Friday, May 27

Seeing The Elephant

Ed Rogers, "Huntsman-Bachman 2012". May 26

Andrea Neal,"No way to pick a president". May 24

Y'KNOW, you gotta wonder where all the Reasonable Reagan Republicans were when Reagan was President.

ED Rogers is a former Reagan administration functionary, a DC lobbyist/ PR specialist, and a frequent teevee talker.

Andrea Neal is the former Robert Welch Chair of Editorial Page Editing at the Indianapolis Star.

The only thing restraining my glee at a second straight election cycle in which Republicans justifiably hate every one of their candidates is the fact that Mitch Daniels is no longer among them. Well, that and the fact that this giant, self-inflicted sucking chest wound benefits the Democratic party. So two things.

Neal bemoans the whole fetid process. She does this because it robbed us unfairly of the services of Mitch Daniels, thus requiring 2% of the Republican electorate to find someone equally unexciting to vote for.
It excludes candidates like Daniels. He is intelligent, practical, experienced at governing, knowledgeable about world issues and committed to helping the United States solve its biggest problems.

What a blow to the intellectual traditions of a party which reveres President Alzheimer's, drooled over President Flightsuit, and made Sarah Palin a best-selling author.

Neal does try a little Soviet-style Photoshopping:
How many Republicans thought McCain/Palin was the best possible ticket in 2008?

Of course Palin was McCain's pick, not the voters'. And McCain won as fair and square as primaries get; there wasn't any Bush-style campaign trail shenanigans in '08. The most I recall was some reporter asking why none of Romney's fourteen sons had volunteered to go fight any of the wars they all supported. The Republican party was fractured, and McCain took the middle ground. And sewed up the nomination before the convention.

So let's just mention, again, and we'll keep on mentioning it so long as it takes: Mitch Daniels can blame "his family" all he wants, and his sycophants can blame "the Evil Media, and the absurd nominating process" all they want; the fact is he was a resource drain on someone who might actually win the nomination. Same as his BFF Haley Barbour.

I happen to think that if Mike Huckabee had declared Daniels would have, too. With Huckabee gone there's no credible wingnut threat anymore. Everybody left, or anybody likely to get in, is whatcha might call amenable to the Republican establishment. Palin's the exception, but she can do whatever she wants anyway. This bus tour thing is a laugh, or at least the people pretending to take it seriously are. Her disapproval rating is below dental caries and just above One of David Vitter's Used Diapers. Her people are just pushing her out there to keep the franchise alive, and a hand in the process. Which brings us to:
Huntsman and Bachmann should have a meeting of the minds and offer themselves as a Huntsman-led ticket before the Iowa caucuses next year.

Was that a groundswell of excitement, or did my dishwasher just start a cycle?
But beating Obama will require a fresh approach. He will not be weakened by a primary challenge, and as yet there does not appear to be a left-wing third-party candidate who could erode his support in the general election.

Churchill/ Ayers, 2012!
On the other hand, if our ticket were intact and the party were unified early, such as by next spring, fundraising would be much easier and our team would be tested and seasoned well ahead of the fall campaign.

Pony/ Ice Cream 2012!
Meanwhile, Rep. Michele Bachmann is a GOP leader to watch. She is a star in the party and bulletproof with our right wing. She is more thoughtful than she gets credit for. The Tea Party will follow her to the ends of the earth, and her positions on the budget and the economy are where most Republicans’ hearts and minds fall.

Look; let's just skip the qualifiers of the next couple paragraphs, as well as the media and The Left eager to "Palinize" her, though I can't really imagine the media eager to do anything at all about Michelle Bachman, and if the Left isn't doing everything it can to win her the nomination then it's worse off than I imagined. Once you have reached this point--let's call it "putting 12 year olds behind the breastworks at Richmond"--you are fucking sunk. You're not going to shine your bayonets all night long and blind the rest of us with glinted sunlight the next morning. Reform your goddam party. If you'd like to reform the process while we're at it, then fine; reform your goddam party first, so that a Republican can mention "campaign finance" without being dragged out of his cell at midnight and strung up under the nearest bridge.

Thursday, May 26

Olio, Carb-Day Edition

• "Swimmers are probably the most intensively trained of athletes; certainly in my day, at the high school level, there was no question. Swimmers seemed to train every day of the year at roughly the worst level I ever experienced, summer two-a-days in cross-country. Starting at 4:30 AM. But then you never risked running into anything while you were doing it."

--James B. S. Riley, part of the thirty-three year "discussion" with his Poor Wife--it should be pointed out here that she shares no responsibility for the interminability of this or any other argument where I'm involved--entitled "Swimmers vs. Track Athletes: What Crazy Shit is Riley Saying Now?" It's played in the spirit of fun. My Poor Wife knows it's played in the spirit of fun, and still humors me for some reason, probably testicle size, despite, y'know 1) being bored beyond human endurance; and 2) knowing that, at the core, it's not just for fun with me.

Jeff MacGregor, "An Open Letter to Lance Armstrong: Confess". May 23

Rush Limbaugh, the West Palm Beach Balloonatic, makes regular crypto- and not-so-crypto-racist remarks. And it's important to remember that he's not just gotten away with it, but amassed a gaudy fortune doing so. The worst Limbaugh suffers in the mass-market news media is the condescending sneers of David Brooks.

Not so in the sports world, where the minute Limbaugh opened his racist yap he was out of a job.

Okay, so if I recall it actually took ESPN 72 hours to get a resignation out of him, but that's the suits. Sports journalists weren't having any part of it.

Sports journalism may be one of the least racist institutions in America (sexism is another matter). And that's why the continued high esteem Dishonesty is accorded is so disturbing.

When I was growing up sportscasters had lived through the college basketball points-shaving scandal, they remembered the Black Sox, and they knew prizefighting was occasionally not quite kosher. I don't recall anyone taking the attitude that "cheating was going to happen anyway". Big-time college athletics is the major culprit; it's difficult to find the sportsscribe who'll insist that college sports should remain, wholly and without blemish, an amateur affair. Particularly when it comes to paying athletes in top programs for being in top programs.

And this is interesting to me because the obvious alternative solution, that professional football and basketball actually fund their own development leagues and quit using college athletics as farm leagues, rarely is considered, and then only as "look at the stupid fucking alternative". Of course, if the problem of money in college athletics were solved that way--and it's not going to be solved the other way--the top programs in the country would be denuded of talent. Which the donors don't want, and the sportscasters don't want, because they'd rather cover USC-UCLA than the Lubbock Weevils vs. the Wyomaha Sparkle for the Class AA Mountain Conference championship.

I don't mean oversimplify Mr. MacGregor's position, but telling Lance to 'fees up now, and then point out everyone else was doing it, is about seven Tours tardy. At this late date anything Armstrong has to say is more in the way of a plea bargain. Assuming he's about to face real charges, or assuming that what everyone's been saying for years now is true, it's almost beyond belief anyone could propose any way at all he might redeem himself. The people who might still have a chance to come clean are sportswriters who've gone along with the status quo--wrecking, in the process, the fucking concept of Sport, as well as the record books of Major League Baseball and Track and Field--because that's where the open bar was. In the Land of the Wholly Unscrupulous the half-honest man is not king.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "All That Glitters May Redefine Run by Gingrich". May 24

Do we have to greet every pre-Primary season as though we are unfamiliar with the process? As though we have not held free elections in the living memory of anyone's parents? Gingrich can only be taken seriously because Trump was. It's a question of standards. Other than that, why th' fuck's the man on Meet the Press, or wherever he was, explaining anything? He's as big a phony as Trump, except he's got thirty years experience doing it in politics. There has never been any way other than a tornado striking the auditorium where every other Republican candidate was doing Meet & Greets, that Newt Gingrich gets within huffing distance of a primary victory. If anything and everything he says must be repeated on the air, it should be followed by the teleprompter reader in question reminding viewers that the man would fuck a woodpile on the chance there was a snake in it.*

George Eff Will, "Pawlenty's time to move". May 25

It just seems to me that an article expounding on Tim Pawlenty's opportunities which doesn't feel much compelled to mention Tim Pawlenty says a bit more than it might intend.


* I keep attributing this to Mr. Clemens.

Tuesday, May 24

That's Not A Racehorse, That's Dogmeat

AND if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. Oh, wait. It fell down:
“Conventional wisdom says you can’t talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street,” Pawlenty said. “But someone has to say it. Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people.”

Did you happen to watch Jeopardy! last night? Celebrity Favorite Books, as told to video by the Celebrities themselves, and Pat Sajak says Atlas Shrugged.

Publicist's decision? Or do you really mean that, Pat? I mean, really? I know the category said "Favorite" not "Best"--at least that's how I remember it--did you just have to remind us you're A Conservative in Hollywood one more time? Because you're a man of wealth and leisure, Pat, and, seriously, if that's your favorite book you're a walking condemnation of your end of the political spectrum and financial success. Did you happen to notice that every other Celebrity kinda chose something bright? Have you noticed if these sorts of Andy Rooney digressions on my part are on the increase? I have some concerns.

Anyway, once again, mutatis mutandis : there were the presidencies of James Earl "Malaise" Carter (conservo-moderate Democrat in the mid-70s), and Bill "Sister Souljah" Clinton, co-founder of the DLC; and there were the campaigns of John Anderson (liberal Republican in 1980), Mike Dukakis (L-word, 1988), Ross Perot, and Howard Dean and Ron Paul, and while you might point out, correctly I believe, that there's only three Presidential terms among 'em, Dukakis got out-slimed, not bested on debate points, and Anderson and Perot ran remarkably successful independent campaigns despite being doomed from the start. It suggests that maybe there's room out there for someone willing to level with the American people. Not that that person is Tim Pawlenty.

