Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An inconvenient truth....

In all the faux give-and-take over funding expanded health care, one simple fact is glaring in all the talk of general demands for such a plan to be "deficit-neutral."

The United States spends tens to hundreds of times what other industrialized nations spend on defense, and there is never, and I mean, never, any suggestion that we need to pare defense spending down to peacetime levels after six decades of wretched excess, or any suggestion that we simply bring home a military that now more resembles the French Foreign Legion than anything in the way of a standing army the Founders would have found reasonable and acceptable.

The emphasis for now is on the proclivity of Congress to listen to lobbyists, to protect the interests of the for-profit health care industry, to bend to the will of the deficit hawks.

All those things pale in comparison to a simple fact: we can't afford decent health care for all without an increase in taxes (preferably on the people in society who have most benefitted by rules and regulations tilted in their favor) or a return to normalcy with regard to military spending of all kinds.

Thus was it always ordained. We've deceived ourselves for sixty years that we can defy basic guns v. butter economics, and, just like the failed model of exporting jobs to countries which use cheap labor to produce cheap shit for U.S. consumers to buy with borrowed money, this model of thinking we can afford both a first-class social safety net and a military that never saw a weapon it didn't like has failed. Moreover, the social safety net will always get short shrift in a national security state, especially when our legislators also feel it necessary to ensure the profits of their principal campaign contributors.

When talk of a single-payer system first began during the Bush administration, it was understood that the Bushies would ignore it. But, they also wanted to minimize the threat of unflattering comparisons with our northernmost neighbor. The Bushies' ambassador to Canada began to make demands of Harper's government that Canada immediately and substantially increase its military spending, which would have the dual advantage of increasing arms sales by U.S. arms manufacturers and threatening the survivability and financial health of Canada's single-payer system, which had--up to that time--stayed well in balance with Canada's defense requirements and its budgetary constraints. The intention of the Bushies, I'm convinced, was to badger a mildly-receptive conservative Canadian leader into upsetting that balance, thus putting Canada's health system in jeopardy, or minimizing its effectiveness through starvation.

Canada had already committed, as a NATO member, to considerable unbudgeted expenses in Afghanistan; it was unlikely that they would also take on additional defense spending on top of that, but, that didn't stop the Bushies from trying mightily to convince them of a wholly imaginary need. There was a reason well beyond drumming up business for U.S. arms trade.

Until we come to terms with our imperial ambitions, the only people that will have good health care in this country are those who can afford it... and our representatives in Congress.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Okay, look, I know Ted Kennedy's got...

... brain cancer, he's not doing too well, and he probably needs to take some time for himself, but, come on... why hasn't he kicked his niece's ass around the block, just for drill?

Her husband, Schwarzenegger, is a thoroughly unpleasant little shit (well, I can say "little" because I'm fuckin' bigger than he is), and he's just a shill for the wealthy in California who would rather see the state fall into the sea than pay a penny more in taxes.

Does Maria Shriver think that Ahnold is a really nice guy that she'll eventually be able to reform, with a little more time? C'mon, Maria, he's a couple of weeks away from being sixty-two fuckin' years old. He's an aging fuckin' movie star with an ego problem and damned little in the way of brains, not a clone of John Kenneth Galbraith. For Chrissakes, he doesn't have an economics degree from a notable school--he got a degree in sports marketing (a program he created himself) from Superior State College in Duluth, MN. He's not an economics wizard. Even you, dear heart, can figure out that he doesn't know shit from Shinola about running the eighth-largest economy in the world. Geez.

He's not only stupid. He's an asshole. He always will be. His father was a Nazi, and he's one, too. He's fucked California, and there are rich people who would love to amend the Constitution so he can fuck the country, as well, for their benefit.

Ted, get that prescription for some amphetamines, take a handful, and kick Maria's bony fucking ass around the biggest block on Martha's Vineyard.


Your niece is like a Stockholm syndrome victim of the worst Republican in the country. She'll thank you for it later, and so will the country.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why am I not surprised?...

Just as the latest fresh horror of the Bush/Cheney administration comes into view, who else but Karl Rove pops up to explain why it's just no good to give Congress any information at all. On Bill O'Reilly's execrable tv show, Rove says:

ROVE: Look, it’s interesting. The CIA briefed Congress to this, I guess, in June. And the Congress immediately leaks it. That, itself is, a violation, I think, of several statutes and indicative of why it is so dangerous to give Congress information.

