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August 2007 Archives

August 2, 2007

Cruise Missile Posturing

WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, under attack from a rival who portrays him as naive on foreign policy, declared Wednesday that he would use military force against Al Qaeda operatives hiding in tribal areas of Pakistan if that nation did not move more aggressively against them first.

The Illinois senator said he would take military action as president, if necessary, despite the risk of undercutting Pakistan's leader, President Pervez Musharraf, an important American ally.

"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges," Obama said. "But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. ... If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."


Bless their hearts! Those kids are willing to compete with the big boys in thoughtlessly bellicose eructations.

Obama let himself get out cruise missiled on this one and now he's shown that he can be goaded into foolish boasting.

Soldier porn

I got some flak a few days ago for dissing the late Pat Tillman. In fact, now that I've actually done a little reading on the subject, he appears to have been a more complicated case than I realized.

What set me off, I think, was dribble like the following -- especially the crudely montaged soft-core image that accompanies it:


heroism (36+ / 0-)

I don't know Mary Tillman but for some reason she has captivated my attention since her son signed up. Her eyes - same as her son's eyes - have an intensity.... she's got the fire in her belly. Having a beautiful son killed will do that to a person, I guess....

by kck on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 07:22:22 AM PDT

. . .

I'll second kck (8+ / 0-)

Yes, please let Pat's mom know that there are patriots out there who admire her immensely. I just read in this diary for the first time that she's a teacher, so now I get why Pat was so well read. He was a real man and a patriot....

Clark '08

by DrReason on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 11:21:53 AM PDT

. . .

Just Imagine If (2+ / 0-)

an anti-Iraq War, NFL Star, Al-Qaeda hunting, Chomsky-reading, opinionated modern real-life super-hero ran for congress as a democrat.

by BlueGenes on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 12:36:35 PM PDT

The Kosnik who contributed the last little ejaculation above gives the game away, I think, as far as the pwoggie version of the Tillman cult is concerned. Liberal soldier-worship is such a creepy subject that I feel a certain squeamishness even thinking about it -- but it really does get to the heart of what's the matter with these people.

The Democrat -- at least the Kosnik variety of liberal Democrat -- is a person completely credulous of common wisdom, conventional ideas, and the verities of the high-school civics classroom. Yet he also feels that's he's made of finer metal than the average bear. His moral sense is keener, his heart kinder, his intellect more penetrating. This Pharisaical sense of apartness from the common herd is what makes him a liberal. It is a source of pride to him, and yet, at the same time, a burden. There is something within him that wants to lay the burden down and become one again with the mass. He feels distinguished by his high-minded yes-buttery, and yet shivers in the chilly winds of exile; he craves the heavy moist breath of the herd, and hungers for the warmth of his fellow-critters' huddled flanks.

The poor soul is like some unstable chemical mixture, always ready to decompose into something less complex, and emit a fetid burp of methane in the process. Give him a suitably ginned-up humane opportunity to wrap himself with a clear conscience in the flag, or weep big fat bathetic tears over a dead soldier boy, or drool over a football players' iron thighs, and he'll make a revolting spectacle of himself every time.

* * *

The Tillman story, like a Rohrschach blot, is random enough that you can read into it whatever you like. That's what I was doing too, of course. The Kosnik sees in Tillman the pwoggie's version of the Hidden Imam, the Man On A Hummer who can lead America's liberals rejoicing into the promised land. I would rather see a gung-ho oaf so fond of attitudinizing and role-playing that he gave up a lucrative career and landed his ass in Afghanistan, and made himself so odious to his colleagues that one of 'em finally shot him.

Who knows, really. Tillman wanting to meet with Chomsky is certainly an interesting data point. But it's hard for me to imagine that somebody so addled he could sign up in the first place would ever have been a very valuable asset to our side.

Still, de mortuis nil nisi bonum and all that. Maybe I should stop being mean about the guy now.

August 4, 2007

Rejoining the herd: Michael Moore, case in point

Mike Flugennock writes:
Y'know, when, after eight years of the Clintonoids, a bunch of pissed-off people got fed up with the Democrats and supported Nader's insurgent candidacy (as opposed to Kucinich's "insurgent" candidacy), Michael Moore was one of them, which tickled the living shit out of me after having seen "Roger & Me" and faithfully watched and taped a boatload of his "TV Nation" episodes -- more tickled, in fact, than when Phil Donahue came out for Nader.

