Thursday, April 30

Just. Shut. Up.

CLIFF May, torture apologist, in the Corner:
Re: Not Pro-Torture, Just Pro-Facts just about everything I’ve written and said, I’ve taken pains to emphasize that I oppose torture. However, I do think (1) it’s important to define torture so we know what we are talking about, and (2) all forms of “stress and duress” utilized to elicit cooperation from a terrorist in possession of life-saving information are not torture.

Every opponent I’ve debated on has taken this tactic — labeling me as “pro-torture,” refusing to grapple with definitions, and refusing to consider whether there may be methods of interrogation that are unpleasant but fall short of torture.

The full Stewart interview from Tuesday night is here, if you want it. I'm on record as wishing those Daily Show interviews would just go away; unlike Colbert's they grind the show to a screeching halt half the time, and when they don't it's generally because they're delightful fluff. I realize it's easier than trying to write another ten minutes of comedy every night, but Jon's no interviewer, and especially when he has some axe to grind they tread dangerously close to the Olbermannesque, with the exceptions that Jon doesn't come across as having an Ego too big for the studio, and that he'd be somewhat justified if he did.

When he decides to tear somebody a new one, McCain, say, whom he'd kissed up to after Honest John played kissyface with Bush, or whatisname from the whatchacallit financial news, he winds up shouting platitudes. It's Jon, so it's believable and sorta cute, like a comedy routine without the jokes, but compare Stephen asking Peggy Noonan whether it was Reagan or John Paul II who won the Cold War.

And that Cliff May shite above is a case in point. It was practically the first thing out of his mouth: "I'm not pro-torture". At which point Jon made a funny about going to commercial.

Okay, it was early in what was a planned five minutes. And it's Jon. But May's routine here is the essence of what had happened to the story last week, as the Right tried to shift the shame from the revelations of how wantonly we did use torture to how specious an abstract concept it is willing to turn torture into and then defend. How is it we come to be discussing, yet again, the teevee thriller "philosophical" "justifications" for torture as though we haven't been over it a few thousand times already? It's like saying, "I'm not a racist, but...." We don't need what follows repeated. We're not deaf. We're not avoiding the argument. We've rejected it, several hundred reiterations ago.

That the Bush administration was torturing people is established. It was established beyond dispute two weeks ago, when the numbers "83" and "183" were printed in the same sentence as "in a month". At that point every previous attempt to justify our use of torture--the Ticking Time Bomb gambit, the Only Way To Extract Certain Information ploy, and the What We're Doing Is Perfectly Legal ruse--shriveled up and died like a spider on a hot stove.

That any of those is treated as an actual argument in the first place is bad enough; none rises above the level of suggested essay questions at the end of a high school civics textbook chapter. But how do they reappear as "answers" or "facts", of the Corner sort, after this month's revelations? They don't. At this point, assuming you are anti-pro-torture, it's yourselves you ought to be questioning. This is the dog that didn't bark of the whole sordid tale.

Yet May is allowed on th' teevee to say, e.g., that the CIA called the Bush administration to say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wouldn't talk, and could they try something a little stronger? despite the fact that it's now March of 2003, the torture program has been in place for a year, and if they'd spent any time at all trying to get him to talk without torture those waterboardings must have come every 18 minutes instead of every four hours. He's allowed to say "we only waterboarded three prisoners, all high al-Qaeda officials", despite the fact that he knows no such thing, and to repeat the latest Crazy Islamic Theology canard, that Allah requires these guys to endure interrogation to their utmost limit before spilling, because the noted Islamic scholar Abu Zubaydah told the CIA just that. According to the CIA. After they tortured him.

And this, y'know, despite the fact that we learned a couple weeks ago that Abu Zubayday had already provided us with all the important information we got from him before we waterboarded him every eight hours for a month. I used to think that sort of thing qualified as a contradiction, or as trapping someone in a lie. Now it's more like a tic.

Why is it we're still hearing this when those hypotheticals--what loony Cornerites call facts--didn't rise to the level of justifying the bullshit "he talked after 30 seconds" routine back before that one became inoperative? Why do we need a "definition" of torture based on how close to the line we can get, or what sorts of categorical euphemisms qualify as "acceptable"? If you fall from a 14th story window you're dead, from the fall; it's not ameliorated by calling it a Deceleration Event or a Routine Gravitational Occurrence, nor by the fact that the building had a nurse on duty. The Geneva Conventions are not a collection of suggested high school debate topics. If we are gnawing over what "shocks the conscience" means, rather than what "183 times in a single month" means, it's because we are looking for ways to justify torture, not guidelines for avoiding it. "Pro-torture" is really one of the nicer things Cliff May ought to be hearing said about himself.

AND let's say this one more time: if we truly had a situation where Time was judged of the essence, and a field commander judged that physical coercion was the only way to extract information, he'd use it; and no doubt this has happened many times. We're not having this conversation because any one of those "hypotheticals" came into play, or because an episode of unauthorized torture came to light (again, nobody's even bothering to claim we were getting intel from Abu Ghraib). We're having it because the Bush administration specifically sought to torture al-Qaeda "officials", and god knows who else, and to do so under cover of cutesy "legal" "opinion". I realize that Jon Stewart, e.g., has not seen these guys in operation as long as I have; if he had the idea that Dick Cheney, e.g., would torture captives just for the sake of the kitten-in-the-woodchipper psychic satisfaction it brings (long distance, natch), would not reside as some sort of Horrible Thought in the far corners of his head, but operate as a sort of manual for dealing with that end of the political spectrum, day-to-day. As it has for me, for decades.

Wednesday, April 29

If We Can't Have A Better Narrative, Can't We At Least Find Better Narrators? Vol CLXXI

GAIL Collins, in the latest installment of The Conversation, her ongoing discussions with David Brooks, apparently the Times' attempt to make either or both of them appear more tepid:
But my big question is how long the Democrats can refrain from becoming appalling.

Too late, but you only missed by a few decades.
When the Republicans took control in 1994, even those of us who were saddened about what the change would do to the Clinton agenda had to admit the Democrats had it coming. They’d been in power most of the time since the New Deal, and had become way too arrogant and inward-looking. They didn’t believe the public would punish them, either for corruption or for ignoring the voters’ complaints and concerns.

Okay, so the early 90s was the time when I really started smoking crack, as opposed to the three or four times daily of the previous five years, so maybe it's my memory that's faulty, but the Clinton agenda? Wasn't that the one whose cornerstone was National Health Care, which was shot down by the Democratically-controlled Congress? And the colossal stink over Don't Ask/Don't Tell, the sorry-assed Fish Nor Fowl non-solution reportedly spurred by fears of what the Democratically-controlled Senate might do in response to an executive order?

A bit simplistic, sure, but our point is how did the '94 midterms make a politically-savvy reporter fear for an agenda which was already in shreds and a Presidency which was already encircled by Clinton Scandals, Inc., spurred on by egregiously erroneous Times reporting by Judith Miller Jeff Gerth?

And the rest, if anything, leaves us more puzzled. Arrogant and corrupt those Democrats may have been (but remarkably so, Gail? For Congress? Y'know, since you've already bought two scoops of Republican Revolution Hallucination, you can get our Rainbow-Winged Spumoni Pony for just $1.25 extra), but "didn't believe the voters would punish them"? This is the party which had turned tail and skedaddled at Reagan's shadow, and a dozen years later there still wasn't anyone rounding up stragglers. Bill Clinton his own self rose to national prominence in the mid-80s drive to Make Democrats Indistinguishable From Republicans. Okay, maybe they didn't think they could lose control of Congress, but Thinking About the Party comes in, at best, at #4 on any Congresscritter's list of things to worry about, and the first three are "Get myself reelected".
What surprised me was how fast the Republicans became worse. The bloom was off the rose before you could say Tom DeLay.

And if there's something just plain odd (read: "precise transcription of the GOP talking-points version of history") about that construction--not to mention the notion of that Post-Reagan Revolution, post-Dixiecrat defection, DLC-heyday deficit-cutting Democratic Congress as the direct descendants of the New Deal--the idea that one would be flabbergasted by the speed with which a "revolution" led by a congenital liar and transparent con man like Newt Gingrich could "turn into" Tom DeLay is simply off the charts. I mean, one did not need to be a Democrat (or even just an admirer of The Clinton Agenda), a skeptical reporter type, or even particularly well-versed in contemporary politics to know, long before '94, that Gingrich was a public scoundrel of the highest order. Anyone who actually believed The Contract with America was a "Contract" "with" "America" was too gullible to live. Hell, after that it took me three more years to once again accept "The" as an English article, but then I live next door to Danny Burton's district. For cryin' out loud. Forget policy, which is too wonkish and boring for most Times pundits; by 1994 the details of Newt's first divorce were widely disseminated. I'm sure they were familiar with that.

Speaking of which, hasn't Newton Leroy Cincinatus Gingrich spent enough time in the public arena? Isn't he supposed to be back t' plowin' by now? I mean in the fields, not in his publisher's secretarial pool.

Tuesday, April 28

It's Like David Brooks, But With Those Links All The Kids Are Tweaking About!

