Friday, July 27, 2007

Excusing Bush by Bashing Clinton

The current dust-up between Clinton and Obama on the most effective method for engaging with flakazoid foreign leaders is, frankly, silly. Both agree that stonewalling is not a viable policy and the real difference appears to be semantic - Obama is mumbling something about laying groundwork then loudly talking about talking, while Clinton is strongly insisting on the groundwork first and won't commmit to a specific mode of engagement beyond that.

This is small beans, people. The key point for both senators is that ostracizing rogue or even obstreperous states is really fucking stupid foreign policy.

Then Matt Yglesias shoots off his mouth how Clinton is just "Bush-lite" for refusing to agree to talks with particular heads of states without conditions or considerations. Hel-fucking-lo? I sure as shit do NOT want the US in any way shape and/or form legitimizing the nutcase running Iran at the current moment. That doesn't mean refusing to engage with *Iran*. That means refusing to walk into a PR trap set up by some anti-Semitic, mysogynistic, dictatorial fucktard who happend to have "won" an utterly bogus election.

You know, like George W. Bush.

Put some different players in this argument and you'll see why Big Media Matt has parked his brain at the door.

What should a country do who thinks there is no way not to engage the US, but who also thinks George W. Bush is a war criminal? You keep diplomatic channels open, you arrange for meetings and talks, and you are very careful not to become PR fodder for the BushCo White House.

In short, Clinton has expressed an extremely intelligent and rational general approach to engagements with states who have loathesome leaders, but where the US has a clear interest in strengthening more advantageous relationships. She has done no more than say that the US will act like every other rational state actor in the world.

To take the most extreme interpretation of Obama's position, declare it brilliant, and then categorically declare Clitnon's stance to be just like Bush and Cheney does violence to serious thinking about foreign policy. It trivializes the rogue behavior of the Bush administration. Matt and the other Clinton-haters of the TAPPED and TPM empires may think this is oh-so-terribly clever (Look! Look! Snicker, giggle, we called Hillary a right-winger! Har-har, we tried to trash her by a false comparison and the neo-Naderite netroots is eating it up! Guffaw, we sure showed Mommy, er, Hillary, er, no, no, BILLARY - heh-heh, yeah, that's it, Billary- who's the got the dick in this debate!) are not paying attention to the ways in which they normalize what is a breathtakingly violent and destructive stance towards the rest of the world.

No. There needs to be a bright and clear line between the criminal activity of the Cheney White House and genuine (if fundamentally trivial) disagreements about legitimate, common-sense diplomatic methods. Not to maintain that distinction excuses their imperial over-reach and their contempt for humanity as such.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Will it Blend?

Continuing my search for the weird and wonderful.

Will this IT infrastructure blend?

Work safe, and loads of fun.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Josh Marshall Nails it

This really cuts to the chase. Why are we in Iraq?

And here we are, again, with the president introducing yet another new new direction in Iraq. Yes, the stakes of 'defeat' in Iraq are very high. And that's why so many people are so upset with this president because the whole thing is quite obviously a disaster and we are going to pay a very big price for it on many levels. And it's his fault. But let's not pretend that these are grave hypotheticals off in the future. They're here. It's a disaster. And we have to deal with it. Not pretend.

People ask what we're doing in Iraq. And you can answer in a hundred ways and in a thousand shades of literalism to metaphor. But at some level we're in Iraq because President Bush wanted a parade. It's not hard to imagine how he must have imagined it. A withdrawal of most American troops from a staunchly allied pro-American Iraq. Waving flags. Heartfelt thanks and vindication for the president who had the guts and character to see it through.

And that's why we stay. Because somehow if he just keeps at it someday he might get his parade. Or rather if he just keeps us there forever he doesn't have to really deal wtih what a disaster he's created and fundamentally what a failure he is.

He wants the parade.

He Wants his Parade - Josh Marshall

Dear Religious Right: Give It Up

Courtesy of the Rude Pundit. NOT WORK SAFE:
How many more fuckin' times are we gonna go through this same pathetic charade with presumptive leaders for the religious right? For moral values supporters? How many more men, for indeed, can anyone name a powerful woman brought down in a sex scandal recently? How many hypocritical Ted Haggards and Newt Gingriches and Mark Foleys and David Vitters, all, all, all men that the religious right counted on to lead them to the promised land of political power, to keep those homosexuals down, to punish Bill Clinton, to make abstinence and anti-abortion policies the rule of the country? How many more men who make a show of deep faith who are just assholes who wanna get their rocks off?

