Thursday, July 25

Fun With Monogamy, Vol. MMCDLXXXI

TELEVISION Blitherer: The baby's name will be George Alexander Louis. 

My Poor Wife: Damn! I was hoping for “Dakota”! 


Wednesday, July 24

You’ll Never Believe It

“I don’t read Reason magazine.”
-Mitch “Cut and Paste” Daniels

NO, that’s not Reason’s ad campaign for this fall, though the way things are going they might consider it; it’s former genius Mitch Daniels trying to extricate himself from the plagiarism scandal he started while trying to extricate himself from last week’s book burning scandal.

Evidently Daniels released a statement last week which seems to’ve borrowed copiously from two publications: yet another anti-Zinn obit from 2010 in Reason, and a  press release from Stanford concerning Professor Sam Wineburg critique of Zinn. The Wineburg quote was later excised from Daniels’ statement, after Wineburg complained, saying, “I have criticized Zinn but will defend to my death the right to teach him. Shame on Mitch Daniels,” on the Twitter thing.
Excerpt of Daniels’ first statement defending his criticism of history Howard Zinn, sent to reporters on July 17: 
“No one need take my word that my concerns were well-founded. Respected scholars and communicators of all ideologies agree that the work of Howard Zinn was irredeemably slanted and unsuited for teaching to schoolchildren. 
“Arthur M. Schlesinger said, ‘I don’t take him very seriously. He’s a polemicist, not a historian.’ Socialist historian Michael Kazin judged Zinn’s work as ‘bad history, albeit tilted with virtuous intentions’ and said the book was more suited to a ‘conspiracy monger’s website than to a work of scholarship.’ Reviewing the text in The American Scholar, Harvard University professor Oscar Handlin denounced ‘the deranged quality of his fairy tale, in which the incidents are made to fit the legend, no matter how intractable the evidence of American history.’ 
“Stanford history education expert Sam Wineburg cautioned that exposing children to a heavily filtered and weighted interpretation such as Zinn’s work is irresponsible when ‘we are talking about how we educate the young, those who do not yet get the interpretive game.’ 
“Many more such condemnations by persons of political viewpoints different from my own are available on request.” 
 
Excerpt of Michael Moynihan’s Reason magazine article 2010: 
“Much of the criticism of Zinn has come from dissenters on the left. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once remarked that ‘I don’t take him very seriously. He’s a polemicist, not a historian.’ Last year, the liberal historian Sean Wilentz referred to the ‘balefully influential works of Howard Zinn.’ Reviewing A People’s History in The American Scholar, Harvard University professor Oscar Handlin denounced ‘the deranged quality of his fairy tale, in which the incidents are made to fit the legend, no matter how intractable the evidence of American history.’ Socialist historian Michael Kazin judged Zinn’s most famous work ‘bad history, albeit gilded with virtuous intentions.’” 
Excerpt from 2012 Stanford University press release quoting Stanford education professor Sam Wineburg on Howard Zinn’s work: 
“Wineburg writes that a heavily filtered and weighted interpretation becomes dangerous when ‘we are talking about how we educate the young, those who do not yet get the interpretive game.’”  
Excerpt of Daniels’ statement, still dated July 17, as it appeared on Purdue University’s website Tuesday: 
“No one need take my word that my concerns were well founded. Respected scholars and communicators of all ideologies agree that the work of Howard Zinn was irredeemably slanted and unsuited for teaching to schoolchildren. Arthur M. Schlesinger said, “I don’t take him very seriously. He’s a polemicist, not a historian.” Many more such condemnations by persons of political viewpoints different from my own are available on request.”
Anyone who’s ever graded a paper recognizes the technique. It’s not even a question. It’s sloppy, at best, and it wasn’t at the service of convincing the paper-grader you’d read the assignment; this was the President of a major uni…, I mean, Purdue, trying to defend an idea he shouldn’t have had in the first place. (Not to mention one which, as we noted last week, he rather obviously didn’t have before he read Sneering Haberdashery Republican Roger Kimball’s Zinn obit in the National Review. That led Daniels to tell his henchmen that there were “errors on every page” of A People’s History.)