Ross Douthat, "Cheney for President". April 27

OKAY, that started out as a larf, but let's have this out right now: links are not footnotes you stick anywhere. They're not the Post-It Notes of scholarship, or commentary, or whatever it is Ross Douthat does as a substitute for those. If your job, inexplicably, is to write 800 words worth of punditast once a week for The Newspaper of Record, then at least try to maintain the form. Seven-hundred fifty-three words, Ross, and seven fucking links. Why didn't you throw in a couple of Netflix pop-ups?

N.B.: ever' last one of 'em is insubstantial. Write "Sean Hannity interview with Cheney", link to Sean Hannity interview with Cheney. Write "Cheney takes the fight to Obama", link to Arthur (A. G.) Sulzberger piece (nice touch, that) about Cheney taking the fight to Obama, (which, into the bargain, was roundly criticized for being a pure steno job). Conservatism on "talk radio dials" takes us to Rush Limbaugh's site, where he's expectorating, or farting, or something. Thanks for clearing that up, Ross!

Sure, sure; somebody at the Times--maybe you--thinks this the way to reach the hot young crowd that flocked to The Atlantic to read you and the other over-ripe juveniles. Just like somebody at the Times figured you were the best early-declaration juco linebacker who could be turned into a blocking tight end still available in the seventh round. You weren't, and it isn't. By the way, this is one of the pernicious effects of the ubiquitous screaming advertising aimed at the mid-80s IQ, or what you people took to describing as "Freedom" in the early Reagan era, even as it invaded your personal space for someone else's gain: everybody in the country is now convinced that 18-24 year-olds hold some special Key to the Mysteries they are, sadly, too inarticulate to relate to the rest of us, and if we just gear our entire culture to their every whim, as imagined by executives twice their age, it might accidentally pop out like a starlet's nipple flash. This despite the fact that everyone in the country who used to be 18-24 years old actually knows it's complete bullshit; they still want that sweet, sweet nectar. Yet there has to be someone at the Times who remembers when every Allstate insurance agent in the country grew his sideburns to the bottom of his ears to show the Happy Hour hippie chicks he was down with what their Generation was sayin'. It's much, much worse than doing nothing at all, and everybody's just gonna laugh at you, and nobody's gonna tell you you look like a flaming twit. For fuck's sake, I did not click on Ross Douthat's column hoping he'd point me to all the news I needed to Catch Up With Ross Douthat's Flying Intellect, or Get Where He Was Coming From, and if I had done so those links wouldn't have helped me one whit. There is nothing inherent in New Media that abrogates Plain Ol' Sense. You're writing for, or at, people who read the fucking New York Times Op-Ed page. Maybe we could start by assuming that the readership has heard of Dick Cheney? Is perhaps even familiar with his recent appearances on FAUX Sunday News Bunker, or at least his general demeanor and opinion of the current President of the United States? Maybe we could go even further, and figure anybody reading you online knows how to use a search engine (when I saw the link to the Ochs v. 4.0 story it took me exactly five seconds, and Google 0.25 seconds, to find the full transcript of Cheney's March 14 bunker pronouncements. And I'm, like, eighty).

Does this make any sense? Okay, I'll answer: no. It's a silly substitution of appearance for substance, and we did quite well without it before people who would lie about sunrise if they thought there was a nickel in it took over. How 'bout we try correcting that seven times per column? Ross, if you say "Dick Cheney did x last Sunday" in print, under your byline, then Dick Cheney should be assumed to have said or done what you said. If we need confirmation of that because we are perpetually suspicious, well then, we should know how to find it. If we need confirmation because you are either not to be trusted, or less of an authority on saying and doing than someone else, you shouldn't be there. Simple, really.

But then there's the other part, the use of links to Limbaugh or Hot Air to "prove" some contention about whack-job "conservatism" taking over what's left of the Republican party. Really? Because Limbaugh and assorted internet nutballs are badgering "moderate Republicans", which, while they are perhaps not entirely mythological, still counts as the crazy guy down the block, the one who always wears eight wristwatches, killing bacteria by swinging a bat, they're suddenly taking over? Okay, so at least you'll admit they're "ascendant"--unlike Brooks, who would have, and has, simply invented fourteen Republican sects to throw off the count--how 'bout admitting, for once, that they are the Republican party, have been your entire adult life, while Burkean intellectuals like you and Brooks turn out to have been mere paid mouthpieces for Obscene Profit, Inc.? You find them distasteful, but not distasteful enough to have called them out back when you were winning. Quel surprise! Were Limbaugh and the other Assclowns of the Airwaves all chummy-chummy with the likes of you during the heady days of The Power to Fuck Everything Up? No? Then what do they prove now? Okay, I'll answer that: that you're the Trick. That you're the reliable vote for Sarah Palin's party, while ever since Reagan you tried to pretend that They were the Trick. That if you're as smart as you imagine yourself to be now, then you've been a coward for twenty-five years, and you're a coward now. It isn't like these fucks suddenly decided that John McCain was a Bad Idea; they thought he was a fuckin' Commie from the minute he went all weepy after getting caught with Chuck Keating's pecker in his mouth. They're in disarray; you're the ones who've been wholly discredited: don't run the party, implemented your every economic whim and watched along with the rest of the country as it blew up, then complained about the Threat to executive compensation; and have no fucking message left except that your party needs to be more like you. Because you couldn't have been pig wrong and pug vicious all this time, right? Pooches keep allowing themselves to be screwed, is what. You somehow imagine that had Cheney been crushed in November, rather than his crazy Southwest dopplegänger, that all those Theys would have Learned Their Lesson and would be morphing into sensible disciples of Smart Guys like, oh, like yourself. What a novel fucking concept, Ross. Just tell me, how is it that people such as you, who shared a fucking party with those yahoos for thirty years, never figured out what was what until it was over? Huh? So, hope you enjoyed three decades of tax cuts, off-shore shell corporations, and continual attempts to re-win Vietnam. Hope you stocked something away for the winter. If this is the best you got it looks to be very long and very cold. But at least you'll be able to show that phony Al Gore, right?

Monday, April 27

Oh, So That's What Lou Cannon Thinks About Ronald Reagan

Lou Cannon, "In Reagan's Debt". April 26

WHEN last we tried to avoid the report of Lou "Boom Boom" Cannon he was inaugurating the New York Times 100 Days Blog by inventing ways in which the recently-elected Barack Obama owed his popularity to Ronald Reagan, on account'a Reagan was wildly popular, too. So popular, in fact, that Lou Cannon has taken the rest of his life off to detail it in, I think, seventeen volumes and counting, and not counting the one where he and his son tried to extricate Ol' Dutch from George W. Bush once the latter proved radioactive. (His co-author son himself being the co-author of Boy Genius: Karl Rove, the Architect of George W. Bush's Remarkable Political Triumphs, which, you may be certain, was published at the height of George W. Bush not being radioactive.) Plus Reagan had to deal with bad economic news an' stuff, just like Obama does, and Obama praised him on the campaign trail before Hillary made him take it back.

Now, after roughly 2300 hours of reflection, Lou Cannon has decided that Barack Obama owes his popularity, and early success, to Ronald Reagan.

So first lemme say this about the Great Man school of historical simulation: it fills a much-needed void *, but my theoretical objections just don't sink to a visceral level, and I'm happy to read military history, or even the occasional hagiography update. If this is what the Times' editors want to kill trees for nobody's gonna stop 'em, unless it's an increasingly indifferent public. But it's one thing to be condemned to reliving history, and another to rewriting it as People magazine filler.

And if Lou Cannon has now written enough words about to fill the actual gaping chasm between The Gipper's reputation and his actual (positive) achievements, if he either imagines that The Great Communicator's (how many fucking nicknames does a person need, by the way? This was a clue.) Presidency is as important to contemporary audiences as twelve centuries of Roman history was to Gibbon's, or finds the money good enough to pretend it is, it's his business.

By why is it the Times'? Reagan assumed office twenty-eight largely horrendous years ago. That means that anyone over the age of forty-five had the opportunity to vote fer or agin' him twice, and no doubt plenty who were too young to do so yet have accurate recollections of the man and his ersatz-successful Presidency. Why do we have to hear, again, from a man who probably since I began typing has released yet another Reagan book? "Wait, wait, " sez Lou. "I almost forgot. He was really good at communicating stuff."

Sure, to be fair, I've never read a one of 'em; having lived through the actual Reagan while relatively sane, though in constant fear for my brain, the eight Ionesco's Rhinoceros years of his Presidency, followed by the eighteen years of Republican-controlled governments naming everything was wasn't nailed down after the man, plus the three-year coverage of his funeral, I'm about as likely to pick up twenty of his biographies as the theoretical survivor of the Spanish Inquisition is to rent King of Kings (the imdb page includes spoiler alerts). And Cannon's canon is frequently praised as "even-handed", although that praise comes from the likes of George Eff Will, Ed Meese, and Michael Barone, and from the back blurbs of his books. We don't want to push it, but in excerpt and article Lou Cannon comes across as a nail technician to the Conventional Wisdom, something which is guaranteed to the please the George Eff Wills and the apparently unslakable Reagan book-buying public.
A closer look suggests, however, that these two presidents are not as far apart as their partisans and critics believe. For all his thunder about the dangers of big government, Mr. Reagan during his eight years in office preserved the core of social programs that were the basic legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, his first political idol. Mr. Reagan’s high-risk budget director, David Stockman, tried an early maneuver that would have reduced Social Security benefits. After this plan backfired, Mr. Reagan named a bipartisan commission that proposed mild reforms that were embraced by the Democratic House speaker, Tip O’Neill, passed by Congress and extended the solvency of the system for a generation.