When do we get to act like a nation of grown-ups where we can say, "You know, I don't give a fuck if my candidate likes to have his nutsack stomped by a cross-dressed male hooker in stiletto heels as long as he supports my issues"? And where those issues can be shit like war and education and health care and not bullshit like who's fucking who and for what reasons?
Amen. I am sick of the faux morals (and rampant moralism) of the religious right. Their leaders are some of the biggest perverts in the country, blathering on about their love of Jeezus while they are humping hookers and kids on the side. What's worse are the religious fellow travelers who tut-tut ordinary people's foibels, but won't hold their hypocritical fellows responsible for corrupting the very fabric of their faith.

America is so fucked up. We'll impeach a president over a consual blow job but don't have the balls to do it to one who has gutted rule of law and made us into a nation that condones torture. We are the opposite of a Christian nation.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Red in Tooth and Claw

In my ever expanding search for the weird, I present another "nature is weirder than you think" video from YouTube.

Rabbit and Predator

I can say right up front that the rabbit gets away relatively unscathed, so safe for general viewing. Also funny as hell.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Plain Truth

The New York Times has finally said the blindingly obvious - the Iraq mess is George W Bush's mess and he has no intention of doing a damn thing about it. This is not news to anyone who has been paying half a mind to the war, of course, but it does stand as an utterly unequivocall statement from an establishment news source that the jig is up. Some choice excerpts:

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.

Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward....

It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost....

A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse. The nation needs a serious discussion, now, about how to accomplish a withdrawal and meet some of the big challenges that will arise....

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans’ demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened — the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war.

This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.

See? Was that so hard to say? Of course, anyone with two brain cells to rub together predicted this outcome back in 2003, but we can make allowances for slow learners.

Bottom line - Bush and Cheney led the country to war on false pretenses, the mainstream media, very much including the New York Times, launched smear campaigns against any public figure who said "This is not right," and the American public was a great baby, allowing themselves to be manipulated by fear and indulging in revenge fantasies against Saddam Hussein.

People like me have been right all along, we knew it, and we told you idiots what was going to happen. There is NOTHING that has happened in Bush's War that wasn't predicted before the first US soldier was moved into position. If it salves your conscience to say "Oh, if only I had known!" go right ahead. That's how national crimes get cleaned up.

Anyone who voted for Bush in 2004 is a willing accomplice to a war crime.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Knowledge and Democracy

Eric Alterman published a speech given by E. L. Doctorow at a joint meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, The Library of Congress, April 28, 2007. It is angry, beautiful and true in the best Enlightenment sense of demonstrated by facts. Here are key paragraphs:

What does it say about the United States today that this fellowship of the arts, and sciences and philosophy is called to affirm knowledge as a public good? What have we come to when the self-evident has to be argued as if -- five hundred years into the Enlightenment and two hundred and thirty-some years into the life of this republic -- it is a proposition still to be proven? How does it happen that the modernist project that has endowed mankind with the scientific method, the concept of objective evidence, the culture of factuality responsible for the good and extended life we enjoy in the high tech world of our freedom, but more important for the history of our species, the means to whatever verified knowledge we have regarding the nature of life and the origins and laws of the universe ... how does it happen for reason to have been so deflected and empirical truth to have become so vulnerable to unreason?

From those fundamentalist leaders who proclaimed 9/11 as our just deserts for our secular humanism, our civil libertarianism, our feminists, our gay and lesbian citizens, our abortion providers, and in so doing honored the foreign killers of nearly three thousand Americans as agents of God's justice ... to the creationists, the biblical literalists, the anti-Darwinian school boards, the right-to-lifer anti-abortionist activists, the shrill media ideologues whose jingoist patriotism and ad hominem ranting serves for public discourse -- all of it in degradation of the thinking mind, all of it in fear of what it knows -- these phenomena are summoned up, and enshrined by the policies of this president. At the same time, he has set the national legislative program to run in reverse as he rescinds, deregulates, dismantles or otherwise degrades enlightened legislation in the public interest, so that in sum we find ourselves living in a social and psychic structure of the ghostly past, with our great national needs -- health care, public education, disaster relief -- going unmet. The president may speak of the nation in idealistic terms but his actions demonstrate that he has no real concept of national community. His America, like that of his sponsors, is a population to be manipulated for the power to be had for the money to be made. He is the subject of jokes and he jokes himself about his clumsiness with words, but his mispronunciations and malapropisms suggest a mind of half-learned language that is eerily compatible with his indifference to truth, his disdain for knowledge as a foundation of a democratic society.

