Thursday, September 28, 2006

We Didn't Forgot You Legal Aliens

Legal residents' rights curbed in detainee bill
By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff |
September 28, 2006

WASHINGTON -- A last-minute change to a bill currently before Congress on the rights of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay could have sweeping implications inside the United States: It would strip green-card holders and other legal residents of the right to challenge their detention in court if they are accused of being "enemy combatants."

An earlier draft of the bill sparked criticism because it removed the rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees to challenge their detentions in federal court. But changes made over the weekend during negotiations between the White House and key Republicans in Congress go even further, making it legal for noncitizens inside the United States to be detained indefinitely, without access to the court system, until the "war on terror" is over.
Until the war or terror is over. Give or take 50 years.

Guten Morgen: "Enhanced Torture Bill" Day

The wording of the Enhanced Torture Bill (ETB) looks like an in-practice license to torture Americans who talk to foreign muslims. It’s a more sophisticated version of the 1917 Sedition Act (also very fun reading, journalists were tried and sentenced under it, and it was never repealed); this time, Congress is segmenting off protections much like “discrimination pricing” segments values off as a marketing technique. The law is clear and fair: don’t have communications with anyone who communicates with foreign-born people who communicate with terrorists, and you’ll be just fine.

And don’t worry, if you make the mistake of supporting terrorists, habeus corpus is still there to protect you because you’ll be able to see the confession which was tortured out of you as the evidence against you in court. It’s the furthest thing from Stalinism, because your confession will be real, not forged. You will own it.

The New York Times and I haven't been on good terms for awhile, but here's a synopsis of what they're saying are the major problems with the ETB:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.
We're all Germans now.

Update: German lesson for the day is "Jawohl, mein Fuehrerschaft." (Very well, my Presidency.) Actually the update is to give myself a Blogger Bad Practices award. I lifted the above NYT synopsis from one of the good commenters on an On-Topic thread by the incredible Christy over at FireDogLake, then hit the 'Publish' button before attributing it to them. This was in order to try and get a post up this AM and get Lord Baby out the door on time. Believe me when I say getting both done was a challenge. Lord Baby is a benevolent ruler, except when he perceives his total control over the known world is threatened. Then he turns into something like Arnold Schwarzenegger was in his movie "Commando," only he's three feet high, more elusive, and psychic. I got him to Day Care, but now have to go back and search whom to attribute the body of the post to before they find me, call me The Hunchblog of Ultra-Lame, or banish me to Blogsylvania. Apologies (not quite) in advance, plagiarized FirePup. I'll go back and find you.

Update: The synopsis was from BobbyG's comment #106 over at FDL on Christy Hardin Smith's post, "Well, Here's A Question." Christy is a former federal prosecuting attorney. If you want to know what's going on re: the ETB (a lot more than I'm telling you), go over there. She's on fire today.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Old Glory

Today wasn't a great day for us, since the US just drafted torture policy into a law which is a license to torture. So for the moment, I'm going to ignore it. Imagine if the Democratic Party were capable of running the following commercial. Jonathon Schwarz over at A Tiny Revolution already did. I'm simply re-posting in its entirety:

Democrats' Ineptitude Harshly Criticized by Washington Generals
The Republican Party may be run by loathsome, contemptible hatemongers who cynically manipulate America's basest instincts, but you've got to give them this: they do good work. By contrast, the Democrats seem to be led by people who couldn't successfully organize an elementary school bake sale.

For instance, take this appearance by Bush on CNN today:

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk a little bit about Iraq. Because this is a huge, huge issue, as you know, for the American public, a lot of concern that perhaps they are on the verge of a civil war...
BUSH: Yes, you see — you see it on TV, and that's the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there's also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people… Admittedly, it seems like a decade ago. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there's a strong will for democracy.

If Democrats were like Republicans, there would be ads like this running in all fifty states by noon tomorrow:

[sad piano music]

[holding picture of son in uniform]
This is my son James.

I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq...

James was killed in Iraq last year.

BUSH: will look like just a comma.

My son was not a comma. He had a wife and a son and parents who loved him.

[at Correspondents Dinner]
Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere!

[audience laughs]

Now James is dead because of a war based on lies.

[at Correspondents Dinner]
No, no weapons over there!

[audience laughs]

A war that's made all of President Bush's corrupt buddies rich.
SUPER: Headlines—"Halliburton gets billions in contracts," "Lockheed CEO payout in millions"

Please vote this November, and send George Bush a message.

Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden.

I truly am not that concerned about him.
SUPER: "Vote to send a message. Vote for change. Vote Democratic."

• • •
Meanwhile, on whatever the Democratic equivalent of Fox News would be, there would already be splashy graphics and theme music for "Comma-gate." It would be the sole topic of conversation on the channel for the next month, with the Democratic Chris Wallace mournfully asking guests "Should the president resign?"

Fortunately for Bush, however, he is up against actually-existing Democrats, who will get themselves organized to the point that Barney Frank will mention this once in an interview on a 300-watt radio station in Louisville.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at September 24, 2006 06:53 PM

Dumbass Of The Day, Second Day

What was the Senator-Komissar from Oklahoma just saying about the importance of balanced coverage of scientific debate? Oh, yeah. That we should have more of it. Well...I'm not so sure. Debate is not efficient. Fortunately we have a government blocking access to their scientists and suppressing their reports:

Journal: Agency blocked hurricane report

Selected quote:
The possibility that warming conditions may cause storms to become stronger has generated debate among climate and weather experts, particularly in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

In the new case, Nature said weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration _ part of the Commerce Department _ in February set up a seven-member panel to prepare a consensus report on the views of agency scientists about global warming and hurricanes.

According to Nature, a draft of the statement said that warming may be having an effect.

In May, when the report was expected to be released, panel chair Ants Leetmaa received an e-mail from a Commerce official saying the report needed to be made less technical and was not to be released, Nature reported.

And here:
In February, a NASA political appointee who worked in the space agency's public relations department resigned after reportedly trying to restrict access to Jim Hansen, a NASA climate scientist who has been active in global warming research.

So what is this
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? Why is it part of the Commerce Department? And why do they have scientists who call themselves "weather experts?" This makes no sense. I think they should be immediately de-funded and sent to ORRI (the Oklahoma Re-Education and Re-Habilitation Institute). There is still time to bring their souls to Jesus before the Rapture comes, and it will save the taxpayers money.

Update: I dragged up a temperature map from a group of hoaxers who call themselves the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which sounds like a NASA scam. The map tries to needlessly alarm people by comparing where temperature changes have supposedly occurred since the 1950s. I found it on site run by eco-terrorists called RealClimate.Org. Go check them out to see what the Senator-Kommisar is up against. But whatever you do, stay away from the bomb-throwers at the National Resource Defense Council. They're high on pine needles, and as you know, hemlock is deadly.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dumbass Of The Day

I try to be a little different here, figuring most anyone who comes here has already read the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, or has at least consumed Publicly Traded Media. I don't have to try, really, because I already am "a little different." Hey, if people tell you something often enough, it starts to sink in, and by the time I was eight years old, grown-ups and my peers had remarked not much over a hundred times, "You remind of a little old man." A blog lets you roll with this kind of eccentric baggage. Most of my fun comes from trying to either spot important things before they happen or from peering under the collective memory radar to some big nasty bogey approaching. Let me tell you, there are some really big juicy black ones under there I haven't had the heart to tell you about yet. But some of them I love to surface to my tribe of adoring hordes, better known as the Smartest People In The Whole Wide World (SPITHWWW). Welcome, SPITHWWW!

That said, some things can be fairly well-known and still be worth repeating. Take James Inhofe, the Senator from Oklahoma pictured above. Now combine him with the concept of Global Warming. Rinse. Repeat.

