Thursday, November 30

Sold A Quart Of Blood And Bought A Half A Pint Of Scotch

Indy Star:
Wasting little time after learning its site developer beat back a rezoning challenge, the gourmet organic grocer said it has signed a lease to open its first Indianapolis store at 86th Street and Keystone Avenue.

That "rezoning challenge" there was an attempt by neighbors to beat back the proposed bulldozing of the last thirteen wooded acres within a mile of the place (more if you discount the nearby White River floodplain on which the city is rapidly issuing building permits) so what the Star calls the "earthy, yet upscale" retailer can build a 60,000 sq. ft. store.

Which store will be an enormous benefit to local nature lovers who don't want to drive the mile and a quarter to Wild Oats, or 2-1/2 miles to Trader Joe's, or the four miles to that place in the Village whose name I refuse to remember since they installed four self-service checkout lines two weeks after they opened. And it'll be just the other side of the overpass from Saks, Crate & Barrel, and the new Nordstrom, so you can get you couture and your cuisine while it's haute.

There's a good two miles of solid asphalt in either direction from that site. Just five miles away, ten blocks south of the 465/I-69 exchange, the only southern exit from the development insanity that is the town of Fishers, there's an entire three-block shopping center that's been distressed for several years, but sits in the same $80K annual household income bullseye. They're just beginning to revitalize it. The neighbors would have killed for it. They would even have paid earthy yet upscale mark-ups.

But that wouldn't have been as much fun as knocking down trees, I guess.

Go To Hell


"Atheists Agonistes," by Richard Shweder, NY Times November 27

is what I'd been working on when my wife's blasted civic-mindedness interrupted. The logic had already been demolished by PZ and his commenters; I'd like to take a different tack. Namely, just where th' fuck did these numbers come from?
Books dictated or co-written by God sell quite well among the 2.1 billion self-declared Christians and 1.3 billion self-declared Muslims of the world.

There are 2.1 billion self-declared Christians and 1.3 billion self-declared Muslims? To whom did they declare themselves?

A quibble? Perhaps, but if nothing else it's a sloppy way for an anthropologist to conduct himself, and "self-declared" carries an undeniable weight that the more accurate "claimed by the religion industry" does not.

And then it's one of those quibbles where belatedly asking the question leads us to a hidden lake of unknown depth we were supposed to cross dry-shod. Who is a Christian? If I'm supposed to acknowledge a system of thought strictly on the number of its adherents I think I can reasonably demand something like an accurate accounting first.

Damned if that water hasn't started turning murky. We can be reasonably certain that the Gallup numbers which get trotted out in support of America's Christianity, Sincere Monotheism, Regular Church Attendance and Habit of Tithing are inflated, the latter two, at least, by a factor of 2 or greater. So what about the rest? When Barna looks a little closer, as opposed to relying on "self-description", the argument begins to get a little odd:

• 9% of Americans meet the criteria to be called Evangelical; 14% of Americans do not follow any organized religion. 10% are atheist or agnostic. 10% follow some religion other than Christianity. (So who gets all the press?)

• 36% of Americans qualify as "Born Again" but not Evangelical. 50% of Southern adults do.

• Roughly 40% of adults never attend church.

• The fastest growing religion in the US is Wicca. The biggest trend in Christianity is the shift of aging Boomers toward born-again Christianity.

• 52% of Americans say they believe the Bible is inerrant truth.

• 58% describe themselves as "skeptical".

And this doesn't begin to approach the doctrinal differences which account for eight divisions of Christianity in the world or 2000 Protestant denominations in the USA alone.

If due respect requires atheists to help foot the bill for C.B. Demillesque Ten Commandment momuments aren't they at least permitted to wonder aloud if it'll be the Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish versions? Or if we need all three? Whose version of the Virgin Birth are they supposed to respect? Whose concept of heaven? Shouldn't we at least ask that all Baptists believe the same thing before we ask non-believers to pay homage?

Back in the last century they used to tell us about something called the esoteric/exoteric function of small groups, that is, that they have collections of narratives about themselves (generally positive) and about The Others (usually negative) which serve to increase group coherence. I haven't checked in a while, but I'm guessing it still works that way, and that this:
Instead of waging intellectual battles over the existence of god(s), those of us who live in secular society might profit by being slower to judge others and by trying very hard to understand how it is possible for John Locke and our many atheist friends to continue to gaze at each other in such a state of mutual misunderstanding.

amounts to a call for non-believers to accept the by-laws of those Christian sects which have to scream the loudest to keep their flock intact. Atheism, on the other hand, is not generally a team sport.

Frankly, if you hang around with "ordinary" Americans, as opposed to taking the occasional faculty dinner at the U. of Chicago, you'll discover that a big reason why over half of American Protestants aren't in the Born Again/Evangelical demo is they actively reject religious extremism. The rational, secular, pluralist cabal which so bedevils the religious right isn't atheist; it's mainstream America, outside Dixie.

Addendum: I didn't engage Shweder's argument, which, as I say, was handled quite nicely by PZ's bunch, but I would like to add that as much damage is done the literalist position by books from within the Christian tradition (e.g. Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version) as by anything Richard Dawkins has to say.

Wednesday, November 29

I Should Have Taken The Other Car. Its Radio Is Broken.

My Poor Wife got called for jury duty yesterday, and since I was available to ferry her and avoid parking fees I did so, and scheduled that responsibility around some household chores and finishing a post which isn't this one. The phone rang a scant hour and a half later. She was free (she had a personal connection to the case she was called for, and they kicked her back to the pool, where she was told she could go home). So I drove back downtown and saw my schedule disrupted enough that I tossed it out altogether and went Christmas shopping.

I had stuck the new Yo La Tengo CD in my sweatshirt pocket, or at least I thought I had, until I opened it at the end of the block and learned the actual CD, the part with the music on it, was back on the turntable at home. So I switched on NPR in time for Terry Gross to tell me her guest would be our old friend Ariel Levy, the author of Female Chauvinist Pigs, now in paperback. For someone whose ideas are so ill-formed, Levy is remarkably poorly-spoken. That may be unfair; she was extemporizing on radio, after all, and it's not her medium. Still, as if the early holiday shopping traffic wasn't maddening enough (following two rush-hour-esque trips downtown and back) Levy has her lubricated and latex-safe finger poised just close enough to the rim of truth to be excruciating without any promise of a payoff. People's Exhibit A:
When I was doing this research I was constantly struck by all (the accomplishments of feminism) that I take for granted.

And B:
We've sort of reduced [sex] down to implants, polyester underpants*, and Brazilian bikini waxes, all these things that can be bought and sold. And it strikes me that once you make sex not about weird complicated things and you make it about that...stuff...then it's just another thing to buy and sell.

Well, yes, if I can put it so simply. Is there any possibility we can start connecting the dots sometime in the near future?

Let us take the first comment first. I do not and cannot understand this. Levy is in her early 30s. She buttressed that comment with a note that pre-feminism women could not get checking accounts without a husband or father co-signing, let alone access to safe and legal contraception or abortions. She says this as though we are to accept it as the most natural thing in the world that any thirty-year-old would be completely ignorant of the world as it existed fifteen years before her birth without a specialized course of study. Someone my height and coloring might suggest that this is, instead, a measure of the sheer lack of intellectual curiosity in American life, and if we need some way to understand Wildness and the Girls Who Go There it would be a more fruitful place to start.

Let us pause for a couple pieces of salient information. Levy describes her parents as 60s vintage boho feminists, which makes her former cluelessness about the entire history of her own gender in her own country prior to her own giving a shit that much more mysterious. The second is her admission that she sees "raunch culture" as a reaction to the "PC tightness that was big in the 80s and early 90s".

So I'm listening to this, and it's really difficult to decide what qualifies as Thought and what is simply rearranging scraps of newspaper found on the floor of your cage. "PC tightness"? I don't understand how a label convinces you to stop thinking about something, and I'm fairly convinced, having lived through it, that the war on so-called political correctness was in full swing by that time, as evinced by the very existence of the term. In other words, even had one found oneself in a college hotbed of PC in the 80s or early 90s one needn't have felt windlashed and helpless. (Levy, by the way, reports the opposite: she was even tempted to throw away her leg razor for a time.)

So we wind up with the same old conundrum. If you were delusional to some extent in those days, why should your testimony be trusted now?

Which brings us to implants and underpants and bikini waxing, and the real puzzlement to me: what is it that's so difficult to understand here? Yes, indeedy, the reduction of sex to a plastic commodity costs us a great deal, and it saddles a following generation with Paris and Brittany disease one can only hope they'll be able to climb up out of right side up. But it is the abiding faith in Consumerism which is the problem, not some generational response to torments of PC humorlessness. If a 32-year-old who's published a book on the subject is only recently aware of the accomplishments of mid-20th century Feminism, I have my doubts that drunken nubiles are flashing their tits at the camera as an act of political defiance.

