Lettuce & Pickles

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

6/15/2006

Okay...

If the people spending the money they got from FEMA truly had loses and were eligible for the money, I frankly don't care where they spent it or what they spent it on.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Hooters restaurant chain has a $200 check ready for FEMA, reimbursement for a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne bought with hurricane relief money last year


Do I LIKE people spending disaster relief funds on champagne or erotica? No. But money is fungible. If these people truly had losses, if they were truly eligible for the disaster relief funds, any of the money they spent on "frivolous" things will be made up with money they get from other sources (like jobs), and, frankly, I don't care if someone who's had a horrible disaster befall them has a few moments of happiness on my dime.

Damn.

I used to go to high school (this would be the Catholic high school, before they freed my soul and I left for public high school) with a kid who claimed his Dad (or someone he knew or something) was a cab driver and was "always" taking people on welfare to the grocery store where they'd buy lobsters with their food stamps.

You know what? Aside from the fact that it would have been hard to find a place in Milwaukee selling live (or even frozen) lobsters at that time, why in the world would I care? People on food stamps get X dollars per month or other period… If they spend it on lobster they have to find other money for food somewhere else. Or go hungry.

How much control do people need?

These morons would sit around, as scolds and conservatives did, and put together "menus" for the poor that were real heavy on the mac and cheese and the bologna sammiches and rant about what responsible destitute people should be eating. Then you got to the point where the economy went in the shitter due to the mismanagement of these hard headed realists and you had lines around the block for government cheese, for crying out loud.

Well, fuck that noise.

What is WITH these people that they get all smoked about somebody getting something they themselves "can't" buy?

For all I know Bill Gates flushes his commode with 20 year old Scotch, but not one of these tools would be ranting about it because he "earned" his hundred billion.

Personally, I think the Hooterization of America is a bad thing, I think the culture gets coarsened and cheapened. I feel the same way about strip clubs and titty bars and cigar rooms and martini bars and all the various accouterments of the bourgeois lifestyle in privileged America…

I don't like objectification and I don't like conspicuous consumption and I don't like "lad culture"; I think it's debasing.

But I'm going to start getting blue-nosed about HURRICANE VICTIMS?

Spare me the angst.

6/08/2006

The GOP in Mesopotamia

The NY Times this morning runs with the news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi died in an American air raid, adding the Zarqawi/American spin that Zarqawi was "Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq..."


Maybe.


Juan Cole begs to differ.


Zarqawi had been a significant leader of the Salafi Jihadi radical strain of Islamist volunteers in Iraq, and had succeeded in spreading his ideas to local Iraqis in places like Ramadi. He engaged in grandstanding when he renamed his group "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia," even though he had early been critical of al-Qaeda and had a long rivalry with it. For background, see the Zarqawi file.


There is no evidence of operational links between his Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups.


None of this is to say what happened here was a bad thing... I'm just sayin'; bin Laden anyone?


3/02/2006

God Save the King of New Orleans

I don't have a lot to say, I'm just sitting here and once in a while it hits me…

George Bush lost a major American city on his watch. Maybe it was brought on by Pickles' reference to Better Than Ezra, or maybe it was Ole 60 Grit's reaction to the video of the boy President saying nothing when he was learning that New Orleans was in danger...

He lost a major American city.

I can't wrap my head around that most of the time. I just can't. Personal responsibility?

Radio in my head
Radio in my car
Goin' down again
He's goin' down again

Any way you look
Any way you talk it over
It's easier to let it slip out of your mind

But it rips your heart out
Then it kicks your head in
Would you give him one more chance
Try and see the beauty in his world

What color IS the sky in his world?

Don't make me cry, GOP.

2/28/2006

1984

"Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was
forgotten, the lie became the truth." - George Orwell, 1984

Missing service records.
Government wiretapping.
Shooting a man.
Weapons of mass destruction.
Cheney's secret energy committee.
Breaking levees.
Outing Plame.
Christmas cards from Ken Lay.

And that's off the top of my head -- you can't make this stuff up, and neither am I. Feel free to add comments and continue the list. Let's see how long of a list we can recall -- because the voting public sure doesn't remember any of it.

Basically Right

Atrios: "I think Ezra's basically right."

He can say that again; but it won't stop Ezra from claiming to be a progressive, to the left of Kevin Drum.

Bin Laden helped me

CNN.com - Bush: Bin Laden helped me, book says - Feb 28, 2006:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Bush said his 2004 re-election victory over Sen. John Kerry was inadvertently aided by Osama bin Laden, The Washington Examiner newspaper reported Tuesday.