Of course, that's a load of horseshit, because the initial news accounts of it came from anonymous intelligence officials, not members of Congress.

Rove, of course, is a fat-faced little proto-fascist, and because he is, he's a master of disinformation and distraction. It used to be a good trick--shifting attention from the moral cretins (of which he was one) in Bush's White House to the Congress--but, let's hope that people are catching on to that one and aren't as easily fooled by it.

Still, it reinforces the point I've been trying to make in the last several posts. When we can't know--because of a hopelessly corrupted classification system--what the government is doing in our name, with our money, then representative democracy is in intensive care and not expected to pull through.

And when a shifty little weasel like Rove hides behind that same classification system to shield himself and his corrupt bosses and the horrors they've dreamed up from scrutiny, you just know the system is class-A fucked. Only makes it worse that it gives him an opportunity to jab a stick in the ass of the people's representatives, lame as they may be.

Since there are SC confirmation hearings going on...

... right now, I wish I could hear the following, just once, from anyone:

Senator X: "blah, blah, blah, can you guarantee blah, blah, blah?"

Senator XX: "Ah'd like some confirmation that blah, blah, blah, empathy, blah, blah, blah?"

Senator XXX: "D'ya think blah, blah, decision blah, injustice to Mr. Ricci, blah, blah, blah?"

Senator Forthright: "There are so many code words flying around here that, for a second, I thought I'd been transported back in time to a WWII cryptologic office. But, Justice, since there are so many code words in all this, I think I'd better decipher for you. What some of my colleagues want from you are assurances, in suitably coded language, that you will always find--or concoct--a legal argument that puts the interests of the state ahead of the interests of the individual, that you will promise to always do your best to help corporations win, that you will always accept the arguments of the powerful over the weak, and, finally, that you will do everything in your power to ensure that you will give prejudicial consideration to their natural constituency, that being rich, old, white Republican men."

"Oh, yes, just one more thing. They want you to promise to spit on the ground three times and hold a crucifix out in front of you if you so much as even think the names William O. Douglas or Thurgood Marshall."

Ah, well, we all live in hope in one way or another....

Monday, July 13, 2009

One of the curiosities about the assassination plot...

... hoopla is that everybody's guessing about what manner of fresh horror this is. They're guessing because our elected representatives can't tell us a goddamned thing about it.

Think about that one for a second. Cheney could have been dining on freshly-slaughtered Muslim babies for lunch every day and we can't know even the barest outlines... because it's classified. Sure, they can tell us they're shocked ("shocked, I tell you!"), but not why they've all got their knickers in a twist over this.

Y'know, you could be the sort of cranked-up, out-of-control person that could find something familiar about yourself on every other page of the DSM-IV and you still couldn't come up with a system as diabolical and fucked up as the one we've got in this country for determining what it is the government is doing--with both our reputation and our money.

And, just for review, it's not like we haven't been here before. It was thirty years ago or so that Congress got all excited about the CIA trying to assassinate foreign leaders, about domestic spying, and what we got from that were some hearings, a few long reports and the FISA, which everyone thought solved all the problems until we discovered that, well, no, it didn't. Reagan found ways to fight wars by proxy and finance it all with under-the-table arms sales and putting crack out on the streets and we probably never would have found out about that one if it weren't for a little story in a little newspaper in Beirut.

That the CIA had been in bed (strictly a business relationship of mutual interests, mind you) with the fuckin' mafia for years bothered Congress, too, but, just a bit. But, at no time did Congress get out the meat-ax, whack off the CIA's balls at high noon on the Capitol steps with the C-Span cameras running and tell them, "now, stick to what you were supposed to do in the first place--give us good intelligence, not worldwide embarrassments."

At the heart of the problem is that for the ops people in the CIA (and more than a few on the analysis side), the Second World War never ended--they just couldn't give up that stone high that the OSS had given them--and they very rapidly came to the conclusion that they were entitled to behave as ruthlessly as they imagined their principal opponent did, so, hell, why not hire a bunch of Nazis to advise us on how to deal with the Soviets? Why not use drugs and torture and biological agents to induce psychosis in people suspected of having information we wanted, and use unsuspecting targets for testing? Why not overthrow governments that might prevent our multinational corporations from maximizing profits? Why not embrace every right-wing dictator in the world just because they were anti-communist? Why not make friends with the mafia and pay them to do things we want them to do? Why not devastate entire countries by pumping money and guns to our hand-picked thugs? Why not spy on our own citizens and open their mail?

