Pope Benedict just named one Fr Gerhard Maria Wagner as assistant bishop of the Austrian city of Linz.
Fr Wagner is notorious for his extreme views — he has accused the popular Harry Potter novels of spreading Satanism, and described Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for the sinners of New Orleans.
He wrote in a parish newsletter that the death and destruction caused by the hurricane in New Orleans was divine retribution for the city’s tolerance of homosexuals and permissive sexual attitudes.
The future bishop said he was glad that Katrina destroyed not only nightclubs and brothels in New Orleans, but also five of the city’s abortion clinics.
Televangelist John Hagee:
I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are —were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade on the Monday that the Katrina came, and the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing.
The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi :
[Al Qaeda’s then-leader in Iraq] issued a statement on the Internet calling Katrina divine retribution. “God’s great wrath has hit the head of the oppressors,” the statement read…
In the recording, al-Zarqawi said, “I believe the devastating hurricane that hit the United States occurred because people in Iraq or Afghanistan — maybe a mother who had lost her son or a son whose parents were killed or a woman who was raped — were praying for God and God accepted their prayers.”
And, from the third of the great Semitic monotheisms, here’s Ovadia Yosef…
… a former chief rabbi of Israel and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, said Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for President Bush 's support for Israel's Gaza pullout.
“Bush was behind the (expulsion of) Gush Katif,” he said. “He encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif…we had 15,000 people expelled here, and there 150,000 (were expelled from New Orleans — ed. note)
Final proof that we are, as a nation, mad:
(CNN) -- A former prison secretary has been sentenced to six months in federal prison for having sex with an inmate she was supposed to be supervising, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in the District of Colorado said Friday.
Janine Sligar, 47, of Wray, Colorado, was sentenced Thursday for sexual abuse of a ward. After serving her sentence, she will serve five years of supervised release and must register as a sex offender, spokesman Jeff Dorschner said in a news release…
According to the plea agreement, Sligar, a 14-year Bureau of Prisons veteran, said she and inmate Eric McClain met in February 2007, when he was assigned to clean her office.
“They began to have conversations and realized they had similar interests,” the plea agreement said.
That summer, they initiated a sexual relationship that included 10 to 20 sessions of oral sex and sexual intercourse, ending in October 2007, it said.
In the Chinese calendar, 2008 was the Year of the Rat. In our country it was the Last Year of the Twit. Many things happened during the year except in the White House where nothing at all happened.
The presidential campaign that seemed to have gone on forever finally came to a close with the astonishing election of a man who, as he pointed out in a speech, would not have been served at a lunch counter in the capital city only a few decades ago. There was a sense of optimism everywhere — well, almost everywhere — as the nation watched the sure-footed young president make the opening moves of his historic administration. The contrast with his feckless predecessor was hard to miss, even if you didn’t agree with everything he was trying to do. At least he was doing something! And there was very little chance we were going to ‘misunderestimate’ him.
What was hard to measure was how much of this awakening spirit owed to the great promise of this graceful and articulate new leader or to the realization that we were Twitless at last. One could almost hear Martin Luther King’s voice soaring over the Mall: Twitless at last. Twitless at last. Thank God Almighty, we are Twitless at last!
Of course there are always more twits and creeps-in-waiting: crooks, fools, mountebanks, and self-seekers eager to put their incompetence, arrogance and stupidity to work for the good of the country. Rodents like Cheney and Rumsfeld are bound to emerge from the sewers of the business world slavering for their piece of the power pie.
So far, it does not seem that any of these vermin have made it into high positions in the new government. Although it does give pause that our new Secretary of the Treasury ‘didn’t notice’ that he was short by $35,000 in income taxes. This ‘oversight’ might be less troublesome in a cabinet member who wasn’t in charge of the country’s money, but let’s not rain on the parade.
Anyone is an improvement on Henry Paulson, who, with an assist from Congress, handed out billions to banks without bothering to ask what they were going to do with the money. And guess what? They took the money and went on vacations to plush resorts, they rewarded themselves for their excellent work with big bonuses, they redecorated their offices, and they ordered up a nice new corporate jet or two. What? You expect these highly talented financial guys to ride on ordinary commercial airplanes?
Speaking of corporate jets, one of the enduring images of 2008 is that of the Three Blind Mice from Detroit, the heads of GM, Ford and Chrysler, begging Congress to give them billions to shore up their mismanaged companies. As if to demonstrate that there is no limit to an American automaker’s hubris, the Mice traveled to Washington by three separate corporate jets at a cost of God knows how many tens of thousands of dollars. It was a matter of security, one of them said. When they returned to Washington a few weeks later, they drove. What fast learners these fellows are!
And so it remains to be seen if the country as we knew it, and kind of liked it, will survive 2008, the final, dismal year in the Reign of the Twit. True to form, the Twit spent the final days of his administration trying to convince himself that he had been an honorable and effective president. His method was to get himself interviewed by compliant TV persons — Larry King Live, for instance
When the Twit and his unfortunate consort appeared on Larry King Live’s show, the intrepid electronic journalist asked Dubya about the charges that his administration had used torture on suspected terrorists at Guantanamo and other even more sinister places. “We don’t use torture,” Twit responded, and that was the end of that. This might have been more persuasive if his vice president only days earlier had not bragged about how effective torture had been in protecting the country from the bad guys. Cheney, of course, never includes himself as one of the bad guys.
In various lame-duck statements the outgoing president said that he had accomplished a lot, always careful to avoid specifics lest his opponents get wind of what he had been up to. And so the year ended, with the White House obscured by a putrid fog of self-justification. And in the distance, the faint beginnings of a rising chorus: Twitless at last. Twitless at last. Thank God Almighty, we are Twitless last.
Steve Benen says:
Once in a while, a politician drops the pretense and lets his true colors come through. In this brief interview, Dick Armey, perhaps best known for calling his then-colleague Barney Frank "Barney Fag," showed just what he's made of, before a national television audience.
Here’s the silver-tongued former House Majority Leader on Hardball, debating Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com:
Now that they’re safely confined to the back benches, they’re kind of funny. I’m speaking about the Republicans, of course. One watches them with the same mixture of embarrassment and hilarity that one feels when watching monkeys masturbate at the zoo. Take this little item from the other day:
Republicans have an answer to the thorny problem of where President Barack Obama should put the 245 inmates of Guantanamo Bay – Alcatraz prison, in ultra liberal San Francisco.
Mr Obama issued an executive order last week directing that the controversial detention facility on the island of Cuba will close within a year. But he admitted that he has no plan yet for where to send the prisoners, many of whose home countries refuse to accept them.
Republicans charge that Mr Obama is basking in worldwide adulation for announcing the closure – something President George W Bush desired – without doing the difficult bit.
“If liberals believe they ought to go, maybe we ought to open Alcatraz,” Congressman John Boehner, Republican leader in the House of Representatives, told NBC. “It’s very secure.”
Perhaps by coincidence, or perhaps not, Alcatraz is in the constituency of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and a vocal liberal opponent of Guantanamo.
“There’s a lot of discomfort about the idea of bringing the detainees in to the United States,” said Congressman Bill Young of Florida, the first to make the proposal. “That’s why I’ve suggested Alcatraz.” Senator Kit Bond of Missouri said: “Let our good friends in San Francisco deal with these deadly combatants.”
…Republicans believe that Mr Obama’s Guantanamo closure plan will run up against NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard – difficulties among Democrats who like the notion of Guantanamo Bay closing as long as the prisoners are nowhere nearby.
Who says there aren’t any second acts in American life? William Shatner became successful after he gave up any pretence of being a serious actor and settled on becoming a comedian instead, which is what he was born to be. I say the House Republicans should follow his lead. When they have no power, they’re absolutely hilarious, almost a national treasure. They should content themselves with being funny house pets. They’re good at it.
Yes, I am gloating.
Al Qaeda couldn’t shut down the American International School in Gaza, and neither could Hamas militants. But the Israelis finally pulled it off for them. After American-built bombers flattened the school, bulldozers and tanks moved in to destroy the basketball court and the jungle gym.
As school officials search for a temporary campus for their 230 students, the loss has stunned many Gazans. If any place should have been safe from Israel’s war on Hamas, they say, it was the school, which for years flew an American flag over the main gate and whose graduates attend top universities in the United States, Canada and the Middle East.
Yet of the 25 schools and hospitals that Israeli forces hit during the 22-day war, according to a tally by Palestinian officials, only the American International School was destroyed. Days after the airstrike, Israeli bulldozers and tanks returned to the campus and plowed over the basketball court and the jungle gym, school officials and residents said…
“It’s an iconic example of the disconnect between Israeli statements and the facts on the ground,” John Ging, the head of the U.N. refugee agency in Gaza, said of the school strike. “Israel said it was striking against the institutions of terrorism, but this is a school that was teaching an American curriculum in English. There has to be an answer for this and all the other destruction and death.”
Private funds and tuition fees finance the school, and the charge for high school, $5,000 a year, is the highest in Gaza. Thirty high-performing students from poor families receive scholarships, however, paid for in part by a $160,000 U.S. government grant.
John Miller sends along the 60 Minutes piece, below, on the illegal land grabs by Israeli settlers that imperil a two-state solution in Israel. Any of you who missed this report on Sunday (as I did) won’t want to compound your error.
It’s almost inconceivable that a major network would have broadcast a show this even-handed a year ago. Totally inconceivable before that, as anyone who remembers the lock-step pro-Israel coverage of the 2000 Intifada will appreciate.
Faint tremors are being heard in the MSM on the Israel question, then — hints perhaps of a slow tectonic shift just starting. I don’t understand why this should be.
It’s true that the President has shown signs of not necessarily believing that Israel’s interests are indistinguishable from ours: the early calls to Arab leaders, the rapid appointment of George Mitchell, the interview with Al Jazeera, the language of his inaugural speech.
But the noticeable (if partial) shift in the media toward seeing the Arab side of the question began with Israel’s invasion of Gaza, when George W. Bush was still president and there was no compelling reason to think that Obama’s Middle-Eastern policy would be much different.
So I’m mystified. If you’re not, let’s hear it.
Turning to Pioneers of the San Juan Country, Out West Printing and Stationery Company (1942), a book of reminiscences gathered by the ladies of the Sarah Platt Decker chapter of the D.A.R., in Durango, Colorado…
…we find that every winter back in the 1880s, the town of Del Norte faced a liquidity problem of its own. To resolve it, the citizenry was presented with a stimulus plan built on deficit spending. The plan was considered by a local version of Congress and a food fight ensued.
Del Norte was a lively place, and a winter resort for the whole San Juan Country. A lot of these old miners from Silverton used to spend their winters there: Dempsey Reese, Tom Blair, Col. F.M. Snowden, Capt. Stanley, Henry Hensen of Lake City, Rasmus Hansen, Joe Taylor, and others.
When the heavy snows came on and they had to quit work in their mines they went to Del Norte, which was the nearest town, and they would sit around Cap Walker’s hotel and drink whiskey and play sluff all day long. Cap Walker was an old steamboat captain.
The miners usually had no money, they paid if they could; if they couldn’t Cap boarded them anyway. One winter he found his non-paying guests too expensive; he didn’t like to tell them to leave so he thought if he raised the board on them they would all leave; so he doubled the price of board.
The guests held a meeting and considered the raise, then sent him a formal note agreeing to it. They couldn’t pay, so it made no difference to them. They used to have high old times. Sometimes they would start throwing biscuits and wouldn’t quit until the dining room was covered with biscuits — and flour $15.00 a hundred at that.
I extend condolences, admittedly less than completely heartfelt, to our less than esteemed fellow citizen William Kristol, who was dumped by the New York Times recently and published his last column today.
Kristol was informed of the move sometime around January 13, when he was invited to a dinner with Barack Obama that included other conservative columnists and took place at George Will’s house. “It must have been a bittersweet moment,” said the Times insider. Indeed, Kristol crowed about the Obama dinner: he and his comrades had gotten lamb chops in elegant surroundings, while a group of ostensibly liberal writers who met with Obama the following morning got coffee in Styrofoam cups. Except, as it turns out, that was a typical Kristol miscue — according to columnist Andrew Sullivan, who was present, the morning gathering hadn’t been served as much as a glass of water.
So, the Times is getting with the times, swaying with the political winds? As if. Moving away from that idiotic neo-con garbage? Not a bit of it.
