapped his foot under the stall.

The story smells like bullshit to me from the get-go; I don't know much about this sort of thing, but I can believe that a small wussy-looking guy like Carlson would get cruised at least once in his life. But to go to the trouble of bringing a friend back to beat the guy up, and get him arrested? Seems a bit much. Sounds embellished, for one thing. But even if true, Carlson seems to be a little too proud of it. Okay, Chief, you wall-slammed a guy (or rather, had someone do it for you) for offering to suck your tiny cock. Now go home and tell Dad what a man you are.

And while we're at it, I'm sorry if it's less than understanding of the downlow dynamic or whatever, but I really don't need to hear any limber defenses of "tearoom" activity, either. Public restrooms are inappropriate places for sex, period. I don't want to walk in on any number of any combination of people engaged in that sort of shit. It has nothing to do with gay people; I don't think straight people should fuck in public bathrooms either. Call me old-fashioned.

I suppose there's an argument to be made that it's highly inconvenient and inefficient for the participants to go through the expense and trouble of renting even a cheap motel room for what's probably about fifteen minutes of anonymous choad-swapping. Tough shit, Hopalong. I don't side with social conservatives on a whole hell of a lot, but I don't think it's too much to ask that people find somewhere besides a fucking public park to shoot dope and get their rocks off.

All that said, I also recall rednecks from high school who thought a great way to spend a Friday night was to go to the local park to find gays to beat the shit out of. I'm not a behaviorist, nor do I play one on TV, but I always assumed they were violently repressing their own latent urges. People are fucking weird about sex. Less time worrying about it and more time doing it with someone you like seems to be a reasonable motto.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Johnny Come Lately (Or Not At All)

Shorter Larry Craig (R-ManGravy):

Oh, like none of you have ever tried to drop a deuce and accidentally brushed feet with the guy in the adjoining stall, and then swiped the bottom of the stall divider. Heh. I mean, really. Where I come from, it happens all the time. And there's nothin' gay about it.

Really, pal, you're protesting a bit much. It's over, you're done. Quit trying to explain to people the very special way you take a dump, and just, erm, come clean. It's insulting at this point; you're a step away from parsing "is", and beyond that lies the impenetrable thicket of Abu Gonzales' jabberwockyisms. Either walk away from it, or tell your family-values critics to just go fuck themselves already.

This stuff will never ever stop being funny, especially since there seems to always be yet another "conservative" just a couple weeks away from being outed. It's only a matter of time before Huckleberry Graham or Tallulah McConnell accidentally drops his subscription copy of International Leatherman (with, you know, bent pages) out of its procedural manual hiding place during a Senate floor debate.

And curiously (or perhaps not), what few conservabloggers I can bring myself to skim occasionally all seem to taking the same tack on this, that Craig's apostasy on the immigration issue makes him ripe for replacement anyway. The current lurid revelations just make it fortuitously easier to replace him, as far as they're concerned. They save the effete gay-baiting for the dhimmicrats, y'know, the better to launder their hypocrisies with contrivances of policy.

It's the sort of half-witted rhetorical legerdelame one would ordinarily expect to find in a one-handed juggler, where any random applause or mumbles of approval are more out of pity than genuine encouragement (or in the case of the conservatwerps, like-minded trained seals ark-arking in unison, as well as balancing beach balls on their noses). As with matters of war, or indeed any truly serious issues, in their fervid rallying cries they don't get that while their base points of "Situation X sucks and something must be done" are essentially correct, none of their proposed solutions are ever coherent, much less realistic.

It might actually be more productive in the long run to encourage their foolish rambunctions. At the very least, it would keep most of them from running for office. Let them keep their pretenses of responsibility in their virtual voting districts; there's no harm in letting them be the mayor of Stupidtown, especially since it seems to be an endlessly rotating position.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I guess it's true what they say -- nobody goes hunting for anonymous, throbbing cock in a public restroom like a self-righteous conservative:

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom, according to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call Monday afternoon.

Craig’s arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.

The first question that occurred to me, seriously, is why this story took nearly three weeks to break, and even then just from the court hearing. Something's going on here.

After he was arrested, Craig, who is married, was taken to the Airport Police Operations Center to be interviewed about the lewd conduct incident, according to the police report. At one point during the interview, Craig handed the plainclothes sergeant who arrested him a business card that identified him as a U.S. Senator and said, “What do you think about that?” the report states.

I think it means that even a pampered shithead isn't above a little rough trade. Think it's a setup, or another Bob "that black man scareded me so much, I offered him twenty bucks to let me blow him" Allen entrapment case? Puh-leeze. The details are, as they say in The Resolutely Hetero State of Idaho, hilarryous.

According to the incident report, Sgt. Dave Karsnia was working as a plainclothes officer on June 11 investigating civilian complaints regarding sexual activity in the men’s public restroom in which Craig was arrested.

Airport police previously had made numerous arrests in the men’s restroom of the Northstar Crossing in the Lindbergh Terminal in connection with sexual activity.


“At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area,” the report states.

Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times, and Karsnia noted in his report that “I could ... see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider.”

Karsnia then held his police identification down by the floor so that Craig could see it.


Craig stated “that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched mine,” the report states. Craig also told the arresting officer that he reached down with his right hand to pick up a piece of paper that was on the floor.

“It should be noted that there was not a piece of paper on the bathroom floor, nor did Craig pick up a piece of paper,” the arresting officer said in the report.

"Wide stance". Perfect. Either Craig's lying or the cop's lying, and I don't know what kind of cop would potentially risk his career trying to strong-arm a U.S. Senator on a low-level indecency charge. And I couldn't care less that Craig's just another hypocritical chowder-hound, but get a hotel room for that shit, and quit lecturing everyone else about their private affairs, m'kay?

What a sad little group of self-loathing closet cases the Republicans have turned out to be. Who's next?

Civil Warped

Tim Robbins made an excellent point the other night on Bill Maher's show, which was applauded well enough for its erudition, yet completely ignored by Maher and the rest of the panel. It is a point many people have been making, and it cannot be reiterated often enough: when a member of the opinion-manufacturing claque is consistently, catastrophically wrong about the things upon which they pontificate, they should pay a professional price. It is at least notionally reasonable to presume that their expert opinion is derived and sought because they know what they're talking about. Otherwise, why continue to have them on?

It's a great question, and yet no one in the know seems to be willing or able to even approach it, much less answer it. Instead, they have Billy Kristol on their little show, give a good-natured poke, and then let him rattle on about the next thing he decides to be fucking wrong about. Hell, one of the other panel members on Maher's show was Cheney hagiographer Stephen Hayes, who shamelessly continued propounding his lies of Saddam and al Qaeda being in cahoots. See, no penalty -- even the opposition will have you on to spout your nonsense and pimp your books.

There are (at least) two major factors at work here, and it comes down to the symbiotic, incestuous nature of this insidious pundit claque, and the people who give them a soapbox. Chat shows attempt to various degrees to be "serious" about issues, and some of them, such as Maher or Olbermann, even manage to succeed on their own terms in many respects. But functionally they are all variations on pro wrestling, where reality (not to mention intellectual honesty, probity, and coherent logic) must take a back seat to entertainment. Olbermann makes an honest effort, but at some point he has to set up his network so that they can sell hemorrhoid cremes and penis-mobiles, and pimp their endless collection of prison shows. Maher tries as well, but just as often gets caught up in the urge to trump someone with a bon mot, which may or may not derail the dialogue.

Even -- perhaps especially -- on the Sunday morning "serious" shows, the pro wrestling dynamic is there, if sublimated in the arcane clauses and gestures of elites talking to one another, rather than to you, Joe Blow. Yet Monsieur Blow must still be kept at least nominally in the dialogue, because the 1% who own 45% of everything still need some rhetorical leverage to keep the burgeoning underclass voting against their own rational self-interest.