Why not? Because the world's not had a moment's peace since the creation of the CIA. Because that laissez faire attitude about how the CIA and Presidents directing it conduct business has led us to this point in time, where we're wondering, once again, "what the fuck were these people thinking?" Where we're seeing our own people practice every known variation on precisely the sort of human rights abuses we've publicly reproached other nations for doing--on the practice of torture, psychological and physical, to the point of murder, secret prisons, indefinite imprisonment without due process, state-sponsored kidnapping (oh, pardon for not using the more Orwellian "extraordinary rendition"), assassination squads, widespread domestic spying. Once again, we've got the stench of hypocrisy in our collective nostrils and, once again, we're told we're not allowed to know anything about it. Always, always, always the same lame excuse: our enemies might find out about it. Hell, the only people who don't know about it are the people that pay for it all with their taxes.

It's classified. It's a matter of national security, on a need-to-know basis. Just live with the stink. You'll get used to it.

[And, added on edit] Almost forgot. This assertion that we've got to accept this as a consequence of maintaining national security is, in most instances, just so much horseshit (I'm getting very, very tired of the old, hackneyed phrase, "sources and methods," when the sources are fuckin' Curveball and Abu Zubaydah and the methods are illegal fifty ways to Sunday).

But what's stuck in my craw at the moment is that there's a concerted attempt on the part of the gatekeepers to get us to ignore these gross acts. Take, for example, Glenn Greenwald's running battle to get NPR's ombudsman to actually debate NPR's policy on the use of the word, "torture." Making it even worse, NPR recently described the treatment of a journalist in Gambia as "torture," but, still vociferously defends avoidance of the word in connection with U.S. actions.

Like I said, better get used to the stink, because it's getting stronger.

Foxes used to be incompatible...

... with henhouses, but, these days, the foxes are deciding if the farmer can even look in the henhouse door.

Scott Armstrong, formerly of The Washington Post and co-founder of the National Security Archive, said during the latter's 20th anniversary celebrations that the Executive Branch expends the most energy trying to keep secrets from the public, the next greatest amount of energy keeping secrets from Congress, the next greatest amount of energy keeping secrets from other independent agencies in government, and the least effort trying to keep secrets from foreign governments.

That statement, delivered by Armstrong almost as a throwaway line, as a given, bears some close evaluation, since it's probably at the root of virtually all of the problems created by the Bush administration over the course of the past eight years, and of those problems as continued and reiterated by the Obama administration.

What it means, first and foremost, is that the power of government, across administrations and party lines and time, has become increasingly concentrated in the Executive Branch, and second, that the growing distance between the government and its citizens should serve as a warning that the very nature of representative democracy is changing, and not for the good. (A remark of an American ex-pat living in France in Michael Moore's "SiCKO" is instructive in this regard. When asked about the biggest difference between life in France and in the US, the answer was, approximately, "in France, the government is afraid of the people, and in the US, the people are afraid of the government.")

It didn't used to be that way, and the biggest changes have come about because of various presidents' "wars." The Cold War, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror. These "wars" are wars only in the rhetorical sense, and yet, each has signaled an increase in the power of the Executive to intrude into the daily lives of citizens and in the power of the Executive to keep secrets from the public. Those powers have been willingly transferred to the Executive by Congress (the first sign that representative democracy isn't working), often in exchange for promises to enable Congressional oversight which the Executive immediately seeks to subvert, and, in turn, Congress is all too often unwilling to apply sanctions when it discovers Executive transgressions. (Certainly, Republicans and conservatives effectively gamed the system of sanctions by pursuing a politically-motivated impeachment of Bill Clinton, thus staining the process with the taint of partisanship, which in turn enabled (and continues to enable) Bush's and Cheney's escape from retribution for far more severe crimes than lying about a blowjob. Despite this, even after the example made of Nixon, Reagan survived his time in office intact, even though impeachment was warranted for his actions related to Iran-Contra and October Surprise matters, on the purely political judgment of a few in Congress that Reagan was a "popular" president. The elder Bush certainly deserved impeachment for his arbitrary and self-declared war against Panama and for his part in manufacturing the circumstances behind Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and distorting the evidence leading up to the vote in Congress to approve what became the first Gulf War. Nevertheless, deciding on purely political grounds not to apply available sanctions on evidence of wrongdoing is analogous to jury nullification of law. Each time this has happened, successive administrations have been further emboldened to usurp power and break the law. The egregious excesses of the Bush/Cheney years are easily traceable to previous failures of Congress to not only limit the power of the Executive, but to intentionally overlook criminal behavior by the Executive, as well.)