The test run was a proposal to withhold taxes on interest and dividends, which was met with was met with so much orchestrated screaming from the Walkers and Portable Oxygen demographic that the Reagan administration turned tail and never broached the subject again.
Conservatives urged Mr. Reagan to take another run at Social Security or other entitlement programs. He never did. As the columnist George Will observed, Mr. Reagan understood that Americans were indeed conservative, and wanted to conserve the New Deal.

Well, one good blurb deserves another.

But lemme tell ya, as someone who lived through this, and doesn't get sent free copies of Lou's work, more's the pity, this is not quite the way I look at it. After Reagan's test-marketed end-run on Social Security was resoundingly thrown in his face--it was widely reported that way at the time--the Best Dressed Administration in History simply invoked the cover story: we weren't attacking Social Security! We love Social Security! Why, Ol' Dye Job's political idol was FDR! He wants to be just like him, and it's really unfortunate that the Social Security program is going to go broke right after Joe McCarthy reveals his list of 497 Communists, and we just need to smarten it up around the edges. To perpetuate it, don' cha know.

Thus Ronald Reagan, pragmatic politician unfairly maligned as an ideologue.

But why? What's fucking "conservative" and "small government" about extending withholding taxes, of all things? It was a sneak attack on Social Security, it was discovered, spotlighted, and the cockroaches started scurrying. You can say this proves him to be a practical politician if you wish; I say it proved him as a lying opportunist spokesmodel for a particular category of Wealth, one which is, and was, largely populated by right-wing ideologues, but not by complete idiots. The idea was to drain the public treasury while simultaneously reducing their own part in it. No one gave a fuck about ideological purity, which was just a sop to the yahoos who voted 'em in anyway. Somehow the man gets credit for dropping his ideology despite the fact that he was too cowardly to try it that way in the first place.

This is the thing I will never understand, at least beyond the extent to which I do understand it, namely, that lying comes as naturally as breathing to some people. Reagan ran for President nearly as long as Harold Stassen did, as a one-note candidate: the scourge of the National Debt. He then managed to nearly quadruple it in eight years once he had the reins. The solution to the Debt was not exactly a secret, and certainly not an arcane one: either you raised taxes (anathema to his handlers), cut "defense" spending (anathema to his party, especially after Vietnam), or you attacked Social Security. This the Great Communicator did by sending up a trial balloon, painted black, at 2 AM of a moonless night, after which he said Fuck It and spent like he was on shore leave. He greatly accelerated the Kid Meets Candy Store theory of "defense" spending, with, e.g., Star Wars, the Navy's Incontinent Carrier Construction Program (ICCP), even the revival of the overpriced-before-the-cost-overruns Continually Evolving Mission (CEM) B-1 bomber just because Carter wisely 86d it; everything, in fact, except the spare parts, maintenance programs, and personnel retention a genuinely pragmatic man might have insisted on. We are presently living in the fucking midst of a reality-based smackdown of this and his supposed economic miracle. Which, of course, means he gets credit for Defeating the Soviets and Saving Democracy Herself.

So no, perhaps Reagan
wasn't a raging ideologue. Perhaps he was more an ideologue and a practical politician, combining the worst features of each in one highly-marketable package. If you, or Barack Obama, need a lesson from all this you might consider a paper on How it is Some People still don't think Once was Enough.
*Stanislaw Lec or Moses Hadas, I think. I get them confused.

Saturday, April 25

Saturday Last Friday, i.e. Yesterday, Garden Blogging

Former basement-dwellers enjoy a day on the deck, joined by rookie annuals.

Autumn-blooming clematis.

Somebody's idea of a joke.

Big maple and myrtle. I didn't capture the periwinkle blue, but you can see the
world's most unfortunate, psycilocibin-induced mulch color in the background.

Oddly "Big Maple and Myrtle" was a short-lived radio comedy (six episodes) in 1938,
part of the ill-fated "Pall Mall Comedy Carnival", in which American's most luxurious
cigarette brand sponsored an entire evening of programming. Myrtle was a Southern
socialite "temporarily embarrassed" by the Depression, and Big Maple the colored maid
who kept the household fed and fiscally afloat through her many amours with local tradesmen.
The humor--most contemporary accounts actually deny there was any--came from
Big Maple's mangled English, as when she'd tell her employer, after revelations of
the most recent financial dilemma, "I gots to set to confabulatin' 'bout dat." The program
was wildly unpopular in the South, not because of Big Maple's casual sexuality, of course,
but because her confabulatin' outsmarted a white banker in episode two. On second thought,
it was Big Mabel, so just forget I brought it up.

Friday, April 24

Last Friday Garden Blogging

Tulips--gregii, I think, but then I used to think Kaufmaniana.
Decrepit garden shoe, lower left, for scale.

Emerging Japanese painted fern.
Remember, kids: do not attempt to purchase mulch while tripping balls.

Moss garden.

Thursday, April 23

Okay, Let's Faux-Try This Faux-Again

Scott Shane, "At Core of Detainee Fight: Did Methods Stop Attacks?" April 22

WASHINGTON — Even the most exacting truth commission may have a hard time determining for certain whether brutal interrogations conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency helped keep the country safe....

Senior Bush administration officials, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and cheered by many Congressional Republicans, are fighting a rear-guard action in defense of their record. Only by using the harshest methods, they insist, did the intelligence agency get the information it needed to round up Qaeda killers and save thousands of American lives.

Look: Dick Cheney can broadcast from his private news bunker all day, every day, from here until that Doomsday he missed his chance to initiate, and it won't mean a jot, nor should it have inspired one. How does Dick Cheney have any credibility, even on FAUX? He's the ShamWow! guy of American political infomercials, except besides punching a hooker his Miracle Washday Product turns out to have be made from recycled nuclear reactor fuel and extract of poison ivy.

Let us say this again: if you wouldn't accept the argument from the garage mechanic who was trying to charge you $950 for a repair he estimated at forty bucks, then a "controversy" has not been created just because the same sort of crap comes out of the mouth of an opposition politician, especially an unindicted war criminal with a 0-4000 won-lost record over the past eight years.

Just as with Marc Thiessen, the Former Co-Disastrous Fucking Occupier of the Oval Office is welcome to provide us with some evidence, instead of screeching to a halt before demanding President Obama do it for him; otherwise what they say should be treated as nothing more than a yelp of pain coming from someone who shot himself while drunk. Sheesh, Cheney had plenty of opportunity to release them himself back when he controlled the records and what was selectively leaked from them. Okay, so Judy Miller lost her phone privileges; Tim Russert was still kickin', and Andrea Mitchell will be with us always, apparently. Guess he didn't care to call attention to the program back then. If pointing West and yelling, "The Library Tower! The Library Tower!" did the trick the matter would have been settled in back 2005.
Even President Obama’s new director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, wrote in a memorandum to his staff last week that “high value information came from interrogations in which these methods were used,” an assertion left out when the memorandum was edited for public release.

1) So what? and 2) So what? In the first place, this is Blair carrying Obama administration water in the effort to assure Spooko-Americans none of them would be losing his job, let alone going to jail, for torture. The memo's a bit scant on details, and Blair wasn't even on teevee, let alone under oath. Suggesting it was "left out" cuts both ways, y'know. Again, if it were prima facie evidence of the efficacy of torture the matter would be closed.

But it's not, and it brings up a question: Could we keep our fucking eyes on the ball? Just for practice? Whether "high-value information" comes from someone after a little round of Uncle Dick's Favorite Drinking Game has nothing to do with it. The issues are a) whether you got that info because of the "enhanced techniques"; b) whether you got it only because of those techniques or whether c) you achieved some benefit of timeliness over other methods; d) how you could have known about this so-called "ticking timebomb" when you ordered the torture; and e) how you could possibly believe it, or sort it out from whatever else bubbled up just to get you to stop.

And just for starters we have ample evidence that all of this is bogus, that whatever you get out of a torture victim is useless. And that doesn't begin to address the opposite side of the argument, from the violation of the law, to the moral repugnance of torture, to the noxious effect on American principles and our international standing, to the practical question of how much time you waste chasing worthless information just to get something slightly less dubious. Add to that the fact that the Bush administration decided to go proudly semi-public with the whole thing, mostly to court the critical BDSM and Bloodthirsty Racist Statesider votes, before trying to pedal backwards again. What sort of damage did Abu Ghraib cause? What sort of "high-value information" did we get there in exchange?