The al Qaeda leader had issued a taped diatribe against Bush the Friday before Americans went to the polls.

Bush said there were 'enormous amounts of discussion' inside his campaign about the 15-minute tape, which he called 'an interesting entry by our enemy' into the presidential race.

Bush's comments in the Washington newspaper were excerpts from the new book 'Strategery' by Bill Sammon, a longtime White House correspondent.

'What does it mean? Is it going to help? Is it going to hurt?' Bush told Sammon of the bin Laden tapes.

'Anything that drops in at the end of a campaign that is not already decided creates all kinds of anxieties, because you're not sure of the effect.

'I thought it was going to help,' Bush said.

'I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn't want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush.'"

Good thing bin Laden was still around to give Bush a helping hand, wasn't it? Would have been a shame if Bush had managed to smoke him out of that hole in Tora Bora.

Responsibility

I have been meaning to write about the death of the cult of personal responsibility for some time, it's been nagging at me for the better part of five years...

But Glenn Greenwald beat me to it and did it better than I could have.

I'll come back to this in the future, but read on…  And bookmark Glenn's blog.  You can thank me later.

Only Tomorrow

Via Josh Marshall, Peter Galbraith ruminates in the New York Review of Books on a line from the State of the Union Address (the second paragraph belongs to Josh):

'In his State of the Union address, President Bush told his Iraq critics, 'Hindsight is not wisdom and second-guessing is not a strategy.' His comments are understandable. Much of the Iraq fiasco can be directly attributed to Bush's shortcomings as a leader. Having decided to invade Iraq, he failed to make sure there was adequate planning for the postwar period. He never settled bitter policy disputes among his principal aides over how postwar Iraq would be governed; and he allowed competing elements of his administration to pursue diametrically opposed policies at nearly the same time. He used jobs in the Coalition Provisional Authority to reward political loyalists who lacked professional competence, regional expertise, language skills, and, in some cases, common sense. Most serious of all, he conducted his Iraq policy with an arrogance not matched by political will or military power.'

A pretty crisp and concise description of a man who has been an utter failure as a leader, in almost every respect unimaginable. Hubris, ignorance, inability to lead or make hard decisions. The list is as bleak as it is long."

And all of that is well and good, possibly true even... But one suspects that the real meaning of 'Hindsight is not wisdom and second-guessing is not a strategy' has more to do with invalidating the past and insisting only on the eternal future where all is forgiven and no change need be made, a future where neo-conservative fantasies might actually have a chance of working out in the reality based world.

Bush is well aware that there were many people who saw exactly what the Iraq adventure would lead to and what would become of their plans, in real time and before the war was begun. Only by obfuscating the past and invalidating any reference to it (except in relation to the "threat" of terror) can he avoid the ramifications of reality.

What's at work in that sentence is something far more insidious and dangerous than the petty and ongoing corruption of his administration, what's going on is a denial of the past, the denial that anything can be learned from the past and that the past can have anything to offer the future.

You want to study how we got into this mess, what mistakes we made, which could have been avoided and which people pointed this out at the time (hello, Dr. Dean)? You want to evaluate what it was that caused the political and media establishment to ignore, indeed to trivialize the voices of reason in the run up to the war?

Let's pretend those real-time voices didn't exist, or that even though they were there at the time they somehow, after the passage of more time, become hindsight, second-guessing.

The failure of the policy now becomes the justification for the continuation of the policy, and where have we seen that one before?

It's just another manifestation of the memory hole that threatens our very democracy, because anything can be justified in its name... Only tomorrow exists, yesterday never happened.

2/19/2006

Jonathan Alter: Altered Reality

Jonathan Alter lets us in on a little secret:
Cheney has simultaneously expanded the power of the vice presidency and reduced its accountability. Because his health made him the first veep since ancient Alben Barkley (under Harry Truman) with no realistic chance of moving up, he felt he could change the rules. Fears of terrorism made his decision to go to an "undisclosed location" understandable, but he has taken secrecy about his whereabouts to inexplicable lengths. News organizations went along with this partly to save money by not sending reporters to cover his trips. They rationalized it by explaining that Cheney never said anything to reporters anyway.

Finding it funny that they'd never mentioned what's in those last two sentences before, I read on...
When reporters wanted the public to see Jimmy Carter was being swamped politically, they focused on how he was attacked on vacation in a canoe by a "killer rabbit." When the press believed that Reagan was tilting toward the rich with his hard-to-explain tax policy, Nancy Reagan's acceptance of expensive White House china briefly became an issue. These feeding frenzies are unattractive, but the alternative is worse—reporters knowing an important truth about politicians and not letting the public in on it.