And not, really, that it was any of those others, excepting Anderson; most just happened to occupy some space which, enhanced for campaign purposes and fortunate in its choice of time, won some primaries, pulled in some cash, and got them a podium in a Presidential debate.

For that matter the current President has done a pretty good job of telling his base stuff it doesn't want to hear, although he mostly did that sotto voce and underneath their mooncalf lowing during the primaries, and only got loud about it later.

In Republican circles, now--and well I realize that in Republican circles the accepted practice is to see Republican circles not as Republican circles but, rather, as the boundaries of the intelligent universe--yes, "leveling" with the American people is a mite risky. At least we have to suppose it would be, if anyone ever tried it. It's certainly possible to be a ranging dingbat and say whatever th' fuck comes to your aluminum-mottled brain in those parts, but that's because no one's really listening to you. Plus the stage is too littered with the corpses of the fallen who questioned Republican orthodoxy or the supremacy of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be absolutely certain about what's down at the bottom somewhere. Where's the Republican who'll even mention the role incontinent tax cutting for the wealthy has played in the Budget Holocaust? Or the Republican record on balanced budgets? Or the full incomprehensibility of our "Defense" posture for the last sixty years? Where's the Republican Pro-Choice caucus meet?

For that matter, where's the Republican Presidential candidate in 2011 who'll stand up and defend his previous support for gay and lesbian rights?

It ain't Tim Pawlenty. Fer chrissakes, his speaking Unpleasant Ethanol-flavored Truth to Iowans (where he presently has nowhere to go in the polls but up, towards possible recognition) amounts to endorsing Chuck Fucking Grassley's position. The next word Tim Pawlenty says that disconcerts a Wall Street banker will not only be his first; it'll be clarified by the following morning. Republicans are stuck with their stance on Social Security and Medicare; the whole party's insisting that it amounts to a Brave Stand Against Political Reality, when, of course, it really amounts to more corporate analingus. No Republican's gonna be able to run away from that, despite Florida's reputation for deciding our Presidential elections.

Really, isn't it enough that the well-heeled Mitch Daniels already tried this routine? And failed? "I'm a very unattractive candidate; so anyone who votes for me is showing uncommon intellect." The problem, marrow-deep, with that is you're still a fucking Republican after all this time. Your party has been taken over by David Brooks. Not the base, not the power, but the Voting Soul, the Electability Quotient. Pawlenty and Brooks are about the same age. Reagan was a godsend, and his Accepted Miracles must be adored; whether the reality sunk in at the time, or hit in middle-age, there is now a sort of squishiness at the edges about the whole fearful screaming plunge into the Goldwater Abyss, brought to you by Exxon-Mobil, Smith Barney, Smith & Wesson, and your local Coca-Cola™ bottler. You're willing to compromise, so long as the basic Reagan/ Milton Friedman/ Theoretical Bible-Believin' Teevee Preacher Who Did Not Get Caught With A Boy Hooker tenets govern every compromise. It's likely that, in the real world, you'd extend reproductive rights to every woman, personally, and cut military spending to something resembling semi-reasonable, but there's no way you're saying that in print. You will not quite admit that the disaster which has befallen us, the malaise that once delighted you with its sound (even though you had to invent Carter saying it) is a direct result of that Reagan worship and those Goldwater programs. Mitch, of course, was older, an established pol already when Reagan was elected and his man Dick Lugar got bupkis, no State Department, no Cabinet seat, just an Enjoy Your Lifetime Senate Appointment, Bub, and fellow Hoosier Bill Ruckelshaus got a six-year-delayed steel dildo full-throttle up the fundament for having given Nixon the finger during Watergate. Nixon! Mitch and his boss watched as the California gang extracted compensation for Republican apostasy, even though it had been aimed at taking down Dick Fucking Nixon and meant nothing (or nothing besides patriotism and good sense) anymore. And then they watched as Reagan re-instituted Cold War insanity at a time when we knew Soviet military spending was about to, well, tank. That had to make an impression on young Mitch. Because five years later he was Reagan's political advisor.

And nobody's gonna convince me that after the third cocktail Dick Lugar, or Mitch Daniels, thought this was a great idea, or that Iran/Contra was just one of those realpolitik deals. They saw where the party was headed and they got on board. For Reagantots I'm not sure morality ever really entered into it, except maybe as a winning slogan.

And this is what you got. A generation of pirates, followed by a generation of True Believers who still insist, in public, that the Saucer'll be here for them any day now. They can't control the Republican party like they usta. They can raise millions, they can live comfortable personal lives even by Republican standards, but they can't govern, and they can't renounce the deal they made with Old Scratch thirty years ago. And they're never gonna be speaking to truth to anyone about anything, until the time comes to admit to an affair.

Monday, May 23

So….anything in the news? [/Mort Sahl] *

FIRST off, leave us pick through the wreckage: Mitch Daniels now has a wealthy PAC that has essentially been campaigning for Mitch Daniels non-stop--and which, I'm guessing from having sat through it, single-handedly trebled spending on last year's Indiana General Assembly races--courtesy the Eastcoaster "Conservatives". And the Eastcoaster "Conservatives" had their needed counterweight to Abject Palinism--which had taken over what was left of the party after '08--which ran, not unsurprisingly, from the spring '09 rollout of the Mitch Daniels Artificial Buzz until the moment they didn't need it anymore, plus a couple months so the whole operation appeared dignified.

So the only losers here are the punditasters who were dutifully shilling that "the GOP Race Needs Daniels' Seriousness" crap. And they've already been paid, not to mention the fact that these days abject, overt, and venal hawking of whatever swindle is going on at the moment is less a career-breaker and more a job description. Okay, and literally dozens of college students who really imagined that Mitch Daniels should be President. But maybe they can use the free time to get out more.

[Here I rather stoically omit us Hoosiers, who now face eighteen months of Mitch Daniels, governor who isn't running for something, following six years of Mitch Daniels, guy trying to tailor his record in Indiana for maximum career growth. And that's before we wind up with Governor Mike Pence in a further escape into Jebus fuck all it doesn't matter because THE END TIMES ARE UPON US ALL! Praise Jesus! And so we'll use what time's left to get as many right with the Lord as possible. Because it's worked so well for Kansas.

[And while I'm thinking of it--this is the sorta thing that happens every time my Poor Wife is prescribed painkillers--I started out here with a paragraph that was supposed to be cosseted by brackets, and then the damned thing growed like Topsy. ** So now I have multiple paragraphs, all comically parenthetical (by which I do not mean any of this is funny; "comic-paranthetical" is the style) and I think the proper punctuation is "opening brackets (or quotation marks, etc.) at the beginning of each paragraph, closing brackets only at the close, or grand finale, as it were". Perhaps better, knock it th' fuck off. The former does make it look like you just forgot, though.

[And, listen: maybe this should just be between us Hoosiers for a moment, but: Th' fuck? Millions of you believe that Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States. Birther, Bircher, Floater with the Current: if you really imagine there are so many highly successful shenanigans pulled off right under your discriminating noses, how is it that you've missed this guy's routine? Daniels has been as transparently false from the git-go as any carbon-based politician reasonably imaginable. He waves around that phony $200 M deficit he inherited; at this writing you and I are $2 B in debt. On his watch. Sure, sure, the economy's been tough, but he was on watch when the damn thing wrecked in the first place. He ran off to help Delco-Remy celebrate dumping union jobs, and then--if you're not a Hoosier and still reading this, I'm not kidding--touted imaginary telemarking jobs as a replacement. Eight more years of this sort of accomplishment is gonna be more than we can stand, and if Jesus wants y'all, th' fuck's he waiting for?]

So Daniels got to achieve, or, rather, be recognized for achieving without actually doing so, his political dream, some sort of self-defined transfiguration into a bald eagle-eye Fiscal Adult from, of course, the guy who threw away the Clinton-era surplus, and $400 billion besides, while the official provider of Congressional talking points buffing the Bush tax cuts. Really, even if you just want to give up and accept all the blather about Daniels' Indiana record, consider that even under the rosiest of rosy scenarios you're still left with the uncontroverted fact that Daniels abandoned ship on a $600 B loss so he could rush back to Indiana and spend six years crowing about reversing a $200 M shortfall. And that's if you accept the routine about the shortfall. Which you shouldn't.

Mitch Daniels put together the plausible deniability package that allowed the Bush administration to slash the top tax rates at the very time when we needed government spending to stave off recession. He then quit to come to Indiana, won a governor's race mostly because the undecided voter decided we'd had enough Democratic administrations in a row, and immediately set about to burnish what was left of his image by eliminating Indiana's deficit, and its deficit spending, both of which he had to invent to make the point. Neither of these was an "accomplishment": the former is just what the Republican establishment, and its bankrollers, always intend, and the second was a self-aggrandizing PR campaign. Neither came about as the result of analysis; they're matters of blind Randian faith whose dismal failures we were already soaking in. Daniels did precisely as he wanted to do, given the supervision of a "conservative" state and a pliant legislature. Procrustean† budget cutting does not "solve" our deficit problem. It reacts to it, and it reacts in defense of incontinent tax-cutting, not reasoned analysis of what we as a people should, and should not, be spending money on. People who favor this sort of approach may cheer on Mitch as a kindred spirit, but deep intellectual problem solver he is not. He's a water carrier for Big Wealth. The Press has no excuse for confusing the two.

