Belaboring the Obvious

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Science and the MSM....

In a recent article, Jeff Cohen of FAIR reminded me of a problem that seems to be growing in the so-called mainstream media--and especially through the Bush years, when science has taken a back seat to ideology.

There are reporters out there--presumably top-notch ones--who were completely taken in by a little flash talk from the Bush administration, and simply have no scientific training on which to depend for their reporting on issues which are, increasingly, dependent upon at least some minimal knowledge of a wide variety of scientific disciplines.

So much of the breathless dreck which was reported in the run-up to the war could have been avoided with equal measures of skepticism and just a little scientific background.

As Cohen reminds us, Judith Miller and Michael Gordon were among those suckered by the White House (on any number of occasions and topics) and especially on the subject of the "aluminum tubes." I cannot count the number of clueless reporters who wrote something like, "the import of aluminum tubes used in nuclear weapons." Those "aluminum tubes" were not used in nuclear weapons (the average reporter today, even with the declassification of basic nuclear weapon design, couldn't tell an aluminum tube from a Toyota). Rather, they would have been used (if appropriately specified) in gas centrifuges.

That fact didn't escape the notice of Gordon and Miller, but neither of those reporters, reputed to be experts on weapons of mass destruction by the country's "paper of record," happily reported the administration line without, apparently, a solitary moment of skepticism. A call to the IAEA with a few pertinent questions, informed by basic scientific understanding, would have resolved the question of "the toobz." To wit: the intercepted tubes were of what alloy? Is that alloy strong enough for centrifuge use and compatible with uranium hexafluoride gas? The administration said the aluminum was anodized. Would anodizing be eaten off by the very reactive uranium hexafluoride gas and would that clog up the separation/enrichment process? The tubes were reputed to be 81mm in diameter. Isn't that too big and heavy for use in a gas centrifuge? Isn't that a standard size for artillery rocket launching tubes? And so on.

The same might be said for Powell's bravura performance before the UN Security Council. If there were, indeed, mobile biological labs, why did the administration depend upon colored illustrations of them, instead of satellite photos? Why, when the administration excitedly announced that those laboratories had been found, did no reporter ask how airborne contaminants such as molds and fungi could be excluded from a truck which had no clean room and was equipped with a canvas canopy (the trucks were finally determined to be carrying hydrogen generators for artillery balloons, and were originally built by the British), or how the technicians could have been spared death from their own product with such facilities? If one has no clue about how bioweapons are made in bulk, one does not ask those questions.

When Powell held up a vial purportedly containing weaponized anthrax spores, did any pundit ask, "if that's really anthrax, did it come from Iraq, or from our labs? And if it's not anthrax in there, what is the reason for Powell suggesting that it is? And, don't the answers to those questions have a bearing on the matter at hand?" And on and on and on.

Even a small amount of scientific knowledge and logic on the part of a properly skeptical reporter would have gone a long, long way to exposing--before the war--the deceit employed by the administration in their quest for war for political purposes.

When some administration sources slyly suggested that all of Iraq's chemical weapons and precursor materials had been shipped to some secret location in the middle of Syria's desert, why did no reporter do the math from the numbers offered by the administration? It wasn't that difficult to do. From the amounts offered by the administration, one could make simple guesstimates about the density of the organic compounds involved, multiply those against the many thousands of gallons of each component asserted, add in the weight of the containers holding them, and, as I did, come up with the rough number of tractor-trailers required to move that purported amount of material. With an average route of 450 miles, there would have been trucks on the highway north spaced one mile apart, coming and going, twenty-four hours a day for three weeks, if Iraq even had that many trucks. No satellite captured that traffic or the end destination(s)? A little simple math would have made that question relevant.

Where was the evidence for the unmanned aerial vehicles capable of spraying those chemical and biological weapons on the coastal areas of the United States? How were those UAVs to get to the United States? What was their size? Their range? Their maximum payload? When the few recovered prototype balsa wood, spit and duct-taped examples were shown to the press after the invasion, they were not even close to as well-made as those by amateur quarter-scale model airplane enthusiasts in this country, and, if they had worked at all would have had a range of perhaps, at best, twenty miles or thirty miles. But, most reporters reported them as threats, rather than the slapped-together jokes they actually were.

What about the charges that Hussein could launch an attack on the United States in as little as forty-five minutes? How, and by what means? Did anyone in the mainstream press ask that question and press for an answer which did not border on the ludicrous? I don't recall anyone challenging that on the basis of fact. Most reporters accepted it as true because Bush said British intelligence and Tony Blair said so. After all, the British had issued a report saying just that. Who was to doubt them, even though there was no evidence? Certainly not the reporters of the scientifically-savvy United States....

When Kindasleazza Rice went before the cameras of the networks, ominously invoking "mushroom clouds" as the inevitable payback for insufficiently prompt action on our part, how many reporters asked, "how is Hussein going to do that with an infrastructure crippled by war and sanctions? How is Hussein going to get a bomb here even if he could get make one in the near future? If he has nothing but variants on SCUD missiles, capable of at best a few hundred miles' range, and no planes with more than a few hundred miles' range and no aerial refueling capability, how does he get a bomb here? By ship? Wouldn't we be watching for that? Is there any ship in the Iraqi navy, such as it is, that wouldn't run out of fuel before it rounded the Horn of Africa? With a baker's dozen of carrier battle groups at our disposal and satellites in space capable of tracking any ship, wouldn't we be able to dispatch any errant Iraqi gunboat/garbage scow/rented tin can on the high seas?"

Alas, no one of any note asked any of those questions. Merely asking the questions, persistently, and denying the Bush administration the opportunity to make bullshit sound like science (a tendency on the part of this administration--in following the example of our Dear Leader--of which most reporters should have been already highly aware), might have been enough to short-circuit the Cheney administration's war. But, what can one expect from the press when someone on NPR labelled Newton's Second Law of Momentum as the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

All the questions above are not rocket science. They're grounded in logic and just a few simple, easy to understand concepts and a little practical knowledge--and are prompted by some skepticism about the evidence offered by the Bushies. But, the best and the brightest in the White House press corpse didn't ask those questions. They went for drama instead of the details that mattered--because they had no notion of what those details might be or what questions to ask. Judith Miller, often described by others in the press as an "expert" on weapons proliferation (and perhaps, by comparison to those clueless souls, she was) never asked, never probed, never challenged. She didn't know squat about what she was writing, but, she talked a good game and she had the power of The New York Times' reputation behind her. Even so, her repeatedly demonstrated tendency to be taken in by administration officials who, like her, talked convincingly about things of which they knew nothing, knew no bounds. Had Judith Miller known concepts and principles instead of buzzwords and ideology, and applied them with some healthy skepticism, she might have been able to give the public a more accurate view of the situation before the war. More's the pity that she, like most of her brethren in the press, did not, would not, and could not bring both skepticism and a knowledge of the fundamentals to the utterly essential task at hand--informing the public.

A little more skepticism and a little more scientific awareness might answer a number of important questions before the Bush administration plows right ahead on its next misadventure in oil country.

(art from

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

About Bush's Lie-Bury....