So the Serious Commentary frequently devolves to something to distract you from things like the conga line of scumbag contractors grifting taxpayers and soldiers in Iraq. It may be Tweety Matthews wistfully daydreaming about Joe Don Baker Fred Thompson's musky farts of English Leather, or it may be this or that legislator or commentator humping the mummified leg of Saint Reagan, who like any good wampeter, possesses the exact qualities and virtues that his worshippers need to extract from His divine presence. Evoking intangible jingoist virtues, mumbling the usual useless platitudes, lobbing imprecatory scuds at pussy libs -- the only thing missing is, say, Huckleberry Graham showing up in a cape and tights, smashing a folding chair over Jim Webb's head, and shouting, "Defund that, motherfucker!" in front of a crowd of hooting retards. (Although I wouldn't put anything past these shows. If it would move more Vytorin and bran cereal, they'd change the format.)

And these politicians and "experts" have all positioned themselves knowingly in just another huge spectator sport. For example, in the NFL, everything is carefully managed and sponsored -- every sideline has tables filled with cups of Gatorade, labeled as such. Players have to wear certain shoes; the jerseys are made and sponsored by certain companies. Logos cannot be obscured or altered. If you're supposed to wear Reebok jerseys and you wear a Nike one, you get fined, by the league. And if your personal life hits the news, like a certain quarterback whose last name rhymes with "prick", then you lose tens of millions of dollars in endorsement contracts.

Michael Vick's crime was not dogfighting per se; the league appears to be more pissed about his gambling, as that would encroach on the league's corporate credibility. But NFL players are caught up in violent domestic disputes all the damned time, and nothing happens. Vick could have dragged his girlfriend down a flight of stairs by her hair -- as Lawrence Phillips had done right before he was drafted in the first round some years back -- and no one would have said shit. But Vick got caught, and the feds got involved, which made it impossible to keep quiet. It was a breach of etiquette, which is much worse than hosing down a battered animal, hooking alligator clips to its ears, and plugging the cord into a wall socket.

Politicians have their own sets of endorsements as well, obviously, and they are expected -- no, required -- to maintain certain expectations to keep those endorsements. It would be more honest if politicians and commentators, like athletes, had to wear the logos of their endorsement companies somewhere on their uniforms. The most important thing about a hump like, say, David Vitter is not that he's a sanctimonious fambly-valyews hypocrite who worked his creepy diaper fetish on prostitutes, it's that he rides out the bad pub, keeps his endorsements, and counts on his constitutents' forgetfulness to get re-elected.

And the referees of this spectator sport are the smug, self-important assholes like Tweety and Russert and Dean Wormer Broder. They helpfully interpret the rules for you, patiently explain to you that a fumble is a "tuck", that gutless, unprincipled capitulation is actually a symbol of sweet bipartisanship that should be cherished and adored as if it were morning dew on Scarlett Johansson's pooter. To call capitulation for what it is, to point out that a dominant opposition party has no business running scared from a 30% preznit and his incompetent lackeys, is deemed uncivil.

On the off-chance an actual populist breaks through, the way Howard Dean did, the vipers of civility lie in wait for them to fuck up, as people inevitably do. In Dean's case, it was unacceptable that the messy nutroots and loopy bloggerses were taking it upon themselves to rewrite the rules. We had the nerve to demand accountability and responsibility, and Dean had the nerve to listen to us. Something had to be done, and the next thing you know, Dean is portrayed as a rabble-rousing loon. That's how the high priests of civility take care of bidness.

In the NFL, there are vast amounts of money to be made, most of it outside the actual games. Swag is where it's at, plus the enormous cottage industries of broadcasting, commentating, prognosticating, bookmaking, etc. Advertisers pay enormous sums of money to grab eyeballs, who are tuned in to watch ex-players swap harmless gobs of putatively inside dirt on the pre- and post-game shows.

The political broadcast industry is hardly different in its operational structure, though at least NFL refs have to be in shape. But politics is indeed show business for ugly people, and the results show in the contrivances and blandishments that ultimately corrupt honest debate. Tempted perhaps by money, pussy, the ability to rub elbows with powerful people, or even the niche fame of political junkies, the participants accrue every possible disincentive to change the debate or even its terms.

The strongest of these disincentives may be the one of reputation, which is slippery in definition to begin with. Because all of these people are really talking to each other rather than to the audience, the notion of "reputation" has a different sort of normative quality, more one of networking and perceived gravitas than anything truly substantial. It's tautological -- all these people act like they regard one another as sensible and serious, like their opinions have any intrinsic value, and it becomes self-perpetuating.

I have no idea why anyone would take someone like David Broder or Tweety Matthews seriously about anything really, since they appear to know absolutely nothing useful. I don't mean this pejoratively, I swear -- I honestly cannot detect even the semblance of expertise in an actual discipline. They simply understand how to move the ball forward in a narrative-driven format, and if three yards and a cloud of dust is your game, then they're your guys. But the reality of it is that they're not moving the ball in any real direction, just back and forth, a few feet at a time. The debate -- or more precisely, the appearance thereof -- is the goal, not the ontological resolution of concrete issues, as based on the knowledge of sourceable facts.

What's most peculiar about this game is how much leverage it appears to exert over what we consider the overall discourse. I mean, I don't know anyone who watches fuckin' Tweety or Russert, or maybe they're just embarrassed to admit it. Political junkies watch this shit, document the predictable atrocities, and bounce it among themselves in the feedback loop. The information is consistently disseminating in a much more organic fashion than it did pre-intartubes, but that also means that it's atomized by the process; instead of a million people watching the same thing, they're getting slight variations on a theme from a thousand or ten thousand sources, each of which may have a slightly different point of emphasis. This allows the Esteemed Commentators to continue their sinecures, pooh-poohing the virtual peons, and congratulating one another at their little appletini parties in the Hamptons over how very Serious and Competent they are.

And the repudiation of this should be crystal clear by now -- what sort of Serious and Competent opinion-monger still gives a rabid moron like Billy Kristol or Stephen Hayes the fucking time of day, even to smack him around a little? Once again, the simple act of giving these malicious idiots face time legitimizes them, in the eyes of the people who consume their bullshit. They are not there to convince or refute anyone of anything; they are there to obfuscate the truth, to propagate baldfaced lies and stupidity with the veneer of politesse, as if anything could be more vulgar or less civil than insinuating that, after wrecking literally millions of lives for no discernible reason, the most responsible thing we can do right now is to start another goddamned war.

Even the people we try to count on to Do The Right Thing, to bravely Speak Truth To Power, find themselves compromised and constrained by these pitiful attempts at comity. Here's Saint Gore, hero of the planet, on a recent Suspendered Disbelief Larry King appearance:

So when King asks about the Democrats' failure to force a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq, you’d think as a newfound critic of politics as usual Gore would comment on how they chickened out politically—that they could have defunded the war. You’d have thought wrong. In defense of the Dems Gore said, “You know, the tools that are available to the legislative branch of government are not always very precise. They are often blunt instruments. And they passed a measure that would have required a timetable. The president vetoed it. They were not able to override the veto. So their options have been sharply limited.” Sure, limited to refusing to pass the appropriations bill, which would have required backbone.

Gore continued, “I have a lot of confidence in Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and rest of the leadership in the House and Senate now. And I'm sure that they have made some good decisions here.” Gore can scold his readers about failing to get the truth out, but when asked a question on national television, when he had an opportunity to be the role model for unintimitated reason we desperately need, someone to be honest about what is going on and what is not, he defaults to the tried and true talk of a party operative. Gore is so wedded to the political buddy system that when King asked if he was “disappointed” that his former running mate Joe Lieberman supported a war that Gore found so blatantly dumb and wrong, Gore said, “Well, why would you use a word like that where a friend is concerned? We have had our disagreements and I have stated them. But I would not apply that to a friend.”

Take that, all people who think Gore gives a shit. What’s a little middle east war among friends? Hey, Gore's such a good friend that you can senselessly wipe out almost a million people and the word “disappointed” is too strong for him.

Well, yeah. Not only would it be bad form to call out Holy Joe on his mealy-mouthed bullshit, but Al might need a solid from him down the road. Shit happens.