And, y'know, this one ends the way it should: on a note of supreme, and maybe supremely cynical, falseness. I said a long time ago that Crazy Cheri Daniels would keep Mitch from really running, but that shouldn't be taken as the single example of prescience in a long and tumbledown career. In the meantime all the attention, and all that glisters, stroked Mitch Daniels' ego, so how this was going to play out (aside from an early exit from the primaries) became anyone's guess. Blaming Cheri is horseshit; she's never wanted to be a political wife. Daniels merely ran out the string. His high-priced advisors couldn't turn him into someone who was going to poll more than 2%, and they couldn't turn someone who wasn't going to poll more than 2% into Exactly What The Republican Race Needed. Not to say they didn't come close. In the final analysis Mitch Daniels is the Fred Dumbo Thompson of 2012, the product of artificial excitement and a supposed Pure Ideological core of the Republican party which exists only in Hyperreality, and inside the Beltway, if we may distinguish between them, and even then only as an inside joke.


* meaning "in my Mort Sahl voice", not "quoting my inner Mort". Mort Sahl was a godsend in my youth, or that part of it spent in front of the teevee. You could do the line as any comic you wanted, probably.

** the other day my friend Doug Mason, brave Indiana blogger and, if I may say so, possessor of a hot wife and a family which is both a) remarkably cute and b) not pressed on his readers like unwanted fifth cocktails, linked "procrustean", presumably to an explanation. And I said to myself, I wouldn't. Who's right? I don't imagine this as an argument about the intelligence, or presumed intelligence, of the readership: Doug was just nice enough to link an explanation for something he thought some readers might get. But the reason I wouldn't in the first place is precisely that I'd figure it's something the average reader should know, or, having never encountered it, be curious enough to take some fucking initiative for once. And maybe that's a form of reverse-double-Slatesque snobbery on my part. Interesting how this long, pointless diversion comes about in the middle of a long, pointless diversion about punctuation, isn't it? Wow, this stuff is really trippy.

† sorry

Saturday, May 21

True, Being A Wiseass Doesn't Pay In Money, Vol. XLVII

SPEEDING geriatric bicyclist Riley while racing past two teams of Seventh Day Adventist doorknockers on his block this AM:

"You guys still here?"

Friday, May 20


• I've noted here many a time that the economic illiterate, say--to use one example--me, can pretty much learn all he needs to know about the capitalistic "system" by paying attention at his local grocer's, or pharmacy. My favorite example was Marsh Supermarkets.

Marsh was an old family-owned grocer of pre-war vintage which managed to survive into the stripmall supermarket era by expanding and going public. In the 60s the second generation took over, and readers familiar with sweeping works of mundane paperback fiction will probably have already filled in the rest of the story. The young geniuses innovated! Marsh crossed the Indiana state line, opened a chain of convenience stores, and began diversifying at a rate which the Reagan era accelerated dramatically, in that it turned out to be a tragedy for the company and a comedy for the anti-capitalist wise-ass.

Marsh acquired all sorts of attendant businesses--restaurants, florists, caterers--started a cut-rate grocery chain and a "fresh" market, bought a long-standing chain of ice-cream parlors (and ran 'em into the ground), and another family grocery chain (ditto), while employing so many Marsh family members in executive positions that one of 'em was named VP in Charge of Deciding Family Office Squabbles.

Meanwhile the typical clueless consumer of my height and shoe size noticed from the store shelves, if not the company spread sheet, that the business of Marsh seemed to be more like "making deals with the distributors of stuff supermarkets carry" not "stocking things which customers like to buy". National brands would suddenly disappear for months, even years at a time. Once a month or so the bread aisle would look like someone had been playing a giant sliding tile puzzle with the product: Pepperidge Farm, say, would go, overnight, from the top three rows of the first section to squashed on the bottom row of the last. Which, of course, had nothing to do with how those items sold, and everything to do with how they were being sold.

In the Naughts Marsh suddenly started crying Imminent Bankruptcy, went on a very public search for a buyer, and started firing Marsh family sinecures by the dozens. Hoosiers, long known for their inability to separate real life from teevee commercials, wept openly in the streets.

Marsh was purchased by Sun Capital, business turn-around specialists. It almost immediately sued former CEO Don Marsh for supposed financial shenanigans. That process continues; every so often they'll find it necessary to reveal a little more about Marsh to help the negotiations along. A filing yesterday included details of the New York apartment the company kept for Marsh's Russian mistress, repeated travel to meet an old high-school sweetheart, a driver illegally hired after Marsh lost his license in a DUI (the driver was also Don's yacht captain), and $5.27 million in improper travel and entertainment expense deductions on corporate tax returns for 2004 through 2006.

Marsh is countersuing for $1.17 million in severance. His attorneys responded that Sun Capital knew all about this stuff before it bought the company anyway, so there, and in conclusion, tax breaks for the wealthy.

• Lawyer jokes: Steve Simpson and Paul Sherman, "Stephen Colbert's Free Speech Problem," in which attorneys for the plaintiff in v. FEC argue that the paperwork Colbert got tripped up on proves the wisdom of the Citizens United decision:
How's that for a punch line? Rich and successful television personality needs powerful corporate lawyers to convince the FEC to allow him to continue making fun of the Supreme Court. Hilarious.

But let's be fair about it. At least these two understand Colbert's joking.

• Speaking of Journal Opinion, Roy finds Daniel Henninger bemoaning the damage media focus does to the Republican Presidential field. Most all the comments are better than mine, which asked who, if not Republicans, exactly is responsible for the fact that over the past thirty years backwoods superstition, gun porn, and tax opposition have been untouchable over there? Newt just proved--yet again--that you can't say anything in Republican circles which even simulates independent thought, unless it's the sort of independent thought the base lauds in Donald Trump. Journal heartthrob Mitch "5'1" Daniels is still paying for suggesting that social issues be put on the back burner temporarily in the middle of a fucking NatRev fluffing two years ago. Huckabee took it in the shorts because Arkansas raised taxes while he was governor. Th' fuck are the rest of us supposed to do for you, Mr. Henninger? Smear Vaseline on the lenses and find the correct angle to shoot all of you with a George W. Bush halo? Agree not to mention the sorry lot of candidates you've been offering for at least a decade, or the laughable bench waiting for garbage time? Jesus, you're the ones who took the intellectual wing of the party out, shot it, and replaced it with David Brooks. Now the two smartest guys in the room are Newt Gingrich and Mitch "Highpockets" Daniels, and the most popular ones are Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. There's no fucking level of media coverage which can cure that.

Thursday, May 19

The Sixties? Really? The Sixties Did It?

David Batty, "US Catholic Church study blames 1960s permissiveness for rise in sexual abuse". May 19

FULL Disclosure: The world-wide sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic church did not affect my attitude towards Christianity, organized religion in general, nor the role of officialdom in any way, shape, or fashion.

So, too, with a report funded by the Conference of Bishops, headed by a Professor and dean of research and strategic partnerships who, judging by appearances and her c.v. might be able to offer expert testimony on what teething rings tasted like in the Permissive 70s.

Sorry. The thing's DOA. It's so fucking D.O.A. that I can't fathom how tone-deaf you have to be to've thought otherwise. Dr. Terry does not appear to have spent her entire life in a convent, a deserted island, or trapped in a collapsed mine. And the saddest thing is that right now millions of young Jimbo Jonses are reading the report and saying, "I don't believe in nothin' no more! I'm gonna become a dean of research and strategic partnerships!"

Not to mention that the thing's a goddam mess into the bargain: Psychological and Sociological speculation without the customary rigor those two disciplines are so well-known for insisting on. No interest in establishing any sort of baseline in the 30s and 40s, decades known, respectively, for cheap cotton dresses which blew up in the slightest breeze, and muscled, independent women dressed as iron mongers. People did have sex in the 30s and 40s, and many more considered it. That much is well established.

As for the Permissive Sixties? Well, then, too. I was a child whose tender coming-of-age story concludes in the warm football autumn just before that benighted decade ended, with a young hippie chick, one school year my junior, in an Indian print dress hiked to the waist, innocent of underwear and unshorn of armpit, poised just above my throbbing, soon-to-turn boyhood-into-manhood, before we fade to black. For several years before that I was a sack of amok hormones, watching helplessly as my elders enjoyed the Swinging Medallion If It Feels Good, Do It lifestyle with girls who all looked like Jean Shrimpton, and never once did this convince me to consider the readily-displayed backsides of my fellow locker-room mates as an acceptable substitute. (The thing offers as evidence of something, honest to that God they ought to be the last ones to tempt, the case of "Reverend" Marcial Maciel, an abuser of young seminarians who couldn't possibly have been a real pervert because he fathered three children.)

I don't suppose I received any more guidance than your young seminarian of the period, but, then, I was on the road to Hell, not the road to a career in celibacy. What kind of fucking excuse is that? Hasn't the Church been teaching for at least two thousand years that sex was at best a really unfortunate obligation best left to the working classes? Young seminarians "weren't prepared" to actually go out in the world and live up to their vows? Or just to live up to those that weren't tested in any way? Could you figure out some way to make this worse, please? I've got money riding on it.