Bush wants to raise half a billion dollars to construct his preznidential library and to house his "think tank." To paraphrase Coleridge, "in Dallas did Bobblehead Bush, an unseemly treasure-dome decree...."

The first thing that comes to mind is that, if this library is intended to, in any way, create some verisimilitude of Bush's actual presidency, they'd better drop the "think" from in front of "think tank" for at least two obvious reasons.

The second thing that pops into my head about this is that if he can raise 500 million smackers for a library to house a few hundred signing statements written by David Addington and an interminable catalog of photos from his photo-ops, imagine how much money he could pull in for his criminal defense fund....

Will there be an Abu Ghraib horrors exhibit in the basement, like the dungeon at Madame Tussaud's in London? Will there be a diorama of the Ninth Ward, under water?

Will the infamous preznident-choking pretzel have a little glass case of its own?

Will all the wealthy Saudi sheiks want their money back if Bush and his administration are
impeached, indicted, thrown in jail, and therefore cannot act as special consultants to Carlyle? And, if Bush is impeached, indicted and convicted, will his library have to call visiting days something else?

If no future president rescinds Bush's Executive Order 13233 limiting access to presidential papers (and that should be task one for any future president), can the Bush Library actually be called that? Shouldn't it more properly be called the Bush Presidential Papers Mausoleum?

Will the copy of My Pet Goat read by Bush on the morning of 9/11 have its own special shrine?

How much will the Disney Animatronic figure of Barbara Bush cost, and what will she say when greeting the bored, unfortunate visitors to Shrub's colossal $500 million monument to limitless deception?

Finally, if Bush gets his own library, won't the helmsman of the sinking Cheney Administration want one, too? And how much would that white elephant cost?

(title credit must go to Realist in the comments over at Pensito Review)

Monday, November 27, 2006

About that House Intelligence Chairmanship....

It seems to be on every pundit's mind these days, and those pundits are doing their utmost to shape the debate as one of Pelosi v. Harman. Harman is consistently portrayed as the "centrist" and Pelosi the wild-eyed, rabid leftist.

Glenn Greenwald's probably got the right take on this. The Beltway boys and girls want Harman because she represents them, and her elevation to chair of the intelligence committee would validate their previous positions on the issues--even though they and Harman were, well, flat fucking wrong on all of them.

Greenwald says Harman is "smart and knowledgeable," but is wrong on the issues. I'd say she was completely wrong on the evidence before the Iraq AUMF, and then, after being briefed on what were clearly illegal surveillance programs (programs which Bush admitted that he'd authorized and would continue to authorize), Harman sided, once again, with a corrupt President. So, wrong on the evidence and the analysis of the evidence and fully on-board with illegal activities by the White House. Smart? Emphatically not. Ideologically bent? Probably.

If Jane Harman is actually knowledgeable about the workings of the committee and the matters it is intended to oversee, she's been badly deficient in doing her duty. I'd almost prefer that she were stupid and venal (anyone who was as easily suckered by an idiot like Bush deserves that assessment), rather than see her as competent and still willfully supporting illegality.

The pundits have been pushing, as a far-second alternate, Alcee Hastings, in part because he has the House Black Caucus behind his appointment. And yet, Hastings was impeached and removed from the bench when a federal judge. The impeachment in the House was led by John Conyers, Jr., another member of that caucus. Whether Hastings knows anything about intelligence has not been explored as an issue--only his ethics have been questioned. What little I could find about Hastings suggested that, if appointed, he would turn the committee to matters of interest to him, particularly with regard to Africa. If true, that would make him another ideologue, and a clueless one, to boot. But, at least Hastings--after seeing the same evidence as Harman--had the sense to vote against the Iraq war resolution.

The war the pundits have been promoting between Pelosi and Harman and the consistent treatment they've applied to Hastings (focusing on his prior ethical problems rather than his technical fitness for the job) are meant to obscure one thing--there's no formal seniority hierarchy on the committee. There are other, better candidates to do the work the committee must do if the Dems are to live up to their promises to the public to once again fulfill their oversight obligations and do the investigative detail work which will be absolutely necessary to bring an out-of-control Executive branch to heel. By focusing so tightly on Harman and Hastings, the Beltway beggars intend to restrict the public debate to just those two possibilities.

Rush Holt is another possibility, and there's no good reason why Pelosi shouldn't also consider someone who is not on the committee at the present time. In fact, if the membership rules do not change, Pelosi will have to pick three new Democratic members, anyway (current membership is split 12R/9D). So is Lynn Woolsey, who is both very progressive and has been outspoken about the way in which the war was foisted on the public, and would likely bring a bit more skepticism to intelligence oversight (as Porter Goss ably demonstrated, being buddies with the same people one is overseeing and injecting partisan politics into the investigation of intelligence misbehavior isn't exactly good practice).

Whatever Pelosi decides, her decision should advance one principle--toughness about what the Bush White House has done in the past six years regarding misuse of both intelligence and the intelligence services. The excesses of this administration are orders of magnitude beyond the worst of what Nixon's bunch did, and the House Select Committee on Intelligence should be willing to investigate--and expose--those excesses. If the reputations of prominent intelligence personnel suffer, so be it. Their obligation is first to the law and to the people represented by the Constitution and second to any administration. If Pelosi caves and does not appoint someone to that committee with the same tenacity and single-mindedness as a Conyers at the Judiciary Committee, or a Waxman at the Government Reform Committee, we can expect the abuses to continue. We have a right to know what the Bush administration has been doing in our name.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

All in the Family (A Tender Thanksgiving Tale)....

Seems Father Bush, in what he thought was a safe venue, got a dose of reality, instead:

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Former President George H.W. Bush took on Arab critics of his son Tuesday during a testy exchange at a leadership conference in the capital of this U.S. ally.

"My son is an honest man," Bush told members of the audience harshly criticized the current U.S. leader's foreign policy.

The oil-rich Persian Gulf used to be safe territory for former President Bush, who brought Arab leaders together in a coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's troops from Kuwait in 1991.

But gratitude for the elder Bush, who served as president from 1989-93, was overshadowed at the conference by hostility toward his son, whose invasion of Iraq and support for Israel are deeply unpopular in the region.

"We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world," a woman in the audience bluntly told Bush after his speech.

Bush, 82, appeared stunned as others in the audience whooped and whistled in approval.

A college student told Bush his belief that U.S. wars were aimed at opening markets for American companies and said globalization was contrived for America's benefit at the expense of the rest of the world. Bush was having none of it.

"I think that's weird and it's nuts," Bush said. "To suggest that everything we do is because we're hungry for money, I think that's crazy. I think you need to go back to school." [Apparently, this student has heard of the Bush family motto: "Public service for private gain." --ed.]


"This son is not going to back away," Bush said, his voice quivering.


"I can't begin to tell you the pride I feel in my two sons," Bush said. "When your son's under attack, it hurts. You're determined to be at his side and help him any way you possibly can."


Bush said he'd spoken with Baker recently - the two are neighbors in Houston - but preferred to reminisce about old times than discuss what America ought to do in Iraq.

