Friday, February 27

Ex-tee, Ex-tree!

SAFARI 4 in beta (Windows or Mac). A page with up to twenty-four thumbnails of your favorite sites, or, in this case, mine. That cover flow, flipping-through-your-album-collection thing for your browsing history. Support for CSS 3 customizable fonts and other stuff I'm too lazy to ever learn. And apparently bitchin' fast, though you shouldn't go by me; I'm just attracted to bright shiny objects. And allow me to say again: it's in beta. I didn't say "OMG download it".

Interesting juxtaposition at Roy's, where successive posts find Rod Dreher, bedeviled by Dirty Hippies, 60s Division; CPAC attendees and commentators, bedeviled by the Librul Media; and Professor Reynolds, bedeviled by free enterprise, as personified by the Rocky Mountain News, R.I.P.

As usual, the interest is not in hearing what these people have to say but in charting which direction their melted brains are flowing this week.

Let's say that should we have unexpectedly acquired the habit of brevity overnight we'd note here that Phil Gramm was right about the nation of whiners, and merely wrong in the direction he was pointing, and leave it at that. The slow and painful revelation that Every Goddam Thing the American Right imagined it controlled under license from God--the world's most powerful war machine, its mightiest economy, the political debate in this country--has crumbled under their exclusive control has got to be like a kind of ceaseless ticking in the skull one ignores until one morning's application of Rogaine reveals the sagittal suture is now a half-inch gap with the consistency of Jell-O.

Or a Christian Scientist finding a lump. Y'know, it's interesting that the same sorta thing appears to be happening with newspapers, which now want us to remember their reporting, and expect us to forget the twenty years we begged them to do some, in vain, as they explained to us, because Tabloid was the new business model. And half a generation later, as if by magic, people who want tabloid trash can pick it up easier, more attractively, and in a more timely fashion anywhere, almost everywhere, and people who remember what newspapers used to be for are now rapidly exciting the last demographic they'll occupy where advertisers give a shit for 'em. This, by the way, is called a Business Model, and it's telling that such things cannot be crafted without involving Golf.

Look: I'm a goddam radical anarcho-leftist moderate. Not only do I not expect to win elections; I don't ever expect to get a fair hearing on cable news. Hell, the day you see Noam Chomsky on the tube, without the thing being expressly designed to make him apologize for Ward Churchill, you'll know we're really fucked. It is, frankly, the one position which offers the proper viewing angle to become aware that winning elections are about the second worst thing that can happen to you. Now, it may very well be that, having lost the one election that ever mattered to me (in a positive, not the Oh Christ Not Him sense), in 1972, to what proved to be (not exactly a surprise!) the Most Disgraceful Occupant of the Office in Modern Times with the Exception of Those who had Ant Farms in Place of Brains, and having been, as a result, excommunicated from the Democratic party for my effrontery in voting for its candidate, that I am in effect committing the same error as the Triumphalist Reagantots in reverse. Except that, again, Real Life, so studiously avoided by the right-wing pundit class as untidy, unprofitable, odorous, and bristling with disturbing genres of sexual penetration, teaches us the same lessons, as when we drive a vehicle, defrost a refrigerator, or avoid alimony nurture a lifetime of True Love and Togetherness: being fucking convinced that your tiniest cerebral event is unerring, that any evidence to the contrary is the result of massive conspiracies, possibly Marxist, Mormon, or Masonic, and that despite this, and any number of contrary examples, believing Everyone actually agrees with you, leads, almost inevitably, to immediate loss of steering control, expensive perishable foodstuffs, or Congress.

So maybe it's just too easy for me, but then maybe it's time you fuckers tried shutting the fuck up for awhile. Maybe just consider, for once, what being the party that behaves like a drunken high school jock whose girl was just asked out by an AV nerd has gotten you. In the 80s, like newspapers and teevee news, you doubled down on what you thought was a sure thing. That was a mistake. Not believing the results when they slap you in the face? That's psychosis. There's gotta be enough money in the coffers to buy Not Joe the Non Plumber a case of Crown Royal and a condo in a singles complex in Boise in exchange for his never speaking in public again. Tell Boehner you'll run Not Joe against him in the primaries if he doesn't shut up for the next six months. If you can't meet Palin's new asking price--or if Piyush Herbert Walker Jindal just blew up in your faces--well, shit; I don't have all the answers. But, look, maybe you'll get a few votes in gratitude for the intervening silence. It couldn't hurt.

Thursday, February 26

In Other News, Larry Craig: Still Not Gay

Racist Star, as always, no links to ephemera:

Prison teacher says he forgot about gun

Posted: February 26, 2009

Authorities in northern Indiana said a gun was confiscated Tuesday from a West Lafayette man who teaches classes at the Westville Correctional Facility.

No charges have been filed, but an investigation is continuing into the actions of Jeffrey Grupp, who serves as a limited term lecturer at the Purdue University North Central campus in Westville and teaches classes at the prison.

Grupp was stopped from entering the prison shortly after noon Tuesday when an X-ray screening of a milk crate of books he brought with him showed a gun in a hollowed-out book.

"I'm a gun owner. It's one of my two big hobbies in life. I have a permit and I carry (the gun) with me all the time," said Grupp, who explained that he had been running a number of errands Tuesday morning and made an expensive car repair payment before heading to the prison for the class.

"I was very stressed out. I have to keep the gun concealed. What I do is keep it inside a book.

"I usually remember to separate it and I forgot. I came home and ran inside, got my lunch, got some of my books and forgot it was in there. They questioned me for about four hours. The gun was bought legally. I have no criminal record."

O-KEE, so one could argue, if one were feeling charitable, that he would have known the books would be x-rayed. And the syntactically beneficent may attribute his confabulating like a five-year-old caught exposing himself at Recess to that "stressed out" business.

Me? I own two guns, as it happens, though it's not a big hobby, nor a hobby of any size; I can't discourse on ammo, I've never shot at anything but a target, bullseye- not man-shaped, and I don't own or carry either of them for "protection", not even when braving the highwaymen-infested by-roads of Indiana's glacier-flattened Badlands. And if I did they wouldn't be hidden in a hollowed-out Volume 12 (Paricutin to Quicksand) of The Golden Book Encyclopedia ("My wallet and car keys? Sure, just gimme a sec to look something up.").

Haven't touched either one of 'em since the last time I cleaned 'em, which was probably too long ago.

But, y'know what? I fucking know where they are.

Look, after forty years of the NRA telling us we "have enough gun laws on the books", and after the "Supreme" Court has ruled that there never was any controversy over the Second Amendment, can't we at least find a way to make "Armed While Stupid" something more than just an invitation to appear on a reality program?

Wednesday, February 25

What, Having The Stench Of Death Follow You Everywhere Isn't Enough Like War For You?

William "Too Young For Vietnam, Too Old To Think Coherently" Kristol, "Not a War President". February 24

James W. Ceaser, "Alive and Kicking: Reports of conservatism's demise have been greatly exaggerated". February 25

SO far as I know, The Washington Post Company, or whoever cuts the checks, has agreed to pay Col. Kristol for that piece, or "piece" on the Obama speech, despite the fact that the headline somehow manages to say more than the Colonel does, and with more rhetorical skill. Seriously. Read the damn thing if you like; it's 350 words and dull as a second-grader's scissors.

And yet one imagines they're standing around the doughnut box this AM bemoaning the slow financial strangulation of News Gathering Organizations Too Ugly For Television. I know--we could start charging for internet content!

Too often lost in the bridge collapse, subsequent trainwreck, flash flood which suddenly swept the locomotive and several trailing cars downsteam and over the falls, skidding up the bank to slam into the Orphans' Hospital, where the overturned coal stove ignited a fire that consumed everything fine and decent about the country which is Col. Kristol's accumulated body of public utterances is the abiding idea that he represents some sort of vital portion of the public debate we'd be the poorer for not finding in every newspaper in the country, or on its own cable network. As opposed to what he is, which is someone who is inerrantly wrong about shit while acting as a paid shill for Well-Born Idiots, which, seeing as how that seems to be the one thing he's qualified to be, he'd likely do for free. I was pondering that when the idea struck me to flip over to Bill Kristol's Fun Day Book of Games and Stories for Corporate Catamites The Weekly Standard to see if anybody there had something to say that might be worth hearing. For the fortieth time, I mean.

Here's something I'd forgotten, if I ever knew it: the link to the Author's Archive at the Standard is entitled "Other Stories By...." And they say "conservatives" have no sense of humor.

Once there my eye was naturally drawn to Professor Ceaser's story. (He's a professor of Politics at the University of Virginia--I've been estranged from academia a long time: does the entire field eschew "science" now? Or does the School at U of V delve into other areas, say the Theory and Practice of Office Politics, or senior seminars in Student Council Elections: Just Popularity Contests?--and may I say it's refreshing to read a man of letters with thirty years in academia, who hasn't lost the common touch of excessive use of scare quotes?) For one thing, I wanted to know why, if "Conservatism" isn't dead, it's had the same answering machine message for forty years. And, two, I can never resist the incontinent application of that old Mark Twain "greatly exaggerated" bit. Never gets old.

Alas, Professor Ceaser didn't seem interested in explaining to me why such reports could be labeled exaggerations; apparently I, Weekly Standard reader, was presumed to already possess that key bit of information from the lively Burke Weekend just past. Instead he meant me to witness a line-up of the Damned Exaggerators themselves, in whose honor I presumably had brought my own shootin' iron along:
In the rare moments that public intellectuals have not been extolling President Obama's supposed new philosophy of pragmatism, they have turned their efforts to writing requiems for conservatism. These contributions offer variations on the same theme. The conservative movement is dead or dying, the victim of its own theoretical errors. Not mistakes of political leaders, nor the occurrence of unfortunate events, nor even the inevitable grievances that accumulate with holding office, are to blame. The root cause of the death of conservatism lies in the realm of ideas, and conservatives today have earned the just deserts of a defective philosophy.

