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May 2008 Archives

May 2, 2008

Cap & gown poltroonery

"Pedagogue," in classical Greek, means a slave who accompanies your kid back and forth to school -- literally, a boy-herder.

The slavish character of the profession has not changed. Examples always abound. Here's one of the more recent:

Rev. Wright's honorary degree canceled by Northwestern

May 1 (Bloomberg) -- Northwestern University withdrew an invitation for the Reverend Jeremiah Wright to receive an honorary degree at this year's commencement.

Wright... was selected to be honored at the June ceremony in Evanston, Illinois, on the recommendation of faculty committees, Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations, said in a statement.

"In light of the controversy around Dr. Wright and to ensure the celebratory character of commencement not be affected, the university has withdrawn its invitation to Dr. Wright,'' Cubbage said.

"Celebratory," huh? What exactly are they celebrating? Perhaps it's that bold fearless commitment to open inquiry and freedom of thought on which the servile, cringing, boy- and girl-herders of Academe so groundlessly pride themselves.

None of the above

Here's an example of the intellectual range of The Nation magazine:
Nation Poll Will the Jeremiah Wright controversy doom the Obama campaign?
  • No. Obama was right to disassociate himself from his former pastor. Now he can adddress the real issues
  • Wright's not the biggest threat to Obama--it's how the media and the right-wing spin machine take the preacher's comments out of context.
  • Real damage has been done. If Obama's campaign goes down in flames, Wright's incendiary comments will be partly to blame.
These folks really do live in a walnut-shell, don't they, and think themselves kings of infinite space. Quite beyond their ken to imagine that anybody would think Wright was more right than not, or that Obama ended up looking like a coward, or a fool, or both, by turning on an old friend as he did.

May 3, 2008

stop the presses

Scruggs passed along this gem from 'digby':
I have to assume that the telcoms have been secretly monitoring members of congress and the Bush administration's communications and are blackmailing them. There is just no other adequate explanation for this immunity nonsense to keep coming back over and over again.

Here 's Jane Hamsher:

According to the ACLU, there is rumor of a backroom deal being brokered by Jay Rockefeller on FISA that will include retroactive immunity. I've heard from several sources that Steny Hoyer is doing the dirty work on the House side....

They really, really want this to go through. In fact, their insistence is becoming so desperate that there is simply no more reason to doubt they are hiding something..... These corporations must be knee deep in spying on Americans and their corrupt congressional puppets must know it.

You amaze me, Digby. The telcos are" knee-deep in spying"? Say it ain't so.

The bit about "blackmail" is also rather touching. Does Rupert Murdoch "blackmail" Bill O'Reilly into behaving the way he does? No, Digby, Murdoch is O'Reilly's employer. Now apply that paradigm to Congress and see how well it works!

The Devil makes 'em do it

From the SF Chronicle:
House Democrats work on huge Iraq money bill

House Democratic leaders are putting together the largest Iraq war spending bill yet, a measure that is expected to fund the war through the end of the Bush presidency and for nearly six months into the next president's term....

Bay Area lawmakers, who represent perhaps the most anti-war part of the country, acknowledge the bill will anger many voters back home.

"It's going to be a tough sell to convince people in my district that funding the war for six months into the new president's term is the way to end the war," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, a leader of the Out of Iraq Caucus who plans to oppose the funding. "It sounds like we are paying for something we don't want."

Wrong, Lynn. It sounds like you're paying for something you do want.

A poll accompanies the Chronicle story: Poll results

Gotta love the Bay Area. But I feel sadly sure that nearly all that 88% who gave the right answer will dutifully trudge to the polls in November and vote for these inexcusable-breachers-of-promise.

Q: How many psychoanalysts does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Does the lightbulb want to change?

May 5, 2008

Ho hum

The Jeremiah Wright flap provided, what, a week's worth of excitement, but the dreary campaign is back once more on its stupefyingly tedious track. The Note is again full from end to end of soporific, sophomoric inside-baseball wiseacre-y. How long, oh Lord, how long? Who cares, oh Lord, who cares?

The only mildly interesting thing to come out of the Wright-o-machia was a dog that didn't bark. The whole carpet-chewing brouhaha appears to have made very little difference to anybody. Which is actually a phenomenon worth pondering, especially since nothing else of any interest is going on. (The gas tax holiday? Puh-leeze.)

Better a non-phenomenon than none at all.

The pollsters have been busy:

In Poll, Obama Survives Furor, but Fall Is the Test

WASHINGTON — A majority of American voters say that the furor over the relationship between Senator Barack Obama and his former pastor has not affected their opinion of Mr. Obama, but a substantial number say that it could influence voters this fall....

This is a classic slow-news-day exercise in squeezing blood from a stone. The poll shows that nothing has happened. Stop The Presses! Day Passes! Nothing Happens! Experts Baffled!

But some of the people polled allow as how the Wright flap might perhaps make a difference to some unspecified other people -- though it's made little or none to them. So that is the news. It hasn't made any difference -- yet. But some people think it might. Stop The Presses! Subjunctive Mood Alive And Well!

Mixed feelings, as usual, seems like the right response. The good news is that the ogreish cartoon of black anger which the media tried to construct out of Pastor Wright doesn't seem to have scared anybody very much. That is unquestionably progress. Score one for the good sense of the public.

The bad news is that Obama isn't utterly disgraced for his weak-kneed response. (Whatever you say, officer! I'll talk!)

One wonders how anybody who ever believed that the guy represented something really new, and hopeful, and positive, can continue to believe that after his barefoot penance at the frigid windswept Canossa where the infallible Papacy of received ideas retired to sulk after the intolerable insults Wright offered it.

But maybe even within the bad news there's a silver lining. From the same Times story:

... nearly half of the voters surveyed, and a substantial part of the Democrats, said Mr. Obama had acted mainly because he thought it would help him politically, rather than because he had serious disagreements with his former pastor.
In other words, the process of discounting the shiny new Obama coinage is well under way, and probably was so even before Jeremiah Wright made the National Press Club look like a foot-shuffling gaggle of ignorant, ill-bred schoolboys.

Which brings us back to the old story -- Obama is the quadrate term of lesser-evillism, the lesser evil of the lesser evils.

But that, ah that, is apparently the inoperable tumor of American political thinking. How do we persuade people to stop caring which evil is lesser?

May 8, 2008

-ation vs. -ation

Is it really white trash that cottons to St Hill?

That phrase -- "white trash" -- I just read on the internet somewhere is a "classist slur".

"Classism" -- now that's an odious jumble of a notion. It seems to notice how an elite might not just exploit, but also also "oppress" another class. "Classism" -- a squishy term -- far more so than 'racist' or even 'sexist'. And 'oppression' -- squishier than 'exploitation', which has a pretty crisp, quantitative meaning.