There were on-topic stories in the Drudge Report this morning, one of which contained Inhofe's speech to the Senate floor about his favorite theme. I read some of it. If you like having hot knitting needles jammed up through your nostrils into your brain, by all means, go read the greatest oratory since Diogenes had dysentery. You could also take my word for what he said. The Senator forcefully transmits his contempt for the hoaxers who keep warning us about how the earth is heating up and how people might have something to do with it. After wading through the offal, I then googled "James Inhofe, moron" and the first hit was a ThinkProgress post from July of this year noting that Inhofe compared Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth with Hitler's book Mein Kampf. There might be some justice in that comparison. Yet, to paraphrase something Hitler once said about France, "I'd rather be in prison in the Northwest than a Senator in Oklahoma."

Understanding the "Global" part of Global Warming is a tricky business, since no one fully understands how the planet works yet. A mere handful of people, like James Lovelock, the predictor of the ozone hole and promulgator of the 'Gaia' hypothesis as the planet's cycles being subject to highly conjoined self-organizing material principles, have made some pretty good guesses. Guesses which probably reflect a decent intuitive and developing understanding, but which fail to clear the scientific bar of pure repeatability and thus, in an absolute sense, are not predictive. I'm not a scientist, just someone who has been privileged (and sentenced) to work with some good ones, and I know two First Principles:

1) Small changes have big effects, which are difficult if not impossible to predict.
2) Scientists love to argue like a roomful of rabbis, particularly when money is involved.

So here would be a fun experiment: gather a group of meteorologists and climatologists in a dungeon and tell them, "I am locking this door. When you develop consensus on a working model of Global Warming, we will return to let you out and you will be given a trillion dollars. Oh, and as a further incentive, there's no food or water until then." After a couple of days, when they started to...well let's not dwell on the possibly unsavory outcomes of one little experiment, let's just plan for efficient and sanitary disposal of their bodies. What's truly interesting in the debate is what scientists are NOT arguing over.

Every scientist agrees that the products of friction are heat and waste, and that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere traps heat. We're now clocking in at about 380 parts of CO-2 per million, which is increasing by about 1.5 parts per million a year, up from 286 ppm at the start of the Industrial Age (mid-1700s). The last time carbon dioxide levels were as high was more than a hundred thousand lifetimes ago when, presumably, humans didn't exist. At that time almost every animal species on earth went extinct. In the past 30 years, average temperature has risen by an average of .36 degrees every decade. There's more of this data, but let me get this straight: at what point do you drop pretensions to scientific replication and start using common sense?

We've got scientists and Senators telling us not to take policy actions because we can't predict the outcome of a bad trendline. I want to stand on your shoulders, you giants. Allow me to crawl up there with my spiked cleats. Ah, better. Now that I'm up here I can hear your gutteral, incoherent screams much more clearly. So you're saying that if you don't fully understand something, but it looks like it could kill off our entire race, instead of abandoning hope we should abandon caution and keep doing exactly as we are. Until we prove beyond a shadow of a scientific doubt how irrevocably fucked we are? Is that right? I dunno (shifting spiked cleats thoughtfully), I'm having a little trouble with your approach. Let's bring in the rabbis, and ask them to explain the concept of "Global Sins."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Next Stop, Pakistan

Pervez Musharraf, Lord High General of Pakistan, denied a coup yesterday, rumors of which coincided with a power outage that interrupted news broadcasts and left his country in the dark while he was apparently in a US hospital. Musharraf described the rumors as "nonsense in nonsense in nonsense." Looks like no coup, everyone was just expecting one. Hmmm.

The way my friend Still Life Living over at the Nano Religion sees it, Musharraf is publishing his book so the US government can buy a hundred million copies of it (in .pdf or e-book format) for a quick way to get laundered cash to him. Bush endorsed it. It's called 'In the Line of Fire,' and had its debut today on Amazon, where its sales rank is currently # 1,289. Seems kinda low, since I imagine Pervez could tell some stories that would split your spinal cord. So how is it that last week Hugo Chavez of Venezuela endorsed Noam Chomsky's book "Hegemony or Survival" (the title alone makes you want to click right over and buy it, huh?) and its Amazon sales rank is still #1?

Maybe Musharraf isn't house-hunting quite yet. But if he's not, he will be. Mental note: if I ever publish my book 'Emissions of a Global Capital Surfer,' I'd better make sure Bush doesn't endorse it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Spreading Democracy

Two Syrian cousins, Latif and Mahmoud, emigrate with their families to America. They lose each other during immigration processing at JFK, and Latif winds up in Brooklyn and Mahmoud in New Jersey. After months of searching, Latif finds Mahmoud on the internet, and calls his cousin, who now runs a Halal deli in Hoboken. Latif says, "Allah be praised, I have found you! Hey, I'm picking my eldest son up from Little League practice at 5, we'll go through the Holland Tunnel, hit the McDonald's, and we'll pick you up to see the Giants play the Redskins. We've got so much to catch up on." Mahmoud listens politely and says, "Fuck you, towel-head!"

(hat tip to Wired magazine)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Oh, and By The Way

Let us now recite the BushCo prayer: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Texas.

We're going to attack Pakistan next. I'm still trying to figure out the timing, but I don't think it's contingent on James Baker cutting a deal with Iran or not. I think it'll happen anyway. It's politically expedient for an upcoming election, and comercially necessary to ensure the security of a planned pipeline. Pakistan is arguably the most dangerous nuclear-armed entity in the world (in other words, a close second to Dick Cheney). It would be a shame for those nuclear missiles to fall into the hands of islamofascists.

Pakistan's current leader, Pervez Musharraf, is so skillful he makes our government look like the people who ran your high school yearbook. He has survived more than a dozen publicized assassination attempts, but cannot control his country's border with Afghanistan. It would even be understandable if he wanted to take a little time off, say at a new home on the Chesapeake Bay, or Lake Geneva. I'll do some more de-strategerizin' and maybe back this notion up a little more with sources and links. A loose-lipped friend asked, "Why would does Musharraf have a new English-language book deal, and why is Bush telling people to go out and buy it?" He convinced me Pakistan must be the next move, and it fits like cooties on my Good-Will T-shirts.

Saturday Morning: Cat Power to Kurt Cobain

Good morning. There's a singer who calls herself Cat Power, and she seems to have written an Ode to Kurt Cobain. I never realized it until I searched on YouTube for one of my favorite songs of hers, and the clip attached above was the first hit; someone guessed who her song was about and re-mixed it with Nirvana footage.

Why am I posting this? Well, a) Chan Marshall is Cat Power, and she's Australian. B), this is a great song. C),
a friend of mine, Mr. Anderson, is an ex-rock star and he invited me to see friends of his who were playing in town. A band from Down Under called The Waifs. They're alot like Australian versions of Lucinda Williams, only there's two of them and they're sisters. They played at the jarringly luxurious dinner ampitheatre the Triple Door, which I'd never been to, and they were great. So was Paul Kelly, who played with them and can be described as a combination of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. (But he might be better than that.) It was a privilege to get to know some of their music, and even them, because Mr. Anderson's friend is married to one sister and we were the backstage VIPs. So this got me thinking more about Australian music, and because I'm already cat-powered, the internet found me this clip.

It's interesting. Kurt was the kind of artist who comes along not more than once in a generation, and he was the emblem of his. I moved to the Pacific Northwest as his arc was nearing its crest, and by then he had triggered, or had propelled and fully expressed, a social phenomenon known as "grunge." I've never heard anyone make sense of what it meant, but to witness it you'd think Goethe was focusing his talents on fronting a garage-rock band, pulling everything along with him, walling off his words behind reverberations. That was in part to protect himself, I think, but probably more intended to cushion us from them. Otherwise you could've more easily told he'd been inside your head.