Y'know, guys, let's admit it. You wanted to make sure that John XXIII would never happen again, and the only way you could do that was your own version of the ever-popular Sixties charade, "Let's Get Back to Basics". Which meant, in your case, Sex-hating. This worked, for a while; we've seen the same thing in American politics: there's no stopping you once you convince nominally sane people to go completely crazy with you. But, c'mon, how cloistered do you need to be to think that's gonna play forever? You bought a little time with some hero-worshipping, JohnPaulII and Mother Teresa stuff, but you had to know the whole Madonna/ Barefoot and pregnant dichotomy wasn't gonna work for long. Didn't you? The priest sex-abuse scandal didn't outrage you. It embarrassed you. Because, at the top, people don't really believe the crap they feed the yokels. The Catholic Church has reacted to the sex-abuse cases the way Taco Bell reacted to the startling revelation that their beef doesn't contain beef. Which, in case you missed it, did not engender a public declaration that they'd use only the finest, rigorously inspected, top-grade food items from here on out. That's what you need a commission to explain.

Come, you should pardon the expression, clean. You should pardon that expression, too. If your ancient verities can't overcome a little Hugh Hefner, then get with the times, dudes. Blame it all on radical Islam.

Wednesday, May 18

This Is What Passes For Thought At Today's New York Times

"This is a horrible example of right-wing social engineering gone wrong, and I totally support it. Always have, actually."

--Newt Gingrich

"Where, O where is that great Southern Conservative Presidential candidate of yore?"

--Doghouse Riley

Ross Douthat, "A Repuiem for Huckabee". May 15

Most candidates for the highest office in the land spend months, if not years, currying favor with the rich and powerful: glad-handing at fund-raising dinners, schmoozing in mansions, pressing the flesh in Aspen and Manhattan and Nob Hill.

Not so Mike Huckabee. He ran for president in 2008 with no money, no campaign infrastructure, no professional handlers or ad gurus or wardrobe consultants. (When I interviewed him in New Hampshire, he had just ironed his own suit.) His entire campaign — which won him more delegates than Mitt Romney’s lavishly financed operation — consisted of showing up for any television program that would have him, and turning on the charm.

THIS has been another episode of I'm Thirty Years Old, So Anything Which Happened in the Last Five Years is of Historic Importance, brought to you by Apple™, makers of the iPhone, the world's first telecommunication device. Tune in again next week.

Yeah, I'm quibbling, but George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, John Anderson, George H. W. Bush (who, in 1980, would have shown up at a strip mall opening, a chess opening, or an opening in the clouds), Michael Dukakis, Ross Perot; somebody "coming from nowhere" is as common as dirt, and depends more on voter dissatisfaction with the run-of-the-mill candidates than anything else. Douthat just wants to paint Huckabee, his brother in Christian persecution, as some sort of wonder, and some sort of Middle American inevitability. Bullshit. The man is charming, in that preacher-who's-not-afraid-to-let-the-unclean-in-on-the-gag-occasionally way, who'll be happy to wink at the fact that you know that he knows that you know his routine is a crock, and he's gulling the gullible, because they'll never believe you if you point it out to them, or even if you catch him with two hookers and an ozzie of blow, and you're going to Hell anyway. Then Jebus on a dinosaur pops out of his mouth.

And in this part of Middle America, this is not the point at which the audience shouts, "Hallelujah brother!" More like, "Shut th' fuck up."

Okay, a lot of 'em--okay most of 'em--don't quite put it that way. But there is a point, Mr. Douthat, when this sort of thing starts running, roughshod and butt-ignernt, over the actual Christian views of a lot of actual Christians, many of whom attend their church because they agree with its tenets, not because parking is ample. That's when people start taking this unkindly. That's the whole goddam White Christian history of the North American continent: twelve European Christians scratch a bare purchase on some foreign rock; by noon the next day there are six denominations, two sects, and a major schism. As an evangelical-turned-Roman Catholic, Ross, you ought to at least be aware of that lovey-dovey post-literate evangelical "Facts don't matter if you've got the spirit" revival of your own lifetime. Your family, when you were a teen, sorta crossed in the opposite direction, for Christ's sake, toward a more theological understanding. The suburban trans-demoninational megachurch and mall may be your political ally on abortion, crack cocaine, and dress codes, but when you in-the-know Gothamites start throwing in that Bible-believin' school curriculum crap, that "no porn on Sundays, and no close dancing" stuff, which both you and Mr. Brooks seem to imagine would help pacify the natives, though you'd never stand for it yourselves, you way overstep. Not that I imagine you'd do that on purpose, Ross.

This is Huckabee's problem, and it's Douthat's, and the Times', too, for that matter. Grab the priggish religious blowhard vote and you've got a solid 20% of the population behind you. And everyone else hates you. Easy to make pronouncements about what the "real" country thinks when you never leave New England. Easy to be gulled by this is you're a Sultzberger, evidently. Tough to find enough votes to put the whole country squarely under a massive stone Cecil B. DeMille copy of the Ten Commandments.

Yeah, Huckabee won more delegates than Mitt Romney's Empty Suit, but almost all from Dixie, and Romney, battling McCain--and Giuliani for five minutes--for the other 80% still polled more votes than Huckabee, who only had to contend with Alan Keyes and maybe Ron Paul for the unelectable crank vote. This was a race where Republicans tried desperately to gun down every last candidate before the polls did it for them.
He’ll be missed because he embodied a political persuasion that’s common in American life but rare in America’s political class. This worldview mixes cultural conservatism with economic populism: it’s tax-sensitive without being stridently antigovernment, skeptical of Wall Street as well as Washington, and as concerned about immigration, family breakdown and public morals as it is about the debt ceiling.

And if it existed in such overwhelming numbers we wouldn't be talking about why Huckabee is not running.
This combination of views represents one of the plausible middle grounds in American politics. You can find it in the Republican Party, among the evangelicals and Catholics whose votes made the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush possible.

And golly, we haven't thanked them enough. Personally, I've been hoping snake-handling and child molestation convictions do it for me.
You can find it among independent voters, particularly in what a recent Pew report calls the “disaffected” demographic, whose hostility to big government coexists with anxieties about corporate power and support for redistribution of wealth. And you find it in the Democratic Party as well — from the dwindling ranks of pro-life Catholic liberals to the “Bill Cosby conservatives” in the African-American middle class.

Shorter New York Times "moderate" "conservative" "columnists": When there's an election which looks like it might be lost (by the GOP) the nation is basically conservative, but troubled by details. When there's an election recently won (by the GOP) the nation is conservative, hence Republican, and the Party is thereby empowered to do as it pleases. And at any and all times the nation, particularly in its (thankfully distant, conveniently unseen) Heartland, basically agrees with whoever wrote the column.

I've slept since then, but the way I remember November of 2010 was it included a grass roots uprising of historical proportions (if you're thirty) defined by its hostility to big government. It had cut across party lines, because, you know, Socialism. It had no anxieties about corporate power or income disparity; such things were un-American. I guess that was before the voting. After the voting I guess it's time to explain how it really wasn't all that universal, or uniform, so that the Republican party can get back to ignoring the base and winning the next election.
Among our leadership class, centrism invariably means some combination of big-business conservatism and social progressivism — the politics of pro-choice Republicans, hedge fund Democrats and Michael Bloomberg independents.

First, what does this sentence even mean? It's another exercise in the modern practice of making the reader supply the context; the thing doesn't mean what the words mean, but what the words mean in relationship to what Ross Douthat thinks. Where exactly are these pro-choice Republicans? I think there's three, widely scattered, and the next sound they make at a Republican convention will be the first since Roe. "Bloomberg independents"? Are there as many as three of those? What are "hedge-fund Democrats", if not some bizarre lexical collision of two Evil Forces in Douthat's universe? If you're a Republican, like Douthat, and you use "hedge fund" as an opprobrium, you score Reality Points. With the New York Times. Because now you're Ross Douthat, Republican Columnist Who's Independent of Thought Sufficient to Criticize "Hedge Funds". Along with Democrats (Douthat's attitude about them seems to have been developed in the Sixties, or roughly fifteen years pre-natally; for his actual lifetime "Democratic centrist" has been a redundancy). The people we sneer at with "hedge fund" are the people who, three and a half years ago, decided to steal all the money in the world for themselves. Those people came in both flavor of Major Party, as well as all sorts of agnostics, to the extent they care, or care to distinguish; what they did have in common was their little schemes were the direct result of thirty years of relaxation of government controls as advocated by the Republican party, Ross Douthat, enthusiastic member.
This is why Huckabee’s 2008 campaign seemed to come out of nowhere.

He became the voice of the Republican voter who wants the President to say "the voice of Jesus" right out in public, in front of decent people.

He knows how to be a charming guy in public. He stood up on a couple issues and told the base to shut th' flip up. And he didn't quite get away with it, did he, Ross? But he was all those people had. Remember the groundswell for Fred Dumbo Thompson to get in the race? Or do you just remember the groundswell for him to get back out? If Huckabee had been pure, or if he'd just lied his ass off like Romney, he might've been the nominee. Because everyone else sucked.
The press was baffled, and often delighted: here was a right-wing politician who talked easily about health care and admitted that the Bush economy had been lousy for working families.

The Press is an Ass. And admitting, in 2008, that the Bush administration had been a disaster is like admitting, in 2011, that hedge fund guys are Evil. By that point bashing Bush was a mark of "conservatism", since Bush's utter failure had proven he wasn't one.
(There would have been less delight, of course, if he had actually won the Republican nomination: then all the talk would have turned to his supposedly “scary” views on issues like abortion.)

"Supposedly 'scary'". "Scary" in "scare quotes". The entire issue of abortion dealt with with scare quotes. What fucking demographic is the Times going after with this guy, again?

And, y'know, he takes it down with the same casual bad-teenage-bearded sneer those hedge fund guys took a couple paragraphs ago.