The St Hill mob is trying to pin the "classist" label on Obie. And of course that's a delight, since between Ob and la Scorpion, calling one or the other 'classist' is straight pot-vs-kettle, isn't it?

In demotic, the better word is 'elitist' either way

I like this old GOP rag. Beyond the obvious delight it gives me to see the dueling identity pols smearing each other with it, the notion seeks to isolate all the obviously embarrassing bits out of our class based society -- but leave the nuggets in place.

The nuggets? Why, exploitation, of course. "Classists" don't exploit the helotry -- they sneer at 'em, they condescend to 'em. They -- escape 'em. And best of all, classists try to -- reform 'em.

So we have a clear choice, as white trash or as blue-collars. We got one party -- the GOP -- of hard exploitation; and another party -- the Jackasses -- who like to deplore "oppression", and leave exploitation out of the picture, unmentioned, unmentionable, perhaps nonexistent.

May 10, 2008


George McGovern

For your enjoyment, the final two faces of the Democracy's prez-nom campaign in '72, to remind the praeteriti that tarry here what that hag the Hump did to dear old George McG before the final event, the California primary of early June.

Hunter T's words: "Not even Nixon could stoop to Hubert's level, the vicious corrupt old screw."

Yes, that desperate scalded milk-rat of a candidate threw everything he could rip loose at the man from South Dakota. Behind that honest mild Western face was -- a former commie stooge, a progressive party (vintage '48) operative, a bomber pilot turned surrender sissy, a guy who never saw an idling black hand he didn't want to fill with Uncle's long green -- in short, a friend, protector, and sponsor to every bombthrower, child-rapist, drug fiend and deserter America's sick underbelly could produce.

Hubert had help, of course. Here's a couple of mainframe HH shadow bullies:

AFL-CIA chief and cold-war Catholic, George "The Animal" Meany...

... and the king of the cop riots, Mayor Daley the elder.

'Twas a Turkish gauntlet they put dear senator George through, in those runup weeks to the final primary -- but then George won California anyway, and there was the inevitable coming-together after the Hump ran out of tomahawks and votes at the convention.

Ahhh there were giants among us in those days -- real ball-eaters. _________________________________________________________________

May 13, 2008

Sweetened Strychnine

Courtesy of these folks, who went ahead and endorsed him anyway.

Arterial bleeding called "problematic"

Fact: our Luddite dollar has graciously lost about 1/3 of its puffed-up imperial value against our northern trading partners' currencies. But against the real menace -- against our hideously undervalued southern trading partners -- the decline is less than 1/6th. Enter this champion of the battle against our ongoing "off shore" jobbery robbery:

By the looks of him alone, I ask you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, how could the likes of this this, this... think-tank porcupine ever hope to bust apart the trans nat-OITP(*) ring's all-in, full-tilt, take-no-prisoners attack, which is even now preparing to apply ten thousand wrecking balls to whatever still remains standing amidst the rubble of our national industrial platform?

I know, I know. Once again, I've prefered the rude senseless personal insult to the principled, documented, text-based dismantling of the argument. So okay, read this, and particularly this flapping burlap of a finale that Maestro Scott substitutes for the much-needed roundhouse left:

"The countries whose currencies are in the OITP index account for roughly 59% of the current U.S. trade deficit.... OITP's relative stubbornness is problematic for United States and global adjustment and makes strengthening currencies in the OITP index and the Japanese yen even more important for correcting the U.S. trade deficit."
Stubborn? Problematic? I love the judicious tranquility with which these people survey the bloody havoc we laughingly call "the US economy."


(*)The Other Important Trading Partner index. Its member currencies: China, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Russia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Israel, India, Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Singapore, Hong Kong.

May 14, 2008

Founding fathers

So who really won the cold war?

(After the polling booth squalor of last night, like a soaring full-chested pigeon, this dawn I wax world-historical.)

The answer really is obvious: besides the United Ogres of Amnesia, why of course it was -- people's China. And it was won by none other than -- Mao and Nixon. Yes, these two endlessly vilified titans were the architects of that massive victory. The rise of people's China under Deng was the direct, otherwise impossible product of the Sino-American entente engineered by Mao and grasped like a miracle potion by der Dickster.

Its endlessly curious how Clio uses her masterbuilders like pawns, eh? The continuing story of mankind's progress malgre-soi is obviously shot full of ironies of all shapes and sizes, but these biggest ones are so vastly, so intentionally self-contradictory as to make a flatiron dance.

And yet there we have it: today was produced by an arrangement reached back in the early 70's by these two shrewd and checkered statesmen: shrewd and checkered and ultimately mad -- I might add, like history herself.

The human comedy

Since the primary campaign is not really about anything but personalities, one might as well find a way to enjoy it.

My own solution to the brain-corroding tedium of the process is this: now that Hillary is starting to look like she's history, I'm liking her better. (Of course, I like history in general, which makes it easier.)

This is on a purely personal level, you understand. She's such a junkyard dog. The only face she has is her game face. And she'd keep that campaign smile on it if she were being hanged, drawn, and quartered, right through the sordid, bloody process, to the grisly, filthy end.

On a purely personal level, she has in abundance the virtue of fortitude. One has to admire virtue -- on a purely personal level -- wherever one finds it.

* * *

I watched her (rather lengthy) victory speech in West Virginia -- a state Barack Obama probably wrote off when he was about 12 years old.

Transcript here for those who'd rather read than listen.

An interesting performance. Not as interesting or unusual as Barack's original, remarkable "race" speech -- the one he made before he lost his nerve and decided he didn't really know Jeremiah Wright after all. But Hillary, after all, is a bit of an earnest plodder, and doesn't have the Pindaric athlete's ease and composure that the gods gave Barack. Considering how hard she has to work, she did pretty well.

On a purely personal level. Of course.

Hillary's handlers had carefully composed her human background, although the one moderately cute young gay guy, for some strange reason, kept waving a bowling pin around. This was a bit distracting. Where is the Secret Service when you need them? The one black guy looked a little bit like will.i.am, but maybe not quite enough.

Poor Hillary, though. In spite of her (incredibly game) game face and her sedulously competent delivery -- if she were a piano student, she would practice her scales for three or four hours a day, with a metronome -- her speech was awfully dull. Not only dull but surprisingly tone-deaf: she boasted about having extracted an absentee ballot from a dying woman, and a contribution from a child who had to sell his bike to raise the money. It sounded like Fagin's mother reading her resume.