After we said our goodbyes to the Waifs, we strolled around the old grunge haunts. To the back alley warehouse where we hauled in equipment to hold raves after 2AM. Most of the places are gone or prettified, all but one dive bar gone. The most infamous of all dive bars, the Dome of the Rock of grunge and a place which kept sawdust on the floor as an expedient to vomit, has had a million dollars of remodeling and sculpture done inside. It's still called the Frontier Room, but where once the bar consisted of unfinished planks, it is now of cunningly blown glass, lit like a crystal palace. Like it's waiting for Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt to waltz into Belltown and start divvying up white powder and snort from little platinum spoons. There's a modern art sculpture of a contrived brass-and-rust cow hanging on the wall where once the stinking sawdust would get pushed over to. We stood inside and marveled; having a drink would've been blasphemous. The Crocodile Cafe is still there, still has the same linoleum tiles with the same gummy hashish-like substance in its corners, but it floats, isolated, an island in a sea of metrosexuality. One of the lasting local effects of grunge is that you can still get into nice restaurants wearing sweats. I often do, and wasn't even a big fan.

Here are the lyrics to I Don't Blame You:

Last time I saw you, you were on the stage
Your hair was wild, your eyes were bright,
and you were in a rage.
You were swinging your guitar around
'cause they wanted to hear that sound
that you didn’t want to play.
I don’t blame you;
I don’t blame you.

Been around the world in many situations,
been inside many heads, in different positions.
But you never wanted them that way.
What a cruel price you thought
that you had to pay,
and die for all that shit on stage.

But it never made sense to them anyway.
Could you imagine when they turned their backs
and were only scratching their heads?
'Cause you simply deserve the best.
And I don’t blame you,
I don't blame you.

They said you were the best,
but then they were only kids.
Then you would recall
the deadly houses you grew up in.
Just because they knew your name
doesn’t mean they knew from where you came.
What a sad trick you thought
that you had to play!
But I don’t blame you...

They never owned it,
(they never owned it!)
and you never owed it to them, anyway.
(I don't blame you!)
I don't blame you.

(Kurt C. brought to you from the Pac NW and the sulfur-smelling timber town of Aberdeen, Washington. Cat Power brought to you from the former penal colony of Oz.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Back To The Future

Welcome to the future of grass-roots politics. Hell, welcome to the future of government. The Main Stream Media has found what it has been looking for from the blog-osphere, and her name is Jane Hamsher. She was a successful Hollywood producer who left after getting a few fabulous, edgy movies made, possibly because she had to deal with Oliver Stone for a while, or possibly because she wanted to recover her sanity. (Wait...those last two are the same thing, aren't they?) Jane is one of the hordes who adore MarcLord. If she were fatter, older, and had more of an accent Lord-Wife would have reason to be jealous. But many worthy women don't get to be on TV; Jane made it through the filter.

She has gifted instincts for spotting early on what good things can be made to happen with enough work, and then getting people to line up behind them. Kind of like the mirror image of Dick Cheney. She's also running fast and parallel to the future of politics in this country and the world. She is the reason I have a blog, and she is the reason I gave a flat-screen TV's worth of my personal money, the first and only of my money, to a politician in my life and he's not even in my state. His name is Ned Lamont, and he kicked the tired old distended ass of Joe Lieberman out of what was once known as the Democratic Party, soon to be out of Connecticut. Ned's one of us because he searches for solutions. He's not perfect, but Jane saw his progressive potential and called him out to her blog, which 350,000 or so unique visitors go to every week. She raised a bunch of money for him. Her mother died in her arms in Oklahoma this summer, and from that deathbed she drove to Connecticut to campaign for Ned against Sideshow Joe Lieberman. With her poodles. Hero.

Jane thinks women should have the right to choose whether they have a baby or not. Jane think the partners of gay people should be able to get health care. Jane thinks our country shouldn't go around attacking people. Like Jane or not, you're stuck with her. Get ready for what blog politics will look like. She's open-sourced, a straight-up honest speaker, and is going to be around a long time. Bring up a mental image of Dick Cheney, watch this clip, and ask yourself, in the context of imperial decline, what's the face of the government you rather would have?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Teenage Mutant Special Forces

In my musings on last night's status of US/Israeli-Iranian brinksmanship, in which I employed the popular poker game Texas Hold 'Em and the old game show Let's Make a Deal as hopeful metaphors, I glossed over a few minor details. (But first, is Monty Hall still around? If he's alive, I bet he's hosting a game show. Him and Bob Barker. Some people are just born for their times.) I mentioned that special forces have already been in Iran for a while. Just like they were in Iraq for a year before Gulf War Two. We'll get to that in a minute. Note that I greatly admire the Special Forces as fighting units, surprisingly underappreciated by the Regular Army, I just sometimes disagree with how they're deployed. As they probably do, too.

At the moment, I'm feeling conflicted because someone who knows a great deal about the Pentagon's plans for Iran is in town, and Lord Baby and I are home watching Peter Pan (the original, at least, not the gaseous sequel) while Lord Wife is out downing martinis as a warm-up for her trip to an upscale hotel spa a thousand miles away this weekend. She's going there to work on her script, the one that's been picked up by a successful producer for "packaging" into a movie. It's called "Who's Got Muffy? and was my idea. She and her actor-writer friend plan to work on it intensively and then relax with circadian meditations. (No, no. I'm not making this up, although sometimes, I wish...)

Anyhow, this someone who's in town tonight is the kind of person disgruntled generals slip operational plans to. Ever hear the phrase "loose lips sink ships?" Well, screw loose lips. It's waaay past that now. These days, people in the Pentagon are handing over copies of 500 page battle plans to journalists, professors, and spies in the hope they can get them out into the open, where someone might care enough to stop a no-win war with Iran. Things are in a pretty odd state when the only real resistance to Manifest Neo-Destiny rests in the officer class and the CIA. But that's where we are. Worse, Tom S. invited me out to meet this compelling thought-traitor, and I can't go.

So, ok. Back to the Special Forces in Iran thingie. There's this guy who knows this guy who has a friend who has run many of the Pentagon's war games, including ones for Iran and North Korea in 2004. The friend's name is Colonel Sam Gardner, and he is now retired. Colonel Gardner was on a talking head show this week, and told the interviewer in an exhausted tone that, yes, correct, there are Special Forces teams in Iran right now. Old news. News broken since March of this year, and before. Sam wrote a paper recently titled "The End of the Summer of Diplomacy: Assessing US Military Options on Iran." As these things go, it's a brilliant, beautiful, even poignant paper. It's like watching footage of British soldiers obediently, stoically, and methodically marching in forsaken line abreast into no-mans land to be mowed down by machine gun fire, already having accepted death. A professional master of strategy was asked to run up against his last nemesis, he knowingly did so, and gave his all. Only the enemies he bravely trudged toward weren't Iran or North Korea. I read his paper so you don't have to. Here are the closing lines:

When I finished the 2004 Iran war game exercise, I summarized what I had learned in the process. After all the effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers. "You have no military solutions for the issues of Iran. You have to make diplomacy work." I have not changed my mind. That conclusion made sense then. It still makes sense today.

Don't count on the Bush Administration to start making sense. They're crazier than Mormons on Mescal, and they not only despise party poopers like Sam Gardner, they take vengeance upon them for fun. All I'm saying is that there's hope for a cynical oil deal that buys some time, and even if not, there's probably a little time left before Iran is hit with airstrikes. After that, the cops bust in and people start running for the doors.

