Friday, February 23, 2007

"Wait...I Think I See Poland"

Patrick Cockburn and Juan Cole respectively (the second link is to Salon, but their ad-view worked for me today) manage to enlighten the reality-based community as to what the drawdown of British troops in and around Basra/from the Coalition of the Willing© REALLY means...leaving the Dick Cheney to proffer fantasy-based visions of sugarplums and the rest of wingnuttia to let out a collective, "You name it, I'll throw rocks at it" while awaiting further instructions.

How many times and ways can you say that this cheap Wal-Mart import of a war would be farcical if it weren't so utterly, goddamned tragic?
Slightly Modified

Original here. Link thanks to Crooks and Liars.

If I were Satan, I think I'd build this administration sort of a Green Zone in reverse: a heavily walled, enclosed circle of eternal damnation that keeps EVERYTHING thoroughly contained. Because otherwise, Cheney and Rumsfeld (as I said a week or so ago) might well take over from the Prince of Darkness himself, especially if they've got a dim bulb like Son of Bush playing spokesman ("ah think people should take more personal responsibility for their eternal damnation.")
Conspiracy/Nightmare du Jour

Alas, there's no known cure, but Greenwald once again offers an accurate assessment of wingnut psychosis, citing a Richard Hofstadter classic:

Emulating the Enemy

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms -- he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millenialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse. ("Time is running out," said [John Birch Society founder Robert] Welch in 1951. "Evidence is piling up on many sides and from many sources that October 1952 is the fatal month when Stalin will attack").

Call it a Dick-Cheney-plays-Chicken-Little scenario.

And if you don't support him, well...I guess you're just in favor of the sky falling down.
Now is the Time for All Good Wingnuts... come to the aid of their idiot-in-chief.

It's as much fun or more to read the pouty, toddler-like, slobbering, lower-lip-jutting-out defense of Shrub the child than to note Maher's assessment of his government/disaster. Judge for yourself (warning: link to wingnut material. By clicking on it you are entering the non-reality based internets, although the fall/sudden stop is softened a bit by Maher's comments).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Well, for a Second I was Thinking...

Headline: Two clowns shot dead at circus.
Pravda-Upon-Hudson Menagerie

There's no real way to tie these three stories together, other than I came across all on them in the "newspaper of record," and, to be honest, they actually aren't terrible.

First, it ain't the humidity, it's the lack thereof. Sheesh, even when forced to remind the whining wankers of wingnuttia that New Orleans ISN'T the only place on earth where, yes, there are (calculated) risks associated with residency, I often forget that the west, including Los Angeles, isn't just earthquake alley, but is also a science fiction plot...but in real life: take millions of people, and put them in a region where the only source of water is a LONG way away...oh, and there's not enough of it.

Lends a whole new meaning to Shake and Bake, I guess.

Then there's this review of tonight's HBO feature, The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib:

The problem with the Fox thriller “24” is not that it justifies torture but that it fosters the illusion that the American government is good at it.The practices of Abu Ghraib suggest the opposite. The mystery of that shameful episode was not the cruelty of American troops assigned there. After the initial disbelief over the obscene snapshots, their smile-for-the-camera barbarity turned out to be another painful reminder that the banality of evil has no borders...

Military intelligence interrogators relied on untrained troops filling in as prison guards to soften up suspects. “ ‘This guy needs to have a bad night,’ ” Mr. Davis says he was told. “ ‘Use your imagination.’ ”

But it’s hard not to see a method to the madness of sexual degradation.

“Is there any chance that these people were self-actuated, that they were, that they just came up with this as their own idea?” asks Scott Horton, chairman of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on International Law. “No, there’s no chance of that whatsoever, zero chance. What they are doing are very precisely described techniques that were developed for use on Arab men in the global war on terror, were implemented at Guantánamo and were then brought to and used at Abu Ghraib.” Though the administration might dispute such a characterization of Guantánamo, many critics and analysts agree.

And how could something like this happen? Well, when those at the top of the slag heap base their ideological assumptions on this giant turd of a volume, it's not surprising that the policy outcome will reek to high heaven.

Finally, courtesy of First Draft, here's the "miracle" of the private sector:

Volunteer Group Lags in Replacing Gulf Houses

Scout Prime: Don't get me wrong. I applaud what charities have done but they have been asked to do more than what they are capable of doing. That much of the Gulf Coast still lies in ruins a year and a half later is testament to the failure of the conservative idea that the private sector, business and charities, could replace good government. Of course Bush would no more admit that stark reality than he would admit the failure of his Iraq policy.

Scout's conclusion is similar to my own mantra of late: if they can't--or won't--fix New Orleans, forget ANYTHING they claim to be able of accomplishing in Iraq. Not...gonna...happen.