One thing struck me with unusual force: her relentless references to the "middle class." Now West Virginia is not a very middle-class place by any reasonable statistician's standard. West Virginia is, in fact, as my Appalachian grandmother used to say, "as poor as Job's turkey."

So what, one wonders, does this "middle class" trope mean to people? Perhaps we need to have a focus group, and approach the matter by asking who's not in the middle class. My guess is that people would get around sooner or later to mentioning Bill Gates and other very, very wealthy folk; but that the first, most spontaneous exclusions would operate downward.

A structuralist, or a Ramist, would say that the primary distinction encoded in this "middle class" category is a distinction between those who have something -- however exiguous, and tenuous -- and those who have less. It implicitly associates, on the good side of this first-order fence, those who have, really, very little, with those who have -- really -- quite a lot.

Of course Hillary is not unique in her use of this kind of discourse. It is, in fact, universal in American politics. The American English phrase for "ordinary people" is "middle class" -- and so of course ordinary people always must and will and do have somebody, some logically entailed lower class, to look down on, with contempt and moral condemnation and fear.

Hillary's good fortune in West Virginia is that, unlike much of the South, there aren't many black people there. So in West Virginia, the imagined social subbasement evoked by your sense of being "middle class" -- even if you live in a trailer -- tends to be rather dark-skinned.

Of course, the social subbasement Obama's fans imagine is a bit different. It is, in fact, peopled by pudgy, dough-faced, provincial, fried-food white folks in places like... West Virginia.

One of the things I like about Hillary is that even though she herself is as much of a merit-class baby as Barack -- though not as gifted by Nature -- she's been forced by circumstances to go begging at all those trailer doors, to collect the dying old ladies' ballots and the poor kid's bicycle blood money, and by God she's done it. She has no shame. The trailer "middle class" have become her people -- and she loves them like T. Rex loves Stegosaurus.

May 16, 2008

On a more cheerful note

Is it just me, or is the Democratic primary campaign characterized by an even higher than usual level of stultifying, drivelling imbecility? It's delightful that the only interesting moments in it have been provided by a man of God from Chicago.

God and His fans have now been firmly escorted off the stage, so that people like ABC's Jake Tapper can turn their brilliant, secular, merit-class minds to the issues that really matter.

The Party of God has been busy elsewhere, however, providing news that I for one find pretty encouraging:

Lebanon reverses decisions that angered Hezbollah

BEIRUT — The Lebanese government late Wednesday formally rescinded decisions that sparked days of violence in the country, a move aimed at easing tensions between American- and Iranian-backed political camps vying for power in the country.

... Lebanon's information minister said the government would back off on decisions announced last week to declare illegal the Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah's private fiber-optic telecommunications network and to fire the pro-Hezbollah head of security at Beirut's international airport.

"Since the government is greatly concerned with the higher interest, the government decided to approve the rescinding of the two decisions," Ghazi Aridi, the minister, said in a televised appearance.....

"There is no winner as a result of what happened, but there is a loser," he said, "and that is Lebanon."

Well, no, Ghazi, the loser is Israel. While Bush blusters about "appeasement" in Jerusalem, and Hillary assures the Israel lobby that she's not just ready, but downright eager to commit nuclear genocide on Mini-Me's behalf, Israel's actual position steadily worsens in the Northern theater, and doesn't really look all that good anywhere else, either. Presumably the hysteria of the Lobby's rhetoric -- and that of its gofers in both parties -- is in inverse proportion to the rosiness of the outlook.

Hezbollah appears to be well on the way to picking up all the marbles in Lebanon, and if some kind of deal with Syria about the Golan is really in the works -- as many Middle East entrail-readers seem to believe -- then we can confidently attribute any interest Israel may at last be showing in serious negotiation to its worries about the God boosters in Lebanon (and, of course, Iran).

It's hard to believe that the Israelis really think Syria could provide any significant help against Hezbollah. But they're operating these days like a riverboat gambler on the brink of going bust. Maybe they think that if they can embroil Syria in some kind of conflict with Hezbollah, it'll at least relieve some of the immediate pressure.

Score one for the King of the Universe. You go, God!

May 18, 2008

If the cops say it, it must be so

The New York Times (and, to be fair, every other aptly-named media "outlet" I've seen) has swallowed whole, and reported as Gospel truth, a patent, glaring lie from Interpol about the computer equipment Colombia seized from FARC last March.

The actual Interpol report, a monstrous indigestible bolus of bureaucratic memo-graphy, contains, when you boil it down, two consequential statements:

1) "Interpol said its forensic experts had found no signs that Colombia had altered files" on the seized equipment;

2) "Interpol’s experts verified that the [Colombian military's handling of the equipment] had not altered the content of the archives."

The first of these statements can legitimately be made and supported by a computer-forensic investigation; the second cannot. Tampering with data on a computer disk or "thumb drive" may leave traces, and if so a competent forensic investigation will find them. But it is also possible, even for a person of modest technical skill, to tamper with such devices in a way that leaves no trace at all. (I make part of my modest living doing this stuff, so I know.)

Interpol's confident -- and unjustifiable -- claim to know definitely that the Colombian military "had not altered" the data appears to be a case of telling the customer what he wants to hear.

Neither the Times nor any other media organization appears to have asked any independent expert for an assessment of what Interpol said. Surprise, surprise.

Hugo Chavez' characterization of Interpol chief Ronald Noble as a "gringo policeman" and a "clown" is, as usual for Chavez, right on target.

Noble is a Clinton protege, though he made his earlier Justice Department career in the previous two administrations. He has a long history of, shall we say, political sensitivity. My favorite example:

In 2003, Noble sounded a warning about fake consumer goods after an Interpol investigation linked them to shadowy political organizations such as Al Qaeda. He called the illegal trade in counterfeit designer wear such as shoes and purses "the preferred method of funding for a number of terrorist groups," according to an International Herald Tribune article by David Johnston.
So if you buy that fake Gucci handbag from the sidewalk vendor, then you're supporting terrorism. More thorough intellectual-property enforcement will make the world a safer place for all of us.

May 19, 2008

Running the gamut from A to B

Above, Colombia's death-squad president Uribe, and his close personal friend, our former death-squad president Clinton, at a Clinton-sponsored schmoozefest last year. As usual, Clinton appears to be doing all the talking.

But Uribe listens. The most recent result of his attentive listening was the invasion of Ecuador last March, in which patently bogus evidence was duly found that the Colombian insurgency (FARC) had its eye on Weapons Of Mass Destruction -- and that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was going to help FARC get them.