The source makes clear that the decision not to renew Kristol’s contract is not related to his neoconservative ideology — Kristol’s proximity to key Washington players ranging from Bush and Cheney to John McCain (whom he supported in 2000) was considered a distinct plus. His leading advocacy of the Iraq War also added to his appeal. Kristol was viewed as a mover and shaker whose ideas had ready impact on the political firmament in Washington.
The problems that emerged were more fundamental. Kristol’s writing wasn’t compelling or even very careful. He either lacked a talent for solid opinion journalism or wasn’t putting his heart into it. A give-away came in the form of four corrections the newspaper was forced to run over factual mistakes in the columns, creating an impression that they were rushed out without due diligence or attention to factual claims. A senior writer at Time magazine recounted to me a similar experience with Kristol following his stint in 2006-07. “His conservative ideas were cutting edge and influential,” I was told. “But his sloppy writing and failure to fact check what he wrote made us queasy.”
If I were let go for sloppy writing and bad fact-checking by an organization that chose to settle with rather than fire Judy Miller, it would likely quiet me somewhat. But I’m willing to bet that Kristol crows about it, and probably even sees at a least a temporary uptick in requests for speeches. His part of the political plane has grown accustomed, perhaps even addicted, to feeling persecuted. Makes sense; when you’re always wrong, you’re gonna get a lot of grief if any sensible sorts are around.
But the most telling point to my mind is that the senior writer from Time failed to connect incorrect facts and sloppy use thereof with the end product, namely the “cutting edge” conservative ideas. Could there be a relationship? Nah.
…the conservative commentator, who edits the Weekly Standard and appears on Fox News, won’t lack for media exposure. He will write a monthly column and occasional pieces for The Washington Post, as he did before joining the Times.
Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt called Kristol “very smart and very plugged in,” saying Kristol would be an influential voice in the coming debate over redefining the Republican Party. “It seems to me there were a lot of Times readers who felt the Times shouldn’t hire someone who supported the Iraq war,” said Hiatt, adding that he wants “a diverse range of opinions” on his page.
I started to rephrase as “a diverse range of pro war-machine opinions”, but I suppose that would be redundant for Mr. Hiatt.
From Paul Fussell’s wonderful book, Wartime:
In the Second World War the American military learned something very “modern” — modern because dramatically “psychological,” utilitarian, unchivalric, and un-heroic: it learned that men will inevitably go mad in battle and that no appeal to patriotism, manliness, or loyalty to the group will ultimately matter. Thus in later wars things were arranged differently. In Vietnam, it was understood that a man fulfilled his combat obligation and purchased his reprieve if he served a fixed term, 365 days, and not days in combat either but days in the theater of war. The infantry was now treated somewhat like the Air Corps in the Second War: performance of a stated number of missions guaranteed escape.
Bush and his neo-con cowards — chickenhawk draft-dodgers almost to a man — never bothered to learn this little lesson as they lied us into another Vietnam. And so they sent better men than themselves back and back and back into the battle. And so, perfectly predictably, those men and their families are now paying the price in joblessness, divorce, addiction, suicide and madness.
President Obama knows no more of war than Cheney or Bush. Let’s hope, though, that he goes for military advice not to the Perles and the Boltons and the Wolfowitzes, but rather to the Jim Webbs and the John Kerrys and the Chuck Hagels.
This is from the London Review of Books, link courtesy of Judy from Canada. Worth reading in its entirety. The author is Henry Siegman, who is director of the US Middle East Project in New York, a visiting professor at the University of London, and a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and the Synagogue Council of America.
Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network…
Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division…
My romance with Irina was conducted over the Internet. It began when I clicked on her picture at one of those matchmaking web sites for the love-lorn. For some reason, most of the women featured on this site lived in the former Soviet Union, which, for some other reason, only made them that much more attractive.
Irina was from Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, not exactly an easy lunch date but nevertheless part of the global village. Judging by her picture, Irina was a very attractive brunette of perhaps thirty-five, give or take a decade, most likely give. She reminded me of Garbo. She had that look. But what really drew me in was the headline next to the picture. It said, “Mebbe you seek for me.”
Mebbe I do, I thought to myself, as I double-clicked for more information. Suddenly the whole screen was filled with Irina: a blowup of the same picture, together with some odds and ends from her curriculum vitae: Heritage, Caucasian; I am not smoking anymore; I am having children; occupation, instructor.
Also, there was a personal essay in which Irina revealed her recipe for domestic bliss. It was the essay that sold me on Irina. It said, in part:
“I am joyful person, energetic and accurate. I don’t like lie. I don’t like when peeble are unfair. I like to meet man whose as me, liking parties, liking having peeble to house to eat food, man whose knowing that understanding is basement of happy family life.”
This was irresistible. I fired off an e-mail without hesitation, in which I did my best to suggest that I was a man of joy, energy and accuracy. Apparently I succeeded. Irina responded the next day:
“I am overwhelming to be learning about you. Your words touch quicksand in my heart. Tell me more. Send picture. I wait with beaten breath. Yours truthfully, Irina”
With some difficulty, I arranged to have my picture taken sharing a joyful meal with my most energetic friends. The hardest part was getting the dinner table into the basement. I put a caption below the picture: “Here I am enjoying a joyful evening with my friends, sitting around the table telling the truth. That’s me in the middle in the funny hat, laughing and lifting weights.”
Irina responded within the hour. “You wear hat and exercise at meelstime? Why is eating in cellar, next to boiler? You don’t name other peeples. Who is good-looking man at left of picture? Is not accurate. Puzzledly, Irina.”
This was a setback. Hard to plumb the Uzbekistanian sensibility.
I made some mental notes: Possible misstep here. Possible misreading of signals owing to eccentric syntax. Has my overeagerness created confusion? Stow funny hat, move table from basement back to dining room. Return dumb-bells to attic. Send Irina different picture, preferably the flattering one taken some years back.
I dug into an old box and found the picture, which I sent off with a note of subtle composition making light of first impressions, misimpressions, etc., etc. The picture caught me in a favorable light, showing my best side, a man of serious, but possibly joyful, mien. It showed me in coat and tie, and to my eye it was both truthful and accurate, if not exactly up-to-date.
Does Irina never leave her computer? Within ten minutes I had a reply:
“When was that snapshoot snapshooted, bubula—1975? Whats about big fat lapels, big fat tie, hairy sideburnings? Not seeing here styles like that since Leonid Brezhnev. Is not accurate. Is mebbe unfair. What is age, please? Irina”
Oh, oh. This sounding not good. Is big mistake to send old picture to sultry Uzbekistanian. Whose not only sultry, savvy too. Was so taken with Irina now I am talking, thinking like her. Whats to do? I am caught in lie of camera. To make right, I am sending picture taken last week in suit for swimming, letting all hang out. With it, note. Note says: “My darling, I am not liking lie either. Other photo showing hairy sideburnings not accurate. This photo accurate. Never mind photos. Come to States for marrying. I loff you.”
Irina didn’t reply for several days.
And when she did, I wished she hadn’t.
“Are you remembering Adenauer of Germany? He was so old to be called “Der Alte.” Like you. Ha, ha, a joke. I am joyful person, full of accuracy, but not wanting man older than my own Papa for basement of new life. I am instructor, did I mention? Instructor for shaping. Mebbe you should look into. You know Jane Fonda? With respect, as to marrying, I am saying thanks but no thanks. Yours truthfully, Irina”
For high-level political gossip, don’t miss the oral history of Bush’s administration in the current Vanity Fair. More tomorrow, but here’s a first taste from Kenneth Adelman, describing how he came to be a former member of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board:
So he says, It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board. You’re very negative. I said, I am negative, Don. You’re absolutely right. I’m not negative about our friendship. But I think your decisions have been abysmal when it really counted.
Start out with, you know, when you stood up there and said things — “Stuff happens.” I said, That’s your entry in Bartlett’s. The only thing people will remember about you is “Stuff happens.” I mean, how could you say that? “This is what free people do.” This is not what free people do. This is what barbarians do. And I said, Do you realize what the looting did to us? It legitimized the idea that liberation comes with chaos rather than with freedom and a better life. And it demystified the potency of American forces. Plus, destroying, what, 30 percent of the infrastructure.
I said, You have 140,000 troops there, and they didn’t do jack shit. I said, There was no order to stop the looting. And he says, There was an order. I said, Well, did you give the order? He says, I didn’t give the order, but someone around here gave the order. I said, Who gave the order?
So he takes out his yellow pad of paper and he writes down — he says, I’m going to tell you. I’ll get back to you and tell you. And I said, I’d like to know who gave the order, and write down the second question on your yellow pad there. Tell me why 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq disobeyed the order. Write that down, too.
And so that was not a successful conversation.
In that spirit of frank and open-hearted goodwill toward even the most pathetic GOP hacks which lies at the very heart of Bad Attitudes, I offer this moving video:
From today’s New York Times:
Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.
The inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans, the researchers conclude in a report summarizing their results…
In the study made public on Thursday, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues compiled a brief test, drawing 20 questions from the verbal sections of the Graduate Record Exam, and administering it four times to about 120 white and black test-takers during last year’s presidential campaign.
In total, 472 Americans — 84 blacks and 388 whites — took the exam. Both white and black test-takers ranged in age from 18 to 63, and their educational attainment ranged from high school dropout to Ph.D.
On the initial test last summer, whites on average correctly answered about 12 of 20 questions, compared with about 8.5 correct answers for blacks, Dr. Friedman said. But on the tests administered immediately after Mr. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, and just after his election victory, black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap “statistically nonsignificant,” he said.
All right, now I feel old: “The Macintosh — the first Apple computer to bear the name — turns 25 on 24 January.” A quarter century since I retired my two Kaypros and moved up to that brand-new Mac with those unbelievably huge floppy disks? You could do a search-and-replace on an entire book manuscript with one of those 3.5-inch beauties.
Enough already with the Obama stuff . Mike thinks it’s time we paid a little attention to Chirac’s poodle:
Obama plans to announce the selection of former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) as Middle East envoy, and former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke as envoy for Afghanistan, Pakistan "and related matters," sources close to the administration said.
Mitchell, who is expected to travel to the region almost immediately upon taking the post, will be charged with restarting the Middle East peace process after the three weeks of violence between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
If the Post is correct in this report, we might hope for a more even-handed and less obstructionist American involvement in the Middle East. That would be wonderful for the world, a great way to strike at bin Laden et. al., and a big change of direction for the great ship of foreign policy.
Apparently, however, not everyone got the Change memo.
“Sen. Mitchell is fair. He’s been meticulously even-handed,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “But the fact is, American policy in the Middle East hasn’t been ‘even handed’ — it has been supportive of Israel when it felt Israel needed critical U.S. support.
“So I’m concerned,” Foxman continued. “I’m not sure the situation requires that kind of approach in the Middle East.”
To my mind, of course, that’s the problem. It remains to be seen whether former Senator Mitchell can recreate his Irish feat.
We owe George W. Bush a huge debt for making possible the election of our first African-American president — and, of somewhat lesser importance — for giving Jimmy Carter’s once-derided presidency a welcome and well-deserved boost.
The first excerpt comes from The Rude Pundit, embedded yesterday deep within the huge crowd shown in my last post. Read the rest of his description, too. Those familiar with his œuvre will see a new side of the man revealed.
The second passage is from The Atlantic’s Jim Fallows, like myself a former Carter speechwriter.
R.P. — Everyone released purgative, cathartic boos at George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The television coverage may have muted it, but it was there. A young woman half-heartedly said, “Oh, c’mon, ya’ll, that’s mean,” but she cracked up when the Rude Pundit said, “Sometimes a man deserves to be booed by a couple of million people.” The most touchingly surprising crowd reaction was the cheer that went up for Jimmy Carter.
J.F. — In keeping with earlier testimony to the basic good will of the crowd — as I witnessed it as one of the 2 million or so (my crowd here) — the “boos” when George Bush or Dick Cheney appeared on the screen seemed almost perfunctory. People felt they had to do it, but their hearts weren’t in it. To me, the most spontaneous-sounding and surprising cheers were for (a) Colin Powell, and (b) Jimmy Carter, and the most spontaneous surplus-hostility boos were for ... Joe Lieberman. Just reporting on my part of the crowd.
Mike sends this amazing Popular Science picture, taken from space, of yesterday’s inaugural crowd. It has to be scrolled through at full size to be appreciated, so click on the link above.
I watched TV pretty much nonstop all day yesterday, but didn’t hear a word about this heartwarming display of bad manners on Monday. In case you missed it too, go here for the full article and pictures.