So, we all remember the reactions of most Democraps and Liberals then -- looking back, much like the reaction of the USA at large right after 9/11 -- a reaction I could only describe as a sort of mass delusion, or mass psychosis, or just plain raw fear, or just a big mash-up of all three. You'd confront any Democrap or Liberal with your support for Nader and the Greens, citing planks from a platform that pretty much sounded like any decent DP platform from 25, 30 years before, and their faces would damn near contort, almost as if they'd seen a ghost, while they shrieked at you about abortion rights and the Supreme Court and womens' college sports and how the Greens were "stealing votes" from the Democraps...you know, like they were friggin' psychotic, man, like Pod People or something.

So, anyway...that November, last thing before the DW and I voted for Nader and scooted to Jamaica (we'd assumed the election circus would be over either way and we'd have some peace by then), I shot the Nader/Green "super rally" at DC's MCI/Verizon/Whatever Arena (renamed Emma Goldman Arena for the event) for a newsreel at the IMC -- and I recall Moore belting out a fabulous pile of speechifying about choices and democracy and courage and all that shit in his introduction of Nader to the rally. I also recall Moore about three, three and a half years later publishing his apology to the Democratic Party. Yeah, that's right, he friggin' apologized to that bunch of whiners -- remember that bullshit?

But, yeah...if, after his apology to the DP, I wasn't certain enough that Michael Moore himself had been seized by the mass delusion/psychosis/ fear/Kool-Aid/whatever, there came the endorsement of Wesley Goddamn' Clark, f'crissakes... yeah, that Wesley Clark, General Wesley "Maximum Violence" Clark, of Jugoslavian civilian ass-stomping fame. General Wesley Clark, old Bubba Clinton flunkie.

What really set my jaw to plummeting, though, was Moore's reasoning behind it -- something about our needing a General of better integrity than the Generals running the war in Iraq, who could beat Bush... I mean, really, really, really fucked up, desperate kind of reasoning, so totally wrapped up in Beating Bush that he didn't understand what the real problem was.

I think F911 was a helluva picture, one that needed to be made, and I'm glad he's doing what he's doing and that it's hugely popular and that he's making the fascist punditocracy fume and sputter and all, but I just don't feel like I can trust the sonofabitch anymore...it's like he talks a tough game about the DP, but you know that when shit gets really rough, he's going to run back to them.

August 6, 2007

Heartless sentimentalists: more on Moore

I love Michael Moore for many reasons, but... just saw Sicko a few days ago. It's now linked in my mind with the Pat Tillman cult. Father Smiff's terrible swift sword takes a big hunk out of Mikey, too, I fear.

Sure, you vanguard progs ho-hummed through his essay on comparative medical systems. But attend to this grave sin... slobbering over "our" carnal preterite.

Take that episode of the battered monstrosity cab ridden to the sidewalk shelter by medi giant Fuehrer-Imminente. Its creator must either have the stone heart of Todd Browning, or at least assume we common folks all do. Wilde's Little-Nell weepers of the world, unite!

Graphic grotesques as a way to reach an audience -- this rampant horror-sentimentality -- is a political obscenity. To use it like a sprinkle of sex scenes to goose up your "story line" -- Well, I'll say no more.

Clarity emerging?

Thus Paul Krugman:
Look, the worst thing that could happen to Democrats is for voters to conclude that there?s no real difference between the parties, that when you replace Republicans with Democrats, all you do is replace sweet deals for Halliburton with sweet deals for hedge funds.

Dems: Go ahead, tap our phones

Democrats in the House and Senate endorsed a major expansion of warrantless electronic snooping over the weekend -- the "Protect America" act, also know as "FISA modernization". Apparently the nugatory existing constraints on warrantless wiretapping were felt to be far too much of a burden for the Secret Police, and so Repubs and Dems came together for a joyful shower of largesse on what is referred to, drolly, as "the intelligence community."

Gory details available here.