The "end of conservatism" genre made its appearance just after the election, in the full flush of Obama's victory. Despite ritual claims of intellectuals to their independence of judgment, the general reaction of most of them showed how greatly they stood in awe of the voice of the majority, at least where that majority could be depicted--as it universally was in 2008--as representing the progressive wave of the future. With the moral weight of the public behind them, it was time to pronounce final judgment on what had been the dominant governing coalition of a whole era.

It's all a Liberal Elitist Obama-worshipping plot! Gee, there's a take we haven't heard before.

Reader, imagine yourself a middle-aged Midwesterner whose coffee addiction and grapefruit-sized prostate fortuitously combine to get him up off his office chair every fifteen minutes, max, or else his surgically-repaired knee would lock into place. And suppose that you have adopted, with a reasonable amount of intellectual rigor given your predisposition to indolence, what might be termed a "left-of-center" view of the history and current international activity of your own country. Oh, you're not immune to its Good Points your Rightist opponents are always going on about: its commitment to the exercise of Bronze Age superstition, free of any tax burden; its solid record of defending Free Speech Within Reason, for a large portion of its history, even expanding that to include owning all the fucking television and radio stations in the country, the better to get your message across; the unfettered capitalism ushered in by its Civil War profiteers, now so hallowed as to be imagined it began with its inception, which has provided mostly regular work in good times for its free citizens, and a never-ending backlog for both its own immigrants and the otherwise unemployable children of various other countries. You share the pride in being part of a country which has been brave enough to stare the enormities of enslavement and destruction of its Native Peoples by its White Christian European "Founders", and their subsequent importation of unemployed Africans to perform some field chores, straight in the face and say, "Let's put these people on a stamp!" You frankly get choked up every time you study the remarkable sacrifices American men and women made fighting for others' freedom in World War II, in every theatre of that war. Though you can't seem to remember the name of the Goddamn Socialist Pinko who was President at the time. You bask in the warm glow of her consumer electronics, the wide-ranging nightly salute to the lively arts on her teevee screens, and the astonishing selection of fresh, frequently pathogen-free foodstuffs in her groceries and supermarkets.

No, you're no bomb thrower, Dear Reader, or anything else so radical and physically demanding. But for your entire adult life the one major party candidate for President you supported with more than 80% certainty, and not just because his opponent was A Scum-Sucking Toad, a War Hero and prairie populist has, for pretty much that entire lifetime, been portrayed, even by the great majority of the inheritors of his own party, as a sort of American Trotsky served in Neville Chamberlain's bowler with a Quisling garnish. You have, during that same stretch, seen America's shameful history of attempted post-War reconstruction of Colonialism in Indochina, and subsequent defeat, turned into a sacred crusade for Freedom from Tyranny Provided The Country Was Small Enough To Invade, stabbed in the back at the moment of Victory by Walter Cronkite. You watched with something approaching frank disbelief as a second-rate ham actor with brain bubbles, ensconced at the head of a party of Western train robbers and impenitent former slave owners quadrupled the National Debt while being hailed as the Great Savior of small government. Of the--difficult as it is to imagine--decided downturn events have taken from there in the last fifteen years, or the happy-talk, issues-free, "social" "conservative" pandering in the nation's mass-market media which helped drive them, I feel comfortable in leaving you as judge. Tax cuts Flag burning Partial birth Tax cuts 9/11 Death tax Teri Schiavo What "is" is.

So let me ask you, then: how exactly do you react, Dear Impersonator of Someone My Height, when you read from a professor of politics, that E. J. Effing Dionne and his Commie ilk have once again murdered Edmund Burke out of sheer spite? Oh, and Obama worship. There's that little critique they're hiding from you at play, too.

How 'bout this: Professor, if fucks like Bill Kristol weren't demonstrably wrong nearly every time they open their mouths, it's a good bet we'd never hear any side but yours at all.

Tuesday, February 24

You're Sitting Down, Right?

OKAY, I can't be the first to point this out, but:

Return per dollar of Federal tax burden Fiscal 2005 for the rumored Stimulus refusniks:

Mississippi $2.02

Louisiana $1.85

Alaska $1.83

Idaho $1.19

Oklahoma $1.35

Montana $1.43

Georgia $1.03

Arizona $1.19

SC $1.35 now begrudgingly accepting

Texas 97¢ now begrudgingly accepting

More Bad Fashion News: Return Of The Fedora Set Back Another Generation; Face Mullet Still Thrives

Caricature of a Journalist

Glenn Thrush, "Hey, You, Get Off Hillary's Cloud". February 19

Revealed: "Politico's *Intense* Internal Memo". February 18

AT some point during the last two days--as usual, but not always, I've slept since then--local news brought the story of the woman whose apartment was burgled, and who, as a result, is mad as hell and isn't taking it anymore, by which we mean she found a way to get on local teevee and denounce the illicit appropriation of other people's stuff.

This was, first of all, at the expense of revealing that her housekeeping skills are worse than mine, though it should be pointed out that I consider dust and clutter to be political statements. Second, her one and only concern, beyond a, let's say, notable focus on the sliding door she repeatedly insisted the brigands had used as no means of entry were visible to investigators, seemed to be her burgled television, which was still in its box, as demonstrated by her pointing to the mark on the carpet where the thing had stood, and which indeed was, compared to much of the rest of her carpet, notable for not having shit piled on it.

Normally we'd applaud such civic-mindedness--What is our world Coming To, after all, when a middle-aged woman can't sit peaceably on her own couch, secure in her own residence, and wind down with an evening of watching the box her television is in?--except that the reporter, or "reporter" then felt obligated to show that the station hadn't simply sent out a news crew just because some staffer's aunt had suffered a break-in. Her very street, he and the graphic told us, had been averaging one burglary report a month for the past two years.

And as usual, when these people try to explain something a) it just gets worse and b) it generally leaves real questions, such as "Th' fuck was your teevee still in the box, lady?" unasked and unanswered. So here we were left to wonder at what point an apartment complex burglary ring became "news"? Did it have to average one a month for two years, or was this the magic #25? Or is the standard "when some staffer's aunt loses a major appliance"? And how long had the woman resided there? Anyone would be irate about losing a television she hadn't even gotten to watch yet; was the woman utterly indifferent to the suffering of twenty-four of her neighbors? If one of the earlier victims had owned seventeen cats, and the place shown evidence of animal feces and unwashed dishes, would The News have shown up quicker? How 'bout a meth lab? "Lookit, I had a whole box of beakers sittin' right here. Hadn't even been opened yet."

Armed robbery was the bigger item on the Crime Beat, though, as two gunmen tried to rob a strip-mall rib joint. The night manager got out the front door and spotted the wheelman, who bolted, so the robbers ran up the street and tried to carjack a woman. She sped off and they unloaded on her, shooting out her windshield and hitting her in both arms.

This was described as a "crime spree".

Now, I dunno about you, but whenever I plot crime sprees, they usually involve crossing state lines, not just Michigan Road, and I'm generally knocking over banks and casinos, not coin-operated newspaper boxes, while driving my own Shelby Mustang, and I've picked up Ida Lupino or Gloria Graham hitchhiking. There's a pair of twists could handle a rod or wear a gown. And either one of 'em could knock the tattoo right off Angelina Jolie's bicep.

I'm sorry, where was I? Oh, anyway, I noticed from the following half-hour that, according to the national "news", the economy is now tied to what gnomish little men who earn their living on the Exchange floor think about investor psychology, which sorta glosses over the fact that the vast majority of those shares change hands because of institutional investors and their software programs, but at least it offered some closure: as with local law enforcement, so with the nation's economy; let's see what people who're directly hit in the pocketbook have to say, hmmmm? The results could surprise you! But won't.

I had all this in mind this morning when, following Somerby, I went looking for the big Politico fact check on Hillary's claim she listens to the Beatles and the Stones! But Bob didn't link it, so I had to go to the home page and play Spot the Fedora, which meant the first thing I spotted was Today's Big Story: "Pols talk, markets dive",which blames the fact that that gnomish trader is probably being forced to drink Glenlivet, or, worse, a blend! squarely on the square shoulders of Chris Dodd, who uttered the N-word on teevee.

Nationalization! Oh, the fucking horror of it all, or, as the Gnome said, the loss of equity! which, apparently, he and the rest of The Street would prefer happen as a natural result of those stocks naturally crashing to earth and burning to ash. The Gnome looked to be about fifty, meaning he's quite possibly watched investors force-fed their own equity out of bowls made from their kneecaps a couple hundred times over a quarter-century. But not, y'know, by Socialist Democrat hordes.

Christ on a cracker, I don't care what you think about the prospects of nationalization. But if it took Chris Dodd appearing on television to make that Ugly Spectre real for you, throw the goddam thing out the window. Or put it back in its box, leave it on the floor, and hope somebody steals it. You probably have insurance. Meanwhile, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather have Chris Dodd and Barney Frank there to try to fix things, rather than more of the self-centered Libertoonians who gripe about stock prices and who got us into this mess in the first place. A bad case of the Jitters is the least I wish on those people; and a few guvment officials willing to speak the truth is the most I'll ever hope for.

By this point I'd already forgotten about Hillary, who:
We decided to fact-check, remembering the ambiguities that swirled around Yankees vs. Cubs, Dubai Ports World and Bosnian snipers.