* This one is news to me. Sic transit.

Monday, November 27

Who Left the Ouzo Unlocked?

David Brooks, "The Education of Robert Kennedy", New York Times, November 27

Summary: After his brother's cranium exploded in public, Bobby Kennedy reportedly found surcease in Edith Hamilton's lightly regarded version of Greek Classics Illustrated. If you find three different ways to say this it will fill up a Times Op-Ed column. And if you throw in a wholly gratuitous reference to Winston Churchill, the most casual 5% of your readers might imagine you had a point.

Question from the floor: If Brooks and his ilk are so enamored of the Dead Kennedys and ML King, how is it they never saw fit to emulate them in the slightest? When it could have made a difference they threw in with Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand.

On the other hand: "Classical scholars often scorn Hamilton because she wrote in a breathless 'all the glory that was Greece' mode, but her book changed Robert Kennedy's life." Y'know, passive-aggressiveness is not all that attractive in a supposed pundit in the the first place, and Brooks really manages to take it to a You Wanna Trip Him In The Hallway While He's Got An Armload Of Books level. Supposing that classical scholars have nothing better to do than feel superior to 70-year-old popularizations of their subject matter, I'm guessin' they could find a lot more to be critical of than Hamilton's prose stylings.

Brooks didn't even have to mention this--we're talking about Bobby Kennedy's tastes, not his own--or he might have stated it as simple fact. Hamilton wasn't working as a scholar. She wrote popular books on scholarly subjects. There was more than a hint of fust about her books back when Bobby read The Greek Way. But Brooks means to uncork that Bowtied Right manqué classicism, and so is required to blame everything he doesn't like about contemporary scholarship on a few arbitrary eggheads.

The Money: "And the lesson, of course, is about the need to step outside your own immediate experience into the past, to learn about problems that never change, and bring back some of that inheritance. The leaders who founded the country [and who appear here, in the penultimate sentence, for the first time -ed.] were steeped in the classics, Kennedy found them in crisis, and today's students are lucky if they stumble on them by happenstance."

Funny thing about that. I happen to do volunteer work in the public schools, and in these parts, at least, the math and language requirements are double what they were thirty years ago when I was in school, and probably twenty some years ago when Brooks was. I am, frankly, astonished at the work load placed on kids and I sometimes wonder how I would have reacted, being that I was always more interested in what I found than what they were trying to teach me, and the pace back then allowed me to indulge that. These workloads are mandated by public officials tasked with--or taking an immense amateur interest in--"improving" education. They are, in these parts, largely Republican and/or disproportionately solicitous of Republican chamber-of-commerce type concerns, and there seems to be very little demand for an entire section of Aeschylus on the graduation qualifying exam.

Then again, Indianapolis parents now have the opportunity to send their students to a charter school with a classics-based curriculum, or, baring that, of buying a copy of Mythology for a buck fifty at Half Price Books and having their kids read it. Though that takes all of the fun out of being a scold.

Sunday, November 26

He's Not Compensated By Wal-Mart. Say, That Has A Familiar Ring To It.

Sheesh, even their black people are white.

There's hope on the horizon, what with the Democrats regaining power an' all. Indy Star:
He just loves Wal-Mart

City-County Council member Ron Gibson has joined some state legislators in a group called Working Families for Wal-Mart Indiana.
Their mission: to get the word out on the positive side of the story about the behemoth retail company, which has been dogged by critics who say its wages and benefits are so low they compel workers to seek taxpayer-funded public aid.
Gibson said he loves Wal-Mart. In fact, he was shopping at the Wal-Mart at 38th Street and Franklin Road when The Indianapolis Star reached him on his cell phone last week.
He said Wal-Mart offers jobs to those who might not otherwise have them and sells retail goods at good prices in areas where people need more choices.
Gibson, a Democrat, said he was asked by the Baker & Daniels law firm to join the group to support Wal-Mart.
There is no compensation for his work, he said. State Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, is among others in the group.
Now, I don't know if you share my opinion about Wal-Mart (humanitarians among you might feel the execution of the Walton family should be quick and painless, for example), but I'd like to know why this business, or any business, needs a government cheerleading squad. I say you get to choose one: either celebrate the glorious efficiency of amorality and the miraculous ability of free markets to turn shit into silver, or let's make everything a debate about morality and have at it on a level playing field. If the former, then certainly the virtual cottage industry of turning over rocks and watching Wal-Mart ooze out deserves to breathe free as well. Heaping praise on Wal-Mart because it actually pays its employees for most of the hours they work seems like setting the bar a little low, even for volunteer work.

Speaking of which, check out the website those volunteers maintain. It's sorta like Disney World without the exciting rides an' stuff. They wish you a Merry Christmas right at the top, use "holiday shop" as a verb, and explain with the sort of earnestness usually seen only in bepamphleted religious zealots on your doorstep that "Wal-Mart is also bringing "Christmas" back into its marketing." (Is that the greatest use of the floating random quotation marks ever, or what?) You can click the links to read real stories from actual working stiffs about how Wal-Mart has changed their lives despite the continued existence of trade unions, meet the Steering Committee (the first guy is a economics professor who's changed his last name to "Ph.D"; the second is Pat Boone) or check out the Mission Statement:


Working Families for Wal-Mart is committed to fostering open and honest dialogue with elected officials, opinion makers and community leaders that conveys the positive contributions of Wal-Mart to working families.

Interesting that they're not wasting any time explaining the positive contributions Wal-Mart makes to working families to the actual working families themselves, presumably since those families already know the value of Looking the Other Way when there's a buck involved.

PS Baker & Daniels? Yeah, it's that Daniels.

Saturday, November 25

Tuesday, November 21

False Modesty

Slate: "James Baker is the last guy we should listen to about Iraq"
by Christopher Hitchens

Not while you're alive, Hitch. Not while you're alive.

Conventional Wisdom Tuesday I: Phoning It In

Monday morning I was making the bed and gathering up all the pieces of laundry which had been flung around the bedroom over the weekend, and I had the radio on NPR, whence it had migrated during a recent electrical storm from the other PBS station, the one that plays classical music and the BBC. This meant--what's the opposite of serendipity?--that I got to listen to Cokie Roberts analyze of Our Current State of Affairs. Question: does Cokie Roberts actually do anything anymore? I don't mean to be cruel--she's a cancer survivor, godspeed an' all--but what exactly is her job description? Pundit without portfolio? Even if she hadn't figured prominently in the Press' lapdog response to George W. Bush I'd be hard-pressed to think of a reason to listen to anything she had to say, other than the fact of my arms being full and the radio being tuned to her.

So here's what I got from the Cokester: One--John McCain has called for increasing the number of troops in Iraq, which Cokie is sure he actually believes in, but which is "somewhat convenient" given that he's running for President and this allows him to say his idea wasn't tried (especially if he's interviewed about it by Cokie Roberts or the Cokiesque). And Senny Hoyer says besides, we don't have any troops, which was an interesting way of turning a factual question, with a straightforward and rather vital answer into a partisan toss-up.

Point two--of two; I hope Cokie is paid by the piece and not the minute--was about Charlie Rangel calling for a draft, which Cokie says won't happen, but Rangel is making a point about the conduct of the war. Fair enough, perhaps, but I'd like to suggest that since the last time he "made" the identical "point" it was widely disparaged as an anti-Bush stunt that he might be given some credit for bringing it back up when he has the power to get it a hearing and the authority to get blamed if it goes anywhere. But such a commendation was not forthcoming, not that I expected it; Cokie had gotten in her equal-opportunity skepticism. (No mention of McCain's new frame for his abortion views: the Sunday talk-fests probably air too late for Cokie to take note of by Monday. (By all means see Scott Lemieux' takedown of McCain at Tapped.)

And aside from her reading me 2/3 of last Friday's below-the-fold front page, I had to ask myself what I'd gotten for the time I'd invested other than a full hamper. Are those stories really equivalent? McCain, running for something, proposes to send troops we don't have* to a lost cause as a publicity stunt, in contradistinction to his Straight Shootin' image, while Rangel, about to be in charge of something after years in the wilderness makes the same unpopular proposal (which may be simply making a point) he did two years ago sans juice. The "cynical gesture" or "playing politics" rubric doesn't seem to fit them both. But maybe I just lack Cokie's studied impartiality.

* Mr. Riley does not suggest that 20,000 troops could not be rounded up under any circumstances and sent to Mesopotamia. The Bush administration has been more creative about numbers than a stretch Hummer full of Hollywood accountants. But we can no longer sustain more than about 60,000 troops for full tours without massive reorganization of our worldwide military commitments. This much has been known since 2002 at the least; the number comes from the CBO report from November of that year. And that doesn't count what's happened to our equipment in the interim.

