Saturday, February 02, 2008

what the wingers are saying 

Pejman Yousefzadeh, proud member of Pajamaload media, on McCage:

John McCain will never be President. Although he is increasingly likely to win the Republican nomination for President, he has essentially no chance of prevailing in the general election. Here we review the reasons why.

First, Mr. McCain's status as the media's Pet Conservative will end abruptly as soon as he faces a Democrat in a competitive race. Alex Whitlock and I explored this point back in 2005. Mr. McCain's hawkish and conservative stances right now are a silent majority, since he attracts attention only for his deviations from the party line. But a closer look, especially one guided by a well-funded opponent, would show him as the harshest sort of authoritarian conservative. Mr. McCain would run well to the right of Mitt Romney in a general election -- not by choice, but because his opponent and the press would put him there.

An inevitable consequence of this is that the tailwind of steadily favorable press coverage, which has largely propelled Mr. McCain to this point, would reverse. The press has no love for hawkish, name-calling conservatives when they are not opposing other Republicans. Its coverage of Mr. McCain would be unremittingly negative, reversing the "maverick" image he has enjoyed to date. He will be portrayed as a cranky, right-wing authoritarian, which is two-thirds correct.

As partial payment to McCain for supplying them with a stream of "maverick" stories, the press has so far refrained from excavating his closet. This also will not last. Oh, look: Charles Keating! And something tacky...

the rest

No need to alert the Dems about narrative control tactics. The libruhl media is on the case.


Any clues as to what Cindy McCain's "role" or special emphasis as First Lady might be?

Also: is Cindy McCain actually Jerri Blank's stepmother from Strangers with Candy?

Friday, February 01, 2008


from the comments section of the new TSA blog:

How many shoe bombs have you found?


A few years back I got a nasty plantar wart from walking barefoot in my upscale health club. Very painful to have treated. The idea of getting another from the barfoot thing at the airport--well, it boggles the mind.

I traveled through the Miami airport in December and was forced to walk barefoot following a man with OPEN SORES ON HIS FEET--that is right I had to step in the pus from another human being.

Is there not a point where the government is ashamed to treat its citizens like animals? (A: no --scats)

wait til some idiot hides a bomb in his/her underwear.

I think you seriously need to stop stealing toiletries from people.

Why they have to take my toothpaste is beyond me. All they have to do is one the lid and smell

Since when is 3 ounces = 100 milliliters? How about 3.4 ounces.

the whole 3 oz thing? Get over it. If someone needs 4.5 oz of something for 'evil' purposes won't people just split it across 2 containers.

I myself am composed of 50-65% water.

anyone wanting to blow up the plan could fill certain of their body cavities with enough explosives to down a plane. Terrorists should float the rumor that they're going to do just that. TSA's reaction would be to do body cavity searches on all travelers.

TSA has to understand that a bottle of Aquafina is not a credible threat to security.

There are no magic MacGuyver liquids that you can mix in the bathroom and blow up the plane.

At least we dont have the military standing around with AK-47's providing security as in some 3rd world countries, where if you cause any kind of problem you are taken away and interrogated and may not get a chance to leave for days.

Could you buy some Red Bull for the TSA agents at Atlanta? It is the laziest bunch of people I have ever seen.

After the horrors of 911 most people realize we must relinquish our personal freedoms to protect the common good. Some people will react negatively to the rules that dictate air safety, but TSA is doing a fine job protecting America.

When you treat my small, blond children and myself like common criminals, you are not protecting the public, you are just abusing power.

Don't like long airport lines or those bothersome searches? Don't like the excessive time it now takes to get a passport? Go ahead and blame a federal employee. After all, they caused these inconveniences,didn't they? The correct answer is NO! Put the blame where it belongs: RADICAL ISLAM. Almost none of these problems existed until this DISEASE reared its violent head.

I'm a TSO at Chicago O'hare. These searches are, in fact, legal. Read up on the Patriot Act. Our searches are Administrative Searches, which are exempt from the Fourth Admendment.

I have in two separate occasions gotten onto the plane with a knife in my pocket. Not on purpose of course.

The biggest inconsistency I deal with is this: We take off our shoes, but not our shirts, not our pants, not our underwear, not our socks. Why?