Oh yeah, much thanks. Because of a) a whole-cloth invention by the Press of some sort of "conflict" in her choice of ball club to root for which had nothing whatsoever to do with anything she ever said or did, but was ridden like a stolen hobby horse by the punditocracy; b) the fact that while Senator Clinton was denouncing the Dubai Ports deal some of her advisors were partners in a group which had been hired to lobby for Dubai International Capital Group, which amounts to one of the most blatant cases of Not a Conflict of Interest in recent Congressional annals; and c) the fact that she said she came under fire in Bosnia when she didn't. Dear Lord, how are we to trust anything the woman has to say? Her iPod might actually be crammed to spiking with The Turtles! The Archies! The Peppermint Trolley Company! Liar. Now that she's Secretary of State, what if the thing fell into the hands of the Iranians, or the North Koreans, or the Seljuk Turks? Could there be secret backwards messages on it, or frequencies only Hillary can hear?

How'd you manage to leave out the missing Rose Law Firm records, Thrush?

Turns out it's the Beatles and the Stones, which Thrush determined by reading an article about it from 2006. Of course, telling the truth in response to an innocuous question is just the sort of thing a Liar like Hillary would do! Besides, doesn't this implicate her in the Kennedy assassinations?

Monday, February 23

International Misogynist Gang Dumps Bag-Wrapped Women On Los Angeles Streets Again

Contestants will please note Ms Streep there, on the end, the woman
who looks as if she'd actually worn a gown before?

Frank Rich, "What We Don't Know Will Hurt Us". February 22 (A serious take from Melina is here.)

SO far as I know, I owe The Oscars™ for exactly one thing, and it's not anything that occurred during the more than 700 hours of celebration of Arts and Sciences that have been televised during my lifetime. It was back in the last days of snail mail, when the livin' was easy and the snark less ill-considered, when Premier magazine had a contest for Readers' best succinct Oscar fashions summation, and someone wrote, "Ann-Margaret: the rule is only one hairdo at a time."

I've been appropriating that one ever since, but other than that and the cosmic background radiation inside my skull ever since Oliver! won Best Picture when I was twelve, there's nothing, really. Not that I was some sort of wunderkind, or anything; just a happy accident that I grew into an adult appreciation of film without a child's little-red-wagonesque attachment to Whoopie Goldberg monologues or big production-number salutes to This Year's Nominees as choreographed by Gower Champion.

And we've been over this many times, but I'm a sensitive sort: I don't care if you love the fucking Oscars; more power to ya. If, however, you imagine that they reward The Arts, or that The Arts are even amenable to such treatment, I would probably move my chair away from yours as discreetly as I could once a suitable interval had passed. Discernment is a necessary life skill, while discretion, unless you're the prey animal, is more like an option.

And leave us admit, then, that it is palpably obvious that Discernment is what has abandoned us these past few decades, and that The Oscars™ are a major reason; it is certainly no coincidence that the Whecking Baw of Witawacy, Barbara Walters, reanimated her infestation of the culture via "celebrated" Oscar-night interviews with people who, by and large, were bereft of thought. We continue to treat such matters as if they were large, annoying, but ephemeral infestations of gnats instead of blood-sucking, disease-ridden parasites. Let's remember, it's not only Walters--who had already been roundly rejected by everyone who met the basic literacy standards of Nightly News Viewership--it's also the goddamn spectacle of professional yenta Joan Rivers--who'd already been disposed of by late night talk show viewers--which is entirely the fault of anyone and everyone who helps perpetrate this Red Carpet shit. I mean, even after she'd begun to look like Lon Chaney Sr. in dimestore earrings, fer chrissakes. Fun's fun, but after the pool boy has aspirated a quart of chocolate pudding is no time to start trying to think up a Safe Word.
No one knows, of course, but a bigger question may be whether we really want to know. One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans’ reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly “changed everything,” slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable. Obama’s toughest political problem may not be coping with the increasingly marginalized G.O.P. but with an America-in-denial that must hear warning signs repeatedly, for months and sometimes years, before believing the wolf is actually at the door.

Look, Frank: we're tired, really, of mentioning that if you're all-so-concerned about what's happened to America you might try going back in time and avoid helping impeach Bill Clinton and elect George W. Bush. Seriousness is just another game to you peddlers of the official script, so stop pretending it's someone else's fault when the citizenry turns out to be superficially informed. Don't say this:
It wasn’t until the Joseph Wilson-Valerie Plame saga caught fire in summer 2003, months after “Mission Accomplished,” that we began to confront the reality that we had gone to war in Iraq over imaginary W.M.D. Weapons inspectors and even some journalists (especially at Knight-Ridder newspapers) had been telling us exactly that for almost a year.

as though the public was actively ignoring Landay and Strobel, rather than actively being hoodwinked by page A-1 of the Times, aka Your Own Fucking Paper. When "Liberal" centrists say something like, "Oh, dear, we might have to nationalize the banks, just a little, but all those ignorant peasants out there aren't gonna like it," what they mean is "I don't want to nationalize the banks and saddle the ruling Democrats with the image of a party that does things; can't we wait until sufficient numbers of formerly middle-class people are starving on our sidewalks, and we're forced to?" Real Americans, at least a major chunk of 'em, have voted and hoped for Change for two election cycles now. It's not crap-culture Americans who're resisting the obvious, tested step of Swedish-style nationalization; it's centrist fucking Democrats worried about re-election.

Take a look above. Somebody decided to put Miley Cyrus (question: why is Miley Cyrus even at The Oscars™?) in a series of dust ruffles and one of Elvis' old Vegas girdles. Heidi Klum--Heidi Fucking Klum, international spokesmodel and fashion-show MC--(question: why is Miley Cyrus even at The Oscars™?) looks like someone was forced to dress her in a speeding taxi. It's a direct result of the whole Nancy Reagan Return To Ersatz Glamor shit, perpetrated by a bunch of old fogies who couldn't cut it in the era of Julie Christie or Diane Keaton, women whose sense of style was grounded in their own Time, and owed more to brains than thousands of dollars indifferently dumped on couturiers. Money vs. Taste is like the Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals. You know who to bet on, the trick is finding someone to cover. The Oscar™ catwalk isn't about Glamor, which is lucky since it rarely achieves it; it's more like what some designer's idea of glamor would be had he or she actually lived in a glamorous time.

But we do not live in a glamorous time; the average extra on Turner Classics exudes more glamor than most Oscar™ nights do in the aggregate. By the same token, we are a fucking equalitarian society with a government increasingly stolen from us under cover of Reaganism. We don't need to chew our nails over finding a way to hoodwink the Great Unwashed into accepting nationalization where nationalization is the answer. What we do need is a means of convincing the apologists for the top 5% it'd be better to get out of the way now, before they're run over.

Saturday, February 21


ONE more big score and I can retire from blogging:

"And when I look at what Obama calls his 'Propellerheads'..."

--David Brooks, News Hour, February 20

Not sure how much I could have gotten for doubling down on "...and he'll do that simpering little half-smirk when he says it, as though he imagines the audience is wondering why a colossal intellect like David Brooks is sullying himself with a pop culture reference, and his answer is, 'Hey, I'm embarrassed about it myself, but it's the job.' "

And I'm no economist, and I've got no idea if this sort of thing could be made to work on a national, or global level, even, but it certainly looks like the surest investment one can make in our present environment is to gamble that careerist poltroons like Brooks, who've had the last twenty-five years to urge, to assure, to fucking guarantee that unfettered marketeering and unalloyed Republican rule would lead us all into Eternal Light and Great Deals on Consumer Electronics, will continue to say stupid shit. Apparently the idea is that their ability to nit-pick plans to clean up the horrific mess they are personally responsible for will at least keep them in the game until such time as they can Tell Us They Told Us It Wouldn't Work, and by then things'll be so bad we'll all have forgotten why we had to grasp at whatever desperate plan floated past in the first place. Brooks in particular, perhaps, or maybe it's just because he was forced into pretending for a living that he's a sort of personally tolerant version of David Frum. At any rate, he seems to be operating under the assumption that our current disaster means anyone ill-bred enough to bring up the cosmological certainty of his lifetime of previous economic pronouncements will be too busy scrounging for food to do so. Last night he found it necessary to mention twice that Obama "didn't have enough advisors in place" to handle the Crises, like a man who's just doused your vehicle with gasoline and set it afire pointing out a spot you missed last time you waxed it.

Bet on Stupid; that's my advice. Bet on David Brooks, "reasonable" "conservative", to keep saying shit like this, right up to the point where it doesn't look like it'll work in 2012, at which point he'll try to sound reasonable again, until they nominate Palin anyway:

"We have no consensus on the New much it helped or to what extent it helped."

Because your bank may be a blasted pile of rebar tomorrow, but Stupid is eternal.

(Admitted, that one may be more Lie than Ignorance, but at this point for Republicans it amounts to the same thing.)

Friday, February 20

The Lost Art Of Rhetoric, Vol. XLVII

Q: Why did my sump pump have to quit working just when I had water in my basement from heavy rains?

A: Because if it quit working some other time you wouldn't have noticed.

THIS brings us to three matters: 1) Michael Tomasky's piece in the Guardian, via Drum, which says that while "everybody" in Liberalville is saying the President should quit trying to reach out to Republicans, they're wrong because what he's really doing is reaching over the heads of Congresscritters to the country at large; 2) David Brooks' Friday tree-killer, in which the liver-jarring-but-not-entirely-unexpected 84º turn that takes us from dully motoring past fields of Moral and Economic systems still nestled in their winter blanket of Individual Responsibility to OMIGOD YOU'RE HEADING STRAIGHT FOR THAT GROUP OF UNWISE MORTGAGE-SIGNING PEDESTRIANS! almost as suddenly finds itself driving through the shell-blasted landscape inside Brooks' skull, as Reaganism collides with Well, But The Government Has To Do Something or Rich White People [here disguised as You n' Me (!)] Might Start To Feel The Pinch! and 3) that I really should be in the basement doing something constructive right now.

