Monday, August 31

You Can't Gull Me, Pal. I Can Turn Out 1261 Words In Search Of Anything That Sticks Standing On My Head.

Joseph Finder, "The C.I.A. in Double Jeopardy". August 30
EARLY in 2002, Eric Holder, then a former deputy attorney general, said on CNN that the detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay were “not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention,” particularly “given the way in which they have conducted themselves.”

Six years later, declaring that “Guantánamo Bay is an international embarrassment,” Mr. Holder said, “I never thought I would see the day when ... the Supreme Court would have to order the president of the United States to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Convention.”

So what changed?

Here's something I've wondered about for a long time: do they have special Logic courses at Yale just for future spooks, and future perpetrators of spook lit? Bill FuhBuckley had it in spades, if you'll pardon the expression, and James Jesus! Angleton, well, let's just say Ol' Eli is a major beneficiary of "the principle of estoppel".

Or do they teach the same class to aspiring pitchmen? PHIL 278, The Manufacture of Seeming Near-Contradictions Which Might Work Provided the Target Audience Isn't Paying Attention, for Non-Majors? Look, I can say, to use the first example off the top of my caffein-starved head, "Texas reserves the right to execute people with the functional intelligence of amphibians" and "But I can't believe they do", and squeeze both into the same sentence. Holder's assessment of the legal status of Gitmo detainees may or may not be proper (it's your choice to include "given their conduct" which gave me pause. Was it supposed to "bolster" your "case" for his having flip-flopped? Was it meant--particularly!--to suggest that Holder was referring to the "heinousness of their crimes" rather than their relationship to the Law? We held some people in Gitmo for the crime of being rounded up and shipped to Gitmo, if you'll recall). But I don't recall him, or anyone else, arguing that their status permitted, let alone mandated, torture. Particularly.

And, just for the record, Agent Finder, what would make Holder's comments to CNN, in 2002, binding on his actions as Attorney General? Suppose he'd been explicit. Suppose he'd said, "Wolf, if we subsequently discover that, in accordance with this interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, the Bush administration has engaged in torturing detainees, under cover of rendition to foreign countries in a, well, notable attempt to avoid the discovery of, or repercussions for, acts which they claim are perfectly legal, and if, subsequently, I'm appointed Attorney General by the first US President of African-American descent, and confirmed by the Senate under Article II, Section 2, I promise to abide by the legal opinion offered by the first author of Spy Thrillers who appears in the New York Times Op-Ed pages," what, exactly would you charge him with, now?
So what changed?

A lot of things, of course, but most of all, our national political climate. Reeling from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many on the front lines of the war against terrorism felt a sense of fear and urgency that, years later, it’s hard for some to recall. Now, the attacks receding into the past, a lot of us see things in a different light.

"Your honor, the only reason I beat and robbed all those people was that at the time I really, really felt like I had to have that Lexus".

And, sheesh, "it's hard for some to recall"? If this is the way you guys construct an argument it's no wonder you can't win one without a handy 2x4 and a field telephone attached to the other guy's genitals.

I would suggest to you, sir, that a lot of Americans were sickened and dismayed when the photos of Abu Ghraib first made a successful end-run around the Bush administration and the snuggly-embedded American "journalists" spinning yarns for domestic consumption. I suggest there was plenty of outrage expressed at the time, when memories of The Day That Snuffed Out Irony In Our Time were still fresh, about the reports of "extraordinary rendition" and, later, torture. In fact, sir, let's just ask ourselves who's been intellectually consistent and who Time's Withering Stalk, shall we? If you'd taken a poll on September 10, 2001, how many people who would have said "The US was entirely correct to execute soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army who waterboarded Allied captives" were saying, four years later, "Waterboarding? Sounds like an afternoon at the beach!"?

And look, let's just cut the bullshit. We knew torture doesn't work. Or, rather, that it may produce reams of intelligence information, of which none can be regarded as remotely reliable. And that's the fucking nature of intelligence gathering in the first place; it always comes back to someone who has to decide if it's reliable. Pretending--now--that we didn't understand that then, or that we did but were acting on behalf of a pants-pissing public--whose increased urine production we were carefully coaxing, but never mind--is just more than a little convenient. How would the public had reacted if facing the truth, instead of a 24 script? Why'd we keep the rest of the Abu Ghraib pics locked up?
Mr. Holder doesn’t seem concerned that each of these cases was exhaustively reviewed, beginning in 2005, by career prosecutors under the supervision of the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Those men had access to the complete, unredacted report of the agency’s inspector general, an expurgated version of which was released on Monday. Yet these prosecutors recommended against criminal charges in all but one case.

Wait! The government is behaving differently in an instance where the anticipated eventual public release of evidence might raise questions about its earlier actions? Stop the fuckin' presses, Jack! But only because the Democrats are thinking about investigating Republican misfeasance, so long as nobody notices much.

Three words, Agent Finder: Whitewater Development Corporation. It was the subject of two Resolution Trust Corporation investigations, both of which went beyond absolving the Clintons of wrongdoing to explaining that they had, in fact, been victimized. And that was a mathematical certainty, not a matter of opinion. Didn't stop the Republicans from launching three more investigations. Not that I'm saying two or three or an entire fucking history of wrongs make this right. Just that we might, like they say at the ol' ball yard, act like we've been here before. The Obama administration doesn't want to have to do anything if it can help it. It just wants to be loved. The last time we had an administration that didn't have that as an abiding principle, Samuel F. B. Morse was in ringlets and curls. So it's a fucking Chinese Fire Drill. So what? This your first time? Then it's because the Ivy League Spook With Access To The Times Op-Ed Pages view of the world rarely gets the bend-over treatment. Over this way it's a channel that used to be a canal, as the Late Mister Dury, R.I.P., once put it, and we're grateful if they use a little lube first. Lots of people hate the Bush administration. Lots of 'em think it got away with High Crimes and Misdemeanors, War Crimes, with sending Americans off to die under fabricated circumstances, improperly equipped and too few in number to do the job they were assigned, and that it increased the risk of men and women in the field in a legitimate war to bolster its odds in a PR-manufactured war. And then a lot of people imagine that the United States of America shouldn't be, and has no legitimate reason to be, torturing people around the globe, period, and that it should be prosecuting them for their criminal acts instead of helping them with recruitment. And those people have a voice. You ought be thankful it doesn't get heard expeditiously, when it does get heard at all.
Mr. Holder’s decision, then, implies that justice wasn’t done five years ago probably because high-level officials in the George W. Bush administration put their thumbs on the scale of justice. This seems unlikely. The prosecutors in Virginia were well experienced in dealing with classified intelligence matters, as most of the federal intelligence agencies are in their district. They have a reputation for being hardheaded and unforgiving of C.I.A. transgressions.

And, unique among Bush-era Justice employees, as remarkably immune to pressure from a--particularly!--politically-driven Department?
Lacking reliable witnesses or forensic evidence, they made the only call they could have made: not to prosecute. In our nation of laws, that’s exactly the way you want government prosecutors to behave.

Depending on what you think of the guy in the Dock…
If any new information has come out about these cases, any complaints about undue influence or any new witnesses, Mr. Holder hasn’t mentioned it.

Well, he doesn't need to, seeing as how your suggestion of Double Jeopardy in this case is just a load of feathers on the fluff-dry cycle.
The prosecutors in this case had to abide by the Justice Department’s ruling, in August 2002, that no agency interrogator would face prosecution for exceeding the guidelines as long as he acted in “good faith” and didn’t have “the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering.” Not an easy distinction to make, surely, when the work you’re told to do seems to be designed precisely to inflict pain and suffering.

They were, and are, Federal employees. Not indentured servants. And, as we now know in at least two major cases, specifically chosen for the rough stuff after the initial interrogators proved too wimpy for Five Deferments Dick.
Now imagine that you’re a C.I.A. interrogator in some dank “black site” prison, facing a terrorist you honestly believe had something to do with the attack that killed 3,000 of your fellow Americans and might very well know about the next one. You’re under extreme pressure to extract information from the guy.

Even though it's already been extracted. And without the use of dental implements.
And the guidance you’ve been given from Washington is maddeningly illogical. “Walling” (slamming a prisoner into a wall) is legal, but not revving a power drill near his head. “Cramped confinement” — locking someone in a dark box for 18 hours a day — or depriving him of sleep for 180 hours is O.K., but firing a gun in the next room is not. Waterboarding a prisoner is legal, but blowing cigar smoke in his face may be a crime.

Your instructions are maddeningly illogical? Isn't that generally termed "working for someone"?
No jury in America would have convicted them at the time they were being investigated. Not even close.

Probably because no jury in America would have come close to hearing the case. But, yeah, juries. Paragons of reason.
Mr. Holder’s decision, then, raises fundamental questions of fairness.

Questions which have been matters of black-letter law since the Bill of Rights were adopted. But questions.
Once the Justice Department declined to prosecute five years ago, the misconduct cases were sent back to the Central Intelligence Agency to handle. The agency decided to take internal disciplinary action. The employees and contractors in question — having been assured by their employer that they would no longer be facing prosecution — presumably accepted the administrative sanctions, relying on the Justice Department decision to end the criminal inquiry.

Right. 'Cause otherwise they'd have been all like, Oh no you don't!
For the government now to turn around and prosecute them without any significant new facts coming to light would be, legal experts tell me, a violation of the principle of estoppel.

Run out of room to name 'em, did we?
To a nonlawyer, it sure seems wrong.

See "Juries, comment on reasoning abilities of" above.
And you can be sure that any decent defense lawyer is going to raise this issue if there is a trial — particularly if the government decides to use admissions that might have been made during the agency’s administrative hearings.