So we had Mitch Daniels trying to use the power of the state to censor teachers, and professors, over a book he’d only heard described, and which wasn’t in use anywhere among Indiana public schools, insisting, first, that he was only speaking of secondary schools even though the entire conversation revolved around changing standards for an education degree, then taking examples from two pieces in order to prove that Zinn had been criticized. By Even the Liberal Arthur Schlessinger, Jr. Of course he had to swipe examples. How was he supposed to sound like he knew what he was talking about?

By the way, this is the eight-year history of the state of Indiana under Daniels’ governorship. Except for the part where he gets called out for what he said and did.

Wednesday, July 17

Little Man

SO Mitch Daniels, former CEO of Auction Indiana, Inc., appears to’ve been a little more interested in education reform than previously suspected:
Emails obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request show Daniels requested that historian and anti-war activist Howard Zinn's writings be banned from classrooms and asked for a "cleanup" of college courses. In another exchange, the Republican talks about cutting funding for a program run by a local university professor who was one of his sharpest critics.

The emails are here and here. In case you’re blissfully unaware of Indiana politics, “Tony Bennett” was Daniels’ education henchman, and such an egregious turd he lost his bid for reelection in a Republican year in Indiana.

Now, at the risk of shocking some readers, I’m not completely surprised to learn that Mitch Daniels was a petty tyrant, an intellectual lightweight, a Bill of Rights hypocrite, nor a vindictive runt. I’m sure he comes off a little worse simply because the A.P. was not able to obtain his detailed supplemental list of the errors “on every page” of A People’s History.

I would just like to take a moment this AM to point out a couple things. First, Daniels refers to Zinn “finally” passing away; apart from the standard display of Daniels’ class and wit, it suggests that his familiarity with Zinn had begun less than a week earlier, with Roger Kimball’s piece in the National Review. Daniels even appropriates Kimball’s “textbook of choice in high schools and colleges across the country” line, a classic example of how anti-fluoridationist hyperbole becomes established fact the moment it reaches a pair of ears.

(I will admit, under the circumstances, that I frankly admire Daniels’ ability to get through the thing in just six days, while taking notes, seeing how occupied he was at the time with paying for someone else’s coal gasification plant, half-completing I-69, and finding reasons to avoid testifying in the FSSA suits and countersuits.)

The salient point, though, is Daniels’ reaction when a series of emails detailing efforts to get the recently discovered and deceased Zinn out of the education curriculum at state universities: he insisted he was talking about K-12 only.

Anybody ever read a standard K-12 history book in this country? Dear God, they’ve been watered-down Chamber of Commerce pamphlets since Mitch Daniels was knee high to…I mean, since he was a lad. The introduction of Howard Zinn to Indiana classrooms (Daniels’ hench-emailers found nary a copy) would improve the teaching of history no matter what you think of what he says. Hell, Howard Stern would improve our secondary History curriculum.

This isn’t about free speech, or Daniels’ Randian dedication to it, though that’s plenty enough for starters. It’s about the Nixonian dishonesty at the heart of education “reform”. It’s about the wingnut echo chamber where even “reasonable” Republicans reside. It’s about the fact that you can somehow get an Ivy League education and not understand the concept of research.

On a personal note, once the quarter-stick-of-dynamite Freedom fireworks Daniels let into the state stopped blowing up last night, it got so quiet I thought I heard the Purdue faculty laughing its collective asses off. And the prolonged celebration of the Fourth reminded me that Howard Zinn "finally" died as a veteran of WWII. When it comes time to piss on Mitch Daniels' grave that, fortunately, won't be an issue.

Sunday, July 14

Justice

I KNOW two things about juries: I don't want my life or my liberty decided by one, and I don't want my sense of justice in the hands of one.

I don't think anyone with a sense of the history of this country imagined that justice was going to come out of that Florida jury. Put another way, Trayvon Martin received the full measure of American justice. Yesterday completed it. George Zimmerman is the model American. George Zimmerman is the fucking walking embodiment of America: we've got the gun, and the guy we don't like the looks of is supposed to jump when we say jump. And then, we it all goes wrong, we change the rules, congratulate ourselves on a job well done, and pretend it never happened.

There was never going to be any justice for Trayvon Martin come out of that courtroom. His chance for justice was killed by some mope who wanted to assume the moral superiority of the small-town bully cop, with none of the restraints. If he didn't die a mean and meaningless death, let that be for the one reason that's left him, and his parents: that what should die with him is the witless song and dance about this country being "over" its racist "past". 