It will take more than the recent congressional elections and revelations of an inveterately corrupt administration to dissolve the miasma of otherworldly weirdness hanging over this land, to recover us from our spiritual disarray, to regain our once clear national sense of ourselves, however illusory, as the last best hope of mankind. With our once upright democratic posture bent and misshapen, what rough beast are we as we slouch toward Bethlehem? What are we become in the hands of this president with his relentless subversion of our right to know -- his unfounded phantasmal justifications for going to war, his signing away of laws passed by Congress that he doesn't like, his unlawful secret surveillance of citizens' phone records, and email, his dicta time and time again in presumption total executive supremacy over the other two branches of government, his insensitivity to the principle of separation of church and state, his obsessive secrecy, his covert policies of torture and extraordinary rendition, where the courtroom testimony of the tortured on the torture they've endured at our hands is disallowed on the grounds that our torture techniques are classified, his embargoing of past presidential papers, and impeding access of documents to investigatory bodies, his use of the justice department to bring indictments or quash them as his party's electoral interests demand ... Knowledge sealed, skewed, sequestered, shouted down, the bearers of knowledge fired or smeared, knowledge edited, sneered at, shredded, and, as in the case of the coffins of our dead military brought home at night, no photography allowed, knowledge spirited away in the dark.


Our pluralism cannot be entirely comfortable to someone of evangelical faith. But to the extreme fundamentalist -- that member of the evangelical community militant in his belief, an absolutist intolerant of all forms of belief but his own, all stories but his own. -- our pluralism has to be a profound offense. I speak of the so-called "political base" with which our president has bonded. In our raucous democracy fundamentalist religious belief has organized itself with political acumen to promulgate law that would undermine just those secular humanist principles that encourage it flourish in freedom. Of course there has rarely been a period in our history when God has not been called upon to march. Northern abolitionists and southern slave owners both claimed biblical endorsement. Martin Luther King's civil rights movement drew its strength from prayer and examples of Christian fortitude, while the Ku Klux Klan invoked Jesus as a sponsor of their racism. But there is a crucial difference between these traditional invocations and the politically astute and well funded activists of today's Christian Right who do not call upon their faith to certify their politics as much as they call for a country that certifies their faith.

Fundamentalism really cannot help itself -- it is absolutist and can compromise with nothing, not even democracy.


The president has said the war with terrorists will last for decades and is a confrontation between "good and evil." Whether he means the evil of specific terrorist organizations or the culture from which they spring, he vision is necessarily Manichean. There is immense political power in such religiously inspired reductionism. Thus, no matter how he lies about the reason for his invasion of Iraq, or how badly it has gone, bumblingly and tragically ruinous, with so many lives destroyed, and no matter how many thousands of terrorists it has brought into being, to criticize his policy or the architects of it is said to aid the enemy. The president's inner circle of advisers, who conspire in this Manichean world view, have the unnatural vividness of personality of Shakespearean plotters. While the original think tank theorists and proponents of the war have quietly and understandably withdrawn from public view, the vice president and the president's chief policy adviser stand tall -- the first contemptuous of his critics, his denials of reality and obfuscations delivered in the dour tones of unquestionable authority, the second too clever by half, and because he has spent his years developing a theocratic constituency and wearing such blinders as an exclusive concern with party power has attached to him, most clearly has a future in the culture of anti-democracy he has so deviously and unwisely nurtured.