Now we all know that Hillary is nothing if not loyal to an old friend. In the aftermath of the Colombian attack, she nailed her colors to the mast:

The Colombian state has every right to defend itself against drug trafficking terrorist organizations.... By praising and supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Chavez is openly siding with terrorists.... Rather than criticizing Colombia’s actions in combating terrorist groups in the border regions, Venezuela and Ecuador should work with their neighbor to ensure that their territories no longer serve as safe havens for terrorist groups. After reviewing this situation, I am hopeful that the government of Ecuador will determine that its interests lie in closer cooperation with Colombia....
Obama, as usual, was slightly -- very slightly -- more vague and tepid, but his response amounted to much the same thing:
The Colombian people have suffered for more than four decades at the hands of a brutal terrorist insurgency, and the Colombian government has every right to defend itself against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The recent targeted killing of a senior FARC leader must not be used as a pretense to ratchet up tensions or to threaten the stability of the region. The presidents of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela have a responsibility to ensure that events not spiral out of control, and to peacefully address any disputes through active diplomacy with the help of international actors.
By "targeted killing" Barack means the invasion of a neighboring country. Compare the phrase "surgical bombing." Note also that he obligingly uses the magic word "terrorist" -- the all-justifying Philosopher's Stone of late-imperial discourse. He does mercifully omit the bit about drug trafficking, perhaps because from him, moralizing on this subject might seem a bit comical.

Uribe, like the Kosniks, seized eagerly on the quantum-scale difference between Barack's and Hillary's mad-doggery. Uribe, too, is a loyal guy, and he wants us to know that he's very disappointed by Barack's relative lukewarmness -- just as the Kosniks are oddly roused to orgasm by the same quality.

In Uribe's case, one need not take these protestations too seriously. A loyal guy dances with the one that brung him, as I believe Lyndon Johnson once observed.

The Kosnik fervor is harder to understand. Obama didn't bring 'em anywhere. He's promised 'em very little, and he hasn't even given 'em Arpege. They're like some poor podgy, ill-favored soul hoping delusionally to be asked to the prom by the captain of the football team. In the event, of course, she spends Prom Night at home -- blogging, no doubt, though this comparison lands a little close to my own home.

But no matter how neglected, forlorn and forgotten she may be, she's determined to hear no ill of her heartthrob.

May 20, 2008

Handle with care

You'd think the Democratic Party was a precious, fragile vessel of leaf-thin fine bone china, the way everybody is now worried about "damaging" it during the primary melodrama.

If only it were so. In fact the leathery old whore seems indestructible, more's the pity. In its two-century history it's survived every possible kind of disgrace and betrayal, and it still trudges shamelessly on, a shit-eating Clintonesque grim on its homely face, ready willing and eager to sell itself -- and its hapless "base" -- to any buyer, no matter how repellent, for ready cash.

It's odd, really. The shabby thing really does appear awfully flimsy, and it certainly stands for nothing at all except employment under Government for its cadre. Yet it endures (and endures, and endures), in saecula saeculorum, like the Energizer bunny. This paradoxical durability must have some structural explanation.

I think its very mendacity is the secret of its success. Crucially, it claims to offer an alternative -- however half-hearted and feeble -- to the utter, absolute, complete and comprehensive lordship of plutocracy. As crucially, it actually does nothing of the kind.

It's fundamentally just a matter of algebra. This is a country designed -- very ably and successfully designed -- to be ruled by an oligarchy of wealth. Yet public consent to this arrangement requires representing it as a democracy. The gap between representation and reality requires some term to fill it up and make the equation come out right.

That's the structural need the Democratic Party fills, and that, I think, is the explanation for its longevity. We've always needed something like like that -- some democratic cloak for our oligarchic nakedness -- and presumably we always will, at least until something changes in a big way. It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it. Some institution must be built, and staffed with people who either don't mind the dirt, or can convince themselves it's not dirt at all.

Hillary and Bill belong to the former category, no question about it. If Obama really belongs to the latter, it will be interesting to see how his ability to sustain cognitive dissonance holds up under the strains of office.

Ziffle Rex

Here's a report from the watch out for Larry Ziffle team:

Recently our guy took a malign thumping from three Hindu gents. Waxing to the beat-down, they mocked his status as a globalist and neolib paragon: "Larry are you turning protectionist hack, now we South Asians are getting into the great game too, and we might add, taking a few tricks from you Yanks?"

In fact they get it so all-fired wrong that Larry, in a rejoinder just below their post, makes minced cow of them. In essence: I come to save globalization, not raze it. Here's Larry's money line:

"True friends of global integration and of the developing world will work to design more ways to insure that a more integrated and prosperous global economy is one from which all will benefit."
Yikes! A porcine Greek bearing gifts approaches the gates to what remains uncrumbled of the northern hemisphere's working stiffs' citadel.


At my age, sacrificing seven months of what life I have left is a big deal, but I might almost do it, just to have the coronation -- erm, I mean election -- over with, Barack in the formerly-white house, and something fun to write about again. This much-ado-about-nothing campaign season -- really, it's tedious enough to rouse thoughts of cutting one's own throat. I certainly can't read The Note again for quite some time, or who can say what impulsive act might ensue?

Shall we try a parlor game or two?

What sort of Congress will Barack have? Will his coattails prove broad, and will he get a nice Democratic congress? Or will people hedge their bets, and split their tickets, and saddle Barack with a narrow, flakey mini-majority controlled by those dear darling highly characteristic Democratic aisle-crossers -- Joe Lieberman, of course, being the type specimen?

Will it make a difference?

How many troops will still be in Iraq as the 2010 midterms start to heat up? What about Afghanistan? How will people feel about that?

How will their jobs be? Wages up, unemployment down? If not -- how angry will they be?

What will it take to get them back to reality?

I happened to be talking today with a very intelligent woman who was ready to bolt the Democratic Party -- "Hillary Clinton! She's the Antichrist!", as she put it. NAFTA and the Iraq war were her two big issues.

But then -- along came Barack, and she's a believer again.

I asked her what it would take, down the road a year or two, before she might start to feel she'd been schnookered. "Say it's two years from now -- May 2010 -- and there's still troops in Iraq. Can I call you then and gloat? Or will it take more than that?"

She paused -- a short pause; she's a smart girl -- and then responded with Obama-like evasive grace, "I'd have to look at the whole situation."

This is what the Obamas do. They coax people back in.

Another reason to prefer Hillary -- who drives them out.

May 21, 2008

The Hidden Imam

As Owen remarked in comments on an earlier post, nobody ever really knows what may happen in an election, particularly one with some novel features (e.g. a more or less black favorite). Still, it's hard for me to believe that McCain has a prayer.