But first, Bobo. The civil war that breaks out between the Brutal Industrial North Half, as in paragraph 2:
The Bush and Obama administrations have compensated foolishness and irresponsibility. The financial bailouts reward bankers who took insane risks. The auto bailouts subsidize companies and unions that made self-indulgent decisions a few decades ago that drove their industry into the ground.

and the Philosphically Agrarian South of graf 11:
It makes sense for the government to intervene to try to reduce the oscillation. It makes sense for government to try to restore some communal order. And the sad reality is that in these circumstances government has to spend money on precisely those sectors that have been swinging most wildly — housing, finance, etc. It has to help stabilize people who have been idiots.

might be chalked up to his need to spout his side's talking points for the first 400 words, lest he be deprived of his lunch money, again; I mean, God Knows in the Present Unpleasantness the Profligate Obama Administration is just as guilty as that Bush Administration Mr. Brooks never criticized substantially until it was Too Late, in the same way the fireman who busts down your front door is just as destructive as the arsonist who torched the joint and brought him there. But the thing I find most interesting here is how neatly this underlines one of Brooks' little scams. He's not a Libertarian, despite having mouthed Friedmanisms for twenty years, because he'll throw in the occasional moralism which, unlike Meganjane, he intends us to imagine apply equally to himself, should he ever be cornered. Like Libertarianism and the necks of turtles these Moralisms are instantly retractable in case of approaching danger. So that now, with the utter ruins of both the Church of Unfettered Market Manipulation and the supposed ethical standards on which our supposed Moral and Economic System was supposed to be based, Brooks is suddenly responsible for the failure of neither, since he was too ethical to be a real Libertarian, and too Libertarian to be a moralist. At least when the check arrives. On or off the fucking bus, dude! (It's a form of transportation for poor people, Mr. Brooks.)

This, by the way, is somewhat akin to the lesson from Carmel, Indiana and its sixty years of Modern Republican hegemony, and it's the one reason they or David Brooks should be consulted about anything: to serve as bad examples. The Republican model, which is that so long as you're generating shitloads of money they'll be there to help, is now clearly on display. Of course, it exempts The Government in cases where The Government is trying to rescue small rodents trapped in The Money Pyre, but then, Republicans do not handle Bad Times. It's in their charter, alongside avoiding public transportation.

But, fuck, if it's now a good idea to try to damp down Market Oscillations, (These Be Our Countrymen! sez Dave) as fine a euphemism for Flaming Bags of Cosmic Shit Falling From the Sky as you're likely to get, why wasn't it a good idea when Our Moral Economy was grinding down the lower classes for the last quarter century? Don't tell me, I think I can guess.

One final note: you're crowding fifty, Mr. Brooks. This is the age at which you can be expected to have quit parroting crap like "Propeller Heads" at least twenty years previously, let alone repeating the goddam thing in consecutive public utterances. Word. (Can't wait for The News Hour tonite; I've got a yard on the trifecta.)

Now then, Kevin Drum told me yesterday that, as Tomasky had said, we should all stop criticizing the President's post-partisanship on accounta it's really a canny play for those Republican constituencies, and not based on any real belief that the elected Republican can change his spots, or stains, in case you're into that whole accuracy thing. We do not pretend to speak for the roughly 100% of Liberals Mr. Tomasky identified as taking the misstep, but we can say that, for our part, We Weren't Fucking Born Last Night, and last year's Democratic primaries were not the first time we heard windy claptrap being sold as the Music of the Spheres, Vol. 2. It might be a fine idea if it works, but as a lead-pipe cinch it falls a little short. Like, for example, thirty years of effective Republican rule short. Don't remember Reagan being too troubled dealing with Democratically-controlled Congresses; I just remember him going over the heads of the hapless Democratic leadership to gain the support of actual voting Blue Dog representatives who agreed with him already. Don't remember much effort at bipartisanship during Impeachment, though somebody might have thought to present Joe Lieberman with a handsome framed picture of himself. Had our current Post-Partisanship actually succeeded in garnering more votes than, oh, ZERO, y'all'd be proclaiming it the first step to a New Era, and no mention of Johnny Reb and Susie Homeschool who are supposedly out there awaiting objective reports on the results of the new President's programs. Right. Like they're more open-minded than the scalawags they send to Washington. Who were, one hastens to add for the benefit of columnists who don't follow politics all that closely, frequently motivated in the Stimulus vote by the threats of primary challenges back home two years hence.

I sure don't think the President should say, "Okay, tried that; fuck 'em." Not now. What I do think is that the whole routine was a chimera, but I'm not prepared to say it's Obama's hand that's been manipulating it. We got a much-worse Stimulus bill for having courted Republican votes; so be it. But as the much-mistranslated Chinese proverb goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins under your feet. Not with the first step, which may be 180º wrong. The blame this time lies with the Congressional Republicans. But the idea that this Thieves' Den of a party can be worked with in its present form is like a bad stretch of highway with barely enough room to turn 'round. How far do you travel on it before you decide if you're getting anywhere?

Now if you'll excuse me I've got a basement o' crap to stare at before I give up.

Thursday, February 19

Water Slides, Mandrake? Children's Water Slides?

Be welcoming your new wheels, Carmel Comrades!
Comes in White, just like County!

Racist Star (which I'd be happy to link to if their articles didn't disappear after a week, by the way):
Stimulus bill pulls plug on Carmel water slide, pool

WASHINGTON -- Unfortunately for Carmel, swimming pools did not make a big splash in the stimulus package.

The $787 billion bill President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday prohibits spending any of the money on swimming pools, golf courses, zoos, aquariums or casinos.

"There has been a lot of skepticism about the stimulus and about where the money was going to go," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group. "This helps direct the funding to projects that most of the country think are legitimate. When you look at the realm of potential stimulus projects, casinos and swimming pools fall lower down on the list."...

Carmel Mayor James Brainard had proposed a $2.5 million water slide and wave pool improvement project at one of the city's parks as part of the $428 million in local projects he'd hoped to see funded with money being sent to local governments for roads, police, sewers and water treatment plants, and community development

YES, once again it's our whacky Socialist neighbors of the Great White North, Hamilton County, USA, the Wealthiest County in Indiana! The Fastest Growing County in the State! Land of Enchantment! Tamer of Farmland! Warm Bosom of Republican-Approved Freedoms! Completer of 1/4 of Road Projects Before the Money Runs Out!

When last we looked in on Carmel Mayor-Until-the-Next-Republican-Takes-Over Jim "Jimmy The Brain" Brainard, he was busy trying to explain why it was taking longer than expected for him to concoct an explanation for where the $90 million in Mitch Daniels' Private Toll Road Privatization Fund For Good Little Districts state funds went. In appreciation of the effort it takes for major Republican officials to adjust to the air normal people breathe, the Town Council voted him an additional $20 million of the additional $45 million in funding completion of the project will require according to professional liars.

Now, just in case you've forgotten, southern Hamilton county is the beneficiary of post-Interstate (I-465, I-69) white flight from Indianapolis' Preferred North Side, and three former whistle-stops (Carmel, pronounced like what you do to sugar, not what you do by-the-Sea, Fishers, and Westfield) are in a cutthroat competition to annex the largest possible chunks of Tax Base and Water/Sewer Assessments before it's all spoken for. Carmel got there first, mostly by virtue of being closer to Indy, and by being a sort-of retail center back in the day, as opposed to being a depot with a nearby Farm Bureau Co-op. Carmel is the classiest of the bunch, perhaps by default, but still; its massive taxpayer and tax-break funded building boom (condos, office space, trendy Non-Mall Mall, Arts Park, sometime-to-be-completed Opera Amphitheater [special grand opening performance by Susan Foster Brainard], plus too much shit for me to keep track of, or care) look like the plans came from Architectural Digest, except the Architectural Digest was in a dentist's waiting room. The Fishers layout, by comparison, appears to have been designed by a sarcastic model railroad enthusiast, and Westfield--last to get in the game--simply calculated the volume of big box retailers and their associated culinary henchmen which would fit in the available space, and then doubled it.

(Just for completeness' sake: Fishers also benefitted from the construction of Geist Reservoir, Central Indiana's own Chinatown, but without the orange groves. Fishers' attempt to annex all the mansions built on property formerly owned by the same Water Company officials who built the reservoir is presently moving through the courts. They're winning.)

Daniels' Slush Fund Those state monies were earmarked for Carmel to take over operation of Keystone Avenue, which meant one thing: dozens more opportunities for their beloved Roundabouts! saving taxpayers untold millions in traffic light bulb replacement costs. Of course, outside of that 2 mile stretch, or any of several Carmel neighborhoods they might mistakenly enter, drivers coming upon those things from the communities on either side never see the damn things anywhere else, and often not until it's too late. And then--surprise!--it turns out the project is actually going to cost what the original estimates said it would, rather than what the Mayor promised, except now it's going to cost even more because of delays, fuck-ups, and half-measures, and, probably, a little something extra to cover what the actual original cost estimate was, or should have been.

“Hamilton County will get a major transportation improvement sooner and the state’s taxpayers save money in the long run,” Daniels said at the time of the deal. “Mayor Brainard has again shown the imagination that is making his a great new Hoosier city.”

I guess by "sooner" he meant "after a three-year quagmire of construction detours", and that was before the thing ran off the rails. He was right about the "save money" thing, assuming he didn't mean the taxpayers living in Carmel, and assuming he did mean "in comparison to giving Jim Brainard a blank check and turning our backs".

Here's to you, friends of Mitch Daniels! Party of Small Government! Staunch Defenders of the Private Sector! Oh, what's this? Your $half-billion shovel-ready project list for the Socialist Barack Obama's Largesse Program? Thanks, we'll take it under advisement, 'kay?

Enjoy the construction. Enjoy the twenty-five teachers who won't have jobs next year while you've got 'em. Keep America Free, Baby!

Sorry about the Pool.