Nope. Instead we've just transferred the argument to one of Dick Cheney's choosing, for no reason other than he's opened his maw again, safely away from anyone who might possibly shut it for him, as always. Restating the argument as the cheap plot of a teevee serial didn't actually work back when Darth Vader there had some strings to pull. Now it's just froth. And along with his party's resounding renunciation at the polls, the difference is that we now know, know, that the administration ordered torture just for torture's sake. There's no fucking way to make the argument that the 171st simudrowning of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed promised to do something the first 170 hadn't. We're running out of time! We tortured these guys because the pathological certifiables who got control of the White House wanted to. We turned criminally untrained Army Reservists, their canine pals, and 3.1 megapixel technology loose on Iraqi civilians because Donald Rumsfeld has a depraved indifference to human life. We didn't do anything to prisoners in US custody that the Republican party hasn't been doing in that Fantasyland it inhabits since the end of the Vietnam war. Except that this time it wasn't just metaphorical. This time the moral fucking cowards could order someone else to do it, and they imagined they had enough cover from 9/11 Changing Everything that they'd never face the consequences of their belligerent psychopathy, just as none of that bunch ever has. Cheney can mouth off forever without changing "the core" of the debate, or anything else, for that matter, and we hope FAUX will continue to give him the opportunity. Nightly. Unless the courts do.

Wednesday, April 22

No, Really? Gambling? In This Establishment?

Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti,"In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Their Past Use." April 21

Mark Benjamin, "Torture planning began in 2001, Senate report reveals". April 22

LAST week's computer bedevilment appears to have ended yesterday when, against all the arguments sanity had at its disposal I upgraded my iAluminum iMac's hard drive to a 1 TB Seagate number which is whisper-quiet, although in truth anything would have been an upgrade, since the old one appears to be dead. This was accomplished with, and occasionally in spite of, the helpful help of some internet experts, at least one of whom confuses Up and Down nearly as much as I do. In the end I had to figure out some stuff myself, and finished with just one part left over, plus the memory door temporarily (hah!) held up with masking tape until I get around to opening the case again to fix it. In my defense, it never fit quite square to begin with, the (integral) screw is too small, and the Apple Genius who eventually got around to fixing the defective motherboard last year pretty well stripped it in the process.

Anyway, it's an interesting trip down a Memory Hole Lane that was never mine; I graduated from college the year the first softwareless Heathkit build-your-own computer hit the market. Everything I know about these devil boxes I more-or-less taught myself, and everything I know about the inside tech should have electrocuted me years ago. And for someone of my age and mechanical aptitude, that is, none, yesterday was like popping the hood on the family Buick: Th' fuck happened to all the room that used to be here? Used to be you'd unscrew the case, then find the three hidden screws you'd missed, take the top off, locate the HD, and switch it. Partial iMac disassembly now begins with sticking one of those Human Fly suction cup dealies onto the glass and popping it off. Which was Weirdly Cool. It actually only takes one or two dimestore suction cup hooks to accomplish, but the guy in one of the videos I watched had some four-head industrial-strength glazier/cat burglar tool, and for a brief moment I was tempted to go find one.

My first HD was a 105 MB monster. I paid extra for the jumbo capacity.

I'm pretty sure that back when I started typing I had a segué, but it seems to have disappeared. Maybe it was how, back in my youth, it was fairly common for people (I wasn't one of 'em, as it happens, being more of a late-to-the-party McLuhanite) to imagine The Computer, and its evil henchaccessory the UPC code, as portents and prime resources of the Evil Dehumanizing Brave New Totalitarianism we were headed for . Of course today, in retrospect, we realize they were absolutely right.

What few if any could foresee at that point is that International Dehumanization would either merge with Disney, or just swipe its corporate vibe; the exact sequence is still a bit unclear, but anyone old enough to remember Good Old Walt himself knows that Happy Fun Places and The Faint But Unmistakable Thud of Jackboots have never really been mutually exclusive. Fascism with Flair! The spacious, affordable, and All-Electric Skinner Box of Tomorrow! Not only did Today's Fascists catch on to the Bright Shiny Object routine, they realized at some point that mass genocide reduced the size of potential markets as well as causing a commodities glut in such areas as the Gold, Pre-owned Eyewear, and exotic leathers markets.

Or maybe it was just that yesterday's technological marvel is today's museum piece, and that just as the generation born with a USB cable in its tiny fist looks upon the SyQuest removable drive with 44MB cartridges the size of small dinner plates as some sort of prehistoric leg-pull, so too has some segment of our populace come to see the mass incineration of Japanese civilians not as an enormity, or a vast, if justifiable, evil committed in a global struggle against evil, but rather as the template for the modern definition of Patriotism. It's been clear all along to anyone who grew up during the Cold War that in certain circles the supposed morality tales about Korean brainwashing, Soviet gulags, and Vietnamese tiger cages were, not a species of wishful thinking, not too often, but certainly a blanket justification for our own less systematic, often surrogated, abuses. It's not a surprise these people condoned torture, or ordered torture, any more than it's a surprise they'd be all legalistic and prissy about it.

We went into Iraq in 2003 because the timetable had been set by the Bush campaign in 1999. I realize these people were almost preternaturally incompetent, but the fact can no longer hide. It's why we went in with insufficient force, which eventually cost hundreds, thousands, of American lives, and uncounted Iraqi. The puppeteers of the Bush candidacy saw Iraq War 2: This Time It's Personal merely as the key to re-election, and perhaps to some dream of a permanent Republican majority (such dreams do not pay off directly, nor are they certain to hire Halliburton, so we imagine this was a far lesser concern). It's why we Couldn't Wait. Of course these people ordered torture; they were going to scruple at that after going to war for partisan gain? This sort of thing has been part of the Credo of the Republican Chickenhawk for a generation, so much so that it passed from bluff and bluster to revealed Truth. We weren't tough enough! said the men who never got any closer to Vietnam than the visitors' bleachers at Penn.

Fuck yes, they ordered torture. Fuck no, they didn't bother studying its efficacy; they didn't care. It's who they are. It's how they view their billions of inferior beings. It's the phony John Wayne shit their party has trumpeted for decades, so long as it, like the Duke, got to remain Stateside and wealthy. The eminent Burkean scholar David Brooks has objected to the term "neo-con" being used as synonymous with "Semite". We agree. "Sexually Perverted Racist Nazi Long-Distance Torturing Coward Mutherfuckers" is a much better fit. And it was here all along; funny how so many people didn't notice.

Tuesday, April 21

Wither(ed) Wingnuttia

Marc A. Thiessen, "Enhanced Interrogations Worked". April 21

THE average man, caught naked at high noon on the courthouse square, save for his fedora, will use it to cover his genitals and beat a rapid retreat. It will probably not occur to him, later that same afternoon, to pen a 900-word panegyric to his hat size.

Nor to the Washington Post to print it.
In releasing highly classified documents on the CIA interrogation program last week, President Obama declared that the techniques used to question captured terrorists "did not make us safer." This is patently false. The proof is in the memos Obama made public -- in sections that have gone virtually unreported in the media.

Y'know, I was wondering about this myself. How is it that previously unreported details highlighting the wanton brutality and callous disregard for standards of decency and the laws of the United States in but two cases of the Bush administration's Extraordinarily Doubly-Constitutional Rendition Program get all the headlines, while the accompanying proof that the administration did not simply make up the name of the Library Tower before the former President mangled it is completely ignored? Damn Librul Media.
Consider the Justice Department memo of May 30, 2005. It notes that "the CIA believes 'the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al Qaeda has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.' . . . In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including [Khalid Sheik Mohammed] and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques." The memo continues: "Before the CIA used enhanced techniques . . . KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, 'Soon you will find out.' " Once the techniques were applied, "interrogations have led to specific, actionable intelligence, as well as a general increase in the amount of intelligence regarding al Qaeda and its affiliates."

Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques "led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the 'Second Wave,' 'to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into' a building in Los Angeles." KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast. The memo explains that "information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the 'Second Wave.' " In other words, without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.

So, now you guys like CIA intel again?

It's interesting to stop occasionally, take a few deep cleansing breaths, and consider how fucking remarkable this sort of thing would be if it weren't so wearyingly commonplace. The last word the public had about what was done in its name is that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed sang like a slightly moist canary after 35 seconds. Now it's 183 times, plus 35 seconds. In a month. And the Bush administration-in-exile says, "Bu...bu...but...The Library Tower! Still standing!"

We don't mean to be rude about it, but just for starters, the people who said "Okay, you've covered your ass" in response to a memo entitled, uh, "Bin-Laden Determined To Get Your Ass" might not be the first option when it comes to analyzing intel. Particularly now, when their asses have just been uncovered yet again.

Second--and we don't want to distract from all the other amazing evidence of the amazing efficaciousness of torturing captives just for shits and giggles--but the Library Tower thing has pretty much been disreputable since the day Bush called it by the wrong name, and saying "The CIA says it believed it" now doesn't change much. After 9/11, even the Bush administration had pretty much figured out that terrorists had commandeered commercial aircraft and flown them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Assuming for a moment that this soggy Library Tower intel was 1) genuine; 2) obtained by torture; and 2a) unobtainable by any other means; and 3) was somehow still timely eighteen months after 9/11, and one month and 183 trips down the CIA's waterslide after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's capture--by the Pakistanis, by the way, despite all of Abu Zubaydah's gurgled admissions to us--we are still left with a question--wait, I'm sure I wrote it down somewhere--oh, yeah: So what? Are we supposed to believe we hadn't prepared for any more attacks until The Sheikh coughed this up? Not on the largest building on the West Coast, defended, just to choose one, by the California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing and its phalanx of Mach 1.2-at-low-altitude F-16 Fighting Falcons? Any single one of which--I hope I'm not revealing classified information here--is generally considered superior in firepower to a standard 747? We had to know the specific target in order to respond to a commercial airline hijacked across the Pacific over a year-and-a-half after 9/11? Sure we did. Oh, what's that Khalid? You're still thirsty? After all you had to drink just 4.06 hours ago?