Which, of course, it hasn't, and which thus, legal experts tell me, violates the principle of "Making An Ass of U and ME". And assuming, from the announcement of a preliminary investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing, that a bunch of poor forlorn torturers are going to find themselves in the Box, being grilled by relentless Obama administration prosecutors hell-bent on reducing the territory between themselves and the Truth to hot ash, is a violation of the principle of Trying to Keep a Straight Face before the Bar.
Yet it seems that Mr. Holder has instructed Mr. Durham to focus only on whether any agency employees or contractors exceeded the authorized guidelines — to go after the “bad apples”: those at the bottom of the food chain who carried out these orders in wartime and may have violated an incoherent set of rules that made as little sense to them in the field six or seven years ago as it does to us now. This doesn’t look much like justice; it looks like politics. This is scarcely different from what the Bush administration did after the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, scapegoating only low-level military police officers.

Yeah. Oh. Your winnings, sir.
The process that Mr. Holder has unleashed threatens to undermine one of the basic principles of our government. For a new administration to repudiate a consequential legal decision in an individual case made by the previous administration serves to delegitimize our government itself, which is, after, all premised upon institutional continuity.

One last question: do Thrillers really pay that much better than Comedy? 'Cause you missed your calling, Joe.

Saturday, August 29

You Said It

R. PORROFATTO, at Roy's:

In the liberloons' world, brandishing a weapon isn't the least bit intimdating, except when they're talking about how much it deters crime.

Thursday, August 27

Nicely Said, Mr. Brooks. By The Way, Did You Realize What You Were Saying, Exactly?

IT'S possible that I've mentioned this before, but it seems a trifle odd calling something "The Conversation" when the only element of what we commonly consider "conversing" is Gail Collins occasionally starting out her obligatory 250 words with "David" (or, in truly terrifying moments, "Ross"). Though that's not as odd as the notion of our Balkanized politics being portrayed as a competition between the Silly Goose schools of Economic "conservatism" and "liberal" centrism, as though we were deeply divided over tuh MAY toe and toe MAH toe. By the way, the modern senses of spoken interchange and familiarity with a subject or object date to the late 17th century; in Middle English--and, please, check the back of the seat in front of you to make sure the barf bag is available, or try not to think of David Brooks, Gail Collins, and/or Ross Douthat for the remainder of the paragraph!--conversation meant "residing in a community, consorting" or "intimacy with", out of which, apparently, it came to mean (clear blue ocean, clear blue ocean) sexual intercourse with, which, yet more oddly, still survives as the historical obsolescence of criminal conversation, i.e., adultery.

Whoa. I got a little whoozy there myself, and I knew what, you should pardon the expression, was coming. Anyway, whenever I read one of these things I'm tempted to imagine the Slow News Monday last December some time when Brooks and Collins were spotted firing paperclips at a Dixie Cup, and a passing supervisor told them if they couldn't find anything to do he'd find something. The Conversation. Of course it's more likely the Times' excuse for giving each the expected raise plus COLA this bleak year, but I like my version better.

Oh, plus it's part of the Times' "blogs" section, whatever th' fuck that is, so it's also someone's idea of how to lure that portion of the younger, internet-savvy set which still reads Standard English (albeit with so little comprehension that it would test its skills on Gail Collins and David Brooks).

So today's buzz-creator is about Teddy, and I made it through the first two sentences:
David Brooks: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less enamored of charisma. It’s fun to cover a charismatic politician, but government is boring and in a healthy society it should be boring.

Now, leave us ignore temptation and behave like proper archaeologists working from the top down. A cursory examination of that first coprolite reminds us that the charismatic figures of Brooks' youth were Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and William FuhBuckley. We suspect, to begin with, that Barely Legal Brooks, or any other sun-baked Yout of the day who found that trio of geriatric charlatans "charismatic" is, at the very least, operating under a different set of assumptions than the rest of us. We won't quibble over describing each as having followers, of course, but time has certainly questioned the source of the inspiration they provided (the scientific fakir in his Loincloth of Freedom; the Brahmin, and the Bubble-headed Spokesmodel, who had only just begun, by Brooks' reaching majority, to couch their racism). And that, at any rate, is distinct from having fallen under the sway of 80s "conservatism" as a young person, which has to raise the question, "What was it exactly that you didn't like about sex?"

If the aging Brooks is now less taken with actual corpses than he was, then, with the merely corpselike, well, all we can say is Wow, some surprise! Like, considering that the whole carnival burned down along with everyone inside. Like, considering that that big Burkean discussion group of a Party you belong too now considers Sarah Palin the IT Girl, and half a wit the maximum amount permissible. Y'know, maybe you could write about that directly some time. Say in the New York Times or something, Dave. Instead of you and Ross trying to survive on exhaust fumes, and convincing yourselves, and no one else, that a future Republican majority would somehow be different. More like yourselves.

And, okay, so we're just supposed to infer your Bush-era chastisement; I don't really expect anything more, such as personal honesty, from you or the rest of your cohort. Like Gene Lyons says today, all you people in the lucrative infotainment business saw what happened to the Dixie Chicks. You all know What to Kiss, and When. You were still pretty happy to toss rocks from the fifteenth row of the Bush Charisma mob, back when that still paid well, as I recall it.

But really, "government is boring and in a healthy society it should be boring?" We're a healthy society? Only if your definition of such is "one where David Brooks can make a living peddling shit as Shinola". Only in one where you ignore what the Republican party has become.

Wednesday, August 26

Consumer Report: The New Maureen Dowd Signature Line Of Donkey Appendage Strap-ons

MoDo, "Stung by the Perfect Sting". August 25

OKAY, so, first off, the amount of interest we have in the "question" of internets anonymity could fit behind a gnat's ear and still leave room for cochlear implants. It's covered. It's established. It's been done. The internets has nothing to do with it. Anonymity has nothing to do with it. Libel is libel. Interesting how it's the worst sort of overrated opinion whores, the ones whose free pass to making shit up has been, well, sullied by the blogosphere, who have the most difficulty getting their heads around that.

(Conversely, spare me the Tennessee Pinhead Law Professor view of the law, which holds that Nobody woulda known about it except that you sued. Good argument. The cops wouldn't have suspected you if you'd just let them search your house without a warrant! In fact, just spare me Tennessee Pinheads, period.)

Stalkers are bad. Liars are bad. People with hidden political agendas are bad. They're bad when they use the Internets, when they use cellphones, or when they use the Op-Ed pages. Whether they're unfairly maligning professional mannequins or Democratic candidates for President of the United States.
If I read all the vile stuff about me on the Internet, I’d never come to work. I’d scamper off and live my dream of being a cocktail waitress in a militia bar in Wyoming.

Where, incidentally, people would be able to insult you to your face.

Maureen Dowd has standing to criticize Who for What now? The fact that I (presumably) know her birth name, or Katie Couric's married name, means I can show up at their offices and demand a personal apology? Or that I can name her when I write Clark Hoyt a sternly-worded email? I don't recall her open identity doing Al Gore much good in 2000. Dowd hides behind the Public Figure exception to libel law, and behind the self-imposed journalistic "standard" that one may say whatever one wants without regard for fairness, fact, or emotional stability when one writes opinion under a byline, as much as any anonymous blogger slagging some catwalk stick figure.

And Maureen? I don't think you should trouble that hennaed head with all the nasty things the masses have to say about you, any more than I expect you to bother learning the facts of health care, banking regulation, or interpersonal relationships. I do think you ought once, just once, to address the searing criticisms of the named Bob Somerby, say, or even his Tuesday critique of Howie Kurtz. Just once. Without dismissing everyone on the planet who disagrees with you.

Your name's a commodity. You use it to sell books and speaking engagements. Fine by me. But why am I supposed to congratulate you on top of it?

Y'know, thirty-five years ago news media strode the earth like a Colossus. And from that vantage point they saw bigger profits on the horizon from cable, and space phones, and billboards on the Moon, and, especially, unfettered mergering and acquistioning and other rapining. And they decided that the Supermarket Tabloid model of making shit up was an unfair advantage, costing them literally hundreds of dollars a week in fact-checking. Pretty soon you can't say Time without the guy sitting next to you on the bus replying, "Warner." And what happens? When there are no standards left, aside from that byline thing, people discover they can make shit up for themselves and cut out the middle-man. And we learn in short order that there're 40,000 people who can write better than you, would do it for less, and can produce coherent thought without a Blackberryfull of "sources". And 15,000 of 'em would probably do it even if sleeping with a Sulzberger were part of the deal. I'm not saying things would be different now if you'd decided, then, to continue acting as if the News was what is important, and Accuracy your first requirement in relaying it; I'm just saying that now we'll never know. And you can spend you time trying to come up with some reason why we should care. One that doesn't involve knowing the difference between Barney's and Jean-Claude Penney. And better luck with that next time.

Tuesday, August 25

Thank God Our Long National Nightmare Of A Wildly Popular Government Program That Accomplishes Something Is Over

I DON'T know how it was where you live, but here the end of the Cash for Clunkers, or CARS program (never so referred to, and this by the people who were still calling it Reagan's "Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars" long after even Republicans had given up) was a cause for celebration by overextended, stressed-out teevee workers who'd been forced to drive from lot to lot to do backups, often the very same day they'd had to eat a corndog at the Fair.

I mean, that's assuming they're winding down; I'm afraid to look at this point. Channel 8--for much of the terrifying three previous weeks I've had the remote (though I knew better than to tune in anything other than local news), because with the start of the school year my Poor Wife has been trying to keep up with unreasonable, facelessly-bureaucratic government paperwork requirements which she must complete before she gets paid despite the fact that the servers crash frequently and things could be run better, so we've stuck with one channel, and for my money 8 offers the best local mix of stumbling teleprompter phonetics, clueless personnel decisions, and enforced pseudo-middle-class moral perspective--Channel 8, I say, may not be able to let go, like those anti-aircraft gunners still firing at the one-winged conflagration that used to be a Kamikaze as it spirals the last eighty feet into the Pacific.