The vote in the Senate was 60-28, with 12 "not voting". Democratic "yeas" were Bayh, Carper, Casey, Conrad, Feinstein, Inouye, Klobuchar, Landrieu, Lieberman, Lincoln, McCaskill, Salazar, and Webb. Missing in action were Boxer, Dorgan, Harkin, Johnson, and Kerry.

In the House, 41 Democrats crossed the aisle and 9 went AWOL (including Tom Lantos; detained in his sacophagus, perhaps). The measure passed 227-183.

August 7, 2007

There is figures in all things

Mike Flugennock writes:
So, anyway, I see last week where Congress approves another million billion zillion dollars for President Chimp's War in Iraq. No surprises there. Then, this bridge collapses in Minnesota, to much wailing and voyeurism from the press, and the predictable calls for us to send our prayers to Minneapolis -- even though no prayer requests were forthcoming for the victims of similar bridge collapses caused by US bombing of Iraqi civilians.

Shortly afterwards though, Congress somehow manages to find another few hundred mil or so under their sofa cushions -- a huge-ass surprise, to see that anything was left after the million billion zillion they just poured into the friggin' war.

Then, this past weekend, as reported so gloriously on AP, President Chimp himself pays a visit to the collapse site and casts his own personal eyeballs on the scene, allows himself to be personally spoken to by a common, ordinary worker, makes a big fat promise about repair and restoration -- but, get this, he says "I make no promises on the timetable"; he never was much on timetables, was he -- has his picture taken in a hardhat surveying the devestation, gets back onto the helicopter, and flies home.

So, all this stuff starts crashing together in my head -- fat wads of cash pissed away on an illegal war, public works budgets going begging, bridges collapsing in the USA -- and then, while browsing the recent Pat Tillman thread at Stop Me, I come upon your poet "op", writing:

there's a continuum of these slobber fests

from the summit of the twin towers
to such over kills
as this bridge collapse in the twin cities
a nation turning its lonely bully boy
eyes to tears over that yesterday ....

ought to think

fuck we do twenty.... sometimes sixty
such deeds
to the iraqis
on any given day...
...at which point the conceptual collisions build to critical mass and, just as the pile detonates, my first thought out loud is, "whoa, payback's a bitch!"

Available in three bitchin' formats:

jpeg image, 604kb

pdf image, 520kb

eps vector image, 8.2mb

"Bush Surveys Bridge, Pledge Aids", Associated Press 08.04.07:


Aisle-crossers: the real decision-makers

Been exchanging a few e-mails this last day or so with a Pollyanna-ish comrade -- well, Pollyanna-ish compared to me, anyway. A propos the recent Secret Police Enablement Act, passed with the usual indispensable Democratic assistance, my correspondent observed, "Even on this wiretapping bill, Dems voted overwhelmingly against."

This remark reveals, I think, a really substantial error in how people think about parties. It's as if they believed the party could be characterized by taking some sort of arithmetic sum or average of the opinions of the people who comprise it.

But this ignores the fact that the party is an institution with a structure, with mechanisms of operation and levers of power -- levers which are in some hands and not others.

Among Democrats, it's the aisle-crossers who control the party as an institution. They're like the tiller on a boat -- an inch this way or that, and you've tacked. Or gybed, as the case may be.

It's true that if you average up the (expressed) views of Democratic and Republican officeholders you end up with two different-sounding songs. But all the Bernie Sanderses and Dennis Kucinich-es and Ted Kennedys etc ad soporem are in effect lashed to a chariot whose reins are firmly in the hands of the Lantoses and Liebermans. So the ineffectual enlightenment of the former is worse than useless -- it's an actual snare and delusion, like the sweet nectar that draws the poor fly into the flytrap.

I like to think of the two parties as being a lot like McDonald's and Burger King. In practice, they're marketing the same thing, but they're going after slightly different demographics and have slightly different marketing and branding strategies, and slightly different Secret Sauces to mask the rancid flavor of the same low-grade beef.

Slumming again

Yeah, yeah, I know, nostalgie de la boue and all that. Anyway, I've been prowling the tawdry corridors of Daily Kos again, and look at this gem:


A Request for Help from the Kos Community
by davidsirota
Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 07:09:21 AM PDT

A few months ago, I told Kossacks that I was asked by Creators Syndicate to write a nationally syndicated, weekly newspaper column in the wake of the tragic death of our great hero Molly Ivins. Today, the column is being launched, and I need everyone's help.