And look: that's the best fucking case scenario. Even after crossing that chasm in several leaps we're left with the requirement of 1) blind faith assumption that this averted a real attack, and one which was still going to be carried out after its Mastermind had fallen into US hands; and 2) believing anything anyone connected with the Bush administration says. And swallowing those whales still leaves us right back at the beginning of the argument: was torture of any sort, let alone the 183 times a month, Tomás de Torquemada barely-sublimated sexual-thrill sort we substituted for anything approaching justified use of extreme techniques, really efficacious, or not? This is, again, the product of the American Right talking to itself for the last thirty years; it seems to imagine that restating its objections somehow advances the argument, as though the rest of the world was its profoundly deaf grandmother.

On the other side, of course, we have the fresh--if unfairly focused on to the exclusion of how Bush administration tactics Kept Us Safe, Except that One Time--evidence that the whole torture business was an outright sham, that the Ticking Time Bomb wasn't actually hooked up to a clock, and that it didn't fucking work. You "waterboarded" one man 83 times in a month, another one-hundred times more in the same time period. At what point do you think they figured out they weren't actually going to be drowned, that this was just part of the torture program? After six, twenty-six, sixty-seven? At what point would they have stopped caring, or looked to tell you anything you wanted to hear?

Speaking of which, ain't Anything We Wanted To Hear what we got? A neatly-wrapped confirmation of the fear-mongering scenarios the Bush administration fed on for five years or so? Big buildings, jetliners, scary brown fanatics, plans for continual attacks until everything over two stories was rubble? It was fucking bosh then. You may remember (say AndrewSullivanAndrewSullivanAndrewSullivan while clicking your heels together three times) that anyone trying to understand the attacks of 9/11 was objectively pro-terrorist? Never mind that the targets of 9/11 were symbolic; it was a Declaration of War on America Herself, bent on our total destruction. Never mind that such was clearly outside the capabilities of the Islamofascists, or outside terrorism's purlieu; kindly shit your pants like a patriotic American should. Big Buildings! Crashing Down! Everything's Changed! Vote GOP!

And never mind that, if you're an international terrorist Mastermind, you might just wait for the next earthquake to bring down LA, and save on the trained manpower. Or that once you saw the sort of Head Meets Sand, Let's Bomb The Globe response 9/11 got, you'd just sit back and wait to see what sort of zaniness the Bush administration would get up to next.

But oh, by all means, let's read the fine print:
Yet there is more information confirming the program's effectiveness. The Office of Legal Counsel memo states "we discuss only a small fraction of the important intelligence CIA interrogators have obtained from KSM" and notes that "intelligence derived from CIA detainees has resulted in more than 6,000 intelligence reports and, in 2004, accounted for approximately half of the [Counterterrorism Center's] reporting on al Qaeda." The memos refer to other classified documents -- including an "Effectiveness Memo" and an "IG Report," which explain how "the use of enhanced techniques in the interrogations of KSM, Zubaydah and others . . . has yielded critical information." Why didn't Obama officials release this information as well? Because they know that if the public could see the details of the techniques side by side with evidence that the program saved American lives, the vast majority would support continuing it.

Critics claim that enhanced techniques do not produce good intelligence because people will say anything to get the techniques to stop. But the memos note that, "as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, 'brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship." In other words, the terrorists are called by their faith to resist as far as they can -- and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know. This is because of their belief that "Islam will ultimately dominate the world and that this victory is inevitable." The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.

Okay, now, leaving aside the Amazing Proof! that the Office of Legal Counsel, aka the Fucking Long-Distance Small-Animal Abuser John Yoo, wrote a memo detailing how many reports were generated by just a few hundred instances of simu-drowning, it's certainly nice to relive the days of Shit Your Pants, America, Part II: crazy Muslims believe all sorts of crazy shit and want to kill Jesus! Just promise 'em 73 virgins or something, and they'll squeal. After a suitable, slightly damp interval.

Oh, we're done with you, Mr. Thiessen. We were done with you a long time ago, as was that America you still imagine you can lecture. In the meantime here's some more fine print for you to examine, courtesy yesterday's Times story:
The Times article, based on information from former intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abu Zubaydah had revealed a great deal of information before harsh methods were used and after his captors stripped him of clothes, kept him in a cold cell and kept him awake at night. The article said interrogators at the secret prison in Thailand believed he had given up all the information he had, but officials at headquarters ordered them to use waterboarding.

He revealed no new information after being waterboarded, the article said, a conclusion that appears to be supported by a footnote to a 2005 Justice Department memo saying the use of the harshest methods appeared to have been “unnecessary” in his case.

Let us know when you're ready to restate your previously discredited positions again, Mr. Thiessen. We're sure they'll have a similar impact. On that day's Post op-ed layout.

Monday, April 20

And A Field Telephone Is A Communications Device, Except When It's Attached To Your Genitals

Scott Shane, "Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects". April 19
C.I.A. interrogators used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique that top Obama administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from Al Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported.

The C.I.A. officers used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 against Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum. Abu Zubaydah has been described as a Qaeda operative.

A former C.I.A. officer, John Kiriakou, told ABC News and other news media organizations in 2007 that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew....

The release of the numbers is likely to become part of the debate about the morality and efficacy of interrogation methods that the Justice Department under the Bush administration declared legal even though the United States had historically treated them as torture.

WHICH, then, seems ample justification to refer to them in print as "torture techniques", sans quotes, or "interrogation methods," quotes included, or for just working around it if you want to be squeamish. Not to trivialize things, but when, for example, an administration takes what had been called, throughout the history of the Republic, "tax increases" and starts referring to them as "revenue enhancements", the onus is on it to explain the subtle shades of meaning; otherwise it ought to be treated as a risible, if not shameful, attempt to use euphemism in an effort to fool people which should be doomed to failure if the target audience has what are called "reading skills". It ought not to be presented as though there's some sort of active semantic debate going on between the previous two centuries and some transparent PR scheme.

The present case is the opposite of laughable, of course; too bad the faux-balanced coverage veers that way once or twice. When we report that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was subjected to "simulated" drowning 183 times in March, 2003 (it is a month with 31 days, meaning 5.9 times per day, once every 4.06 hours a day, every day, non-stop), we are reporting that he was tortured, period. There's no fucking wiggle room about "interrogation", however enhanced, and there's precious little to suggest that those supervising this treatment, if not also those carrying it out, have some sort of blanket excuse, or immunity, bestowed upon them by the small-animal-torturing sexual psychopaths then occupying the two highest executive offices in the land. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah were being tortured. For kicks. By, and at the behest of, people who do not believe that American justice is medieval enough to be fully satisfying. This was one month. If we expected to get information out of these two we would have allowed them time to breath oxygen.

Let's lose the 24 shit. This was not some sort of hot pursuit/ticking time bomb bullshit (and I say this as someone who believes that a competently-trained field commander, in a combat zone, might indeed be justified in using harsh measures if he had determined they were absolutely necessary and time was of the essence, whether or not they are proven efficacious. Although it is also true that I believe such cannot be sanctioned by US or military law). It was torture justified by the facile description of the crimes of 9/11 as Acts of War, which metaphor we then treated as an adequate description whenever it suited us, and ignored when it came to the Geneva Conventions. What was either of these two ever able to sputter? Certainly not the truth: every single increase in the Color Code Alert Level changes in that Homeland Security Barometer for Stateside Tom Clancy Fanboys was bogus; every single global terror attack went unpredicted. We were torturing Clyde because Bonnie had escaped to the mountains. Because trial and execution weren't good enough for President Frog Baseball.

Those of you with long memories will recall those distant days when "If X then the terrorists will have won" was a common rejoinder. It was certainly convenient to portray them as SPECTRE. It was politically rewarding, too, for a time. And, as seemed clear to more than a few of us at the time, it mostly looked liked a lot of fun to far too many of our fellow citizens, a too-sizable chunk of the military establishment with direct control over captured combatants and non-combatants alike, and the nearly-unfettered criminals installed in our highest office at the time. It's not a question of what "top [unnamed] Obama administration officials" think of, or don't think of , as "torture." It's torture, and it was perpetrated not for any of the flaccid excuses offered as an afterthought, but out of the pure infantile-sexuality and psychopathy of its stewards, who believed they were empowered to ignore the law and all standards of civilized behavior, in the name of all Americans. The one proper response is to allow the actual Rule of Law to serve as the rivers Alpheus and Peneus and clean the Augean stables. This of course will be, and already has been, tempered by political cowardice. The least the rest of us can do--including the Times--is to lose the fraudulent quotation marks once and for all.