President Bush was given an Iraqi-journalist-style sendoff on his last full day in office Monday, as tourists and demonstrators lobbed shoes, pumps, boots, sandals and Crocs from Pennsylvania Avenue onto the White House lawn.
Before launching the operation live, the shoe-chuckers took target practice in Dupont Circle on a 20-foot-tall blow up doll of the outgoing president, decked out in the flight suit he wore aboard the “Mission Accomplished” aircraft carrier.
When some time ago a friend of mine told me that Thomas Friedman’s new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, was going to be a kind of environmentalist clarion call against American consumerism, I almost died laughing.
Beautiful, I thought. Just when you begin to lose faith in America’s ability to fall for absolutely anything — just when you begin to think we Americans as a race might finally outgrow the lovable credulousness that leads us to fork over our credit card numbers to every half-baked TV pitchman hawking a magic dick-enlarging pill, or a way to make millions on the Internet while sitting at home and pounding doughnuts — along comes Thomas Friedman, porn-stached resident of a positively obscene
114,00011,400 square foot suburban Maryland mega-monstro-mansion and husband to the heir of one of the largest shopping-mall chains in the world, reinventing himself as an oracle of anti-consumerist conservationism.
Where does a man who needs his own offshore drilling platform just to keep the east wing of his house heated get the balls to write a book chiding America for driving energy inefficient automobiles? Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a “Green Revolution”? Well, he’ll explain it all to you in 438 crisply written pages for just $27.95, $30.95 if you have the misfortune to be Canadian.
It’s Hunter’s America. Damn, it’s Hugo’s Amerika. People, in a few cases intelligent people, actually take Tom Friedman seriously, as if he were something other than a corporate shill aimed at the slowest common denominator.
I laid out my napkin and drew a graph showing how there seemed to be a rough correlation between the price of oil, between 1975 and 2005, and the pace of freedom in oil-producing states during those same years.
Friedman then draws his napkin-graph, and much to the pundit’s surprise, it turns out that there is almost an exact correlation between high oil prices and “unfreedom”! The graph contains two lines, one showing a rising and then descending slope of “freedom,” and one showing a descending and then rising course of oil prices.
Friedman plots exactly four points on the graph over the course of those 30 years. In 1989, as oil prices are falling, Friedman writes, “Berlin Wall Torn Down.” In 1993, again as oil prices are low, he writes, “Nigeria Privatizes First Oil Field.” 1997, oil prices still low, “Iran Calls for Dialogue of Civilizations.” Then, finally, 2005, a year of high oil prices: “Iran calls for Israel’s destruction.” … I looked at this and thought: “Gosh, what a neat trick!” Then I sat down and drew up my own graph, called SIZE OF VALERIE BERTINELLI’S ASS, 1985-2008, vs. HAPPINESS. It turns out that there is an almost exact correlation! Note the four points on the graph:
1990: Release of Miller’s Crossing
2001: Ate bad tuna fish sandwich at Times Square Blimpie; felt sick
2008: Barack Obama elected
That was so much fun, I drew another one! This one is called AMERICAN PORK BELLY PRICES vs. WHAT MIDGETS THINK ABOUT AUSTRALIA 1972-2002.
He goes on like this for a couple of enjoyable paragraphs:
Obviously this sounds like a flippant analysis, but that’s more or less exactly what Friedman is up to here. If you’re going to draw a line that measures the level of “freedom” across the entire world and on that line plot just four randomly-selected points in time over the course of 30 years — and one of your top four “freedom points” in a 30-year period of human history is the privatization of a Nigerian oil field — well, what the fuck? What can’t you argue, if that’s how you’re going to make your point? He could have graphed a line in the opposite direction by replacing Berlin with Tienanmen Square, substituting Iraqi elections for Iran’s call for Israel’s destruction (incidentally, when in the last half-century or so have Islamic extremists not called for Israel’s destruction?), junking Iran’s 1997 call for dialogue for the U.S. sanctions against Iran in ’95, and so on. It’s crazy, a game of Scrabble where the words don’t have to connect on the board, or a mathematician coming up with the equation A B -3X = Swedish girls like chocolate.
And maybe they do, for all I know. I wish I knew…
I dug this out in honor of today’s festivities. It’s an eyewitness account of Robespierre’s execution:
The crowd was enormous. All along the road to the place of execution one heard cries of “Down with the tyrant!” “Long live the Republic!” and imprecations of every sort. The people were having their revenge for the flatteries commanded by the Terror and the hypocritical homage they had so long been forced to pay.
Just before arriving to the place of execution, [Robespierre] was shaken from his lethargy by a woman, who forced her way through the crowd and rushed up to the cart conveying this cannibal. She grasped the railing of the cart and with the other hand threatened him, saying the while, “Monster, spewed up from hell. The thought of your punishment intoxicates me with joy.”
…The wretched man’s head was now no more than an object of horror and repulsion. When at last it was severed from his body and the executioner took it by the hair to display it the people, it presented an indescribably horrible spectacle.
Okay, that would just be too good, I know. Personally, I would have settled for Bush being beaned in the head by that shoe. Oh well, he’s gone and that’s all that counts. We can raise the American flag again without feeling like chumps or fools, or drones in the service of a malignant ideology. We can start to feel good about America again. Maybe.
Congratulations everyone. We made it. Here’s to better days and better ways!
Thank you, Woody Guthrie. And to Station N24 in the Federal German Republic for letting its public hear them as they never are heard on American television screens here in the country where they were born. And thanks to Pete and Bruce too!
Thanks to Scott Horton at Harper’s No Comment for posting the video below. If you haven’t been reading Scott’s blog, you’ve missed some extremely important stories that I haven’t seen anywhere else or laid out as clearly as Scott has done it. For example, there is a post detailing the 87% prosecution rate vs. 13% Republican rate by Karl Rove and the Bush Justice Department indicating that approximately 1000 Democratic politicians were prosecuted who you are unlikely to have heard of before now; a post on why you should cancel your HBO subscription today, assuming you subscribe; and a story indicating that if we don’t tackle the tough and arduous job of prosecuting our own war criminals, other nations are preparing to do so.
But today is a day for celebration, so let’s start with something to get us in the mood, even if we know that we have a long way to go to get where we need to go, at least we are on the way there, starting today. Just don’t get complacent, there’s a lot of work to do yet.
I’ve been meaning to post something about the deeply insightful article by Paul Kennedy, the historian best known for his wonderful book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. In it, he describes the arcs of Great Power countries from 1500 to 1980, and tries to look ahead, always a tricky adventure for a historian.
He compares the Great Powers at the close of the twentieth century and predicts the decline of the Soviet Union (the book was originally published on the cusp of the Soviet collapse, the suddenness of which Kennedy did not predict), the rise of China and Japan, the struggles and potential for the EEC, and the relative decline of the United States. He highlights the precedence of the “four modernizations” in Deng Xiaoping’s plans for China — agriculture, industry, science and military — deemphasizing military while the United States and the Soviet Union are emphasizing it. He predicts that continued deficit spending, especially on military build-up, will be the single most important reason for decline of any Great Power.
So you can see why the comments on his article at the Journal might be skeptical.
If the above is even half-true, the conclusions are not pleasant: that the economic and political travails of the next several years will badly crimp many of the visions offered in Mr. Obama’s election campaign; that this nation will have to swallow, domestically, some very hard choices; and that we should not expect, even despite a surge in international goodwill towards America, any increase in our relative capacity to act abroad decisively or in any sustained way. A rather wonderful, charismatic and highly intelligent person will occupy the White House, but, alas, in the toughest circumstances the U.S. has faced since 1933 or 1945.
Shoulda never said that last bit. Now all his years at Yale, and the truth of what he says, will fail to permeate the titanium skulls of the nitwits who comment at WSJ.
You can’t make this stuff up, so I won’t. (Spacing, punctuation, et cetera, copied and pasted.)
The excuses for Mr Obama are already being made, in great detail, variety, abundance, and from every journal and forum. We on the right are aware that Mr Obama comes to work with :
the dog ate my homework/
the train got stuck on a piece of bubble gum/
my mother’s car broke down and all I got was this lousy t-shirt/
and oh yeah, President bush destroyed our country, so give me eight or twelve more years.
President Bush of course corrupted these two cabinet nominees, Treasury and the other guy whom we have already forgotten, now being considered the benchmark for Obama’s clean vetting machine. Thing is, these men knew their circumstances, how did they manage to not tell, maybe they were from the Clinton Don’t Ask/ Don’t Tell.
So the declinists are soon in power, advocating decline, while the American exceptionalists are no longer in power, so we shall see how power can be frittered away, by the most inexperienced executive in history.
Though among the worst written of the first couple of comments, this is by no means out of the wacko-mainstream that constitutes the Journal’s commenters. It’s a fun ride if you can hack it.
What is the role of government in the US today? The marketers say, To ruin the market. And they’re backed up by Dean Baker, an economist who actually studies the real problems.
One of those problems is economic inequality, which is now at levels last seen just before the Depression, and for similar reasons. Another is the fact the government tends to intervene in the market for one purpose only: to take money from the poor (that is, the bottom 90%) and give it to the incredibly rich.
Usually people in the United States like to believe that the market determines the distribution of income. Many get outraged over the idea that a mother on TANF can get a check for a few hundred dollars a month from the government. In this case, the government is effectively handing checks of millions of dollars to bank executives who would be out of work if the market was left to run its course.
We have to keep the financial system functioning, but we can do this without transferring hundreds of billions of dollars from middle class taxpayers to the wealthiest people in the country. If the bailout conditions imposed by the Obama administration and Congress don’t effectively eliminate shareholder wealth in the bankrupt banks and bring compensation (in whatever form) of bank executives back down to main street levels then it can only be explained by corruption. There is no excuse for this massive intervention to redistribute income upward.
The following piece ran May 17, 2006 under the heading, “Mission Almost Accomplished.” Now that Bush’s awful mission is completely accomplished, I put it up again. No updating seems necessary.
It’s been nearly four years since I first posted my analysis of the nasty psychopathology that has forced George W. Bush to fail all his life, and is causing him to fail so spectacularly now. Consider this from the Washington Post (emphasis added):
Bush’s job approval rating now stands at 33 percent, down five percentage points in barely a month and a new low for him in Post-ABC polls. His current standing with the public is identical to President George H.W. Bush’s worst showing in the Post-ABC poll before he lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton in 1992.The younger Bush’s career can only be understood as a lifelong obsession with disappointing the father he so plainly hates.
He follows his father’s footsteps in school, as a pilot, as a businessman, and finally as a politician. Unable to fill those footprints, he makes each one seem unimportant by pretending contempt for it. He gets C’s where his father got A’s; he ducks the combat flying that made his father a hero; he burns through the seed money his father’s friends gave him, failing in the oil business which had made his father rich.
Then at last he was taken in hand by a sleazy political op who realized that the father’s name and money would be enough to elect the wayward son governor of Texas. (Polls at the time showed that a significant portion of the voters thought that W. actually was his father.)
Then Rove set out to hand-carry his meal ticket into the White House itself.
Take that, you old fart, junior must have thought as he took the oath of office. Any asshole can get to be president. But even that wasn’t enough. Deep inside, where the Oedipal snakes writhed in his subconscious, there was still work to do.
What better to way to humiliate his father than to degrade the supreme office the old man had spent his life to reach? What sweeter revenge than to slime, like a slug, the presidency itself? And so he enlisted Rumsfeld and Cheney, his father’s ancient enemies, to help in the work of patricide.
Outdoing his father as president, the junior Bush must have known in his heart, was beyond his limited capacities. But his whole life offered proof of his ability to fail, and so he took the only path remaining. He would become, God help the rest of us, the worst president in history.
Despite the fact that we will be living with the consequences of the most disastrous administration ever to disgrace the walls of the White House and Washington, thanks to a talented Youtuber, I offer up a final video farewell to the most corrupt and evil regime that led this nation closer to fascism than any before it in the long history of this country.
Good riddance, George and Comrades. If we see you again, we want it to be under oath or at the bar of justice facing those you have wronged.
May our leaders have to good sense and fortitude; and our citizens have the courage, stamina and outrage, to insist that none of the of fascist tendencies and extreme corruption that stained our nation in the last eight years (that have been thoroughly documented elsewhere and will be revealed in much more detail in the years to come) can ever every happen here again. Otherwise, say goodbye to your country, as it won’t survive another century, or will morph into the most extreme totalitarian state in world history.
From today’s New York Times:
After 22 days of war against Hamas, and the deaths of more than 1,200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insisted that “we have reached all the goals of the war, and beyond.”