Over the course of the next month, Creators will be letting newspaper editors all over the country know that I will start writing new columns for national publication in early September. The more these editors hear from you - their local readers - that you would like to see the column printed in your local papers, the better the chance there is that they will run the column.

So, if you support my writing and think we need a strong, progressive populist voice to counter the glut of right-wing syndicated columnists on the editorial pages of local newspapers, then please EMAIL OR CALL YOUR LOCAL EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS and let them know you'd like them to run my weekly Creators Syndicate column.

This somehow reminds me of the one time Al Franken was ever funny, back in 1979:


Al Franken: Thank you, Jane. Well, the "me" decade is almost over, and good riddance... I believe the 80's are gonna have to be different. I think that people are going to stop thinking about themselves, and start thinking about me, Al Franken. That's right. I believe we're entering what I like to call the Al Franken Decade. Oh, for me, Al Franken, the 80's will be pretty much the same as the 70's. I'll still be thinking of me, Al Franken. But for you, you'll be thinking more about how things affect me, Al Franken. When you see a news report, you'll be thinking, "I wonder what Al Franken thinks about this thing?", "I wonder how this inflation thing is hurting Al Franken?" And you women will be thinking, "What can I wear that will please Al Franken?", or "What can I not wear?" You know, I know a lot of you out there are thinking, "Why Al Franken?" Well, because I thought of it, and I'm on TV, so I've already gotten the jump on you.
David goes on to give his loyal readers and volunteer promoters a little Aunt-Polly advice:
Also remember that if you do get in touch with your editors, be respectful and polite. This is a big opportunity for the progressive movement to amplify our agenda, and I find that in the newspaper arena, we can be most successful if we avoid browbeating.
One gets the impression that David thinks some of his boosters are not too tightly wrapped, and worries that they might drive customers away rather than bringing 'em in the door.

Let George do it

More deep pathos from Daily Kos:


YearlyKos Appeal to Soros: Fund a Real Counterweight to AIPAC
by Robert Naiman
Mon Aug 06, 2007 at 08:01:29 AM PDT

At a well-attended panel at YearlyKos on the "Arc of Crisis" in the Middle East, there was a spirited discussion about what, if anything, to do about U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians....

[T]here are indeed groups in Washington working to counter the influence of AIPAC on U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians, the most influential being Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Israel Policy Forum, and Americans for Peace Now. But ... these groups are underfunded and not as effective as they could be.

Not so long ago, it seemed these groups had a practical plan to address these shortcomings. In October, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported:

"A top staffer for billionaire philanthropist George Soros met recently with senior representatives of the dovish pro-Israel community to discuss setting up an alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee."
Apparently Soros backed out.... Sadly, I don't have a personal relationship with George Soros, or I would call him up and appeal to him directly. So I will appeal to him here....
There follows a lengthy obsequious open letter to Soros begging him to become the pwoggies' moneybags-ex-machina and summon into being, from out the vasty deep, a pwoggie counter-AIPAC.

Hey, if you can't build a movement, buy one. Or better yet, get a sugar daddy to buy one for you.

August 10, 2007

The radical imagination -- American style

Cindy Sheehan announced her candidacy for the House seat held by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ms. Sheehan, a peace advocate, said last month that she intended to run against Ms. Pelosi if Ms. Pelosi did not move to impeach President Bush by July 23.... She said would run as an independent on a platform of universal health care and making college affordable.
Now if she wanted to make college illegal -- I'd quit my job and go volunteer for her campaign.

August 15, 2007

Frank, full of beans

Rep. Barn Burner Frank is setting the record straight:



You tell people that the politicians don’t care about how they vote and they only care about big money, etc. Why would you be surprised if they don’t vote? But we have too much joined in the demonization of government as an entity. We have to start personalizing our criticism of government and stop dismantling respect for government in general.

To be all we weebles can be, we need service sector unionization, nursing classes at all our community colleges, and targetless inflation control.

It all tastes of staples and fly paper. Ahh my brothers and sisters, to think .... this is the man that bars the door; this is the man that stands between Wall Street and the rape of Susie Trueheart -- well, errr, he and good-time Charlie Rangel, that is.