How long? I am reminded that Hitler's diplomat von Ribbentrop, the Bolton of his day, and Stalin's diplomat Molotov (of cocktail fame), drank and literally danced together in the Kremlin. They were birds of a feather, it was before their coming cataclysm, and when they sat down to talk they recognized and understood each others as old friends would have. The same is true of the regime in Iran and the regime here, who understand each other as only as grifting, usurping, snake-handling tent revivalist religious extremists can. Although there probably isn't much drinking tonight between them, and dancing is a big no-go. Ribbentrop and Molotov signed a non-aggression pact. It lasted a couple of years, during which they divvied up Poland. Here's hoping we get that long for our teetotaling thugs to divvy up Iraq. May Lord Wife enjoy her martinis to the last drops.

And now, even as I write this, Peter Pan's love interest Wendy is crossing her arms with maximum petulance and saying, "Squaw no get-um firewood. Squaw go home." So maybe it's not all Fluechte nach Vorne (flights forward) and Reversions to the Mean. Maybe cultural revolutions have engineered progressive equalities. And maybe BushCo will finally, finally draw a lucky card, and someone else will fold.

Can You Read This?

Fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid, too. Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe tuo fo 100 anc. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh, and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

(Hta tip ot my mmo.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Let's...Make...A Deal!

So, I was driving down the street early this evening listening to NPR. Over the screams of my wife and son (I sometimes drive a tad aggressively, so my wife gets nauseous and my son gets joyful) I made out a live report from Ted Koppel in Tehran. As in, Ted's in the capitol city of Iran. I couldn't quite hear what he was saying, but thought to myself over the screech of family and melting tires, "Hmmm, why would Ted Koppel be in Tehran?" I smell a deal. Somebody tipped Ted's bosses off that he should have his butt reporting live there, as our preznit and Iran's traded insults at the UN.

We're hated for our freedoms, cha-cha-cha.

Poker players and game show contestants want to keep going until the other players have no money, and they have all of it. Both the US and Iran benefit from the US being in Iraq, and the game conveniently goes on. It's no-limit betting, the pot is big, and Iran has even started to think it's going to be the House. So all the stuff about nu-kyu-lur weaponry is a ridiculous smokescreen. Nukes are a possible end, and gunfire has been known to erupt over poker tables, but this is more like a bunch of Texas Hold 'Em twits who wear their tough sunglasses under casino lights and keep a chrome-plated Beretta in their hotel room. The pupils of the eyes are the easiest tell, so the sunglasses are for the game; the gun is for when it's too late. Of course the smart thing for most gamers is to walk away from the table or from Monty Hall with their money, but hardly anyone does that.

I could be wrong. Very well could be. I'm not going to even try to support my position with sources and links because this game has been going on from now back to holidays in Afghanistan through T.E. Lawrence in Baquba to Marc Anthony and Cleopatra huffing naptha fumes. But the outline of the desired deal with Iran could look like this:

1) partition Iraq into a federation with three states along its natural fault lines, and jointly ensure their sovereignty.
2) Assist Iran with (US-supplied) nuclear energy production in exchange for oil lease contracts, cooperative non-violence, and implicit allegiance.
3) Call off the NATO blockade, the one which would be completed when the fleet and ground forces parked in the eastern Med invade Syria, and use Iran to solidify the US hold on Pipeline-istan (Caspian Sea hydrocarbon resources and Afghanistan pipeline routes).

It's what I would do. It would rein in Russian and Chinese energy ambitions in the Oil Triangle for a while, but allow them a controlled minority position. Either way, I'm fairly confident (but, unfortunately, Ted, am in no way certain) the White House wouldn't drop a nuke onto a loyal terrier's toupee-ridden head in Tehran. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is BushCo wants all the money, and Iran's pot has gotten bigger. BushCo still wants regime change in Iran, and is trying to "spread democracy" there, too. NATO is in Afghanistan now, right on Iran's border, and Special Forces units are on the ground in Iran. So the game isn't going to stop. But ever since Reagan, US military doctrine is to only invade or bomb countries that can't defend themselves, and Iran definitely doesn't fit that bill. And even the toughest games eventually break for dinner and a bathroom trip. Heck, maybe even for a commercial.

Iraq For Sale

This guy named Robert Greenwald did a documentary I didn't see, but I hear it was pretty good. It was called Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price. Now he's done one called Iraq For Sale. I don't think it's yet well understood how staggeringly large and utterly craven the waste in Iraq has been, and it looks like the movie interviews the people who witnessed some of it. In the movie trailer, for example, one firm with a trucking contract is said to send empty boxes 'round Iraq, getting unprotected drivers killed for a pointless yet billable trip, and billing...umm, do you still pay your taxes? There was never an exit plan because there was never any intention to leave. Iraq is supposed to be a protectorate just like Puerto Rico, only with 100 billion more barrels of oil.

Companies have been getting away with murder in Iraq from the get-go. Wars have a way of encouraging corporate corruption (the US Civil War was a beaut) but this war is different in its conception. Difficult as it was, I accepted simple profit motive as the ideological basis of the plan to invade. Profit may have been conjoined with other objectives, but the free market sentiment kept cropping up so prominently and repeatedly in neo-con writings about Iraq that straining to deny the motive gives intellectual hernias. I certainly can't tell where "free market" ends and "spreading democracy" begins in neo-con rhetoric. They're used interchangeably. The whole strategy was to let the post-war tactics take care of themselves. Like, if we just unleash the market mechanism and set up a democracy, there's a fabulous amount of money for everbody to make, and not off the oil. That, we keep for ourselves.

Progressive blogger Christy Hardin Smith over at Firedoglake drew my attention to this new documentary by putting up a spoof clip of its director posing as the CEO of Halliburton, only coming clean.

Monday, September 18, 2006

See, The Ecosystem Still Works

Always out there, always thinkin,' always compensating and trying to keep things in balance. From the creeping grex of pond slime, through the Second Law of Thermodynamics, out into metaphysics and the holographic universe, and then, according to this news story, back into hawks predating upon the unwary rich.

As one interviewee rather drily claims, the story became news when the hawks began to attack people in the good section of Rio and molest bathers on Ipanema beach. He says the hawks have been attacking people in poor neighborhoods a long time, where they find it funny. Rich people have found little humor in having their scalps torn off by the talons of dive-bombing raptors steadfastly protecting the nests of their young. You see, the hawks are thriving because of a plentiful amount of open garbage, which in turn makes life grand for pigeons and rats, which...oh shit a haaaaawwwwwwwwk!!!!

Sometimes God isn't so mysterious. Sometimes things happen because they must, because they are more or less guaranteed. And of course, the Rio-hawks are also taking advantage of a loophole in the ecosystem, in which they're protected under Brazil's current environmental laws. I imagine they'll be shot or relocated or something soon, knocked off their smug perches of entitlement. All the same, rich or poor, you turn your back on the ecosystem at your peril.

About 15 years ago I read this collection of Harlan Ellison short stories. The very one in the graphic above. Back before I was a parent I had nothing better to do than pointless things like that. Not long after reading it I finally realized science fiction writers weren't writing fiction, they were writing brutal Darwinian truths set off in (supposedly safe) fantasy-lands. So I retreated back into my comfort food for awhile, reading about the energy wars of the 20th century. But lemme tell ya, that Harlan guy is one sick pup. In one of his imagined parallel futures, huge deathbirds had evolved to attack freeway commuters in their cars. Every once in a while, a big ol' bird wheeling patiently up in the atmosphere would spot a gap in the defenses, swoop down, slice a car roof open, and fly away with a screaming occupant before anyone knew what hit them. Sick. And for the moment, I hope, unlikely.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pontiff Part Deux

An obviously intelligent and well-spoken but anonymous person commented on my last post. Whoa! Weird how such folks could possibly find their way here, but it's happened a few times and it's always flattering to get an insightful, well-supported comment. (Thank you, anonymoose.) The upshot was they are glad for the Pope's recent statements because it's better to call out Islam for its perpetuation or allowance of cruelty to various groups like women. I'm inclined to generally agree, particularly because some of the gruesome things perpetuated by branches of Islam make me want to clean and load my deer rifle. But I'm still not glad. Very un-glad. The comment forced me to better think about why I wish His Eminence had the good sense to keep his trap shut over that one quote about Mohammed being evil; first, a great deal rides on how you call something bad out, and there's not a lot of negotiating upside there.