From today’s Al Jazeera:
Israeli forces demolished the house of the Sammouni family in Gaza City after ordering them to remain in it for safety. Twenty-seven members of the family died and another 90 Gazans remained trapped under the rubble, with rescue efforts hampered by Israeli forces.
We seem to have heard the last, thank God, of Bush’s incredibly bad imitation of a West Texas accent. (I know it’s bad because I was working as an oil field roustabout in McCamey, Texas, back when Bush was still a boy just up the road in Midland, exploding frogs.
During Bush’s self-worshipping, self-pitying embarassment of a legacy tour hardly a trace remained of the laughably phony accent on which nobody in the media ever called bullshit, to my knowledge, for eight long years.
But now that Bush no longer has to suck up to the base by pretending he’s country, the First Wrangler has reverted to talking like every other spoiled brat from the rolling prairies of Connecticut. (I know that accent, too, having grown up with rich white trash in Connecticut myself. God help me, I probably have it.)
And speaking of Howard Dean, as I was last night, here’s a clue to why he was frozen out (as if the identity of the incoming White House chief of staff wasn’t enough). It’s by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, writing in the London Review of Books:
Key organisations in the Lobby make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but knew that Ball was seen as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment. In this way any aspiring policymaker is encouraged to become an overt supporter of Israel, which is why public critics of Israeli policy have become an endangered species in the foreign policy establishment.
When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more ‘even-handed role’ in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was ‘irresponsible’. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean’s remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that ‘anonymous attackers … are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning — without much evidence — that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.’
This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to ‘bring the sides together’, Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn’t tolerate even-handedness.
If you haven’t seen this capture of the plane landing in the Hudson and the rescue boats arriving, check it out. This is what American pilots, crews, and emergency folks can do when they’re on point.
I hope this turns out to have been an omen forecasting the resurgence of the American spirit. We can, if we put our minds to it, do what needs to be done.
I would work on a campaign for Elizabeth Holtzman for any office she ran for throughout her natural life. And as far beyond that as I trusted the methods by which she was kept among us. This woman understands both the legal — she was a DA in Brooklyn — and the political — she represented her New York district in the House.
What we need to do is conceptually simple. We need to launch investigations to get at the central unanswered questions of Bush’s abuse of power, commence criminal proceedings and undertake institutional, statutory and constitutional reforms. Perhaps all these things don’t need to be done at once, but over time — not too much time — they must take place. Otherwise, we establish a doctrine of presidential impunity, which has no place in a country that cherishes the rule of law or considers itself a democracy. Bush’s claim that the president enjoys virtually unlimited power as commander in chief at a time of war — which Vice President Dick Cheney defiantly reasserted just last month — brought us perilously close to military dictatorship.
As the former district attorney in Brooklyn, New York, I know the price society pays for a doctrine of impunity. Failure to prosecute trivializes and encourages the crimes. The same holds true of political abuses — failure to hold violators accountable condones the abuse and entrenches its acceptability, creating a climate in which it is likely to be repeated. The doctrine of impunity suggests, too, that there is a dual system of justice — one for the powerful and one for ordinary Americans. Because the concept of equal justice under the law is the foundation of democracy, impunity for high-level officials who abuse power and commit crimes erodes our democracy.
She points out that although Bush ignored his legal duty, “under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, our government is obliged to bring to justice those who have violated the conventions.”
A 9/11 kind of commission or committees of Congress must commence an investigation to get at the truth of the presidential deceptions related to the war. Whether President Bush knowingly deceived us needs to be fully explored and exposed; if he did, he will at the very least have to carry that burden of disgrace permanently. Precisely because other presidents lied about warmaking — think of Lyndon Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and Richard Nixon and the secret bombing of Cambodia — we know that future presidents will be tempted to do the same. Investigating and exposing the role of President Bush and his team in the deceptions causing the Iraq War may discourage future presidents from taking the same path.
Similarly, investigations need to be conducted into the torture and mistreatment of detainees held by the US government. The numerous investigations ordered by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the wake of the Abu Ghraib disclosures obfuscated the question of responsibility at the highest level. They conveniently did not probe the role of the president; vice president; Justice Department officials, including the attorney general; or other cabinet secretaries. They also did not look at the actions of the Central Intelligence Agency.
And here’s the crux of the situation.
If the investigations show that President Bush deliberately deceived the country about the Iraq War, then a determination should be made as to whether the lies are prosecutable under federal law. If so, a criminal proceeding on these grounds should be commenced.
Speaking of smallness and pettiness, as I just was, let us now turn, in the spirit of bipartisanship, to Barack Obama. Who apparently never got the memo about dancing with the one that brung you:
Outgoing Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Friday he would have liked to work in the Obama administration, but instead is embarking on a life in the private sector after nearly 30 years in politics.
Dean told The Associated Press in an interview that he is weighing where next to take a career that has moved rapidly from family doctor to Vermont governor to presidential candidate to national party boss. This Wednesday, he ends a term as chairman in which Democrats recaptured the White House, seized majorities in Congress and picked up governorships.
Some of his supporters have been upset that after all he’s done for Democrats, President-elect Barack Obama did not pick him for an administration job. When asked how he felt, Dean said he would “punt on that one.”
From the Associated Press in Baghdad:
BAGHDAD – The Iraqi journalist jailed since throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush got a visit from his brother Friday and a birthday party from his guards as he turned 30.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who has gained cult status for his bizarre protest, is in good shape but has been denied access to his lawyer, relatives said after his brother Maitham visited him for two hours in his detention cell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone…
Maitham al-Zeidi was not available to comment on the visit, but another brother, Dhargham, told The Associated Press that he was told the wounds had healed.
“Muntadhar was in a good shape ... and his morale was high. Yesterday was his birthday and some patriotic officers there organized a party for him and brought birthday cake,” Dhargham al-Zeidi said.
Sally Quinn at The Washington Post explores why there was no room at Bush’s inn for the Obamas. She concludes that it’s just doggone hard to give up power. I conclude that it’s because Bush is a small, mean, petty person who has quite naturally surrounded himself with other small, petty people. The whole sorry episode is the type of thing you have to expect when rich white trash winds up in the White House:
But Blair House is huge. It’s not one house but four houses put together. The federal government bought the house from the Blair estate in 1942 and connected the adjoining Lee house in 1943. The two closest houses to those were bought in 1969-70 and connected as well. So Blair House now has 119 rooms and is 70,000 square feet. It’s larger than the White House. And yet there was no room at the inn for the Obama family.
You might ask: What is this really about?
Here’s the back story. John Howard was a member of George Bush’s coalition of the willing in Iraq. Howard is no friend of Barack Obama’s. When Obama announced for the presidency, he proposed legislation that would withdraw troops by March 2008; Howard responded by saying, “If I were running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory not only for Obama but also for the Democrats.” Obama responded that it was “flattering that one of George Bush’s allies on the other side of the world” had attacked him.
Howard was about as unpopular in Australia when he lost his last election (and still is) as Bush is in the United States right now. The Australian press has gone crazy over the Blair House story in a way that the U.S. press has not, saying that Howard should have offered to stay elsewhere.
The unavailability of Blair House means that the Obamas will have to move three times in three weeks, adding an additional disruption for two young girls already in an incredibly pressured situation. Not only that, but the expense of staying at the Hay-Adams Hotel was considerable, as was the added expense and trouble of having to secure the hotel and its environs by the Secret Service. All of this so that Howard and his wife could have 119 rooms to themselves (including living rooms, sitting rooms, dining rooms and kitchens) for one night?
Why couldn’t the Howards have stayed at their country’s embassy, as Tony Blair did at his? Why couldn’t the reception have been held at the State Department? The White House could easily have made these things happen.
Another attractive element of the bailout. See the beauty of this? The government sends your tax dollars to Citigroup and Citigroup sends Citigroup’s taxes to its mail drops in the Caymans. This the American Way.
To illustrate the problem, Levin said the report found that Citigroup has set up 427 tax haven subsidiaries to conduct its business, including 91 in Luxembourg, 90 in the Cayman Islands and 35 in the British Virgin Islands. He said other havens include Switzerland, Hong Kong, Panama and Mauritius.
“We need to put an end to the use of offshore secrecy jurisdictions as tax havens,” he said. He noted that not all companies use such havens and some use far fewer than others. For example, he said, “Pepsi has 70 tax haven subsidiaries, while Coca Cola has eight; Morgan Stanley has 273, while Fannie Mae has zero; and Caterpillar has 49, while Deere has three.”
I don’t have time to do this subject justice right now, but I want to mention it. I’ll be back with a fuller treatment of a man who influenced me a very great deal.
Patrick McGoohan, star of Danger Man (Secret Agent in the US) and The Prisoner, died Tuesday at the age of 80.
In Secret Agent he played John Drake, a non-womanizing avoider of violence who looked to complete his nearly impossible missions by smarts and smooth.
“When Drake fights, he fights clean,” Mr. McGoohan once explained. “He abhors bloodshed. He carries a gun, but doesn’t use it unless necessary — and then he doesn’t shoot to kill. He prefers to use his wits. He is a person with a sophisticated background and a philosophy. I want Drake to be in the heroic mould, like the classic Western hero — which means he has to be a good man.”
Mr. McGoohan also reportedly refused the movie role of Bond, which went to his “Hell Drivers” co-actor Sean Connery.
The Prisoner, as its devotees will tell you at length, is not normal television.
The show’s meaning remains a source of debate. Some viewers saw the drama, which aired at a peak moment of the 1960s counterculture movement, as a critique of establishment power over the individual. The unnamed hero proclaims at one point, “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.”
“The Prisoner” attracted devoted fans at the time, but not enough. Although short-lived, it was credited with setting a thematic, at times surreal template for such films as “The Truman Show” (1998) with Jim Carrey and the current ABC series “Lost.”
Robert J. Thompson, founding director of Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, said of “The Prisoner” that it “was an early taste of really complex, literate, thematically dense programming” at a time when most Americans were used to talking horses, genies as hapless homemakers and courtroom shows where Perry Mason wins every case.
I fell in love for about thirty seconds today.
It was quite amazing. I really didn’t think it was possible anymore. After age thirty-five, a somewhat worldly person has witnessed too much human nature to ever fall in love with it again. (I think that’s Mencken’s line, but I’m too lazy too look it up just now. Besides, I haven’t finished my cigarette).
But sure enough, it happened.
I was in this depressing big-box outlet where you can buy cardboard flats of things like Stag Chili or cases of frozen corn dogs at wholesale rates (except they don’t call them corn dogs. They call them Deep-Fried Honey-Battered Frankfurters on a Stick! Whatever. A turd by any other name still stinks like shit). Occasionally you get lucky and find frozen hamburger patties or cans of dog food stamped “For Institutional Use Only. Not For Retail Sale.”
So I’m walking around this God-forsaken hellhole of American consumerism gone bad looking for cheap toilet paper and deodorant soap when I stumble upon a vision of surpassing loveliness: a beautiful girl!
I don’t just mean beautiful girl. I mean a stunningly gorgeous young woman, totally out of place among the luckless and misbegotten clientele of this dismal purgatory of frozen food and type II diabetes.
It was like a miracle. What was she doing there? Was I imagining it? Have I inherited my dear grandmother’s schizophrenia, which landed her in the nut house? Couldn’t be. This girl was real. No hallucination could produce such palpable flurries of lust and hope, could it?
She was a naturally graceful being who reminded me of Shelley’s Ode to a Skylark:
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert—
That from Heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest,
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
Thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.…
Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!
Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know;
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow,
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.
Then a little jingle went off in her coat. She whipped out a cell phone, stuck it to her face, and said in a loud, obnoxious voice that sounded like a cross between Jennifer Lopez and a goose being throttled by a wild dog: “Whaddup?”
And my thirty seconds were over.
Thomas Frank does it again.
… as Mark Leibovich pointed out in Sunday’s New York Times, transcending faction has been the filler-talk of inaugural addresses going back at least to Zachary Taylor’s in 1849. When you hear it today — bemoaning as it always does “the extremes of both parties” or “the divisive politics of the past” — it is virtually a foolproof indicator that you are in the presence of a well-funded, much-televised Beltway hack.
Centrism is something of a cult here in Washington, D.C., and a more specious superstition you never saw. Its adherents pretend to worship at the altar of the great American middle, but in fact they stick closely to a very particular view of events regardless of what the public says it wants.