Tuesday, July 9

Tuesday Olio: Summer Rerun Edition

• In 2006 the homicide rate in Indianapolis skyrocketed. In 2007 we accidentally elected a new Republican mayor, in no small measure because of the furor over the previous year’s murder rate.

We’re off to a record-breaking summer, as they say in the ad biz, up 60% from last year, poised to smash that record season. So much so that the local teleprompter readers have not been able to ignore it, the way they’ve ignored the rest of Mayor Gomer’s record. Indianapolis’ murder rate per 100,000 residents is now higher than Chicago’s.

It was my Poor Wife who’s pointed this out to me, my own memory being what scientists call “shitty”: during 2006 the climb to the new Homicide record was followed like the progress of a moon landing. Every station had a Homicide Graphic to go along with the daily count, which was announced, well, at least daily.

Today record-keeping has gotten a little sloppy. There’s no denying the problem, not when they’re finding multiple murders on a daily basis. But the scoreboards have been taken down.

Back then the issue was the city’s deep hole over police and fire pensions. The force was reduced. Democrat-Republican Mayor Bart Petersmythe signed onto a local option tax—set up by the state legislature—to pay down the debt. The proto-Teabag Republicans screamed about tax hikes. Right up to the day their man Gomer was elected. He’s kept it around to pay for other things.

Today the issue is the number of cops on the street; Indianapolis has about 75% of the force suggested for a city its size. The (Democrat-Republican controlled) City-County Council wanted to use $6 million earmarked for streets for a one-year effort to increase the number of new officers. Mayor Gomer vetoed it, and last night the Council failed to override that veto.

Meanwhile, the Gomer Plan, which was to simply shuffle assignments around and hope for some good numbers, gets touted as an actual Plan by the locals. He was on all four networks last night with a plan that would increase the number of Academy recruits in 2016. This was repeatedly referred to, on two channels I saw, as “in a couple years.” We not only need recall elections in this town, we need the right to recall news teams.

• Meanwhile, I got to catch some footage of Lance Armstrong entering some mountain bike race, and thanks so much. This on a channel, one of four, which can’t be bothered to mention that the Tour de France, the major event in what’s left of professional cycling after Juan Pelota, is presently entering its second week.

And I don’t blame them for ignoring it, because Americans who made that goon into a national hero don’t care anymore. But covering Armstrong entering a race somewhere was like breaking the story that a tertiary-syphilitic Al Capone had taken up home brewing.

• Speaking of which, I caught up with a woman on the Trail this morning who was decked out in yellow, and, just as I feared, it was some of that Armstrong “charity” finery. I wanted to ask her if she’d like to swap it for my Aaron Hernandez jersey.

• Last week USAToday ("The Nation's High School Newspaper") asked whether fans would ever forgive cycling for the Armstrong/Strongarm/doping era. They interviewed a couple of team managers who said, essentially, “Of course.” Then Team Sky dropped an entire field of professionals the first day in the mountains, and that social media thing exploded in accusations.

Team Sky got roughed up the following day, all except team leader/sure bet Chris Froome, which caused me not to twitter “I guess they’ve learned how to look like they’re not juiced.” So much for the question. If you fucking cheat you’re a fucking cheater. This is why fucking cheaters should be exposed, no matter how much money they have to throw around. Nobody who paid any attention at the time thought that Armstrong (and, yes, much of the rest of the sport) was clean.

• Which just put me in mind of Bashful John McCain, demanding some more of that US unilaterally magical action in every Middle Eastern country save one. Being exposed as a liar doesn’t make you right.


Wednesday, July 3

Your Victory Celebration Was Gauche. The Only Thing That Will Redeem It Is Giving Up.

Kathleen “Pulitzer” Parker, "Wendy Davis shouldn’t be sainted for her filibuster".  July 2

JEEZ Louise, I was gonna stop-and-frisk this thing, then I realized that this  was quicker and more effective:
The abortion conundrum is further complicated by the dishonesty of our terminology. Simplistic phrases such as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” distort the complexity of how most people feel.