"In the early 1960s, Jim Baker and I were the men's doubles champions in tennis in the city of Houston," Bush said with a grin. [Hmm... looks as if Poppy Bush does "looky over there" about as well as his son--ed.]


"He is working hard for peace. It takes a lot of guts to get up and tell a father about his son in those terms when I just told you the thing that matters in my heart is my family," he said. "How come everybody wants to come to the United States if the United States is so bad?" [Erm, George, maybe not so much these days--ed.]

Well, after all, how many ordinary fathers would want to admit in public that a child of theirs is a self-important, preening, incompetent asshole who's hamhandedly fucked up the most visible job in the country, putting him on the short list for the "Worst President of All Goddamned Time" title?

But, let's take a few of those statements and compare them to the known knowns, as ex-Field Marshal Rumsfeld would say. "My son is an honest man...." I would have to say that if he is, it's only by Bush family standards. The bulk of the rest of us have come to the conclusion that he is not, by any ordinary, commonly-accepted standard, an honest man. He lied the country into a war which he may have been intending ever since he entered politics, all the while proclaiming that war was a last resort. Strike one, high and over the plate.

If Bush was fundamentally honest, he never would have written, for example, an executive order in contravention of clear and settled law which prevented the release of his father's Vice-Presidential and Presidential papers, which, by law, are the property of the American public. Strike two, low and inside.

Beyond that, evidence of Bush's duplicity (a nice word for lying) litters the last six years and his campaign for the Presidency. He largely lied by diversion and omission about virtually his entire life prior to entering politics. Even his Texas driver's license number was changed when he became governor to prevent anyone from investigating his public past, and for one reason only. If everyone knew what a spoiled, careless little shit he was before the election, he couldn't have been elected to be Crawford's dogcatcher. Even Crawford has some standards. Strike three, down the middle.

How about "we do not torture," even after there was incontrovertible evidence at the time that, yes, the United States not only does torture people, but that Bush the Younger is trying mightily to hide behind the "short of death" fig leaf provided by lawyers who seem to have graduated from the Schutzstaffel School of Law? Ah, hell, he's a Bush, so, a do-over. Strike four, a 105 mph fastball in the pipe.

There are a few thousand more of his lies waiting for a little sunlight, and only because the press is terrified of him and Denny Hastert and Bill Frist have been tucking him into bed at night.

Up next: "He is working hard for peace." Looking at this logically, Bush has started two long-term wars which have, if anything, sorely disrupted the international peace. His administration is now undertaking planning at this moment for yet more war against yet another country (possibly two more, if one guesses that military targeting work is now being undertaken against North Korea; plans are without question underway toward attacking Iran). Nor is there much question that, apart from a few areas around the government quarters in Kabul, life is anything but peaceful in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's the old man's turn at the plate and he whiffs the first one.

Politically, the United States has never been more divided and cantankerous and contentious since the Civil War. Promising in his first campaign to be a "uniter, not a divider," Bush has instead turned family Thanksgiving dinners into verbal and emotional battlefields. Bush could make enemies of Irish twins. No peace domestically, either. The former prez whiffs another one.

The single most effective thing Bush could have done in his tenure to promote peace would have been to force Israel and the Palestinians back to the bargaining table, and done the hard work to, once and for all, effect a lasting peace. After 9/11, he had the perfect opportunity to describe to the nation and the world the ways in which extremism was not the path to peace. But, according to Ron Suskind, Bush had decided, within days of his first inauguration, that solving that problem was a waste of time and effort (issuance of the "roap map" came late and without any diplomatic initiative to accompany it). As if to reinforce that opinion of his, Bush actively aided Israel in the wholesale destruction of Lebanon for the second time in a couple of decades. Ol' numbah 41 tips one into the catcher's mitt.

"To suggest that everything we do is because we're hungry for money, I think that's crazy."

Well, technically speaking, Poppy may be right on this. Some things they do for votes, because they can't raid the public till until they're in office.

Under his administration, Bush the Younger's "faith-based initiative" turns out to be an exercise in cronyism to reward religious leaders for delivering votes. Bush's second, ol' Toad-In-The-Hole himself, couldn't have manipulated contracts toward his corporate alma mater, Halliburton, if he weren't in the White House.

Bush has pushed for trade agreements such as CAFTA and GATS which are enormously disadvantageous for everyone except big business. And, let's not forget that there's oil money in them thar Middle Eastern deserts. Homeland Security, as conceived by Bush and Co.™, has been an exercise in large-scale corruption. Bush's brain, Karl Rove, is likely so deep into Jack Abramoff's back pocket that he could give Abramoff a prostate massage. The energy bill devised by Bush and Cheney and passed in 2005 is not just a policy travesty--it's legalized theft from the Treasury by mature, profitable industries. In between all those pressing obligations to the big corporations, there were several successive tax cuts, the benefits of which went overwhelmingly to Bush's base, the wealthy. They'll be sure to return the favor when Junior leaves office, in much the same way as his father cashed in after he was dumped by the voters.

Poppy's protestations about "family" tend to ring a bit tinny these days, considering just how badly #1 son has boogered things up. In the words of Neil Bush's ex-wife, "they're not a family, they're a political organization." Or, if one dares to quote Kitty Kelley, the family's unauthorized biographer: "You start out looking at the Bush family like it's 'The Donna Reed Show' and then you see it's 'The Sopranos.'"

If the new Congress has the balls to go after Bush and his cronies, they'll be looking more like all three installments of "The Godfather" rolled into one long, tortured, sleazy episode. It'll be interesting to see Poppy Bush's reaction when the really heavy shit starts to come down. My guess is that he'll be running for cover, just like everyone else around Junior. And that's not just baseball talk around the ol' turkey.

(image by

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Team B" Forever....

Seymour Hersh's latest article on Iran intrigues within the government is online, and due out in the coming week's edition of The New Yorker.

As is so often the case, it is not full of bombshells, but, rather, nuggets.

The first, buried down in the first page, is the prevailing view inside Cheney's office, as espoused by David Wurmser:

But, unlike those in the Administration who are calling for limited strikes, Wurmser and others in Cheney’s office “want to end the regime,” the consultant said. “They argue that there can be no settlement of the Iraq war without regime change in Iran.”

In other words, no victory in Iraq without destroying Iran, too. As said so often here, the "Axis of Evil" was not a metaphor. It was an action plan. It's not unreasonable to surmise that had the Iraq invasion gone as the White House had wished, Iran would have already been attacked. Failure to pacify Iraq has only slowed down Cheney's plans, not halted them.

Moreover, deeper in the article, Hersh quotes an unnamed "former senior intelligence official":

The former senior intelligence official noted that at the height of the Cold War the Soviets were equally skilled at deception and misdirection, yet the American intelligence community was readily able to unravel the details of their long-range-missile and nuclear-weapons programs. But some in the White House, including in Cheney’s office, had made just such an assumption—that “the lack of evidence means they must have it,” the former official said.