Sunday, April 19

We Don't Care How They Do It In New York

Racist Star photo Rob Goebel

THE irrepressible élan that is a major chunk of formerly productive farmland now reserved as a playground for the terminally Republican, courtesy the Racist Star (as always, if you gotta look, look quick):
Keystone drivers celebrate opening of 2 roundabouts in Carmel

Carmel throws parties as roundabouts open at 106th and 126th streets

By Bill McCleery
Posted: April 19, 2009

CARMEL, Ind. -- Traffic began flowing Saturday through roundabouts at two newly designed interchanges along Keystone Avenue -- though the city's motorists will have to contend with delays into next year as workers build four additional Keystone interchanges....

The officials gave away hot dogs and chips, brought in an antique firetruck and had a community band playing happy tunes such as "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Although I understand the 10 PM show got a little emo.
Among the few hundred people at Saturday's ribbon-cuttings, most seemed inclined to cut Carmel officials some slack for earlier miscalculations.

"A major project like this, I figure there's bound to be some delay," said Bill Loeffler, 54, Carmel. "The thing is, something great has come from it. It will be a great benefit in the long run."

Okay, look, we've been pretty nice about this. Despite our political abhorrence and the condescending sniggering directed at their risible prairie social pretensions, we've made it clear that Carmel--unlike its henchtowns, Fishers and Westfield--has actually done a lot right. But the notion of waking up one morning, let alone a sunny Spring weekend morning, in order to chirp away like a happy sparrow at the Mayor's PR-enhanced Celebration of Pavement, let alone to mouth inanities about "project delays" when the project in question picked your pocket while lying outright about it to your face is just too much, even for a man of my naturally even temperament. Free hot dogs. I'm gonna go teabag something*.

* sorry

Friday, April 17

For The Umpteenth Time, I'm Sorry Your Mommy, Your Holy Mother, And Some "Celibate" Pervert In A Dress Forbid You To Have Sex, Even With Yourself

George Eff. Will, "Demon Denim". April 16

REALLY, Demon Denim. That is the piece. The whole piece.
Writer Daniel Akst has noticed and has had a constructive conniption. He should be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has earned it by identifying an obnoxious misuse of freedom. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he has denounced denim, summoning Americans to soul-searching and repentance about the plague of that ubiquitous fabric, which is symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.

And which goes a restrained 600 of its 725 words before name-dropping Edmund Burke, and makes its case without ever relaying what Clemenceau said to Woodrow Wilson. Apparently "Rejected" is not a category WaPo is contractually allowed to apply to its stableboys' copy. And by the way, if you do make it through the first 692 words there's a sort of coda of Obviousness, like licking your way through some godawful Tootsie Roll Pop to get to the coprolite in the center:
(A confession: The author owns one pair of jeans. Wore them once. Had to. Such was the dress code for former senator Jack Danforth's 70th birthday party, where Jerry Jeff Walker sang his classic "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." Music for a jeans-wearing crowd.)

Youth is wasted on the Young. Snobbery is wasted on Snobs.

Before we go any further, let's mention something about that Akst piece which George Eff Will missed, probably due to a congenital problem: it's funny. Not roaringly funny, no, but funny, certainly as funny as something published in the Journal and dedicated to its notion of the innate superiority of rich people could be expected to be. And it's far from a conniption, George. Conniptions are rarely funny, and never in defense of the conniptionee's sense of What Is Or Isn't Done. Conniption is a dish best served from under the rock that's just fallen on you. Albert Brooks' nest egg routine in Lost in America is funny. Dick Cheney's reaction to, well, virtually everything, is not.

This is our clue that Will is not simply engaged in some sort of anemic leg pull. He runs--that's not quite the word--with the worst feature of Akst's piece: the insistence that Demon Denim is popular as some sort of Trendy Liberal Hypocritical Lincoln-Navigator-to-Whole-Foods Faux-Radical solidarity with the Sons of the Soil employed by phony Pinko CEO types like Steve Jobs as a badge of authenticity, and mindlessly adopted by the masses because their Lefty Hollywood Idols told them so, without their realizing they're helping to promote Socialism.

And Will treats all this like it's some sort of revelation, or rallying cry of Freedom, for chrissakes. Which would be bad enough in the first place, but coming from a guy who for three decades has employed patently anachronistic neckware as a visual shorthand for his protest against the Modernist excesses of the middle of the last century, and who enthusiastically backed not one but two US Presidents who pretended to be cowboys, in full ranch get-up, it's just, well, rich.
Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults ("Seinfeld," "Two and a Half Men") and cartoons for adults ("King of the Hill"). Seventy-five percent of American "gamers" -- people who play video games -- are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote. In their undifferentiated dress, children and their childish parents become undifferentiated audiences for juvenilized movies (the six -- so far -- "Batman" adventures and "Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps," coming soon to a cineplex near you). Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling -- thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism -- of believing that appearance matters. That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste.

And here's another thing about humor, or even employing the form of humor without even bothering to attempt to deal The Funny: it has to connect with people, even if that connection is "Boy, what a weirdo". Nobody in America dresses down out of concerns about Social Leveling; hell, I doubt two in ten could define the term, and they'd just laugh at you if you did it for 'em. You're a fucking hothouse flower, George, and, if I may say so, your bloom is looking a little spent. Was poshlost taste any better back when no gentleman would leave the house without his hat, or his spats, or unless his body servant had powdered his wig correctly? No. It was thirty decibels or so quieter, is all. (By the way, and I'm not recommending this to you, George, but if you spend some time among Our Most Slovenly--this would be one reality program I'd watch, come to think of it--you might note that while denim is employed by young males it is largely absent in the middle-aged colored; if you wanna see people dress, go downtown.)
Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.

We? Who besides you? The guys in HR? If Americans are wearing denim everywhere, even somewhere where you spotted it (if at all, of course; this is, at its center, an homage) then they obviously don't believe it's a sign of immaturity or disrespect. In fact they obviously don't think about it at all.
This is not complicated. For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.

First: Fred could wear anything, just as he is one of the greatest interpreters of Gershwin despite a four-note vocal range. Neither should be urged upon everyone else based on his model. It is, by the way, always amusing to hear latter-day experts touting the tuxedo--and no one's ever worn one of those like Fred--as some sort of "classic" men's apparel when it began as a sort of shockingly casual alternative to full morning dress.

Second, and this has nothing to do with anything except that in a lifetime of keeping a quote book I'd never run into this one: Judy Garland apparently believed Her Future Royal Highness Princess Grace stole the Oscar™ Judy should have won for A Star Is Born. And she was asked, sometime later, whether she thought Grace Kelly was a nymphomaniac. "She would be," Judy said, "if they could figure out some way to calm her down."

Thursday, April 16

You Swing Like A Girl. Or So We've Heard.

Condimelda Rice, "My Weekend on Tiger's Trail". April 13 via Wonkette

FIRST, any day that begins with the headline:

Drinking Led To Sword Fight Death, Charges Filed

in your local paper, even if your local paper is the Indianapolis Racist Star, which could probably run something similar every day or two if it wished, is not a day to be boldly stared at across a small space, at least not without a lot more coffee than I've had by 7 AM. Perhaps, even, not without the same level of alcohol consumption which last weekend led Christopher Rondeau, 37, from intoxication to incarceration. Well, that and what were described, either in journalese or the court papers, or both, as, respectively, "a Japanese samurai-type" and a "Japanese sabre-style infantry" sword. Rondeau is being charged with murder in the death of his uncle, Adolf Stegbauer, 69, and with the reckless homicide death of Franziska Stegbauer, 77, Rondeau's grandmother, who tried to break up the fight, apparently without knowing the appropriate spells.

Plus I'm laboring under sleep deprivation brought on by a thirty-hour bout with computer glitchiness that turned into a full-fledged meltdown last night, though my NASAesque system redundancy seems to've saved the day, or stopped the bleeding. I'll let you know for sure after the full Nuke n' Pave on the internal hard drive.

I am, in fact, still transferring recent files--of which there are a lot, since I naturally was in the middle of a big project and had shit scattered everywhere--to their redundant redundancy location while typing with the other hand. But I couldn't bring myself to abandon Condimelda for one more day.

I'VE admitted, on these very internets, that my Poor Wife and I enjoy the PBS Lawrence Welk Show package, though just in case there's someone out there who could possibly misunderstand that, for "enjoy" read "very occasionally stare at in slack-jawed wonder for up to three minutes at a time, depending on how long ago we've eaten." It's a sort of perilous exercise in teevee anthropology for us, except it's the rare anthropologist who can't explain a single fucking thing about the strange alien culture he's immersed himself in.

But that's it; you consider, even briefly, that the elements in your very marrow are the product of the life and death cycles of not one, not two, but three stars, of a vastness of Spacetime beyond Vast, beyond even Rod Serling's or Gene Roddenberry's imaginations; that the remarkable, if not miraculous, chain of events which preceded the first stirrings of mammalian evolution on this planet took 3.5 billion years, give or take a billion; that hominid evolution can be measured back more than 4 million years, and our own genus over 2 million; that the odds of a particular sperm implanting itself in a particular egg are roughly one in 225 billion, that human beings speak 5-10,000 different languages, depending on who's counting, that everyone living on this continent came from somewhere else, and that if a lorry driver in New York c. 1926 had made a left turn rather than a right your grandfather and grandmother would never had met. It is beyond all reason that we find ourselves here at this very moment, or that doing so we speak more or less the same variant of proto-Indo-European filtered through Greek, Latin, Norman French, High German, and Old Frisian, just for starters, enough at least for purposes of misunderstanding. So how is it you can turn on the teevee and find people who might as well be from Mars?