Beyond that quote, the rest of the speech was a call for more patience and consideration for faith, tempered with tolerance, in public dialogue. Which is fine. The thing that worries me, which "I Meant No Offence, You Godless Towel-Heads" meant to convey, is how easily you get a sense from the speech and its regrets of what the Pope, the bureaucrats around him, and thus a substantial portion of their billion followers really think about Islam. At best it sends a mixed message, which doesn't accomplish anything. At worst it comes off as high-handed, intrasigent, and hypocritical. At worse than worst, it was condescendingly naive to a stunning extent. I think this last possibility is the strongest likelihood and most bothersome. Some Church leaders went on record to indicate what the problem might be:

“They have nobody to really ask,” said the Rev. Thomas Michel, secretary for inter-religious dialogue for the Jesuit order of priests. “Whoever looked at it and let that go through is someone who doesn’t understand Muslims at all.”

In February, Benedict reassigned the Vatican’s most senior Arab expert, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, then the head of inter-religious dialogue, to Cairo as the Vatican envoy there. The move was seen at the time by some church experts as a sign of Benedict’s skepticism about the value of dialogue with Muslims.

“I think one may say, if it is not too impolite, that it is time to bring back Monsignor Fitzgerald,” Mr. Melloni, the Vatican scholar, said.

If you read the full NYT article at the link above, you'll notice that a nun and her bodyguard were shot to death over the weekend. Causality or causuistry? You be the judge, but I think a telling problem is emerging. In toto, the Pope seems to be out of his element when it comes to the Mid-East, does not seem to be truly focused on a solution, and his going there will likely add to our immediate troubles. The root cause of the problem may be that he seems to lack the air of true humility so inherent in John Paul. Prada shoes are more his line. (No, really, they are.)

We can probably agree that more condescending naivete is not what we need for engaging Islamic leaders in positive dialogues. It sure wasn't what we needed for invading and pacifying Iraq. Give me anyone from Lucretia Borgia to Albert Schweitzer so long as they can negotiate well and come up with constructive solutions. And while we're at it, here's what I think we should look for when shopping for a Pope: ideally we want the guy who wears those sandals above. We want "The Shoes of the Fisherman." Failing that, we'll take a sincere and humble old Polack. (John Paul was the first pontiff to ever visit a mosque back on his 2001 visit to Syria.) Good managers come up with workable solutions to complex problems, the Clash of Civilizations tends to be a bit on the complex side, and poor managers get a lot of good people hurt.

One thing I do know. Good managers, and good leaders, pretty much always start off by moving things in a good direction. This isn't it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I Meant No Offence, You Godless Towel-Heads

I've always had a soft spot for the Catholic Church, in no small part due to past experiences with Catholic girls. In fact, "undying gratitude" is not too strong a term, and it's probably time to drop by the diocese across the freeway and write out a big check. Not being Catholic, I also have no need to dislike the Pope; he has yet to nag me with a single proclamation or hit me up for a donation. On top of that, when I was a junior in high school, my football coaches (named Precopio and Recesso, quite a pair) were staunch Catholics and made sure the entire team went to services the morning of a Friday night home game. So I have gladly taken communion in all seriousness, if not propriety.

Notwithstanding the above the new Pope left me feeling a little cold, and it wasn't the Hitler Youth thing, the anti-gay stuff, or the Bo Peep hook. All understandable. But now I'm starting to get why. The Pope started quite a flap with Islam this week. What the hell was he thinking? This is not Klaus the Retiree we're talking about, some fart laureate holding forth on a park bench over a case of Spaten beer bottles; the Pope has an entire staff of scholars which carefully vets his speeches for positive and negative effects. I have been described as a planter of verbal hand grenades, but can't make sense of this one. Riots ensued in places like Cairo and Istanbul, churches were fire-bombed in the West Bank. Muslim anger will be sustained over time, and Benedict is slated to make a peace tour (cough*ka-boom*hack) through a host of Muslim nations. Going forward, only a historian could love this.

Oh, the flap? In a speech to academics in Regensburg, the Pope used a quote from some 14th century crusade-era Persian emperor who called the Prophet Mohammed a violent, evil good-for-nothing bastard. Granted, Mohammed's doctrines of enlightenment and spreading Islam by the sword are a tad contradictory. But Catholicism was not exactly the May Queen in this regard, either, and the mound of heathen and heretic bodies piled up in its own past is impressively vast. When Charlemagne conquered Germany's pagans, Ratzinger's forebears, the method of conversion was gentle: bury a tribal elder up to his neck and say, "Be baptized or we play chuckers with your head." So a certain irony is apparent. And surely the Evil Bastard quote would've gone over a lot better if the West weren't busy invading the heart of Islam again.

Consider: let's say you're leading your spouse, your kids, and a troop of other parents' kids down the sidewalk. You see a very large steaming mound of fresh horse manure in front of you. Do you lead your charges directly through it, or do you take the humble, simple expedient of widely skirting the mound, warning those behind and waving the flies away? I want to like the Pope. I sense the fanned flames of a cynical press looking to start a fight to sell ad copy, so I went to read his entire speech. It was scholarly, well-meant, and in places even high-minded. But it was also muddled and self-contradictory, and sounds just proud and vain enough in tone to lead 1 billion followers through an ugly, steaming manure pile without apology.

Should my opinions above understandably offend any Catholics, I have two things to note, and respectfully request reflection upon them. First, because I am from the West and white, the Pope also represents me and mine, and he just made our lives and those of many followers of Christ more dangerous. Second, I can't imagine John Paul would've ever done this.

Terror Clown

I'm sure many of you, back when you used to listen to speeches given by the Greatest Leader of All Time, began to wonder, "What would Dubya look like in a clown outfit?" Wonder no longer, me hearties. Bush seems to have a genuine flair for stage props and outfits. There was Commander Codpiece. There's the Brush Clearin' Fool. There's the Drunken Frat Boy (i.e., status quo persona). And now there's this look. Somehow it just feels...right.

It was just a lucky find. I was googling to see if there were any images to illustrate the word "bozosphere," (fighter jock slang for altitudes above 30,000 feet) and the graphic above came up as the fourth hit. Interestingly, I then looked for images of Bill Clinton as a clown, searching three different ways. No luck. If you come across any good images of Clinton as Bozo, please point me to them or send one along. Now I'm thinking of one of those super-hero debate questions: who would make the better birthday party clown...Bush, or Clinton?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

This Is Encouraging...

On the subject of torture, I want to go on the record. If a suspected terrorist or enemy soldier ever falls into your hands and you need the truth out of them, here is what you must do: feed them, get them high, and get them laid as quickly as possible. They'll tell you everything they know in short order, and no phony stuff about their cousin being a Mossad double-agent, either. And if a nuclear bomb is going to blow up your city in two hours, trust me here, Bruce Willis is just an actor and torture isn't going to save you anyway. If you stick to getting information the right way, at least you'll still have an enjoyable time and maybe build up some good karma.