The Founders, for all their prejudices and faults, did understand that the investiture of too much power in a single individual was a danger to liberty, and that's why the Constitution was written as it was. They had an aversion to kings--not only in name, but in deeds, as well. A careful reading of Article II of the Constitution leads one to the inevitable conclusion that the Founders meant the President to be an administrator of government affairs, an enabler of law duly authorized by the representatives of the people, and to act as the public face of the nation to other nations--and very little else. Particularly since WWII, conservatives, liberals, neoconservatives and neoliberals alike have sought to invest the President with great powers in foreign affairs, even though the original language of the Constitution in this regard says, simply, "he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers," and "He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;..." On the latter, the construction of the sentence suggests that "advice and consent of the Senate" should precede the making of treaties, and yet, today, there are repeated examples of private arrangements made by the President with foreign nations of which the Senate has no knowledge and no opportunity to approve or disapprove.

What has facilitated this diminishment of the representative part of representative democracy, to a considerable degree, is the adoption of rules of secrecy, beginning with the National Security Act in 1947, and steadily expanded over time, and has been complicated by the various authorizations by Congress to invest the power of classification in the Executive alone, which has enabled the Executive to deny information on its activities even to the general body of the people's representatives in Congress, and at best, often only to the so-called "Gang of Eight."

Recent revelations of gross usurpations of power by the Executive, in the surveillance of U.S. citizens, the data-mining of private information, in detentions without due process and the torture of detainees, perhaps even to the establishment of a private assassination squad under the sole and absolute control of the Vice President (with the Vice President ordering the CIA not to reveal the existence of this shadowy operation to even those few in Congress entitled to know), all these unilateral and illegal actions undertaken by the Executive have escaped both adequate scrutiny and retribution because the Congress has extended rights to the Executive not endorsed nor ever anticipated as necessary by the writers of the Constitution.

For example, many commenters have identified the incestuous relationship of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice with the White House as the principal means of facilititating illegality and indemnifying participants in these schemes from legal action, since the decisions of the OLC on the legality of Executive actions are, by law, binding on the Executive. In fact, though, this arrangement--in the absence of secrecy rules and the classification process--is quite workable, for this reason: anyone who feels themselves to be harmed by any Executive action can seek redress in the courts, and the underlying OLC opinion can be subjected to scrutiny by the Judiciary, which is the final arbiter on matters of law in government.

Now, when even access to the opinions of the OLC can be so limited by the classification process that even the leadership of the OLC can be excluded from the opinion-making, and when expansive notions of Executive privilege deny the rest of government the opportunity to examine the interactions of the White House and the OLC, the end result is precisely what the Founders so feared in a too-powerful Executive--simple and absolute tyranny.

Authoritarians in and out of government have maintained (and will continue to maintain) that this system of secrecy is necessary to protect the nation, and yet, if the rules of secrecy have effectively destroyed the fundamental principle of representative democracy, what's left to protect but the narrow interests of the wealthy elite and the power of insiders? When the Office of Professional Responsibility at the DOJ sought to investigate aspects of some of these programs, the President himself denied the investigators the necessary security clearances to do the review, a power conceded to him by Congress.

Current law says that the classification system shall not be used to hide embarrassing or illegal actions from public view, but, that's effectively an unenforceable proviso when no one can even know the existence of the actions, or see the unredacted opinions generated by the OLC to justify the actions themselves, and, when a whistleblower gives indications of illegality, conservatives in the courts defer to the Executive whenever presented with assertions of state secrets privilege.

We're the farmers and the chickenhouse is ours, not the fox's. Right now, there's a lock on the chickenhouse door that Congress, our farm managers, gave the fox, and that gift to the fox was the first indication that representative democracy was in peril. The situation has only gotten worse since. And it can only get worse in the future, unless Congress begins to value its obligations to the people. Congress can demonstrate its understanding of those obligations by, first and foremost, refusing to treat the President as if he were a king.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Have been meaning to comment...

... on this little piece of fear-mongering, but, have been otherwise enjoying the latest Palin public meltdown (perhaps a bit too much, I admit).

I speak of Michael Scheuer's little visit with Glenn Beck around the end of June. Now, I don't know a great deal about Scheuer, except that he's tried to get as much commercial mileage out of his time with the bin Laden issue group at the CIA (the so-called "Alec Station"), and his anonymously written books. Larry Johnson thinks Scheuer's looney tunes, but, then, such a recommendation from Larry Johnson ought not to be considered authoritative, given Johnson's own frequent departures from reality once it became apparent that Hillary Clinton was not to be anointed by the Democrats.