Yes, Ross, if Huckabee had won the Republican nomination, if, say, the GOP had decided to allow only states which had seceded from the Union at some point to decide, the Press would have stopped treating him like a welcome novelty, and started treating him like the Republican candidate for President of the United States. Both turn of events, i.e., the fact that the Press is overly attracted to Bright Shiny Objects, and the fact that a Presidential candidate gets his positions published, often in that Press, you were supposed to already know before you got the Op-Ed job. In fact, I think the info is in your handbook.

And so Huckabee's blend of Bronze Age superstition and an insufficient grasp on the legal question involved, if not a convenient unfamiliarity with the very concept of the separation clause, would very likely have been trotted out before the public. And perhaps sounded "scary" to folks who like their Presidents to reserve talking to the voices in their heads for after hours, but ludicrously misogynistic is the term that comes to my mind.
Still, his candidacy illuminated a path that more politicians should take. We live in an age of economic stagnation and social crisis, and the two are intimately connected. The collapse of the two-parent family and unfettered low-skilled immigration have made America more stratified. The Wall Street-Washington axis really did drive the country into a ditch.

Every so often one is reminded how youngsters like Douthat sound exactly like their parents; the passage of decades changes nothing. Single-parent families cause economic collapse, even though the divorce rate skyrocketed in the 50s, in an economic boom, and the two-parent family has remained the same percentage of the population through the boom of the Clinton years and the bust of Bush II. This is just another train wreck at Dreaded Concept Junction. Or else it's like that old Star Trek deal where the Must Serve Man probe collides with the Kill All Harmful Protozoa capsule and becomes the Must Kill Virulent Humans satellite system. You lost this argument, Ross. And sometime before you were born. I'm not sure what, if anything, you and Huckabee propose to do about it (Prevent Abortions!) besides rake in votes, donations, and prime Mass Media real estate, but it has zero percent chance of working. And you've had thirty years of the male superior position to prove it. Huckabee was a 20% candidate in the Republican party--which is still half the electorate, Ross--in 2008. If he were more than that today you wouldn't be writing his obituary.

Monday, May 16

The Way Things Aren't

I AIN'T givin' up, but I'm gonna quit trying hard after this from Digby.

I do not understand. I'm 57 years old; when Social Security was fixed to account for The Worst Generation I was nearly 30. How can this have been erased from the collective memory in a quarter century?

These people cannot be this stupid, as Digby points out. What's the other answer? Multi-generational con game. Oh, I mean "Multi-generational con game?"

I'm not that sanguine about the intelligence of the Press, however. Disney trademarks Seal Team Six! Go on, google it. See how long it takes you to find an article that understands the friggin' fundamentals of trade-mark law.

And speaking of Alan Simpson: Alan Fucking Simpson, somebody please tell me how he went from No Damn Better'n Dick Cheney or Dick Armey or the rest of those Dicks, to dispenser of homespun cowboy wisdom, to elder statesman à la Jim Baker? First of all, the fucker is a goddam legacy Senator, from Wyomaha, which might as well just give everyone a turn. Simpson spent a couple decades helping to effect the Dixiecrat/ Prairie Assholes Living on Taxpayer Supplied Water and Donated Oil and Mineral Rights coalition; he was the Republican wingnut price for supporting the Liberal Bob Dole as Leader. Then he retires, and he mumbles something about how he didn't hate colored people near so much now that he'd met Carol Mosley Braun, and everyone went "See, he's really not a bad guy at all. And kinda moderate." (I happen to be particularly susceptible to this sort of thing, since my own Senator is renowned for his moderation, which consists of his saying something which might almost stretch across the imaginary chasm between the Republican caucus and Ben Nelson, if you squint hard enough, before voting straight wingnut. I swooned and smacked the back of my head the moment I heard the reaction to whatever statesmanlike thing it was the immanently assholish Simpson said that made him instantly lovable. Between the two I've lost whatever it actually was.)

For the life of me, if Alan Simpson ever got anything right in public life it's escaped me.

And speaking of Alan Simpson: I tried twice last week to write about Mitt Romney and both turned into The Same Old Post About Mitch Daniels.

Daniels is what our politics have been and Romney is what they have become; the first is a professional scoundrel and grifter whose team of professional liars work round the clock to paint him as something different, while the second is, well, what th' hell is Mitt Romney, anyway?

Four years ago the guy spent an entire Republican primary season doing Jim Rockford 180s from his actual record. In public. While honking the horn. And this, in the party which so hates flip-floppers it invents them when the other party doesn't provide any. As a result Mitt got the coveted NatRev endorsement and Soviet-heroic cover, and the opportunity to lose to John McCain.

Now he's back, a testament to the fact that if you have money and connections it doesn't really matter if anyone in the known universe actually wants you to be President. And the goddam centerpiece of his campaign (sorry, "exploration") this time, as determined by What The Base Wants To Hear, is an absolute contradiction of his record.

Mitt contra Obamacare! It's like Lincoln being forced to run on an anti-rail splitting- and-stovepipe hat platform.

So last week all the pundits clamoring for a more "serious" Republican nomination horserace--i.e., one which doesn't look anything like the actual Republican party, or its constituents--who weren't rushing off to Indiana to hear First Lady Cheri-with-an-i Daniels talk about bovine lactation were eagerly anticipating Romney's big invitation-only speech at the University of Michigan where he, and they, promised that Mitt would "confront the issue head-on".

If I'd'a gotten that Romney piece finished close to the time I'd started it I could have translated for you: "confront the issue head-on" means "try to find some alternate explanation that sticks".

The point here is not my amazing track record of prediction after the fact; it's how this could be taken seriously in the first place. Romney signs Romneycare; Obama signs Obamacare; Republicans howl; Romney objects to the latter. In real life, that Real Life Ross Douthat chronicles without ever losing sight of the Atlantic, we call this "transparent toadying", "first-degree pander", or "a fucking load". In real life, the Real Life David "Appleby's" Brooks is sure is going on at Olive Gardens across the country while he ties into fifty bucks worth of expense account vitello tonnato somewhere, one "confronts" a public discrepancy like this one by explaining it, by correcting one position to reconcile with the other, by apologizing for inconsistency, by demonstrating a sincere change of heart, or mind, or by pleading insanity, and then hoping for forgiveness, not banking on forgetfulness.

Of course Romney did none of this. Romney tried to make a distinction between the healthcare needs of Massachusetts, where people evidently occasionally take sick or get into accidents, and are consequently presented with a "bill" for "medical services", with the general run of Americans, and with the wisdom of surgically-precise state-by-state actions vs. that Federal government which turns everything it touches into a blasted hellscape, except, oddly, for multibillion-dollar weapons systems designed to created blasted hellscapes.

Just consider, for a moment, that if Mitt Romney had come out and actually confronted the issue head on--if he'd said something like "The leading country in the industrialized world should be providing basic health care for all its citizens before it provides its navy with another unnecessary aircraft carrier," or "My plan in Massachusetts, so similar to the Federal plan now known as 'Obamacare' in Republican circles, made a lot of sense, morally and economically, and the often virulent, and often fabricated, Republican reaction to the latter is not the way our politics should proceed," the same people who were urging us to anticipate this major clarification would have been telling us, by the next morning, that Mitt Romney had lost his marbles in public, just like his Brainwashed Dad* did.


* I was thirteen years old when George Romney made that statement, and I'd had a public school education. Yet, somehow, I knew exactly what he meant. I knew he was speaking figuratively. Every adult in the country reacted as though he said he'd been locked in a tiger cage by Bill Westmoreland's batman. Maybe it was something I picked up from Saturday morning cartoons. At any rate, it was 1967, meaning that the generals and diplomats had been lying to us about Vietnam for the six years we'd been in the field, and the twenty-one years we'd been fucking around there defending French colonialism, but somehow Romney was the loon. It was the template for our modern political coverage.

Friday, May 13

Milk For Free

INTERESTING how this seems to be the week when Beltway insiders have decided to start the Republican Presidential campaign, with or without Republican Presidential candidates.

Perhaps it was last week's GOP "Presidential" debate, dwarfish even by US Presidential campaign standards, which set them off. (The Villagers sure seem to take an almost proprietary interest in Republican national politics, don't they? The worst of right-wing buffoonery, the idea of Herman Cain winning a debate, or the appearance that the Republican base might actually agree with the unwashed tripe served up by FOX News, or talk radio--which the Villagers, in the main, do not--really brings out the demands that things get serious, or "serious", as though there'd be a marked difference between Cain and McCain administrations.) The unwilling, indolent, but semi-dedicated Daniels watcher, for example, has been pummeled daily by the Dailies; between the He'd Add Seriousness routine (Ruth Marcus climbs on board this morning) and the sudden, sui generis interest in the Daniels' marriage (the Times, the Post, this and that, all of which manage to say nothing at whatever length) just before Cheri's roll-out last night, where she wowed 'em with her cow-milking tales from the Indiana State Fair, you couldn't swing a cat this week without hitting Mitch Daniels, unless you took care to swing it a minimum of five feet off the ground.

Marcus, who says she couldn't imagine actually voting for Daniels, nevertheless thinks his Seriousness would make Obama a better candidate, thus raising the question of the last time she, or anyone else, was justified in believing Serious Issues actually enter into one of our Presidential campaigns, let alone make either candidate "better". I'm going with Grant-Greeley.