Parker takes 623 words to get there. Here are fifteen of them:

• "a woman’s right to destroy an unborn child"

• "flaxen-haired damsel"

• "Pro-abortion rights folks"

Nope, no complications there.
One may wish to leave unfettered a woman’s right to do anything to herself, even if it means destroying her own offspring, but shouldn’t one be at least somewhat discomfited? 
Instead, we celebrate.
This bit of disingenuousness is forty years old, and for forty years it’s been recognized as disingenuous, but Kathleen Parker thinks it might work if we try it again.

C’mon, it looks like a baby. C’mon, compromise. You can trust us. Look at me. I mean, I’m willing to compromise on gun control. It’s just that that wouldn’t work.

Thursday, June 27

Thursday Olio: 20 Years Ago Is Not Ancient History Edition

• So Monday Indianapolis was under terrorist attack, and the local news hairdos were beside themselves, so much so that it’s still difficult to straighten out what exactly happened from everything else that was reported, blurted, or thought out loud. In the early morning hours a security guard spotted a backpack, minus a back, at the Federal courthouse. (It's officially the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse, so named to remind us that at some point they're gonna start naming shit for Dick Lugar and Mitch Daniels, and it won't stop.) The Bomb and Backpack Squad blew it up. It was said to have contained legal fireworks and illegal marihuana, yet another mark of just how fucked our priorities are. I’m assuming they determined this before blowing it to smithereens, though this raises the question of why exactly you have to detonate legal fireworks in order to prevent them from going off.

Then, that very afternoon, a woman walked into the Federal building, which is distinct from the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse, which you know because this one was named for Sherman Minton and Homer Capehart. It was built in the 1960s because we were tired of having the Circle be the ugliest building in the world.

In case you think I was exaggerating.
The woman placed what was most likely a cardboard tube on the X-ray conveyor belt, though it has alternately been described as a package she placed in the little plastic trays that hold keys and such, and, of course, as a backpack. Security personnel thought the package was suspicious. Which it was, in a sense, since it too seems to’ve housed legal fireworks. The woman was taken into custody. The building was evacuated, including a daycare, and why th’ fuck do we still have daycare centers in Federal buildings? The package was detonated in the street by the Bomb Squad, on what must have capped their most exciting day ever.

This was in late afternoon; by the Five O’Clock News the teleprompter readers were as jumpy as if gas prices had gone up 10%. All of this (and more! and more!) was reported, except for the fireworks part. “Suspicious package” was all they were saying. The woman had not been charged. The fact that she had not been charged, along with the fact that she had evidently of her own free will placed this Suspicious Object or Terror Tote on the X-Ray conveyor, and the fact that the cops had rather summarily detonated the thing in the public streets did not register with any of the hairdos. Somehow no consequential part of a story ever does if it might have an anodyne effect on Pure Fucking We’re Under Attack Panic Reporting.

News that the second object was, yet again, the sort of legal terrorist device the World’s Third-Worst State Legislature™ made more plentiful and more powerful in the wake of 9/11, because Freedom, sorta came out later. By the next day the whole Incident was forgotten, except to the extent that Channel 8 did a close-up examination of just what the Bomb Squad does, and how they make 800 runs a year, which means we need more of ‘em. This was how you knew that somewhere up the chain of command someone is in charge of making sure that no one ever starts thinking seriously about any of this.

The Perp was simply forgotten at this point, evidently still uncharged with carrying the sort of explosive device the state doesn’t want anywhere near our public officials, but doesn’t mind you being forced to listen to every fucking night of the week, 365 days a year. Why it is no one asked her what was in the tube, or why she wanted to bring it into the Federal building, or why she couldn’t have simply explained this to the security personnel and everyone gone on about his or her day was of absolutely no interest. How many of those 800 runs involved grocery sacks left on picnic tables or purses left in airport waiting areas (all of them) was never revealed, even though, y’know, if any of them (2.1918 per day) did actually involve explosive devices it presumably would be on the fucking news.

I’m going to say this once again: the reason Barbara Walters, a real estate hucksterix with a serious speech impediment, was placed in the anchor chair of a major network news program, back when the country actually watched the news, was so they could see just how much they could get away with. And the answer was a resounding Anything.