Sleep well, jobbled America, sleep well -- our tribunes stand on guard.

Here's our champion chairman Frankenberry, enjoying a lollying moment with leading house humanist the right honorable Nosferatu.

The Worse The Better Finally Pays Off For Hillary

Now there is no need to get freaky about the DLC, except when they peddle bogus accusations of anti-semitism. (For that, Ford deserves to get slapped upside the head with a wet mackerel.) They are an indispensable part of the party. They are big generators of ideas (I started to write generators of big ideas). They bring resources to the table. I am happy to work and commune with them, where possible. I happen to think that in terms of basic principles of policy, they are pointing in the wrong direction.

In a nutshell, we need social-democracy at home and non-interventionism in foreign policy. The public isn't ready for that yet, but it can be led in that direction. The idea should be to unify the country around something worth following.


Why not unite behind Hillary? Granted she's not ready to lead us into social democracy or follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, but surely we could lead her. As Howard Dean famously said, we have the power, except to the extent incumbent advantage, ballot shenanigans, gerrymandering, voter roll purges, money, more money and assorted dirty tricks kind of short circuit the power.

Says her deputy campaign manager Bob Nash, "She'll be as tough as any Republican on our enemies." And on our friends, he might have added, if they don't shape up. At the Take Back America conference in June the candidate drew boos when she declared that "the American military has done its job. … They gave the Iraqi government the chance to begin to demonstrate that it understood its responsibilities. … It is the Iraqi government which has failed."


Well, maybe not right away on foreign policy, and given her voting record, maybe not ever at all. So okay, she might have the juice on social democracy.

As she runs for re-election to the Senate from New York this year and lays the groundwork for a possible presidential bid in 2008, Mrs. Clinton is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers and insurers. Nationwide, she is the No. 2 recipient of donations from the industry, trailing only Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a member of the Republican leadership.


That's one dubious disctinction, taking second to (former senator) Rick Santorum. The main problem with her from any "progressive" policy perspective is that she doesn't support single payer health care.

Public opinion is well ahead of Senator Clinton on health care and Iraq. I really don't think it's a question of leading them. For all the love heaped on Edwards and Obama, it's higly likely Senator Clinton is going to be the Democratic Party candidate -- and the DLC shows no signs of attempting to moderate her positions. So maybe getting a little 'freaky' about their influence is a good idea. And far from being indispensable, there's no way to get rid of them (short of turfing many Democrats out of office). There's no one in Democratic establishment who can seriously put a check on her or sway her if she decides to pursue a militarized intervention policy and cater to the health care profiteers. The Democrats and their voters are stuck with that. Pelosi and Reid aren't going to get all radical. Sweet reason and hard facts mean very little to them to begin with and once they lock in the votes, they mean nothing at all. I do understand that many Democrats do "believe in science", i.e. evolution is not evilution, global warming is not a hoax, vaccines work and so forth. But when push comes to shove. . .

"Raising retirement age or reducing benefits can't be ruled out if the Social Security system is to be saved from going bust, Rep. Charles Rangel said yesterday. 'All of these things are on the table to find some way to make certain that Social Security is solvent,' said Rangel, who is poised to take control of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee."


In a narrow sense, the Bushists's seven steps forward makes a Democratic potential one step back look good. Senator Clinton's votes in support of the Bushist agenda, already awful on their own, can seem pretty sinister in that light.

Too much pragmatism will keep the country stuck where it is now -- prone to precipitous military adventures, diddling with the health insurance industry, upholding homilies about personal responsibility in a labor market where work doesn't pay and individual financial risk worsens.

This is certainly true. But neither idealism nor constructive contributions to a policy debate, nor any effort to help with a platform has worked. Some of very best have tried that. It has repeatedly proved useless. The Democrats who might wish to consider something besides a capitulationist "go along to get along" strategy are at the mercy of aisle crossers, dive artists and right wing thugs within their own ranks. The Republicans have had plenty of help. Building a credible threat is a better option, which for politicians means threatening their ability to get themselves elected.

August 16, 2007

Deep in unfathomable mines


Robert E. Murray – the unsmiling face of Capital. See him here, in some kind of spine-straightening harness, handing over a plaque to a fellow coal-industry ghoul -- no doubt it's an award for health and safety in the shafts.