But hey, I've been wrong before. I certainly hope I'm not wrong this time, though -- not because I expect anything of Barack except warmed-over Clintonism, but because if Barack is defeated, all these formerly disillusioned Democrats whom Barack has snake-charmed back into the fold will have no opportunity to get disillusioned again. Lost in a wonderful wilderness of if-only's, many of them will remain dedicated DP cultists for the rest of their lives, utterly lost to reason and enlightenment.

I haven't paid sufficient attention to the paradox of the Beautiful Loser -- the candidate you have really persuaded yourself to believe in, and can still believe in because he lost and never got the chance to sell you down the river. The Beautiful Loser is one of the main ways the Democratic Party keeps hope alive, to borrow a phrase.

Win by losing. Quite a trick, really. Get their hopes up. Then lose. And the experience of having hoped will keep 'em coming back, until the memory goes dim and the hapless souls who shared it have all died off.

Here's hoping that Barack wins in November, and gets a chance to show us unmistakably what he's really all about.

May 22, 2008

The Empire drops back

Too bad we don't got guys like this to kick around any more.

That, I predict, will be the words our merchants of death will be whining by this time next year. Even if we, in our infinite patience with men of pure helium, choose the Hanoi Hilton's most famous air pirate next November, I still say we can kiss goodbye to all these high-caliber empire games, no matter who we get, what we run into, or where we go from here.

The Bush team's continuing blood opera, our fiasco in the sand, suggests at least a change of frames, right? But I suspect much more besides -- I suggest we'll see a bipartisan change of substance, my friends, substance: from a very juvenile update of the Roman Empire to -- let's see -- surely we can't go back to... the 90's? To Clintox and the limited liability universal methodist morality play: "salutary containment", a kind of long-count timeout for local thugs. Sound track by Mini-Me And The Cruise Missiles.

So what's next? I submit to you that the next big plan to roll out will be -- appeasement.

Yes, wall to wall indulgence. Why not? There's no great power out there, no Hitler, no Stalin, to stare and scare back into their den, is there?

Okay, maybe someday -- maybe even sooner than later, but not now. In a world like ours today there can be no Munichs, no Pearl Harbors, no Chosin Reservoirs.

The GWOT? Please. I bet there's hardly a soul alive in America today that in their heart doesn't know we oughta send that bit of Lion's Club tomfoolery right back where it belongs -- on the funny pages. Don't the recent triumphs of Hezbollah prove Uncle can't micro-manage the planet?

So since you only make 'em stronger the more you attack 'em -- you don't bomb the pricks (let alone occupy 'em). Nope, you appease 'em -- indulge 'em even. Go ahead, guys, knock yourselves out!

And I mean appease 'em all -- every stray enemy of unrestricted corporate freedoms dinking around down there in South Hemiland.

As Larry David says about Gentiles and Christmas, Aahhh, let 'em have their holiday. Let 'em have their pitiful time-capsule ghettos. Let 'em play out their blighted scenes of cruelty and ignorance. Ain't there more than enough good brown earth to romp through without having to drop golden eggs on their sorry rag-wrapped heads?

Mark my words, this is the coming thing. And I give this fad about 3 years -- not even one full administration -- about the same amount of time post-Nam Carter played Uncle Human Rights before the pandemic of anti-transnat activity, like some raging infestation of insolence, required a hearty hello to arms -- the condign legionaires, the Freedom, Inc. crusaders, the smoking gun civilizers.

Hillary prefigured?

Pressing the lily hand of what might have been.

May 23, 2008

Poetic justic (almost)

Two Israeli fighter aircraft threatened to shoot down a private jet transporting Tony Blair after coming under the misapprehension that the aircraft was staging a potential terrorist attack.
With Tony Blair on board, the misapprehension was quite understandable. One can only regret that on this occasion the Israelis exhibited uncharacteristic restraint.

Regression to the mean...

... AKA Front Runner Syndrome. See also Triangulation. Here's Barack, talking recently to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami:
In many ways, Miami stands as a symbol of hope for what’s possible in the Americas. Miami’s promise of liberty and opportunity has drawn generations of immigrants to these shores....

What all of us strive for is freedom as FDR described it. Political freedom. Religious freedom. But also freedom from want, and.. freedom from fear. At our best, the United States has been a force for these four freedoms in the Americas. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that at times we’ve failed to engage the people of the region with the respect owed to a partner.

When George Bush was elected, he held out the promise that this would change.... Almost eight years later, those high hopes have been dashed....

No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum. His predictable yet perilous mix of anti-American rhetoric, authoritarian government, and checkbook diplomacy offers the same false promise as the tried and failed ideologies of the past.... And Chavez and his allies are not the only ones filling the vacuum. While the United States fails to address the changing realities in the Americas, others from Europe and Asia – notably China – have stepped up their own engagement. Iran has drawn closer to Venezuela, and just the other day Tehran and Caracas launched a joint bank with their windfall oil profits.

That is the record – the Bush record in Latin America – that John McCain has chosen to embrace. Senator McCain doesn’t talk about these trends in our hemisphere because he knows that it’s part of the broader Bush-McCain failure to address priorities beyond Iraq....

So we face a clear choice in this election. We can continue as a bystander, or we can lead the hemisphere into the 21st century. And when I am President of the United States, we will choose to lead....

Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. Never, in the lives of two generations of Cubans, have the people of Cuba known democracy....

I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice....

For the people of Colombia – who have suffered at the hands of killers of every sort – that means battling all sources of violence. When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program.... We will fully support Colombia’s fight against the FARC..... We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders. And we will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments. This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and – if need be – strong sanctions. It must not stand.

... we must support the rule of law from the bottom up. That means more investments in prevention and prosecutors; in community policing and an independent judiciary.

I agree with my friend, Senator Dick Lugar – the Merida Initiative does not invest enough in Central America, where much of the trafficking and gang activity begins.

... As President, I’ll make it clear that we’re coming after the guns, we’re coming after the money laundering, and we’re coming after the vehicles that enable this crime. And we’ll crack down on the demand for drugs in our own communities, and restore funding for drug task forces and the COPS program.

And on and on. Cops, embargoes, "democracy" -- for other people of course; Lord knows we don't want it here -- and, most ominous of all, "leadership". One can only try to imagine how the idea of American "leadership" must make hearts sink around the world.

For the historically-minded, the interest of this speech is how it resembles Kennedy's product positioning back in '60. The problem with McCain is that he's not going to be aggressive and domineering enough.

These Republicans, they're so lazy and reactive. Trust a sleepless, industrious Democrat to send in the death squads even before they're needed.

Look on the sunny side of life

You've really got to admire Barack Obama. He can give a speech promising enhanced bloodshed, and still offer a liberal something to feel good about at the same time. The liberal will predictably take the lip-service and ignore the substance. If you can't get yourself out of the box -- well then, you have to stay in the box; and if you find a way to like the box, who can blame you? It's not such a bad box, really. I've seen worse. One might be a Mormon.