However, let's face it--anyone who appears on Glenn Beck's program that doesn't do it to make Beck look like a crass huckster is automatically suspect. It's not any great gift of insight that leads to the conclusion that Beck would murder his mother live on the air for a better share of the ratings--it's something anyone with an IQ of three digits, a passable understanding of the English language and some experience with retail salesmen can grasp.

So, I get a strange feeling that I can only describe as being "creeped out" when I learn that Scheuer is playing into Beck's apocalyptic schtick by saying, as Adam Serwer writes for TAPPED:

"The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States. ... It's an absurd situation again, only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently, and with as much violence as necessary." Beck nodded solemnly.

Now, if this fellow Scheuer had been sitting in my living room, making such dramatic statements, I wouldn't be nodding solemnly. I'd be quoting Ken Kesey: "wait just a minute, bub."

Let's review: the national legislature, in its infinite wisdom, was so spooked by the events of 9/11 (and perhaps by some potentially homegrown anthrax attacks pointed directly at some of those legislators) that they passed--often without reading them--a host of new laws which gave the Executive Branch free rein to trample civil rights, and without reflecting on the fact that many of those laws were written by people in the Executive Branch, and which represented a longstanding wish list of the sort of people in law enforcement that generally believe that the Bill of Rights is a bothersome imposition on them.

Even so, this passel of new laws wasn't enough for the Executive Branch, which promptly began violating them at will, culminating in rampant domestic spying that went on for years, and for which no one in authority has ever been charged. Along with these new powers came a series of administrative decisions that subjected the public to unnecessary--and, likely, politically motivated--intrusions into their lives. (No doubt, Bush administration TSA officials thought putting Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the watch list was a great practical joke.)

And, then, there was the torture--something of which Scheuer seems to approve, as well--that had the net effect of sending thousands of government agency employees on snipe hunts. In fact, in an op-ed for The Washington Post, Scheuer justifies torture by the CIA using similar words as he did on Glenn Beck's show, along with a scenario right out of the Fox Channel's show, "24":

In surprisingly good English, the captive quietly answers: 'Yes, all thanks to God, I do know when the mujaheddin will, with God's permission, detonate a nuclear weapon in the United States, and I also know how many and in which cities." Startled, the CIA interrogators quickly demand more detail. Smiling his trademark shy smile, the captive says nothing. Reporting the interrogation's results to the White House, the CIA director can only shrug when the president asks: "What can we do to make Osama bin Laden talk?"

Americans should keep this worst-case scenario in mind as they watch the tragicomic spectacle taking place in the wake of the publication of the Justice Department's interrogation memos. It will help them recognize this episode of political theater as another major step in the bipartisan dismantling of America's defenses based on the requirements of presidential ideology.

Note the common term "detonate" in this op-ed and in his Glenn Beck appearance. Apart from this being pretty much unadulterated horseshit (and, on top of that, coming from a guy whose shop in the CIA missed both the West African embassy bombings and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole), it's classic fear-mongering. It doesn't surprise me that this attitude comes from a guy who refined his chops at the CIA. Scheuer is trying hard to justify torture on the basis of national defense being some sort bedrock issue upon which no question of morality or rights can impinge, and this notion is compounded by his repeated references to al-Qaeda and nuclear weapons, which continues to be the bête noire of the fever-dreamstruck on the right. How odd it is that Scheuer still insists that torture can protect us from such a fate when all evidence strongly points to torture being counter-productive, and when the obviously morality-neutral process of beefing up port-of-entry security with better neutron and alpha-particle counters and the like is continually slow-walked because of right-wing objections that it may cost importers (read WalMart and its ilk) a little time and money. Scheuer's invocation of bin Laden himself as the boogie man with secret knowledge of the bomb is also a convenient way of investing the terrorist with near-supernatural powers, attempting to conjure in the mind of the reader a situation most unlikely in real life--after all, Scheuer's group in particular and the CIA in general has supposedly been trying to find bin Laden for thirteen years, without success. Equally, bin Laden's probably been about as successful in getting someone to sell him nuclear weapons.