Conventional Wisdom Tuesday II: That Sounds Oddly, and Tediously, Familiar

Matt Bai, "The Way We Live Now: The Last 20th Century Election?" New York Times Magazine, November 19, 2006:
Since Bush’s disputed victory in 2000, many liberals have been increasingly brazen about their disdain for the rural and religious voters; one popular e-mail message, which landed in thousands of Democratic in-boxes in the days after the 2004 election, separated North America into “The United States of Canada” and “Jesusland.” The populist author Thomas Frank won widespread praise for his thesis that unsophisticated rural types had been manipulated into voting “against their economic self-interest,” while the celebrated linguist George Lakoff posited that conservatives had rewired the brain synapses in these unsuspecting voters. Two eminent liberal political scientists, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, wrote a more scholarly book, arguing that Bush could govern as an extremist without paying a price, because Republicans had gamed the electoral system and deceived voters.

Matt Bai, "The Excluded Middle" review of Off Center, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, New York Times Book Review, December 11, 2005:
Over the last few years, in this time of Democratic despondency, there has emerged a new genre of comfort books for liberals - books that seek to expose the nefarious means by which conservatives have amassed power, while at the same time reassuring urban liberals that they bear none of the blame. Thomas Frank's best-selling "What's the Matter With Kansas?," for instance, advanced the premise that rural voters just aren't sophisticated enough to vote in their own interests. In "Don't Think of an Elephant!," the linguist George Lakoff took a slightly different angle, suggesting that these voters weren't dumb, exactly, but that their brain synapses had been rewired by the Republicans' skillful manipulation of language. Now come Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, political science professors at Yale and the University of California, Berkeley, with "Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy." Hacker and Pierson offer a variation on this same theme: voters can't make the right choices, they contend, because our system of government itself has dangerously malfunctioned.

Forget that Bai bills the Times twice for the same two-hundred words; they should be glad he didn't steal 'em. But notice how nothing changes despite the intervening sea-change of an election except the frame. Formerly, the Dems were seeking comfort food; now their very success condemns their earlier words:
But this election, in which conservative incumbents in states like Kentucky and Indiana went down to defeat, should discredit such alarmist (and elitist) theories. As it happened, despite all these neurological and structural impediments, ordinary voters proved perfectly capable of recognizing failed governance when they saw it, and seemed plenty capable of defending their own interests.

Both of these, by the way, were front page stories in their respective sections. Thus the liberal New York Times! And it should be noted that Hacker and Pierson fairly demolished Bai's critique the first time around, which accounts for the not-quite-identical description this time.

Bai's problem is obvious--he's too smart for either party, which requires a hard-edged sneering version of Cokie Robert's Both Sides Do It approach--but his editors' problem is a whole 'nother question. Hang on:
After the midterms, that tidal resentment has now washed away both of our old governing philosophies: the expansive and often misguided liberalism that dominated American politics up through the 1970s, as well as the impractical, mean-spirited brand of conservatism that rose up in reaction to it.

You know me--I can't get enough of people characterizing characterizations of things they know nothing about as if such an exercise explains something. Bai is no doubt completely unaware that he's mouthing a "conservative" argument in the guise of a history lesson.

But there's no excuse for lacking common sense, even if you won't pursue history beyond your own nose: is it reasonable to assume that liberalism "rose up" in reaction to anything? Is it too much to ask that twenty-somethings in this country show some familiarity with, say, McCarthyism? Say it again: I challenge any of you to go back and actually live under the social, cultural, and sexual repressions of the 1950s and come back and report which side you're on. The only thing that "rose up" in conservatism in response to the "domination" of our politics by liberalism--a bogus concept to begin with--is a few reactionary positions of the cultural right wing and an ever-increasing zest for tax cuts for the wealthy. Real conservatism, as opposed to the lumpy Jonah Goldberg variety which is all you seem to know, was just as impractical and mean-spirited sixty years ago, although I'd object that those are more euphemisms than descriptions.

It may be, then, that we have just witnessed the last big election of the 20th century; the question now is what kind of different, more relevant ideologies might rise from the ruins. Or, as Simon Rosenberg, the Democratic strategist, recently put it in making much the same argument, “Like two heavyweight boxers stumbling into the 15th round of a championship fight, the two great ideologies of the 20th century stumble, exhausted, tattered and weakened, into a very dynamic and challenging 21st century.” The era of baby-boomer politics — with its culture wars, its racial subtext, its archaic divisions between hawks and doves and between big government and no government at all — is coming to a merciful close. Our elections may become increasingly generational rather than ideological — and not a moment too soon.

First, to Mr. Rosenberg: when the DLC, in either its old-school or its spiffy new sci-fi version, wins elections, or when it figures out the base wins elections, or when it speaks for anyone outside one of its conference rooms, then maybe your insights will mean something. Second, if you believe that culture wars, racial politics, or the "archaic" divisions between hawks and doves is a mere blip on the electoral radar rather than real-world responses to real-world problems, then God help you and the Future, and God grant you a populace with an endless tolerance for rectal smoke receptivity, just as soon as I'm dead and buried. In the meantime:

Where are the fucking answers if you're so smart? How is it that all the DLC types--those forward-looking 21st Century Culturnauts who've managed to transcend the old dichotomies, marched in fucking lockstep with the Bush administration into Vietnam II?

[T]he new Democratic majority in Washington may fare no better in addressing the nation’s modern preoccupations than the Republican majority that preceded it. At week’s end, Democrats were preparing to name two 66-year-olds, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, as Senate majority leader and House speaker. In the House, Pelosi will be supported by new committee chairmen including longtime liberals like Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Charles Rangel of New York. They are, most of them, honorable public servants, warriors steeped in the battles of the last century. But the party remains reluctant to make room for its next generation, a pragmatic and talented group — led, perhaps, by Rahm Emanuel, the chief strategist behind the House elections

Yeah, and with damned good reason, sonny boy. Give us the answers, bright boy, or shut up and learn something. This, at least: those repugnant Boomers are just entering their sixties. They're gonna be voting for another twenty-five years. And old fucking people vote, homey.

Saturday, November 18

Happy Birthday

Harry Tyson Moore
Novermber 18, 1905--December 25, 1951

Moore, a school teacher, founded the NAACP branch in Brevard County and later ran the state organization for Florida. (Both he and his wife Harriette were blacklisted from their teaching jobs for their efforts.) In 1949 Moore had protested the beating of the Groveland Four after they were jailed (that is, of the three who were jailed, as the fourth was shot while "resisting arrest"). In 1951 Moore called for the indictment and suspension of Sheriff Willis V. McCall, who shot two of the three while they were shackled and in his custody. Six weeks later, on Christmas Day, the Moores were blown up in their home. Harry died almost immediately; Harriette survived for nine days. Christmas day was also their 25th wedding anniversary.

It's almost superfluous to mention that no one was ever convicted of the crime, which was part of a wave of bombing terror directed at African-Americans across the South in 1951-52.

So tell us, Mr. Goldberg, and honestly, if that's possible: ever hear of the Moores before? Ever hear of the Groveland Four? Care to explain to us who's been blown to bits over affirmative action, or what act of reverse discrimination stands with this single example among thousands of the organized and legalized terror campaign that enforced genuine racism, you pathetic twit?

Friday, November 17

Spot the Fake Headline

#1 Publisher Calls Book a Confession by O. J. Simpson

#2 Riley Calls Judith Regan 'The O.J. of Literacy'

Republican Humor: Sometimes It's Five Years Between Set-Up And Punchline, Sometimes It's Only A Matter Of Weeks.

Five years:
Nuclear Deal With India Wins Senate Backing


WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 — The Senate gave overwhelming approval late Thursday to President Bush’s deal for nuclear cooperation with India , a vote expressing that a goal of nurturing India as an ally outweighed concerns over the risks of spreading nuclear skills and bomb-making materials.

By a vote of 85 to 12, senators agreed to a program that would allow the United States to send nuclear fuel and technology to India, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The agreement, negotiated by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India in March, calls for the United States to end a long moratorium on sales of nuclear fuel and reactor components. For its part, India would divide its reactor facilities into civilian and military nuclear programs, with civilian facilities open to international inspections.

So, public notice of our payoff to India for sitting quietly while we played footsie with Musharraf, resulting in the capture of bin Laden and the eradication of the Taliban, finally arrives. And now the world's number one mutual nuclear threat is about to become seriously unbalanced courtesy of the US of A. I know, the other night on the Daily Show Ted Koppel was hammering George W. (Too Little--I believe you know Too Late?), but he was there promoting his new Discovery special, "Iran--The Most Dangerous Nation". Can't wait for the follow up, "Drew Bledsoe--The NFL's Most Respected Passer".

Aw, well, now that we've shattered our commitment to non-proliferation I suppose we can just even things up with Pakistan before long. No downside there.

Matter of Weeks:
Senator Richard G. Lugar , the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, hailed the measure’s passage as “one more important step toward a vibrant and exciting relationship between our two great democracies.”