This is precisely the sophistry used by the so-called "Team B" (neo-conservative think-tankers and intelligence gadflies assembled to review CIA raw data and analytical methods in 1975-6) to assert that the Soviet Union was growing ever more powerful while the CIA dithered about the quality of their evidence. As history has shown, even the CIA's less-dire estimates of USSR strength were more imaginary than prescient, and that the Soviet Union was literally coming apart at the seams, fraying internally precisely because its economic system was hemorrhaging.

On becoming Defense Secretary in 1975, Donald Rumsfeld used the same reasoning to exhort the public to new fears of the Soviet Union, and to justify large increases in defense spending and skepticism for arms control initiatives. Team B, in the meanwhile, selectively leaked their own conclusions about the evidence, without acknowledging that it was their opinion alone, rather than a consensus from the intelligence community based on a thorough vetting of the evidence. Altogether, Team B was completely, horribly and laughably wrong. The raw intelligence data was merely something onto which the "evil empire" faction could project their own fears, intentions and desires.

Hersh describes a similar situation going on now. The CIA is currently circulating a draft NIE inside government, for comment, which makes plain there is no hard, conclusive evidence of a current, active bomb-making program by Iran. This is countered by the White House insisting on the validity of unsubstantiated reports by Israeli spies within Iran which say that the Iranians are testing the triggering mechanism for a bomb at facilities in Parchin, outside Tehran. Defense officials give credence to the spies' claims. CIA does not (or, more accurately, insists they be verified before giving them credence).

Now, common sense would say that Israel's notions about sharing intelligence have always been one-sided--they spy on the US, for example, because they believe it's in their interest to do so--and, because the spies have no evidence per se (“... there are no diagrams, no significant facts. Where is the test site? How often have they done it? How big is the warhead—a breadbox or a refrigerator? They don’t have that.”), one could reasonably infer that Israel would have an interest in goading the US toward a military strike it would like to undertake itself. Good intelligence analysis is intended to separate the wheat from the chaff--to ascertain fact wherever possible and ascertain the provenance of evidence which might further individual ambitions, whether personal or at the state level.

And the Team B approach is to assume the worst on the flimsiest of evidence (manufactured or otherwise--see Mr. Curveball) and to act on those assumptions. In the 1980s, this approach cost the taxpayers a trillion or more dollars in unnecessary arms production and associated debt to counter an imploding Soviet Union. At the turn of this century--against best advice--it produced the Iraq invasion, with the further expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars and the loss of uncounted lives, both American and Iraqi. Now, the White House is doing the same thing with Iran.

In all of these instances, Cheney had a hand, either advisory, as in the Ford administration, or legislative, as in the Reagan administration, or in policy implementation, as in the current administration. His thinking is involved, one way or another, in prominent policy disasters of the last twenty-five years. That he has currently surrounded himself with neo-cons who are of clearly divided loyalty when it comes to Israel only exacerbates the problem. Israel has a strong desire to prevent other countries from developing nuclear weapons, mostly because that would shatter its nuclear hegemony over the region (one can't discount, in US policy, that all the things over which the US is complaining with regard to Iran are also matters tolerated or even encouraged in Israel).

If one thinks about it dispassionately, why wouldn't countries such as Iran be interested in obtaining nuclear weapons? Such would very possibly prevent Israel from using same on those other countries (as it threatened to do during the SCUD attacks from Iraq during the Gulf War).

So, would Israel manufacture evidence of an active Iranian bomb program where none existed to prompt a US attack? Of course, it would. The right wing in Israel's government has been closely connected to the right wing in this government, and did everything possible to further and implement an attack on Iraq, perceiving that to be in its best interest (Ehud Olmert just this past week was extolling the virtues of the US invasion of Iraq, perhaps only proving that he's as delusional as Cheney and his crew). The main difference between now and with prior administrations is that prior administrations usually acted to restrain Israel from acting in the larger region, while looking the other way at Israel's actions near its borders. Now, the two administrations are aiding and abetting each other and goading each other into action.

Regardless of how one feels about Israel, this is hardly a situation out of which a net good will arise. The momentum is toward attacking Iran, rather than negotiating from a solidly moral position (that is hardly possible, given the hypocrisies within the administration regarding its support for Israel's doing precisely that for which it condemns Iran), and another attack on a Muslim country can only reinforce the belief that the US is on yet another crusade against Muslims. As importantly, it cannot accomplish its intended aims--Iraq will not become docile, as Hersh suggests, if an attack is made on Iran with the intention of killing off its current leadership, as the current policy implies. It will, if anything, rally the Iranians around the hard-liners and prompt them to actually do in large fashion what they may be only doing in small, insignificant ways at present. As well, as Hersh suggests, yet another attack on a Muslim country may cause Shia and Sunni to bind together to destroy their common enemy. Backlash against both the US and Israel would be almost certain, and in unpredictable ways.

In terms of actual worst-case scenarios, a large-scale attack on Iran is, paradoxical as it seems, far worse in outcome for all countries in the region--and the US--than the eventual attainment of a bomb by the Iranians. Proliferation of weapons is by no means a good thing, but even with them, there's opportunity for continued negotiations (South Africa and Brazil, for example, have abandoned nuclear weapons development and signed onto the non-proliferation regimen, and South Africa had already built several gun-type bombs and tested one--likely with the help of the Israelis). While the popular press wrings its hands over a "terrorist" nation such as Iran obtaining the bomb, there's little evidence to indicate that security over such a weapon would be fundamentally different there than in other nuclear countries. Use of such a weapon anywhere in the world would likely subject Iran to a retaliation which would annihilate it. As stated, the most obvious aspect of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would be its deterrence to other military actions by the US and/or Israel. As such, it cuts the number of future military options available to those two countries. It would, in effect, force Israel and/or the United States to negotiate in good faith on a host of issues, including current sanctions against Iran.

And the effects of a large-scale invasion and/or attack on Iran? Let us count the ways:

  • Disruption of oil shipments in and out of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, causing prices to float upwards due to speculation. Good for Cheney's pals, bad for the rest of us.
  • Chances of escalation due to Iranian defensive actions. It's absurd to conclude that the Iranians would simply roll over and dig in against such air attacks. There would be likely loss of aircraft (something the US has been careful to avoid ever since Vietnam by attacking only targets without air power and without significant air defense capability), and possible loss of US ships and tankers in the region. Escalation could cause the US to conclude that ground invasion was necessary.
  • Arousing Muslim sympathies world-wide. This could result in volunteer attacks on US interests in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and western Europe and could restart ethnicity-fueled hostilities in places such as Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.
  • Renewed strength of attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Redefining the US as the common enemy might cause small gains made in either of those countries to evaporate. Supply lines to troops in both places could be interfered with by Iran. Additional consequences to Pakistan could occur if Iran decided that Iran was helping US interests more than it was hurting them, despite Pakistan's current status as a US ally.
  • Alternately, radical Muslims in Pakistan might overthrow the military government there and ally with Iran, thus greatly compounding the nuclear issue well before it becomes a real problem in Iran.
  • Iran shares borders with or is in close proximity to almost all the countries of interest in the region--the various `stans to the north, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, all with borders that are either not well-defended or are mountainous and difficult to defend for that reason. Iran's capable of disruptions, on the ground, in most of these places and has the manpower to undertake such excursions, which are relatively cheap and difficult to stop, and they would feel within their rights to disrupt US operations in those countries (or use places antagonistic to the US, such as Syria, for staging areas) as necessary for their own defense.
  • Increased attacks on Israeli forces south of Lebanon, and increased sympathy attacks on Israel proper. This is a no-brainer. Possible collapse of UN peacekeeping regime in Southern Lebanon.
  • Would do nothing to further the progress of tracking down remaining al-Qaeda membership, and might well hinder such progress, along with fostering associations with al-Qaeda and Iran where none existed before. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as the saying goes.
  • Would likely convince western European countries that the US had never intended to negotiate in good faith and had been using western European efforts to that end as cover for preparations for war. The loss of essential good will and negotiation support in those countries would be almost certain.
  • Accelerated decline in world opinion of US (little more decline is possible for Israel, as it has few friends left in the world because of its actions with regard to Palestine occupation). Such an attack would sway popular opinion in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan against the US, possibly resulting in internal disruptions or demands to sever military, economic or diplomatic ties. Kuwaitis, particularly, have never been favorably disposed toward the US and life could become difficult for troops at bases there.
  • Dissolution of the "coalition of the willing." Tenuous as that coalition has always been, the remaining countries with troops in Iraq would sense that their continuing presence in Iraq would be of no value and would quickly withdraw them, leaving the US with additional security holes in that country at a time when attacks on US troops would certainly be increasing.
  • Further degradation of the armed services while trapped in both urban and desert combat.

And, yet, with all of those potential consequences, an attack on Iran might happen, no matter what. If Sy Hersh and his sources are right, the cautious voices in the government have not been able to tamp down the smoldering ardor of the vice-president and his office for an attack, one that is large enough and sustained enough to destroy Iran's military, its (possibly still peaceful) nuclear infrastructure and its leadership.

Unfortunately, the public in the US saw fit to return the modern-day equivalent of Little Lord Fauntleroy to office, all ego and no brains, and with him, close to his ear, his very own mentally-deficient Mephistopheles, whispering, whispering, whispering to him with words full of urgency and ambition, imagined threats and irrevocable deeds, all in furtherance of an unspoken subtext of oil, wealth, the exercise of raw power and brittle dreams of world domination.

H.L. Mencken said, "As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." --The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Mencken undoubtedly said that expecting Warren G. Harding to win the upcoming election. But, even he could not anticipate the debilitating effects of one moron, cloaked in the flag and steeped in religious delusion, in league with yet another moron, demonically possessed of faith in his own befuddled judgment and determined to prove, once and for all, that 2 + 2 = 5.

Team B has morphed into Team B & C.

Friday, November 17, 2006

If there weren't a Washington press corps...

... we would have to invent one....

They're already in a snit over Nancy Pelosi, trying hard to portray her as Madame Nhu. It's a bitchy cat-fight over clothes because she doesn't want Jane Harman running the House Intelligence Committee. Maybe it's more because Harman spent years sucking up to Darth Cheney and went along with his fearmongering, and under the Republicans, it's been run by insider political hacks (Porter Goss) and the ought-to-be-institutionalized (Pete Hoekstra). She's suffered some sort of monstrous setback because the Democratic Caucus elected Steny Hoyer over her favorite candidate for Majority Leader, Jack Murtha. So, Pelosi's out of control already, the Democrats are in disarray already, while there's nary a harsh word for the Senate Republicans bringing back The South's favorite genteel white supremacist, pork packer and toupee model, Trent Lott, in a very close vote for Minority Whip.

So, a word to the wise Democrat: the press is back to operating on Clinton rules and they're gunning for you. They don't want to know about Bush's failures. They don't care that the man has the intellectual capacity of a grape and the empathy of a raisin. They truly aren't concerned that the Republican sewer that Washington has become is rife with juicy stories of wrongdoing, and they aren't going to cover that unless their noses are rubbed in it (except, perhaps, for the few remaining investigative journalists in town, such as Sy Hersh, Bob Parry and Jonathan Landay and the boys at the McClatchy nee Knight-Ridder Washington bureau).

The town is simmering in a stew of corruption, executive excess, bribery, incompetence, preznidential hubris of a level and kind far above that exhibited by Richard Nixon, foreign intrigue, illegal war and a White House full of ne'er-do-wells that Tom Clancy's fevered imagination couldn't create, and the Beltway pundits are chortling over a Democratic House leader who hasn't even been sworn in yet.

That should tell you what's going down. The new Dem representative from East Bumfuck, Indiana, farts in public and that's good for a week's haw-hawing. Some unfortunate Democrat bobbles a punch line and there's two weeks' worth of comparisons to John Kerry. Open your mouth, and the press is going to make something of it that it wasn't.

Let's call it for what it is--yellow journalism of the modern age. It's the tits and ass of news. The NY Times and The Washington Post haven't yet gone to naked women on page three like the British tabloids, but if they did, it would probably improve the overall content, given what they've been doing in the last week. What's worse, they seem to be all but ignoring the really, really bizarre and funny stuff that the Republicans have been doing out in the cornfields....

So, fresh, new Democrats, and old hands, too--some advice. Shut your mouths and do your jobs. Let your subpoenae speak for you. Dig into that simmering stew and make the press and the public smell it, taste it, sense the genuine awfulness of it. Make `em gag on it. Especially the Beltway pundits and the Chatty Kathys on cable news. If they're busy retching, they're too occupied to clown around trying to make you look silly.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Television, History's Make-Up Artist

With all these potential hearings on Bush admin malfeasance, misfeasance, stupidity, war, lies, cronyism and outright churlishness and thuggery coming up, it occurs to me that I've perhaps done without video contact from the outside world for a bit too long (ten years, in fact). Anybody want to make me a really good deal on a satellite dish, TiVo and about eight thousand hours of videotape?

Of course, then I read what political coverage on television has become and I'm suddenly not sure it's worth all that money. Maybe not worth any money at all. Remember all the shots from the `50s and `60s of people watching the news by crowding around on the sidewalk in front of a radio and tv store, watching sets through its front window? That's pretty much my speed these days, even though there are no more radio and tv stores....

And, when I think further on it, the things this administration has done are far, far worse than anything Nixon did, probably even worse than what Reagan did, and yet, we didn't get much of the truth during hearings in either of those prior instances. Oh, sure, there was just enough red meat thrown to the political wolves to keep them all quiet, and, most importantly, convince them that they were right all along. Nixon resigned well before the people were, metaphorically or literally, ready to march through the streets with his liver on a pike. It's taken almost forty years for the rest of the drips and the drabs to come out (as in staff had to steer Nixon away from the phone of evenings because he liked to call foreign leaders and lecture them when he was drunk). Ollie North managed to both infuriate the political wolves and simultaneously pacify them--his seeming forthrightness about breaking the law was infuriating, but, at the same time, it proved to the wolves that Reagan really was running the government as if it were a fascist operation, and that confirmed their suspicions. It was also a way to use the hearings to prevent prosecution.