A Manichean politics reduces the relevance of knowledge and degrades the truth which knowledge discovers. The past seven years of American political life are an uncanny cycle we've slipped into, or slid into, that foresees the democratic traditions of this country as too much of a luxury to be maintained. We see, since the last election, the struggle now for the legislative branches to regain some of their constitutional prerogatives. They struggle not only with a recalcitrant president and vice president who impugns their motives but against the precedents of the imperial presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, each of whom added another conservative shock to the principle of separation of powers. Many of the executive practices today -- the blatant cronyism, the political uses of the justice department, the evisceration of regulatory agencies, and so on -- are empowered by these precedents. And so we have marched along from the imperial presidency, through four years of a one-party faux democracy, to plutocracy, to the borders of authoritarianism.

To take the long view, American politics may be seen as the struggle between the idealistic secular democracy of a fearlessly self-renewing America, the metaphysical risks that are the heritage of the enlightenment, and our great resident capacity to be in denial of what is intellectually and morally incumbent upon us to pursue.

Melville in Moby Dick speaks of "reality outracing apprehension." Apprehension in the sense not of fear or disquiet, but of understanding... reality as too much for us to take in, as for example, the white whale is too much for the Pequod and its captain. It may be that our new century is an awesome complex white whale in our quantumized wave/particles and the manipulable stem cells of our biology, ecologically in our planetary crises of nature, technologically in our humanoid molecular computers, sexually in the rising number of our genders, intellectually in the paradoxes of our texts, and so on.

What is more natural than to rely on the saving powers of simplism? Perhaps with our dismal public conduct, so shot through with piety, we are actually engaged in a genetic engineering venture that will make a slower, dumber, more sluggish whale, one that can be harpooned and flensed, tried and boiled to light our candles. A kind of water- wonderworld whale made of racism, nativism, cultural illiteracy, fundamentalist fantasy, and the righteous priorities of wealth.

I summon up the year 1787 when the Constitutional Convention had done its work and the drafted Constitution was sent out to the states for ratification. The public's excitement was palpable. Extended and vigorous statehouse debates echoed through the towns and villages, and as one by one the states voted to ratify, church bells rang, cheers went up from the public houses, and in the major cities the people turned out to parade with a fresh new sense of themselves as a nation. Everyone marched -- tradespeople, workingmen, soldiers, women, and clergy. They had floats in those days too -- most often a wagon-size ship of state called the Union, rolling through the streets with children waving from the scuppers. Philadelphia came up with a float called the New Roof, a dome supported by thirteen pillars and ornamented with stars. It was drawn by ten white horses and at the top was a handsome cupola surmounted by a figure of Plenty bearing her cornucopia. The ratification parades were sacramental -- symbolic venerations, acts of faith. From the beginning, people saw the Constitution as a kind of sacred text for a civil society.

And with good reason: The ordaining voice of the Constitution is scriptural, but in resolutely keeping the authority for its dominion in the public consent, it presents itself as the sacred text of secular humanism.

When the ancient Hebrews broke their covenant they suffered a loss of identity and brought disaster on themselves. Our burden too is covenantal. We may point to our two hundred some years of national survival as an open society, constitutionally sworn to a degree of free imaginative expression that few cultures in the world can tolerate, we may regard ourselves a an exceptionalist, historically self-correcting nation whose democratic values locate us just as surely as our geography....and yet we know at the same time that all through our history we have brutally excluded vast numbers of us from the shelter of the New Roof, we have broken our covenant again and again with a virtuosity verging on damnation and have been saved only by the sacrificial efforts of Constitution-reverencing patriots in and our of government -- presidents, senators, justices, self impoverishing lawyers, abolitionists, muckrakers, third-party candidates, suffragists, union organizers, striking workers, civil rights martyrs.

Because this president's subversion of the Constitution outdoes anything that has gone on before, and as it has created large social constituencies ready to support the flag waving ideals of an incremental fascism, we're called upon to step forward to reaffirm our covenant like these exemplars from the past.


To temporize human affairs, to look not up for some applied celestial accreditation, but forward, at ground level, in the endless journey, to resist any authoritarian restrictions on thought, suppression of knowledge that is the public good --- is the essence of our civil religion. ... If we accept it as our own and decide something is right after all in a democracy that is given to a degree of free imaginative expression that few cultures in the world can tolerate, we can hope for the aroused witness, the manifold reportage, the flourishing of knowledge, that will restore us to ourselves, awaken the dulled sense of our people to the public interest that is their interest, and vindicate the genius of the humanist sacred text that embraces us all.

We are called to no less than a new covenant with the true and foundational religion of the United States.