His endorsement was significant, coming from a senator respected for efforts in nonproliferation and whose name is part of a sweeping program to secure nuclear bomb-making materials in the former Soviet Union. He also expressed “thanks for a truly bipartisan effort” to Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Delaware Democrat set to become Foreign Relations chairman in the new Congress.

Oh yeah, the significant participation of Dick "Foreign Affairs" Lugar. Just like when he wrote that letter before the Iraq war warning about being too hasty, then voted for the Resolution like he was told. That's an endorsement that should make all of us rest easier.

Lugar just won reelection for his forty-seventh term in the Senate; Democrats didn't even nominate anyone to run against him. His campaign ads--I'm not making this up--featured little vidclips of his involvement in securing the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal.


Thanks to Olbermann, where they have Lexis/Nexis, we learned last evening that the hallucinatory portion of Rich Lowry's piece (see yesterday) was self-administered: the part about 55% of the public supporting troop increases in Iraq according to a Times poll, seems to have, uh, misstated the poll result. Sixteen percent supported increasing troop numbers in Iraq. That 55% was the number who said they'd support increasing troop numbers "if that could be shown to get the situation in Baghdad under control". Or something like that; I wasn't taking notes. Say this for the NRO gang: they never let you down. If you think about it, it's really too bad you'll never share a foxhole with any of them.

"Dems Use Embryonic Stem-Cells To Reanimate Neville Chamberlain; Will Serve as Hilary's Secretary of Defense"

I was already running late yesterday afternoon when I sat down at my keyboard, letting myself air dry for a few minutes--it was one of those events that required a second, midday shower, and no, "meeting a hooker" is not it--and I dialed up Roy, where I tried to leave a quick comment, and something was fucking it up, and while I waited I started clicking on links within links, and pretty soon I'm not only thoroughly dry but even more late, and my comment never did show up. But I did wind up reading this refreshing new take:
In 1968, the Tet Offensive led many in the media to believe that the war in Vietnam was failing. The most famous pronouncement was Walter Cronkite's declaration that the war was a stalemate. Lost in the media defeatism was the fact that American and South Vietnamese troops won the battle, and had delivered a crippling blow to the Viet Cong.

This is subjective, but it seems to me that the rewriting of the history of the Vietnam War has come in two stages, or maybe that's spasms, roughly corresponding to the Reagan and Bush II eras. In the former the jumpy, psycho, drug-addled Vietnam vet of the 60s and 70s became the poor, spat-upon, loner hero, the decent American guy with the bad memories of a bad war buried just below the surface, occasionally breaking through in a sweat-soaked dream sequence for Magnum, P.I. or Airwolf.

It's not as if one never heard the "Uncle Walter and his Lyin' Band of Librul Traitors" refrain in those days, but the debate was among people who'd lived through it. And while the results of Tet (the ultimate repulse and destruction of the so-called Viet Cong as a cohesive force) were freely acknowledged, it's really with this second wave, the arguments made by or for a group whose only experience of Vietnam lies in growing up with the historical revisionism going on and Chuck Norris rewinning the war that Tet has become a major operational victory traitorously sold to an unsuspecting public as a defeat. As so often these days we're forced to decide whether this represents a calculated lie or a prolonged, public case of mental illness; it is simply not possible that anyone even moderately versed in military history mistakes tactical success for automatic, capital-V Victory.

In 1968, the Tet Offensive led many in the media to believe that the war in Vietnam was failing. Well, no. By 1968 most honest observers had already concluded that. It's probably more accurate to say that after Tet we could establish that--as in Iraq forty years later--there was a significant segment of the population which would simply deny things ever could go poorly where the US military was involved. And so that segment would begin casting around for a scapegoat, and that they'd find one so much to their liking in "the media" they'd freeze-dry it and keep it on hand, apparently forever. The story of US involvement in Vietnam is the story of a war that was failing from day one. Johnson understood this pretty much all along. Sheesh, the Secretary of Freakin' Defense was publicly at odds with our strategy in Vietnam as early as 1966. No one who'd been paying attention needed Walter Cronkite to explain what a mess Vietnam was by 1968.

Anyone who'd been listening intently had been hearing we were about to turn the corner since 1962, at which time "the end is six months away" became a semi-annual announcement; I was pretty young, but I think you could buy greeting cards. By 1965 this was no longer tenable, and Westmoreland issued a three-year plan which was supposed to have Hanoi ready for surrender by '67, or face an all-out twelve-to-eighteen month final push if they didn't. This as US troop involvement rose from the 16,000 who were supposed to have won the war in 1964, to the half-million in theatre at the time of Tet--with Westmoreland's request for an additional 200,000 sitting on Johnson's desk. Congressional hawks like Mendel Rivers and Scoop Jackson were leaving the reservation. Small wonder that the public--and perhaps some in The Media as well--which had been fed a steady diet of body counts and an enemy on his last legs viewed a sudden series of mass offensives aimed at large cities as something less than a stirring victory for our side and something more like, well, like stalemate.

We'll leave alone the idea that crippling the "Viet Cong" meant much in the overall conduct of the war. Anybody watching Iraq, which had not been at war for fifteen years before we jumped in, knows it's fairly easy to generate an insurgency against a foreign occupier. The PAVN was still there, still pretty well equipped, still tenacious, as we'd continue to see.

The real story here is not that people lie or fantasize about Vietnam a generation later. It's that this leftover notion of WWII glory, that creating a killing machine and turning it loose in enemy territory leads to automatic victory, provided no teleprompter reader ever says anything negative about the effort, apparently will never die. Just as its proponents apparently will never learn.

Thursday, November 16

Stranger Things Have Happened

Rich Lowry, "The myths of '06", Townhall, November 15
Elections produce two things -- new elected officials and bogus conventional wisdom. Once they gain widespread circulation, erroneous beliefs about elections are difficult to reverse and can be nearly as important as who won or lost.

Okay, so right away you may be thinking what I was thinking, and I think we're both blameless. It's Rich Lowry, whose official title (I think; I didn't bother to look it up) is Some Guy at What's Left of the National Review. So we're both thinking, "Twenty-five years, not one but two "Republican Revolutions" which have produced several landfillsworth of hype and no legislation whatever that means anything, does anything, or accomplishes anything, and we're about to hear how Democrats really didn't win." But Rich is full of surprises here, perhaps befitting his position as America's Oldest Political Wunderkind.
Here are seven myths rapidly gaining acceptance among conservatives, liberals or both:

--Republican losses were in keeping with typical setbacks for a party holding the White House in the sixth year of a presidency. Conservatives reassure themselves that the "six-year itch" has cost the party in power roughly 30 seats on average since World War II, so this year's losses aren't remarkable. But as liberal blogger Kevin Drum points out, most of the big "itches" came prior to the past 20 years when gerrymandering got more sophisticated. Reagan lost only five seats in his sixth year, and Clinton gained five (although he had already suffered a wipeout in 1994). For Democrats to win 29 seats despite all the advantages of incumbency enjoyed by the GOP is a big deal.

--The conservative base, discouraged by the GOP's doctrinal impurity, didn't show up at the polls. This is the bedtime story conservatives are telling themselves to show that whatever ails the party will be cured simply by becoming more conservative. In 2004, however, conservatives were 34 percent of the electorate and liberals 21 percent. In 2006, the numbers were almost indistinguishable -- conservatives were 32 percent of the electorate and liberals 20 percent. The GOP didn't lose the election with its base, but with independents, who broke against them 57 percent to 39 percent.

Um, all right. I think we need to take that whole self-identification bit with a shaker of salt, since our elections have been close to 50/50 for some time, but, okay.
--Republicans lost because they weren't fiscally conservative enough. Another conservative illusion. A thought experiment: Which cuts in government would have, in and of themselves, increased the party's popularity?

Now, this is sorta the neck hair of your agenda peeking out over the Oxford collar of analysis, Rich. I heard plenty of complaints that Republicans weren't conservative enough, but I haven't really heard it limited to their fiscal conservatism, just their reckless spending. Which is really not a conservative issue at all, except for those of you who take "conservative" to mean "Double Super Plus Good With Chocolate Syrup", where I take it to mean "conservative", or at least it used to mean that. However, your response is acceptable, writ large: there wasn't much more fiscal conservatism to be had out there and still pay for all those wars we're winning.
--The GOP was too socially conservative for voters. This chestnut is trotted out every time Republicans lose an election. This time it is even less plausible than usual. Seven out of eight constitutional amendments banning gay marriage passed this year, often outperforming Republican candidates. That Democrats went out of their way not to antagonize social-conservative voters this year was one of the keys to their success.