Despite all the grudging it requires, I respect the job Team Daniels has done to this point, considering the hand they have to work with. They shoehorned a malignant and diminutive wonk into Lamar Alexander's Jes' Folks campaign, and even found a plaid shirt that would fit him, with the result that, five years later, Rich Lowry would tell the world (ha ha! He told readers of National Review! Exaggeration for comic effect) what an authentic consumer of fried pork and pig feed Daniels was, even though no one with passing familiarity of the genre could possibly believe it. Following his proposal, ten minutes after his first inauguration, to raise income taxes on the top earners in Indiana in order to pay to reduce the "deficit" and burnish his combover, Team Daniels saw to it the man never spoke extemporaneously in public again. After a couple months of watching him lunge across tables or run down city streets to grasp the kneecaps of hecklers, they saw to it no one with anything over a 12 handicap would ever get within a hundred yards of him again, save Fairgoers and photo-op truck-stop waitresses, widely spaced. Their man somehow went from Bush popularity ratings in 2007 to a landslide victory only partly explained by his opponent's non-existence and his own enormous war chest. The Post marriage article has Daniels' opponents running from his "intellectual heft"; this for a man whose five favorite books are Atlas Shrugged.

And as anyone who lived through the Reagan administration knows, you can obscure a man's record to the point of unrecognizability, but it's tough hiding his wife. So far they're doing the avoidance therapy thing with her, which may or may not work out, but there seems to be a real concern about the marriage history thing, like either 1) there's some there there, or 2) there's some concern about Mrs. Daniels being able to handle it. And someone seems to be living in a dream world where Cheri just stays home through a Presidential campaign the way she did a couple Indiana gubernatorial races, then milks cows on the South Lawn for four years. For now the Insiders are content to chew on Mitt (flip-flopper) and Newt (flipped out), but at some point the little man's gonna have to come out and campaign (just like Fred Dumbo Thompson), and nationally "it's a love story for the ages" isn't gonna fly any further than "can I get extra French's on that corndog?"

Thursday, May 12

Peak Snake Oil

Amy Chua "Tiger Mom: Here's how to reshape U.S. education". May 10

FULL Disclosure: 1) I am married to a high school teacher, and an excellent one, according to peer review, not my biased opinion. "Dedicated teacher" is a redundancy. You're nowhere near as dedicated to your craft as she is to hers. God knows I ain't. To find greater dedication you need to reference, e.g., the dedication Amy Chua has for self-promotion. 2) All I know about Oprah Winfrey is forced into my head despite my trying to turn it when I see something coming. If Amy Chua isn't an Oprah creation she should be. I probably should add, in the spirit of disclosure, that I also "know", in the metaphysical sense, that Ms Winfrey will spend her next six lifetimes, at minimum, as a mutant amphibian squashed on the roadway by the increasingly rusted hulk of one of those cars she gave away, just after mating with Dr. Phil and his barbed penis. No, I don't mean the reincarnated Dr. Phil. 3) It's good to get educational advice from a professional woman who is now known by the sort of nickname we used to give Lady Rasslers. 4) It's also good that the Ivies now have a noble successor to Erich "Love Story" Segal. 5) As a bloggo-American, I will admit that my concern with the average test scores of the average middle-school student in America pales in comparison to my concern over what long-term effect reading the opinions of law school professors is having on my colon health. You'd think that Amy Chua might consider recent graduates of Patrick Henry School of Law running the Justice Department with minimal guidance from Republican toadies and torture enthusiasts to be worthy of the occasional Op-Ed piece, wouldn't you?

But that wouldn't help the franchise. Professor Chua doesn't engage in teacher-bashing here. Thank Heaven for small favors. She remains mostly positive, which is to say she comes across as one of those Liberals who's internalized the partisan gripes of the Right without seeming to notice where they came from or what they serve. PISA scores! Teen pregnancy! Drug use! It's like we're suffering from a Strategic Sunday Sermon shortage or somethin'.
The secret to America's global success has always been its ability to attract the best human capital from around the world.

The secret to our domestic success? Cheap labor and smallpox.
We won the race for the atomic bomb by harnessing the genius of scientists fleeing Europe, such as the Hungarian Edward Teller, the Italian Enrico Fermi, and, of course, the German Albert Einstein.

Oh for cryin' out tigermotherfucking out loud, we go right to the A bomb? Isn't this a corollary of Godwin?

Listen, just for the record: The Bomb is not exactly the best choice of a cliché to begin with, and that's before we mention that using it as touchstone at all relies on swallowing two pieces of quasi-propaganda. First, the idea that because there was a race to develop an atomic bomb that the competitors ran neck-and-neck; the Germans, in fact, were headed the wrong way out the stadium. Of course we didn't know that at the time, but we know it now. Second, that dropping two atomic bombs on Japan caused the Japanese government to recognize the awesome power of science unleashed by America's Innate Superiority and surrender. It didn't. What realists there were in the Japanese government already knew the war was lost, and were clinging to the wild hope of the Soviets re-signing their neutrality pact and brokering a peace. The Soviets did the opposite. They renounced the treaty, and declared war on Japan the day after Nagasaki.

As for the rest of that mythology, it's true that in face of the enormity of Hitler many scientists became weapons manufacturers who unquestionably would not have otherwise; all except Strangelove Teller, pretty much. (A lot of 'em went to England first; once the US entered the war it subsumed the British program.) Einstein later called signing that famous letter to Roosevelt the biggest mistake of his life. Fermi denounced the development of the H-bomb. For chrissakes, if The Bomb isn't the perfect example of how Education has to mean something more than Math and Science proficiency, desperately has to mean something like Human proficiency, I don't know what does.

By the way, it's interesting that we destroyed Japanese war industry, and hundreds of thousands of the people who worked there, with conventional bombing, but nobody ever says Thank God America developed napalm! Okay, hardly anybody.
But now more than ever, intolerance is the wrong mind-set. Our children will inherit a world of fierce global competition, and we need to do our best to prepare them. Like it or not, child-rearing is inextricably intertwined with our nation's future. At stake is not just our children's well-being but the durability of the American Dream. Instead of ripping into each other, we should follow America's traditional formula for success: building on what we do well while being open to what works elsewhere and bringing it to America.

I thought we were an immigrant magnet? I thought our strength was that evergreen superiority of our own system, and the pools of money available to hire tech-savvy foreigners? Sure, maybe The American Dream is tied to GDP, somewhat, but I'd like to know when the two became congruent.

Can we divorce this from the Retail Parenting Advice crapola? (Or not; mass-marketed anxiety epidemics are one of the things we do really well.) You want your children to succeed, as defined by Money; you believe the key to this, ten or fifteen years down the road, will be math, science, and reading proficiency.

But who says? If the idea of America as a meritocracy is anything more than wishful thinking that idea is being seriously challenged by the erosion of the middle class. Getting a degree--perhaps, now, an advanced degree--in math or the sciences is probably a good entree to finding high-paying employment. Assuming that's what you want to do, and assuming that Money is the accepted Gold Key to Paradise. But it ain't. If you wanna make money in America, inherit some. Or write some piece of popular self-help trash.
The average American child spends 66% more time watching television than attending school.

Then we really should be trying to make television smarter.
In the recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, American high school students ranked 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math — with Asian nations taking top marks.

Thank God we still lead the world in Imagining Everything Is Quantifiable.

Listen, Professor: two generations ago states across the South responded to Brown by shuttering their public schools. That continued a centuries-long tradition of the worst sort of racism imaginable. It was, in much of this country and for much of our history, against the law to teach a colored person to read. Any who managed to get an education in spite of it all did not "succeed" in any absolute sense. This is the fucking reality of circumstances still faced by African-Americans in this country. Yet in the (still) most economically stratified country in the developed world, self-satisfied American Exceptionalists now object to paying for the improvement in minority education we've only begun to effect in the past couple decades. We don't have an homogenized population, and we don't--to our continuing shame--have an educational system offering equal opportunity for every citizen. The refusal to acknowledge this--the refusal to acknowledge it above all--is odious, no matter how good you imagine your for-profit intentions to be.

And if we're going to take the PISA results as something they aren't, then let's do so. In the 2009 PISAs the United States, one of the most culturally diverse countries on the planet, one with a pretty deplorable history regarding education, but one which is also the birthplace of the idea of universal education, scored higher than, for example, Liechtenstein, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, France, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Portugal, Macao-China, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia, Greece, Spain, and the Czech Republic.

I'd say that's a damn fine record. Improvable? Maybe, but that shouldn't come at the expense of turning public education into one-dimensional parrot farms. We need musicians and writers and painters and dancers, too, and we need people to teach the next generation of them. Bombs, lady, we already got enough of. Though if you'd really like us to move up seventeen places next year…

Wednesday, May 11

In All Seriousness

WE'RE all abuzz, locally, with the artificial excitement generated by the impending public display of Indiana First Lady Cheri "The B. Traven of Hoosier Political Wives" Daniels, who will be speaking at tomorrow night's state Republican Spring Pig-Out. This, of course, signals something-or-other about the Not-Candidacy of her first and third husbands, Mitch Daniels, apparently, at least to people who give a shit.