And through it all, centrism bills itself as the most transgressive sort of exercise imaginable. Its partisans are “New Democrats,” “Radical Centrists,” clear-eyed believers in a “Third Way.” The red-hot tepids, we might call them — the jellybeans of steel.
He then points out that centrism is entirely a Democratic phenomenon, large D: the Republicans may be scummy but they’re not that dumb. It was Clinton, after all, who signed the repeal of Glass-Steagal, the single biggest reason we’re in the financial mess we’re in today.
The right wing, on the other hand, continues to stick to its idiotic and immoral principles through thick and thin. Sometimes ridiculed and sometimes accepted, they don’t change what they want, or how they’re going for it. They just wait for the Democrats to give up their principles, normally a short wait.
And what happens when a strong-minded movement encounters a politician who acts as though the truth always lies halfway between his own followers and the other side? The dolorous annals of Clinton suggest an answer, in particular the chapters on Government Shutdown and Impeachment.
That’s why it is so obviously preferable to be part of the movement that doesn’t compromise easily than to depend on the one that has developed a cult of the almighty center. Even a conservative as ham-handed as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay seems to understand this.
As he recounted in his 2007 memoirs, Republicans under his leadership learned “to start every policy initiative from as far to the political right as we could.” The effect was to “move the center farther to the right,” drawing the triangulating Clinton along with it.
President-elect Obama can learn something from Mr. DeLay’s confession: Centrism is a chump’s game.
If only the Democrats could learn that lesson. But then they wouldn’t be Democrats any more.
…after a lifetime wasted in the wrong line of work.
A new study has found that men who were programmed in the womb to be the most responsive to testosterone tend to be the most successful financial traders, providing powerful support for the influence of the hormone over their decision-making…
The new study was aimed at investigating whether an innate sensitivity to the hormone was also at work, with some men having essentially been born to be traders by having been sensitized to testosterone in the womb. The researchers studied 44 male traders in London involved in “high-frequency” or “noise” trading, which requires intensely scanning economic data to make very fast trades involving large amounts of money.
To determine the traders’ prenatal testosterone exposure, the researchers measured their “2D:4D ratio,” the relative lengths of the index and ring fingers on the right hand. Those exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb tend to have relatively longer ring fingers.
When the researchers looked at the traders’ profits over a 20-month period from 2004 to 2007, they found that the most experienced traders who had been exposed to the most testosterone in the womb earned about six times as much as those exposed the least.
Everyone in America is in trouble. But did you know that the Rockefellers are in bigger trouble than you are? They’re having to restructure! It doesn’t get worse than that.
Even before word came on Tuesday that Citigroup might split into pieces to shore up its finances, an unpleasant message was moving through Congress and President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team: the banks need more taxpayer money.
In all likelihood, a lot more money.
And you can see why.
House legislation placing restrictions on financial institutions that get assistance through the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program had included a provision that recipients of the money would be prohibited from owning or leasing private aircraft.
But Kansas is one of the nation’s centers of aircraft manufacturing, and Kansas lawmakers complained that the provision could reduce aircraft orders, cost jobs, and damage the industry’s image.
On Tuesday, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass, the author of the bill, lifted the jet ban from the bill.
I’ve said it before, and current events provoke me to restate it: it will turn out to be a good thing that Bush cheated his way into office twice.
That’s for those who aren’t directly hurt by the war, naturally. Obviously the dead Iraqis, which at this point must number nearly three-quarters of a million if The Lancet’s last estimate of 600,000 was more or less accurate, and their friends and families, are hurt. I would argue that all of Iraq has come out behind in the war except for those who took power, and even they rule a country greatly weakened by the loss of professionals and the ruin of much of the infrastructure. You don’t hear people asking, “Aren’t you happy that Saddam’s gone?” much any more. Iran, for one, would certainly answer that question in the affirmative.
Then there are the Americans who died or were maimed or will suffer from post-traumatic stress from now on. And their families and friends. Altogether, a staggering amount of tragedy, nearly all avoidable as far as I can see, and most of it not only predictable but predicted.
So what the hell am I talking about? Well, I once argued (at, I admit, excruciating length, but the idea was what provoked me to start blogging, so I beat that horse as long as I could) that progressives won the war, though we lost nearly all the battles. We couldn’t stop the war, but we won the battle for hearts and minds. We now have the American public listening to us, and moving closer to our positions.
For those of us still relatively unharmed from the war, there’s the general movement away from the Republican party in particular and so-called conservative values in general. The Pew poll, widely reported last week, showed the Republican party losing big time.
The current gap between Republican and Democratic identification — which Pew measured by counting people who said they leaned toward a party as well as those with firm allegiances — is the widest since the group began collecting data on party allegiance in 1990.
The survey found that the proportion of those expressing a positive view of Democrats has declined since January 2001 — when Bush took office — by 6 percentage points, to 54%. But the public’s regard for Republicans has cratered during the Bush years, with the proportion holding a favorable view of the GOP dropping 15 points, to 41%.
Even non-Bush-related issues, such as the number of people who expressed support for “old fashioned values about family and marriage” or who support allowing school boards to fire homosexual teachers, have moved left by about ten percentage points. If you haven’t seen the graphs, I recommend them, they’ll give your spirits a lift. From more support for government programs to less social conservatism to less religious intensity, the country is moving in a consistent direction, and it’s not one the Republicans would choose, at least not the Republicans of the recent past.
Of course a lot of this is revulsion to the war. But it’s also become clear to most Americans what a small man George W. Bush is, and by extension how limited the ideas he represents are. He does well to invoke the images of Truman that still cloud the public mind; they’re the same sort of guy, and he can only hope he slips under the radar like Truman has.
It doesn’t seem likely to me; for one thing, this administration is thoroughly corrupt, and apparently considers the Constitution quaint along with the Geneva Convention against torture. My understanding is that historians generally end up as fans of stability. What originally made the US special was the establishment of a stable republican system. The system has remained pretty stable for a couple of centuries, if you leave out the Civil War, but even the seceding states set up a similar system of government. That system is stable because the country as a whole accepts the idea of the rule of law with the Constitution at the base. And the Constitution damn sure doesn’t include a unitary executive.
So that’s what I mean about the results of the Bush presidency. A country that has been madly and destructively “intervening” in foreign countries since it came of age well over a century ago has again been brought up short at the sight of the destruction created by its putative elected officials. It’s ugly. Perhaps this is what Bush means when he says Americans suffer from the war because they have to see the images on TV. Apparently he doesn’t realize there’s an off switch; I suppose he always had someone to do that sort of thing for him. But it does hurt our self-image to realize that we’re now hated throughout much of the world, even in Britain and Canada. And you don’t hear much in defense of the Bush Doctrine any more. When McCain waxes bellicose, people roll their eyes: has this guy been on Mars for the last four years?
Overall, I think the biggest win to come out of the years of the Bush presidency, from a sort of people’s-history point of view, is the wide-spread realization that people everywhere are pretty much fed up with this imperialism crap. For a while Americans appeared to believe that an empire run through the banks would be more stable than one run by overt militarism. But the internal contradictions involved in a republic running an empire ended the Roman Republic. They combine now with the globalization effects that William Greider details in
One World, Ready or Not. We’re not the biggest and
baddest on the block any more in any way except military, and
that’s bogged down in a defeated country on the other side of
the world. If there were any military threats in the world,
they’d be hitting us now.
We’ve reached the stage of imperial decline where finance dwarfs manufacturing as the source of our wealth, and that bodes ill. Kevin Phillips, in American Theocracy, quotes a citizen of a previous empire:
A seventeenth-century Spaniard enthused: “Let London manufacture those fine fabrics, … Holland her chambrays; Florence her cloth; the Indies their beaver and vicuna; Milan her broaches; India and Flanders their linens … so long as our capital can enjoy them. The only thing it proves is that all nations train journeymen for Madrid and that Madrid is the queen of parliaments, for all the world serves her, and she serves nobody.”
By that time the glory days were already over, and what it really proved was that the empire was fading. You can’t maintain imperial-size power by moving money from one account to another. The Spanish, the Dutch, and the English all went through the financialization phase, and in every case it happened as the empire was losing its grip.
But my point is more than that the country is turning away from all the things Bush claimed to represent. That might change once he and his henchmen are out of office and we get out of Iraq. If we do.
Emmanuel Todd describes in After the Empire some demographic shifts that are changing the world. The two biggies are the achievements of universal literacy and zero population growth. These have provoked reactions from traditionalists in every society they visit. As people become more aware of what’s going on, they begin to question it, which upsets power structures. And they stop generating cannon fodder. The power structure generally reacts violently.
I don’t think Todd has the US in mind when he’s describing the effects of literacy on a society, but I think his ideas apply here as well. We still have a huge section of American society that believes in a literal devil, that Moses parted the Red Sea, and so on. Many of them believe that Armageddon is devoutly to be wished for. Then there are the Christian Reconstructionists, who define democracy as heresy. In many ways the US is as fundamentalist as any of the Islamic countries.
Todd’s ideas seem to me to fit the culture wars that have kept Americans tuning in for the last several years. Parts of the US are being dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. Some become violent, some wake up. And for those do wake, there’s a network of like-minded people around the world who now realize they’re not alone. We have the power to change the world.
In the end, the world will breathe a sigh of relief when George W. Bush leaves office. Assuming he doesn’t try to skip out on that responsibility with another signing statement.
From the Associated Press:
JERUSALEM – Human Rights Watch said Sunday that Israel’s military has fired artillery shells with the incendiary agent white phosphorus into Gaza and a doctor there said the chemical was suspected in the case of 10 burn victims who had skin peeling off their faces and bodies…
This is by Ross Mackenzie, retired editor of the editorial page at the Richmond Times Dispatch. I know you will feel, as I did after reading it through, deeply ashamed:
The left and the media and the ever-expanding blogosphere, and of course the Democrats, never permitted George Bush to recover from the circumstances of his 2000 election.
They deemed him unacceptable, accidental, illegitimate, likely a conniver in the national outcome — and so took to lobbing their hateful commentaries one after another without end.
On issue after issue they rejected his appeals for bipartisanship, especially in his second term. In his 2004 victory speech, Bush said: “Today, I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support, and I will work to earn it. ... We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.”
Yet from Social Security and judges to the surge and terror and continuation of the tax cuts, malign leftists dug in and sought to foil him on every front — to deny him any victory, any success, anywhere.
“Malign” is too harsh? Consider: Television, blogospheric, and newspaper commentaries slammed President Bush 24/7. Nicholson Baker wrote Checkpoint, whose protagonists weigh whether to assassinate him. Twelve thousand San Franciscans signed a petition to rename an Oceanside sewage plant for him—
Hollywood went apoplectic, with Oliver Stone — director of the detestable October-released flick “W” — declaring: “We are a poorer and less secure nation for having elected (Bush) as our president. ... America finds itself fighting unnecessary and costly wars and engaging in dangerous and counterproductive efforts to fight extremism. Even more significant and troubling, I believe, is his legacy of immorality.”
Despite this vicious stream, George Bush persevered and prevailed. The events of 9/11 changed him. Mistakes abounded, but no subsequent domestic jihadist strike ensued. As he noted at the Army War College last month, this staggering security success was “not a matter of luck.” Against islamo-fascism pre-emption (described by the all-knowing as naive, idealistic and wrong) was — as it remains — the right policy for spreading liberty and democracy, particularly in a Middle East that boasts so little of either.
The enterprise in Iraq, following the surge, now approaches victory — the great Osama bin Laden himself having declared Iraq “the central front” in his war against the United States.
Barack Obama repeatedly pronounced Iraq a distraction and - from beginning to end — a mistake. Yet a resolute Bush was true to his values, to his nation, and to mankind’s ultimate cause. Last month he told The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel that liberty can be extended beyond Iraq as long as America continues to believe “in the universality of freedom.”
His early tax cuts helped the country out of the recession Bill Clinton left him. The budget exploded, as did deficits — largely a result of expanded defense spending for the war on terror. (Said Bush in the Strassel interview: “I refused to compromise on the military” — for which thank heaven, given that the first obligation of every administration is the people’s protection.)
Bush was correct about Social Security, despite a spineless, risk-averse Congress unwilling to get its game together. While vastly more nominations would have been better, he managed against obstructionist Senate Democrats to gain approval of 61 federal appellate judges (compare Clinton’s 65), now constituting majorities on 10 of the 13 appellate courts. And he gave us the estimable Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Yes, spending blew out of control — albeit with congressional concurrence.