Side note: the last Pravda article has a picture of Ricardo Crespio--it's good to see he's got a house in Musician's Village. Ricardo was always pleasant to myself and/or my sister when we'd see him play over by the Pirate's Alley bar in the French Quarter. Best of luck, Ricardo.
"But America's Different"

While I agree with Greenwald and Campos's assessment of Instercracker (short version: Reynold's is a demented, lying sack of shit...well, they were actually a bit more civil than that), I do question this concluding paragraph:

One of the most pressing problems we face in this country is that what was previously considered to be so radical and un-American as to be unthinkable has become perfectly mainstream and acceptable. Identifying truly warped extremism is of the greatest importance. Kudos to Professor Campos for his efforts towards these ends.

I agree with Greenwald's assessment only to an extent. Some people have had a warped sense of what's acceptably "American" for quite a bit of time

Note: these are photos from in Ohio and Colorado, respectively, that is to say, the Klan is by no means exclusively a Southern organization, although we in the South certainly have a shameful legacy of our own

Between the officially accepted tactics of law enforcement and outright criminal acts employed in the name of...outright discrimination, I often wonder/marvel at the sheer capacity we humans have for denial. For instance, Trent Lott, of all people, just can't understand why some people in Iraq don't get along with others.

Maybe this will refresh your memory, Senator.

And, while I personally tend to think more long-term, being an amateur/hobbyist historian and all--for instance, it occurs to me that, just to cite four examples, Emmett Till, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodwin, would all be right around retirement age were it not for the fact that all were murdered by people who (obviously) were violently opposed to the concept of genuine democracy--I'll grant that some folks consider these individuals, and the struggle for democracy (i.e., Civil Rights) a thing of the "past." I dunno: maybe it's the (no pun intended) black and white newsreel-style footage that makes it look like a "period piece."

Maybe this will put things into context

And the red flag, the one next to the stars and bars? Here's a different angle

Now, VERY fortunately, despite BushCheneyCo.'s obvious contempt for concepts like "democracy" or "rule of law," the fact is that, at least for some of us, there's still a reasonably degree of assurance that at the end of the day, we can head home or elsewhere without having to resort to the war of all against all (admittedly I also benefit from being a white male...and from the fact that I don't live in Iraq...or New Orleans). BUT, I sometimes wonder what would happen here if a little of the BushCheneyCo.'s "liberatoryiation strategery" was applied here in 'merika. (and, come to think if it, that's sort of what's happening in New Orleans right now, to a certain extent). I can't imagine the results being any better than what we're seeing in Mesopotamia. And the horrified reaction on the part of especially those who've been pushing for this particular strategery would be in inverse proportion to their indifference to the suffering they've been actively or tacitly supporting.
Dueling Rippers

"Nuke 'em, I says."
"No--we should invade without a plan. Then accuse the Democrat Party of assisting Al Qaeda."

In the past I've written that Shrub is sort of a perfect storm of a president, if not a human being: he combines the arrogance and snobbishness of a New England blueblood with the stupid and ultimately destructive habits of yer average Texass redneck.

Attaturk, though, hits the nail on the head with his description of the nominal number two:

The worst President of all time, meets the worst possible pairing of all-time as Vice President. The Bush Administration is sort of how George Wallace & Curtis LeMay would have worked has the former somehow been elected and then decided to go on a vacation for four years.

For Cheney has all the keen geopolitical acumen and desires of Curtis LeMay, without the military medals or the admission that he might be a war criminal. There could not be a worse pairing for the weak-brained but messianic Bush than the strong-willed and ideologically crazy Cheney. Combine that with a national disaster that sets them loose and you have the worst combination of events we could have had for this pairing. It's like Squeaky Fromme and Charles Manson ran for office. In fact, I suggest Bush name his pamplet, I mean memoirs, "Helter Skelter".

In other words, Cheney is sort of like a General Ripper...but without the warm personality and sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You Think it's so Goddamned Wonderful, Dick? Then YOU Live There for a While

Your Vice-Presidential Limousine is Waiting...

Cheney: "But in fact, I talked to a friend just the other day, a guy who knows the region very well, has spent a lot of years in that part of the world who had driven from Baghdad down to Basra in seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved compared to where it was a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view that they have made progress in southern Iraq, and that they can therefore afford to reduce their force posture."


Reality:What’s in Baghdad

At first sight, the city looked more damaged and brutally wounded, and more devastated than when I left it last year. Not a single hour passes without one hearing an explosion, a car bomb, or devastated women and children screaming for help. I saw people running from a suicide bomber and others trying to pull bodies from a fire. Sirens from ambulances and police cars and helicopters flying day and night all over the city all join in to create a constant roar of horrible noises.