And look, I don't care--and I'm certainly not surprised to find--that Carmel's the first place with its hand out, hoping to complete the Contractor Graft-off with Federal monies now that the local well's run dry. What I do care about is this: that those Shopping Plaza Republicans who do manage to scrounge up enough principle to criticize the thing treat it--as with the Bush Presidency--as an aberration, as All Brainard's Doing, rather than SOP. What Republican administration has ever resisted spending? Seems to me you'd be voting Democratic, since that's the one party you can guarantee will run scared from the Big Spending tag.

But then, considering the way most Republican minds seem to work, the one really surprising thing to me is that Coca-Cola™ isn't known as the World's Best Selling Health Food.

Wednesday, February 18

Don't Go There.

Farhad Manjoo "in Search of Microsoft Geniuses". February 17

LANCE, on the idea that the government doesn't create jobs:
This is how Right Wing agitprop minister and pseudo-historian Amity Shlaes is able to argue that the New Deal didn't reduced unemployment. She counts government workers as unemployed ---until 1942; government workers who wear uniforms and carry rifles belong to a special category of government workers who somehow don't count as government workers.

Follow the link to David Sirota for more on how Shlaes--or, as I like to refer to her, Joe the Plumber for Republicans Who Know Which One's The Dessert Spoon--turns economic information from the 1930s into delicious fudge. Or what looks like fudge.

This sort of thing was on my mind when I flipped the dial to Slate this morning--it (the idea) had, in the meantime, shacked up like Meganjane McArdlegalt (safe link; it's Roy) with that "Historians Rate the Presidents" bit that, I suspect, was designed mostly to gauge whether there's any juice left in the American people whatsoever, in preparation for tapping it. Judging by what I'd read the thing didn't work; even the commenters didn't give a shit, or buy the "George W. Bush wasn't as bad as the pneumococcus that killed William Henry Harrison" routine, but one of 'em did explain--in those earnest tones adopted by internet idiots who imagine that anonymity=invisibility--how FDR was a great President for winning WWII, but he'd recently learned that the New Deal actually made the Great Depression worse.

This sort of thing is on my mind a lot lately: Is American ready for self-government? I don't think blinding idiocy is anywhere near the impediment that Professional Stunt-Lying, Unequal Access to Anything Composed of Molecules, or Self-Centeredness Raised to the Level of Ineffably Transcendent Self-Hoodwinkery are, at present, but god knows we've got the former in spades for good measure. Which reminds me to note Kia's capsule McArdle description, from Roy's joint:
I fear that Megan is not the only person who thinks that the point of human existence and the end of all ambition, the reason for all the shopping, and what gets a girl out of bed in the morning, is the attainment of such a state of airtight self-complacency.

I freely admit that I understand, too well, how the Reagan-era conversion from zomboid consumerism to Capitalist Fetishism took place; what I haven't quite figured out is how it lasted so long, or how, as so frequently with fetishism, or amputation, for that matter, the thing became a sort of hyper-sexualized object which stopped being either Object or Sex, but stayed deeply disturbing. You click over to Slate, whatever the hell it is, and the euphoria over Super Bowl commercials has neatly dovetailed into Grammy, Oscar, and Joaquin mania, and the Girls Gone XX are in a tizzy over Bristol Palin's interview with Greta Van Susteren. (Here's a hint: it's Greta Van Susteren, who, in any more reasonable era, would be recognized, hands-down, as the most inexplicable person on television.)

This is, as you know, the same Slate, online model of the New Media, which seven years ago couldn't find anyone on staff who didn't think invading Iraq sounded like a Damn Fine Idea; now it can't find anyone with the slightest interest in the crushing problems that little adventure helped create. Still, I can't quite decide whether Slate is entirely to blame for this, or whether it is acting as a Special Reverse Double-Conter-Intuitive Contraindicator of the country at large: waving tiny American flags while we gorge ourselves for twenty-five years, then glancing around occasionally to see if the waste-removal crews have arrived yet.

My mood was not leavened by this:
There are two parts of the Apple retail strategy that Microsoft would be wise to replicate: the hiring process and the Genius Bars. Every Apple Store employee I've ever met has at least acted as if she loved to work there. The staff never tries to pressure you into buying stuff you don't need, and, unlike the blue-shirted guys at Best Buy, rarely lapses into tech jargon. The store especially excels when something goes wrong with something you've bought. When your iPhone keeps crashing or your MacBook won't connect to the Web, just go online to make an appointment at the Genius Bar (if you don't make an appointment, you might have to wait in a long line).

Okay. I've detailed my own Visit With A Genius at the Snootville Mall elsewhere. Suffice it to say, for now, that the store appeared to be staffed by the hipster extras from a soap opera coffee shop, that they all appeared to be enjoying the hell out of working there, except this appeared to be related to the fact that for 98% of them "work" involved leaning on something talking to someone while not wearing a company golf shirt, and 99% of them appeared to be otherwise hard-core unemployable. Not that I disapprove, au contraire; I think it's a savvy marketing scheme. It's just that I extrapolate from my own teen- and young-adult-dom and the number of times "get a haircut/shave/better attitude" was mentioned to me during interviews for some part-time job. I'm guessing more than one of my locals has heard "some way to cover that neck tattoo" from more than one HR guy.

Yes, my Genius didn't burden me with a lot of techno-mumble jumble. In fact, he pretty much spoke to me as if he figured I'd wandered in by mistake after hitting my head on something just outside. This, despite the fact that a) I was there because my new reconditioned iMac died, not because I couldn't sync my iPod; and b) I have Macs in the basement older than him, and I'd lived through fourteen years of imminent Apple bankruptcy, so fuck your cult. He did diagnose the problem correctly, and quickly, though getting it back required a barrage of phone calls on my part.

But my point is this: why in the world would you root for Microsoft to duplicate The Apple Store Experience? Why in the world would you root for Microsoft at all? Sheesh, it's like wishing Bank of America would come up with a trendy new eyeshade design, and make us all feel good about banking again. Not that I'm trying to give them story ideas.

Tuesday, February 17

A Life Tragically Cut Short

Why I watch local news. Karen Hensel, Channel 8:

"Lincoln would have turned 200 last week."

Monday, February 16

Forget It, Jake. It's The National Basketball Association.


Stern: Pacers deserve lease concessions

By Jeff Rabjohns

Posted: February 15, 2009

PHOENIX -- NBA commissioner David Stern expressed confidence professional basketball would remain in Indianapolis but stopped short of saying he was certain it would.

The Indiana Pacers have the right to renegotiate their Conseco Fieldhouse lease after his season, and plan to do so....

"I don't want to make
[Pacers co-owner] Herb Simon's time too easy here, but I will say I understand what they're trying to get is a small fraction of what was done for the Colts," Stern said Saturday night during his annual address of the NBA at All-Star weekend.

Let's recap.

In the late 1950s it became apparent in some quarters that the Rapidly Advancing Colored Hoards could not be kept out of white public schools forever (we are speaking, kids, of post-Brown America, by the way; like a lot of Northern urban school districts Indianapolis' would be ruled unconstitutionally segregated in the early 1970s). This, coupled with Eisenhower's dream of ameliorating his abysmal showing in North Africa finding something for all the non-rocket specialist Nazi engineers we'd snuck into the country to do creating an American Autobahn bristling with military transport and pecan logs, drove certain segments of the population--let's call them whites--to the outermost reaches of the county and just beyond, into "safe" schools and the once-verdant fields of Unfettered, Unzoned, and Ill-Considered hyper-development.

This, however, created, or rather added to, the problems of a group of Old-Money and state university deed holders who owned the property on which the rapidly decaying and increasingly unvisited buildings of Downtown were standing, or in some cases tottering. And most of these were operating under 100-year leases signed around the turn of the century. The clock was ticking. The buildings' ratings were plummeting. And the department-store model on which their economy was based was being pummeled by the new regional shopping plazas.

Fortunately, for some, 1968 brought a new Republican mayor (Richard "Highly Respected Senatorial Supernumerary" Lugar) and a Republican majority to the city council, and together they forged a new vision, which, in brief, consisted of letting all the white people in the county vote for the mayor and city council of Indianapolis, while keeping their own schools and avoiding paying for Indianpolis'. The move kept the city in complete Republican control for the next twenty-five years.

It also ushered in a publicly-financed downtown building program that might've given Cæsar Augustus pause. Based on the ever-popular Public Financing, Private Profit program, it built us a basketball stadium, which it then tore down to build another; built an "all-purpose Dome" which stole us a football team that then demanded we tear it down and build a new one; and a fine new ball-yard designed after beautiful Camden Yards, so we could let the old one, designed after beautiful Wrigley Field, crumble in on itself. Which at least saves on demolition costs.

Not to mention a Convention Center, a few expansions of the Convention Center, a downtown mini-mall, an overarching downtown mega-mall, and uncounted tax breaks, office buildings, multi-purpose facilities, and rape rooms. "Uncounted", because the first thing the Republican majority did was create something called the Capital Improvements Board, designed specifically so that the people actually footing the bill would never quite know what their money was buying or for how much. The CIB answers to no one, not publicly, but has the power to tax; compare that, by the way, with what Republicans say when duly elected governing bodies try to raise taxes for anything else.

And it has recently come to light that the CIB, through no fault of its own, is $85 million in the hole, over a quarter of that being operating costs for the just-opened football barn, where, to everyone's disappointment, the Colts were unable to lose their first-round playoff game this year due to playing elsewhere. The Colts franchise, which was just about the league's poorest when it snuck out of Baltimore twenty-five years ago is now, mirabile dictu, in the middle of the pack, assuming you can believe what the sort of people who tell you such things tell you, which you can't. As far as the public can tell, the Colts contributed to the construction of the thing almost all the money the city paid them for having to break the lease on the old place on accounta we were tearing it down at their insistence. Plus moving expenses. Plus they got to sell the name and keep the money, they get their gate receipts, concessions, and parking plus a percentage of those from any other event the city manages to shoehorn into the place, including this year's state high school football championships, but probably not next year's since the state athletic commission took a bath due to increased rental fees. Again, this is assuming you believe the sort of people who tell you this and who, it must be admitted, have even more reason to lie about things than usual.