Problems plagued the war’s conduct in Iraq. Post-Katrina New Orleans was mishandled. Still, Bush can boast hefty tax cuts, major assistance for HIV-infected areas of Africa, significant gains in health care and in education accountability, a multi-ethnic Cabinet (including the first two black secretaries of state), and massive improvements from surveillance to strategic policy.
We invest our presidents with greatly too many expectations. It happened with George Bush and his predecessors, as it is happening with Barack Obama — the latest secular savior. Few mortals can deliver on more than a small percentage of their promises and hopes.
Yet Bush carried two added burdens: (1) difficulty in articulating his goals and (2) relentless hammering by leftists hostile to his values and his success. Then, perceiving him harmful to the Republican brand, many conservatives abandoned him as well. Still and all, his favorable ratings never descended to the ratings for Congress — particularly the Congress led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
George Bush a perfect president? Hardly. The worst president of the past half-century, as too many with ideological axes to grind would have us believe? Compare, oh, Carter and Clinton. A more prudent categorization: The most consequential president since Reagan.
To those cognoscenti who argue such an appraisal is preposterous, remind them of this: The most recent conventional wisdom — the consensus of the best minds and analysts — was (remember?) that because the fundamentals were so sound the stock market could not crash, the economy could not possibly collapse.
Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson — a man of laconic, perceptive humor — noted that “those who travel the high road of humility in Washington are not bothered by heavy traffic.”
George Bush concludes his presidency with abundant accomplishments, not least a safer nation — and still, despite a tsunami of hateful coverage, commendably humble. When the tumult and the shouting die, an appreciative people would escort him down to robust and lingering applause.
Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies has been a reliable source of realistic, reasoned analysis in the fields he studies. FOBA Jim Fallows points to his latest, a relatively brief piece (a couple of screenfuls) entitled “The War in Gaza: Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?”
As Fallows says, the question mark is essentially useless. Israel has exposed its own weakness for temporary domestic political gain, very much in the manner of its current patron in the White House. As a result its moral standing is in shreds, like ours, and for the same reasons. This will have exactly the consequences that any idiot could have predicted before the invasion.
One strong warning of the level of anger in the region comes from Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Prince Turki has been the Saudi ambassador in both London and Washington. He has always been a leading voice of moderation. For years he has been a supporter of the Saudi peace process and an advocate of Jewish-Christian-Islamic dialog. Few Arab voices deserve more to be taken seriously, and Prince Turki described the conflict as follows in a speech at the opening of the 6th Gulf Forum on January 6th. “The Bush administration has left you (with) a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza … Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza.” Neither Israel nor the US can gain from a war that produces this reaction from one of the wisest and most moderate voices in the Arab world.
But the US and Israel are currently governed by factions of their respective societies that believe in the harder-hit theory. Briefly, this theory posits that the theorist is part of a group that is righteous, and is opposed by a group that’s evil. Given this moral rectitude, all that’s needed to solve the problem is to engage the enemy. Once this is accomplished, blows will be traded (unless you’ve chosen carefully enough that your opponent is incapable of striking back). Then you’re set: all that remains, goes the theory, is to strike the decisive blow, to hit hard enough, and the other side will capitulate.
Funny thing about this theory: it’s never worked. It’s rarely even successful in individual fights; if you manage to hit me hard enough to cause me to retire, I’ll simply find a different way to hurt you the next time. I’m not about to give up; I’m simply retreating to regroup. You wouldn’t give up. Why do you expect me to? Oh, right, because I’m subhuman. I keep forgetting.
And of course if you’re fighting a large group, the resentment and anger will multiply through intra-social echoes, and an enormous amount of energy will be focused on reprisals of whatever sort can be undertaken.
If you’ve read anything about 4GW, or even paid attention to the best American reporters (not to mention those from elsewhere, who are generally far ahead in these matters), you know that the history shows insurgencies winning in nearly every case. The massive military power assumes on entry that it will win, and if comes to a war of attrition then so be it: we have both God and superior fire power on our side. These assumptions continue to be made by policy makers long after they’ve been discredited by military strategists. It doesn’t turn out that way in fact, no matter what our assumptions are.
This is obvious at the individual level, and should be even more obvious at the social level. But the people who tend to put themselves forward as leaders are generally the most aggressive and impulsive, and often the least reflective. A good system would weed out such people; but corporate-managed democracy encourages, indeed privileges, them.
Especially if, as in the US and Israel, the corporations managing the democracy constitute the country’s war machine. Every society is organized around its war-fighting capacity; otherwise it’s overwhelmed by its neighbors. But my understanding of history is that societies whose economies require war are usually found in the early and late stages. Flourishing societies have industry that isn’t war- or finance-related.
Israeli hawks claim that this invasion of Gaza is defensive, but no military person is silly enough to believe that. You don’t decrease the attacks against your position by reducing the opposition to desperation. In such a situation, you either kill them all, or they will attack with every weapon at their disposal.
This raises a question that every Israeli and its supporters now needs to ask. What is the strategic purpose behind the present fighting? After two weeks of combat Olmert, Livni, and Barak have still not said a word that indicates that Israel will gain strategic or grand strategic benefits, or tactical benefits much larger than the gains it made from selectively striking key Hamas facilities early in the war. In fact, their silence raises haunting questions about whether they will repeat the same massive failures made by Israel’s top political leadership during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006. Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process?
To [be] blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes. To paraphrase a comment about the British government’s management of the British Army in World War I, lions seem to be led by donkeys. If Israel has a credible ceasefire plan that could really secure Gaza, it is not apparent. If Israel has a plan that could credibly destroy and replace Hamas, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to help the Gazans and move them back towards peace, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to use US or other friendly influence productively, it not apparent.
Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz provides another example of how the US in Iraq and Israel in Gaza continue to humiliate themselves.
Of all the rotten luck, all the disasters now occurring in Gaza are manmade — by us. Aid cannot be offered with bloodstained hands. Compassion cannot sprout from brutality.
Yet there are some who still want it both ways. To kill and destroy indiscriminately and also to come out looking good, with a clean conscience. To go ahead with war crimes without any sense of the heavy guilt that should accompany them. It takes some nerve. Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who preaches for this war and believes in the justness of the mass killing it is inflicting has no right whatsoever to speak about morality and humaneness. There is no such thing as simultaneously killing and nurturing. This attitude is a faithful representation of the basic, twofold Israeli sentiment that has been with us forever: To commit any wrong, but to feel pure in our own eyes. To kill, demolish, starve, imprison and humiliate — and be right, not to mention righteous. The righteous warmongers will not be able to allow themselves these luxuries.
Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who sees it as a defensive war must bear the moral responsibility for its consequences. Anyone who now encourages the politicians and the army to continue will also have to bear the mark of Cain that will be branded on his forehead after the war. All those who support the war also support the horror.
This story about the BART cop who shot someone in Oakland the other day reminds me of a heartwarming personal anecdote about our friends in law enforcement.
Many, many years ago, my brother and I were in a little pet store in LA when somebody accidentally tripped the alarm. Nobody in the place knew it had happened, and we were the first two lucky customers to step outside and hear the news.
The street was cordoned off by a blockade of police cars, and the cops were all crouching behind them with their guns drawn, just like in the movies. If about four or five rifles hadn’t have been pointed at me, it would have been exciting to watch; as it was, me and my brother were a tad bit, uh, what’s the word, nonplussed? We were only there to buy a few crickets for our pet chameleons and a mouse for his baby boa constrictor (we weren’t into sports or drugs, so collecting reptiles became our default hobby. What can I say? It was better than going out and getting into trouble with the police, ha ha).
So a cop with a bullhorn ordered us to drop our bags, raise our hands and walk slowly towards him. We didn’t argue. It was obvious we hadn’t robbed the place or anything, and when we reached him another officer came over, lazily padded us down and told us to sit in the back of the car. The bullhorn cop said everything was okay and that he’d explain what was going on in a minute, just sit tight. Meanwhile, his partner on the passenger side kept his rifle pointed at the entrance of the store.
A few seconds later the store manager comes out, and it’s obvious he’s an employee because they all wore these brown polyester shirts with pictures of coral on them (they looked like big, over-sized bowling jerseys). He called down that he was the manager of the store and everything was fine, that the alarm went off by mistake. So the bullhorn cop waved him over. As he did so, he said to his partner, who was still aiming his rifle at the guy, “It’s okay, he works here. He’s the manager.”
And the partner, still aiming, snickered and said, “Oh yeah? Should I shoot him anyway?”
And they both laughed.
That’s a true story. That’s when my political views, which were just then forming, began to veer left. It was my first (not last) glimpse into how cavalierly our boys in blue view the use of force and how low their respect is for common citizens. So when I hear stories about the police shooting in Oakland, I’m not a bit surprised. Most cops I’ve encountered are about as smart as high school football players who got their rocks off by wrapping up a freshman’s balls with masking tape and slamming his head into a locker. Replace their football pads with police uniforms, convince them they’re the thin blue line, and train them to think of everyone else as a potential “bad guy” and you have soul of American law enforcement today. It’s really that simple. They’re good at brute force and simple commands. Everything else is hazy. Stupidity (not racism) is the key to their psyche.
From Al Kamen’s column in the Washington Post:
Former FEMA administrator Michael D. Brown was among 11,000 Boulder, Colo., folks evacuated yesterday amid raging wildfires that have scorched at least 1,000 acres. Brown, dubbed “Brownie” by President Bush during the Katrina Hurricane fiasco, moved back to the Boulder area, where he runs a disaster consulting business.
The artist Mark Wilson recommends this article in The Guardian by Oxford professor Avi Shlaim. Its conclusion is below. For some of the history supporting that conclusion, see Professor Shlaim’s full essay, and also read this, by Professor Saree Makdisi of UCLA and author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.
A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practices terrorism — the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfills all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination.
The first picture below (all are from The Guardian website) shows the crater made in an Israeli street by one of the homemade rockets from Gaza. To date they have killed four Israelis. For each casualty, Israeli bombs and bullets have so far killed more than a hundred Gazans. This number will rise hugely as the invasion continues. As with our own bombardment of cities in Iraq, most of the victims will be civilian noncombatants.
The second picture shows a relative weeping for the ten members of a family killed when Israelis bombed a school run by the United Nations in Gaza. The last picture shows mourners praying over the victims of that air strike. Click to enlarge images.
Andrew W. resumes Church Basements, his tales from the world of Alcoholics Anonymous:
In church basements alcoholic men and women are asked to tell others “How it was, what happened, and what it is like now.” Often their physical wounds, too, bear witness.
Among AAers Scars are ubiquitous, long or short, gouged deep or superficial. Most members who end up sharing “how it was” at AA meetings carry that message someplace on their bodies. Even if many scars are covered by clothing, it can be alarming (and sobering) to witness how much of the members’ past is writ on their bodies.
Missing limbs, digits, eyes, ears and arms are among the many manifestations of long drinking and drug careers. As members share “how it was,” explanation of the scars often comes to light. Automobile crashes, fights, falls, suicide attempts, burns and limps are a common history shared in one form or another by members. Abuse, too, leaves numerous scars outside and in.
But the scars themselves are seldom specifically mentioned when AA members share their stories. It’s as if the injuries are a given and so they are largely ignored in members’ stories. Predictably the men carry more, but wrist-slash scars and other signs of self-injury are more common among the women.
Emotional scarring, in contrast, is both evident and usually the centerpiece of a member’s story. Tears are common.
That’s how it was with Phil who once mentioned he had killed a son riding with him when he hit a tree. Phil’s right arm is crooked, most likely from the crash.
These are the emblems of the trauma these people bring with them to the meetings. Badges of dishonor, as it were, because although recovering alcoholics and addicts are told their “illness” is like diabetes, few really believe that. Instead they share with the general population the belief that they are weak or “damaged goods,” as one referred to herself the other day.
Though admonished not to relive the past, some guilt often remains. Why else would our groups be called “Alcoholics Anonymous.” Something needs hiding. After all there is no “Diabetics Anonymous.”
The scars are also testament to recovery, and that is most commonly the theme of “what it is like now.” That is the new reality that AA members are eager to share. While scars are mute reminders of the past, smiles and laughter that speak to the joy of recovery are just as common.
In the virtual public houses I frequent, there’s a significant buzz about Tom Geoghehan, who’s running for the House seat being vacated by Rahm Emanuel.
Certified FOBA (Friend Of Bad Attitudes) Mr. Fallows of The Atlantic pointed out this opportunity.