In neither Nixon's nor Reagan's scandals did most grasp that the most important thing was that the top people avoid going to jail--as they well should have. Politics in this country would be greatly different today if we'd been better at removing and then prosecuting wrongdoers. If Nixon had spent fifteen years working in the prison laundry for laundering campaign cash, it might have slowed down the illegal tendencies of Reagan's boys. If Reagan had died in prison for illegal arms sales, misuse of government resources and funding terrorism, it might have given pause to Bush, Cheney and Rummy. Then again, it may not have with that troika of authoritarians. Still and all, television has fuzzed the focus.

Impeachment was put into the Constitution for a reason--the Founders knew that wielding great power has always held within it the capacity for great mischief. And for almost forty years, we've seen one political party front multiple presidential candidates whose desire for power has caused them to behave irresponsibly with that power. We all know the excuses--executive privilege, moral obligation to an ideology, personal whims conflated with grand purpose--but the very raw fact is that none of the top people exceeding the boundaries of good governance in modern times have been punished for their excesses. Precisely because of the existence of political parties, impeachment has become a political tool, rather than a managerial one, thus guaranteeing that its use will always be attributed to venal and petty intentions (clearly such was in evidence in the Clinton impeachment), rather than the more lofty purpose of ridding government of those whose excesses have become egregious. As political divisiveness has increased, impeachment has become ever more meaningless, and toothless. Television has done its part in egging on that divisiveness, too, in order to create "drama" out of ordinary life.

Proof of that latter point, I suppose, is in the fact that Bush, having publicly admitted illegal acts on a broad scale, is still President, and that all talk of his impeachment has been couched in strictly partisan political terms--would impeaching him serve any useful purpose, would talk of his impeachment help or hurt one party or the other's electoral chances in the midterms, etc. I have the feeling that, in the absence of political parties, Bush's immediate impeachment upon his admission of wrongdoing would have been a pro forma exercise, accomplished with a minimum of rancor and a maximum of efficiency--as would have Nixon's and Reagan's, as well. That the Founders intended it to be used in that fashion is explicit in the Constitutional language describing impeachment, as compared to, say, the language describing treason. Treason is very serious business, with the terms of those charges and the demands for required evidence clearly stated, while impeachment is much more broadly considered, including not just unlisted "high crimes," but unlisted "misdemeanors" as well. What the Constitution essentially says about impeachment is, "fuck up in any way, shape, form or degree and you're outta there."

That Congress should have the ability to remove bad actors from positions of power reflects the nature of elective democracy. Ambitious politicians can lie convincingly to the voters about their intentions for governance. Anyone, after campaigning on personal qualities of honesty and trust can then surround himself with appointed liars, crooks and thieves. Bush has done both, and yet, his impeachment (and later criminal trial on substantive charges) is not only in some doubt, but is actively being argued against as a politically unwise move.

The option being floated today as preferable is to continue him to allow him to pursue any and all illegal acts in which he chooses to engage and simply allow him to leave office in a couple of years. Being rid of him in that manner is seen as "better for the country" than to expose him and us to a politically contentious and tendentious process that--because of partisanship alone--may not result in his actual removal from office.

Partly because of political punditry, partly because of Congressional timidity, and mostly because of partisan allegiance (all of which are incited and complicated by a media with its own agenda), impeachment has been elevated to the status of treason--even though impeachment was intended to be a simple and practical means of removing from government people who would not, for whatever reason, govern within the law. It's one thing for Congress to find evidence of a failure to execute law through its oversight obligations, inform the Executive or the Judiciary of that failure and have it corrected--that's a simple function of tripartite government, and is not deserving of impeachment. It's quite another thing for Congress to refuse its oversight obligations so as not to reveal illegal activity and then actively protect a leader from impeachment out of partisan political considerations while that leader continues his illegal activity. Leaving problems until they grow disproportionately large contributes to the aura of impeachment as monstrously disruptive to democracy, where, in fact, it has always been intended to further the aims and interests of governance by democratic means. Congress, rather than the Judiciary, was chosen to try impeachments because it was seen as the most direct link to the wishes of the electorate. In its effect, impeachment was the national equivalent of the states' rights to recall its elected officials.

Guess I've talked myself out of expenditures on television.... Any hearings coming up will be much like those in the past--excited revelations leading to endless analysis, without anyone saying, bluntly, straight-out, "George Bush told me to do it, even if it broke the law." The people with the rottenest reputations will have those reputations and their hides protected. Ambiguity of intention will be explored and parsed so finely that no simple truth could escape intact and come to public view. The national security state will continue to protect, via state secrecy, its right to secrecy, and the right of its minions to evade exposure. We will be served a tiny appetizer and will be told it's a four-course meal. We will be invited to participate in "democracy in action," but only insofar as that democracy is defined by the traditional media's conventional wisdom.

Almost everyone in this country, even those most staunchly in Bush's political corner, knows that Bush lied us into illegally invading another country, and that he and his administration have unilaterally and without the consent of the people abrogated treaties, spied on citizens without warrant, usurped power in egregious fashion, have exhibited the most brazen of corrupt cronyism and were, very likely, criminally negligent in failing to prevent the attacks of five years ago. Instead of bright revelation, we will instead be subjected to a sort of interminable legal wrangling intended to obfuscate the truth even as it is described by the media as revealing truth. There will be minor players who go to jail and are eventually pardoned in the hours before Bush leaves office. Bush himself may suffer some mud-splattering, but he will leave office with his presidential pension intact, and, as with Nixon, Reagan and his father, the Sunday morning political pundits on the right will do their very best to rehabilitate his reputation as an elder statesman, hoping to take best advantage of the United States of Amnesia. Across generations, history will be rewritten on television just enough to hide the simple fact that Bush was an inarticulate, willfully ignorant (and possibly mentally unstable) punk who, when handed the keys to the largest military and security apparatus in the world, acted like a drunken frat boy who'd stolen the family car and had taken it for a joyride.

Television will never tell us that.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Finally, only thirty-eight years late, Bush is on his way to Vietnam. Wonder if he'll tell the Vietnamese stories of his drunken frat boy days when he was all for someone else killing them. While there, he's going to prove that John Kerry's war record is a lie, with the help of the Swift Boat Veterans and O.J. Simpson.

Florida political cartoonists are committing mass suicide because Katherine Harris is no longer running for anything. One says, "there's nothing left to live for."

Bush wants to run John Bolton headlong against the Senate again. Wonder what the justification for yet another try will be? "John’s a good man. He hasn’t killed any other ambassadors, yet. He did throw his shoe at an Iranian staffer, but that’s all blown over now. And there’s just no truth to the rumor that he told the French foreign minister, Mr. Barn-yay, that he was gonna ‘pull down his pants, bend him over his desk and make him squeal lak a pig.’ It’s just not true.”

The word is out that hundreds of young Republican staffers around Washington, DC, will be without a job soon, and long faces abound (so many thought they'd have a lifelong career thanks to the one-party oligarchy they'd been working so hard to achieve), and there's no question that even the mighty right-wing welfare system isn't going to be able to accommodate them all. They've been casting about for suggestions. So, my first is: make the most of that horrid Democratic New Deal program, unemployment insurance. Second, there's always this.