• I know I’m supposed to concern myself with serious things, for the most part anyway, but 1) the bile is still rising over the Voting Rights Act decision; ask me again next week; and 2) DOMA was a piece of crap, Prop 8 was a procedural decision; I’m thrilled for anyone who now can marry the person of his or her choice, the way God intended. Those people will not be in Indiana, at present, and the Jim Rockford 180ยบ the Indiana Republican party is about to do as a result will be about as much fun as one can have as long as there is an Indiana Republican party running things. (In fact, if you wanna know just what sort of political fix they're running at the Court these days, consider that the Indiana General Assembly, and newly-minted Governor Mike "Deacon" Pence, punted on putting the No Homo Nups amendment in front of voters this year because they needed to wait for the Court to rule. Meaning, of course, that even Indiana Republicans knew how the Court was going to rule.) But this is my point. DOMA, bad as it was, was a goddam skin ulcer caused by what’s really wrong in this country. What the Court did began to correct the sort of shenanigans the Democratic party is complicit in. When we start excising the source of all this I’ll dance in the streets. If you knew me you’d realize that’s no idle threat.

• So, instead: someone first tell me what exactly Paula Deen has to be all weepy about? Loss of contracts and damage to a brand. What th’ hell touched her otherwise? Not the sort of thing casual, mindlessly-accepted racism has done to millions of her fellow human beings in her lifetime. What are the waterworks for? It’s not fair to hold her accountable because she was born in 1947? “In my defense, I was only twenty years old when Martin Luther King was murdered?” It’s only reasonable to give her thirty or forty years to’ve realized racism was wrong?

And I don’t care; the whole thing’s a question for the people who made her a public figure, then profited on it, and those people are worse than backwoods racists: they’re utterly amoral privateers. She’s a pure creation of the Jab It In Your Eye mentality, the same thing that markets .22s to five year olds, or Rick Perry (et. al.) to primary voters. The Food Network was hoist with its own petard. Leave us pray for a world in which being butt ignorant is not a mark of pride, where racism is unthinkable, where debasing regional cuisine is a criminal act, and where the Food Network isn’t presently in meeting trying to figure out how to make a buck out of all the racist commenters it attracted with her firing.

Monday, June 24

The Bottomless Bottom Of The Barrel

OKAY, so better men than I have already dealt with this David Gregory character. I’d just like to add a point raised by his secondary dickishness:
Well the question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you are doing.

I don’t recall any Second amendment discussions on Meet the Press that revolved around what qualifies as a musket.

Friday, June 21

The Sorry State Of American Public Relations

OKAY, fine, so maybe you don't have much to work with with Paula Deen (you might still have taken care of this before it came to people pounding her line of cookware into worthless hunks of metal in the aisles of Target). But Mike Allen's office?



No one thought to blame this on Clinton staffers?

Thursday, June 20

The Only Tool You’ll Ever Need

Fareed Zakaria, "Obama's Syria policy is full of contradictions".  June 19

I USED to think that the only useful service Fareed Zakaria served was as a walking, talking embodiment of the twin contributions of Ivy League brainpower and professional journalism to modern American political life. (Unless, say, you’re the Cheney administration and need the closest thing to Reasonable and Serious you could find to validate your execrable foreign policy program. Fareed Zakaria. For Those Times when Judith Miller Just Isn’t Enough.™) Then last Thursday he turned up on The Daily Show in John Oliver’s first week as guest host, to help prove that Jon Stewart isn’t the only thing wrong with that show.

Anyway, Hey, Kids! Enjoy being totally oblivious about Vietnam, and pretty much the rest of US foreign policy since 1946? Well, have we got an argument for you!
In the debate over U.S. intervention in Syria, there is a striking, almost bizarre mismatch between ends and means. We want to defeat a ruthless and powerful regime, rescue a country from civil war and usher in a new democratic political order. But those seeking this outcome also believe firmly that we must never consider committing U.S. soldiers to the fight. “The worst thing the United States could do right now is put boots on the ground in Syria,” Sen. John McCain said recently.

Yeah. Y’know what else is an “almost bizarre” mismatch? 1) Those stated ends and whatever we could reasonably expect to happen at best, given even a cursory examination of “history” or “reality”. 2) Those stated ends and the generalized anti-Arab, religiously pro-Israel agenda that drives it, especially from people who wanted to take Damascus just as soon as we wrapped up that little problem with Saddam Hussein. 3) Things John McCain says and anything which takes what John McCain says seriously.