At some point the mask slipped. At some point, right around the time that the original program ran out of money faster than expected someone at 8 forgot they were supposed to re-write the transcripts of that FOX NEWS morning show before they went to air, and the thing became a long exposé of Boy The Gubment Can't Get Anything Right, the likes of which I haven't really seen since Jimmy Carter gave away Our Canal. It's Run Out of Money! Already! Can You Believe It! Dealers Might Not Get Paid! Then the Congress bankrolled the thing for another $2 billion worth of wild popularity, but the script was set. Paperwork! Deadlines! Dealers Might Not Get Paid! The whole thing was treated as if it reeked of Scandal, as if $3 billion was some unimaginably and unprecedentedly enormous sum which had to be connected to some bureaucratic graft or other, rather than what it was, which is about 50% of what Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient L. Paul Bremmer just plain lost, in greenbacks, in just one of several suitcases he misplaced in Iraq.

The Dealer meme, especially, took root; the cynical among you may not require me to point out that Auto Sales Specialists--one of the most trusted and respected professions in the country--buy actual advertising time on local teevee, while owners of ten-year-old oil burners generally do not. They're not getting their money expeditiously! was a feature of every story for three weeks straight (compare, I guess, dealing with a bank, which, the minute you close a deal, puts someone in a cab with a manila envelope stuffed with Cs and instructions to run every light between here and there). A couple days back one of the guys the station had running between car lot backdrops sat down to interview, or "interview", the President and Lord High Potentate of the Indiana Auto Dealers, Fly-by-Night Driveway Resealers, and Small Traveling Carnival Operators Association, who did nothing but complain about the program for the alloted time, which was, by my watch, Too Long By Several Minutes, including his noting that dealerships had had to pay people to enter the paperwork from 2-4 AM because that was the only time the servers weren't busy. Oh my God, what have we become? Big Typing has muscled its way into the Totally Free Largesse For Automobile Dealership Owners With No Effort Required On Their Part Program!

My favorite, though, was yesterday's "interview" with the grifter from up the street here, the guy my Poor Wife takes her vehicle to for service, the one who, from the day she first took it in (had to buy it across town, because his "deal" was no deal at all) has been sending her monthly postage-subsidized mailers, regularly telling her how desperately they need Used Vehicles Just Like Hers, so desperately, in fact, that they're willing to pay something like Book Value for it, provided she reciprocate by buying a new vehicle from them, plus letting them choose the Book. And this guy says, with a straight face that would have been really impressive if he were something other than a car dealer, that the "real success" of the program has been that it got a lot of inefficient, unsafe cars off the road. And to a lesser extent, he made a shitpot full of money without having to adjust for the present economic climate. But mostly those polluting clunkers are off the road, is the first thought of the guy who has personally defoliated 1/4 acre of Indiana protected wilderness just to send postcards to my wife with the intention of determining if she had enough intelligence to insult.

It's good to see the old, facile, Everything Government Does Sucks routine returning to the Individually-Wrapped Zeitgeist Slices industry. It's an unexpected benefit. I must say I'd missed it during the bunting-draped Bush years and the cheerleading for the unconscionable waste of blood and treasure at the service of utter stupidity. But I'm glad they saved it up for something really important.

Monday, August 24

Leave The World Unseen, And With Thee Fade Away Into The Forest Dim Now With Enhanced Visibility

Mary Beth Schneider, "State to allow logging in protected area". August 20

“It’s a huge success story,” he said. “The forests are healthier, the wildlife is healthier and the Indiana economy is healthier.”

--David Pippen, Policy Director for Environmental and Natural Resources

Christ, you've got to give it to that sod. If he lost an arm he'd try to sell it for sausage meat.

--Fat Andy Dalziel

WHY The Indianapolis Racist Beacon Should Be Labelled A Choking Hazard, Vol. XLII:

"I don't like the cynicism of politics, the natural cynicism among citizens who think these folks are only out for themselves and they don't really mean what they say. We would like to try to create an eight-year example of a group that came and went and really did keep their word, or tried."

Gov. Mitch Daniels, telling the nation's state Capitol reporters meeting in Indianapolis that he would not consider a 2012 presidential bid. [Note: incoherence in original]

Okay, so we've been on the wrong side of the Looking Glass so long now that an entire generation knows nothing else, and veteran "newsmen" look off into the distance at the mere mention of it, like they're trying to picture the kid who sat next to them in eighth-grade homeroom. Okay, so it's not strictly accurate that The Mighty Atom has kept his word, or tried to keep his word, or done anything more than try to shape the public perception of his actions to accord with the PR version, which is where they actually do accord with his Principles. But this is nothing but a quibble Over Here. In a sense, or from one side of the mushroom, Mitch is correct, if still short (Eat Me); one could have taken out a notepad in January, 2005, and sketched a rough outline of what your average, but still short, Republican corporate buttboy would have attempted to do with eight years in office, and you'd have something approaching Daniels' list of accomplishments, or "accomplishments". In other words, he's done precisely what people who imagined the worst about him thought he would do. The fact that it's not what he said he'd do is beside the point. He's lying, but you have to give him points for the absolute candor underneath it all somewhere. Excepting, of course, that Big Brain doesn't think anybody in the audience will get it, so he didn't think he was playing with his own chips. Plus he was talking to "our state Capitol reporters", who are probably about as likely to question some risible platitude as an archbishop is to turn up at the Vatican butt-nakid.

[Prime example of this came two pages later in what used to be salable Racist Beacon real estate: Stuart Lowry, the former kiddie DJ who's run the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation since last August, when the guy who knew what he was doing quit, told us all how doubly good the new creative energy at Indy Parks would be, thanks almost entirely to Major Mayor Gomer F. Ballard's across-the-board 10% budget cuts (which, to tell the truth, at least meant he didn't try to make any real decisions), just as soon as public volunteerism takes up the slack.
However, we already have the sparks of a recovery in parks. Staff is stepping up with ideas and efficiencies, new partnerships are forming, and sister agencies are helping to address security, paving, and patching of park roads. Within the 2010 budget, we are seeking savings by competitively bidding services such as mowing, trash pickup, plumbing and athletic field maintenance to become better stewards of taxpayer dollars.

And the check's in your mouth, and I won't come in the mail. In the space of a single paragraph, the guy goes from explaining how super-duper it is that we're now living within our Artificially Impoverished Thanks to His Party's Property Tax Grandstanding budget to explaining how our deferred maintenance program is now, at $121 million, four times the annual Parks budget. This isn't "living within your means." It's congratulating yourself for making every other mortgage payment and hoping that Lack of a Roof thing gets some attention from a subsequent owner.]

I suppose we should be grateful the price of fill dirt hasn't skyrocketed. Meanwhile, Painfully Honest Mitch and the boys, last seen (in the woods, anyway) auctioning off public land at 5x normal speed, thanks to the processing power of those Enormous Entrepreneurial Intellects, recently spotted (from the air, probably, while hunting) some perfectly good potential timber products which were just standing there using up our precious carbon dioxide. A minor detail was that they happened to be hiding in a designated backcountry area set aside in 1981. This is the sort of thing you or I see as a problem, while the Large Craniumed Go-Getter sees only Opportunity.

But let's shuffle and deal from this side of the mirror, if only for nostalgia's sake. Public lands in Indiana, aside from state parks, are designated "multi-use". This means that if you're hiking in a State Forest, such as Morgan-Monroe, and you've forgotten to check the calendar first, you might find yourself sharing the mid-August trail with semi-automatic weapons-firing squirrel hunters, who've been stuck since the previous February with only family members and revenooers to shoot at, and who, no doubt, have wandered onto the prohibited and obvious trail sorely by accident. It means that Indiana's half-dozen timber operators and their vital employment of the family members of Indiana's half-dozen timber operators, not to mention their penumbra of lobbyists and legislators, have traditionally had access to timber. But it also means the concerns of recreational users are supposed to factor in there somewhere, and I don't recall "except during Republican administrations" being in the charter. I've hiked in state forests--principally Morgan-Monroe--for thirty some years, through the Republican administrations of Otis Bowen, Bob Orr, and Evan Bayh, and if I'd seen a dozen markers I've forgotten them. The summer after Daniels gets hold of the thing I'm walking one of the two five-mile loop trails squeezed onto its 9500 hectares, and I come to a clearing which hadn't been there before. Looks like a utility right-of-way. Instead it's part of Daniels' own Healthy Forests Initiative, in which the dangers of potential tree diseases was eased by eliminating their potential hosts. The thing had been bulldozed, was deeply rutted, and cutting and road debris was scattered everywhere. Though, in fairness, my knees and other factors have kept me away since. It's probably a mature second-growth forest by now. Or an apartment complex.

And this was the guy who couldn't find a reason to support the bailout of automakers that jibed with his principles.

And sure, right-o, Mr. Bonzai Governor. I know what to expect from you, though I don't think that's to your credit, exactly. What actually concerns me is the ease of finding someone who'll say something like this:
The openings will be replanted and become wildlife areas, (John) Seifert (director of the Division of Forestry) said. “You’ll see songbirds in there. You’ll see snakes in there, things that you won’t normally find in a closed-canopy forest. We’re trying to manage the system to provide as much diversity as we can.”

Or this:
“We’re not going to deny the visual impact is there,” Seifert said of the initial logging. “But in six months to a year, you’re going to have a new forest starting.”

Besides, you hippies like grass, right? Hell, we'll seed the whole place when we're finished, including the trail we tore up to make an access road, and the acre or two we clear-cut to make room for the construction trailers, an' everything. You won't even know we were there. Assuming you live to be 106.

And I guess the whole Eastern Jewel-backed Ash Borer Is On the March! routine is inoperative now? The threat is cyclical, only occurring in the first gubernatorial term? Or have they been superseded by the Protected Back Country Tulip Moth? Not that I exactly remember Mitch running as the Hardwood Husbandry candidate. And fer chrissakes:
Greg Koontz, a lumber buyer with Foley Hardwoods in Bargersville, agrees and would like to see more state forest logging, including in the back-country areas. With the downturn in the economy, construction is off, and the price of lumber has fallen with it.