Most importantly, Scheuer, in availing himself of the forum provided by Beck, and by saying, more or less directly, that Americans must be punished for not entrusting their safety to amoral assholes like Scheuer is precisely the sort of argument that would appeal only to Beck's audience, and would rightly repel most Americans. Most anyone, stepping back for a moment and judging his remarks on their practical merits, would think that Scheuer was an escaped madman. That those arguments are regularly embraced by the right-wing wackos in the country--and regularly given prominence in the press--is a signal that conservatism has become completely disconnected from its philosophical and pragmatic moorings... not that it was ever very well-grounded to begin with.

Scheuer doesn't seem to grasp that the sort of country he envisions--one that has abandoned both Constitutional rights and morality in exchange for a still-imperfect and never-achievable level of security--would no longer be a place in which ordinary day-to-day life would be either tolerable, practical or possible. Officers of the federal government take an oath to defend the Constitution, first and foremost, and abdicating that responsibility in favor of protecting the national security state inexorably leads not to more security, but less. In Scheuer's weltanschauung, liberty is not only dispensible, it is a stubborn impediment to the CIA's aims.

What Scheuer clone will say, at some indeterminate time in the future, without a trace of irony or self-awareness, "we had to destroy the country to save it," as our epitaph?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Uh, Joe...

... while it's technically correct that the United States "cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do. Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," it's a damned stupid thing to say in the context of world politics at the moment, and it's not really true in the context of U.S.-Israel relations for the last forty years.

What changes that political calculus? The fact that we provide Israel with more than a third of its capability to wage war. Israel's GDP is approximately $100 billion per year, and its military spending is, annually, about $10 billion per year. Of that $10 billion, about $3 billion comes from the U.S., as does a further near-billion in "economic aid" which Israel typically uses to start new defense and arms export companies. These amounts do not include loans to Israel which are often quietly forgiven by Congress after a few years.

The U.S. has bankrolled Israel's military expansion and, in effect, subsidized its military control of territory occupied through war and colonized through occupation (both of these actions are in violation of international law). The U.S. has provided Israel additional armaments most recently in its wholesale attacks on Lebanon. American weapons were used liberally in the attacks on Gaza a few months ago (in violation of our own Arms Export Control Act, if anyone wanted to check). There's no question whatsoever that the United States figures prominently in virtually every military action undertaken by Israel's military.

So, any suggestion that Israel, as a sovereign state, acts entirely alone and entirely honorably and only in its own defense, and that the United States stands apart and independent of Israel is a bald-faced attempt to deny the obvious--and to propagandize for a view of the relationship of the United States and Israel which is contrary to fact.

What Biden suggests here is that the U.S. is noncommittal on Israel's engaging in precisely the same sort of preventive war policy that led to the invasion of Iraq, which was condemned worldwide and is clearly not sanctioned by existing international law. There is a fundamental difference between an attack meant to deter an imminent attack on one's territory (the proper definition of preemptive war) and one which is meant to alter the relative deterrent capability between nations. The Israelis believe that they can maintain the fiction that they are not a nuclear power, and that by accentuating the potential threat of a nuclear Iran, they can justify a conventional or nuclear attack on that country as a defensive strategy, when, in fact, such an attack would be carried out to maintain a nuclear hegemony over other nations in the region.

Further, the evidence points to other motives on Israel's part. Just as the most trenchant analysis in 2002 of Iraq's threat to world peace showed that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and that its conventional military was greatly compromised and posed no great threat (thereby suggesting that there were other reasons for a Bush/Cheney attack on Iraq), the current evidence available shows that Iran is not a serious nuclear threat to the region. So, what are those other motives? Certainly, the compromise of Hamas and Hizbollah. Both those groups have been the chief reasons why Israel has not completely succeeded in subjugating the Palestinians and in seizing southern Lebanon. Both of those groups are supported in some fashion by Iran. The other motive is no different than Bush's and Cheney's in their attack on Iraq--the use of overwhelming force as a smokescreen for regime change (also a violation of international law).

What Mr. Biden chooses not to say is the obvious--that the United States would not have objections to Israel engaging in regime assassination from the air (just as the U.S. attempted in Iraq in both 1991 and 2003), since U.S. planners continue to believe--foolishly--that this would open the door to a pro-Western government, if not a return to the days of a puppet such as the Shah.

The United States and Israel take policy cues from each other, and since the U.S. has effectively gotten away with a war of regime change in Iraq (and Afghanistan, for that matter) without suffering any substantive international sanctions, it seems certain that Israel contemplates the same, using American-made weapons and American cash, and likely with the aid of U.S. intelligence data.