Okay, so Beltway insiders want to continue the tub-thumping they’ve been doing since Quemoy and Matsu, but in the short-term they’re unable to dribble in a US fighting force, because, after Iraq, “accomplishing nothing”, or “losing” temporarily has a bad name. Thanks for the analysis.
When asked the U.S. objective in Syria, some proponents of intervention say it is to end that country’s humanitarian nightmare. But in the short term, arming one side will increase the violence and bloodshed.

That would be a real dilemma, if anyone was really serious about that “humanitarian” horseshit.
That’s fine if it serves our real objective,

Provided we’re still 6000 miles away.
which is the ouster of the Assad regime, a nasty and evil dictatorship. But that is a negative objective. The lesson of Iraq is that defeating Saddam Hussein — whose regime was perhaps even worse than Bashar al-Assad’s — was only a stepping stone to an outcome.

When (if ever) do we get to the part about “not lying about your fucking objectives” being the lesson of Iraq?
Our goal for Syria is a democratic country where all sects can live in peace. Achieving that would require a lot more than the defeat of Assad; it would require an occupation of sorts to ensure the creation of a suitable political system.

An occupation of sorts.
We attempted just that in Iraq and, despite a massive, decade-long effort that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, Iraq today cannot be described as either genuinely democratic or multiethnic. (The international intervention in the Balkans was also followed by a decades-long occupation, which continues to this day in Bosnia.)

Thanks for the faux balance, old chap. The international intervention in the Balkans, spearheaded by the Europeans, arguably prevented thousands of deaths in ethnic warfare. The war in Iraq, courtesy the Coalition of the Willing, dismantled a half-functioning society and replaced it, after a decade, with a half-functioning society minus thousands of its previous members. While eradicating its fully-functional nuclear weapons program. At a cost of only a couple trillion, depending on who's counting (Nobody). Otherwise they're identical.
Put another way, we want an outcome in Syria that is even more ambitious than the one in Iraq — yet we intend to achieve it through a “no-fly” zone.

Put it another way: we're still talking about occupying and democratizing a Middle Eastern country. Hallucinating the means is small potatoes compared to that.
In the mid-1980s, the scholar Samuel Huntington pondered why the United States, the world’s dominant power — which had won two world wars, deterred the Soviet Union and maintained global peace — was so bad at smaller military intervention.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that its Ivy League scholars could imagine the US “won” either World War, “deterred” the global machinations of a Soviet Empire which couldn’t manage to feed itself, and “maintained global peace” by starting a war every 2.4 years on average.
Huntington concluded that we rarely entered conflicts actually trying to win. Instead, he reasoned, U.S. military intervention has usually been sparked by a crisis, which put pressure on Washington to do something. But Americans rarely saw the problem as one that justified getting fully committed. So, we would join the fight in incremental ways and hope that this would change the outcome. It rarely does.

Huntington also concluded, rather famously, that “the answer” to our little imbroglio in Vietnam was to use such massive force that the South Vietnamese population would be driven into centers of population concentration, thereby depriving the rural Marxists of fecund rurality.

Worked like a charm.
(More recent conflicts where we have succeeded — the 1990 Persian Gulf War, Grenada and Panama — were all ones where we did fight to win, used massive force and achieved a quick, early knockout.)

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Grenada? Panama? Dear god you fucks are desperate to claim expertise. What were we doing in Korea, playing for a tie? You do understand that the only way the United States could have used “unlimited force” to “win” in Vietnam or Korea was the use of nuclear weapons, right? Or use conventional warfare to defeat the fucking Chinese in China? Defend those ideas, then. You can’t even say this shit unless you know absolutely nothing about what you’re talking about.
One of the U.S. Army’s most intelligent officers...

God help us.
Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, wrote a study of the Vietnam War that detailed this error. He described Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 plan as one of incremental pressure that “depended on the assumption that the limited application of force would compel the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table and exact from them a favorable diplomatic settlement.” The strategy, McMaster noted, was “fundamentally flawed.” The enemy is fighting to win — not playing a negotiating game.

McMaster’s been praised for doing precisely what he did not do: uncover a structural deficiency in the Johnson administration which led to an incorrect application of force in Vietnam, a war we otherwise would have “won”. He topped this off, Mr. Zakaria, by accusing Robert McNamara of treason, for the egregious act of not doing what H.R. McMaster thinks he should have.