I mean, you would not watch this program. You would not wear clothing in colors normally reserved for the sugariest of children's breakfast cereals. You would not listen to this stuff unless you had been trapped within earshot by falling boulders or a collapsing ceiling, and then only until you had finished gnawing your own arm off, and you certainly wouldn't dance to it under any circumstances, particularly if it meant abandoning your walker and oxygen bottle. In short, nothing about the program makes sense under any conceivable mental framework. Even Gene Roddenberry's. And it was on teevee for thirty years.

Not to mention it was hosted by a guy who was born in North Dakota, but who, seventy years later, still spoke English as though he'd been raised by wolves in the Black Forest and rescued scant months ago.

And the PBS packages, being PBS, have to cover the old commercial breaks, which they accomplish by bringing back such of the "Welk Stars" as are still able to follow a teleprompter and can be spared from Branson that week. This is not a crack, by the way; America's Entertainment Destination for people who do not actually care for entertainment includes a 160-room Welk Resort Hotel, and those 160 rooms include free Wi-Fi. And these "Welk Stars" are uniformly nauseatingly chipper, and not just in the mode of the professional "entertainer", mind you; they relate the stories of their post-show lives which, without exception, mix grandchildren, golf, and either "performing" at a Welk Theatre in Branson or San Diego, or just keeping in touch with other members of the "Welk Family", plus your choice of crushed corn flake or Durkee's™ french-fried onion crust. I suppose it's possible there's some former Family Member somewhere who drinks to excess and spouts off about what a cheapskate and bluenose his old boss really was. Sure, none would ever make it on camera. But when you watch the ones who do, the ones whose pasted-on smiles show no sign of disappearing the second the red light goes off, and you bet anyone who ever possessed a negative thought in his life would have jumped out a window by his second rehearsal surrounded by these mutants.

And here's the thing: let us, arguendo, take Mormons as the Whitest People on the Planet. And if I asked you to name five, excepting any who've been arrested for polygamy or child abduction, you'd likely say, "Mitt Romney, Ken Jennings, and three Osmonds". Unless you're, like, a big fan of The Jets or somethin'. Anyway, that's four stiffs plus possibly the coolest guy on the planet who's never released an album. From the very heart of Waltz-Time, Church-Basement Potluck Supper America. So how, exactly, does one go about finding vast, free-range herds of these people who seem never to have experienced social intercourse with anyone different from themselves, or sexual intercourse with anyone at all? (Okay, sure, they appear to breed. I'm not convinced.)

WHICH brings us to Condolezza Rice, born November 14, 1954, Birmingham, AL, onetime classmate of one of the four African-American girls who'd die in that city's most notorious--but far from only--white supremacist terror bombing, and her article And not just golf, but golf at The Masters, Augusta, GA, where, forty-five years after the 16th Street Baptist Church met sixteen sticks of dynamite, Condi Rice still cannot play, now because she's a women, although she could caddie. Prior to 1990, that's 1990 A.D., C.E., 1990 eighteen years ago her skin color would have been enough.

And, y'know, that's between Secretary Rice and her conscience. I'm not an African-American woman, let alone one who grew up in the Jim Crow South. If Condi Rice and her mother chose that second week in April, 1968, to commiserate with Roberto De Vicenzo (whom she calls "Robert") for the possible language barrier that resulted in him signing an erroneous scorecard (how do they make "3"s in Argentina, anyway?) at a Whites Only club just 130 miles and a few anguished hours away from where they'd buried Dr. King, well, it was their business.

No, I never had to deal with Jim Crow. I do do a little writing, or typing, and I believe I can safely say that if this is indicative of how Condi's mind works we are extremely fortunate to have escaped the Bush II years as well as we did.

If you clicked the Wonkette link you've seen some samples, including:
As the time approached, my assistant Anne said, “They want to know who you want to follow.” Borrowing language from Anne’s generation, I said, “Duh?
Okay, but if she didn't understand you it's probably because you left off the be-otch.

Look, again: there are probably people in the audience at either Welk Theatre--and that's astonishing enough, really--who shout out requests for "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah", or "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?", or, for that matter, "Old Black Joe". But where do they come from? How does one of them become Secretary of State?

Think you can take more?

• I had decided that if Tiger did not win, I would champion the cause of Phil Mickelson (met him at the White House and he’s a really nice guy); Stewart Cink (met him in Atlanta and he’s a really nice guy); or Anthony Kim (haven’t met him but I like his swagger).

• Upon arrival, Augusta took my breath away with its physical beauty.

• A golfer hit his ball over the green and they needed a foot (a human foot) to hold down the rope and produce space for his chip. My foot was there and I happily stood on the rope.

• But you know that Tiger will be there to do it right the next time.

• In the end, it was Angel Cabrera and justice for Robert De Vicenzo.

Okay, back to trying to salvage a hard drive, secure in the knowledge that it could be much worse. I could be trying to salvage our international reputation now that Condi finished with it.

Monday, April 13

Back Home Again

SO yesterday, while I was waiting for Turner Classics to return to its non-Religious Spectacle schedule--it's not that I don't see the appeal of the Holy Works of JudaioChristianity presented as vaudeville; it's just that along about the twenty-seventh hour it starts to grind--I picked up the Sunday Racist Star.

It's not surprising these past weeks to open the Racist Star and find yourself staring at Fishers (IN) resident Marcus Schrenker, the Amelia Earhart of financial advisors, the man who caught the Media's rapidly-shifting attention by attempting to fake his own death with a plan which, from all appearances, hatched from the half-remembered plot of a Brady Bunch episode. Shrenker, in fact, actually turned into a jilted pre-teen sometime mid-flight, and he's been periodically returning to the local news since The Crash by whining, claiming it was all a big misunderstanding, and--surprise!--blaming drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse. This, of course, is the worst of it in my book, and ought to be met with stiff and swift Federal justice, preferably at the closest suitable tree. Stealing from widows and orphans is one thing; turning on the waterworks after you're caught is another. But above all we need a warning on every prescription bottle announcing "It is a violation of Federal law to blame your misdeeds on this product." Score some fucking coke, Cap'n Schrenker! Where's your élan now, eh?

This is why I haven't written about this mope; well this, plus the fact that the only difference between "Ace" Schrenker and 98% of the population of Fishers (IN) is that he had a pilot's license.

The Racist Star sees it differently, and in the absence of any further rambling, tearstained, spelling-, grammar-, and logic-challenged declarations of his innocence in the matter of, and I quote, "what really happened on 1-11-2009," one of its assignment editors decided that getting to the bottom (warning, as always, if you really have to read the thing you've got twenty minutes before the Racist Star starts expecting you to pay for it) of Why People Trusted Marcus Schrenker was as good a 1500-word excuse to kill trees as any, or at least any the Star had at the moment. Thus a front page, below the fold, novella which managed actually to say less than its subhead, Experts say those who project wealth, success are too easily trusted.

Really. And where have those experts been? Busy warning Lindbergh to lock his windows?

And, again, I wouldn't have been reading the thing if I hadn't been sitting with a tubesock full of microwaved lentils trying to convince my back to go along with the morning's program, but it was worth reading for the mention of Cap'n Schrenker at his 10-year high school reunion, passing out business cards with the above picture of him, the unindicted co-conspirator in the slinky, off-one-shoulder number to his right, their plane, and their Lexus. Their Lexus. Really, at that point do you need an expert to tell you there's something beyond hinky with the whole operation? Are we this far gone as a society down the Reagan-fueled celebration of pure self-aggrandizing stupidity? Okay, we are. But I still think there needs to be an investigation as to why no one at that reunion bothered to inform the authorities.

This did, however, provide the article's one bright spot, when my Poor Wife suggested that for their fifteenth reunion his classmates blow that picture up, cut the heads out, and charge people $20 to get their pictures taken poking their faces through the holes. I love you, Mojo.

[Okay, so in addition there's the story--which naturally passes without comment--that in repeatedly pestering his landlord over niggling problems in an effort to avoid paying rent, Cap'n Schrenker had called in OSHA to test the building's air quality because someone had been smoking. Reader, try getting OSHA to inspect the unlit pit of rusty razor blades and 2x4s with nails in them your boss installed to keep people from pilfering office supplies.]

A fucking Lexus. Thank god overexposure has mitigated my vertigo.

I AM BECOME PRONOUN, Destroyer of Copy watch: I followed this up by reading another tale (same short shelf life) of alabaster Hamilton County, the ongoing court battle over the guy from Jersey who used a Hoosier baby-farming operation, the Hamilton County courts, and a couple of well-timed Hey! Look Over There!s to legally adopt twin girls born to a surrogate mother, sired by anonymous arranged spermatozoa from the West Coast, where the stuff is primo. The mother flew in from South Carolina specifically to give birth and to swear before the court that this Melinger character was the biological father.