“When prices go down, private landowners are reluctant to sell timber,” he said. “It becomes real important that that public timber goes up for sale to sustain the mills in a downturn.”

Can't we choose one story per decade and stick with it? Weren't you telling me just yesterday that the Gubmit shouldn't be competing with private insurance companies? Why're we undercutting private landowners? Why don't these fuckingly vital lumber operators buy their own fuckingly vital property? Because it'd force them to look for cheaper lobbyists? Or am I just forgetting Mitch's pledge of Corporate Welfare for all?

Friday, August 21

Plus, Th' Fuck Keeps Fruit In A Cellar?

WASN'T the Sell-by date for this shit, like, 1983? At whom, exactly, is something like Cristina Nehring's A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-first Century being hurled (aside from Megan Cox Gurdon, that is)? I know it's too much to ask that Slate not hand the thing over to Meghan O'Rourke, et. al., to see if they couldn't wring all the non-triviality out of it, if any, because Slate is on a mission to destroy Life as We Know It, on the grounds that anything Slate says or does guarantees its opposite.

Okay, sure, I'm two months "late", as it were, as though this is the sort of thing one ought to stay right on top of, as though a tiresome polemic scoring a strawomyn Feminism the ranter is happy to benefit from otherwise isn't forty years late before it reaches the packing line. Was there some panicked study that noted our nation's dwindling Wealthy, Rapidly-Middle-Aging, Ivy-and-Seven-Sister-Educated White Women with Artificially-Flavored Literary Chips on their Shoulders Because Shopping Is No Longer Considered a Respectable Career Path in Some Circles resources that I missed?

Oh, but of course, Nehring's is no straight exchange of once-living trees for simple Feminist bashing, oh no. Because otherwise she wouldn't be praised for avoiding simple Feminist bashing. By Megan Cox Gurdon:
Not that feminism has been a total bust, of course; legal equality and the expectation of female sexual satisfaction are surely pleasant results of centuries of activism. Ms. Nehring concedes this but notes: "We need not trash feminism's flowers to dispose of the rotting fruit in its cellar."

How much longer is this shit supposed to work (other than on Megan Cox Gurdon)? Some of my best friends are!

And look; I'm not without a heart. I was too young to drive at the time, but allow me to apologize to y'all for the Sixties and all that Equality stuff anyway. Believe me, had we been able to look into the future and seen that the succeeding generation of overripe debutantes would find their own Class subsumed by the wrong sort of vapidity we'd have just kept our mouths shut, I'm sure.

But y'know what? If there's Something Lacking in the Romance Department in my little corner of what people who live in Paris and Los Angeles (Nehring's The Nation bio. No. Really. ) refer to as Where? I'll guarantee you it's not caused by shrill Feminist harpies demanding desexed marriage contracts and down-the-line equality, though it might be due to excessive drinking and pill consumption caused by the need to sleep occasionally despite the constant, ear-splitting drumbeat of consumerist crap and phony issues.

At least there's no gambling going on in this establishment! And speaking of inexplicable book deals, Tom Ridge hits the hustings reveaing (gasp!) that he might've been pressured into raising the Terra Threat Alert Level (just a little!) right after the 2004 Democratic National Convention for political reasons, which is like revealing that the Titanic sank because it was in the water at the time.

So, Mr. Secretary, we'll ask you the same question we keep asking Colin Powell, but he's busy saving our educational system: Why didn't you resign? Was it because loyalty to a political campaign took precedence over loyalty to the country? Was it because the whole $Trillions-wasting operation was just a big game? Or was it because you figured the advance money would be better in a few years?

Wednesday, August 19

Indiana: The Crossroads Of Clust*r F**k

• Brave Indiana blogger St. Allio! notices diminutive Indiana Governor Mitch "Lone Wolf" Daniels, motorcycle enthusiast (which this blog never mentions, for the same reason that Batting Practice Home Runs is not a career stat), babbling incoherently in the manner of the high school girl trying to land a blind date for her ugly cousin:
Asked, though, if those fatalities might be lessened with a mandatory helmet law, Daniels said that "honestly, the data says that's not the key -- that really the key is practicing motorcycle safety and people on four wheels being a little more attentive. That's what will make the difference, just as seat belts have made a difference."

and proceeds, unfairly, I thought, to contrast it with facts.

What we find amusing, apart from the lil' tike's constant public exhibitions of his enjoyment of external crotch power (which we don't mention here), is how Big Brain, Tiny Feet has a lifetime pass to gargle crowd-pleasing libertoonian inanities at every opportunity and have them portrayed as the product of His Enormous Cranial Capacity for Ratiocination. It's positively Reaganesque, assuming there's anything positive about Reagan.

• Meanwhile, the second half of the Bonzai Governor's plan to raffle off state assets and claim the profits as evidence of his Miraculous Intellectual Agility is joining the first in the Proverbial Toilet, with nearly identical--if wholly predictable--PR results.

You might recall, god help you, that Australian-based Macquarie Group Ltd., and a Spanish consortium, paid Mitch $3.8 billion upfront for a several-lifetimes lease on the Indiana Toll Road, and that they, like the state's anticipated interest revenue on all that booty, were victims of the global recession Daniels had single-handedly paved the way for at OMB.* This has led to rampant speculation that the asset would be sold, except in the Daniels' PR office, which suggested, for about ten minutes, anyway, that this meant We'd Get The Road Back while keeping all the money. Enormous Cerebrum Power!

Either somebody put the ki-bosh on that one toot sweet, or the local media's lost sight of the story in all the excitement over what they're deep-frying at this year's State Fair (pizza, doughballs, Twinkies, more doughballs, fettucini Alfredo, last year's leftover doughballs, and 2-inch squares of Brooks or Dunn stage underwear); at some point, after the Daniels/ Jindal juggernaut sweeps 47 states in 2012, we'll start hearing about what the lawsuits are costing us, though this will somehow be the Democrat's fault.

Couple that with the showpiece of What We Needed The Money For, and I don't mean Handing $95 Million Reward Money to the Carmel City Government (Motto: Still No Indictments!) so it could build ~$80 million dollars of unneeded roundabouts for ~$165 million, but the unneeded I-69 extension from Evansville to Indianapolis, which we've been fighting over for almost forty years without anyone dying from its absence. (I say "unneeded", but, in fairness, if you lived in Evansville, or Indianapolis, any quicker way out of town might be so attractive as to blind you to other realities. Like, fer instance, that there's already a way to get there, albeit one which doesn't have the potential of eliminating any more farmland, wetlands, or personal dwellings, also known as "Job Creation".) Sadly it was the previous, "Democratic", administration which finally greenlighted the plan, which just goes to show that you might as well just give up and become a lawyer. But it was Mitch's Mighty Mental Abilities which thunk-up the fast-track funding.

Except that now it turns out the first leg, from Evansville to Crane, Indiana, or, rather, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division, aka the single military installation in Indiana our sinecured Senate delegation hasn't been able to oversee the complete dismantling of quite yet, is, uh, a little out of money. And, well, it's actually $500 million in the hole, even without the assistance of Carmel mayor Jim Brainard.

Which has led the Daniels PR division of the Department of Transportation to reply, look, we didn't actually say the budget would actually build the actual road; we just said it would build the road in the event that we already owned all the property, had done all the studies, and had the blueprints ready. Which we didn't. And which is the "Democrats" fault.

And which, it turns out, was a really spirited attempt, considering that their own numbers show a $120-$190 million shortfall in construction costs alone, in 2010 dollars.

And at this point, were I a gambling man, I'd say it was even money whether Mitch Daniels was running for President in 2012, or running from the law. But this is America, where it's possible to do both, maybe even mandatory, and this is one reason why I'm not a gambling man. One thing I am sure of, though, is that it's a lot tougher to fake your own death while piloting your Harley than your private plane.

• Meanwhile, word comes that the Town of Beech Grove, which is one of those previously incorporated Marion County towns where they get to vote for my mayor and I don't get to vote for theirs, is joining several other Indiana localities in considering dropping school bus service in order to balance the budget they've been left with by the Education Governor. The news, predictably, has brought howls of protest, frequently from the very people whose howling protests about their property taxes led to the problem in the first place. Which reminds me:

• The folks in Fishers, Indiana, which is where the people in Carmel house their middle managers, junior accountants, and extra strip malls, have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a light rail system which would, coincidentally, run from Fishers, Indiana, to downtown Indianapolis, benefitting, theoretically, theoretical people from Fishers, Indiana and next to no one else. That is, 67% of respondents told pollsters they'd support light rail so much they'd pay $110 a year for it.

The bad news is that's down from the 87% who supported it last year, when the pollsters didn't mention anything about paying for it.

• Just as a personal note, if you're one of those pessimists who believes the general public has little or no interest in the language, try this simple experiment: put a No Solicitors sign up on your front door. You'd be amazed. Every Jehovah's Witness, Free Window Replacement Estimator, Itinerant Lumberjack, and Professional Door Knob Festooner is passionately concerned with whether "to solicit" requires an immediate request for cash. And they're all wrong, but I suppose that's to be expected, what with the state of public education an' all.

* Exaggeration. He's not that smart.

Tuesday, August 18

The Good Teacher

Patrick Welsh, "The Ed.D and Other Certification Charades", in "Do Teachers Need Education Degrees?" August 16

LET'S note, first of all, that Ross "Linkmaster" Douthat can--as part of his ongoing shillery which is supposed, best guess, to convince someone other than cloistered East Coast Burkeans and whatever Titans of Industry actually give a shit about anything but Capital, that the real Republican party isn't the one they've seen for the last fifty years--perpetrate this sentence:
If the Democratic Party’s attempt at health care reform perishes, senior citizens will have done it in, not talk-radio listeners and Glenn Beck acolytes. It’s the skepticism of over-65 Americans that’s dragging support for reform southward. And it’s their opposition to cost-cutting that makes finding the money to pay for it so difficult.

without any linkage whatever. Ross, Ross, Ross: who says the Democratic Party's attempting health care reform? Who qualifies as a senior citizen? What is Glenn Beck's home address? I need to know where to find the answers, and in my dotage I depend on grown men with teenage beards to lead me to them. Just like shopping at Best Buy.