[Leave us note, here, that we'd be happy to leave Cheri-with-an-i Daniels alone. We're thrilled to death by reticent political spouses, except it's always the unsuccessful ones we find out about. God knows the country would be better off today if Laura, not Barbara Bush ran the George W. Bush household. If Cheri wants to stay home and collect interesting bottles, we're all for her. Unfortunately, neither this, not that bulging envelope of terrorist talcum that materialized at their house in 2001 kept Her Man Mitch from wrecking the national economy, nor from returning to Indiana to test his theories on the role serfdom plays in building other people's character. It is difficult to tell, exactly, how much of Ms Daniels' disinclination to do much of anything political wives generally take part in--the Star article fluffing her upcoming speech was forced to list "Attending the State Fair" as one of her major accomplishments--I'm not exaggerating--is due to the fact that the standard Stepford model of the political wife, which employs her in reading to children, battling tumors, or beautifying things, is pretty much anathema to Mitch Daniels' "system", and how much due to her own proclivities. She was, after all, generally acknowledged around town as the driving force behind the Daniels' refusal to move into our dump of a Governor's Mansion, or that neighborhood, though this did not stop her from supervising the redecorating provided by eager donors. I'm happy to take a wait-and-see attitude here. Wait. You'll see.]

Thing is, we really have to wonder what th' fuck is wrong with people. It's evidently in Hoosier's DNA to go apey over anything which suggests someone outside the state could locate it on a map: before this the big political buzz was Evan Bayh on Short List for VP, and before that, Erik Estrada Comes to Muncie. Cheri Daniels De-cocoons should not be attracting the attention of national media, unless any of them erroneously reported her dead a few years back.

Take Chris Cillizza. Please. Could the Washington Post do something to improve his output? Like fire him? Or at least keep his annoying, teacher's-atttention-seeking, rat-chattering nerd persona out of videos for the sake of what's left of journalism's reputation? For chrissakes, on Sunday he uses Cheri's appearance as a lead-in to how a Daniels candidacy will "improve the seriousness" of the Republican Presidential field--he proves this by quoting two out-of-work Republicans--then Monday commits to video the incredibly lazy Beltway Insider "fact" that Daniels "has balanced the budget for four straight years without raising taxes", a decent-sounding record until someone points out that it depends on, at the very least, accepting idiosyncratic definitions of "balanced" "four" "without" "raising" and "taxes". And we probably should add "ignoring the Federal stimulus money which Daniels opposed but took anyway".

Look, let's say this again: after engineering the largest wrong-way U-turn in American budget history while at OMB, Mitch Daniels came to Indiana to run for Governor, determined to massage his deplorable track record by "solving" Indiana's budget "deficit". But Indiana didn't have a deficit.

Our forefathers were wise enough men that the Indiana General Assembly once met only every other year. In 1970 the legislature authorized itself to meet annually; disco, mullets, and the second term of Richard M. Nixon soon followed. Since even incompetent politicians are, yet, well, politicians our assembled citizen legislators decided to pass a state budget only in odd-numbered, i.e. non-election years.

So when Mitch Daniels took office in 2005 the governing documents of the current state budget were in the twilight of a two-year run. Team Daniels immediately announced that the state was $200 M in the red; this number, like many another Hoosier, would see its waistline balloon, to as much as $800 M, before generally settling at a nice round half-billion.

To the extent that any of this was true, then, what it represented was the difference between funding decisions and revenue assumptions dating to 2003, when the citizen legislators and their pig-farming and mall franchisee constituencies were not yet anticipating the full disaster of Daniels' OMB stint, and the hindsight-applied reality. There had always been a gentleman's agreement that such shortfalls were addressed in the next budget session. It's not as if Indiana is renowned for its profligate spending. People do not move here from Massachusetts because they find Romneycare insufficient. But Team Daniels saw an excellent opportunity for demagoguery.

And--please remain seated and extinguish all smoking materials!--the "balanced" budgets of the last couple years have required ignoring the billions the state owed the Feds. But I guess ignoring all this is a small price to pay if we get a "serious" Republican presidential primary out of the deal.

I'm not sure which is more egregious--Daniels' reputation as a budget hawk, or Newt Gingrich's reputation as a scholar. Matt Bai, your Kool-aid's ready:
The thing you have to understand about Newt is that he is, by training and temperament, an avid historian, and he is as true a believer as you will ever find in the concept of destiny.

Yeah, he's the foremost proponent of the Weems-Bennett School. Interesting how a True Believer in Destiny would have as his entire oeuvre history according to shit he made up. It's like Marx having a sideline in salesmanship seminars.
One of Newt’s heroes, the French general and statesman Charles de Gaulle, embodies just this kind of romantic narrative, having spent 12 years out of power before returning to lead his country. So does Ronald Reagan, who traveled the country after losing his bid for the Republican nomination in 1976, then came roaring back to win it all four years later.

Okay, I want to make this clear: stenography is a fine calling. But 1) in 2011 no one who can be described as informed, knowledgable, or competent in English can possibly believe anything Newt Gingrich says without checking. Anything. 2) Some of this doesn't even require that much. Reagan lost in '76, but returned to prevail in 1980? Funny, but I seem to've noticed, oh, everywhere people mentioning how the last runner-up, or Deserving Guy, gets the Republican nomination the next time. After Reagan it's Bush, then Dole, then it skips Pat Buchanan, for some reason, anoints Bush the Dumber, then McCain, then Romney? You literally cannot open the internets without seeing someone mention this. And hell, Nixon's a much bigger comeback kid than Ronald "My Friends Set Me Up For Life So I Could Run As The Eternal Crackpot" Reagan. Nixon lost the Presidency and then the Governorship of California. Why didn't Newt choose him? How do you single out Reagan in that crowd?

But, de Gaulle? I'm not an historian, but unless I miss my guess France is a parliamentary democracy with an elected President, or Pampador. De Gaulle made his bones by being a pain in the ass, no small accomplishment in France at the time. He was a young Colonel and a tanker. He was hep to what that Guderian cat was layin' down in that Bavaria. He actually won a battle, which put him in the 99% percentile of French officers right there. He was a sort of British agent. His opposition to (inevitable) surrender caused the ad-hoc government to fall, then he refused to support Le Vieux Pétain, picked up his goat and skedaddled to Britain, where he was a sort of Churchill, and don't get me started, via the wireless back to the people who were actually Occupied, if you catch my drift. My memory's a little fuzzy as to how he became a General. But, like the Americans, the French passed out political office to their war heroes, and de Gaulle was the closest they had. Then he lost an election, and a few years later he won one. I've never heard anybody in the non-French speaking world treat this like a template of stick-to-itiveness. His political career was rather self-obviously Gallic, perhaps to make up for most of his war record being rather self-obviously spent in Britain, plotting to regain France's colonial possessions after someone else won them back. He is the architect of the wildly successful post-war French policy in Indochina.

And whatever else you wanna say about De Gaulle--and there's is plenty else to say about De Gaulle--he was at one point the elected leader of France, lost office, and then regained it. The only national election Newt Gingrich ever won--or is ever going to win--involved counting straws.

Sunday, May 8

The Bad Penny That Keeps On Giving

Juana Summers, "Rudy Giuliani: 'I can probably be talked into' 2012 run". May 6

YOU have to wonder, unless you've already given up wondering, just when the Absolutely Sui-Generis Teabagger Movement is going to come to grips with the Republican party, don't you? It's May, Dillweeds. A year from now the Republican primaries will be over, although if you'd prefer a brokered convention, where Roger Ailes and Dick Armey go behind closed doors after the 82nd ballot to select Daniels/Palin ("This Time She's Ready!") I'm fine with it. I just wonder why it is that every Republican "Revolution" winds up, in six months, tops, looking like a minor re-shuffle of a country club board of directors. Okay, no, I really don't wonder.

Where's your candidate? Don't tell me the real fight is in Congress; nobody believes in the mythic powers of the Presidency like the American right does. Don't tell me you're still waiting, or that it's early yet; revolutions kick out the jams, motherfuckers. Go ahead and tell me it's Trump, if you wish, or Bachman, but we already know the downward spiral of the search for electable moronity has no end.

Where's your candidate? Dudes, Rudy Giuliani thinks he has a chance!
Rudy Giuliani called for a return to American exceptionalism Friday, telling a group of GOP lawyers gathered in the nation’s capital that Ronald Reagan fundamentally changed how Americans felt about themselves.

Before Reagan was elected, Giuliani said, much had been written about America’s decline and how it was a country of “limited possibilities” that had run its course.

“Sounds familiar, right? There are people who believe that today in America. In fact, some of them are running America,” Giuliani said

It's no accident that American Exceptionalism joins Islam and Christianity as the holy trinity of systems whose Absolute and Unshakable Universal Moral Certitudes can be shattered if someone happens to frown in their direction.
in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, where he appeared to received the group’s highest honor…

Parental discretion advised:
the Ed Meese Award.

[Now let's just note here that the concept of irony, which dates to Ancient Greece, was never intended to cover some shelf-worn mook defending American Exceptionalism while accepting the highest honor of a political group which chose Ed Fucking Meese to memorialize. The Ed Meese Award! Who brought home the Ron Artest Sportsmanship Medal?]

You've got no candidate, and now it's getting worse; with Giuliani you're moving backwards. Oh, you've got Mitch Daniels, so go ahead and support the guy who wrecked the Federal budget in the first place; hasten the day when you're forced to admit the whole thing was a gag. When the joke isn't all that funny anyway, just cut the buildup and go right to the punchline.

But where th' hell's that lightning-powered and laser-focused true belief stuff? Why hasn't it swept the field? Why does Rudy Fucking Giuliani--last seen in Florida in January of 2008, bleeding from a thousand paper cuts and endorsing John McCain--imagine his chances are better this time?