In the popular imagination, coal miners are a beloved bunch, but yet we recklessly continue to let 'em die.

Did anybody else catch a few flashes of Murray's act since the cave-in? Under the circumstances such a display of willful public defiance -- worthy of a Gilded Age Vanderbilt -- makes me more sure than ever that we're in for a mighty sea change round here.

If these six men are found dead under all that illegally produced debris -- after all this guy's shamelessly chin-jutting carrying-on -- he's exactly what 37 years of free-range reagoonianism leads to: a combative hunchbacked profit ape, the perfect poster creep... eh?

What a troop of insensate croaking bullfrogs our present generation of leading captains of private enterprise have become. I'd venture to guess they're just about ripe enough for a ruthless public harvesting.

August 17, 2007

Debtors' Burgeoning Woes

Thanks to Flagrancy for the reminder.

House Roll Call

Senate Roll Call

I was surprised to see Joe Lieberman's name in the "Nay" column. Wasn't it evil enough?

I have an inclination towards conspiracism. So I often have to remind myself that people who are wildly irresponsible economic misanthropes, and deeply sympathetic to the needs of people just like themselves, will reflexively do things that look a lot like deliberately locking the family in the house before setting fire to it -- in this case, the cynically named "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005". Source Watch has a good overview of it. The credit card people have wanted this for a long time, well before the credit bubble/derivative singularity engineered to replace the Dotcom bubble. In defense of my conspiracism, a culture of enduring spite, greed and predatory practices, with privileged access to the political structure, can produce things that look a lot like timely, cunning malevolence. But this is a hedge they've desired for a while now.

U.S. bankruptcy filings were 38 percent higher last month than in July 2006 and are 50 percent higher for all 2007 than they were a year ago, according to data complied by the private research company Jupiter eSource LLC.

Almost 307,000 bankruptcies were filed in the first seven months of this year, the company said Friday, citing U.S. Bankruptcy Court records obtained online.

Business reorganizations accounted for 3,400 filings, a 20 percent rise from the same period in 2006 for corporate Chapter 11 cases. Individual bankruptcies accounted for most of the rest.

The 50 percent growth this year is partly a result of a low rate of filings in early 2006 under a new, more restrictive law. Bankruptcies first rose as individuals rushed to beat the October 2005 deadline, then dropped. They rose steadily in 2006.

If this year's pace continues, new bankruptcies in 2007 will total almost 790,000, 34 percent more than last year.


If anyone wants to fact check the story, the stats are available.

Using the scale I borrowed from Owen, I'd rate the legislation at 5 lantoses in conception and six in action, with the potential for eight and half if the economy gets really bad. The full ten lantoses are reserved for things like privatizing Social Security. It's bad legislation. Though the Democratic aisle crossers in the House and Senate probably couldn't have prevented its passage, the large number in each chamber nevertheless carries nasty weight well past that point.

Aisle crossers make revision or even repeal of bad laws very difficult. Outside the CEO class, there's no group of people more inclinded to persevering in folly than lifelong policitians. They're protected by their party infrastructure and crony networks. They face no consequences. The worst (pdf) of them are supremely confident and add petty ego to the mix. The Democrats always defend their aisle crossers, whose stubborness is proportionate to their inability to consider things thoughtfully and whose obligations to voters end the day after elections. Any other group of human beings could at least discuss where things went awry and take whatever small notice that they had. In the status quo, it will take something like a miracle to even get this modified. The bare minimum outside a miracle is putting a dent in their comfortable patterns, i.e. third party runs and/or spoiling.

August 19, 2007

The Worse The Better, Continued

Courtesy of Who Is IOZ?, Vichy Sunday.

For a thorough excoriation, Arthur Silber

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 — Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

Administration officials acknowledged that they had heard such concerns from Democrats in Congress recently, and that there was a continuing debate over the meaning of the legislative language. But they said the Democrats were simply raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation.

They also emphasized that there would be strict rules in place to minimize the extent to which Americans would be caught up in the surveillance.

The dispute illustrates how lawmakers, in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought.