No sooner had I posted Barack's kick-ass-and-take-names speech about Latin American -- delivered to that marvelous crew of fanatical fossils, the Cuban emigre "community" -- than I was made aware of a Nation magazine liberal's response to the same speech.

One of my all-time faves, Sam "I am" Graham-Felsen, an early enlistee to the Obama cult, offers this very different hearing of Barack among the Gusanos:

MIAMI, FL—Senator Barack Obama today laid out his comprehensive Latin America policy, rejecting the Bush-McCain approach that has neglected the Americas and failed to adapt to the realities of our changing world. Speaking at the Cuban American National Foundation Luncheon, Obama outlined his plans to forge a new regional approach to combat insecurity and aggressively promote economic opportunity through new trade, aid and energy policies.

May 24, 2008

The Only Democracy In The Middle East (TM)...

... is apparently still very frightened of Norman Finkelstein -- even without tenure, and as far as I know, without an academic job:
Israel denies entry to high-profile critic Norman Finkelstein

The Shin Bet security service detained and deported an American Jewish professor who is a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday.

Professor Norman Finkelstein was interrogated for several hours and held in an airport cell before being put on a plane back to Amsterdam, his point of departure. Finkelstein said he was told he could not return to Israel for 10 years.

The Shin Bet said Finkelstein "is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon," and because he "did not give a full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions."

However, in e-mail and phone interviews with Haaretz after leaving Israel for Amsterdam, Finkelstein said, "I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me. I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn't much more to say for myself: alas, no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organizations. I've always supported a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. I'm not an enemy of Israel."

Finkelstein visited Lebanon a few months ago and met with Hezbollah operatives there, and subsequently published articles.

Finkelstein.... recently left DePaul University following pressure by Jewish organizations and individuals, including Professor Alan Dershowitz.

May 26, 2008

A moment of wild surmise

I know a few young people, and so I dabble occasionally in Facebook. Why are people so willing to tell strangers so much about themselves? I don't get it. Anyway, on a quick visit today I was electrified to see a little ad flash by somewhere on the page. The text read:
David Sirota to Speak on Uprising at Riverside Church
An uprising! I thought. About time. But... at Riverside Church? And why would anybody want to hear what David Sirota had to say about the subject? (Or any other subject, for that matter.)

The ad was gone before I could follow the link. But a bit of Google-ing turned up the disappointing explanation:

NYC Event: Bestselling Author to Discuss The Rise of Populism Across the Country

... bestselling author and nationally syndicated columnist David Sirota will appear at public events in New York City to discuss his newest book, THE UPRISING: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street & Washington(Crown Publishers, May 2008).

Shoulda known it was way too good to be true.

Purity Of Essence

A few days ago I posted some thoughts about a recent conversation with a highly intelligent and sophisticated woman -- let's call her Diotima -- who is completely mesmerized by Barack Obama. I keep recurring, in my mind, to this chat. It was very rich in matter for reflection. I wish I had recorded it.

At some point she mentioned how "exciting" Barack is, and asked, Don't you think so? Don't you sense it?

I had to confess that I just didn't hear the music. All the way back to his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Gulag -- er, Convention; the speech that had everybody so worked up -- the only response I had was to look at the flushed faces of people talking about it and wonder, What on earth has gotten into them? They're on the brink of orgasm over a tissue of unmeaning platitudes.

Perhaps I developed this theme, talking to Diotima, with more eloquence than tact. She snapped, "Well, I suppose you're just much purer than I am." Which set off a train of rumination about this incessantly-recurring theme of "purity", always a reproach from Democrats.

It's amazing how much subtext a single word can carry. There's a whole little movielet that obligingly unreels in the mental Bijou at the mere mention of the word. It goes something like this:

We have the "purist" -- let's call him Diogenes. Diogenes is so concerned with keeping his moral skirts clean that he has withdrawn from the battle, and looks upon it with snide, sanctimonious detachment.

And then we have the Diotimas -- represented, in this story, as folk like Teddy Roosevelt's famous

... man who is actually in the arena, whose face in marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride or slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day....

... and so on and on. What a grandiloquent, ponderous windbag the guy was. And inexhaustible. To think he was actually asthmatic as a lad. Would that it had mortified into an early, galloping consumption.

But I digress. Whether Diotima had this particular passage of YMCA homiletics in mind, who knows? But it's the canonical statement -- from a very suitable source -- of the "purity" trope's underlying argument: the difference between Diotima, struggling, though impurely, to "do something, at least", and prissy, pure Diogenes, absenting himself from the "dust and sweat and blood" of the arena, and sneering at earnest Diotima from the safety of his tub.

The Diotimas love to congratulate themselves on the Promethean sacrifices they make -- including, of course, the sacrifice of their purity, such as it may be (and few who grow to adulthood have much left to sacrifice, in my experience). But in what do these sacrifices actually consist?

My Diotima will vote for Obama -- and will no doubt go home, or on to her job, feeling thoroughly imbrued with the dust and sweat and blood et cetera. Perhaps she will even contribute to the campaign, and feel as impurely, glorily gory afterwards as Genghis Khan after a long day of rape and pillage.

Maybe it's a failure of imagination, but this doesn't seem very, erm, gladiatorial. In fact, it's difficult to see that Diotima has sacrificed anything except a temporarily disquieting intimation of reality.

It's a little like that snide remark of Bertrand Russell's about Immanuel Kant. Russell quotes Kant saying that "It was Hume who first awakened me from my dogmatical slumbers" -- then Russell adds, "but he soon found a soporific that enabled him to sleep once more."

May 27, 2008

So, Smiff, I'm surprised...

...that you aren't all over this Hillary vs. RFK thing like a cheap suit.

I don't know why these bozos bother appearing on SNL, when you consider the FrontrunnersTM have been coming up with far better material on their own than anyone on SNL since John Belushi died.

But, aaa-aanyway, here's another fresh, steaming Nugget O'Clinton you may or may not enjoy. A fine whine, for sure. Looks like that good ol' Vast Right-Wing ConspiracyTM is back:

(CNN) — Former President Bill Clinton said that Democrats were more likely to lose in November if his wife Hillary Clinton is not the party’s presidential nominee, and suggested some people were trying to “cover this up” and “push and pressure and bully” superdelegates to make up their minds prematurely.

...The former president added that his wife had not been given the respect she deserved as a legitimate presidential candidate. "She is winning the general election today and he is not, according to all the evidence,” he said. “And I have never seen anything like it. I have never seen a candidate treated so disrespectfully just for running.”