But mostly I need to know whose ass that "statistic" was pulled from.

And look, Ross, it's not that Monday's--you should pardon the expression--effort ("Sure, Republicans should use the imminent de facto replacement of Medicare with Senior Death Camps to generate cheap, uninformed political opposition, but they should also remember to toss in a scoff about literal Death Camps as an aside, so no one confuses them with the raving fucking lunatics who agree with 'em; they should not lose sight of the fact that their real mission is to eradicate Medicare altogether; and also bear in mind that actual corpses piling up on the highway could have an inflationary effect on future transportation costs. Plus, they should tread lightly near the seductive practice of abandoning their supposed principles for tawdry, temporal partisan gain, since this is their first time doing so in the History of the Republic, and the erection might last more than four hours"*) wasn't among the thirty most pointless, vapid, and intellectually dishonest you've turned out for the Times. It's just that it's the beginning of the school year, and I'm got the annual beehive in my baseball hat, and you know how bees get this time of year. On second thought, you probably don't.

We can't stress enough: if you shop for groceries, or purchase gas--let alone try to deal with a medical insurer--and you have the wit to look around you and notice things, you know that The Free Market is such a transparent fiction that whoever shovels the thing at you is a liar or an idiot. Similarly, if you've ever had some sort of difference of opinion with a chain store which required you to speak with a manager, or someone further up the Chain of Command, you are perfectly aware, whether or not you realize it, of the utter catastrophe awaiting the school system which turns over its standards to administrators.

Put it another way: why, apart from the inherent literacy requirement, don't we let cops write the laws?

Patrick Welsh, who teaches English at T. C. Williams High in Alexandria, VA:
The credentialing game in public education may have once been a well-meaning effort to create some measurable criteria to maintain standards, but it has turned into an absurd process that forces both teachers and administrators to waste time jumping through hoops that have little or no relation to their job performance.

It's like a tire with very little tread wear, and a four-inch slash on the sidewall. How did we go from "the credentials game" (and aren't they all? Every bad haircut I ever got in my life came from someone with a license. Okay, except the one I gave myself on mescaline in 1974) to the educational requirements themselves being the problem? What changed, exactly, to make the "well-meaning effort" obsolete?

Two things, here. One, Indiana happens to be one of those well-meaning states which actually requires teachers to be certified both for the content of their subject matter and the class level they attempt to impart it to. That is, we do currently, though it's under attack from our first elected Superintendent of Public Instruction who did not, as I recall it, campaign on a platform of Throwing the Doors Open to anyone who thinks teaching sounds like a couple-months' lark and a sweet paycheck with lots of vacation time. In an era of shrinking budgets and crypto-defunding of public education via "charters"--where all those unqualified teachers are qualified to teach anyway--the engine behind this seems a little difficult to locate, unless you have an inkling or two about union busting. Or shop for groceries.

Second, my Poor Wife joins millions of others in having jumped through those same hoops every two years, on average (and in having delayed the acquistion of a Master's degree on the grounds that doing so might have actually priced her out of the job market, just so we're clear that The Credentials Game cuts both ways). And while again we want to make it clear that, as always, none of this speaks for her, if I were to guess it would be that she'd gladly swap the series of hoops she jumps through on a weekly basis, in the name, frequently, of "educational reform" (say, for example, Sunday's five hours of writing weekly progress reports so they can join thousands of others sitting in someone's Ignore basket downtown). Which hoops, by the way, are not going to disappear just because we hire a bunch of anti-hooparians as teachers.
Nothing shows how downright phony the game is than the Ed.D.s — the Doctors of Education. I have seen administrators who have had trouble writing clear letters home to parents and who murdered the English language in public go about brandishing their degrees and insisting on being called “Doctor.” On the other hand, the two best principals in my high school — T.C. Williams in Alexandria, Va. — never bothered to get “doctorate” degrees; in fact, one did not even have a master’s when he was first hired. Both were appointed by wise superintendents who knew natural leaders when they saw them.

Though both were, presumably, educators, not meat cutters or file clerks or Admiralty doorknob polishers.

We're not going to argue with the contention; we've seen it in action any number of times. What we take issue with is the idea that a pompous windbag holding a Ph.D justifies the notion that anyone can do the work, and the less educational "indoctrination" the better. Where does that idea come from? Surely not real life; not from hiring the shade-tree mechanic, the itinerant roofer, or the brother-in-law who knows everything about computers. Surely not from the Bush administration version, in which "highly qualified" military outsiders managed to accomplish the World's Longest Pooch Screwing in Iraq and Afghanistan. We know absolutely nothing of the Alexandria, VA, school system, but we'd lay five large that the people it has empowered to make executive decisions have just as often advanced cronies and sycophants as miracle-working degree-shunners. Sheesh, Mr. Welsh, who put all those idiot Ph.Ds in your path in the first place? And why?
The credentialing game is even worse when it comes to teachers, because bureaucrats, obsessed with rules and numbers, would rather hire a mediocre but “fully certified” prospect than the brightest, most promising applicant who lacked the “education” courses.

Well, to begin, "even worse" oversteps; a single administrator can do the damage of ten or a hundred bad teachers, who are, at least, operating under hourly scrutiny and subject to a regular public review process, and who don't have personal secretaries to duck the phone calls of irate parents for them. Second, we ask again, with no more expectation that we'll be answered than any previous time, where are all these qualified people who want to teach but didn't want to get the required education degree? Are the lines of applicants too long at private and charter schools around the country for them to wait their turn? Anxious little fuckers, ain't they?
Take the case of a young woman who taught government at our school a few years ago

What's the plural of "anecdote", again?
A Yale graduate, a dynamic teacher and coach loved by kids and parents, she came into the school system on a “provisional certification” policy that gave her three years to take the required 18 credit hours. At the end of the third year she completed all the course work and carried her transcripts to the Alexandria personnel office, only to learn from the district director of human resources that he was terminating her. His reason: The state would not be able to get the piece of paper saying that she was officially certified to the director’s office before the beginning of school in September.

Okay. One: maybe it's the fucking system that's at fault, not the concept of accreditation; three years to complete eighteen course hours while teaching full time seems pretty steep to me, but my indolence is World Class. Two: as is so often the case, there's an obvious failure at the supervisory/professional level here that gets a free pass so we can blame Evil Uncaring Bureaucrats. She's not just a Yalie who decides to teach at a public school. She's a much-beloved teacher and coach, yet no one thinks to make sure she's on track to get that certificate on time! Doesn't find out until she walks in the office with the completed paperwork. She wasn't working nights as a cabbie, too, was she?

And if that doesn't flunk the smell test sir, this does: there's always some way to keep people around for a semester. Teacher's aide, teaching assistant, permanent sub; most places don't require coaches, beloved or no, to be faculty members. She just underwent three years of considerable class loads, in addition to teaching and coaching, and she can't wait three more months before she can sign a teaching contract? And no one at your school was willing to move heaven and earth to keep her? I think the problem's more basic than bureaucratic inertia. And closer to home.
A few years ago one of the brightest, most dynamic and popular teachers in the school

What's the singular of "data", again?
young man who had 48 graduate hours in creative writing — was told he would not be certified unless he took a basic composition course, a low-level course he had been exempted from at the University of Virginia on the basis of his Advanced Placement score in high school. Fed up with this and other courses he was required to take to be deemed “highly qualified,” this terrific teacher resigned.

Forty-eight graduate hours in creative writing? What'd he do after his hissy fit? Go back to the management track at Wendy's?

Okay, sorry, easy joke. But, sheesh, don't tell me a lifelong teacher hears that story and says, "Oh, damn, and he was so close to entering a profession where his intelligence would never, ever be insulted again." C'mon. All the guy had to do was contact the instructor of Insulting and Demeaning Composition 101, and arrange to get an A without attending. Or do the entire course load one weekend. And pay the fee. Was it being taught by a complete idiot? Or a cabbie?
A good start to ensure that schools get the best people in the classrooms would be to stop filtering candidates through personnel offices obsessed with education courses and “certification,” and allow individual schools to advertise for the positions they need, and then allow principals along with panels of teachers to hire enthusiastic candidates who exhibit knowledge and love of their subject and a passion for communicating that knowledge and love to students. The only requirement for “certification” should be that the new prospects accept mentoring by the best teachers in the school.

Yeah, the sort of mentoring program for exciting new teacher prospects that is entirely absent at T. C. Williams High, Alexandria, VA.
Will there be mistakes in judgment and some candidates simply not pan out? Of course, but there is an easy solution — get rid of those who turn off kids and can’t get them excited about learning.

I'm not sayin' we won't get our hair mussed...
Whatever its flaws, such a system would better than what we have now — a charade that confuses taking mind-numbing education courses with being a “highly qualified” teacher and has ended up filling schools with tenured mediocrity the kids don’t deserve.

Now, as our cab recedes like the business end of a Crayola Yellow Orange with a case of the mumps, let's return to the halls of Indianapolis Public Schools, where Your Mileage May Vary, but where new teachers are mentored despite (or because of) their having completed a full BS program, including half their time-wasting spent in Education courses, and a full semester's classroom teaching experience. And where, despite an all-powerful Union, they may essentially be fired for any reason their first two years. Let's see if we can't catch a glimpse of the crackerjack system which is going to take legions of raw Yalies and turn them into qualified teachers in a way the precise same system has apparently been unable to do with specifically trained graduates who chose education as a career.