South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Idaho and South Dakota. Really, that's something less than a convincing cross-section of the country, and gay marriage bans have been notoriously easy to pass. You add the homophobe vote to the This Is My Side of the Culture War vote, and throw in the general hesitation to vote for sweeping changes in the legal landscape and you're home free. Equating that with "social conservatism" is an exaggeration. The Republican party is Jes' Right for the social "conservative" end of the political spectrum, but they're much to the right of most folks here in the Heartland. Come visit, sometime, Rich. Might learn something.
--The election was a great victory for conservative and moderate Democrats. If Democratic leaders gave their candidates leeway to take socially conservative positions, this year's new crop of Democrats still isn't a departure from the party's overwhelming liberalism. A few attention-grabbing, successful Democratic House candidates, Health Shuler of North Carolina and Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, are truly conservative. But only about five of the 29 Democratic winners in the House can be considered social conservatives. They will be lonely.

Correct as to the numbers. But I suggest that the social conservatives will feel all warm an' welcomed. You don't have to support draconian, hate-filled, intolerant legislation just because you're socially conservative. As opposed to being socially "conservative".
--The election was a decisive ideological rejection of conservatism. Liberal opinion writers love this one.

Bzzzzttt! I suppose we should have expected this, but could you possibly name one? Who said it was a decisive ideological rejection of conservatism? And so far as you know, did he eat all the mushrooms, or are there still some left?
--President Bush now must give up on the Iraq War. The rebuke to Bush was unquestionably an expression of voters' frustration with the progress of the war, but they are not ready to give up yet. According to pollster Whit Ayers, less than one-third of voters favor withdrawal. A late-October New York Times poll found that 55 percent of the public favors sending more troops to Iraq, a position now endorsed by the paper's liberal editorial board. Bush still has a window to take decisive action to reverse the downward slide in Iraq.

Ah, well, back to full-bore hallucination at last. I'm glad he saved that for the end. Still, at least partial credit on five of seven, which is pretty damned impressive.

Wednesday, November 15

I Too Have A Dream

Kathy inadvertently reminds me to share my mall story with the unsuspecting.

I had to go to the Don't Miss The Fact That We're The Upscale Mall two nights ago (I'm embarrassed to admit it's just five minutes away) because Williams-Sonoma is the only place that sells canel knives. A canel knife is a zester with a single slot about the size of the sharpened end of a pencil, and you can use it to make long strips of citrus or to turn lemons and oranges into festive, edible barber-pole-looking deals. Pretty cool, and I'm always losing mine, and I need one for the holidays. So off I go, and the friggin' place is crowded, which, among the Quality, does not mean you're in danger of actually rubbing elbows with anyone. It just means there's no parking.

So I had to park way the hell away from the place, which was no real problem, but because I had to enter through an unaccustomed door I got thoroughly lost and had to wander around for ten minutes. (I don't go there often, reader, and I generally head straight for one of three stores which are all in the same general vicinity.) The goddam place covers four city blocks and it's connected in the middle by a crosswalk, and I had to find my way over that before I could get my bearings.

Anyway, the place is pumping something like eight different varieties of cheap cologne through the ventilation system, either simultaneously or on a region by region basis which amounts to the same thing. I finally stopped off and asked the concierge--yes, they have a concierge!--if they had any complimentary oxygen available. While I was at it I was gonna ask her if she'd be good enough to ring the footman and have him bring the cabriolet around to the nearest exit, but I figured that would have been lost on her, plus I honestly didn't know how much breathable air I had left.

The other thing about Snootland Mall is that the way to two of those three stores I patronize on occasion is blocked by the massive viral infection of an Abercrombie & Fitch, and if you've ever owned property in a neighborhood where one house was owned by toothless inbreds, and watched your resale value plummet on a monthly basis as more automotive parts found their permanent resting place in the front yard you have some idea how I feel every time I try to pass the place with my good humor intact. At some point they decided to light the place solely with the power indicator lights of the cash registers, and they replaced the 100 decibel crap-rock soundtrack with 110 decibel Eurotrash disco. This time through I found the windows had all been covered by enormous flat-black louvres originally designed as props for Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and the single opening to the store buffered by a six-foot Wall Street Journal gravure print of a topless ambisexual young man lit by a couple of appliance bulbs, which made it stand out like a beacon by comparison. No merchandise whatsoever visible from the outside of the store. How hip. How inside. Just you, and I, and fifty million other Americans are in on the secret merchandise A&F has for us, back there in the Dark.

So now I'm not just nauseated by the fumes and deafened by some German woman with a two-note vocal range telling me she wants me, or vants me, I've got transient global cultural vertigo as well, and I'm gonna have to pass back by that way if I ever hope to find my way out again.

I think it must have come to me in the restive sleep that followed, but it took until this morning for the plan to crystalize. I'm gonna gain about 80 pounds, like DeNiro in Raging Bull, pull on some really tight clothing, unbuttoned to the navel, a bad toupee, and some earplugs, and yell, "Do you have this in XXXXL?" and "Wow, could you tell me who's singing this? I really like it!" at all the clerks until they quit en masse. Which, by my calculations, should take about ten minutes.

Though Based On Real Events, The Following Column Is Purely Fictional

John M. Broder, "In Call for More Troops, McCain Places His Bet on Iraq", New York Times November 14
Senator John McCain is accustomed to staking out a lonely piece of ground, but on Iraq he is virtually an army of one. Nearly alone among major political figures in calling for an increase in American forces in Iraq, Mr. McCain is either taking a principled stand or a huge political gamble. Or both.

One: so what do you suppose it would take to eradicate--hell, to dent--the cherished notion of "Maverick" McCain? He's got an 83% lifetime rating from the ACU. Remind me: what, exactly, was the last limb he crawled out onto? Campaign finance reform? Pfui. Might have made him unpopular with some of the guys in the cloakroom. Talking political financial reform is not exactly going to have you ducking rotten vegetables on the campaign trail. Where, besides in the slack-jawed admiration of PR verities in the Times coverage, is it that John McCain is a maverick?

Two: principled stand or huge political gamble, or both? Oddly enough, we can answer that, provided we're willing to do a little reporting. The answer is: neither. It's a calculated bit of pandering to the GOP base that began about a year and a half ago with his call for an additional 10,000 troops, now bumped to 20,000. Neither number would change things in Iraq, but both have the benefit of being small enough that McCain can trot the numbers out while insisting no conscription program would be needed to achieve them. 10-20,000 troops sound like a drop in the bucket to a public which hasn't been paying attention and hasn't had anyone explain to it that those troops are simply not there, that we have worn out the Army's manpower and matériel equations. The public can be excused for not understanding that. New York Times political reporters, not so much. Second-ranking majority members on the Senate Armed Services Committee? Lying. See how easy that was?
The alternative, he said, is humiliation for the United States and disaster for Iraq.

“We’re paying a price for the failure of our policy in the past,” Mr. McCain said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC, “and the question, then, before the American people is, are we ready to quit? And I believe the consequences of failure are chaos in the region, which will spread.”

Oh, jeez, I hadn't thought of that. There might be chaos in the region.

So who got us there, if not John McCain? Who thought nothing about the consequences of failure beforehand?

Let's ask the question the Timesmen are too proper to ask, namely: Th' fuck? Are we supposed to believe that the Republican leadership, its most senior and respected military affairs experts, never even considered the possibility things might go other than perfectly? It's one thing to claim, however accurately, that you and the whole world believed Saddam Hussein possessed a powerful Note Somewhere on Weapons of Mass Destruction Program Event Planning Occurance. It's another to suggest that justified losing your fucking mind. How could it have not occurred to you that Americans would still be in harm's way four years later, no matter how well things went? How could it escape your field of vision that the population, and the troops, would beign to tire of losing people for longer than it took to win World War II?

Talk about humiliating.

Y'know, Senator, it's not like we just stepped off the path for one second and found ourselves in a morass. There were signs all along the way, beginning with the screw-up with Turkey before the war--avoidable, reversible, and the product of hubris alone. There was the week or more the Brits took to secure Basra, the supposed center of anti-Baathist sentiment. They were supposed to be fighting off truckloads of flowers, not an ad hoc militia, remember? Then the looting and chaos. It didn't take a genius to figure out what was going on, and it shouldn't have taken the five or six months before we started losing two or three soldiers a day before the straight-shootin' experts called for correction, certainly not until after the 2004 election was over. All you had to do was stand up on one of your weekly co-hosting gigs on Meet the Press and explained that we needed more troops, and things would have changed. But then, so too would have public perception changed. This is part of the problem, and the chaos, and the humiliation: that so many public people did nothing except look out for their own sinecures, that we dove into this thing with no debate, led by a man with no discernable abilities, cheered by a Free Press which abandoned its responsibilities as ratings anathema. We don't need a rerun of your military acumen, Senator, thanks for asking. But you are in a unique position to help explain why.