The remarkable thing is that in Geoghegan’s case writing has been a sideline. Day by day for several decades he has been a lawyer in a small Chicago law firm representing steel workers, truckers, nurses, and others employees whose travails are the reality covered by abstractions like “the polarization of America” and “the disappearing middle class.” Geoghegan’s skill as a writer and an intellectual are assets but in themselves might not recommend him for a Congressional job. His consistent and canny record of organizing, representing, and defending people who are the natural Democratic (and American) base is the relevant point.
The people of Chicago would have to look elsewhere for Blago-style ethics entertainment. Tom Geoghegan is honest and almost ascetic. Because it’s an important part of his makeup, I mention too that he is a serious, Jesuit-trained Catholic.
Mr. Frank, late of the Wall Street Journal but known as well for the hilarious One Market, Under God and the right-on What’s the Matter With Kansas?, has weighed in as well.
…Mr. Geoghegan thinks big while Democrats in Washington tend to think small, proposing a stimulus package here and better oversight there. The government’s goal, as he explained it to me a few days ago, should not merely be “to pump up demand again.” It should be to enact sweeping, structural change, “to get in a position where we’re not bleeding jobs out of the country.”
For the view that working people have no business with retirement and health care in the lean, mean, inevitable future, Mr. Geoghegan has a certain contempt. He wants to increase Social Security payments to make up for the destruction of private pension plans and expand Medicare with the goal of arriving, eventually, at single-payer health care. The $700 billion bank bailout, he says, proves that such expenses can be borne. What’s more, they’re necessary.
“Economic security is not only compatible with being competitive globally,” he tells me; “it’s crucial to it.”
It’s a little difficult to imagine a sane person lasting through a session of Congress. But it would be an interesting gambit.
I can’t prove it, but my impression is that the MSM coverage of the most recent slaughter in Gaza has become unaccustomedly two-sided. Here’s one example out of many.
Why this deviance into balanced coverage I cannot say. Perhaps there is a feeling that the new administration may edge slightly away from our blind obedience to Likud, freeing the MSM to do the same. (I have to admit, though, that evidence of any such policy shift is so far very scanty.)
For redder meat and stronger wine we still have to go to the blogosphere, where Jeff Huber cuts loose on at-Largely. An excerpt:
…Dick Cheney says Israel didn’t seek “U.S. approval” to begin the ground attack into Gaza. Heh. They didn’t seek “U.S. approval” before they attacked Lebanon, either. They sought Dick Cheney’s approval, and he gave it to them. Dick Cheney isn’t the “U.S.” He’s just the vice president, and the president of the Senate. He’s not in the military chain of command at all, and according to him he doesn’t even work in the executive branch of government.
No word yet on whether Israel got Dick’s permission to use cluster munitions on the sand colored people, this time or last time. Israel’s Haaretz says the Israeli Defense Force is aiming the cluster ammunition at “open areas.” I have trouble imagining Hamas placing suitable cluster bomb targets in the open. You might shell an open area to set off mines that could be buried there, but if you use cluster bombs to do that you’ll create another minefield on top of the one you’re trying to clear.
Cluster bombs are made for killing people. Maybe the IDF is shelling open areas with cluster bombs as a humanitarian gesture, something to remind the Palestinians to stay in the closed areas where it’s safer, but I doubt it. Journalist Jamal Dajani of Link TV, posting from the Israel-Gaza border, judges Israel’s self described “surgical strikes” to be “as surgical as shooting chickens in a coop with a shot gun.”
Mr. Bush blames the Gaza debacle on Hamas, saying it has “once again shown its true colors as a terrorist organization” with attacks on Israel. Bush didn’t mention that Israel broke the ceasefire in November when it sent ground troops into Gaza. Cheney probably didn’t let anybody tell Bush that part.
Maybe it’s a moot issue; Israel has had Gaza under a blockade since January 2008, six months before the ceasefire went into effect. Since a blockade is an act of war imposed by armed force, one has to marvel at how even the most adroit Rovewellian can say with a straight face that a ceasefire exists within a blockade…
From the New York Times:
Leon E. Panetta, a former congressman and White House chief of staff, has been selected by President-elect Barack Obama to head the Central Intelligence Agency. The choice, disclosed Monday by Democratic officials, immediately revealed divisions in the party as two senior lawmakers questioned why Mr. Obama would nominate a candidate with limited experience in intelligence matters.
Just guessing here, but could it be the lingering aftertaste of two CIA directors with many, many years of experience in intelligence matters — George Tenet and Porter Goss?
Years ago I went out with a woman for a while who had never heard of the Korean War. She was younger than I was but not that much younger. She was very good looking and I would sometimes admire her secretly until my reverie was shattered by the same old question: How can anyone not have heard of the Korean War?
Just the other day, while he was dilating my pupils, my eye doctor, a man well into his sixties, revealed a shocking ignorance of the Berlin crisis of 1961. “What crisis?” he said.
“What crisis? What crisis?” I said, trying to find the doctor’s face through the blur brought on by the eyedrops. “Khrushchev puts up a wall dividing Berlin. A belligerent challenge to the West. World War III seems to be at hand. Kennedy mobilizes 150,000 men of the army reserve and national guard. I am called back to active duty. I spend a year on a sand hill in North Carolina and you say What crisis?”
“I was in medical school,” he said. “I was busy.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear somebody was busy, because I sat on the godforsaken sandhill and did nothing — absolutely nothing, for a whole year — until they decided a wall wasn’t worth fighting about and let us go home. This was the same Berlin Wall, by the way, where Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech challenging Gorbachev to tear it down. ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ I suppose you don’t remember that, either.”
“Look straight ahead,” the doctor said, “and try not to move your head.”
“This was the infamous wall that was torn down in 1989. Its demolition symbolized the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. Just like the wall, the Soviet Union was disintegrating. And George Bush Senior took credit for the whole thing. Hell, I had more to do with the wall coming down than he did.”
“Which is clearer? This? Or this?”
“The Berlin Wall cost me a year of my life — a year I wouldn’t mind having back at this point, by the way. The Berlin Wall and the international crisis that it occasioned was one of the most important — maybe the most important — political development in Europe in the postwar period. Historians will point to it as…”
“Now close the left eye and tell me which lens is sharper. This? Or this?”
“Why do I get the feeling you’re not all that interested in…”
“Now close the other eye and we’ll try again. This? Or this?”
“You know,” I said to the eye doctor, who is a very nice man, by the way, if not much of an historian, “I once went out with a very good-looking woman, a bit younger than I, although not all that much younger, who knew nothing of the Korean War. Never heard of it, she said. And then she said — I’m not kidding — she said, Where was this war? And I said, You want to know where the Korean War happened? Where the Korean War took place? Is that what you’re asking me? You must mean why did it happen, not where did it happen. And she said, I don’t care why it happened. My question was where it happened. Although to tell you the truth, I don’t care much about that, either.”
The eye doctor was finished with his exam and had moved away, but I thought I could tell, even with the drops in my eyes, that he was doing something at his desk. Probably looking up the Korean War on the Internet, I thought. Doesn’t want to seem as dumb as that old girlfriend. Maybe he’s looking up the Berlin Wall, too. Will probably try to redeem himself with a cogent remark as I stumble out into the street. Will probably say something like, Of course I remember the Berlin crisis. I was only kidding. Did you really know a woman who had never heard of the Korean War? Boy, that’s hard to believe.
But he didn’t say any of that. Instead, as he handed me out the door to his waiting room, he said, “You better wait out here until those eyedrops wear off. And take care on the steps when you do leave. You’re not as young as you used to be, you know.”
Everybody else is giving advice to Obama, why not Francis Bacon? And so, from his essay “On Seditions and Troubles”:
A smaller number that spend more and earn less do wear out an estate sooner than a greater number that live lower and gather more. Therefore the multiplying of nobility and other degrees of quality in an over proportion to the common people doth speedily bring a state to necessity; and so doth likewise an overgrown clergy; for they bring nothing to the stock; and in like manner, when more are bred scholars than preferments can take off…
Above all things, good policy is to be used that the treasure and moneys in a state be not gathered into few hands. For otherwise a state may have a great stock, and yet starve. And money is like muck, not good except it be spread. This is done chiefly by suppressing or at least keeping a strait hand upon the devouring trades of usury, ingrossing great pasturages, and the like.
After selling my business in 1977, I tried buying a Cadillac from a dealer in Plattsburgh, NY. I picked out a car, tested it, liked it. I told the dealer I would take it with no trade, pay cash and pay his asking price — about $20,000.
I only asked one small thing: “I live in the mountains and can only get adequate reception with a Sony. So please take out the radio in it now and install the Sony that’s in my old wagon.”
He thought for a while and said, “I can’t do that. What would I do with the Delco that is in the Caddy?”
“I’ll take that one off your hands,” I said, “and give it to a friend.”
He said, “We can’t make that swap in our shop,” explaining that I’d have to have a specialty shop do it, and pay them for the swapping the radios.
I said, “Goodbye,” and departed.
Later I spent a year in Michigan and bought an expensive, new Oldsmobile wagon. It was a diesel — the newest thing in big Oldsmobiles, and, I was soon to learn, not quite the best thing. Popular Mechanics was later to brand it one of the 10 worst cars in GM history.
It could barely climb the Adirondack Mountains on the way home. Winter came and the car would not start, and when it did start it wheezed. An employee of mine joked, “You’ll need a tow truck to get around in that car.”
I kept taking it to the Oldsmobile dealer for warranty work, but it never ran correctly, and the dealer was not able to to fix it. Later I learned that GM had issued what the dealer called a “silent recall.” That is when a car is flagged with a problem and GM warns its dealers but fails to tell the customer and refuses to offer any remedy. The dealer told me the diesel motors never worked, but GM refused to take the car back. I traded it quickly and took a terrible bath.
When the foreign cars came in with the Volkswagen, I bought three in a row, and I bought a fleet of Datsun trucks for my business. Since my experience with GM I have done my best to avoid purchasing any domestic cars.
Popular Mechanics in a recent article contends GM is currently making several excellent cars, but the company cannot live down its past of making junk, palming it off on the customer, failing to tell the customer, and then refusing to make restitution.
My experience with the US automakers’ arrogance, stupidity, cheating and lousy quality resulted in their losing about 30 new auto sales to my business and family. Needless to say I oppose bailing the bastards out with my money until they refund the $22,000 in 1978 dollars GM stole from me.
“Israel is part of the free world and fights extremism and terrorism. Hamas is not,” [Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni] said. And from there we are just one small step away from putting the world on notice that either “you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists”. “These are the days when every individual in the region and in the world has to choose a side,” Livni said.
The Guardian’s Gary Younge is one of my favorites.
By erasing any prospect of negotiation, the violence did not weaken extremists but emboldened them. Israel may want to boost the moderate Fatah faction which governs the West Bank now. But Hamas’s electoral rise was a direct result of the contempt the Israelis showed them in the past.
Meanwhile, the Iraq war has left Iran — the primary sponsor of both Hezbollah and Hamas — with far more influence in the region than they would have had. On almost every front in almost every part of the world, including in the US, the war on terror is now seen as a colossal mistake. Only Israel did not get the memo. And it is now set to fail for the same reasons that America has.
In my opinion, a truly pro-Israel position opposes the settlements and generally opposes Likud policies, though of course politics is a messy business and no one’s right or wrong all the time. What Israel actually needs from a historical point of view is stability. It’s currently seeking security through the methodology of oppression, a foreign policy equivalent of Microsoft’s famous security through obscurity and as such doomed to fail. The thing is, if your neighbors aren’t secure, you aren’t either. No matter how frightened you are, you can only threaten your neighbors into submission for short periods, and in doing so you generate exactly what you seek to avoid.
So I’m impressed with the folks at J Street, the (relatively) new lobbying org of American Jews intended to counter the constant push for aggression from AIPAC and friends. Josh Marshall has written about them several times. From the little I know they seem to have it together on both the political and marketing fronts, which means they’ve got a shot. Plus, the K Street allusion shows some humor in a organizational name, which I like a lot.
Israel has a special place in each of our hearts. But we recognize that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong. While there is nothing “right” in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing “right” in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them.
And there is nothing to be gained from debating which injustice is greater or came first. What’s needed now is immediate action to stop the violence before it spirals out of control.
The United States, the Quartet, and the world community must not wait — as they did in the Israel-Lebanon crisis of 2006 — for weeks to pass and hundreds or thousands more to die before intervening. There needs to be an urgent end to the new hostilities that brings a complete end to military operations, including an end to the rocket fire out of Gaza, and that allows food, fuel and other civilian necessities into Gaza.