Any consideration of history in this regard (Vietnam, the First Gulf War, the Iraq invasion, Angola, Indonesia, Iran, Haiti, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere), in more than just the very short term, would suggest that no good can come of preventive war for regime change, either for Israel or the United States or the region as a whole. Further, because the United States will have a role in such an attack, if only because our weapons will be used, the administration ought to be opening up dialogue about United States-Israel relations, especially, military relations, instead of trying to deny the extent and depth of the connections between the two countries by pleading Israel's sovereignty.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


It did sound as if Scary Sarah were speaking in code yesterday. I suppose that's the most charitable thing one can say about her resignation speech, because on virtually all other levels--personal, political, logical, emotional and practical--it made no sense whatsoever.

This is not a big step down for Palin, however. Most of her extemporaneous comments have made little sense. Whatever she was implying, it had the resentment-filled tone of Nixon saying after his 1962 loss in the California gubernatorial election, "you won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more." Those who imagined then that Nixon was telling the truth and that the country would finally have some relief from his political visage would today imagine that Palin was also sincere.

However, all that Palin and Nixon really have in common is raw ambition, simmering resentment, a similarly maladroit way of lying and an unhealthy and paranoid view of criticism. Where Nixon was canny, Palin is catty. Where Nixon was calculating, Palin is defensive and prone to reliance on cliquish, high-schoolish politics. Nixon had fourteen years in national politics before he took on Kennedy in 1960. Palin had a few years as city council member and mayor of what by almost anyone's estimation is a small town with more than its fair share of cranks and kooks (of which Palin was one), and at the time of her elevation to national prominence by McCain, had less than two years running one of the least-populated states in the U.S., and had been doing that job rather badly.

There's lots of speculation at the moment that Palin is the main rat leaving the sinking ship of her governorship, and that's a real possibility. Her history as small-time, small-town petty tyrant surrounding herself with her own equivalent of The Heathers, her tendency to play fast and loose with travel and per diem accounts (not to mention the RNC's special clothing account for her), along with her general incompetence and influence-peddling (or, more specifically, meddling) in state affairs all certainly suggest that she would be both capable of the kind of graft and corruption all too common in American small-town experience (and an everyday headline in Alaska's newspapers lately) and too stupid to cover her tracks well.

Because of all this, it's a lot more likely that she's leaving the job to which she was elected because she's being chased, rather than out of any Nixonian, thin-skinned sensitivity to recent unflattering press, or a couple of jokes from Dave Letterman. Most of us were just pleased that we didn't wind up with yet another inarticulate, incurious, badly educated right-wing ideologue in the White House and expected her to go back to Alaska and just go on fucking up things there.

So, for those that think she's now gone for good, like Nixon in 1962, I predict that:

a) there will be indictments, for graft, or embezzling, or whatever Alaska calls stealing public monies these days, or perhaps something equally tawdry that we haven't even heard about yet.

b) Palin will be convicted, along with Todd, and most of the city council of Wasilla. This will mean that Willow gets custody of Trig, which is only fair, since she seems to be the only one taking care of the little tyke since his birth.

c) Palin will run for President in 2012, from prison, and will invoke the spirit of Eugene V. Debs. Since Palin's political philosophy is at extreme odds with that of Debs, and because Debs' imprisonment was entirely political, and Palin's will be for cause, her comparisons will be yet more fodder for bloggers who actually know something of Debs. William Kristol will suffer internal organ damage as he tries to contort himself into a position that somehow portrays Palin's comparison as an example of principled conservatism. When everyone laughs at her, Palin will then compare herself with James Traficant. When that causes Kristol to commit ritual seppuku at high noon in the lobby of the offices of The Weekly Standard, she will compare herself with Jesus.

d) She will get 99.2% of the seriously demented right-wing wingnut vote, and will declare victory, even though this amounts to only 38% of registered Republicans, and 9% of total votes. Karl Rove will demand a national recount, arguing strenuously that the election had been stolen. Lefty bloggers across the country will announce, with great solemnity, that irony is finally and completely dead, and the coroner's issued an official death certificate.

e) She will start a prison ministry with Kenyan Christian exorcism as its raison d'etre. She will write a book about her experiences, and will go through eleven ghostwriters, one hundred-fourteen proofreaders and twelve publishers before it is finally jointly released by Regnery and John Hagee Ministries.

f) Upon her release, she will begin a new cult, centered on Trig as the second coming of Christ, using her email announcements of his birth signed by God as proof of the child's divinity. After four years of conning convicts and most of Alaska's meth addicts, she will realize that having twenty million mentally deranged people believe she is the Mother of God is way better, and more profitable, than being President of the United States.