This is worse than stupidity; it’s dishonest stupidity. McMaster didn’t discover this shit. It was understood at the time, a time when, by the way, he was busy soiling diapers. Johnson found himself in a situation that wasn’t of his own making. He was President of the United States during the Cold War. No President of the United States in the 50s or 60s was going to stand up and tell the nation that the threat of the Soviet Union was vastly overblown, nor that it wasn’t bent on enslaving the Free World. Nor was he going to explain to the American people that the Vietnam wasn’t a war of Soviet Aggression, but the overthrow of a corrupt and evil European colonial system, one we’d been given the chance to eliminate after WWII and instead had propped up. Temporarily. Contrary to all our stated humanitarian love of democracy. You wanna know who dribbled our way into quagmire in Vietnam, go look at who was screaming about “losing” China fifteen years earlier.

It was a war of political machination. The only way you don’t have a war of political machination in Vietnam is to not have a war. Johnson concluded he couldn't get away with that. And he was right. The ridiculous and evil Catholic mandarins would have fallen, and this country would have proceeded to shit itself for a decade. Especially its Beltway insiders and Ivy League scholars. And brilliant general-officer analysts. Do you fucks realize there were people in this country still insisting that Ford "do" something about the Fall of Saigon?

And that’s just the top of the manure pile. Even assuming it was possible to assemble a million combat troops and send them simultaneously into Vietnam, along with a bombing campaign which would have made Nixon blush, and even assuming (against direct evidence) that this would have guaranteed a “win” (defined how? Keeping Diem in power?), suggesting that Johnson should have, or could have, done so without consideration for the global ramifications is playing War like playing Risk. It’s not analysis. It’s masturbation.

This shit was understood at the time. It gets promulgated now because there are people who believe, unshakably, that it is impossible for the United States to’ve won two World Wars but lose to a bunch of peasants. But the Vietnamese had been fighting invaders for hundreds of years. They kicked the Chinese out. They humiliated the French. They were superior, experienced fighters, well-trained and well-led. And they were well-supplied, too. Not because of the Soviets (that came later, after the Reds saw us step in it), but because of all the weapons we sent into the country to install democracy. Not that that should bother you now.

The most odious thing about this is that it’s our history, it’s the plain lesson we’ve been taught over and over again, from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, and gets ignored because some people would rather not hear it. (Which reminds me, I don't hear McMaster slagging Truman, or Bush.) Some, in fact, would rather talk about Grenada and Panama, like those are a guide to occupying Middle Eastern countries. And may I add, Mr. Zakaria, that it’s especially galling coming from someone who was convinced at the time of the wisdom of that very same approach, by the same arguments, by George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld?

Tuesday, June 18

Oh, That’s Different Then

TESTED by fire:
“Some people say, ‘Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney,’ ” Mr. Obama told Charlie Rose on his PBS interview show.

Barack Obama is not a raving liberal. Dick Cheney is merely ravening. Or was. Now I think he’s just rabid. At any rate, those things are neither equal, nor are they the twin poles of our political existence.
“Dick Cheney sometimes says, ‘Yeah, you know, he took it all lock, stock and barrel.’ My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather, are we setting up a system of checks and balances?”

Well, I think it’s always a good idea to mention Dick Cheney if you need to draw attention away from yourself. I'd have advised Putin to do it over that Super Bowl ring business, myself. But, please, “intelligence gathering” and “checks and balances”? Sure. And appoint Stevie Wonder Secretary of Elephant Descriptions while you’re at it.
In perhaps his most expansive explanation of his surveillance policies since leaked documents exposed a pair of secret programs, Mr. Obama said he had made important changes from the policies of George W. Bush, including making sure that surveillance was approved by Congress and a secret foreign intelligence court. “But I think it’s fair to say that there are going to be folks on the left – and what amuses me is now folks on the right who are fine when there’s a Republican president, but now, Obama’s coming in with the black helicopters,” he said.

Was this really the first you’ve heard about the black helicopters? I know you’re busy an’ all.

And, yes, yes Sir, the freakin’ Bush administration wanted to do this crap while bypassing the rubber-stamp FISA courts altogether. You’re still better than him. Congratulations.