You picked the wrong horse, Johnny boy. You hopped into that beaker of warm bathwater, and now you're a boiled frog. (The irony, Mr. Maverick, is that if there's anything left that'll get you that Presidential nomination it's your ability to raise money.) Now, for godssakes, for the sake of what's left of decency and honesty and the young men and women who serve their country, give this bullshit, calculating "program" of yours up before it screws up more lives, reclaim your manhood and whatever you can find of your integrity, and get th' fuck outta the way.

Tuesday, November 14

Phony as a Lieberman Concession Speech, and Ten Times More Dangerous than a Lieberman Victory Speech

John "Maverick" McCain, Presidential candidate John McCain, holder of the Barry Goldwater Chair of Undeserved Moderate Reputation, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee--that John McCain--has staked out another claim in "maverick" land, namely, that the solution to the Iraq disaster is to send 20,000 more US troops, a move which, while of questionable value in Iraq, is likely to unleash the awe-inspiring power of the Republican base in time for primary season.

McCain knows as well as anybody that we don't have 20,000 troops to send; he has acknowledged such a move would require expanding our standing army. He has publicly stated his opposition to a draft, and suggested that the solution is to simply explain to the youth of the nation how important it is to enlist in the quagmire John McCain did nothing whatever to prevent when he had the chance.

And John McCain knows that even if the Democracy Fairy put 100,000 eager young men and women on the recruiting office doorstep this very night, it would be eighteen months before they'd be trained, assuming we could find enough trainers, and god knows where the money is coming from to equip them. John McCain knows this. And he knows their sacrifice would be utterly useless.

What many of them do not know is that they are being asked for that sacrifice to save, not the Planet, not the Middle East, not a chance for Global Peace, World-Wide Democracy, or Marshmallow Hearts, Moons, Stars, and Clover, but to save the ass of John McCain and all the other responsible elected officials who still have a hold on the public teat. That McCain held that position before the election is merely evidence that his reputation as something other than a scheming politician is a large fiction; that he holds it today, after the defeat of his party, is an affront.

It's not just about promoting delusional and dangerous positions to curry favor with a needed voting bloc. It's about the fact that the people telling the truth about Iraq (notably the maligned John Murtha) are not capable of calling him on this bullshit because to do so would threaten national security in a way that debating our proper passage out of this mess would not. Open discussion of the deplorable state of our military is unthinkable; as such, vote pandering which takes advantage of that fact trades temporal advantage for continued trivialization of our most serious problem. McCain has chosen to work the issue for personal gain, and that ought to be common. knowledge.

Sunday, November 12

Saturday, November 11

Happy Birthday

Daisy Lee Gaston Bates
November 11, 1914--November 4, 1999

Load, Meet Pants

Jonah: "Blame the Politicians, Not the Ideology," Wherever, Nov. 9
Through its own crapulence, jobbery, and malfeasance, the Grand Old Party lost the House of Representatives, the jewel of the Republican revolution, the engine of conservative policy reform and home to the much-maligned freedom fries.

Okay, I'm a fair man. The freedom fries line is pretty good. Assuming he meant it as a joke, which I'm not 100% convinced of.

But the rest is even funnier: "engine of conservative policy reform"?? That amounts to (I've been keeping score): tax cuts, tax cuts, more tax cuts, additional tax cuts, supplimental tax cuts, pork, pork, pork, pork rinds, corruption, giveaways, and a biennial flag-burning amendment with no chance of passing. Someone will have to tell me how this constitutes policy reform. Someone other than Jonah, I mean.

Because, as much as I'd love to saddle American "conservatism" with him, Jonah Goldberg is not an ideologue. He's a performing magpie.

It's certainly possible to make his argument. In fact, it's hard to dispute it, seeing as how the electorate understands ideology about as well as it does foreign languages or world history. American elections are the Pepsi challenge, but without the impartial judging. Which means that the "Republican revolution" is as much a crock as any claims of ideological sea-change from the 2006 midterms.

So that's the deal. As of Thursday, January 4, 2007, either acknowledge it's a new day, or stop talking about the Reagan and Gingrich Revolutions, both of which "became a thumbs up or thumbs down on one man", whatever that's supposed to mean.
The GOP once had the reputation of being able to run government like a business and wars like a finely tuned machine.

The locus of this reputation being...where? Between yo' mama's ears?
But under compassionate conservatism, government became a faith-based charity.

"Under compassionate conservatism?" When was that? What the fug is "government became a faith-based charity" supposed to mean?
As for the war(s), the finely tuned machine is now clogged with Iraqi sand. The Democrats think the only solution is to "redeploy" the whole kit and caboodle out of there for repairs. To Bush's credit, he understands that wars, particularly this one, need to be won. But, alas, the Democrats won the argument at the polls.

What the hell am I doing here? Didn't I leave my drink right there a minute ago? Do you think it ever, ever occurs to Jonah just how stupid his arguments would sound even if they were presented by someone halfway intelligent?

Look, there are people in my (default) party who think I and other hippies ruined it by voting for McGovern, and I think they ruined it running and hiding from an imaginary Revolution. That's what losing does to you. But far more cutting has been what winning did to the Republican party which, since making minor gains post-Goldwater in the 1966 midterms has produced two generations that believe they're right 100% of the time, and that any and all objections to their plans are the result of perversity. Their only complaints about Bush over the past two years--until it became increasingly obvious that a major defeat was looming--concerned Harriet Miers and the Dubai port deal, and those were accompanied by howls. Meanwhile, the few Rightists who left the farm on Iraq continued to insist they'd been right all along, merely done in by poor execution.

I think the former is preferable. It may not be the best way to win elections, but wandering in the desert is philosophically a lot more healthy than walking around muttering to yourself. You may manage to put the Raw Meat Coalition back together again, though I doubt it, but if so it will be just to commit the same mistakes all over again until the whole thing's unrecoverable.

For chrissakes, you've got major idiots like Limbaugh and Hewitt claiming, now, that they've been covering up for the GOP for the past few years. The voters dumped the pols for you. It's time for you to dump morons like Rush and Hugh.
Now, let's get back to the important business of pointing fingers and assigning blame.

Let's. Bill Clinton? Is it Bill Clinton?
Conservatives have been sharpening their bayonets for months, waiting to inaugurate the first great intramural bloodletting of the new millennium. Libertarian types think the fault lies in too much social conservatism. Social conservatives see too much worldliness. Both see too much compromise, while moderates, squishes, and other RINOs (Republicans in name only) see too little. Realists and isolationists see too much war. Neoconservatives and other hawks see, if not too little war, certainly too little commitment to do everything it takes to win the ones we're in.

The only explanation for Jonah being able to type that last sentence without his head exploding is, simply, that his head is not involved in the typing process.

Republicans keep insisting there is all this diversity in the party, but if that's so how come Jonah can only really come up with two? Okay, three if you acknowledge there are moderates worthy of the name in the Republican party, and not just some Republicans whose desire to dominate the universe in the name of Exxon Mobil or the Lord Jesus is something less than all consuming. Outside the odd, and suddenly endangered, Northeast Liberal Republican, and the shape-shifting Governor of Califor...excuse me a minute...


...I'm not sure exactly who's supposed to be representing moderate Republicans, or who qualifies as a RINO, what distinguishes them from moderates, or what sized closet you'd need to house a national squishee convention. I'm sure there are people who vote GOP who fit the bill, and some who blog, but there sure aren't any forming any part of this "debate", which so far seems to involve blaming Democrats.
Of all these arguments, the only two you are likely to hear ad nauseam are: too much social conservatism and too much war.

Why? Because that's the view of the liberal establishment that for 40 years has been arguing that if only conservatives were more liberal they'd be more successful, even as the conservative movement has been the most successful political enterprise of the last half-century.

2006-50=1956. Hmmm. By what measure, other than for whom the greatest number of public airports and unnecessary aircraft carriers have been named, is this true? It's seven or eight Republican presidencies, depending on exactly when you want to start counting, and five Democratic, but if you give 2000 to the man who got the votes it's a dead heat. And Nixon, aside from his paranoid hatred of everyone else on the planet, wouldn't qualify as much more than a RINO these days. It's twelve years of Republican rule in the Congress (oh, sorry, too soon to remind you of that?) but I'd even be willing to grant another ten of effective "conservative" control; still a dead heat. Let's let the "conservatives" break the tie. They've been complaining about how liberal everything is for the past twenty-five years, so I guess "most successful" goes Left.

1956. The second year of the Montgomery bus boycott. The year the last French soldier left Vietnam, and the year the US blocked the Geneva-mandated national elections because our side was going to lose. You couldn't get an abortion even if you were raped, and your husband, even if legally separated from you, could force you to have sexual relations. Loving v. Virginia, which overturned the ban on interracial marriage, was 11 years away. It was not advisable in much of the country to even suggest interracial romance in public. Emmett Till could have explained that to you, but he wasn't talking any more.