But all this year we have been getting piously lectured by Gore and various minions, besought with entreaties to reason in a game played by unreasonable people, or exhorted by pampered rock stars to behave and consume properly before they themselves pick which house to take the Gulfstream and limo back to. It's a shell game, played by people who cannot tell us the truth, because that would require divesting themselves of their own luxuries.

It's also sadly easy to forget, as we rail about waste and overconsumption and SUVs and such, that it was the Clinton administration, with Gore's imprimatur, which lowered the CAFE standards. And there are plenty of excuses -- the Republican Congress made them do it; the auto industry made them do it, with the threat of thousands of jobs in the balance, blah blah blah. There are always excuses, just as there are always excuse-makers. It would be better if these champions of High Principle would just shrug their shoulders, mumble something about politics being the art of the possible or some such, and went on about their business of pimping and collecting. At least we know then where we stand.

Telling the truth, though, would also be incivil. Can't have that.

From a particularly gag-inducing section of the Time magazine feature, there is one more bit of damning evidence:

“Al Gore and I settle down on the patio, near the swimming pool and the barbecue. 'Did some grilling last night with my friend Jon Bon Jovi,' he says. 'His new record is great.' He props his black cowboy boots on a brightly painted folk-art coffee table, scratches his mutt Bojangles behind the ears and talks about The Assault on Reason.”

The name-dropping, whether or not it was timed and planned to give the illusion of cultural relevance, is immaterial, off-putting as some may find it. The point is that these are the rules as circumscribed by the refs, one of which is Time magazine. This is the kind of niche-specific product placement you rarely see outside of some interchangeable popcorn movie: he barbecues! he wears cowboy boots! he likes dogs and hangs with past-their-prime musicians milf-rockers!

The most asinine rule of the narrative, as relayed by its practitioners, is the idea that voters should feel some close kinship with the person they vote for. This is yet another example of something that should have been openly and forcefully repudiated a long time ago. You are not voting for a BFF or a fucking bartender, people; this is not your new neighbor. I really couldn't care less if Al Gore is a tubthumping vegan who grills tofurkey in his Birkenstocks every Thanksgiving, or a Skoal-dipping hick who thinks corn is part of the "salad" food group; all I give two shits about is what he will do to at least slow down the pace at which actual reg'lar Americans, the people who work and live paycheck-to-paycheck, find their very lives in thrall to the greed of predatory capitalists.

Because I've had enough of bullshit DINOs like Daschle and Biden, who sold their constituents out to the credit card companies the first chance they got; sick of people who have their own primo health-care system renting themselves out to the insurance and pharma companies to make sure the rest of the country stays screwed; tired of people like Lieberman who have no principle or party loyalty whatsoever; tired of finger-to-the-wind Third Wayers like the Clintons, who never stood tall for a goddamned thing that mattered without finding a way to sell it out under the banner of triangulation.

But more than them, I'm beyond sick of a commentariat that doesn't confuse, but deliberately conflates politeness with respectability, professional courtesy with knowledge and expertise, comity with competence. It's their game; it's been their game the whole time. We're just spectators. Time for some new rules, and new refs.

Twirling Towards Freedom

Put me in the "skeptical" column on John Warner's latest harrumphing apostasy.

WASHINGTON - GOP Sen. John Warner, who wants U.S. troops to start coming home from Iraq by Christmas, said Sunday he may support Democratic legislation ordering withdrawals if President Bush refuses to set a return timetable soon.

"I'm going to have to evaluate it," Warner said. "I don't say that as a threat, but I say that is an option we all have to consider."


The Virginia Republican said Sunday it would be best for the president, not Congress, to make a decision on withdrawals and that overriding a presidential veto would be difficult. But Warner made clear his view that people are losing patience with the administration's strategy in Iraq, a significant change is needed in September and troop withdrawals were the best way to accomplish that.

"That's precisely what I said to the president. I said, 'Here is an option. You can initiate a first withdrawal. You pick the number, Mr. President. And it would send a signal to the Iraqi government that matches your words,'" Warner said. "His words being, `We're not going to be there forever.'"

"The president has got to put teeth in these comments that we're not there forever," he added.

Uh-huh, and then what? Are you prepared to do anything besides tell Father Tim how serious and independent-minded you are, or when push comes to shove, are you going to fold like a cheap accordion -- again? Bush is never going to "pick the number", you simp; it's your job to help him find that damned number, and to maybe even mean it when you say it. You might even have to back up your words with actions.

Really, Senator, isn't one Arlen Specter enough? In the meantime, how many more die, while you and friends dither and parse, move the goalposts, snatch the football, kick the can? Like I always say, I've got hands -- I'm perfectly capable of jerking myself off.

Slow Children At Play

Rising Hegemon has one of the most painfully funny clips in some time. No doubt she has a fine future ahead of her at Fox News, if she doesn't get completely distracted by something shiny first. But seriously, I defy you to transcribe her incoherent babbling, and then to make sense of it. She talks for 25 seconds, and literally makes no sense whatsoever even for, like, you know, a second or such like. I don't think any of us were expecting the Gettysburg Address, but jeebus.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Weakly Whirled Nuge

When microphones are outlawed, only retards will have microphones. Something like that. I'm not a Second Amendment absolutist -- I tend to draw the line at assault weapons, and cultural spasms like the Virginia Tech massacre certainly highlight the need for more rigorous background checking, but Jesus Christ, Ted Nugent's an idiot. Every time he opens his piehole, he simply makes his opposition look so much better, and merely reinforces the galoot factor that informs the slobbery "opinions" that fester between his ears. Frankly, I'm kinda sad at this point that Nuge has never drunk alcohol nor taken drugs. At least then he'd have an excuse for the endlessly flowing river of canned-hunt rhetoric.

It's damn near impossible to just crank up Great White Buffalo or Wang Dang Sweet Poontang anymore, for the sheer joy of its primal energy, without it being contaminated by Nugent's toxic buffoonery. He shoulda just stuck to singing the praises of pussy, rather than praising a bunch of ideological pussies.

Let's All Go to the Lobby

I think everyone should have their own lobby. Mine would emphasize the importance of seeing to my regular care and maintenance, or at least high volumes of top-shelf booze and surf-and-turf. Also getting me back up into the coveted 100-hits-per-day club (dare to dream, boy, dare to dream). Someone else should do my day job, too, thus giving me more time to laissez les bon-temps roulez, reading, playing guitar, and searching for gratuitous nipple shots on Cinemax.

Clearly the act of paying some soulless bloodsucker to relentlessly hump the right legs is the mother's milk which lubricates the system under which we live and work and grasp for our share. How else is a humble public servant supposed to turn someone else's money into heaps of pelf, other than to attach themselves remora lamprey-like to a profitable host for consultancy?

It's not just Barbour Griffith & Rogers, and it's not just Ayad Allawi. Ten different U.S. firms are registered through the Department of Justice's Foreign Agents Registration Act database as having active contracts with various Iraqi factions.

And I'm sure each of them will make lots and lots of cash off all this misery. I suppose someone should.

LOLberg of the Week

I have been enjoying the LOLcats and such that the kids are all doing these days (presumably in between huffing their ecstasy and sucking each others' elbows, or whatever it is that the pantsless culture warriors are always on about). And some of your more enterprising bloggerses have extrapolated the hilarity to unfortunate conservatard icons.

I want in on this action. So, we (well, me) here at Hammer of the Blogs are proud to present a new feature called LOLberg of the Week. It will feature people other than just Señor Pantload, and may appear either more or less frequently than on a weekly basis. So much for truth in naming. The World Series only occasionally involves Canadian teams. Get over it.

Anyway, here's our first foray into phunny photo hackery. Pass it on to someone you love -- or better yet, someone you hate.

See, it could build a nice groundswell for that stupid-ass book he's been writing re-titling desperately trying to finish before his short-bus publisher punts the contract to Pornmumu. I'll take my royalties in Costco bottles of Patrón, thank you very much.