Colin Powell wrote a letter to John McCain yesterday. He notes that continuing to torture our enemies will hurt our soldiers and make people question our national sexual orientation. (Better late than never, Colin baby! What's a matta, the $100k-a-pop lecture circuit drying up?) All the previous moral dissonance which kept his mouth shut now swept aside, this is a fantastic sign if you're sick of sadomasochistic military policies. In my book, torturing insane people and then taking what they tell you as gospel, well that clears the sadomasochistic bar. Gotta be something wrong in your mind or your body if you're pulling that stuff. But I digress. My point is, if the career spokesgeneral who covered up the My Lai massacre for the army is sticking his neck this far out of his shell now, is it because he thinks it's finally safe to do so? He didn't even send the letter to the White House first, so that's a little ass-moon he threw in extra. I know a lot of you like Powell cuz he's so darned likeable. Sorry for taking the shot at him. I like him, too, really I do. Especially now.

John Warner, Republican chair of the Senate Armed Services committee, voted the Preznit's Torture Bill down (it passed the House). Bravo, Mr. Warner. That took guts, and he has stood against the Preznit on this same principle before. 4 other Republicans joined him to throw the bill back 15-9. The best support the White House could manage to get came after waterboarding a few of the Pentagon's top military lawyers. The lawyers were then willing to sign a letter saying 'they "do not object" to sections of Bush's proposal for the treatment of detainees.' They had refused to sign a previous version of the letter, and threatened to resign.

Victories are sweet, and this is one for our country. We know the Bush Administration is going to go ahead and do what it wants anyway, and the pig ain't flying yet. But it's trying. It's trying.

Update: Reader Al C. pointed out that there's one less fluttering pig than I had counted last night. Only a total of 4 Republican Senators on the Committee on Armed Services voted against the Enhanced Torture Bill: Warner-VA, McCain-AZ, Collins-Maine, and Graham-SC. 13 Pugs and 11 Dims. Man, there's some real winners on the Red side of that committee. Planet Xenophobe.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quiche Du Jour

The drowsy chill of Fall has come to the Northwest right on time, on the heels of a great and delightfully sunny Summer. On this blog, I've been trying to follow the "It Won't All Be Doom and Gloom, God-Dammit" policy. You might call it the Quiche Policy. Which it's good to pause on the beautiful, the well-crafted and exceptional. Or just the good. God knows there is so much for us to be thankful for. Plus, whenever I write something about great food, or send you to, or put cats in microwaves, I've probably got a fastball ready for you, heading high inside and more or less for your chin.

So here's an artistic installment, something from a while ago. I once bought a popular collection of Rilke's poems in English and German. I had loved the original German, so I looked for the best translation I could find, none of which captured greatness in English, but some of which were at least reasonably complete. Rilke's 'Panther' was in the one I got, a good effort, but you know how some things really can't be translated. Or shouldn't be tried, not without first seeing the world through the artist's eyes. There was one piece in particular where I thought the translator (someone who probably devoted a large portion of their life to subtle linguistic study and who did the best they could to lovingly convert Rilke's poetry into English) had royally screwed it up, and that I could at least do better. On some random trains and planes and late nights in bed, I tried working it out into our language, a piece of Rilke's which might by feel be called "Equinox." Strictly translated it would be: "Fall Day."

Lord: it is time. The summer's gone, you know.
Send Thy shadow long over sundials,
and loose Thine winds across the meadows.

Let each fruit swell on its tree and vine.
And send us, yet, two more southerly days
for urging onto consummations, to chase
their last sweet drops into heavy wines.

He who has no house now, builds no better.
He who is alone, will long stay so.
I will sit, and watch, and write long letters,
and in the lanes pace to and fro,
restless, as the dry leaves blow.

Here's the original German:


Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Rainer Maria Rilke

I Mean, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.

The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations, said Secretary Michael Wynne.

"If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation," said Wynne. "(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."

The Air Force has paid for research into nonlethal weapons, but he said the service is unlikely to spend more money on development until injury problems are reviewed by medical experts and resolved.

Nonlethal weapons generally can weaken people if they are hit with the beam. Some of the weapons can emit short, intense energy pulses that also can be effective in disabling some electronic devices.

Ummm...yes. I seem to recall tests of a microwave beam weapon which makes an unruly crowd member feel as if his or her skin is being burned off. (Mainly, because it is. By a microwave beam.) Well, it's only a focused 95-Gigahertz beam, which isn't enough to cause permanent damage. Unless some unappreciative trouble-maker gets caught in it for about the time it takes to write this sentence. Fortunately, the idea is to rely on the weapon operator to turn the beam off or away from you soon enough to not do lasting damage. So it's perfectly safe. Just needs a little more fine tuning, is all.

Still, I'm confused. I think this Air Force guy is saying he's scared what other nations will do if we use the Burn Blaster on their people and some of them get to avoid a PR hassle we need to use it here first, where it's not such a problem if something goes wrong? Forget everything I said in my post yesterday. Everything's going to be just fine because we're going to stop pissing off other countries by zapping them with unproven weapons. In fact, go max out a credit card or two.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What's Going to Happen

At its root, fascism quashes dissent in order to temporarily gain high efficiencies in pursuit of key objectives. Fascism can be hard to recognize when not donning its stereotypical jackboots and mustache, and in fact can look quite dapper in a good suit and tie. In post-modern memory, however, our understanding has been distorted by old images from the desperate conflicts of the last century, the repetition and amplification of which have served up ever-ready and all-present, but incomplete and misleading, icons. In short, fascism has become difficult to think about clearly on one's own, much less discuss with others. But it's alive and well. It has much to do with what has happened to the US, and what is going to happen here next. It has much to do with our country's direction, with the pseudo-intellectuals broadcasting an overarching, hermetic ideology and fake dialogues specifically designed to drown out discourse and reason. Fascist regimes do not engage in public debate.

It is probably the oldest form of government, in which a group of stakeholders begins a process to set aside differences, decides on ends and means, designates a leader, and throws its collective weight into decisive action. Often, this "action" means violent aggression which cannot be averted once the pre-scripted acts begin. When a bunch of chimpanzees decides, via the signals of their species, to band together to kill another of their kind, their marriage of convenience does not organizationally differ from fascism. For at time, they must share a strongly held ideology; for example, "Bongo has stolen his last banana." And for our own species, the popularity of the TV show 'Survivor' may be more in sync with the times than we realize.

Fascism has a multitude of markers. But it can be discerned early on by its deepest hallmarks: rigid adherence to an ideology, especially in the face of contrary evidence or common sense, and in the way it silences more active dissent. A better description of "silences dissent" might be that fascism seeks to disconnect the effects of dissent from policy in order to maintain the momentum of a pre-achieved consensus. The Nazis were perfectly willing to beat dissenters to death in the streets or send uncooperative minorities away to torture and death; for them, that was deemed socially acceptable, even praiseworthy by many. As planners, however, what they most feared was the prospect of putting housewives to work in factories, and this they did not do until 1943. They didn't think the German people would grant them such a sacrifice, and were amazed when they got away with it.

There are much more sophisticated, sustainable, and one might say "green" means of disconnecting dissent than Hitler or Mussolini employed. People can be silenced without blood, without dragging them out to jails for beatings in the middle of the night (although minorities can attest that's still a common part of the toolkit). People can be denied tenure. They can be punished for whistle-blowing. They can be sent envelopes of weaponized anthrax. They can be fired like General Shinseki was (for saying pacification of Iraq would require 500,000 troops). They can be passed over for promotion or hire. Reporters with Pulitzer Prizes can be shut out of the mainstream press. Anyone's communications can be eavesdropped on. Most of the above is entirely within the law, if you are the law. In the realm of cultural reinforcement, reality can be created; protests can be ignored, stories can be spun, casualties and incidents of sabotage can be unreported or denied. As a White House aide related to Ron Suskind in 2002:

"...guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Now there's your democracy in action, staying one step ahead of your reality. What do you think, was that anonymous aide Ari Fleischer, or Karl Rove? Sounds like Ari to my ear. Josef Goebbels held those precise sentiments, and some of his pronouncements could be translated into exactly the same English. This combination of propaganda technique and policy action is a perfect fit with what has begun to be referred to in scholarly circles as "soft" or "friendly" fascism. Catchy phrases, but really what it's referring to is as old as Greece, with the same primal tendencies observable in any group of chimps concerned with status, food, and territory. You can maintain control of the monologue and erase past fuck-ups by starting into a bigger one. Political structures which rely on fascist techniques are hard to sustain because the punishment they must dish out creates a lot of friction, requiring in turn yet more punishment to maintain forward momentum. The ante can't forever be upped, however; in its late stages, the fascist group turns on its own, and then on itself, bestially capable of breaking the strongest taboos. The Neo-cons are now entering their late stage.