Meanwhile Jim Irsay, the Colts' inheritor, repentant former hillbilly heroin addict, and owner of the original manuscript of On the Road and, apparently, a single ugly pinstriped suit, voted with the majority on new NFL regulations which will prevent the Colts from getting a share of a revenue pool designed to help cities in smaller markets compete. I'm sorry, maybe I should have made sure you were sitting down.

Now back a few years ago when the Colts were arguing that they simply had to have a new stadium, on the grounds that the old one was facing the wrong way, who should come to town but then-Commissioner of the National Football League Paul "Paulie Tags" Tagliabue, who told the rapt city fathers that the NFL just couldn't go on any longer without filling the horrible void left in the nation's #2 market when the City of the Angels simultaneously threw out of town two greedhead franchises and never looked back. Whew, close shave, that one. Any readers out in El Lay able to get tickets?

This followed almost directly on the heels of Major League Baseball, which, remarkably, owns its own minor league franchise instead of suckering the nation's universities into providing one for free, coming to town and telling us that either that stadium went, or the franchise did. Surprisingly, no one mentioned that we were talking about minor league baseball, where a reasonable guess is that 85% of the stadia across the country are in imminent danger of collapse. This was followed by nobody asking why we needed to build a new stadium at twice the cost of repairing the fine old one we had. But fortunately we were able to find a piece of available property right Downtown.

And, in fairness, the new ball-yard is a great place to watch a game. Just like the banks of the White River after a good rain are a good place to watch raw sewage pour into the drinking water of people downstream, or any of several urban middle schools are just the place to see the last Commodore 64s still in public use.

SO here come the Pacers, who demanded and received a new basketball palace just eight years ago, for which they paid not a dime, and who now have a contractual right to negotiate new terms. And the Pacers want the CIB to take over the ($15 M, assuming you believe...) operating costs of their arena, just like it did for the Colts.

Now, let's be fair to these people, even though they'll never return the favor. The Pacers are owned--they keep saying reluctantly--by the Simon brothers, international multi-mega mall (Mall of America, e.g.) developers. They bought the team thirty years ago, supposedly at the behest of the second Republican city dynasty, when it looked as if it might leave town (no, really). And, ever since, they've refused to open their books as required by law, citing "trade secrets", like some other NBA team would seek to duplicate the Pacers' record.

Now, the Simons have not exactly been left out of CIB largesse otherwise; they're the operators of that downtown mall and several of the other commercial ventures taxpayers made possible while bound and gagged. They have continually refused to answer any questions about what happens to the franchise when they shuffle off this Sack o' Woe, something of minor interest since the younger Simon is 74 and his brother 82.

Sure, you say, but is that all? Hardly worth mentioning, is it?

Okay, so the President of the CIB is one Robert "Bob" Grand. His day job is Managing Partner of Barnes and Thornberg, the downtown legal firm that pulls Mayor Gomer's strings. It's in that capacity he functions as a registered lobbyist for... (drum roll, please?) Simon Property Group.

So, a couple of things: one, in the spirit of Congressional concern over CEO salaries I would like to suggest that the city of Indianapolis, should it ever fall into the hands of honest public servants, make it Class A Felony Extortion for a representative of any professional sports club, its parent organization or associated entities, to publicly urge any taxpayer concession to the recipient of any public monies, with double the prison time for any mention of moving out of town. Although, unlike the Congress, I don't propose bargaining it down to "shall be shamed by the public posting of an unflattering caricature". And, despite my basic humanitarianism, it seems increasingly likely that Finding a Few Of Them Floating Face Down is the only thing these fucks are ever going to understand.

Friday, February 13

Tired Old White Guy Withdraws Nomination; Chunks Of Falling Post-Partisan Sky Hit Reeling Middle West

Jeff Zeleny, "Gregg Ends Bid for Commerce job". February 12

Anne E. Kornblut and Michael D. Shear,"Gregg Withdraws As Commerce Pick". February 13

William "Too Young For Vietnam, Too Old To Die" Kristol, "Why Gregg Withdrew". February 13

OR, Assuming it necessary to shape the news for twelve-year-olds, is it also necessary to insult their intelligence while you're at it? Part MCDLXI.

Kornblut and Shear:
Sen. Judd Gregg withdrew yesterday as the nominee for commerce secretary, dealing a fresh blow to President Obama's quest to fill out his Cabinet and dramatically undercutting his efforts to forge a new bipartisanship in the capital.

The departure of Mr. Gregg is the latest setback to a White House that has struggled to fill several top positions and to fulfill Mr. Obama’s pledge of building a bipartisan administration. He is the third prospective cabinet secretary — the second for the Commerce Department — to remove his name from consideration.

Young Bill:
One effect of this story will be to exacerbate the sense among Republicans that, after all the happy talk during the transition, the Obama administration has taken on a surprisingly political and partisan cast. Republicans on the Hill with whom I’ve spoken are in a sense relieved; they were worried that clever “post-partisan” or bipartisan tactics by Obama could split and weaken an already uncertain and demoralized GOP. But if it is true that Rahm Emanuel chooses to behave like Karl Rove on steroids, then Republican unity and fighting spirit will be pretty easy to maintain.

Good Reader, suppose for a moment that you are a paid observer of the domestic political scene. Let us further imagine that you are savvy enough--this, despite your position, is, perhaps surprisingly, not a given!--to recognize that 2YungBill56 texts not Opinion From The Right Side Of The Spectrum but the pure, unfiltered, and (obviously) unedited current PR BS of the Right-Republican Ruling Class. That, in fact, to offer opinion from any further out on the Lying Fascist Small Animal Torturer Scale the modern newspaper would have to risk finding an 800-word copy containing 740 racial epithets had inadvertently been posted online, though with any luck only paid subscribers would have seen it.

Let's ask, then, if even in that demi-paradisical land where Too Young Bill Kristol is the single public voice of Hayek-quoting pirates, whether he yet wouldn't be enough to tip you off to something? Assuming you needed tipping?

Put it another way: imagine you cover the "arts", and that last week the A&R department of some "major" record company being kept afloat by the rapidly subsiding waves of Reaganite international acquisitiveness, interlocking directorates, and possible extortion and money laundering rackets announced the signing of, say, Zaftig Jessica Simpson to a long-term deal worth millions. Let's say that this week she announces she's pissed because she found out she wasn't allowed to produce her own records, and the company rejected her life-long dream of recording all six Bach cello suites on wah-wah guitar. So she's retiring from show business to pursue a career as a massage therapist, or garage-door repairman, or a Literacy crusader.

And you blame the company? Zeleny:
“I’m a fiscal conservative, as everybody knows, a fairly strong one,” Mr. Gregg told reporters at a news conference in the Capitol. “And it just became clear to me that it would be very difficult, day in and day out, to serve in this cabinet or any cabinet.”

“It was my mistake, obviously, to say yes,” he added.

But the political fallout is left to the White House, which now has a string of appointees who have stepped aside over vetting problems, unpaid taxes or philosophical differences with Mr. Obama. Since the president took office last month, not a week has passed without the White House responding to a personnel crisis.

Sennightly Personnel Crises! And this on top of December's Brown Shoes With A Blue Suit Fiasco! And the International Asking for Mint Jelly for His Lamb Chops Flap! Damn, it's a good thing we're not all Going Broke or Dying in ill-conceived foreign adventures or anything. Goddam Ship might capsize.

Look, here's a guy who already negotiated away the rights of his own state's governor; that--like Tom Daschle's ten-minute conversion from Crusading Bipartisan Poltroon to Chauffered Government Lard Guzzler--should have been enough for the Obama Crew, but maybe they're busy looking for whatever Screw it is got loose. Okay, too much to ask. Ten days later he decides maybe he didn't think things out clearly. And this is a blow to President Obama's Promise of Post-Partisanship? No. It's another example that you need to lock the cages when you put Republicans up at night, or they'll get out and defecate all over the halls. Again.

Jesus Christ, the fucking cover story is either unbelievable, or Gregg is too fucking looney to be asked to make change, let alone supervise someone else doing it. Choose one. Politicalization of the Census? Fine. But let's not act as if that isn't charged every decade by whomever is out of power, quite possibly with some validity; and let's not act like nobody in town remembers Tom DeLay. Obama nominates a Republican for Commerce; the nominee, and the rest of his party, apparently believe this makes Secretary Gregg President of the 2010 Census? Th' Fuck?

Exhibit A, of course, is that Kristol graf with the Rahm Wouldn't Return My Calls: How One Republican's Whatever They Have Where Normal People Have Hearts Was Broken routine. The Republican party--at least what's left of it in Washington--is in revolt, because, like some junkie Pop Star, there's always a certain segment of the Press to cheer it on however badly it behaves; because it got away with staging that House revolt "on principle"; because it perceives weakness; because that's all it can do while painted into that corner. Nothing wrong with that; I wish the Democrats would have done so over the last thirty years. But if you believe bipartisanship is some objective good, then this is a question of blame, and you ought to assign it instead of announcing who's leading at the 1/16th pole. If you don't believe in it then call his sanity into question for trying it instead of treating it like a failed product roll-out. If "bipartisanship" is in trouble it's because of bad advice, faulty vision (inexplicably so), or the hopeless naïveté of the President, or else it's a fiendishly clever ruse designed to pay dividends in 2012. He could give it all up tomorrow and start running against the Republicans as hopeless obstructionists. If he did so, had he already done so, they'd be screaming bloody murder about the betrayal of his principles. Young Bill lets us in on the astonishing news that they never believed in it in the first place and felt threatened if it should work. You'd think maybe the Press could catch up with that at some point. Not to mention the President.