Our Man In Baghdad

With the Diem Maliki government on the ropes, it behooves us to take a closer look at the imminent return of Tony Soprano Iyad Allawi:

On the ground in Baghdad is a sprawling intelligence operation called the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, or INIS. Only INIS isn't really "National" at all. To the great chagrin of the Maliki government, it's financed and controlled by the CIA. And its boss is a longtime Allawi friend and CIA asset, Muhammed Shahwani.

Who's Muhammed Shahwani? He's a former Iraqi military officer who, along with Allawi, helped plot a botched coup against Saddam Hussein in 1996. Despite the failure, the CIA considered him a valuable asset, largely on the strength of his considerable knowledge of Saddam's military apparatus.

Allawi seems to be caught up in a veritable network of information brokers, power consolidators, and various distributors of thick envelopes. And these people all have vested interests in keeping us on board, keeping the money coming in, and maybe friends get to dip their beak in a little. It's almost charmingly Old World in its practically guileless lack of sophistication, like having a Nigerian prince send you a creatively spelled e-mail urgently beseeching help from li'l ol' you.

INIS's estrangement from the Shiite-led government deepened under Nouri al-Maliki's administration. Maliki's attempts to control INIS led Shahwani to tell the CIA that Maliki was way too close to the Iranians, which lead [sic] the agency to increase its investment in its longtime ally. Ned Parker of The Los Angeles Times quoted an anonymous U.S. military official who said "U.S. funding for the INIS amounts to $3 billion over a three-year period that started in 2004." With money independent from Baghdad, Maliki has no power to remove Shahwani, so he did the next best thing: he started an alternative, primarily Shiite intelligence service, run by a functionary named Sherwan al-Waili. As a result, Iraq now has two competing intelligence services, with INIS intimating that al-Waili's outfit is a hive of Iranian infiltration.

It's unknown how large the INIS is, or what its capabilities truly are. But INIS provides Shahwani with an enviable platform, and he apparently remains dominant over Waili in the fractious Iraqi national-security apparatus. Just this week, he was part of an official delegation that visited Amman to discuss deepening Iraqi-Jordanian counterterrorism ties.

This does not sound like a unity coalition parliamentary whatsit trying to pull its shit together. This sounds like the Five Families mustering forces and consolidating alliances and power, in preparation for what's to come.

Other than that, it's exactly like Vietnam. Ask Junior; he'll tell ya.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Connecting the Dots

Some documents have recently been declassified, which clarify and elaborate on Pakistan's role -- specifically of its intel agency, the ISID -- in building up the Taliban and other terrorist groups which were directly connected to bin Laden in terms of operations and financing.

Of particular concern was the potential for Islamabad-Taliban links to strengthen Taliban influence in Pakistan's tribal regions along the border. A January 1997 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan observed that "for Pakistan, a Taliban-based government in Kabul would be as good as it can get in Afghanistan," adding that worries that the "Taliban brand of Islam…might infect Pakistan," was "apparently a problem for another day." [Doc 20] Now ten years later, Islamabad seems to be acknowledging the domestic complications that the Taliban movement has created within Pakistan. A report produced by Pakistan's Interior Ministry and obtained by the International Herald Tribune in June 2007 warned President Pervez Musharraf that Taliban-inspired Islamic militancy has spread throughout Pakistan's tribal regions and could potentially threaten the rest of the country. The document is "an accurate description of the dagger pointed at the country's heart," according to one Pakistani official quoted in the article. "It's tragic it's taken so long to recognize it."

Islamabad denies that it ever provided military support to the Taliban, but the newly-released documents report that in the weeks following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 1996, Pakistan's intelligence agency was "supplying the Taliban forces with munitions, fuel, and food." Pakistan's Interservice Intelligence Directorate was "using a private sector transportation company to funnel supplies into Afghanistan and to the Taliban forces." [Doc 15] Other documents also conclude that there has been an extensive and consistent history of "both military and financial assistance to the Taliban." [Doc 8]

You know, I like Sun Tzu as well as the next guy, but exactly how many thousands of years does it take people to realize that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is at best a temporary tactical ploy, and that when used as operational strategy, it almost invariably results in blowback? During the Cold War, that blowback most directly affected the peons of the countries that had been diddled by the humps at the CIA -- Congo, Nicaragua, Iran, etc. The hostage crisis in Iran was about the only instance of blowback that had directly affected Americans, and that was resolved on the most fortuitous and coincidental of timelines.

But as many of us already knew (though it is good to have some specifics now available), the Pakistan-Taliban relationship that began brewing in the late '90s always had potential of bubbling over. Here are some specifics:

August 1996: Pakistan Intelligence (ISID) "provides at least $30,000 - and possibly as much as $60,000 - per month" to the militant Kashmiri group Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA). Despite this aid, the group is reaching out to sponsors of international terrorism including Osama bin Laden for additional support, and may in the near future become a threat to Islamabad itself as well as U.S. interests. HUA contacts have hinted they "might undertake terrorist actions against civilian airliners." [Doc 10]

October 1996: A Canadian intelligence document released by the National Security Agency and originally classified Top Secret SI, Umbra comments on recent Taliban military successes noting that even Pakistan "must harbour some concern" regarding the Taliban's impressive capture of Kabul, as such victory may diminish Pakistan's influence over the movement and produce a Taliban regime in Kabul with strong links to Pakistan's own Pashtuns. [Doc 14]

October 1996: Although food supplies from Pakistan to the Taliban are conducted openly through Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISID, "the munitions convoys depart Pakistan late in the evening hours and are concealed to reveal their true contents." [Doc 15]

November 1996: Pakistan's Pashtun-based "Frontier Corps elements are utilized in command and control; training; and when necessary - combat" alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. [Doc 17]

March 1998: Al-Qaeda and Pakistan government-funded Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA) have been sharing terrorist training camps in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for years [Link Doc 16], and HUA has increasingly been moving ideologically closer to al-Qaeda. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is growing increasingly concerned as Fazlur Rahman Khalil, a leader in Pakistan's Harakat ul-Ansar has signed Osama bin Laden's most recent fatwa promoting terrorist activities against U.S. interests. [Doc 26]

September 1998 [Doc 31] and March 1999 [Doc 33]: The U.S. Department of State voices concern that Pakistan is not doing all it can to pressure the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden. "Pakistan has not been responsive to our requests that it use its full influence on the Taliban surrender of Bin Ladin." [Doc 33]

September 2000: A cable cited in The 9/11 Commission Report notes that Pakistan's aid to the Taliban has reached "unprecedented" levels, including recent reports that Islamabad has possibly allowed the Taliban to use territory in Pakistan for military operations. Furthermore the U.S. has "seen reports that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance and military advisors." [Doc 34]

Supposedly Barack Obama, he of blessed little experience in the cynical sausage-making of Washington, committed a major gaffe a couple weeks ago by not only refusing to rule out the possibility of military strikes in Pakistan territory, but actually endorsing it if the response from Pakistan's government was seen as ineffectual or diffident, which is not exactly an impossibility.

Let's be even more blunt about it -- we know that bin Laden is likely still alive, and likely still hiding out in the tribal provinces of Pakistan. We know from reports released in late spring/early summer by our own intel services that the operational capabilities of Taliban and al Qaeda have returned to 2001 levels; indeed, these have rightly been used as rhetorical cudgels against Cheney administration tough-guy dogma.

Since we take those facts as a given at this point, it is not unrealistic to suppose that another terrorist attack occurs, and the supply/finance chain is quickly traced back to some cave in Fundamentalist Hillbillystan. What then? Do we even want to bargain with them, or is Obama absolutely correct in saying what he said, that if God forbid something happens, and Pakistan's government doesn't satisfactorily handle it, we will? There has to be some accountability on that issue, and the moral preparation to respond appropriately, and Obama was correct in both the political and moral senses.

And these documents clearly reiterate that sad fact. Considering, however, that both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are receiving heaps of military aid from us, the notion that we have created and continue to create a golem (or, even scarier, multiple golems) in the region, we still clearly have the wrong end of the stick on this. Probably unless we are willing to involve China and perhaps a resurgent (if temporarily) Russia in some sphere-of-influence-sharing discussions regarding the region, something will eventually blow along one of the many fault lines.