Lady Chatterley's Lover, Fanny Hill, and Tropic of Cancer were contraband. The third degree was still practiced in many police stations across the country, and a confession obtained that way could be used against you even if you'd been denied access to a lawyer, or, for that matter, food or sleep. Elvis' hips were subject to blackout. The names of Dalton Trumbo and Albert Maltz had been removed from movies they wrote because they might or might not have had Communist sympathies twenty years earlier and refused to reveal them to Congressional witch hunters. The Senate investigation on the all-important link between comic books and juvenile delinquency had been completed less than a year before. The Tuskegee Experiment was in the 24th year of its 40 year run; this was nine years after penicillin had become the standard treatment for syphilis. Had you, Jonah Goldberg, attended my public elementary school in those days you would have been required to recite the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of the school day.

But then I guess all those changes all small potatoes compared to the reduction of effective tax rates and the insertion of "Under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, huh? What a half-century it's been. How the hell could voters have failed to realize that?

Friday, November 10

And Again, And Again...

But at least we're mixin' up our mixed analogies. Neo-neocon, of the “I Used to Be a Liberal But After 9/11 I’m Outraged by Chappaquiddick™" contingent:
And then there's the phrase "catastrophic circumstances in Iraq." The [San Francisco] Chronicle takes it as a given that the situation in Iraq warrants that particular adjective rather than one a bit less--well, less catastrophic. I'd hate to have seen how the current-day writers and editors of a paper such as the Chronicle would have dealt with the early years of World War II, or the Civil War, or any number of other conflicts. Fortunately, they weren't around then.

Lordy, is there some chance you're talking about the Deep South press? Because the Northern papers (and the Border States') were all over the map, advocating anything from Total War to letting the South secede, so much so that Lincoln shut down 300 of them for opposition to the war. Is that the sort of dealing you had it mind?

WWII, of course, is the great exception to the rule of contentious debate and opposition to military involvement which was somehow erased in its wake, but that exception is only general and sometimes overstated. The American public believed in that War (still does), believed (somewhat erroneously) that we had been the victims of a sneak attack; yet the finger-pointing and blame apportionment after Pearl went on for months, and in public. FDR himself ordered that the military news not be sugarcoated. You might want to check out the work of Ernie Pyle or Bill Mauldin.

As for today, we might remind you that the start of our little Iraq adventure was met with an across-the-board spasm of rah-rah that would have made Hearst blush, despite the fact that much, if not most, of the population was at minimum somewhat opposed to the timing of the war, despite having been bilked by Judy Miller's Three Column Monte routine. Or that had we had a clear and honest debate before the war, assuming such a thing is possible, you and your President wouldn't be trying to get out of that hole by digging up.

I Can Keep This Up As Long As Y'all Can

Victor Davis Hanson, "Don't Blame Rumsfeld!", Da Corner
I don't see how removing the Secretary of Defense helps either the country or the Republicans, especially given the pre-election vote of confidence in his full tenure. He was on the right track reforming the military; the removal of the Taliban and the three-week victory over Saddam were inspired.

So we are down to his supposed responsibility for the later effort to stop the 3-year plus insurgency, whose denouement is not yet known. Rumsfeld's supposed error that drew such ire was troop levels, i.e., that he did not wish to repeat a huge presence in the manner of Vietnam, but sought to skip the 1964-1971 era morass, and go directly to the 1972-5 Vietnamization strategy of training troops, providing aid, and using air power.

Y'know, for a bunch for whom any comparison of a certain SE Asian nation with our glorious Iraq adventure was tantamount to treason just four years ago, the Right sure keeps bringing the subject up these days. Hanson, here, is somewhat less disingenuous than the rest, maybe because of that part-time gig as a military historian, albeit one whose primary goal these days seems to be finding moral lessons for children among history's carnage. So this time we will lead off by not even mentioning that Professor Hanson passed up his opportunity to get his military history first-hand; in the long run his pursuit of an advanced classics degree just made Vietnam that much more meaningful for the rest of us.

We can't really argue directly with what little is actually said about Vietnam above. Okay, Nixon's so-called Vietnamization was supposed to be the policy we were pursuing all along, but that's small beer. Instead it's the interesting mirror-reversal at work here: Rumsfeld is defended as having sidestepped the "Morass Phase" of Vietnam, except he does so in a war he and all the other war buffs kept telling us was nothing like Vietnam. (Reminiscent of Our President's renewed effort to get Congressional approval for actions he claims don't require it.)

As I've said once or twice before, the "Rumsfeld Doctrine" stuff is just bunkum. We went into Iraq with 150,000 troops because that was all we could muster without a draft, a massive reorganization of existing military obligations, and/or an Afghanistan-style international alliance, and any one of those would have required a delay of at least a year. And that delay a) would have demonstrated that Iraq was no threat, nuclear or otherwise; b) would have allowed the hated Europeans to broker a peace that did not give George W. his chance to out-manhood his Daddy; and c) did not fit in with the reelection scheme, which is how this thing began life in or around the summer of 1999. A draft would have taken about 18 months, plus it might have been so enormously unpopular as to stop the war in its tracks altogether. A large international force might have been assembled for fall of 2003, but these guys weren't really interested in coalition building, since the base is still feeding off the Birch Society anti-UN paranoia, as anyone who might have casually mentioned an international coalition in their hearing back in '02 can attest.

So spare us the "remarkable three-week victory over Saddam" bit. That was the world's only superpower scraping up the rusting remnants of a once fifth-rate power. It's like saying Hitler deserves credit for making such short work of the Poles, if only his later actions hadn't hit a minor snag a little farther to the east.

That occupation, or failure to even have a plan in place to conduct one, is Rumsfeld's legacy in Iraq. The actual battle, such as it was, we'd been wargaming for twenty years. Let's remember that an insurgency is not exactly an unknown tactic sprung on us for the first time. This was precisely one of two potential threats (other than there actually being WMDs) any military historian could have foreseen: an insurgency using small arms and improvised weapons, or turning Baghdad into Little Stalingrad. And let's not forget what Rummy said about the nascent insurgency at the time: "[A] mixture of a small number of terrorists, a small number of militias, coupled with some demonstrations and some lawlessness." None of which the Pentagon was prepared to deal with.

And it's not just because we went to war on the cheap and in a hurry. Army commanders reported being unable to plan even the basic make-up of postwar units because the Pentagon offered no direction, and because bad news got put on hold for months at a time in hopes that something would turn up and magically turn things around. That is not entirely Rumsfeld's doing--you can lump Cheney, Rice, Perle, and Feith, and the President, assuming he was paying any attention, right in there with him--but the Pentagon was responsible for day-to-day operations. And they were less than a failure. They were criminal.

One more thing--you'd think a military historian might have, by this point, tumbled onto some of this. Maybe realized that the latest episode of Jim Baker pulls his old boss' kid's nuts out of the fire again includes actually talking with commanders in Iraq and finding out just how badly the civilian leadership has screwed up. For the life of me I can't figure out who guys like Hanson think they're hiding the truth from anymore, unless it's themselves.

Thursday, November 9


• Jesus Christ, I hate phony events like the Rumsfeld resignation. Especially when local news is doing man-in-the-street interviews so we can get what are termed, for want of a better word, Hoosier's "thoughts". It's all eggnog. People are drinking the stuff because the calendar tells them to, but that doesn't mean they have palates, and they don't, and there's no reason I should care about their opinions. Their opposition to the war now is as facile as their support for it was forty-four months ago, and getting their opinion about the "significance" of this "news" is just a way of saying, "Boy, this sure is some big change, huh?" when it's nothing of the sort. It's like getting all excited because they designed a new label for Cheetos.

• Candy Crowley's real name is Magda. So she was named after the least-talented Gabor sister. The "Candy" business, I guess, came about when a producer saw her audition tape and realized she ought to be working under a porn name.

• From today's Times:

Robert Gates, a Player From a Past Bush Team


Robert M. Gates is a throwback to an era in foreign policy marked by caution and pragmatism.

And swapping drugs for arms. But unless he's got a time machine I'm pretty sure we're still gonna be in Iraq tomorrow.

News Analysis: Rumsfeld Did Not Change With the Times

There are so many directions you could go with this I'm almost sorry I couldn't be bothered to read it. Example: maybe he was too busy watching tapes of the two-year blowjob he received from the press.

Cui bono, Republican division? It's too early to tell, but my gut instinct is it's Rudy, who gets the religious nuts off his back somewhat. But it could be exactly the opposite. The religious right saw '08 as their year, their last big chance to seize the Republican nomination before their power waned, but now they're completely demoralized. Will that make them come back even stronger, though? These are the people who vote in the primaries. So it either helps Giuliani or it hurts him. You don't get that kind of analysis just anywhere. Not for free.

• This is why someone should be telling professional chuckleheads like Joe Scarborough to nix the "Bush failed because he wasn't conservative enough" routine. The President is beyond redemption under any circumstances, and finding someone even crazier than he is not exactly the ticket back to the Big Time.