Thursday, February 12

Happy Birthday

LINCOLN'S morning mail once included a letter from a woman seeking his autograph, and asking him to include "a sentiment" along with it.

"Dear Madam," he responded, "When you ask from a stranger that which is of interest only to yourself, always enclose a stamp. There's your sentiment, and here's your autograph. A. Lincoln."

Wednesday, February 11

Mr. Gerson, You've Never Been Properly Recognized For Your Service To This Great Country. If You'll Wait Here A Moment? My Rope's Out In The Garage.

Indy Racist Star photo credit, if that's the word, to AT.

Michael Gerson,"Obama's Pragmatism Lacks Vision". February 11

GOD, the WaPo site is awful. It's a color scheme searching for design principles. And content.

It's so bad I generally find myself jumping to the Indianapolis Racist Star just to convince myself it could be worse, although the Star features more tits. A lot more tits. And, look, I'm a lifelong fan of tits, even as captured in leering amateurish photographs, but I maintain enough aesthetic sensibility to generally prefer them without the distraction of a disposable plastic drink cup half-filled with some unspeakably neon-red Alcoholic Delivery System in every shot. And sometimes at breakfast I'd really prefer coffee, toast, and forty-five minutes of not being reminded that half the population can't enjoy itself without killing off brain cells it obviously needs for other purposes.

This has been the Racist Star's solution to The Dwindling Popularity Of Newspapers Among People Who Do Not Read for most of the decade. If young people aren't reading newspapers, well, by golly, let's replace the news we aren't all that interested in covering anyway with Whatever It Is They Like To Do. Which, it turns out, is drink to excess and fuck. I have some lingering doubts about the approach, but then it seems on the surface of things to beat the hell out of what Walter Isaacson was peddling on The Daily Show the other night, the idea that online newspapers need to find a way to start charging for content, preferably in a way which the consumer doesn't recognize until the credit card bill arrives next month.

That is, Let's try the Bloated Bureaucrat Solution before it's too late! Get your money above the line, and preserve the executive lifestyle and and superstar pundit class before you're overrun by tattooed hoardes of music pirates.

To which we say: 1) if people don't want to go to the Theatre, nobody can stop 'em; 2) why is it the solution never, ever, includes the people actually in the sinking boat grabbing buckets and bailing? 3) maybe somebody could design a Surge; and 4) at the risk of sounding like a comments-threat concern troll, y'know, I'm not in the desired Demo, but I can say that I didn't leave newspapers; newspapers left me.

By, for example, spending the last thirty years as the ink-stained catamites of right-wing opinion. By exercising the power of the Free Press to build up acquisition opportunities for The Parent Company. By giving us Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Barone, Peggy Noonan, and Karl Rove as pundits, the better to balance screaming leftists like Richard Cohen and Joe Klein. By giving us...Michael Gerson?
These stumbles have had an almost theological effect among Republicans: The doctrine of Obama's political infallibility has been challenged. But the administration's setbacks -- particularly those on personnel -- are temporary, and easily reversed by a series of legislative victories that have already begun.

Ah, yes, the Resurgent Republicans! as demonstrated by the fact that Republicans are willing to say so, and god knows they always bring the facts to back up the talk. What doesn't have an "almost theological" (man, you can't beat professional wordsmithery, especially when it's free) effect on them?
This approach has earned Obama praise for his prudence, independent thinking, epistemological modesty, empiricism, curiosity, results orientation, lack of dogmatism, distaste for extremism, willingness to compromise and insistence on nuance. He has been compared to William James and John Dewey, the heroes of American pragmatism.

By at least one columnist who checked the encyclopedia entry under "Pragmatism" recently. (This is another problem with The Young; they know how to do the Googling. )
But that creed has now been tested in two areas. First, the new president deferred almost entirely to the Democratic congressional leadership on the initial shape of the stimulus package -- which, in turn, was shaped by pent-up Democratic spending appetites instead of by an explainable economic theory.

One: the good news, Michael, is: just 1.45 x 10 raised to the 24th power more wishes to go before the 2008 election is magically, almost theologically, reversed. Two: I have a lot of uncomplimentary things to say about the new President, but "not trying to work with Congressional Republicans" isn't one of them, and "deferring to the Democratic leadership" would be, if it were true. Believe me.
But Obama's pragmatism, in this case, was a void of creativity, filled by the most aggressively ideological branch of government. And this managed to revive Republican ideological objections to federal overreach. In the new age of pragmatism, all the ideologues seem to be encouraged.

Mother Mary on a Miraculous Tortilla: it's the fucking system; those "ideological" objections to "federal overreach" were hiding where, exactly, before last week?; and not to mention the Congress isn't exactly brimming with newly elected Republicans. These are the same guys who spent, grafted, and deregulated us into this mess in the first place. Plus, it's your byline, and--Walter Isaacson please note--worth every penny I paid to view it, but maybe you could engage This Year's Nobel Laureate in Economics on the merits instead of just regurgitating Pork.

Look, nobody's any sorrier than I am that the early Obama campaign decided on this bi-partisan routine; I hope after last week he's beginning to reach the same conclusion. But, for fuck's sake, whatever the merits, the idea that the GOP was just gonna roll over and hope to collect some sloppy baby belly kisses, well, maybe you should find somebody who actually believed that before trying to sell it as the Default position we're now moving away from.
The second test of Obama's pragmatism has been education. During his campaign for president, Obama's post-partisan appeal was most credible -- to me and to others -- on education reform. He supported test-based accountability and merit pay for teachers -- significant departures from the education union agenda.

Just guessing, here, but I bet "departures from the union agenda" counted for a lot more of those Virtual Right-wing Obama hard-ons than the already disastrous High Stakes Testing Program and the irretrievably-linked merit-pay fantasies combined. And that "overtaking Hillary Clinton in the polls" accounted for 99% of the remarkably quick return to flaccidity.

And, of course, that wasn't exactly what he said on the campaign trail; the man has supported the idea of merit pay, yes, but he expressly decoupled it from test-based "achievement" scores, which means, in practical terms, Now Leaving Fantasyland. Obama was a ward-heeler in Chicago and an Illinois State Senator. That is, he had direct responsibility for operating public schools, as opposed to the Fed's ability to pay 6% of the freight and then let the most aggressively ideological branch of government use the states in round after round of political hacky-sack. Believe it or not, Education Reform is the favorite flavor of Pie in the Sky for poor people whose children are trapped in over-extended and underfunded public schools; the failure of the last forty years of baking experiments being centered on urban, poor, minority school districts tells us all we need to know about education "reform".
But education spending in the stimulus -- about $140 billion in the House and $80 billion in the Senate -- has little or no emphasis on teacher quality in schools with high ratios of minorities, little or no emphasis on strengthening charter schools, little or no emphasis on improved assessment, little or no emphasis on teaching the basics of reading. With shrinking state and local education budgets, an increase in federal spending may be justified. But the administration's approach abandons the most basic principle of school improvement: reform, and then resources.

Excuse me, but has anybody seen some Revived Republican Ideological Objections to Federal Overreach? Damned things got loose a few minutes ago, and you couldn't swing a sand wedge without hitting one. Now, all of a sudden, The Stimulus isn't spending enough on the sorts of Education Miracles favored by the party which announced the thing wasn't getting any votes from its direction, no how. Y'know, the recently theologically re-invigorated party of small government.
It is still early in the Obama era. But it is already evident that pragmatism without a guiding vision or a fighting faith can become little more than the service of insistent political interests.
Jesus Christ, that's it? If you twist a campaign pledge so it resembles your own, voted-out-of-power-in-a-landslide view, then you can declare the President "lacking in vision" to the extent that he doesn't fight for you, in the form of those ragged picaninnies Republican hearts just bleed for? How is it, Mr. Gerson, that we still need to address the problem after eight years of your enlightened administration? Why is it, Mr. Isaacson, that I should pay a nickel for this when high-quality tripe is only a dime?

Tuesday, February 10

Small Change

JAKE Tapper is a Washington insider. He gets to ask the President of the United States questions. You don't. You may, if you wish, go get used as his backdrop in Elkhart, Indiana, when he comes to town to prop up his rep and the half-assed stimulus package he let three Senate Republicans write. What the hell, if you live in Elkhart there's a 1 in 6.66 chance you won't have to ask off work.

And, if bylines are to be trusted, Jake Tapper spent some part of his Monday reporting on the story of the Obama Justice Department's second shocking, or "shocking", and shameful public announcement in a week that it intends--at minimum--to try keeping the open secret of the Bush administration's torture program a State Secret, at least as much as possible.

So when Jake Tapper gets to step up to the plate sixth at last night's Historic Inaugural Presser, what does he ask about? Why, The Great Stimulus Package Horse Race, of course. Just like the previous five questioners. Why do you ask?

Okay, I lied: Caren "My Parents Couldn't Spell" Bohan of Reuters, batting second, asked about Iran. And Tapper's question (" can the American people gauge whether or not your programs are working?") at least made sense, didn't mention bipartisanship, and did actually connect with The Public, if only much in the way an Archbishop connects with The Laity. 

All this, of course, followed the President talking about The Stimulus for ten minutes to start the program.

(Tapper did sneak in mention of the Presidential Stimulus Stool, now in the process of being fitted with Legs; this, together with two credit loosenings and eight "My bottom line..."s gave the procedure the distinct feel of an hour-long Metamucil commercial.)