Soft fascism can transition into hard fascism. This occurs more often than not when its policy objectives begin to be thwarted, and our fascists are seeing theirs start to fade beyond reach. Look at their world! Neo-con allies are faltering or have already checked out. Iraq, already a bankrupting, morally sapping quagmire, has lapsed into civil war. An Israeli invasion into Lebanon was defeated by a political party. Venezuela has new oil customers. Mexico may break apart. Iran is well-armed, aware, and refuses to be cowed. China is ascending, patient, and has bought oil out from under our noses, even from Canada, with cash we paid to them. Russia has money from energy and weapons. Bush had to sell India nuclear technology.

I'm not exactly sure how the Neo-cons will respond to these setbacks. But their playbook is known, and I have a pretty good idea what Josef Goebbels would've done in the same situation. It would've involved scaring the shit out of the German people and coming down very hard on majority dissent. The words "sent to the Russian Front" still have a peculiar ring to them, don't they? I believe the Neo-cons are currently considering how to bring the battlefield closer to Americans. Call it a hunch. When have fascists ever gone quietly? (Franco and Tito did, yes, but their imperatives were for domestic order, not expansion.)

On the cultural side, the 9/11 movie which ABC is airing again tonight is an apparent Neo-con effort to create a reality which will trump historians, Hollywood, the press, and emerging cultural arbiters like blogs. It's an early experiment in the new campaign that features "islamofascism," and a sign of bigger things to come, probably symptomatic of a desire to escalate into a "Total War" stance. The Neo-cons have also seen the blogsphere, its growth worries them, and they realize the dissent which lives here can't be silenced without either drowning it out or integrating their propaganda across it. They don't understand the internet yet, much less blogs. None of us really does. They don't fully comprehend that blogs are the kernels of new governments, their structure ideally suited to transparency and participatory democracies. Jefferson's bastard children.

In attacking the blogsphere (I mean, beyond simply demonizing it) the Neo-cons will attack the very fabric of what it is to be an American, and will hasten their own demise. The cats are out of the bag, peeing under the church pews, hissing and clawing the Establishment's legs raw. The dogs have been called by now, but the technology-based blogsphere is a printing press, a church door Martin Luther pinned his proclamation on, and a magic meeting house all rolled into one. It's a naturally legislative infrastructure which allows for far greater spans of control than machine politics, easier internal and external consensus building, voting, recording, and more flexible responding. Blogs are governments without an 'off' switch. And it's too late to turn them all off.

Before they are utterly defeated, Neo-cons will leave much greater devastation and waste in their wake than they already have, and they almost certainly will turn on us, the radical middle and silent majority, directly before it is over. It might hurt a lot. But it will pass. We have the memories to rebuild democracy, and fantastic new tools to spread it--not at the barrel of a gun, but by internalization, direct exchange of ideas, and free adoption. Our old ships of state are tearing apart, as maintenance of old infrastructure is bankrupting them while new technology pulls them past the speeds they are capable of going. As Bette Davis said, "Buckle your seat belts, everybody. It's going to be a bumpy ride." Democracy will be back, stronger than ever it was in Athens.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Don't Know About You, But I Am Un...Chien On Delusion

A NYT article about Dick Cheney last night claims he's losing it:

Measuring the accumulation or the erosion of power is an imprecise art. But interviews with more than 45 people over the past five months — including current and former White House aides, foreign diplomats, members of Congress and confidants of Mr. Cheney — painted a picture of a vice president who, while still influential, has seen his power wane.

Most agreed to speak candidly only if their names were not used. Mr. Cheney himself declined repeated requests for an interview. Instead, his office encouraged Ms. Rice and Mr. Hadley to give interviews to dispute the view that Mr. Cheney’s power is in decline.

The article provides a surprisingly good brief on the mechanics of that "decline," noting how the indictment of Cheney's aide Scooter Libby weakened lobbying and internal security functions. Of course, the article's timing is safe, because last week we saw the first real confirmations of a shift away from the Neo-cons. First, the Senate Intelligence Committee emerged, turtle-like, to state pre-war intel on Iraq was a hoax (never mentioning their role in it). Then another Senate committee failed to confirm John Bolton, Cheney's enforcer. So suddenly everyone is feeling frisky, but not bold enough to go on the record against Cheney, who may not be as influential but is every bit as dangerous.

And from his appearance on Press the Meat this morning, The Debaser is being allowed to retract his oft-repeated earlier claims about about Iraq's connection with 9/11 without any explanation or apology. Russert gives him a pass and a pat on the butt. Guess we'll have to wait for the Sixth Estate (comedians like Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert) to dig up the old clips and quotes for a compare-contrast.

The title of this post first refers to the surrealistic 1928 French film "Un Chien Andalou" by the influential Spanish auteur Luis Bunuel. In a precursor of post-modern politics, the film starts off with a scene in which an eyeball is being cut open. The Pixies, one of my favorite bands, did a 1989 punk song about the movie called "Debaser," and they change the reference slightly to "I am un chien andalusia" (I'm an Andalusion dog.) It seemed natural to take the phrasing a little further.

Got me a movie
I want you to know
Slicing up eyeballs
I want you to know
Girlie so groovy
I want you to know
Don't know about you
But I am un chien Andalusia

I am un chien Andalusia (x3)

Wanna grow
Up to be
Be a debaser

Saturday, September 09, 2006

9/11 Press for Truth Trailer

The Bush Administration has been up-front about Iraq, their business ties to the Bin Laden family, energy policy meetings, Enron, deficits, Medicare, budgets, and about how Dubya's brother Marvin and cousin Bert Walker bought the company that provided security for the World Trade Center a few months before it was hit. So we need not doubt their account of how 9/11 went down, and if now they're saying that Clinton was to blame, that's good enough for me. My understanding is this documentary, which appears to scurrilously impugn the good intentions of our leaders by blowing a few minor coincidences and discrepancies all out of proportion, is going to be allowed to open NYC and Chicago theaters. What's the country coming to?

And for those misguided souls who actually believe there was some kind of cover-up on 9/11, well, even if it were so they'd just be driving with a rear-view mirror. Five years is ancient in the media age. No, if you were so sick as to seriously believe the Bush Administration to be capable of such a horrible thing, it would be a lot more productive to ask yourself, "What are they going to do next?"

Friday, September 08, 2006

If I Were A Bettin' Man

Fortunately, I don't bet. I prefer to put my money in safe havens like the stock market. And dollars. John Bolton, pictured above, is the United States Ambassador to the UN. He's been stalking around there for about a year by recess appointment. This week the congressional foreign affairs committee in charge of rubber-stamping White House decisions couldn't scare up the votes to confirm Bolton's appointment, despite heavy pressure. Admittedly, this is interesting, since it means a couple Republicans were ready to vote against him. Now, there are many in the liberal blogsphere who say this means that Bolton will be sent to flamethrow greener pastures, and be replaced with someone else. Someone with less personality. Or at least, I seriously doubt it. 5-1 odds against Bolton going anywhere.