As usual, the Democrats have gone much further than their constituents and the country at large feel comfortable supporting. Security state legislation enjoys tepid, qualified support, at best. A poll conducted for the ACLU in the wake of the Patriot Act uncovered serious reservations. Americans by and large support due process. They reject torture. Outside relatively small groups of paranoid, vindictive and ignorant people, it takes a great deal of fearmongering, rhetorical manipulation, harassment and narrowing of political choice to get them to acquiesce to the policies of their leadership, in either party. Their desire, at least, for some attempt at decency is quite strong. A party that promises its supporters a difference from "business as usual", and achieves a majority based on widespread disgust with excesses, owes its supporters much more than a hurried vote and greater license for excess.

It is possible that the Democratic leadership is so self-deluded that they feel constantly expressed opposition to capitulations and tightening the screws translates to demands for worse policies. But if so, why do so many of them make so many excuses? Why do they blame the Republicans and duck questions? Why do they as a group continue to give campaigning support and enabling perqs to defectors within their ranks? It seems far more likely that they feel guilty, but compelled and/or obliged to carry on. They certainly have no reluctance to benefit from the inevitable fall out. Deep thinkers in their pundit corps don't mind a little "the worse, the better", all in a good cause, and they're certainly no strangers to crackpot realism.

I'd draw up short of saying the party as a whole, or even a majority, has agreed to a "the worse, the better" strategy. What they have agreed to is amoral collegiality -- corporate conservatism, as opposed to the corporate liberalism of the past. It's not internally fixable. It relies heavily on rejecting feedback, in much the same the way troubled companies circle the PR wagons when enough bigshots have screwed up so badly that facing the music looks like an existential threat. Changing that would mean an overhaul of the supporting infrastructure. Too many people are dirty for it to happen on its own.

August 20, 2007


I'm rusticating -- or rather insulating -- on an island off the coast of Maine, with limited network access until Labor Day, so SMBIVA will mostly have to depend on its other stalwarts until then.

I'm not reading the papers and not watching TV and it's wonderful.

August 22, 2007

It's Easy To Understand

Why is this? Digby accurately predicted yesterday that this would get little to no coverage, because Dems "don't seem to have any kind of apparatus" to "catapult the propaganda," so to speak. Of course, as Digby suggests, Dems themselves might consider doing some catapulting themselves right about now. Has any high-profile Dem issued a statement on this or pushed it in some other way? After all, every Republican from Dick Cheney on down waved the O'Hanlon-Pollack piece at every conceivable opportunity. Dems can do this kind of thing too, one imagines.

Nonetheless, even without the Dems pushing it, you'd think this would be seen by the big news orgs as an important story. Even if the administration didn't tell them that it was.


Here are the relevant votes, House and Senate. They'll go a long way to explaining why the Democrats aren't trumpeting this critical op-ed. The least opprobrious conclusion, based on the votes, is that too many of them are dirty. Some understanding of the way the media works would also help. They may recall that the news stories leading up to the war were heavily laden with pro-war spin -- most memorably, the articles written by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon. Gordon is now writing about Iran. The media does not operate as a democratically oppositional force. The owners and big brand celebrity media personalities are participants in the formation of the timocratic consensus. Their media outlets are mouthpieces. They marginalize dissenters in their ranks the same way snotty, snobby kids form cliques to ostracize their peers. As Rep. David Obey (D. WI) put it, "It's time these idiot liberals understand that." Of course he was talking about ending the war by continuing to fund it, not talking about the process that got us into it, keeps us in it and ensures another war.

The puzzled, ingenuous and dismayed schtick of the liberals, never entirely convincing to begin with, has become shopworn and more than a little repulsive. The nebbish who glumly resigns himself to assisting with his own abuse is not very sympathetic. A herd of them, egging each other on and moralizing at stragglers, belongs in a burlesque.

The Shrum Curse

Robert Shrum, who was for three decade among the most prominent Democrati political consultants in the country, neve mastered the exigencies of everyday life. He gre up in Los Angeles but does not drive; he is bes known as a speechwriter but does not type. Sinc 2000, he has spent his summers at a house o Cape Cod, but his complexion seldom appear other than pasty or sunburned. Over the years, Shrum effectively turned himsel into a machine for campaigning, and then, suddenly, after the 2004 election, h turned the machine off. “I thought it was time to move on,” Shrum said the othe day over lunch downtown. “I’d been doing it long enough.