Given their relative skills and well-stated positions, they seem to be attracting some notice. Thus their petition to the President-elect might actually be considered. To sign the petition, click here.
In re: Caroline Kennedy and Roland Burris, Dracomicron has said it for me at MyDD. So go over there and read it. Brief excerpt:
What I’m saying is, we need to stop being such outrage addicts. This election season was the most dramatic in modern memory, and there was a lot of stuff that we got outraged over, both legitimate and specious... I get that it will take some time for us to chill the hell out, but we need to do it. Barack Obama needs a functional legislative branch that can work on tackling the huge challenges he faces right away, and whether an appointee can effectively and honestly work at implementing his agenda is a bigger concern to me than if an appointee was selected in the dying throes of a corrupt governor’s career.
I guess this is what happens when you cheat and lie so consistently that even the Traditional Media have to admit they know what’s going on.
Of course, the Republicans walk right into the trap, “only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air”. They’ve got a bumper crop of candidates vying to become the Howard Dean of the racist, homophobic, xenophobic creationist party. (If only we could add “the war party.”)
Leading the pack in a certain sense is Chip Saltsman, formerly Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager, who famously distributed a music CD to party members that included comedian Rush Limbaugh’s parody song “Barack the Magic Negro”.
Some Republicans considered this in bad taste; a larger percentage considered it bad PR. Mike Duncan, the current RNC chairman who hails from the enlightened state of Kentucky and is running for re-election, said:
The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party. I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate, as it clearly does not move us in the right direction…
Ken Blackwell is another candidate for RNC chair. You’ll probably remember him best, or worst, as the Ohio Secretary of State who rigged Bush into the White House in 2004. Lately he’s been in the news as an African-American asked to comment on Saltsman’s CD. Predictably, Blackwell, who’s reached the semifinals of the Ward Connerly Imitators Championship while simultaneously racing for the RNC chair, blamed the media for the to-do over the CD.
Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-elect Obama being the first African American elected president…
Absolutely. There were no racial issues, no hypersensitivity, before the country made the mistake of electing Obama. Now we’ve gotta deal with this extra layer of stuff. If only we’d elected Strom Thurmond back in ’48, none of this would have happend, eh?
Presumably the complete lack of African-American faces among the Republicans in Congress is balanced by the big-tent inclusion of two black contenders for RNC chair. Along with Blackwell, whose loyalties have been proven under fire, there’s Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, who you kinda figure doesn’t have a real chance. Consider, for example, his statement on the Saltsman CD.
…we must be mindful that self-inflicted wounds not only distract us from regaining our strength as a Party, but further diminish our credibility with an increasingly diverse community of voters. As RNC Chairman, I want us to be a lot smarter about such things and more appreciative that our actions always speak louder than our words.
Smarter? You’re running on making the Republican party smarter?? And reality-based??? Okay, well, good luck with that endeavor. It seems a little out of step to me, but what do I know about Republicans?
But all this is the kind of stuff the TM has traditonally lapped up, the horse-race aspect. No need to insert any information or analyze a statement’s truth or falsehood; just report speculation passed in a cab or a bar and call it a day. What’s really encouraging, for a normal citizen at least, though some Republicans will be unhappy, is to see the media reporting critical information, putting copies of contested ballots on the web in a standard format in case claims of impropriety arise.
No longer do we assume that our fellow citizens are as committed to democracy as we are. This is an advance, because it brings our internal models closer to reality. In The Temple and the Lodge, Baigent and Leigh remark:
One has attained a measure of wisdom when, instead of exclaiming “Et tu, Brute!”, one nods ruefully and says, “Yes, it figures.”
Telecommunications carriers shut down some covert surveillance lines established by the FBI because the bureau failed to make timely bill payments, a Justice Department review found Thursday. – from USA Today, Jan 11, 2008
Can you believe this? The bureau is just about to get the goods on those cowardly terrorists and on all the mealy-minded liberal nitwits who worry more about privacy than murdered patriots, and what happens? Some moron doesn’t pay the phone bill, the service gets interrupted, and thousands of conversations go unlistened-to. And it wasn’t just one moron in one FBI office; it was a whole lot of morons in many FBI offices.
Wouldn’t have happened in the old days, when J. Edgar and Clyde ran the show. Can you imagine what J. Edgar would have done to the cretins who failed to pay the bureau’s phone bills? Can you picture the scene? Talk about fur flying. J. Edgar would have ripped his own dress off and gone at the miscreant with the three-inch heels of his best blue satin pumps. Then he would have cashiered the dumb bunnies or at least reassigned them to spying on suspicious bird watchers in North Dakota.
Ever since his death in 1972, there have been rumors that J. Edgar periodically sends advice to current bureau chieftans from the Beyond. One of these advisories was allegedly circulated a day or two after the story about the unpaid telephone bills broke. According to some who have seen the memo, its language suggested that Hoover, who had already gone over to the Other Side, had now gone over the edge as well. Not only was he dead, he was bonkers. This business about unpaid telephone bills had ruined his eternal rest.
Here is what J. Edgar’s memo said, more or less:
Maybe you think I’ve been having an easy time of it Up Here. Not.
Maybe you think it’s all harps and fashion shows and gorgeous gowns. Uh uh.
Maybe you think Heaven is just one long glorious spiritual experience where happiness is multiplied by happiness to yield even more happiness. Well, here’s the thing: Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. If there’s any happiness up here, I haven’t found it. And neither has Clyde. We’ve been working night and day—yes, we have the same damn diurnal system I thought I’d left behind—to keep this place free of Commies and radicals and terrorists and preachers with hifalutin ways.
Yes, the problems Up Here aren’t very different from the ones down there. They let almost anybody in and keeping track of the bad apples is harder Up Here because there are no phones to tap and no mail to intercept. And there aren’t any borders where you can search a probable terrorist’s luggage or confiscate a Commie’s passport.
And don’t tell me there’s no Commie threat any more. Just because they tore down the wall doesn’t mean there isn’t an army of Commies trying to infiltrate our institutions and bring down our government by violent means and destroy our way of life. The way of life that every American — well, almost every American — is entitled to. The kind of life that Clyde and I enjoyed during my long, legendary career as head of the bureau.
By God, I miss it, yes, I miss that way of life. Being in charge, having the goods on people who thought they had power until they came up against me. I had the goods on all of ’em, all of ’em. They kept trying to get rid of me but they couldn’t get rid of me because I had the goods on all of ‘em. Even that idiot Nixon tried to get rid of me, but I put him in his place. And then there were the Kennedys! Oh, boy!
Anyway, nobody cares about me any more and things at the bureau have gone pretty far downhill. I send my memos but nobody pays any attention. Nobody’s at the switch, at the helm. Nobody’s flying the plane. I’ve got to go now, things to do. A new report of Commies, Public Enemies, whatever. Yes, we’ve got Public Enemies Up Here too.
My advice? Pay the phone bill.
Even now as George Bush is almost walking out the door, his administration appears poised to allow a regulation that would make it easy for subdivisions full of housing to be built around your National Forests and turn them into highways. Yes, land that was set aside for public use 100 years ago and for which hundreds of millions Americans have enjoyed since they first landed on these shores are now being dropped into the bucket of housing commerce. Ansel Adams and Teddy Roosevelt would not be pleased one bit, nor will millions of American outdoorsmen and women, often those who were part of the old Republican base, the hunters, as well as those who enjoy the pristine and unspoiled beauty of the National Forests. Some choice paragraphs from the Washington Post article detailing the plan appear below, but go read the whole thing for more details:
The Bush administration appears poised to push through a change in U.S. Forest Service agreements that would make it far easier for mountain forests to be converted to housing subdivisions.
The shift is technical but with large implications. It would allow Plum Creek Timber to pave roads passing through Forest Service land. For decades, such roads were little more than trails used by logging trucks to reach timber stands.
But as Plum Creek has moved into the real estate business, paving those roads became a necessary prelude to opening vast tracts of the company’s 8 million acres to the vacation homes that are transforming landscapes across the West.
Scenic western Montana, where Plum Creek owns 1.2 million acres, would be most affected, placing fresh burdens on county governments to provide services, and undoing efforts to cluster housing near towns.
Probably because the proposal would die after Jan. 20. Obama sharply criticized Rey’s efforts during the presidential campaign, seizing on concerns that a landscape dotted with luxury homes will be less hospitable to Montanans accustomed to easy access to timberlands.
“At a time when Montana’s sportsmen are finding it increasingly hard to access lands, it is outrageous that the Bush administration would exacerbate the problem by encouraging prime hunting and fishing lands to be carved up and closed off,” Obama said.
We begin the new year with
If you’re old enough to remember any President other than George W. Bush, you might think you’re having a flashback. While I deny the existence of such phenomena, I agree that the natural question as we enter 2009 is whether the Republic is over.
The sainted founders looked to Rome for examples. But it’s not a happy prospect, so we change channels. Have we crossed the Rubicon? Or perhaps we’re not ready for Caesar, but we’ve just seen Marius, or more aptly Sulla, both critical figures in the conversion of the Republic to the Empire. And Gibbon begins his Decline and Fall with the first Emperor.
One of the ways we know such metaphors are exceedlingly imprecise is that we’re talking about mythical competence on the verso page and historic incompetence on the recto. But perhaps we’re not as far removed from the past as we like to think. As a very wise person once put it,
Men always, but not always with good reason, praise bygone days and criticize the present, and so partial are they to the past that they not only admire past ages the knowledge of which has come down to them in written records, but also, when they grow old, what they remember having seen in their youth. And, when this view is wrong, as it usually is, there are, I am convinced, various causes to which the mistake may be due.
The first of them is, I think, this. The whole truth about olden times is not grasped, since what redounds to their discredit is often passed over in silence, whereas what is likely to make them appear glorious is pompously recounted in all its details. For so obsequious are most writers to the fortune of conquerors that, in order to make their victories seem glorious, they not only exaggerate their own valorous deeds, but also magnify the exploits of the enemy, so that anyone born afterwards either in the conquering or in the conquered province may find cause to marvel at such men and such times, and is bound, in short, to admire them and to feel affection for them.
It was this sort of thinking that made his name synonymous with Satan’s. Old Nick paid attention, and that’s verboten.
Realistically, folks, could it be any clearer that we’re watching the fall of an empire from inside? Our denial of imperial status affects these events not at all. No prisoners are released, no torturers jailed, because we fail or refuse to recognize reality. Reality, as Alan Watts was fond of saying, is not a concept. If you doubt that, ask an inmate at Bagram. If he’s still alive.
What does it mean that the rest of the world is headed for greater literacy at a time when so many Americans believe that what they believe matters more than facts? We’re on the way out. The empire, thank God, is failing. So now, as Joe Jackson says, what the hell do we do?
No, seriously, what do we do? Do we wait for Obama and Pelosi to save us? Will Senator Franken end the deadlock? Can we affect the world through Change.gov?
From a Washington Post interview with White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten:
Bolten said another of his goals when he took over was to try to get the country to see the likable boss he and other aides saw in private, convinced that would boost Bush’s popularity. “I failed miserably,” he conceded. “Maybe in the beginning of the sixth year of a presidency, that’s a quixotic task… But everybody who has actual personal exposure to the president, almost everybody, appreciates what a good leader he is, how smart he is and, especially, how humane he is.”
From the Associated Press:
A retired Army colonel has been sentenced to prison for getting a classmate at the Army War College to take a paternity test in his place. The retired officer, Scott Carlson, 53, was convicted in September on charges that included conspiracy and attempted theft by deception. His lawyer, Dennis Boyle, said he planned to appeal the 4-to-23-month prison sentence that a county judge ordered. Mr. Carlson was convicted of arranging for a fellow officer attending the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., to submit a DNA sample and thumbprint for a paternity test in 2006 so he could avoid paying additional child support for a 10-year-old girl he fathered through an extramarital affair with an enlisted woman.
From today’s New York Times:
[South Carolina Governor Mark] Sanford, a wealthy real estate investor, is often mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, in part because he is seen as an exemplary adherent of the party’s low-government, antispending philosophy. He recently wrote an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal saying he was opposed to a “bailout” for states…
Mr. Sanford once carried two piglets onto the floor of the House chamber to symbolize his opposition to what he considered wasteful spending. One of the piglets promptly defecated; lawmakers were not amused. Indeed, though Republicans dominate both chambers, they have overriden hundreds of his vetoes on spending over the years, including, in one recent session, money to expand children’s health insurance, indigent defense, and to provide cost-of-living adjustments for retired state employees.