... The former president said Sunday that the media had unfairly attacked his wife since the Iowa caucuses, repeating an often-used charge that press coverage had made him feel as though he were living in a “fun house.”

"If you notice, there hasn't been a lot of publicity on these polls I just told you about,” he said. “It is the first time you've heard it? Why do you think that is? Why do you think? Don't you think if the polls were the reverse and he was winning the Electoral College against Senator McCain and Hillary was losing it, it would be blasted on every television station?”

He added, “You would know it wouldn't you? It wouldn't be a little secret. And there is another Electoral College poll that I saw yesterday had her over 300 electoral votes…. She will win the general election if you nominate her. They're just trying to make sure you don't."

May 28, 2008

Another tragedy in the marketplace of ideas

But... we have not done the Big Job, not even close. The conservatives' Big Ideas about government, taxes, security, the market, and the rest still dominate political discourse. Democrats in Congress still cringe at attacks based on these Big Ideas, and many have been intimidated into voting for conservative policies—on funding for Iraq, on government spying without a warrant, on taxes, on bankruptcy, and on and on. The Big Idea intimidation is still working. Changing that is the Big Job.

Rockridge says goodbye

Perhaps the underlying problem is that Democrats are not cringing and not intimidated, but are -- instead -- very enthusiastic in their support for the "conservative" ideas. Perhaps the countering progressive values and ideals that were to be framed into dominance would have fared better if they actually existed and were actually championed outside the drivel of Democratic Party marketing campaigns. Perhaps there's more to lending dignity and significance to ideas than the profligate use of capital letters. We may never know!

Deathless prose

For some reason I'm on the mailing list of "Netroots Nation," whatever that is -- oh, I see; it's a "rebranding" (their word) of the annual Daily Kos convention. This year's is being held in Texas (why, for God's sake?) and it costs $375, besides air fare, hotel, food -- thanks, but no thanks. One was enough.

Netroots Nation has, of course, a "donate today" link on every page. This particular link carries a quotation from the redoubtable "Hunter", who is to Markos Moulitsas Zuniga what the former Cardinal Ratzinger was to Pope John Paul II:

"Hunter" says:

There is a value in being the town square, and in being the pamphleteers, and in giving citizens a voice, and in having a voice, when voices are the things most desperately needed.
Stirring stuff, isn't it? And so insightful. For some reason it reminded me instantly of Dan Quayle's attempt to cite the motto of the American Negro College Fund ("A mind is a terrible thing to waste"):
What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is.
Boy, if this incoherent dribble is the best they can do, truly they have fallen on hard times.

Straws in the wind?

Coincidentally, Al Schumann noted the long-overdue demise of George Lakoff's tiresome "framing" cult at the the same time I was marvelling about the apparent decline of the Kosnik cult.

They are, of course, both victims of the Democratic Party's success -- not their own success, I hasten to add, which has been zilch apart from obtaining some modest notoriety for their respective caudillos.

What has happened is that the Democrats have shifted into general-election gear. So any efforts that the institutional party, or its nominee-apparent, will make from now on are going to the other leg of the triangle -- the possibly wavering angry white guys. (And the Miami Cubans). Lakoff and Kos have both tattooed on their foreheads the motto "We Have Nowhere Else To Go", and so they will get the treatment doormats usually get.

This is routine, of course -- it's what "triangulation" means. What's slightly more interesting is that the base, I bet, has abandoned the Lakoffs and the Kos-es just as the institution has. Rooting for a candidate -- usually Barack, of course, for people in the Lakoff/Kos ambit -- has absorbed all the energy, and probably all the money, of the earnest folk whose warm panting breath formerly kept Lakoff and Kos aloft. It will be interesting to see how many Kosniks make the pilgrimage to Texas for this year's chatterfest, as compared with '06 and '07.

It was always clear -- to some of us anyway -- that adherence to the dire old deadly Democratic Party meant that Lakoff and Kos had ensured their own irrelevance. What I, at least, hadn't quite figured out was that they had also ensured their own extinction as soon as they had served their modest function.

Success is within reach. Time to liquidate the Useful Idiots(*).


(*) I bought the capital letters cheap, at a Lakoff fire sale, and now I gotta use 'em up.

May 29, 2008

The pussycats roar

Former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan's kiss-and-tell book includes some uncomplimentary -- and, I think, quite accurate -- comments about the news media:
"If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

"The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the 'liberal media' didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served."

Two Plus Two Equals Four, Say Experts! Stop the presses!

The public tribunes of the press, however, see no reason to question their own general flawlessness:

"It's a stunning and unsupportable statement," pronounced Mark Knoller, CBS Radio correspondent. "Transcripts of McClellan's press briefings provide more than ample evidence of the intense scrutiny imposed on the White House and its policies by members of the press. Most days, McClellan left the briefing room lectern positively spent by the pounding he faced from reporters."

ABC's Ann Compton was perplexed: "Is Scott suggesting the White House press corps can stop, or start wars?"

David Gregory, NBC News' chief White House correspondent, opined: "I think he's wrong." He added: "I think we pushed, I think we prodded. ...The right questions were asked."

I like the bit from the CBS guy about how he "pounded" McClellan until he was "spent" every day. I bet he says the same about his girlfriends.

May 30, 2008

Young Dickens in the blacking factory

The emails from "Netroots Nation" -- the new alias of the Daily Kos convention, mentioned here a few days ago -- are coming thick and fast. They're asking for money, of course -- for "scholarships" so that nine worthy-cause netrootsers can make the hajj to this Mecca of pwog self-congratulation. (In Texas. I can't get over it. Texas!)

Smarmy stuff:

One person volunteered for a presidential campaign in seven states. Another was awarded several prestigious awards from his local Democratic party for groundbreaking organizing in a conservative state. A third began volunteering as a young child, stuffing mailers and sealing envelopes with her mother.

These three individuals represent just a few of the 70-plus bloggers and activists who have applied for a scholarship to attend Netroots Nation this July.

"Several" prestigious awards -- from a local Democratic party? How prestigious can they be, if there are so many going? And the poor soul who volunteered for a Presidential campaign (whose, I wonder?) in seven states -- the phrase "get a life" comes to mind.

But worst of all is the poor abused child, stuffing envelopes so some Democratic soup-hound can get his snout at the trough. This is nothing short of criminal. Where were the social-service people while this horror was going on?

Inherit the windbag

As we doldrum away the days waiting for St Scorpia to lash the last, and hopefully fatal, blow to the bare black sexist behind of the Oby One's campaign, I'll clear up a Father Smiff request, side-o-the-mouth'ed in his stunningly bright post about Jeremiah Wright vs the National Press Club.