* This was, to my knowledge, the World's Longest Shorter (concept: D Squared; perfection: E. Beard)

Friday, August 14

Friday Last Month Garden Blogging

THE degradations of August, moderate so far in the cool and damp, haven't prevented picture-taking nearly as much as the fact that every last fucking time I've been outdoors in the last two weeks something bites me and leaves a welt that itches for five days. So here's last month's:

American dagger moth caterpillar

Second flush of Gruss an Aachen ("Jerry")

New coleus my neighbor gave me sans ID

Club moss

Left to right: bee balm, golden oregano, meadowsweet,
Lady's mantle, cat the neighbor child named
"e.e. cummings" or "Edgar Lee Masters" or something

Thursday, August 13

I Knew If We Looked Long Enough We'd Find Something To Like About Bush

Barton Gellman, "Cheney Uncloaks His Frustrations With Bush: 'Statute of Limitations Has Expired' on Many Secrets, Former Vice President Says". August 13

MY Poor Wife came home from Monday teacher meetings with some godawful soccer/tennis shirt thing, executed in one of those microfibers with a hand so gratingly unnatural that any sentient being placed on the thing would scurry off as if for its life, such a hand that if you touch it unawares your autonomic nervous system will withdraw your mitt for you without bothering your cerebral cortex. It feels like the fourth sample of the six thousand DuPont rejected on the way to introducing Dacron.

And that, in case you haven't already guessed, isn't All; not only was the selection made by a sadist, the thing was designed by someone who, so far as I can tell, was chained in a closet from age 5-9 and forced to wear a 1975 Houston Astros uniform shirt, and swore to take undying revenge on humanity once released.

Our point is not to launch a few fungos about poor fashion sense, but to note something of the martinet impulse, or maybe the Stockholm syndrome, in American public life. The shirts are intended as Friday wear, augmenting a (recent) practice of teachers wearing school colors supposed, I guess, to cap each week with an increase in something called School Spirit, and perhaps other Intangibles. And I'm all for School Spirit, since it gives the budding curmudgeon a real head start on recognizing just what sort of brown-nosing droids he is likely to find himself working with in just a few years. (In a sign of the true disturbance of our age, one of the young teachers stood up in the meeting and suggested everyone wear their shirts Wednesday, i.e. yesterday, first day of classes, "to welcome in our students to the new year!" My Poor Wife relayed the story to me, and I asked if anyone had thought to say "Get a hit, Crash!" to her back.) And if this is just the sort of thing that bad supervisors do in expectation of being hailed for their largesse with company money (even if it's not the whiff of the Waffen SS that really attracts), and which the pathologically needy rise to second, the experience of her colleague, just transferred to another school, who was required to buy four pre-designed team golf shirts to be worn daily, is something else. Teacher uniforms! This was the first impulse of the failed retail executive Mitch Daniels hired to collapse the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Dress everyone like servers in a sandwich shop and their Hearts and Minds will follow. This guy (her colleague) has twenty-five years teaching experience, a Masters in Education, and a solid C.V., and some administrator's big idea is to dress him like a Best Buy's stock clerk.

Nothing survives being thought of! says the Book of St. Oscar, and, like all paradoxical truths, that one is most likely to be laughed off by the people who need it most. Or stared at like a dog stares at a ceiling fan. This is why, Young Educator, every falsehood convenient to the Rich, the Powerful, the Petty and Tyrannical, is cloaked in Religion, or Nationalism, or Entrepreneurial Efficiency. Or the full-blooded roar of the partisan sports enthusiast. Shut up and teach somebody something! You will have plenty of opportunities to mold young minds into credulous drones who salivate at the approach of the appropriate swatch of colored fabric in your own classroom. And best of luck.

Which brings us to the Dick Cheney Salvage Operations, which yesterday appear to've moved from mapping out the wreckage into the opening stages of selling the bilgewater, which turns out to be more valuable than the actual artifacts. The whole thing is too laughable for words, provided, I guess, that you didn't still harbor some dim hope for the future of the United States.

It's difficult to even try settling on highlights, but they'd have to include the man who made Richard Nixon look like a walking Sunshine Law saying that now--eight whole months out of office, and one whole day into the promotion of his book deal--the "Statute of Limitations" has expired on his keeping his lip zipped. Which, of course, he didn't actually do as Vice-President of the United States, President of the Senate, and Lord High Poo-Bah of the Invisible Fourth Branch of Government, but then malleability is just about morality's best feature. This brings to mind the old adage I just made up, which is that while there may not be any atheists in foxholes, if you have the choice of whom to jump into one with that's probably the way to play it. Not that you were ever in danger of finding yourself sharing a foxhole with Dick Cheney. A cell, maybe. At the outside.
But there is a sting in Cheney's critique, because he views concessions to public sentiment as moral weakness. After years of praising Bush as a man of resolve, Cheney now intimates that the former president turned out to be more like an ordinary politician in the end.

Now, I've seen four or five versions of this story, and none of them actually quotes Cheney as saying anything about "moral weakness". Which I presume is due to his fear that uttering the M word would cause his pacemaker to burst into flames.

And okay; shooting fish in a barrel is at least as sporting as shooting penned lawyers, so: if Bush gave up on you in his second term it means he was the last man in America to do so, excepting maybe a few Western holdouts who were hoping more oil and mineral rights might still materialize at 2¢ an acre. Just maybe this had a little something to do with every last blessed thing you touched turning to Shit, unless you were an insider investor who was tipped to Sell early.

So let's say the same thing to you we said to Colin Powell when he had a book to peddle: Why didn't you quit? Apart from losing the cloak of Executive Privilege? Conversely, you're so smart: Why didn't you run for President? Because your own popularity could pass under George W. Bush's while on horseback?
"What impressed me was his continuing zeal," said an associate who discussed the book with Cheney. "He hadn't stepped back a bit from the positions he took in office to a more relaxed, Olympian view. He was still very much in the fray. He's not going to soften anything or accommodate shifts of conscience. There was no sense in which he looked back and said, 'I wish I'd done something differently.' Rather, there was a sense that they hadn't gone far enough. If he'd been equipped with a group of people as ideologically rigorous as he was, they'd have been able to push further."

It's remarkable, innit, how often "Steadfastly stands his ground" and "Inerrant choice of the worst shithole to stand on" go together?

And, well, Big Fucking Deal anyhow; Cheney, like Rumsfeld, belongs to that generation of Republicans who were so incontrovertibly wrong about everything from an early age that A Foolish Constancy was their only alternative to Admitting They Were Full of Shit. Guess which one they chose? It's not a noble aspect, or an accomplishment, any more than protective coloration is an accomplishment of the Snow Weasel. It's the only way they could survive until a more attractive candidate than themselves--which doesn't narrow things down much--could return them to power so they could prove just how much they could fuck things up while remaining constant.
What the former vice president assuredly will not do, according to friends and family, is break a lifetime's reticence about his feelings. Alluding to Bush's forthcoming memoir, Cheney told one small group recently that he had no interest "in sharing personal details," as the former president planned to do.

"He sort of spat the word 'personal,' " said one person in the room.

Excuse me, but that distinguishes it from every other word he's ever uttered how, now?

Wednesday, August 12

Forget It, Jake.

OKAY, so you wouldn't know it from the pages of the online Indianapolis Racist Beacon, which was more interested in the breakup of something called Brooks & Dunn, some law firm I'm guessing, but the Indianapolis City-County Council solved, or "solved", the funding problems for the Capital Improvement Board (Motto: " o, Taxation Without Representation!") by raising the hotel tax 1%, plus some stocking-stuffer accounting shenanigans.

Now, just to remind you why you might care, despite your not caring, the CIB is one of those "practical" government solutions to the problems of wealthy people being not quite wealthy enough which Republican-controlled governments are fond of making in between complaining about Taxes on the Little Guy and The Size of Government When Democrats Control It. It dates to the mayoralty of one Richard "This Town Ain't Big Enough For White People To Control The Vote" Lugar, the 20th century Lincoln who extended the franchise to the suburbs, and solved the concurrent problem of Old Money losing its downtown property values by establishing (with the State's imprimatur) a private corporation with the right to raise and spend tax monies. It was intended (or "intended", maybe) at first to knock down a few blighty blocks near the Statehouse and put up a Convention Center. But when more money (from the first hotel/restaurant tax) than expected came in the "surplus" cash was too tempting to permit a strict adherence to the law, as in paying off the project it was intended for. And the "excess" was funneled into other projects, including rehabbing privately-owned office buildings and building a stadium for the football team we hadn't stolen yet.

And it's this the crotchety linear-thinker remembers when he sees commenters drawn by the Racist Beacon confidently announcing It's all the Democrats' fault! as though Indiana Democrats were real Democrats, as though there were such a thing anymore, even nationally, and as though when there was it approached the combination of Stalin, Dr. Mengele, and Margaret Sanger of the popular pin-headed Republican imagining.

So at the beginning of the year the CIB announces it's about $45 million in the hole, the bulk of the shortfall being the operating expenses for the new Football Barn, which seem to've been left out of the process of creating it (at least as it came to pass; Democrats, who ran the city at the time, say the expenses were in their bill before Mitch "The Bantam Menace" Daniels and his hench Legislature took the thing over); another $15 million comes from the Pacers demanding we give them that much by taking over their operating expenses, too. And looey-bird Marine (ret) Gomer Pyle II, the accidental Mayor of Indianapolis, was basically spanked by the same bunch when he had to come asking for a little help with the money, before being made to stand at attention while the Bonzai Governor crowed about it.

Now, look: the LA water-rights grab was nearly a century ago. The St. Francis Dam collapsed ninety-one years ago. You'd think some sense-memory of that would still be fresh, especially as one of the great American films of all time takes off from there. And you'd be wrong. The bozos swept back into power in the nation's first Astroturf Teabagging Festival just raised taxes so we can give more money to the Irasay and Simon clans. You'd expect something akin to the same tub-thumping news coverage the Property Tax Protests got two years back. And you'd be wrong.