Patrick O'Connor writes in The Hill: "'The White House said keeping the majority was a priority, but they failed to do the one thing that could have made a difference,' one House GOP leadership aide said Thursday. 'For them to toss Rumsfeld one day after the election was a slap in the face to everyone who worked hard to protect the majority.'" One of those instances of "can't live with `im, can't live without `im," I suppose. The good news is that Rummy's gone, the bad news, according to the GOP, is that he wasn't gone soon enough (didn't hear many of them saying that before the election, though). But, there's a silver lining in every cloud. Rummy has hired Karl Rove to be his pool boy at his new retirement home in an unextraditable country.

But, it certainly shows Bush's political savvy--he created an October Surprise to influence the election, and then didn't announce it until November, the day after the election was over. As they used to say in your Dad's day, George, "smooth move, Ex-Lax."

Shrub wasted no time in announcing he had a replacement for Rummy (Robert Gates), thereby proving to all that he had openly and repeatedly lied about keeping Rummy on, and therefore, had been playing to his and KKKarl's hard-core base in a shoddy attempt to sway the election. Like, "if the Democrats win, the terrorists win" wasn't shoddy enough. Good thing this wasn't 2004, with all the negative campaigning that went on then....

Speaking of Gates, Billmon thinks he's gone through a time warp. He may be right. If so, when does Gates get brain cancer, like Bill Casey, go completely aphasic from the surgery, and then, despite being unable to speak, give Bob Woodward a death-bed interview?

Speaking further of Gates, his confirmation hearing would be a wonderful time for Democrats to settle some old business, such as determining his whereabouts on Oct. 19, 1980, and finding out why the guy with the photographic memory couldn't recall details of his involvement in Iran-Contra thirty-three times. Maybe the larger question in this should be for Bush himself. Why is he now throwing out the new Republican neo-colonialists for the old Republican neo-colonialists? Maybe they're the only people who know how to circle the wagons?

Still and all, it was the election that was, and Republicans, as usual, were self-important in victory and pissy in defeat (something they all learned from Dick Nixon, I think).

And, just in case you thought they went away because we were busy with other things, those *cough* indictments *cough* and *hack* investigations *hack* are still pending. As I've mentioned before, the Republicans have tried mightily to do some sophisticated marketing cross-branding between themselves and the evangelicals. Hear "Republican" and you're supposed to also think, "Christian." Well, I've got a feeling that a new subliminal cross-branding is in process, and with any luck, by 2008, when someone says, "Republican candidate," a whole lot of people are going to think, "criminal shithead." And just in time, too....

Friday, November 10, 2006

Oh, the times, they are a-changin'....

Two of the lessons of this election--which establishment Democrats are trying desperately to ignore--is that good candidates can win, even when they've been thoroughly outspent by their Republican opponents, and that mediocre candidates echoing Republican "strong on defense" issues will lose, even after lavish funding by the Dem powers that be. Those principles are best illustrated by the races involving Tammy Duckworth and Kirsten Gillibrand.

In the first instance, Rahm Emanuel kicked the progressive candidate, Christine Cegelis, to the curb in favor of Duckworth (who was not indigenous to the district), pumping large amounts of money into a Dem primary that probably should have been left alone to see the results. The truly odd thing about this is that Cegelis had already demonstrated her campaign chops--she'd run against Henry Hyde in 2004--and garnered 44% of the vote against him after being outspent four to one. In the 2006 election, Cegelis would have been up against not Hyde, but, rather, Peter Roskam, an Illinois state senator who was on record as being a strong supporter of Bush's Iraq

policies (not to mention being, generally, a right-wing nutcase), had continually portrayed his position on Social Security as protective of it while previously being on record as favoring partial privatization, and had the additional negative of once being a legislative aide in Tom DeLay's office. Cegelis had been on record as against the Iraq war before it started, had strong positions on workers' rights, minimum wage, thought CAFTA a bad idea and was in favor of single-payer health insurance. In other words, she was diametrically opposite in her views to the Bush Republican Roskam.

Duckworth, on the other hand, was less distinguishable from Roskam regarding her views on the war--she didn't think sudden withdrawal was a good idea, because it might induce a civil war, generally sided with the McCain immigration proposals and emphasized veterans' rights throughout her campaign (nothing wrong with that, and it's appropriate, given her status as a disabled veteran, but it wasn't one of the pressing issues of the day for most of the electorate). Neither did Duckworth say anything particularly untoward with regard to DLC interests. Many will wonder if the RNC-sponsored robocall campaign against her worked--she lost by two points to Roskam, even though well up in the polls in the week before the election. But, the major point is that Emanuel, through the DCCC, pumped $3 million into her campaign and she still lost. We'll never know if a similar amount of money invested in Christine Cegelis' campaign would have created different results.

At the other end of the spectrum, there's Kirsten Gillibrand, who was up against a highly-conservative four-term Republican, John Sweeney, running in a predominantly rural and suburban Republican-leaning district. Gillibrand had plenty of policy-making experience, especially in the area of low-income housing, women's rights and served on the advisory board of the Brennan Center for Justice.

She was opposed to Social Security privatization, and on most issues, ran strongly counter to Sweeney's positions, calling for planning to remove troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, favoring an increase in CAFE standards to promote fuel conservation and finding ways to shore up the US manufacturing base through alternative energy programs, wanted to provide some tuition relief through tax credits to middle Americans, made reform of the alternative minimum tax and middle-class tax relief an issue, favored minimum wage hikes, blasted Sweeney on his positions on NCLB and offered reforms to that program, was in favor of affordable health care for all and wanted substantive ethical reform in Congress.

On almost every policy issue of concern to voters in her district, she differed strongly from her opponent. Her support came largely through smaller donations, Howard Dean's 50-state initiative through the DNC and from grassroots groups such as Howie Klein's Blue America PAC and VoteVets, with lesser support from the DCCC. She won that campaign by six points in an upstate NY Republican district. Did John Sweeney's personal problems (allegations of spouse abuse) enter into the campaign? Very possibly. Gillibrand was polling about fourteen points behind Sweeney until just a couple of weeks before the election. What counted to a larger degree in that last couple of weeks, though, was a very strong GOTV effort by grassroots groups--the kind of volunteer help that the DCCC doesn't do well.

These are by no means isolated examples--Jerry McNerney's dust-off of the truly vile seven-term Richard Pombo in California's 11th Congressional district came largely without help from the DCCC--Emanuel's group ran a candidate against McNerney in the primary, and didn't come in with money and strategic help until late in October. Most of McNerney's million-dollar campaign was funded by and powered on the ground by grassroots environmentalists (McNerney is a mathematician and long-time windpower engineer). The NRCC alone spent $1.4 million in the campaign--largely on negative advertising--while the DCCC contributed a mere $216,000.