The famous Darrow/Bryan joust: after reviewing the entire typescript of Darrow's climactic witness stand examination of the Great Commoner, here with are my findings.

Short version: zero-sum grapples by well-matched contestants can be very indecisive affairs.

Slightly longer version: neither hero landed a telling blow as they circled each other, throwing long jabs. Most of their energy went into grandstanding asides.

Now truth be told, I enjoyed Bryan's insistence on the original text in Jacobean translation, over Darrow's smart-alec paraphrases. And Bryan's various light-fingered exegetics easily swat down any claims of the old battler's failing acumen. Example of his grand line: "It was inspired by the Almighty and He may have used language that could be understood at that time, instead of language that could not be understood until Darrow was born."

To this question by Darrow, "Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?" Bryan's answer" "No sir; I leave to the agnostics to hunt for her."

And there's his occasional insistences on exact translation, as in the tale of Jonah: it was "a great fish", not a "whale" that swallowed that overboard soul; or that in the Bible, "day" can mean any "distinct period of time".

So what was proved by this mutually beneficial stunt? On Darrow's part, really not much. How hard is it for a modern fellah with aN educated streak to hash up antique beliefs based on the Good Book, if you don't grasp the spirit of Bryan's line "the Bible should be accepted as it is given" -- if you have an active restless questioning insatiable Faustian mind.

But on Bryan's side there's something more -- maybe even, in the broadest scheme of things, something a bit grand even. His own words: "I want the papers to know I am not afraid to get on the stand in front of him [Darrow] and let him do his worst. I want the world to know."

Just a simple Godfearing old man -- with some guts and a lot of guile -- defending the honor of his people's most sacred beliefs against a sharp scoffing soulless sophisticate.

And a lawyer at that.

More laurels for the Truman wreath

One of the most remarkable things about the modern liberal Democrat who knows a little -- but not much -- history, is his capacity to like cracker-barrel Harry Truman, to date the only head of state ever to use nuclear weaponry.

Of course, compared to the real mass murderers, Truman's paltry hundred thousand or so in Hiroshima and Nagasaki pale beside, say, Clinton's half a million children dead from the Iraq sanctions(*). Even so, Mr Plain Speaking's bloody hands form a somewhat uncomfortable contrast to his lovable, avuncular conventional representation.

But Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not Truman's only credentials in the mass murder derby. It now appears that Truman had his own version of the Phoenix Program, avant la lettre:

Thousands killed by US's Korean ally

DAEJEON, South Korea (AP) — Grave by mass grave, South Korea is unearthing the skeletons and buried truths of a cold-blooded slaughter from early in the Korean War, when this nation's U.S.-backed regime killed untold thousands of leftists and hapless peasants in a summer of terror in 1950.

With U.S. military officers sometimes present, and as North Korean invaders pushed down the peninsula, the southern army and police emptied South Korean prisons, lined up detainees and shot them in the head, dumping the bodies into hastily dug trenches. Others were thrown into abandoned mines or into the sea. Women and children were among those killed. Many victims never faced charges or trial.

The mass executions — intended to keep possible southern leftists from reinforcing the northerners — were carried out over mere weeks and were largely hidden from history for a half-century. They were "the most tragic and brutal chapter of the Korean War," said historian Kim Dong-choon, a member of a 2-year-old government commission investigating the killings.

... Through the postwar decades of South Korean right-wing dictatorships, victims' fearful families kept silent about that blood-soaked summer. American military reports of the South Korean slaughter were stamped "secret" and filed away in Washington.

.... "Even now, I feel guilty that I pulled the trigger," said Lee Joon-young, 83, one of the executioners in a secluded valley near Daejeon in early July 1950.

The retired prison guard told the AP he knew that many of those shot and buried en masse were ordinary convicts or illiterate peasants wrongly ensnared in roundups of supposed communist sympathizers. They didn't deserve to die, he said. They "knew nothing about communism."

The 17 investigators of the commission's subcommittee on "mass civilian sacrifice," led by Kim, have been dealing with petitions from more than 7,000 South Koreans, involving some 1,200 alleged incidents — not just mass planned executions, but also 215 cases in which the U.S. military is accused of the indiscriminate killing of South Korean civilians in 1950-51, usually in air attacks.

... The declassified record of U.S. documents shows an ambivalent American attitude toward the killings. American diplomats that summer urged restraint on southern officials — to no obvious effect — but a State Department cable that fall said overall commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur viewed the executions as a Korean "internal matter," even though he controlled South Korea's military.

Ninety miles south of Seoul, here in the narrow, peaceful valley of Sannae, truckloads of prisoners were brought in from Daejeon Prison and elsewhere day after day in July 1950, as the North Koreans bore down on the city.

The American photos, taken by an Army major and kept classified for a half-century, show the macabre sequence of events.

White-clad detainees — bent, submissive, with hands bound — were thrown down prone, jammed side by side, on the edge of a long trench. South Korean military and national policemen then stepped up behind, pointed their rifles at the backs of their heads and fired. The bodies were tipped into the trench.

.... When British communist journalist Alan Winnington entered Daejeon that summer with North Korean troops and visited the site, writing of "waxy dead hands and feet (that) stick through the soil," his reports in the Daily Worker were denounced as "fabrication" by the U.S. Embassy in London. American military accounts focused instead on North Korean reprisal killings that followed in Daejeon.

But CIA and U.S. military intelligence documents circulating even before the Winnington report, classified "secret" and since declassified, told of the executions by the South Koreans. Lt. Col. Bob Edwards, U.S. Embassy military attache in South Korea, wrote in conveying the Daejeon photos to Army intelligence in Washington that he believed nationwide "thousands of political prisoners were executed within (a) few weeks" by the South Koreans.

Another glimpse of the carnage appeared in an unofficial U.S. source, an obscure memoir self-published in 1981 by the late Donald Nichols, a U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, who told of witnessing "the unforgettable massacre of approximately 1,800 at Suwon," 20 miles south of Seoul.

Such reports lend credibility to a captured North Korean document from Aug. 2, 1950, eventually declassified by Washington, which spoke of mass executions in 12 South Korean cities, including 1,000 killed in Suwon and 4,000 in Daejeon.

.... In 1953, after the war ended in stalemate, after the deaths of at least 2 million people, half or more of them civilians, a U.S. Army war crimes report attributed all summary executions here in Daejeon to the "murderous barbarism" of North Koreans.

Even educated South Koreans remained ignorant of their country's past....

The Koreans shouldn't feel bad about that last bit. The same could be said -- in spades -- about "educated" Americans.


(*) About which Madeleine Albright unforgettably observed, "It was worth it."

About May 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in May 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2008 is the previous archive.

June 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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