• And, I'm not buying the "evangelicals switched to the Democratic party" exit poll crapola. More liberal evangelicals voted. The whole thing is a reminder of how "religious" has supposedly meant "Republican" for the last twenty-five years, when it doesn't. Although that's one mischaracterization of Christianity the nuts never seem to complain about.

• Oh, and I hope you got the opportunity to see Jerry Falwell--whose presence is desperately needed on one of those Fat Celebrity shows--respond "Never heard of him," when asked about Ted Haggard.

• God knows I love Digby, and he/she writes some of the sharpest analysis around, but:
As Perlstein's piece shows, this new group of energized progressives are not children, 60's hippies or fools.

coming on top of three straight days of Vietnam rewrites gave me an acid flashback. Okay, maybe it's a throwaway, or maybe it's more of this "George McGovern ruined my party before I got to it" revisionism, but please. I'm just a Midwest suburban punk who was still too young to drive when the 60s ended, but I did actually lay eyes on some who were not ordering up lifestyle choices from Relix magazine or caught in a time warp, which puts me one up. The hippies I knew were apolitical, except maybe where it came to their local Selective Service board. Most were sort of instinctual left-libertarians. If, instead, you intend that as a rubric for the thousands of young people in the 60s who marched for civil rights, facing certain harassment and often much worse, or who took to the streets to stop an unjust war, instead of typing up their objections, and you're doing it to aggrandize a few keyboard commandos who happen to raise money for political candidates they like, well, shame on you. The people who screwed up the Democratic party were the pragmatists and the poll watchers who ran and hid from Reagan's Great Communicating. You can look it up.

• I think the interesting post-election question is how the lapdog media deals with it. Does McCain still go on The Timmy Show every other week? Have I already answered my own question?

Wednesday, November 8

One Whoop. Medium.

I wasn't expected to join in the general merriment, was I?


Don't get me wrong. I'm glad Indiana contributed three new House members, because it shows what I think I started off trying to say with this blog after the 2004 debacle--that there is still a core of reasonableness in what was written off as perpetual Red State flyover country. It would have been nice to see a more general Throw The Bums Out sentiment torch one of our entrenched Republican districts where the hope that blastocyst Hoosiers will once again be able to pray in public schools trumps all concern over Hoosiers of the actually breathing persuasion.

And this is not to say anything at all about the Democrats' record of accomplishment over the past thirty years as the party which shot its two presidents in the foot and managed, without Joe Lieberman, to hand Ronald Reagan legislative victory after legislative victory. It's too late now to wonder whether the Democrats will behave aggressively in the face of six years of Congressional muggings, and it's been too late to wonder that for so long that it's not even an issue. The Democrats will be the Democrats. That's it. It has to be enough at this point that the thugs who ran the place for the last decade won't be running it come January, or that the Senate might at least start to become a deliberative body again.

Ask the football Eagles of Philadelphia, PA. Ridding yourself of a troublemaker only after he is universally condemned is not the same thing as winning championships. The problem has gone on too long and has become too deeply rooted. Democrats did not fight back against Reagan, and they lost an entire generation. Our public debate has become fatuous, our public men first intellectually dishonest then every other kind of dishonest. Our courts are politicized and our ballot boxes are untrustworthy. The simple understanding of checks and balances most of us mastered by the fifth grade has been turned inside out. We won the Cold War so we could set up our own gulags.

Candy Crowley is still doing election commentary on CNN. I'd like to know how Nancy Pelosi plans to fix that.

Tuesday, November 7

Who Asked For It?

R. Porrofatto:
doghouse, I suggest, for your own well-being, that you stay away from the Orson Scott Card piece that's fouling the air presently. It's a kitchen sink of crapola—he even throws in the "Congress lost the Vietnam war" turd. It would be like bungee-jumping without the big rubber band.

Well, I already had, via Roy, where, basking in his hospitality we spoke of Card's spirited efforts at protecting the War on Terra™ brand name, and had a great time as a couple of readers of Card's other fictional output noted the distinction between his sci-fi platitudes and his terrestrial Kill Everybody Who's Not Like Me ethos. This is the wonderful thing about the Internets. Other people read science fiction, so I don't have to.

But let's begin right where much of our current mess began, namely You Know Where:
You know: If America withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan and exposed everyone who had cooperated with us to reprisals.

As happened in South Vietnam. The negotiated peace was more or less holding after American withdrawal. But then a Democratic Congress refused to authorize any further support for the South Vietnamese government. No more armaments. No more budget.

In other words, we forcibly disarmed our allies, while their enemies continued to be supplied by the great Communist powers.

Misstatements about Vietnam and American involvement there ought always to be corrected when they're used as political darts, and, as always, we remind readers of our simple, if somewhat biased rule: if you served, or were exempt from service, during the war you are entitled to give free rein to your opinions provided you respect others who served. If, like Orson Scott Card, you did not avail yourself at the time of your opportunity to personally join in a cause you now believe was righteous you may proceed without reference to that fact only so long as you display a reasonable understanding of the history. "Reasonable" does not include any reference to the Congress, the Liberal New York Times, or your fellow citizens letting you down by being insufficiently willing to spend other people's blood. And what you, dear reader, are probably thinking now is correct. There is an as yet unexplained force in the universe which seems to prevent this from ever occuring.

The negotiated peace...

Rule #1 in poker: if you've got a tell, try to hide it at least beyond the first three words out of your mouth.

No one, or no one outside the era's Nobel Peace Prize committee, actually imagined the Paris accords were anything other than Nixon's minimal conditions for getting his ass out of there, toute suite. We essentially had to waterboard Thieu to get him to agree. Even at a time when people were accustomed to disbelieve anything coming from Authority those "peace accords" were the Comedy Hit of the Year.

was more or less holding after American withdrawal.

At this point the people of "North" Vietnam--we're basically the only nation on the globe which recognized two Vietnams--had been at war for thirty five years. They could not be absolutely certain the Americans had actually left. And the accords called for democratic elections in the South and eventual reunification. Thieu's dedication to that agreement was, shall we say, called into question. That is to say the accords were never going to hold for longer than it took the North to figure: a) it was rested and refit; b) the US was not going to return; and c) there wasn't going to be a reunification otherwise.

But then a Democratic Congress refused to authorize any further support for the South Vietnamese government.

That Congress--both Democratic and democratic, since the public that elected it was long since sick of a war it had been told for ten years was six months from victory--cut aid to South Vietnam by about 30%, from $1 billion to 700 million, for fiscal 1975.

God only knows--certainly no American taxpayer knows, to this day--how much of our military and economic aid money wound up in somebody's Swiss bank account, but by unanimous agreement the amount is substantial.

No more armaments. No more budget.

In other words, we forcibly disarmed our allies,

Not "no more", per above, and South Vietnam already looked like a military warehouse with no lock on the door. We'd armed them beyond their wildest imaginings, and kept it up for a quarter century, if you count our bankrolling the French. Were they ever supposed to fight on their own? We'd been promising that since 1962.

while their enemies continued to be supplied by the great Communist powers.

Just for the record: the Vietnamese were supplied by one foreign power, the USSR. China permitted the supplies to move through its territory. The Chinese and the Vietnamese were, and are, suspicious of each other.

What, exactly, does Mr. Card want here? A blank check, same as he demands for the War on Terra? No public input, no Congressional oversight; some bozo who manages to get elected President despite the fact that most people don't like or trust him can commit us to such an exercise in perpetuity, whether or not it's efficacious? Pfui.

The message was clear: Those who rely on America are fools. We didn't even have the decency to arrange for the evacuation of the people who had trusted us and risked the most in supporting what they thought was our mutual cause.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean or from whence it comes. We spent $40 million on rescue operations, including (the numbers are a bit sketchy, as might be imagined) something like 40,000 people rescued by plane, 140,000 rescued by naval operations, and 40,000 homeless infants airlifted.

Disaster? Of course, but that disaster didn't begin when "Congress cut off funds." It began when we decided to prop up the French colonialists, including footing 75% of the cost of French military efforts to reestablish their claim over the Indochinese who had bravely fought the Japanese for five years while the French capitulated. Or take it back to the 19th century, to the Europeans who sought to convert all those poor heathens to Roman Catholicism if you'd rather. That's who the so-called South Vietnamese were--the converted petty officials and servants of the French ruling class. That's who made the decisions than ended in 360,000 American casualties. Send a little vitriol their way, why doncha?

Monday, November 6

Look, the Very Concept of the Borat-Speak Headline Died Before You Were Born

Will You See His Movie-Film? (Washington Post)

'Borat' Makes Big One at Box Office (LA Times)

'Borat' Make Glorious Entrance at Box Office (CNN)

Is Very Nice! (Winnipeg Sun)

Borat make sexy-time dress-up in L.A.! (New York Times Magazine)