At the very least, we should be clear and realistic about who our friends are, and what our options are. And as long as we continue to engage even in the kabuki of chasing shadows of past mistakes, nothing gets done in the area whence most of the big trouble originates. Selling the Saudis and the Pakistanis more F-16s only complicates the scenario, to our eventual disadvantage.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Miss Saigon

So this is what our Serious Discourse has withered to -- Gomer Pyle invoking Alden Pyle, and erroneously at that. A man who supported a war while avoiding any active role in it, and still mustering the utter cynicism it takes to wallpaper his broken arguments with it. A person whose moral compass is so shattered, he doesn't hesitate for a second to tether the butchery of Pol Pot to his own false humanitarianism. Yes, because we all remember how quickly we jumped to stop the madness of the killing fields, don't we? Well, no -- that was the Vietnamese Army, of course. We were still too busy comforting our own wounded psyches over the thanklessness of the Vietnamese for what we had tried to do to for them, the ingrates.

The madness repeats itself; the bitter dead-enders who figure that the only reason we lost Vietnam is because we just weren't brutal enough, apply the same template to Baghdad, and harrumph that we shoulda just dropped one o' them magical tactical smart nukes, the kind that only kills al Qaeda, and then the flowers and candy would have appeared as promised. And they apply the same cautionary tales to their proposed run-ups to Iran; they can taste the sweet victory of that one already, like the illicit brew of twenty-dollar park chowder in an anonymous bathroom stall.

In a party which seems to throb with closet-case homophobes, stridently married men seeking glory-hole escapism, it is not unfair to extrapolate that mentality, that seething cognitive dissonance, to an increasingly incoherent -- aggressively so -- foreign policy. The lessons George Bush professes to have learned from Vietnam are those that only he, and the people like him, who bravely supported the war while they sought their deferments and let someone else take the bullet, could glean.

On the one hand, it is only politics, and you want to avoid personalizing the debate if you can help it (heh), but at some point, you have to recognize some of these people for the rotten souls that they are. I'm not sure what else you can say about someone who so breezily appropriates the lives and pain of other people for his own gratification. It's beyond the usual narcissism that has characterized Bush's foreign policy vision delusion; it's straight-up pathological. It's disgusting to see, to listen to. It's an abuse of language, of reasoning, and of what was once an inviolable moral direction for this country.

Let him explain this shit to Chuck Hagel, or Max Cleland, face-to-face, off the record. He obviously has the stones to lie and mislead people who are simply too worn out at this point to argue with his nonsense. Let him take up his thick, shoddy reasoning with someone who actually went beyond the Tortilla Curtain during Vietnam, and see if that gets him the downlow gratification he so desperately seeks. Who knows? Maybe this is just his conscience finally catching up to him.

Or maybe he's just working up his next ass-backwards comparison, once someone gives him a book on the Mexican War or the War of 1812.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Porridge Politics

Jesus H. Christ. This is exactly the sort of political writing I've been on about, the sort of mushy pablum that oversimplifies and infantilizes people, candidates, and policies so that none of it has much substantial meaning.

DES MOINES, Iowa - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is too experienced, Sen. Barack Obama too raw. Listening to Democrats give their Goldilocks view of the 2008 presidential campaign must make voters wonder: Will any candidate be just right for the White House?

"Senator Obama does represent change. Senator Clinton has experience. Change and experience," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Sunday, making a balancing gesture with his hands. "With me, you get both."

Richardson may be a long shot for the nomination, but his crack underscored a question that dominated the latest presidential debate: A change versus experience dynamic that almost surely will determine who represents the Democratic Party next year.

Cutesy fairy-tale metaphors do nothing to helpfully describe the dynamic at work here. We get that candidates will use whatever contrived toehold they can gain on one another; that's expected. Why do the media feel this need -- this pathetic, bizarre compulsion -- to fit these contrivances into a hastily-cobbled narrative?

It should be a given that all Democratic candidates, given the utterly catastrophic nature of the past eight years of mangled policy, are agents of change. So right off the bat, the notion of "change versus experience" doesn't fly. Richardson, as an old Clinton hand, understands her perceptive weaknesses as well as anyone in the race, and thus uses this artifical characterization to what he feels will be his own advantage. Fair enough. But it is unhelpful to merely transcribe it and transform it into a shopworn meme.

(Incidentally, I think Richardson got a bum shake out of the "gay" debate, simply because he supposedly bobbled the "choice question". Richardson merely admitted that he doesn't know why, from a scientific standpoint, how exactly people come to be of a particular sexual orientation. He doesn't know why some people are gay, and he doesn't care -- he has been proactive in addressing equal rights and marriage issues. That oughta be enough, especially since it seems that it's always the candidates that ventriloquize the most politically-correct sentiments who punt on first down when comes to actually doing anything. And if Richardson's answer isn't good enough for you, folks, then vote for Hillary and get your chain jerked for eight more years. Better yet, vote for Fred Thompson -- at least you know exactly where he stands on the subject. Feel better now?)

"The thing that I wished had happened was that all the people on this stage had asked these questions before they authorized us getting in," Obama said.

"I make that point because earlier we were talking about the issue of experience," he added. "Nobody had more experience than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney."

By putting his rivals in league with Bush's vice president and former defense secretary, Obama was telling voters that experience does not guarantee sound judgment.

He also used a discussion about the mortgage crisis to make his case for change. "This is where special interests have been driving the agenda," Obama said.

These are actually very good points, and they certainly merit higher coverage than some inane "Goldilocks" riff. One of the things about Hillary Clinton that I find both fascinating and frustrating is how adept she has been at portraying herself as a competent idealist. And she does seem to be highly competent, I'll give her that. But she is a cynical game-player, through and through, selling out to the flag-burning and video-game violence goofballs in a heartbeat, and is up to her eyeballs in every level of the corporate lobbying that actually decides which of the candidates we get to choose from. She is idealistic only in comparison to the current crew. So, as it turns out, are my dogs.

Even so, Clinton would indeed be far superior to these guys. But after the focus-tested victory song is played, and the bunting is taken down, what are you actually getting? More triangulation, and more ethically-challenged henchmen (seriously, how about Sandy Berger for NSA chief again?), more hollow promises, more genuflection to people who don't merit the time of day. And a further tilt to dynastic politics, a potential 28-year span of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. Even a benevolent despotism of that nature is undesirable, but this has the pattern of an abused wife running back and forth, to and from her abusive spouse. One smells the set-up of Jeb! for '12 or '16. Maybe he could pick Liz Cheney as his running mate then, save on printing new swag.

Does this mean I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the eventual Democratic nominee? Not by a long shot, but that's what the primary/debate phase is for, to sort these things out. They're not sorted out efficiently with these weird gluten-free ledes; they merely get snowballed into a lazy narrative, so that come time to vote in the ever-earlier primaries, we can be gulled into endorsing whoever shows the most (rhetorical, one hopes) cleavage.

[Update: I should probably check myself before I wreck myself -- contrary to popular misconception, Hillary merely co-sponsored a bill to ban flag-burning, thus enabling her to simultaneously oppose amending the Constitution to achieve the same end.

December 05, 2005

Senator Hillary Clinton is supporting a bill that would ban flag burning, but she is opposed to a constitutional ban on the act.

Clinton is co-sponsoring a bill that would make it a crime to destroy a flag on federal property, intimidate anyone by burning a flag or burning someone else's flag.

Sweet. That's entirely different. Forget what I said about triangulation and shit. Especially the part about "burning someone else's flag", which, unless I am completely mistaken, is already illegal. Indeed, this is nothing short of inspired leadership.]

Unheeded Advice

A treacherous fifth column of....oh wait, an op-ed signed by seven serving military personnel, one of whom was shot in the head on patrol (he is expected to recover, thankfully), dares to limn a strategy distinct (paradoxically) both in its clarity and nuance, as opposed to the current incoherent strategery of arming whatever militia group is against whatever other militia group that happens to be a thorn in our side this week.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.


Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

Probably the most concise thumbnail desription of what corroborating data has since indicated is the "Iraqi mindset" came from Fareed Zakaria two or three years ago: "Thank you for liberating us, now go -- and take us with you." As the soldiers write, such an outlook is at complete cross purposes with what the stated goal of invasion was supposed to be. That is probably the most irreconcilable factor as to why the war is truly lost; those goals are no longer achievable.

At some point, possibly even some point relatively soon, the violence and carnage will begin to abate. After all, between the known casualties and deaths, the refugees who have been lucky enough to escape, and the internally displaced, somewhere around 20% of Iraq's pre-war population (by the writers' own back-of-the-envelope estimations) is gone, smithereened by sweet freedom or merely driven from their homes by roving gangs of sectarian thugs.

Conventional wisdom reasonably assumes that there will be a short-term spike in violence after we eventually draw down troops, whether to the internal super-bases or to the sidelines in Kuwait or Qatar. (Or, alternatively, continue to up the proportion of off-the-books PMCs. Successmanship!) But after that, chances are that there will be some pattern of re-normalization, relatively speaking, if only because there's no one left to kill.

And guess which of the cockroaches of the commentariat will be the first to scuttle out of the woodwork and take credit for such a return to civilization (however carefully parsed), use it as rationalization for the years of horror which preceded, use it to vindicate (in their minds) the permanently befouled record and tragic judgment of the current administration. They'll certainly never acknowledge or endorse what these service people have written in their Times op-ed; once they have abdicated their role as handy props, people like Billy Kristol no longer have much use for their observations.

I don't think there's any big secret to this, except that the people who got us into this mess have a vested interest in not changing their minds, and not pointing out some hard truths -- that not everything is about us, and this is particularly true in the case of Iraq. As long as Bush and Cheney are near the knobs and levers of power, the operational strategy will never reflect that. They are more interested in kicking the can just long enough to save face, than in finding the least ugly way to bring some resolution.

All the rationales from Vietnam are being revisited one by one, when the subject of withdrawal comes up -- it's an irredeemable loss of face; we've sunk too much into this to turn back now; the Chinese will swoop in, head towards Indonesia, and grab the world economy by the short hairs by extorting the high-volume shipping trade through the Straits of Malacca.

Well, none of those things were quite true, now were they? The face we lost was primarily due to the dirty black ops and scorched-earth policy we inflicted on civilians; we sunk too much in because we never should have been there in the first place; and the Chinese are our good buddies and the Straits of Malacca are as secure and propserous as ever. And Vietnam, no thanks to us, has come back to become a reliable quasi-capitalist trading partner.

It's probably too late to accomplish anything meaningful in Iraq during the remainder of the Cheney regime, and the puling Democratic opposition will never stand up to these people in any meaningful fashion. They will always allow themselves to be cowed by Cheneyite imputations of character and patriotism, which is why people keep voting Republican -- you may not like where they stand, but at least you know where they stand. The best we can hope for over the next year is keeping Junior's drinkin' finger off the "attack Iran" button.

In the meantime, maybe we all start taking a more comprehensive look at the interdependent dynamics of all these enormous cogs in the machine, and decide to be more judicious about where we steer that machine next. Because the next fucktard that votes for someone they'd like to have a beer with gets foot patrol in Fallujah. See how you like that beer then, Chief.

How to Lose 500 Pounds in One Day

The latest Republirat to take the plunge is Hastert, who has decided to spend more time with Mark Foley's Alberto Gonzales' his family. That would be the family of two that resides in his mansiere.

Hastert's retirement has local Democrats starting to boast they can win another congressional seat, even as the GOP vows it won't easily give up a seat it has held for two decades. Hastert was considered by many to be unbeatable in his northern Illinois district.

"Any Democrat thinking of getting into this race does so at his or her own peril," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain.

Spain then skulked back into his office for his now-daily cocktail of Vicodin washed down with the company kool-aid, which is getting thinner by the day.

Seriously, the only possible obstacle to a complete blowout next year is the reflexive boobism of the 28-percenters, who at this rate of defection forced retirement may finally be demoralized enough to just stay home and let the adults sort this out. (But not, one hopes, before they've given all their spare cash to Fred Thompson. After all, it is still morally wrong to allow suckers to keep their money.)

Not that I want a Democratic one-party state either, because this country needs a balance of two rational parties, but when one of those parties basically needs its head jammed in a toilet until it achieves some clarity, it'll do.

Toy Story

I think HTML Mencken is on the right track here, mos def. I like Chris Dodd, even though he seems to have no chance whatsoever. He is knowledgeable and passionate, and a brief glance at his bio indicates that he and I have the same birthday. (Different years, smartass.)

And while the recent spate of recalled Chinese-made products is, to say the least, disturbing, it is unrealistic to cut them off at the knees all at once. I do think Americans should consider that on an individual basis, as a consumer choice, if only to acknowledge the sad truth that generally you really do get what you pay for. You want cheap shit, China is happy to make incredible quantities of it for you, in all shapes and sizes. Just don't be so surprised that there's a host of externalities attached.

What I find curious is the sudden frequency of all these different "China is poisoning us with their cheap crap" stories. Pet food, toothpaste, toys, bibs for Christ's sake -- they've been making these things and dumping them on us at our Wal-Marts for a decade or so at this rate.

During that same period of time, the great game of encirclement, geopolitical and economic, has continued, indeed accelerated between China and the U.S., to the point where they pretty well have us under their financial thumb, and their demand for cars and fuel has ramped up extremely quickly. We've posted record high current account deficits every year for about six years running, which means China has been thrilled to lend us money with which to buy more shit from them. Neither this nor the current race for more oil in some nasty places is sustainable; eventually the pas de deux gets worrisome, somewhere along the line.

Suddenly the dangerous levels of product quality are getting noticed across the board; suddenly it's an earth-shattering problem. Did the Chinese suddenly start putting melamine (coal slag) in dog food and propylene glycol (antifreeze) in toothpaste, did the FDA suddenly start testing these products? Or is this just the "right" time and place for our esteemed policy makers to bring these things up?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Up Your Arsenal

Here is an outstanding comment that neatly encapsulates the moral dilemma of the two-faced "okay we were wrong but we meant well and anyway you were wrong toooooo" crowd of contemptible scribblers.

Ignatieff represents the corrupt and noxious tradition of moral imperialism. There is nothing either noble or tragic about it. Throughout the course of American empire, just as with the empires that preceded it and will probably succeed it, these moral imperialists have been the enablers and helpmates of the more crass and materialistic type of imperialist. Wherever there was a sugar industry to be cornered, a fruit plantation to be annexed, a native population to be moved out, an oil field to be accessed and exploited, a strategically placed peninsula to be militarized, a community of local women to be made into a brothel to serve sailors, a popular local leader who won’t play ball with the imperial commercial interests, these fine moral fellows have floated in on the same warships with their plans to convert the heathens to Christianity or Democracy or Liberalism. They were there in South America, dishing out last rights to converted Inca souls, as the latter were exterminated. They were there in the old west, civilizing the Red Man as he was pushed into the ground or off the edge of the continent. They were in Hawaii and the Philippines and Cuba and Puerto Rico and Nicaragua, saving red socialist souls for the god of capitalism. And they were in Iraq, writing western Liberal constitutions and intellectually underwriting the butchery that got their reforming feet in the door.

I don't want to hear about how much these fellows love their country. That doesn't do it for me. The United States is drowning in an absolute flood of "country-love", and gagging on the junk food of patriotism. Before I am willing to give these Liberal moralists the time of day, I want an indication that they have some clue about the many things that are wrong with this country, and that they have some disposition to change those things. I want to see some signs that they are capable of emerging from the mass stupidity that witnesses one barbarous episode after another, only to throw them all down the memory hole and put manufactured memories, movie images and preposterous political speeches in their place. But the moral imperialists never get around to that kind of honest critique of their own societies. Their dreamy moralistic visages are always and only pointed in one direction: outward.