Rahm Emanuel and his counterpart in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, were hoping to preserve a status quo which, to my mind, began at the beginning of the Reagan administration. The then-Democratic House acceded to what amounted to the destruction of FDR's New Deal, backing off on oversight of Sherman Act enforcement, drastically lowering taxes on big business, jumping on the deregulation bandwagon which was a direct cause of the savings and loan debacle and beginning a round of tax cuts for the wealthy that shattered the progressive tax system. What was in the minds of Democratic legislators then was a belief that they would share in the proceeds--Democrats, by throwing their lot in with big business, expected to see a greater share of campaign contributions come their way. What actually happened? Big business gave even more money to Republicans, as usual, and the very wealthiest of the far right wing had even more money to spend on think tanks, PR firms and speakers' bureaus which they used in shaping the public debate and in pushing conventional wisdom ever rightward.

The logic of that strategy was breathtakingly stupid. Democrats had won elections consistently by portraying themselves as protecting the poor and the middle class from the predations of the wealthy Republican elite, even though they were outgunned in campaign contributions--until Reagan was elected. Why they thought that more campaign money was going to come their way, or why they thought that more campaign money would woo away the Reagan Democrats from Republican control is still a mystery. They let themselves be railroaded into spending absurd amounts of money on defense, to no good end, at the same time they were cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy (thus tripling the national debt in the eight years of the Reagan administration), and rolled over for all manner of decidedly bad policies. They cut off the Iran-Contra investigation at the knees (fearing a backlash because Reagan was "popular," when, in fact, Reagan was despised by the Democratic base and a full investigation of Reagan's--and George H.W. Bush's--role in the affair would have ended what popularity Reagan did have and would have relegated his administration to the trash heap where it belonged, and just might have ruined Bush's chances of winning the 1988 election). And then, in 1987, those same Democrats cheerily dispensed with virtually all of the essential provisions of the Fairness Doctrine, a policy which had protected their right to be heard in the public arena regardless of how much money the Republicans had for political advertising and cultural myth-making.

As I say, breathtakingly stupid. As Democrats moved to the right to accommodate big business, on issue after issue, ever since that time, Democrats have been losing ground. Overall, they didn't gain in percentage-wise fashion in campaign contributions, and they lost votes as they became more and more indistinguishable from their Republican opponents.

Quite beyond the ordinary politics of it all, the country suffered because the Democrats let themselves be deceived into thinking money was more important than votes. Unnecessary wars, twelve years of domination of both houses of Congress by some of the most corrupt, shifty and slimy Republican politicians the country has ever produced, privatization and politicization of the military and the intelligence services, the destruction of the Treasury and the country's international reputation, all have come about because pro-big business groups such as the DLC enticed Democrats to abandon their base and their core principles on the vague promise of more campaign cash. No one benefitted from that strategy except big business and the very wealthy.

The next two years will decide not only the 2008 election, but what happens to progressive Democrats in the years beyond. If the character of the Democratic caucus changes because of those elected in 2006 largely without the help (or in spite of the active interference) of the DCCC under Rahm Emanuel, if progressives prove to their constituents they can produce positive results for working Americans, it might turn the party around. One election won't do it, but steady results, year after year, will.

If the DLC types prevail, however, the country will continue its descent toward authoritarian kleptocracy and eventual bankruptcy, and the Democrats won't be able to blame the other party for that, because they will have promoted it as eagerly as have the Republicans. On the other hand, if progressives gain the upper hand in that caucus, we might have a shot at fixing some of the truly gargantuan problems coming up in the next two or three decades. And what no calculating, big business-promoting, campaign cash-hungry status quo Democrat realizes right now is that changing the character of the Democratic Party will also change the character of the Republican Party. By the combined efforts of the DLC Democrats and the Republicans, the center has shifted to the far right, the political environment has become progressively more polarized and poisonous, the debate more rancorous, and the trading of political favors for campaign cash all the more obvious and cynical (and all that is by Republican design). Establishing the Democratic Party as progressive, fiscally and socially responsible, ethically uncompromising and dedicated to the interests of the poor, the middle class and small business will go a long, long way in moving that center back where it belongs.

For over twenty years, Democrats have played the game the Republicans' way, to the country's considerable detriment. In cozying up to the fat cats, the Democrats have been increasingly marginalized electorally and demonized culturally, while the country's middle class sinks. It took an intractable idiot like George Bush and a massive dose of public corruption to finally stir the electorate from its torpor, and if the Democrats are smart (and that's still in some doubt), they will seize this moment and build on it, for the good of the entire country. The first step in doing so is recognizing that the strategy of the last twenty-five years of favoring the rich has failed everyone except the rich.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Electoral Imaginings...

... or wet dreams, as the case may be. I've been disinclined to post anything here in the days preceding the election, simply because I was expecting the worst in the interval--an attack on Iran (still a possibility)--or some other Constitutional conflagration designed to propel worthless Republican crooks and harridans further along their Congressional careers, in service to cronyism and to the defense of the indefensible.

By the early hours of Wednesday, the 8th, it was becoming apparent that not only had Rove's math indicated that he didn't finish college, the results may have suggested that he might not have finished grade school, either. Foul-breathed, farting failures at governance were falling everywhere (in fairness, so were Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked, hapless and heavily-financed hacks).

By Wednesday afternoon, it was apparent that Conrad Burns had proved that incumbency was not a lead-pipe cinch in the face of corruption charges and that G. Felix Allen was no better a politician than he was a UVa quarterback when up against an equally conservative opponent.

With both the House and the Senate lost, Karl Rove had two choices--being thrown under the bus by his boss or ritual seppuku, and, not wanting to lose his head and his future, sat in the audience while his erstwhile boss changed his nickname from "Turdblossom" to simply, "Turd."

Have no fear, ideological fanatics. Karl will soon be finding himself a new dumbfuck candidate to run in `08. With luck on his side, he will have convinced you all by then he's still "boy genius." (How little effort that requires.)

Am I gloating? Yes, I am. We've had twelve years of this "mouthbreathers unite!" routine, and it's worn very, very thin. Even the soccer moms want the war triumvirate of Rummy, Cheney (hereafter known as ol' Toad-In-The-Hole) and Bush castrated, drawn and quartered and their remains plopped onto the nearest George Foreman grill until there's little more left of them than charcoal and bone. To describe the Bushies' policy process, it's necessary to quote Otter in "Animal House": "Hey, you fucked up--you trusted us." The people, however trusting, do figure it out, eventually. And, now that they have, they're pissed.

That was Tuesday at the polls. A lot of pissed people. Many of them pissed for all the wrong reasons, but, pissed nevertheless, and generally pissed at being mistaken for Karl's mouthbreathers. Some very "family values" referenda went down in flames--Arizona's anti-gay marriage constitution change, South Dakota's anti-abortion law, etc., and both the Senate and the House changed hands.

But, all that's window dressing. The vote was about the war in Iraq. People are tired of it, and they're tired of Bush prancing around declaring that everyone wants "victory." No, George, they don't. They're fed up with you claiming to represent the nation on this issue, and many others. It's your war. You want victory, to save your sorry-assed reputation. The majority in the country want an end to the bloodshed and the possibility of escaping your bad judgment with a minimum of additional deaths. Fine, you threw Rummy under the bus, but the guy driving that bus is just another of your dad's cronies.

If Dems don't rub Dubya's nose in that fact, this election will, ultimately, mean nothing.