Yada, yada, yada. And yada. Is there a conscious effort to get the guy to speak for five minutes after every question, or is that just his natural inclination? Jesus, fucking reform the process, already; the beloved Reagan (whose format this is) had his Lapdog Training Program fully in place before his first Presser. Thirteen questions in an hour! Nearly four minutes per after a generous ten minutes for opening remarks, and half of those concerning what you'd already gone over. It shouldn't take five hundred words, and two bottom lines, to answer a question about permitting photographs of "flag-draped coffins". Especially when you don't even answer the fucking question. You're the President of the Goddammed United States, and you need a Review Board before you decide if it's right or wrong to hide returning casualties? Shit. If we're not going go back to making them jump up and down and yell for recognition (and the exercise couldn't hurt), at least let's ameliorate the Student Council meeting vibe. Take call in questions. Take emails. Have a fucking Lighning Round, fer chrissakes, where anyone who can't come up with a new Yes or No question in five seconds loses his credentials for a month, and where you have to answer in fifteen seconds or less or the pizza's free. Why--other than the dictates of teevee--is the thing exactly one hour long?  Why th' fuck is the Spirit of Competition supposed to have magic powers when in comes to driving the economy, or fixing failing public schools, but Presidential Press Conferences are restricted to the second runners-up of inter-office brown-nosing derbies? Invite in some actual journalists, maybe, instead of the WaPo guy who asked about A-Rod. Maybe if the prevalent background sound at these things was trash talk, instead of the same hollow "I'm an Insider" laughter that's been going on since Reagan cracked his first Soviet Union or Irresponsible Washington Bureaucracy joke, we'd begin climbing out of our problems instead of up our own asses.

Monday, February 9

Programming Note

Jay Rosen and Glenn Greenwald on Bill Moyers' Journal.

JAY ROSEN: If you're a career Washington reporter, how do you know that your knowledge is always going to be relevant throughout your career? Well, if politics is just an inside game, then you're always on top of it. If all of a sudden, a new dynamic enters it, you may not have the knowledge you need to be the expert, to be the authority. And I think there's a tendency for Washington journalists to see everything converging towards the political game that they are themselves masters of.

Sunday, February 8

For One Thing, Afghans Walk Like This, While Vietnamese Walk Like This.

Fred Kaplan, "We're still figuring out our goals in Afghanistan. That's a good thing." February 5

I DON'T know what the sort of people who openly wish for a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate expect they'd actually get out of a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate; the whole thing's of a species with pondering the effect Oprah's Book Club has on literacy. One thing we can safely say, though, is that such an arrangement still would not have resulted in newly-opened Gitmo living quarters being reserved for people who compare Afghanistan and Vietnam in print, and conclude they're different.

Probably just as well, since some smart-ass ACLU lawyer would get the entire Slate corps off due to insanity, or on the grounds that everything they say actually means the opposite, and then everybody'd start doin' it.
Not long ago, Afghanistan was known as "the good war." Now some are calling it "Obama's Vietnam." Both tags exaggerate. Across hundreds of years of sorrowful history, no war in Afghanistan has ever been good. And Vietnam was different in so many ways that parallels with the war against the Taliban tend to muddy more than clarify. (Ho Chi Minh was the legitimate leader of a unified polity, the United States violated international law by blocking countrywide elections, U.S. troop levels grew to 500,000 at their peak, etc.)

Golly. I can't decide if it's more convenient for the people who manufacture, package, and conduct wars that there's always someone around to explain why the current one is just and essential, unlike some earlier, regrettable example, or it's more convenient for those people that phony termini can be so easily constructed in order to make one appear to occupy some reasonable middle ground. At any rate, I realize we're just getting in a few warmup tosses, but fer chrissakes: whatever else we screwed up in Vietnam, it wasn't not having a widely-touted Good Reason for Being There, and it ain't like being a Communist wasn't enough to call Ho Chi Minh's legitimacy into question by the standards of domestic American politics. Sheesh, half the voting population thinks Hugo Chavez is illegitimate, just because he hated George Bush and said so. (And most of the rest have no idea who he is.) Let alone the fact that, for the life of me, I can't understand what the matter of "troop levels" is supposed to mean. That Afghanistan can be only 1/14th like Vietnam? Conversely, what would a hundred previously unsuccessful Afghanistan wars mean to the present one?
But the specter of Vietnam does, or should, haunt us in one compelling sense: the reasonable fear that we are about to step into a bigger, thicker pile of mud—a more all-enveloping quagmire, if you will—than the first step of escalation might suggest.

But then this is the aspect of the Vietnam war we've mostly been in agreement about all this time. No one has ever argued that the incremental application of force is a good plan (aside from Johnson's political advisors, and they were arguing PR, not Grand Tactics). What we differ on is the question of getting into such situations in the first place. And we've gotten ourselves into not one but two ill-conceived and drawn out conflicts in the Naughts despite understanding this, precisely because we imagined we could let Having A Good Reason trump using reason.
Unlike those who got us into Vietnam, today's top officials—including President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates—at least see the specter. Both have emphasized that their goals in Afghanistan are limited; daydreams of turning the place into a democratic republic—"some central Asian Valhalla," as Gates snorted in recent hearings—are over.

Let's say this again: it would be a really interesting experiment sometime to discuss the lessons of Vietnam based on what actually happened.

For pity's sake, if you don't want to bother with checking the record, try a minute or two's consideration. Lyndon Johnson knew Vietnam had the potential to be, and very likely would be, a sucking mudhole of disaster before he committed US combat troops. The Chinese were already promising to match escalation for escalation, and to refuse to let the US fight another Korean-style limited war.

Treating Vietnam like some enormous Asian frog-boiling exercise completely misses the point. By the time the Johnson administration decided to commit troops--after considerable debate, it should go without saying--the issue was whether it, and the Democratic party in general, could survive being blamed for "losing" Vietnam the way it had been blamed fifteen years earlier for "losing" China. Johnson, like Kennedy, had to deal with a Joints Chiefs of Staff dominated by Cold War psychopaths, and a collection of civilian advisors (McNamara, Rusk, Ellsworth Bunker, Clark Clifford, the Bundy Boys) who were their sickly, more intellectual cousins. (Of course he also heard from George Ball and Paul Kattenberg, the one member of the National Security Council with actual experience of Southeast Asia, both of whom argued against the Americanization of the war.  Like we say, it wasn't all about the stupidity. Just like Iraq.)

The disaster of US policy in Southeast Asia from 1946-1975 has little to do with how the war was fought. That's a post-facto exercise in excuse-mongering. There were times when the Viet Minh were vulnerable, militarily, but they don't coincide with direct US combat involvement, which came about only after the war had long been effectively lost politically, assuming it had ever been "winnable" in the Turning It Into a Pacific Catholic Resort sense. We could have turned the place into a nuclear wasteland; we could have expanded the war into Laos and Thailand in the early Sixties, and fought the Chinese and maybe the Russians. Considering what we accomplished with massive conventional bombing and all the troops large-scale military conscription could muster, perhaps it's actually best that we didn't.
Both have emphasized that their goals in Afghanistan are limited; daydreams of turning the place into a democratic republic—"some central Asian Valhalla," as Gates snorted in recent hearings—are over. Gates further stated at those hearings, before the Senate armed services committee, that he would endorse his commanders' request for three additional brigades—but that he'd be "deeply skeptical" of subsequent requests for more. The fighting needs to be done mainly by Afghan troops, he said, adding that if the Afghan people begin to see it as an American war, "we will go the way of other imperial occupiers."

This is reassuring. However, even "limited" goals can justify a vast military expansion.

Pffffft. Obama has been talking about "finishing the fight with al-Qaeda" since the 2008 campaign began late in the last century. His Vice-President just got done mouthing off about controlling the Safed Koh, which--and I'm going to go out on a limb here--you're not going to accomplish with 30,000 troops, or 120,000 troops, recycled from Iraq. And incidentally:
President Obama has talked of sending three extra brigades to Afghanistan. That means about 12,000 combat troops. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks of deploying 30,000 extra troops—doubling the 30,000 we have there now.
These numbers sound far apart, but they're not. Obama's three brigades would also require "enablers"—military jargon for the personnel who enable the combat brigades to fight. They would include an aviation brigade (already in place), a division headquarters, a support brigade, military police, medics, military engineers (to build the expanded barracks and bases), and so on. Add all this into the mix, and you get 30,000 extra troops. Obama and Mullen are talking about the same troop boost.

is just freakin' nonsense, Fred; three brigades is three brigades, and no brigade consists entirely of 9000-15,000 infantry. The modern ratio is about 8:1. Depending on circumstances an additional 30,000 troops might support ~12,000 combat troops, but that doesn't make three brigades equal 30,000.

LET'S just sorta glance up at that elephant in the corner, shall we? A bloodthirsty administration of delusional crackpots just past, backed by pure bullshit and blind rage over 9/11, could not manage to keep much over 160,000 troops in Iraq for any length of time, despite ignoring current doctrine, sensible practice, and the contracts we had with the Reserves and National Guard. The current administration is headed by a guy who portrayed himself as wiser than that (though, to be fair, he also made "finishing off al-Qaeda" "rebuilding our military", and, at least briefly, "hot pursuit into Pakistan" touchstones of his policy.) Call me cynical, but I'll believe that hundreds of thousands of young Americans will be lining up at recruiting stations, eager to fight bin-Laden at the Khyber Pass like some latter-day Spanish Loyalists, because Barak says this war is a Good One! when I have to detour around them to get to the Post Office. There isn't any way one could now create some mythical Vietnam incremental quagmire in Afghanistan; try introducing a conscription bill and see how popular the new President is by 3 PM that afternoon. The Bush administration broke our shit, and good; 2008 was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to abandon the entire mess and begin building a sensible defense strategy for the 21st century, but one was not about to get that from the cowardly Democrats. Instead it's a bunch of empty promises, and false dichotomies, and risible explanations of how Afghanistan isn't like Vietnam, because, y'know, this time we've got military superiority an' stuff. And we haven't yet admitted we lost. Although, come to think of it, that's one way they're exactly alike.