The alternative is, indeed, worse. But Alter never explains how this contradiction and dereliction occurred; and it's clearly beyond anyone in the mainstream media to see the contradiction, own up to the dereliction or change their way of "doing business."

They don't even seem capable of facing the issues they raise with their own inadvertant acknowledgement of their contradictions, you can write them and ask about them (as I do) they won't respond, so busy are they doing the public's business and keeping us informed.

Crazy, man.

2/15/2006

Herding the Sheeple

Faithful readers:

I know I am not the first person to think this, and not even the first to suggest it in print [well, phoshor and pixels, at least -- the actual print media in this country will go financially bankrupt (which is not to be confused with their moral bankruptcy) before they suggest such a thing]. But, it seems blatantly obvious to me that the vice president's inept marksmanship could not have come at a more opportune time...

It's the distraction extraordinaire, turning unwanted attention away from that annoying business of Cheney's implication in the outing of Valarie Plame. Isn't it? Certainly the White House has played it perfectly:

1) First there's no report for 24 hours, which piques both media interest and the outrage of Democrats, and gets all of us chit-chatting about possible reasons for the delay rather than Cheney's implication in the Plame outing. Cheney himself remains silent.

2) Then, the report is released... bare-bones, with a few interesting tidbits. Cause for more speculation -- what is the relationship of the two women to the VP (what, didn't you hear that there was a second woman hunting?)? Why did Cheney even bother to send in his $7? Why wasn't he cited for that? What was the bag limit? How many birds had they bagged? How could he have shot someone? Was it on purpose? Was he drinking? Cheney himself remains silent.

3) Then, blame Whittington: He snuck up on the VP. He didn't observe "good hunting practices". Cheney did nothing wrong. If you hunt long enough, you're bound to get shot -- it's the nature of the sport. Cheney himself remains silent.

4) Then disclose Whittington's condition: ICU overnight. Well, he's actually fine. Well, it looks like he has chicken pox. Well, they removed "many" of the pellets. How many remain? Um... Cheney himself remains silent.

5) Between 6 and 100. That's a topic all by itself. Cheney himself remains silent.

6) Then Whittington has a "silent" heart attack because one of the "harmless" pellets has migrated too close to the heart. That pellet must have been on an expressway, to have done that in 24 hours. Yet, somehow, none of the remaining pellets are considered dangerous, despite the small matter of a "silent" heart attack. Heck, even the attack-causing pellet isn't considered dangerous. Really. Cheney himself, still incommunicado. Whittington, meanwhile, getting ready to do some lawyer work from his hospital room.

7) But wait... chit-chat wearing thin? Goodness, let's give them something to talk about! Let's release a statement that says that Cheney will break his silence later in the day. Whew, okay, that buys us a few hours. Good, and we can stretch it out if we don't televise it. Good thinking. Can we give the exclusive rights to Fox News? You know, not that we think that Fox News is partisan in its coverage, or anything, but we'd hate to have any real questions or any attempt to spin this back toward the truth...

And besides, Fox News won't show anything for yet another half a day, so that's one more day we've managed to direct the watercooler conversations without even half trying.

Sheeple are easy. Tomorrow, they'll be talking about Cheney's statement, and Apolo and Olympic speed skating, and Friday, all they talk about is what they are going to do this weekend -- any good movies opening? wasn't it awfully cold? -- and by Monday... well, all is forgotten. Sheeple are easy.

They've really got this down to an art form. You can't make this stuff up, and neither can I.

2/14/2006

Jason Zengerle swings and misses

Over at The New Republican Jason Zengerle gives Kaus mad props and then, in an otherwise worthless post which provides zero exaples of how liberal bloggers overestimate the damage scandals do to the Administration, Zengerle writes:
...liberal bloggers are already overreaching and trying to turn it into something bigger. Josh Marshall (who's often a voice of reason) is insinuating that the victim's injuries are more severe than reported...

When a subscriber points out that insignificant injuries don't land people in the ICU for a couple of days, and the hospital for three or more, Zengerle responds:
We really have no idea why he was in the ICU for so long. It's possible his injuries were more severe than reported. It's also possible there were non-medical, bureaucratic reasons: maybe the ICU has the only private rooms at that hospital; or perhaps putting him in the ICU was the best way to control visitors to the guy (so reporters couldn't get in). I have no idea, and I hesitate to even venture a guess. My point about Josh's post was that it's counter-productive to speculate about this stuff.

Excellent speculative point.

Maybe they keep you in the ICU for bureaucratic reasons; who knows? It would be irresponsible to speculate.

Good work, Jason. New Republican, indeed.