The moral imperialists are in love with the American Way, and want to spread it. Well I am not in love with the American Way. I reject much of that Way. I reject empire. I reject the cult of the nation. I reject the brutality of the American economic system. I reject the savagery of the westward expansion, and the genocide of the Native Americans. I reject the culture of guns, gouging and brawling and rumbling. I reject the record of continual, aggressive, warlike conquest. I reject the shallow kinetic culture of greed, acquisition and ceaseless interpersonal competition. I reject the fatalistic acceptance of a grotesquely imbalanced and undemocratic world of economic winners and losers. I reject the revolting commodification of sexuality. I reject the ongoing rape of the environment, and the prevalent love of replacing sublime natural beauty with shoddy human ugliness. But I do believe a better world is possible.

[all emphases in original]

Now, there's a great deal more that's right with America than is wrong, and our respect for the principles of law and human rights, however flawed, is substantially better than that of many countries, especially those in the Middle East, especially those in thrall to medievalist dogma.

But we are slipping, and we are notoriously averse to serious self-reflection. The existence of burqas does not absolve us from our own responsibilities, nor does it magically negate the concrete reasons why we are where we are, and fail to do anything sensible about those reasons. And smug putzes like Ignatieff, who tend to cloak their half-culpas in passive-aggressive rump bien pensant weasel words, do not help things. Nor do the Everything Changed and Everything Matters dime-store philosophakers, who refuse to face realities with the same grim determination as the Ignatieffs and the Friedmans.

One of the great things about there being a million little debates on the internets is not only that they serve as correctives to the bland posturing of the Serious Thinkers, but that they knock down the smug delusion that these people know something profound that escapes us peons. This has been consistently proven untrue, yet the same people are saying the same things, five years and countless lives later. And other people nod and respond, and cooperate at least objectively in the ridiculous notion that any of them still deserve a place at the discussion table.

They don't deserve such a place as long as they continue to avoid the central task accorded them, which is repudiating their initial foolishness of judgment. And they may be right, in the professional sense -- if they admitted that their esteemed judgment was so tragically, fatally flawed, they really would be out of a job. The operational integrity of The Village utterly depends on preserving the veneer of studied perspicacity.

The most recent week of guests on The Daily Show, two of whom were Bill Kristol and Cheney hagiographer Stephen Hayes, illustrates this perverted logic. No doubt Jon Stewart brought them on to be willing, somewhat amiable targets for what Stewart (to his credit) has evolved into a slightly more aggressive, penetrating interview style. (Though Stewart is also in the habit of trying to backtrack and lighten things as the interview winds up, which is a mistake. There is no reason to give even the appearance of retreat from sniveling tools like Kristol and Hayes, who are well-compensated for their intellectual panhandling.)

Stewart's intent seems to be to render their arguments inoperable, which is not difficult to do. But because these people have no substantial ethical moorings, and because they are part of a corrupted process, just having them on actually serves to legitimize them further. It should not be an opportunity for weasels and hacks to show that they can be good sports and take a joke; it's not a fucking joke. These are repulsive people whose paid mission is solely to defend other repugnant people, and their lies, corruption, cronyism, and failed policies, which affect us all. I don't think Atrios was off the mark when he recently opined that Kristol is a person of the sort whose image should be routinely spat upon by decent people at this point. And in a thoughtful, contemplative nation more tethered to its founding principles, that would be the case.

Instead, people like Kristol are welcomed and lauded in what passes for modern salons of Serious Discourse in this country, without a trace of irony. Being wrong in and of itself is not a crime, but nor should it be buffered by its "good intentions". It should be hauled out and recognized for exactly what it is, and why it happened in the first place, not for personal retribution, but to avoid future occurrences.

But when you have people who were clearly, objectively wrong, and refuse to admit such, and either color their professional regret with dolorous pud pounding (like Ignatieff), enable it by cheerfully licking the same boots that got them there (like Hayes), or insist, at absolutely zero personal cost to themselves, that we must prepare to trudge yet further into the Big Muddy, and by God use their same fucking map that got us there in the first place (like Kristol), the least a responsible media presence can do is to stop giving them a soapbox. Kristol has his own fucking magazine, yet the Washington Post feels some ontological need to give him a column. Hayes is a sloppy thinker and a lackey to the worst sort of people American politics has to offer. Ignatieff peddles his weepy tropes in the country's largest magazines.

These people are nothing but poseurs, charlatans, pseudo-intellectual concern trolls. There is no goddamned reason for any responsible media entity to give them so much as the time of day, even if the mission is to refute what they say. Facts never mattered to them in the first place; what makes anyone think that even the most comprehensive refutation of their bullshit will sway them or their idiot fans one iota?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Policy Wonks

Congressional Rhodes scholar Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Cracker) has coined a concise, apt phrase to encapsulate our aspirations, hopes, goals, dreams, and reasons for dumping countless lives and a half-trillion dollars down a bottomless pit:

In the South, we have a wonderful saying and it goes like this: Get ‘er done. Our soldiers want to get it done and come home, and our President wants the same thing, and this Congress should demand the exact same thing. Let’s get out there and get ‘er done.

Waite then scratched herself and ateempted to belch the national anthem, finally stopping at "rockets' red glare", and then went to "take the Browns to the Super Bowl", as future Secretary of State Larry T. Cable-Guy poetically puts it.

You gotta admit, it's a damned sight better than current policy, which boils down to "Who farted?".

Terror Alert Level: Park Chowder

It has now been a full 35 days since any stocky black men tried to intimidate butterball congressdweeb Bob Allen into forking over twenty bucks and a tentative yet passionate knob-polishing. The Park Terror Alert can now be lifted, and you can go back to dealing drugs and having anonymous sex. The Park Service thanks you for your cooperation during this troubled time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Axis of Bullshit

The armchair troglodyte who put the infamous money phrase in George W. Bush's piehole, in order to rush us into sweet, sweet quagmire, suddenly has buyer's remorse. Betcha didn't see that one coming. Deck chairs on the Titanic, anyone?

Mr. Rove answered his chosen question by courting carefully selected constituencies with poll-tested promises: tax cuts for traditional conservatives; the No Child Left Behind law for suburban moderates; prescription drugs for anxious seniors; open immigration for Hispanics; faith-based programs for evangelicals and Catholics.

These programs often contradicted each other. How do you cut taxes and also create a big new prescription drug benefit? If the schools are failing to educate the nation’s poor, how does it make sense to expand that population by opening the door to even more low-wage immigration?

Instead of seeking solutions to national problems, “compassionate conservatism” started with slogans and went searching for problems to justify them. To what problem, exactly, was the faith-based initiative a solution?

Frum should know about meaningless sloganeering; after all, it was his job in the White House, to help Bush convince Americans that bullshit was butter. That the programs contradicted each other was both obvious and essentially irrelevant, as such things tend to be in a pure shell game. Whether the initiatives and slogans even made sense (much less had any basis in fact) didn't matter. What mattered was bamboozling people.

This was a politics of party-building and coalition-assembly. It was a politics that aimed at winning elections. It was a politics that treated the problems of governance as secondary. But of course governance is what incumbents get judged on — and since 2004, the negative verdict on President Bush’s governance has created a lethal political environment for Republican candidates.

Inspiring rhetoric and solemn promises can do only so much for an incumbent administration. Can it win wars? Can it respond to natural disasters? Can it safeguard the nation’s borders? Can it fill positions of responsibility with worthy appointees? If it cannot do those things, not even the most sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation can save it.

So Frum implicitly acknowledges that Rove's tactics -- by design -- minimized the importance of governance, though even on that point he doles out half-measures. Governance wasn't even secondary for these guys, not even tertiary, except perhaps for something to point to come election time (which too failed on every conceivable count). What comes after quarternary?