And you'd be wrong! Channel 8, last night, admitted that the increased hotel plus the increased sales taxes, now totaling 17%, put us among the highest in the nation, higher than (their figures) San Antonio, Denver, or Chicago. But But Butbutbut! Since our room rates are lower that theirs, we're still the winners!

Now then, you might be looking at that list thinking, "I didn't know those cities were in competition with Indianapolis", especially as two of them are at least twice its size, all of them possess indigenous cultures, or any other sort of culture, including having something other than Olive Garden win Best Restaurant in readers' polls, and one of them is not even technically part of the United States.* You might be imagining that the list was cherry-picked and read on the air without further consideration. And, well, maybe. It's a curious assortment, but a quick look at Cincinnati, Nashville, Columbus, Louisville, and St. Louis shows roughly equal room + tax totals, though I doubt Naptown would wind up at the absolute bottom of the list. Bear with me; unlike local news operations, I do my own research.

But then, this is not my point. My point is that I don't recall ever once seeing such a comparison two years ago, when the tax raisers in question were the previous Democratic administration and Council. And that money went to pay off police and fire pension obligations, not Larry Bird's execrable career stats in personnel management, or Jim-Bob Irsay's guitar collection fetish.

The Racist Beacon seems to've left all mention of the thing to its political columnist, who said, among other things (and no, I couldn't've made this up):

• Mayor Gomer's a hero for proposing a balanced budget. (Balanced by cutting every city department except Public Safety by 10%. This is the sort of "achievement" only someone with a pocket calculator, and a complete lack of regard for health, hospitals, streets, sanitation, schools, parks, and the arts, could have accomplished.)

• If you live in Marion County you won't care about a Hotel tax increase unless you're an adulterer. Really.

• Democrats--only one of whom crossed over--are the real hypocrites, because after being voted out of power in a Racist Beacon-assisted tax revolt, they were honor-bound to vote to raise taxes again.

• Plus their former leader is a big poopy brain.

Really. These people benefit personally and professionally from our socialized sports teams, and they benefit directly from lowered property taxes. And they're about as likely to recuse themselves as Justice Scalia is.

*You argue with 'em. I'm through.

Tuesday, August 11

Ya Just Can't Beat The Classics, Vol. XIV

LAST month sometime I was flipping channels while just about to crash, and I stumbled onto the last fifteen minutes of The History Channel's History of Sparta and Those Cute Leather Miniskirts Their Buffed and Oiled Half-Naked Warriors Wore which, I'm thinking, had been produced to coincide with the release of The 300, the remarkable piece of deafening cinematic drivel Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called "the Citizen Kane of cinematic graphic novels", apparently because both movies are about the performance of symbolic oral sex.*

Note that, so far as we can tell, Roeper did not go outside and throw himself in front of a CTA train upon completing that sentence, which, for us, will forever mean there isn't enough public transportation in Chicago.

And I'm half-watching, half-falling asleep; they've made it to Thermopylae, the climax, if you will, and suddenly I see Professor Victor Davis Tiberius Drusus Germanicus Hanson. And not just that (he had, after all, penned the Introduction to the book, which is the Anna Karenina of comics); I hear him say:
(it would be a) terrible thing. The noise of people screaming, people defecating, people urinating, people falling down, people being trampled, spears breaking...

and I don't think I need to mention that about halfway through the thing I was wide awake, and reaching for the controls so I could record it just to get the quote.

And, okay, it's edited; they pull in a bunch of people with teaching positions and cut what is said to fit the way the story is to be told. And I don't really want to make too much of the fact that the man's a political lunatic; to me the salient curiosity of Victor Davis King Emmanuel Mmmbop Hanson is that he holds a university teaching position while publishing Simple Moral Lessons You Can Make Up From Military History over and over again. Still, it wasn't a voice-double making with the poo and pee comments, and while gore and mire are a very real part of the experience of war--even war as imagined by people whose sole experience of it comes from rewriting Herodotus, and who passed on the opportunity to foul their own skivvies when the chance came--well, urination? People urinating around me describes most of my Saturday nights from 1971-1977, and much of the rest of those weeks as well.

Anyway, I just rediscovered the thing on the DVR list, and watched it last night, and while Professor Hanson's comments, if any, on the fact that about a third of the Spartan lad's training was likely spent as a human scabbard for an older man's weapon, they did quote him on Bizarre Spartan marital customs:
So we do have incidents--very strange incidents--where men invite younger men, who they think are better than they are, to have relations with their wives...

Which, dammit, was never the story of a single one of my Saturday nights, but which, despite the general deflation of age, we will note that if you, a Professor of Ancient History, find this "very strange" you might wanna stick with the fecal material. Which, no doubt, you will.

*Do I have to explain this?

Monday, August 10

Oh, You Mean "We" As In "Th' Fuck Are 'We' Doing In Afghanistan, Again?"

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Spengler was an optimist.

Nicholas Schmidle, "After Mehsud: The rest of the Pakistani Taliban won't be such easy targets". August 7

EIGHT-HUNDRED words, once a week, and Douthat earns 1/50 of his salary reviewing a popcorn muncher and the oeuvre of Judd Apatow. Have they started looking for his replacement yet?

Here's a tricky moral quandary for ya: Why do our self-appointed public moralists get to self-appoint which issues are moral questions and which aren't? It's like making the Hall as a .300 hitter because you were allowed to require every pitch be a fastball, belt-high and outside. (Douthat, if memory serves, wrote a piece after the murder of Dr. George Tiller in which he took about six paragraphs before interrupting his anti-abortion screed to brush aside the actual murder as a "terrorist act". Retribution for some sins is best left to the terrestrial courts. How convenient for you.)

Oh, and, you want the moral lesson of a Judd Apatow flicker? You walked right past it. It came when the girl in the window told you it would be 10 bucks to get in.

Okay, so it's an academic complaint; I don't really care if Ross Douthat shows any moral, or intellectual, consistency. And what would it matter if he did? Still, I couldn't help thinking, when I saw the Times puff graphic, what it would be like to live in that Bizarro World where a Monday Douthat addressed, say, the weekend celebrations after the CIA, and our freedom-and-nuclear-technology-loving pals the Pakistanis, managed to robokill yet another Top Terror Official (sheesh, and I thought Indianapolis Public Schools administration was top heavy. SPECTRE board meetings must need satellite communications just to reach the other end of the table.), along with his wife, his father-in-law, and whomever else was in the area, and orphaning his four daughters.

About a month ago I saw a Military History Channel piece about the mission that brought down Yamamoto's plane. It's one of the most remarkable missions of the Second World War, crossing 400 miles of ocean at wave-top height, navigating with a pencil, to arrive at the precise moment when the attack was advantageous. And the men who were interviewed, some forty-five to fifty years after, from the looks of things, had clearly dealt with the question of whether the assassination of one man was a legitimate act of war. They were personally in the clear; they were airmen following orders, and the order had come from the President. The man they hunted and killed was the author of the attack which had killed thousands of their fellows, and plunged them into war, a plan which, so far as they knew, had included an absence of warning. Sure, they'd probably been asked about it several thousands times by then, because we used to raise such questions, and it was a ticket home for those involved, because we were desperate our code-breaking ability not leak out, so those men knew other other fliers died in their places. Still, they'd internalized the argument; such men are rarely filled with false bravado or dismissive of violent death, not like so many guys in the typing pool back home.

And today? My title refers to Slate's original headline; in all the excitement of the opening of Incessant State Fair Train Whistle Blowing, Fourteen Hours Per Day, Now For Seventeen Days! season I forgot it was unlikely "We Got Him" would still announce the thing come Monday morning. "We" got "Him", him who not one American in a thousand could have identified last Thursday, who only one in four would have gotten in a multiple choice exam. The "him" who takes his place in a long line of Second-in-Commands of the Month, a list which, by the way, requires us to believe everything the government, and the CIA, chooses to hand us. Not to mention immediately forgetting the results:
So, does Mehsud's death mean the end of the Pakistani Taliban? Not by a long shot. The Taliban are a regenerative militia; historically, the death of one Taliban member has only spurred others to avenge the fallen one's death. Several commanders are waiting to take over from Mehsud, including Qari Hussein, Mehsud's ruthless deputy, who is thought to be most responsible for training suicide bombers. Whether Hussein or another lieutenant takes over, they'll be hoping to strike back....

But in the war against al-Qaida, where symbols, DVDs, and audiotapes carry so much weight, Mehsud's death is a huge victory for both the United States and Pakistan. I imagine his elimination might be comparable to that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—even though al-Qaida in Iraq continued after Zarqawi, it was never the same. Without their near mythical leader (whose stature had grown as a result of all the assassination attempts he had dodged), the Pakistani Taliban may find themselves in a similar, declining trajectory.

Note, by the way, how quickly, in death, Mehsud became a card-carrying al-Qaeda, much in the way, oh, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi became one by crossing the border into Iraq. Juan Cole doesn't quite agree that al-Zarqawi's death had some earth-shaking effect on the Iraqi insurgency (Motto: Now With More Insurgence!), and he points out, into the bargain, just how much good the Sharon government bought itself with its program of political assassination in Lebanon.

And, look, I don't really want Ross Douthat injuring that big Hahvahd brain of his thinking outside his own skin. And I'm not issuing one of his half-sentence denials of personal responsibility. Mehsud was a bad man, but he was our problem only because we followed George W. Bush into a quagmire, cheered on by the sort of people who imagine Bill Clinton securing the release of two jailed American journalists is a Civilization-threatening act of insufficient aggression. Schmidle has to pronounce him guilty of killing US personnel in Afghanistan just to keep up our fifty-year tradition of not knowing who it is we're fighting, and thus avoiding altogether the little matter of why we were in range in the first place. The question isn't whether he deseved killin'; the question is why we continue the shadow dance which says this can possibly mean anything at all. Why are we still listening to David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, and Bob Woodward discuss all this? Why are they still theologically convinced--at least in public--that the white upperclass in the United States can still figure out what's Right, Wrong, or Crosswise, let alone impose that successfully elsewhere?