And then, she'll have an epiphany: that she can still be the Mother of God and President of the United States.

Have no illusions. A few years from now, we'll all be saying, "she's baaaaaaaaaack."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Just a short note on...

... the troubles of Francine Busby and her supporters in San Diego. The sheriff's deputy in question, one Marshall G. Abbott, whose actions seem to have precipitated the unrest, rather than minimized it, is what in Michigan is called a "corn-fed bowser."

Deputy Abbott appears to be not too bright, and seems to have too tight a grip on his, uh, nightstick.

If the San Diego County prosecutor continues with indictments for resisting arrest, I predict that not only will the accused be exonerated by a jury of their peers, the ensuing violation of civil rights case judgment against the county will probably set records, and the taxpayers will end up paying not only for this incompetent cop's haste and presumption of right to violence, but for the prosecutor's office defense of the indefensible, as well.

Sensible governance dictates that rogue cops such as Abbott be removed from the force, rather than be, effectively, defended by the prosecutor's office.

I'm mostly surprised that the idiot deputy didn't draw down on the perps with his taser, too. They were, after all, very dangerous middle-aged lesbian Democrats, probably seeking the overthrow of San Diego County as we know it.

Maybe he can get some moral support from good ol' Duke Cunningham. [snap!] Oh, too bad, Abbott, the Duke won't be out of prison for some time yet. Hey, that's why there was a fundraiser for Francine Busby there in the first place, right?

The big question in this is very simple and direct: do we want a nation run by corn-fed bowsers?

I would have thought that the conviction of Duke Cunningham and the 2008 election settled that question, once and for all.

Uh, no, we don't.

Seems that Katherine Weymouth...

... the current publisher of The Washington Post has decided that publishing the public record of Washington, D.C., is just not her cup of tea.

She now wants to be the Pearl Mesta of her time, bringing the powerful together for expensive parties (oooh, oooh, will there be quail wings, Katherine, will there, Katherine?, her reporters longingly inquire) mixing the rude peasantry of corporate CEOs with the odd Obama official and her reporters and a few choice Congress critters, all for a price, of course, to be paid by lobbyists hired by the CEOs to convince government to pour out its coffers (to which CEOs, individually and on behalf of their business operations are traditionally loathe to contribute) into their pocketbooks.

The Washington Post, of course, having been exposed in this latest little wrinkle on pay-to-play, is walking this back at a fairly brisk pace, claiming (and this is very funny, given that it's a fuckin' newspaper saying this) that the WaPo newsroom just couldn't go along with the proposal "as written." Marble-mouthed comments followed about this being something proposed by the "business" division of the paper and not being "properly vetted."

And, since when has the "business" division of the WaPo ever not been intimately associated with the newsroom? The "business" division, is, yes, run by the publisher of the goddamned paper, not some ethereal, amorphous, disconnected entity that Katherine Weymouth sees at stockholder meetings once a year. Katherine Weymouth is publisher of WaPo and CEO of Washington Post Media. These little tête-à-tête were planned to be held in her modest little mansion.

Lame, lame, lame.

Bad enough that the WaPo spent eight years doing its best not to give a full accounting of the misdeeds of the worst and most criminal administration in the history of American governance. Bad enough that its editorial page largely looks as if it were written and edited by mental and moral defectives who would be mimeographing newsletters for the John Birch Society if they weren't working for the Post. Bad enough that the editors of thought it would be a good idea to hire a fabulist and right-wing wingnut welfare recipient to "counter" the "liberals" writing in the paper's on-line edition, only to discover (thanks to their readers, rather than their own efforts) that they'd hired a young, wholly tendentious plagiarist who came to the job with nothing more than a vanishingly small skill set, a rabid and rigid right-wing ideology, and other people's words and ideas that he sought to pass off as his own.

Bad enough that they then decided to can the one genuine politics reporter they had on-line because he dared state the obvious about the vaunted and inordinately overvalued Charles Krauthammer, who, if there were any truth and justice in the world, should have purple mimeo stains on his delicate, bloodied hands, rather than a Washington Post byline.

And, now this tawdry business proposal to use the Post's news resources to go into the lobbying business. Maybe Katherine Weymouth went to one of those schools that have combined journalism and public relations programs because they "share" common techniques.

Molly Ivins once said, "newspapers aren't dying. They're committing suicide." As usual, Molly was more right than even she could have imagined.