My beloved Baghdad has a 9 p.m. curfew. The government-run power plants provide residential electricity one hour a day, but not every day. Private sources of electricity are available at very high rates so they are only for people who can afford the high rates. One source is a man located at the end of the block from where I’m staying. He runs a huge generator, and his deal is $100/month for four hours of electricity a day. If we remember that the average salary of an Iraqi college graduate is only $300/month, then we have to agree that the price is a little steep. Most of the people are jobless due to lack of security, the fear of kidnapping, and all the other atrocities being committed on a daily basis. Others buy their own generator run on either gasoline or benzene, which cost about $5/gallon. This is also sold by a private enterprise and the supplies are not always available. Therefore, people look for a few liters of fuel in the black market and pay double if not triple the cost.

Drivers line their cars up at gas stations where they often have to stay all night and sometimes for two days in a row, all while taking the risk of getting shot at by terrorists who thrive on finding crowds in open areas. These kinds of attacks are always on the news.

There is also a rationing of water in Baghdad. Some use water pumps to get additional water, which worsens water shortages and causes friction between neighbors, especially with those who can’t afford powering a water pump.


More: The U.S. military on Wednesday weighed into the politically explosive case of a Sunni woman allegedly raped last weekend by three Iraqi policemen, announcing its own investigation after the Shiite-run government dismissed her allegations as false.


More: Insurgents exploded a truck carrying chlorine gas canisters Wednesday — the second such "dirty" chemical attack in two days — while a U.S. official said ground fire apparently forced the downing of a Black Hawk helicopter. All nine aboard the aircraft were rescued.

Yeah, sounds like a real picnic...and I hope you can taste the sarcasm there. Think about it: New Orleans, which is definitely NOT ok, despite a wonderful Mardi Gras day and hopefully fun/successful Carnival Season, has had twenty-seven murders this year, which is totally unacceptable...the city's infrastructure is crumbling dangerously. Huge swaths are STILL in basically the same state they were in right after the floodwalls receded.

But if New Orleans was Baghdad, Team Bush would claim credit for "success." THAT'S how low they've set the bar.
The GOP Al Qaeda Base

As so many have pointed out, the echo chamber would still be reverberating if this had involved donations to the DEMOCRATIC Party (though most certainly you would've been hearing them whine "Democrat" Party as loud as they could).

Not entirely unrelated, Driftglass captures the essence of these, and I used the term loosely, um, conservative "thinkers:"

And if you find that you are a Conservative, then you can quit bothering to hunt for phantom enemies within, like the Liberal Press and the Dirty Hippies, because you – personally and specifically -- are the enemy.

You – personally and specifically -- are what is wrong with America.
Hey, It Really DOES Work Like That...

Who am I to question Stephen Colbert when he describes the process as "make, announce, type."? Because apparently that's exactly how things work in today's "journalism:"

Wolffe then proceeded to expound on Snow's attacks on bloggers by complaining that blogs are engaged in a "witch hunt" against the poor, besieged White House correspondents, which is terribly unfair because -- and, honestly, this is really an actual quote from Wolffe: "the press here does a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards and covering politics in general." Wolffe then adopted his most sneering and patronizing tone to observe with bewilderment that there are actually these "blogs duly devoted to media criticisms, which is itself kind of interesting given all the things you could comment on."

That is such a great point. Really, what kind of warped and obsessive American would devote themselves to such an unnecessary task as "media criticism," as though our elite national journalists -- who are doing such "a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards and covering politics in general" -- need anyone, let alone bloggers, telling them how to do their job.

Besides, Wolffe patiently explained that bloggers who are criticizing journalists have no understanding of the real function of journalism, just as the NYT's Michael Gordon lectured Democracy Now's Amy Goodman when Goodman had the audacity to criticize Gordon's pre-Iraq War "reporting" on Iraq's aluminum tubes. Gordon sniped: "I don't know if you understand how journalism works." Wolffe similarly enlightened the confused, misguided critics of journalists as follows:
They want us to play a role that isn't really our role. Our role is to ask questions and get information. It's not a chance for the opposition to take on the government and grill them to a point where they throw their hands up and surrender.

See, all journalists are supposed to do is ask questions of their friends -- like that great guy, Tony Snow -- and that is how they "get information." Then, they pass it along. That's it. That's their job (that echoes what Gordon told Goodman: "the way journalism works is you write what you know, and what you know at the time you try to convey as best you can").

Those who think they should actually do more than that -- as embodied by the demand of bloggers that they actually be adversarial and skeptical about the information-gathering process, and that they actually investigate and scrutinize what the Government tells them, rather than mindlessly pass it along -- is all just a lamentable by-product of how unpleasantly political and angry bloggers are.