Okay, we're in Afghanistan because it's difficult to imagine an American administration, c. post-WWII, which would have had the political courage not to invade immediately, or to try anything much different than Bush's "turn over everyone on our list by sundown or we blow you into remaining in the Stone Age." More of us are there now because Barack Obama knew he couldn't become President without supporting at least one of our two current wars, and being noncommittal, at least, on greenlighting more. I know how we got there. What I can't figure out is how we got to the point where we no longer seem to care that we should know better by now.

Saturday, August 8

Jack Shafer Is To Dana Milbank As William Saletan Is To Ovary

Jack Shafer, "Another round of Mad Bitch, Please: In defense of the offensive episode of 'Mouthpiece Theatre'". August 4

Jack Shafer, "Will Marcus Brauchli Please Grow A Spine? The editor grovels before the paper's critics in the Mad Bitch controversy". August 6

TO those of you who try to limit your experience to the grown-up world of emotional stability and functional literacy, the Mad Bitch Controversy may come as news, as may the fact that Dana Milbank is still gainfully employed, is considered in some parts to be a journalist, that the Washington Post is still, apparently, published and, still apparently, employs editors, and that any and all of the above are still engaged in something other than Twittering every minute or so.

What seems to've happened is that someone at The Post Group (Motto: Why Didn't We Sell Out To Conrad Black, Again?) caught Milbank's Nattering Nabob of Beltway Insider Conventional Wisdom and Smirky Teacher's Pet routine on Olbermann and decided he was doing comedy. Intentional comedy. (We marvel, again, that anyone who ever flips through four, or four-hundred-and-four, teevee channels, shops for groceries, or walks into a Home Depot can ever imagine that Free Enterprise is a model to be copied.)

So someone somewhere decided this was just the ticket to cash in on this Youth Tube thing, and roped in Chris "Kid, You Got A Great Voice For Mime" Cillizza for the younger, sexier vibe. And the thing was universally panned, or would have been if anyone in the universe paid attention to any of this. (I'm not linking. You finding it is not going to be my responsibility.)

And so last week the Wheeler and Woolsey of Professional Journalism (I'm resisting the urge to swipe Andy Kindler's pocket review of that three-week Bette Midler sitcom: "It's great. If you miss Vaudeville.") came to churn the fertile fields of--gee, what else?--The Beer Summit, the fecund goddess shaping the political humor of a generation even as we speak. And their comedy take--get this!--was to match other political figures with their choice of beverage. Hilarity ensued (sample, so you don't have to: "Mark Sanford would sip a XXX porter." "Sarah Palin: Arctic Devil". Oh my aching sides!)

And during the course of the thing--the windup to the boffo first round, in fact, and yes, that means they went on--showed a picture of the current Secretary of State while suggesting they "wouldn't tell us who got the bottle of Mad Bitch". Outrage ensued, as people who saw it, or--as is considerably more likely, people who heard about it--contacted the Post to complain. Then Controversy--or, to be precise, "Controversy", according to the people whose stock in trade used to be news and now is celebrity gossip, spearheaded by those fellow "journalists" who think "journalists" should never be held accountable for anything--ensued, as the Post pulled the plug.

(Leave us mention, here, that even I am too close to adulthood and emotional stability to have followed the thing, let alone backtracked to catch up. I endured less than thirty seconds of the first one which somebody embedded at the time, and I made it all the way through the last one by telling myself I had, after all, lived through the Reagan administration, plus both Bushes. So I do not know whether the Controversy included the more egregious mention of former Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering, being sued for divorce by his wife--a story which is apparently of importance to our nation's political press corps on the grounds that it involves adultery--with the suggestion he order a Bitter Woman From Hell.)

This prompts Shafer to ask, more in sadness than in sense, "Won't someone think of the Perpetually Juvenile?"
Has it really come to the point that you can't call the secretary of state of the most powerful nation on earth a mad bitch in a comedy segment without people becoming unhinged and managing editors running for the exits?

You tell me: has it really come to the point where name-checking self-consciously-scabrous ale names is considered comedy? Oh, and Physician, Heal Thyself, and Good Luck with no fuckin' head:
Are they funny? I'm not really a fan of Milbank and Cillizza's brand of humor. But to put a finer point on it, I'm actually not a fan of any kind of humor. The very essence of humor is aggression. The point of most jokes is to inflict psychological suffering and pain—to transgress and make someone the butt. This is why I've declared my journalism, my office, my home, and the subway line I commute to work on absolutely comedy free.

I think you left out an "intentional" there.

Of course, Milbank and Cillizza were working in a comedy-free zone too, so far as I can tell. It isn't really an excuse, and we're not going to spend time discussing color theory with Stevie Wonder there (or, similarly but more apropos, philosophy with Ayn Rand). I'm not sure who, after his seventeenth birthday, thinks all humor is aggression. But our first question, I'm thinking, should be why Post political writers were attempting to engage in it anyway. It sure couldn't have been because the first one killed in Dress. (Our second question would be how they failed so miserably, followed by why they continued in spite of the results). And why, Mr. Libertarian, should you expect the Post to continue funding its own black eye, not that a black eye is really such a concern for a stinking corpse?

But then, it's really All About Hillary isn't it?
Hillary Clinton should consider herself fortunate. At least Milbank and Cillizza didn't call her a "congenital liar," as William Safire did in a 1996 New York Times column.

Right, in which he trumpeted, as incontrovertible Proof: 1) the fact that she made some money on a futures trade while being simultaneously a woman and the wife of a future President; 2) Travelgate, which she engineered because the Right said she did, and which someone someday may yet explain where the Fucking Scandal was, but which, in the interim, should always be followed by And So What? and, 3) RoseLawfirmgate in which, oh yes, she turned out to be telling the truth. And even at that may we point out, in the interest of advancing Reading Comprehension, that Safir(e) 1) did so not on Open Mic Night at The Cracker Factory, but as part of his main line of work, writing increasingly feeble justifications for his own shameful crypto-Nazi history, and that he 2) ostensibly backed it up with evidence, though in reality he did neither. Not to mention that all this is 1996-Brand Outrage, now superseded by several orders of Bush magnitude. And 3) that, so far as we know, and we ain't gonna know any further, Secretary Clinton herself did not complain to the Post that she'd been wronged, or, we hope, waste any of her and our time on it.

Other people did, and rightly so, just as people (I, for one) objected to David Shuster's "pimped out her daughter". It's beyond insulting to hear that It Was Just Comedy, Lighten Up routine, same as it was to hear the Everybody Talks Like That defense of that prostitution charge, despite the fact that it was delivered in the wake of The Only Known Incidence Of A Politician's Progeny Hitting The Campaign Trail. (That, Mr. Shafer, is attempted humor.) Bitch, applied to a woman, is offensive; I don't know where you grew up to think otherwise. And hiding behind "all comedy is offensive" doesn't cut it. It wasn't a Jack E. Leonard routine. The point of the "humor" wasn't offense, it was--so far as we can infer any point at all--matching Insider CW with Brand Names. "Rahm Emanuel, Badass Ale" doesn't offend, unless you're offended that major punditological posts go to people who think rearranging PR flackery counts as Thought. "Hillary Clinton, Bitch", and, especially, I think, "Leisha Pickering, Bitter Woman From Hell" though, do. All the more so because it's a couple of lazy white guys who experience no consequences, expect none, and think issuing non-apology apologies is the worst they'll ever face.

But just one piece on the matter wasn't sufficient for Shafer, who was still itching 48 hours later and should have Consulted his Physician:
Rather than bowing to the protesters, Brauchli should have stood up for the offensive duo behind "Mouthpiece Theater," Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza. I wished he'd cribbed from something Eugene Robinson wrote in 2001, when he headed Style. Robinson, currently a Post columnist, sent these remarks to the ombudsman following a mass freak-out by readers over some now-forgotten offensive article: Robinson wrote (paid):

I do not want my writers, especially my critics, to think that they have to be temperate in their views. I want them to take chances, lots of chances; I want them to push the envelope every day and in every way. That's the only way that a section like Style can remain fresh, innovative, surprising. And yes, sometimes exasperating. Of course I want Style's writers to be fair, accurate, authoritative. But the last thing I want is for them to pull a punch or take the safe-but-boring route because they are worried that they'll get publicly raked over the coals. That's a recipe for a dull section, and Style should never be dull.

So what, exactly, was fresh or innovative about two white male jackasses calling Hillary Clinton bitchy? (I know what was surprising about it, that they were clueless enough to do so and keep their regular jobs.)

And what, exactly, was supposed to be funny about the 4 billionth retread of that "gag"? (Okay, sure, What was funny about any of the rest of it?) I think Robinson's full of shit; I think that's just a facile defense of sloppy reporting made by someone who'd been burned. I think it's vital to understand the difference between Heat and Light, especially if you want to pretend you can interpret them for the rest of us. But even if he were right it has nothing whatsoever to do with what Milbank and Cillizza were up to, an ill, ill, ill-advised vanity project that seems to've exposed their weaknesses to a segment of the public that hadn't noticed before.

Grow a spine, Marcus Brauchli? Please. News coverage has been caving in to outside pressure since Safir(e) was working for Nixon, and has been shaped now by two generations of apologizing for its "Librul" bias. We're beyond all this. If you wanna do comedy, do comedy. Especially Milbank, whose career would only benefit from his sinking immediately from view. This stuff ought to insult other journalists most of all.

One more thing, Mr. Wonder: aggressive comedy takes balls. We do not mean nature had to physically equip you with a pair. We do mean that it will never, ever, be accomplished by anyone whose nuts shrivel up at the mere thought of a powerful woman. It's a joke we like to think you could appreciate even without a sense of humor.