It's no real surprise to the keen observer of Indiana politics--or me, either--that the state, and its fastest-growing center of White Republican wealth and Lexus ownership, would become the Midwest leader in Baby Ranching *. After all, you don't get to be the Nation's Third-Worst State Legislature by wasting any effort on children after they're born. Unless Planned Parenthood is involved. Nor is it surprising to find an attendant flood of amphibian tears regarding the Only Family the (now four-year-old) Little Girls Have Ever Known trumping repeated violations of black-letter law, since Justice must be tempered with Mercy, and an up-to-date credit report. No, the only thing that stifled my intemperate yawning was the fact that I had read, in successive stories, the following sentences crafted by people who do that for a living and, presumably, passed by other people who are paid to check for such things:

But when Mike Kinney, a dentist from Roswell, Ga., began questioning Schrenker's handling of his funds after he noticed some money missing, he said Schrenker berated him for bothering him with calls.


Moores called for a federal investigation of Litz and his company and said his business amounted to felony "child selling," which he disputed.

And look: I understand there's some modern confusion about pronouns agreeing with their subject in number and gender, since I myself have been asked--on these very internets--whether "I believed all doctors were male" simply because I'd used the third-person masculine singular as the neuter, rather than falsely employing the third-person plural. That's understandable. But writing a sentence where multiple pronouns compete in some sort of Vince McMahon Texas Cage Match for whatever antecedent happens to be lying around is unpardonable. You might type one without catching it, but there's no explanation for missing it in the editing process twice. Sheesh, my Poor Wife's family gives clearer directions.
* Just speculation at this point, since we don't seem to keep records.

Thursday, April 9

"Making Fools Of Everyone"? What, The Bush Administration Wasn't Enough For Them?

Mort Zuckerman,"Iran is Making Fools of Everyone". April 8

OKAY, now, in case you're wondering what I was doing at The Huffington Post, I've been trying to stay current on this ShamBoozle guy, or whatever it is, the one who punched a hooker, and I knew that the HuffPo, as it's known to aficionados, was the best place to go. 'Cause there's something fishy there; you don't get a real sense of the guy's physicality on teevee, but my guess is that in a fight a hooker in any weight class would have cleaned his clock, and then given him a what-for once he was down, not that little ketchup-packet-exploded-in-my-face muss job. Maybe she was just unfamiliar with his work. Although I can't imagine the ShamBoozle guy not wearin' that on his sleeve, particularly after a couple of shooters. In fact, if he doesn't travel with a dozen pre-autographed head shots I'm a poor judge of televised character.

Oh, and the latest Joachin Phoenix news, of course. He's morphed into Billy Bob Thornton, who apparently was rude to a disc jockey or something. Imagine! This is the sort of thing that gets you a panel job on ABC's This Week with The Biased Liberal Media, Brought To You By Petroleum.

Turns out they cover politics over there, too. By giving column inches to neocon would-be insiders who already have their own magazines to blather in, thank you very much:
Even as it lies about its closeness to acquiring nuclear missiles, it continues to menace the political order throughout the Middle East, pressing on with rocketry and rearming Hamas and Hezbollah. And that mischief is nothing to what it will do if it is allowed to become a nuclear power.

Y'know, I think this is exactly what has been missing from our debate over "the Middle East": someone screaming Apocalyptic nonsense so unfounded it would give Richard Perle pause. Okay, two seconds pause.

And look, I bow to no one when it comes to respecting the political opinions of someone who made billions in real estate, and who is personally responsible for taking The Atlantic Monthly, the highly respected literary, cultural, and political institution, giving it a social disease, then passing it along to The Gutter Press at real-estate-sharpie prices. I understand he's worked wonders at US News as well, which has now reestablished itself as the newsweekly favored by high school debate teams. (I was not a high school debater. A girl in my class was, though, and she looked like Patty Boyd, except with prodigiously precocious mams. So I helped with her filing system.)

Anyway, if it wouldn't inject too much reality into the thing, would it be possible to start saying "Israel" instead of "the Middle East" when we mean "Israel" and not "the Middle East"? I mean, I know you don't get called on this sort of thing in public much, Mort, but it really is transparently obvious, just like we all saw in that latest Lebanese fracas which side y'all's cosmic jokester God gave the biggest battalions. You wanna defend every hardliner position of the last sixty years from 6000 miles away, fine. But it's sixty years. Can we at least stop pretending that this has not been the dominant approach all that time, with the result that you are right where you are today, hoping if you scream loudly enough the fear-mongering will convince America to fund the next sixty?

And I believe it was Albert Einstein, or else Albert Brooks, who noted that the definition of insanity is imagining you'll get a different result by doing the same thing over and over again, except with more megatonnage.
Nuclear Iran will be a threat to US national security, worldwide energy security, the efficacy of multilateralism and the Non-Proliferation (NPT) Treaty.

Three questions, Mort. One: could you tell us, in rough terms, at what level "Nuclear Iran" becomes a threat to the US? When it has ICBMs? When it has enough fissionable material? How does that work? It's like saying a guy holding a stick will become a threat to the two guys with rifles trained on him if he's ever allowed to start sharpening it. Two: how does Nuclear Iran threaten worldwide energy security in a way Reality Iran, which has the third largest oil reserves in the world, the second most powerful military in an area which holds 56% of known reserves, and is now, thanks to your neocon buddies, and their previous insistence on the Henny Penny Theory of Nuclear Disarmament, let's say highly influencial with the ruling Shi'a majority in Iraq, which has the world's fourth largest reserves, does not? Three: did you exercise all due caution and shave yourself before you wrote "threatens the Non-Proliferation Treaty?" Personally, I'd a' been laughing so hard I wouldn't have touched any sharp objects for a week.
Having defied the world so brazenly, it might become overconfident enough to believe its conventional or proxy forces could operate without fear of serious reprisals from the US, Israel, or any other power.

Ditto for "brazenly defying the world" but sure; it might just slip the mind of the Iranians what Great Satan & Son really think of 'em, and what either one would do if the lights happen to go out for a minute.
Fundamentally, a nuclear Iran represents a unique threat. The fear of mutually assured destruction has long restrained other nuclear powers. There is a real risk that Iran is not rational, that driven by its mad hatreds it will act in ways that are irrational, even self-destructive.

Mort, Mort, Mort. You went to Hahvahd, right? You "edit" a "major" national magazine, correct? (Hey, what's up with Joachin Pheonix? Do you know?) You've heard of research, right? Fact-checking? And you just choose to ignore them? I'm just trying to survey the property here.

Mutually-assured destruction is a 70s buzzword, Mort. It may date to the 60s; we spent so much effort exaggerating the Soviet threat in those days it's impossible to say when that theoretical construct actually became a reality, if ever. But MAD, as the headline writers called it, doesn't apply to other than the late stages of the Cold War, and perhaps to India/Pakistan. Certainly not to the Middle East (or are we pretending that Israel doesn't have a couple hundred little hummers stashed away?). Retaliation might, but nothing's changed there, except that today, Israel or the United States might well become overconfident enough to imagine they could respond to an Iranian nuclear peashooter by irradiating everything between the Caspian and Arabian seas without fear of Russian or Chinese response. I like to think we've at least reduced that possibility in the US recently, but then I'm an incurable optimist.

No fifth-rate power can embark upon a nuclear weapons program in the early 21st century and reach the level of global nuclear threat. It's too big an undertaking, and it's too closely watched by the real global nuclear powers who, unlike yourself with the State of Israel, actually have their own meat on the line (okay, sorry. Cheap shot. They also serve who stay in the New World, buying Low and selling High and cheating widows and orphans). This is why the North Korean business is, while not exactly risible, certainly a transparent con-job; the Chinese, at whose sufferance Kim gets to play International Man of Crazee, would shut the thing down themselves the minute it rose to the level of Potentially Becoming a Minor Threat. We know this. The Chinese know we know this. Even Kim knows it, which is why he's allowed to play that Michael Dunn character from the old Wild Wild West. Iran's never going to become a match for Israel's nuclear stockpile, let alone the United States' (okay, let's rephrase that; never say never. The circumstances required for Iran to be able to develop a full-fledged, even-Israeli-sized nuclear arsenal, unimpeded, are so dire that Iranian nukes would be a minor worry).
We must press harder to concert four measures:

1. an arms' embargo; 2, a ban on exports to Iran of gas and other refined products to cripple their transport; 3, a global boycott of the entire banking system of Iran, instead of helping them as European banks are; and 4, a prohibition on Western countries supplying spare parts to the oil industry.

Yes', by all means', let's' have 1, an arms' embargo; 2/a really good reason to alienate the Iranian people that has every possible chance of a devastating effectiveness unless, say, some other country develops the ability to refine petroleum, or somebody coughs or something^3*the world get in line behind our proven global economic leadership ø and 4# a good excuse for oil prices to zoom above last summer's levels, now that we've got our economy straightened out an' all.

And really, aside from the fact that the underlying rationale is bogus, that none of these suggestions would work, even if they could be implemented, which they couldn't unless the threat was real, and the fact that the biggest danger we face in the world today, and into the future, is the result of our responding over the past sixty years to each and every threat, most of them imaginary or delusional, by spending ever greater amounts of treasure and reputation appeasing the most insane among us. Thanks for contributing, Mort.