Then, on alternate Friday's, pick up the paycheck/renumeration for one's eternal soul. And complain about how hard it is to find good, non-illegal/documented domestic help these days...
Ash-Can Wednesday

Today's burnt offering (see below) is Glenn BecKKK. Here's why.

Man, I'm feeling better about my Lenten sacrifices already...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mission Accomplished

Sorry for the off-day, but c'mon, it's Mardi Gras. I made it down to the city and caught a few Zulu medallions for myself, plus some to pass along to friends who, alas, could only be there in spirit. No coconuts this time, but I did catch one of the faux (plastic) ones last year, along with a small tambourine, both of which sit proudly on the mantle.

Then it was through the Quarter and over to the French Market for cheap sunglasses--also a tradition. I pick up a pair or two for $5 bux, and I'll usually break or lose them before my next visit, thus perpetuating the cycle. Beats losing or breaking an expensive pair.

All in all, a pleasant day, even with Fiorella's not quite getting my order right...but no biggie.

Special note: my first tobacco-free Fat Tuesday, but that's not quite the achievement I'd like it to be--I'm still smoking a few cancer sticks a day, but I'm trying like hell to limit it after a minor scare last November that, thankfully, turned out to be nothing...anyway, I'm trying to limit the cigs as much as possible.

It was also a virtually alcohol-free Tuesday, too, but that's only 'cause I had to do the driving myself. I did allow myself two Abita Turbo Dogs. Under the circumstances, that probably still made me the most sober driver on the road.

Lagniappe: snagged a few of these as well

To be honest, I was worried that this was an off-year, because I didn't see large crowds/throngs of people. It was almost TOO easy getting into and out of the city. But, at least according to NPR, this was a successful celebration, with high hotel occupancy. Well, good, if that's true. My own impression was that it was the equivalent of a normal, slightly busy weekend.

Now I'm stuck back in Red Stick...but the drinking can officially commence, being that I'm no longer on the road. Catch up with y'all tomorrow.

Oh, one more thing...what to sacrifice for Lent? How about...a horde of wingnuts, starting with John Derbyshire? Would lend a whole new meaning to "burnt offerings."

Monday, February 19, 2007


The IAEA and International Organization for Standardization launched a new symbol designed to easily warn people of the dangers of radiation:

They've also designed one to warn of the dangers of stupidity:
"Infallibility Complex"


Versus, um, Infallibility...Simpleton
Alpha & Omega

My design submission for the George W. Bush Memorial

Well, shit, how many more wars can wingnuttia compare to Operation Gas Tank Gets Clogged with Mesopotamian Sand?

Bush Compares Revolutionary, Terror Wars

MOUNT VERNON, Va. (AP) -- President Bush honored the 275th birthday of the nation's first president on Monday, likening George Washington's long struggle that gave birth to a nation to the war on global terrorism.

Meanwhile, the glorious news of last week--a day that featured "only" ten bodies showing up at the Baghdad Morgue--has been supplanted by more of the now-usual violence.

And if that's not enough, the REAL enemy, namely, the fundamentalist Islamic nutjobs who inspired 9/11 have bided their time...and are now benefitting from Team Bush's "Que Sera" approach:

Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

Nice job, wingnuts.

But what's truly sad is that wingnuttia will CONTINUE to try to the point of dizzily falling down, exhausted from all the exertion:

The warbloggers have completely internalized their support for this war to the point where their very identities as human beings hinge on its success. They see the war as a symbol of what makes America, and by extension themselves, strong, noble and good. And since America can never be anything but strong, noble and good, any negative news about the war must by necesity come from an Internal Enemy Within that is jealous of America’s strength.

Arguing with these guys becomes extremely depressing after a while. It’s like trying to convince the average LaRouchie that the Queen of England does not, in fact, run the world crack trade. Sure, you occasionally get guys like John Cole who get deprogrammed, but most will be stuck this way for the rest of their lives. 9/11 permanently traumatized an entire generation of right-wing nerds, and nothing we say can change that.
Like a Good Neighbor Dysfunctional Government

Following up on two WaPo articles that I'm sure you've already seen, AmericaBlog notes yet another example of what you get when government ceases to be of, by, and for the people:

A soldier goes before a physical evaluation board if a medical evaluation board — a team of doctors — determines he is not able to do his job because of his injury. The physical evaluation board then determines again if the soldier should stay in the military and, if not, how much the Defense Department will compensate the soldier. If the soldier receives a disability rating of 30 percent or higher, he gets a disability retirement check based on years of service, rank and the rating percentage. He and his family will also receive medical benefits for life. If the rating is lower than 30 percent, he gets a one-time severance payment.

As John in DC says, it's like dealing with State Farm.