Cheney and the neo-cons sent Bolton from the future on a one-way mission to bust up the UN. Cheney (through Boosh) will tell Congress to go...sedate itself...and Bolton is going to stay right where he is, head-butting the UN building down one wall at a time. Congress-critters will run like cockroaches away from a light rather than publicly vote on the matter, and the whole thing will dangle in limbo, right like it is now. My bet is Bolton will keep going after Iran until he accidentally crawls into a car crusher.

For a full, more professional view on the particulars, go over and see Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, who has been on Bolton's case like Sarah Connor in T2. Steve's also a lot more hopeful, knowledgeable, and influential than I am.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Aircraft Carrier Listing

Israel has long been described in security circles as "America's stationary aircraft carrier in the Mid-East." Well, the hull is seamed and water is gaining on the bilge pumps. Here's what Ben Eliezer (former Israeli Defense Minister) had to say Wednesday:

Given the missed goals of Israel’s venture into the Lebanon war, it is no wonder that Binyamin Ben Eliezer, minister of infrastructure in the Olmert cabinet and a former defense minister, said bluntly Wednesday Sept. 6 that this was Israel’s worst defeat in all the wars it fought. Domestic criticism of the government spreads day by day as the bizarre, muddled and incomprehensible nature of the prime minister’s war decisions continues to mark his actions three weeks later.

Unlike the press here, where not even NPR reporting will put it this way, Israeli ground forces were soundly thrashed in Lebanon. It's being widely discussed as a defeat amongst Israelis for the following reasons:

1. Morale is very low over the two captured soldiers, since there has been no public evidence given they're still alive or in good condition. You'd think Olmert could've negotiated a Red Cross visit by now.

2. Hizballah is stronger than ever, still in South Lebanon, jubilant and armed to the teeth.

3. Olmert thinks UNIFIL-2's deployment South Lebanon achieves a stated goal of the invasion. Nobody else agrees, and Olmert and the commanding general of Israel's army are ready to kill each other.

4. UNIFIL-2 has been very clear that they won't disarm Hezbollah. Rather, participating armed forces have repeatedly insisted on defining when it's ok to shoot at Israelis. Seems like they remember how the IDF intentionally killed 4 UNIFIL soldiers with directed artillery fire while they were in a well-marked bunker.

5. The peacekeepers already in South Lebanon aren't enforcing UN Resolution 1701, which was intended to embargo weapons shipments to Hezbollah. Arms shipments strongly accelerated since peacekeeper arrival.

Here's the capper. Because of the Aircraft Carrier's horrible performance, Bush ordered a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Israel last month. According to Israeli security think tank

In his directive for an updated National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Israel, the US president wanted to find out if the mismanaged Lebanon War was a curable hiccup or the symptom of a deeper malady. He asked whether Israel is robust enough to continue to count as a strong and stable political and military force able to serve the United States as a Middle East ally and a strategic mainstay in the region.

Just how bad would it have to be for Fartacus to question Israel's continued utility as a military ally? Whether an NIE was ordered or not, military advisors must've broken the news to BushCo that the IDF isn't strong enough to take on Syria. This is very inconvenient, as Syria was next on The List. It has to be knocked out in order to close the ring around Iran.

Nasrallah For Prime Minister -- Of Israel

This is too good to not share. Nasrallah, chief of Hezbollah in Lebanon, did such a good job throughout the recent war that he's being recommended in the press to replace Israel's own prime minister (Olmert). Ha'aretz, Israel's largest daily newspaper, has a cracking good online journalist named Bradley Burston. I'm not sure why, because his name is about as Semitic as Lawrence of Arabia. However, it's much easier to understand why he calls his blog "A Special Place in Hell." Bradley's opinion piece of the above title has gotten picked up by World News and other international newspapers. Here's part of what he had to say:
If nature abhors a vacuum, imagine how it feels at this point about Israel's senior leadership.

The titular head of state, our model for probity, is looking down the barrel of rape charges. The army chief of staff, our model for dedication and sacrifice, took a break for a bit of financial planning just as the nation's leaders were deciding whether the military was ready, plans, supplies, training and all, to go to war.

The justice minister might have helped Olmert this week, had he not resigned over suspicions that he forced a French kiss on an unwilling young woman soldier.
Humph. That's fucked up. Of course it sounds like a fairly normal month here, only with greater accountability and a slightly less supine press. A few weeks ago I wrote that fallout from Israel's defeat wouldn't be long in coming. I've never been a habitual reader of Ha'aretz, but have been going there to check for cats and dogs falling out of the sky. Here are the first few. More developing for the next post.

America the Vulnerable

Somewhere today, the BushCo message machine (a/k/a "The Mighty Wurlitzer") is on rewind, and a few hundred writers are trying to fix the world with speeches, skimming unsure fingers across keyboards, doodling on yellow notepads, tearing off sheets and wadding them up and throwing them at wastebaskets, saying things like, "No! I've got the angle now!" The anniversary is coming right up, and they need to write something, anything to bring everything back into line. Poor bastards. They're trying to fight a dynamic as strong and as old as the hills, and they're on deadline. They will fail to say anything helpful, or anything honest. They will fail to lie well, and they'll even fail to horrify.

I remember the eleventh of September, five years ago. I had been expecting it, and even drove up the West Side Highway past the Towers before it happened. The collective American psyche had been expecting it, and knew it was coming for fifty years. You don't drop nuclear bombs on hundreds of thousands of women and children without payback coming sometime. The world never worked that way.

Something inside us fights and claws to get to the top of the hill. To get there, we have to knock someone off, and we have to use something bad to do it. Once we're up there, we knock others back down because something tells us we have to. You trump the jawbone of an ass your predecessor wielded with a sharpened copper axe. Eventually some wise guy gets tired of you, invents a bow and arrow and shoots you with it. That's how the world works, and we are right to fear it. That's why Tom Clancy books like "The Sum of All Fears" sell millions of copies, and that's how Peggy Noonan (she who wrote the "thousand points of light" speech for Poppy Bush) felt it coming and wrote this in 1998:

"...I think of the friend who lives on Park Avenue who turned to me once and said, out of nowhere, "If ever something bad is going to happen to the city, I pray each day that God will give me a sign. That He will let me see a rat stand up on the sidewalk. So I'll know to gather the kids and go." I absorbed this and, two years later, just a month ago, poured out my fears to a former high official of the United States government. His face turned grim. I apologized for being morbid. He said no, he thinks the same thing. He thinks it will happen in the next year and a half. I was surprised, and more surprised when he said that an acquaintance, a former arms expert for another country, thinks it will happen in a matter of months."

I remember the eleventh of September, five years ago. I had been expecting it, just not the way it came. It's hard to expect 19 unemployable, heavily accented losers who can't even fly a Cessna for shit to defeat NORAD, the FAA, and the US Air Force. And I'm not so sure they did; maybe their last day was their luckiest ever. Either way, I felt helpless in the aftermath, not because they finally got their targets. (We were lucky their weapons weren't what we would've used had we been in their place. What we had been expecting.) Rather my helpless sinking feeling was for the response that was sure to come, which would harness a lifetime's worth of paranoia, guilt, entitlement, triumphalism, self-righteousness, and sheer murderous ignorance. The worst impulses in us, of which the past five years have failed to disappoint. How to stop that I didn't know, not then and not now, but I love this country and would've done something if only I knew how. All I know is that our government keeps standing defiantly on top of a hill it can no longer hold, and there are more and more arrows sticking out of it.

There is another choice. It merely requires marching back down the hill and seeking medical help while there's still time. Are we exceptional enough to do that?