There was also, of course, the matter of the “Shrum curse.” In his last contest, Shrum served as the chief strategist for John Kerry, the eighth time he had worked for a Democratic Presidential candidate and his eighth loser. In lieu of a candidate, Shrum has this summer produced a memoir, “No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner,” a dishy recounting of his career. Page for page, notwithstanding the title, the book probably has more excuses than concessions, and there are revealing, and often unflattering, glimpses of his former clients: a foulmouthed Edmund Muskie, a dithering Bob Kerrey, and a lightweight John Edwards, among others. In all, though, Shrum, who is sixty-four years old, takes on the subject of the curse without actually acknowledging its existence.

“At a personal level, I don’t believe in the ‘Shrum curse,’ ” he said.


Why ever not? It's perfectly accurate and it succinctly describes his impact. I understand that there wasn't much that could be done with the material at hand, but there are always ways to make things worse. And Shrum was the man to take it on. Never has so horrid been so ill-served by such a loser. His unfortunate combination of bootlicker and second-rate Madison Ave machiavel has moved on (ho, ho, ho) to embrace spiteful recriminations. But his legacy will endure. His role in the decades' long, demented and pointless retreat from the caricature of liberalism foisted on the Democrats by the Republicans has sufficient inertia to keep them going as contemptible duffers for another thirty years.

Here's looking at you, Shrum.

Exsurgat asinus

August was supposed to be the month that crystallized Democratic opposition to the Iraq war.... Yet nowhere is the political tentativeness more on display than on the war -- with members of Congress sharing impressions that something is working. "Staking out positions that could complicate efforts to achieve party unity in September, a few Democratic lawmakers have returned expressing support for a continued troop presence," writes Jonathan Weisman of The Washington Post.

The broad argument Democrats are making: The security situation is improving, but it's too late for the Iraqi government to take advantage of it. "The Democrats' reframing of the war debate helps them avoid criticism for naysaying U.S. military achievements while still advocating a speedy pullout from what they say is a civil war the Iraqi government cannot quell," writes the Washington Times' S.A. Miller.

Two leading senators -- Levin, D-Mich., and Warner, R-Va., are out with a new report with nuggets that play off of that (rather muddy) message. "The 'surge' is having 'measurable results' " that should make compromises possible, they write, per ABC's Z. Byron Wolf. But they're calling for new Iraqi leadership because "we are not optimistic about the prospects for those compromises." Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is going the furthest, in calling for a new prime minister if Nouri al-Maliki can't force quick compromises.

... Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. John McCain took their turns yesterday before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City. Clinton... said elements of the new military strategy are "working" (what will Sen. Barack Obama say about that?) but added that it's unlikely to make a difference....

August 26, 2007

Flour felons

I don't usually have much affection for runners -- too skinny, too motivated, too smug -- but this item warmed the cockles of my heart:


Running Club Members Face Felony Charges for Scare at IKEA Store in New Haven

NEW HAVEN, CT -- Two people who sprinkled flour in a parking lot to mark a trail for their offbeat running club inadvertently caused a bioterrorism scare and now face a felony charge.

The sprinkled powder forced hundreds to evacuate an IKEA furniture store Thursday.

New Haven ophthalmologist Daniel Salchow, 36, and his sister, Dorothee, 31, who is visiting from Hamburg, Germany, were both charged with first-degree breach of peace, a felony.

The siblings set off the scare while organizing a run for a local chapter of the Hash House Harriers, a worldwide group that bills itself as a "drinking club with a running problem.''

"Hares'' are given the task of marking a trail to direct runners, throwing in some dead ends and forks as challenges. On Thursday, the Salchows decided to route runners through the massive IKEA parking lot.

Police fielded a call just before 5 p.m. that someone was sprinkling powder on the ground. The store was evacuated and remained closed the rest of the night. The incident prompted a massive response from police in New Haven and surrounding towns.

Mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city plans to seek restitution from the Salchows, who are due in court Sept. 14.

"You see powder connected by arrows and chalk, you never know,'' she said. ``It could be a terrorist, it could be something more serious. We're thankful it wasn't, but there were a lot of resources that went into figuring that out.''

About August 2007

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