Actual governance was a piddling afterthought, as Katrina finally made tragically clear. Indeed, most of this gang were cut from the same cloth who chuckled and mumbled at the "wonkishness" of Clinton, and not much later, Gore. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- politics is perhaps the only profession where being good at your job -- that is, being proficient at understanding and extending existing policies, and forming new ones -- is seen as a detriment. Expertise takes a major back seat to moronic intangibles of "likability" or "authenticity", most of which are bullshit anyway, seeing as how Bush (for one) is neither authentic nor likable.

Mr. Rove often reminded me of a miner extracting the last nuggets from an exhausted seam. His attempts to prospect a new motherlode have led the Republican party into the immigration debacle.

In my brief service as a speechwriter inside the Bush administration, I often wondered why it was that skeptical experts on issues like immigration could never get even a hearing for their point of view. We took the self-evident brilliance of our plans so much for granted that we would not even meet, for example, with conservative academics who had the facts and figures to demonstrate the illusion of Rovian hopes for a breakthrough among Hispanic voters. We were so mesmerized by the specious analogies between 1996 and 1896 that we forgot that analogies are literary devices, not evidence.

In 2006, Republicans and conservatives paid the price for this we-know-best attitude. I fear that we will pay an even higher price in 2008.

Building coalitions is essential to political success. But it is not the same thing as political success. The point of politics is to elect governments, and political organizations are ultimately judged by the quality of government they deliver. Paradoxically, the antigovernment conservatives of the 1980s took the problems of government far more seriously than the pro-government conservatives of the 2000s.

Frum then winds up with a briar-patch warning to Democrats who may be seeking to utilize Rove's road to ruin. Per usual, Frum is over-reaching; like most Washington speechwriters, he gets caught up in the supposed grandeur of his milieu, and feels required to endow even the most inane cocktail-napkin thoughts with quaint furbelows. See also: Gerson, Michael; Noonan, Peggy.

Well, to a certain extent, the Democrats can, should, and probably will employ some of Turd Burglar Blossom's more confrontational tactics, though not necessarily the cheap ones. There is a difference, and serious people interested in running the remainder of the neoclown fools and passersby back to their idiot farms and manure pits understand that difference thoroughly. America needs a responsible, rational opposition party, and adults realize that. So you run the irredeemable shitbirds out, and give the rest a chance to shape up and get it together. This means occasionally ditching the lame pas de deux of fake civility for genuine confrontation.

One thing I've noticed missing in all the Rove post-mortems I've read so far, is how much he was really a creature of his circumstance, once he hit the national stage. Everybody's talking about the guy like he was the boy genius with a new and innovative master plan that rilly rilly worked at first, but....somehow, the poor fella lost his mojo somewhere in a sea of self-importance and Rush Limbaugh trouser chowder.

But that's not true. The Republicans had embarrassed themselves by pushing impeachment to the brink, demonstrating to all but their own idiot lackeys that they'd gladly rent the country asunder over a few blowjobs, just for the fun of it. Their leading political intellectual at that point was the thoroughly-disgraced Newt Gingrich. The only reason they were even viable in 2000 is because people had also tired of Clinton's endless triangulating, and Gore's retarded litany of dog-ate-my-homework excuses over campaign fundraising.

The election was really John McCain's to take -- he had juice, momentum, gravitas, you name it. He was the darling of the independents at the time, including yours truly. And people were snickering at the idea of the dimwit black-sheep son of a one-term president even having the nerve to try, when he was so clearly out of his depth. I mean, "subliminable". Remember that shit?

But Rove made his national bones on McCain in even dirtier fashion than he did on his opponents back in his college days. He got Pat Robertson's flying monkeys to push-poll every rube in South Carolina about McCain's "black love child", certainly one of the more despicable electoral ploys in recent memory. Naturally, it worked, and McCain's New Hampshire upset of Mister Man got squashed by the Rhodes scholars in South Carolina. And Daddy had already lined up the money for Junior, so it didn't take a weatherman to see which way the wind was blowing.

That's Karl Rove's real legacy -- as a man who, after nearly four decades in politics, still has yet to find the bar for just how low he was willing to stoop, just to get an empty, incompetent suit elected to lawn-dart the country. Part P.T. Barnum, part Richard Ramirez. A less forgiving country would be burning him in effigy and preparing to string him up by the heels, but someday we can just settle for pissing on his grave.

As for Frum, while he may think that his light flagellating of Rove's back fat absolves him from his own role in getting this country's foot stuck in a huge bucket of shit, he should think again. And then enlist.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Straw Dogs

So Dullard Willard Mitt Romney managed to buy hisself a hollow triumph in the vaunted heartland. I think I speak for most of the people who couldn't make the pilgrimage when I say, in all earnestness, "Whoopdee-freakin-doo".

Really, without Mrs. Doubtfire Giuliani and Saint McCain as competition, with all the money he spent, Romney should have clobbered the remaining dwarves. Instead, he inadvertently dangles the illusion of electability in front of Mike Huckabee. Aside from Romney and Huckabee, the only one who came out okay on this was -- wait for it -- ol' Lonesome Rhodes himself, Fred Thompson, who is wisely keeping his powder dry for the big September publicity blitz. Hijinks are practically guaranteed to ensue.

Speaking of McCain, who turns 70 in a couple weeks, after his dismal showing, maybe it's time he gave himself an early birthday present and just walked away from this mess, while he still has some shreds of dignity intact. It's getting a little embarrassing, and it's just not going to happen. Most of us are never going to be President, Senator. Life goes on. Bob Dole thought it was his turn, too. How'd that work out? It's better to make the decision before it gets made for you, even though in all practicality, it's a done deal. 2000 was McCain's window; it's long closed. He wouldn't have placed much better if he had shown up at the straw poll, which is why he didn't go. But his veneer of plausibility is much thinner than Giuliani's.

Not that Giuliani doesn't have his own growing set of problems. His sordid personal life and the backstory of the current future ex-Mrs. Doubtfire are fodder for an infamous Vanity Fair piece, and now the Village Voice has taken a serious poke at the 9/11 legend Rudy has wrapped himself in, perhaps a bit too snugly. He should have been able to beat clowns like Brownback, Tancredo, and Paul without even showing up; that he couldn't do so shows that the honeymoon is over, that his Springer-esque personal life doesn't float too well in Des Moines. Jesus Christ, his own kids can't stand him, why would anybody else?

I am a bit surprised at the traction that Ron Paul, who is a certifiable quack of a politician, has maintained. I figured that the more he talked, once you get past his quirky affability (or is it his affable quirkiness? I get them confused), it would become clear that aside from profound foreign policy disagreements with Bush (because Paul, a libertarian, is an isolationist), he has little to offer even self-proclaimed independents, much less the antiwar crowd. You want a gutted, privatized armed forces and a "walk it off" health-care system, Paul's your guy. Otherwise, he's mainly differentiated himself by being the only one with balls enough to openly disagree with Dear Leader.

Which brings me to the money line of the entire article, courtesy of Romney:

"Today, the people of this great state sent a message to America, and that is that change begins in Iowa," Romney told an exultant crowd of about 200 supporters after the results were announced. "We've got a long way to go."

Seriously, what exactly has Romney talked about "changing"? He's pro-war, he's pro-life, he's pro-bidness. He's not going to change a damned thing, and he's said as much. Nothing that crawls out of his piehole has any meaning past the exact moment it is uttered, and only for that micro-sliver of time.

Which means that, since he's got the bankroll to keep going and the telegenic visage to make the retards in the media swoon, he's the odds-on favorite for the nomination. He's the perfect candidate for a hollowed-out, desiccated party that's living on the ropes (not that the Democrats have shown the guts or sense to simply knock them into the canvas already). Look for plenty of helpful articles over the next few months, explaining how the scam of Mormonism is no worse than the scam of Catholicism or any other -ism (and really, when you get down to it, it's not any worse, though its history is sadly even more Barnum-esque than that of most religions).

Still, this is just a sad, embarrassing story, involving a bunch of sad, embarrassing people, not the least of whom are the sort of simpletons who actually want to vote for people like Tom Tancredo. Why not just fill up a gunny sack with barn straw and manure and hang a "Anybody But Hitlery" sign around its neck?