Well, there is the fact that he's the only Republican candidate with foreign policy experience, having been the mayor of a really large town, which is why I have to wonder how come he didn't ask the Bush administration why we weren't attacking Iran. (Sure, sure, I'm a partisan. But you really do need to ask yourselves how far into an Idealized Tax-Free Republican Exceptional America you think we'll get before we're running the same sort of deficits, except now it's all going to aircraft carriers, bombers that fly themselves, space guns, and permanent occupations of tinhorn countries none of you can find on a map.)

So here's a modest proposal: why don't you forget that sacred principle of Always Doing What The Oil Companies Say, and help limit the influence of Big Money in campaigns? Surely you could stand one more instance of cognitive dissonance, right? Then Marco Rubio could afford to run, and Sarah Palin could run off her next book advance, and Tammy Jindal could loan Bobby the money.

Okay, just kiddin'; you guys'd never go for it. So here's one: why not form your own independent political party?

Friday, May 6

Olio: The Bad News Is That Mayan Calendar Stuff Is Just Hooey Edition

• Okay, so I'm as glad as anyone that we've thwarted al-Qaeda's big Tenth Anniversary Plans, since that run of successful 9/11 anniversary surprise attacks was getting monotonous.

But "attacking America's commuter rail system?" Ten years, all that nefarious plotting, sleeper cells, and they still confuse us with Europe.

• As expected, Mike "Choirboy" Pence is running for Governor of Indiana, completing the Republican snail trail begun when he collected a dozen church-basement Presidential straw poll votes in Oiowa or Idahoma or someplace, and became the leading Republican Wholly Divorced From Reality candidate overnight. Those of us old enough to remember when that was merely a faction were caught off-balance when Team Daniels reacted swiftly and decisively by kicking Lt. Governor Becky "Night School" Skillman to the curb so Pence wouldn't have to soil his Sunday shoes.

Seems like a good time for a recap: well-heeled Candidate Daniels tapped the obscure (to say the least) Skillman as his running mate in 2004. The City of Lawrence, one of the towns outside Indianapolis, but inside Marion county, which Dick Lugar allowed to keep their identities while helping to vote white people into the Mayor's office for another generation, and which is probably the craziest burg in American not actively being invaded by bats, bees, or raw sewage, thereby lost the best damn Assistant Comptroller it ever had, but Daniels gained a diversity talking point.

This really just seemed like a standard, ham-fisted political maneuver, but then, at the time, those of us who hadn't lost our Water Company pensions to Mitch Daniels didn't really know the man. At the time the real chuckle was how the search for a woman candidate took the Indiana Republican party down to the end of the bench, back out the tunnel, up the stairs, into the stands, all the way up to the tuba section, where the fourth chair had invited his girlfriend.

In the intervening seven years Skillman has spoken three times, and was chair of the Remember That Time President Reagan Changed Planes In Indianapolis? Centennial Commission. The last of those times was when she announced that Pence's strong showing in Wyomaha had reminded her she was overdue for her annual check-up, which, sadly, had discovered a chronic disease which would rob her of the strength required to conduct a campaign, though she promised to soldier on through 2012 cutting ribbons Mitch Daniels was too busy to fuck with any more. If any.

As for Pence, of course, his histrionic departure from his House leadership position signaled that his bugsplatter craziness runs deeper than just Jebus, and his quick fold from the Presidential race where he, right now, would be an answer to the complaints of the Republican faithful, even if that answer was more actuarial than actual, shows that he really does understand the value of a dollar, particularly when there's several million of 'em and Mitch Daniels has the key. And his willingness to return to Indiana to finish Daniels' crash landing shows, I think, a remarkable flexibility for one so religiously assured, and a heretofore unsuspected inability to think ahead in the slightest.

• David Brooks' chunk of prime New York real estate today features his meditation on how this is a republic, not a democracy. Really.

• Donald "The Donald" Trump has withdrawn as celebridriver of the pace car for the 95th running, and the Centennial year, of the Indianapolis 500, citing time constraints.

IMS, by the way, reportedly got suckered into using this sucker because NBC, the corporate giant that sees fit to foist Trump on a deserving public, is about to buy Versus, the cable bump that runs the Indy Car series.

In some wiser, but unspeakably sadder, future, Digging Up The Corpse of Ayn Rand And Desecrating It In Some Novel Fashion Day will be a legal, and much-anticipated, holiday.

• Cheer up, we're all gonna die: Riley Waggaman, "What is America, Anyway? Too bad Leni Riefenstahl wasn't there with her Flip Cam!

Thursday, May 5

Here's An Idea: Shut Th' Fuck Up

Scott Shane and Charlie Savage, "Bin Laden Raid Revives Debate on Value of Torture". May 3

PETER T. "Puts the 'Republican' in Irish Republican Army" King is the US Representative from Amityville, and if you're old enough you may recall Amityville as the place where someone figured out you could lie through your teeth blatantly, transparently, and about shit no one with a third-grade education could possibly believe, and still make a mint in the modern era. King is presently the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, a post he assumed this previous January when it turned out you could lie through your teeth blatantly, transparently, and about shit no one with a third-grade education could possibly believe, and still become the majority party in the US House of Representatives.

Now, in a certain sense, the fact that Peter King is Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee tells you all you need to know about our political system. You, a moderately normal American human, having reached the age of majority and possessing a high school diploma or its equivalent, would not hire Peter King to supervise anything, let alone your security. Just look at him. The man is the posterboy for everyone over forty having the face he deserves:

There may be even better examples. Lord knows there are plenty to choose from. Louis Gohmert and Jim Inhofe are Congressmen. Michelle Bachman reached the ripe old age of 55 without electrocuting herself making toast. There's a House Ethics Committee.

But it will certainly do to point out that The Greatest Nation On Earth either a) is so inept politically it manages to rest some portion of the responsibility for its Security on someone like Peter King, or b) that we actually consider things we claim are of the utmost seriousness to be so laughably unserious that we we will blatantly mock them in public, and don't give a shit who sees us.

Now, as you are probably already aware, King used this Possibly Serious (or Not) position of his to hie himself over the FOX News before the inkjet ink was dry on the office copies of that photoshopped bin-Laden death photo to announce that waterboarding had saved the day. Which then made it a topic of debate. Because, well, because Peter King and FOX News would like it to be.
As intelligence officials disclosed the trail of evidence that led to the compound in Pakistan where Bin Laden was hiding, a chorus of Bush administration officials claimed vindication for their policy of “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding.

A chorus of Bush administration officials! (correct collective noun: an "ineptitude". The Times might wanna update its stylebook). This is like saying that Jeffrey Dahmer revived a debate over proper food storage techniques.
But a closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden’s trusted courier and exposing his hide-out. One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of the courier, according to current and former officials briefed on the interrogations. But two prisoners who underwent some of the harshest treatment — including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times — repeatedly misled their interrogators about the courier’s identity.

One: if a "closer look" disputes someone's pronouncement, then you don't have a dispute; what you have, technically, is a fucking liar. Two: that doesn't require a closer look. A closer look is what you were supposed to have taken back when there was a debate.

I followed along pretty closely at the time, and I think I can safely say that the argument for torture never included "Somebody might spill a name sometime that we could find useful in our lifetimes." No. It consisted of a) the 24 argument, that the inevitable next terror attack was locked in the head of someone we held, and could be unlocked as the clock cinematically ticked down only by inflicting excruciating pain; or b) that torture, or the threat of torture, was necessary to gain the cooperation of suspects who had no reason to cooperate otherwise.

So the pro-torture argument presents a corollary, or two: if the information obtained could have been obtained otherwise, elsewhere, and by other means in as timely a fashion, or if the important information took ten motherfucking years before becoming the tiniest (and debatable, at that) sliver in a major story then you don't have the "revival" of an argument. Because just for starters, you don't have an argument.

(By the way, let's just note here, for want of anywhere better, what Congressman Inside Information had to say in the period 2001-2008, when the Bush administration was keeping this sort of information from Congressional oversight committees, let along the whole of Congress, let alone the taxpayers; if I remember correctly it was, "This space left intentionally blank.")

Now we might at this point mention a couple of things which seem somehow to've escaped our friend Dave Weigel, for one. First, a declarative statement is either true, or it's false, or it's meaningless; it can't be "sorta true if you look at it the right way." Well, it can, but not when it requires metaphysical certainty for its continued existence. The use of torture did, because--yes, the idea seems quaint, now--the United States formerly renounced its use. That doesn't mean we didn't use it, just that we found it so distasteful when our enemies used it that we publicly proclaimed it morally repugnant. And--still quainter--a lot of us really believed it.

So the argument for torture was absolute, and has been absolutely disproven. Which was also the case at the time, but rationality somehow doesn't carry the day with these people under ordinary circumstances, let alone when the blood is up.

The other point which should be made here is that we have a long and indisputable history of involvement in torture--the Philippines, the School of the Americas, Vietnam--and of supporting brutal regimes when it, or they, served our purposes. It has to be the rare US field commander who doesn't believe he has the right to use torture if that is the only way to save lives in some mythical real-life 24 situation. The "debate" came about because that wasn't enough for the assholes of the Bush administration, the same ones who now try to ride piggyback on a successful Obama administration action. They wanted to use 9/11 as an excuse to act out their little inhumanity issues, and the Right's goosestep fetishes. This is where the real debate should have taken place all along: not whether torture is effective (it is, if you include sleep depravation, but sleep depravation will not get fast answers), but why we needed to make it another cog in the proud history of US foreign policy.

If there is a debate today it's over what the Obama administration is doing in our name. What third-rate Nixonistas like John Yoo, and worthless, overexposed two-bit grifters like Peter King have to say means nothing whatsoever. Shoulda caught him when it was your turn, you fucking punks.