I'm a Department of Defence contractor who flies frequently between the U.S. and the Middle East, and I'm usually in uniform...What is WRONG with you people? WEare the ones on the REAL front line. Not you.


Hillary's lead in the big Super Tuesday states is significant enough that what happened in the debate last night probably won't keep her from winning the nomination. But she was clearly trying to be "nice" to Obama -- agreeing with him, expressing admiration for him as a charming person, hiding away Bill Clinton somewhere off camera -- which means that she is modulating herself to appease her critics in the media, a la Gore in the second 2000 debate, which is a gesture that will not appease the media in any way but rather signal to them that she is weak and is Obama's (and their) bitch. ("Bitch" as the term is used in prison.) It would have been better for her, as the presumptive nominee with many months of campaigning ahead of her, to continue to gleefully savage Obama. Now in just three weeks we've seen crying Hillary, nasty Hillary, and patty-cakes Hillary, but all three are simply roles she has taken on, with varying levels of alacrity, in a futile attempt to please her masters in the media who cannot ever be pleased with her because the entire point of their jobs is to punish her.

McCain's moment has passed and he is going to be a terrible candidate with no money. He said he wants the Iraq war to last 100 years, which I think is all that needs to be said about him in order to defeat him. The question is whether Hillary is really going to be able to make the election about McCain and his deficiencies when she has already agreed with the media that it is right and proper for them to focus mainly on her and her deficiencies.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Now that McCage will be president, the only interesting thing for us to do here is offer potential scripts/stage directions for his triumphant nomination.  

One is encouraged to employ the following elements whenever possible: 

--Giant bamboo cage
--U.S. flag large enough to be draped over cage, in the manner in which bird cages are draped
--Vietnamese Children's Freedom Chorus
--Vietnamese Unborn Children's Freedom Chorus
--Recorded sounds of M-16 fire
--Actual explosion w/ billowing fireball
--Helicopter releasing cloud of defoliant onto delegates
--Black U.S. citizen
--Miniature binder clips (to adhere "face")

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I've been pondering the attraction of the Unity/Hope/Change rhetoric of the Obama campaign that seems to have flaked away the outer layer of even the crustiest Mencken wannabes in our commentariat. Usually I don't get very far in these musings because the lack of content doesn't give one much to work with. At the same time the tropes strike me as fascistically sinister in their emptiness, so my mind involuntarily wanders into less creepy pastures. Privileged scions raping the planet is nothing new. The dimmest hint of our First! Black! President! bringing us all together for a Lethe-flavored Kool-Aid quaff followed by a unanimous glassy-eyed march into the Hellmouth opens up whole new vistas of nausea.

At this point, the fantasia of the immolation of the Right has gotten me through so many nights that the idea of "unity" not only doesn't strike me as possible, it doesn't seem remotely desirable. What kind of mush-headed masochistic feeb wants to let bygones be bygones at this point? How thick does your myopia have to be that you're ascribing our national malaise to an amorphously uncomfortable sense of "dividedness". Since when is being divided from malevolent bastards not a virtue? You'd think such an infantilized populace would at least have enough of a sense of stubborn adolescent pride to put a veneer of bravado over the anxiety they feel at watching Mommy and Daddy fight.

Don't get me wrong. I'm right there with everyone else on the overwhelming sense of self-loathing after a drawn out auto-degradation binge. As a nation we've been fucking too many of the wrong people and blowing too many laxative-cut lines for too long. The Global Village is on its way to work and we're left to stumble home squinting at the morning light and trying to ignore the stares of approbation. Who wouldn't want a nice hot ethical bath and time to sleep it off? Who wouldn't like to be reminded of our better selves? It's just that our better selves never had much truck with 'bipartisanship' or 'reaching across the aisle'. Our better selves know that even if there's a reach-around it don't mean you're not getting fucked.

All this is to say that I really don't get it. So instead of my tortured metaphors, I submit for your reading pleasure someone who understands America much better than I could. I was surprised to find the essay had been posted online since I'd thought it was only in print. It is mainly an attempt to deal with the question that's been on every Proggie mind since the Bush coup: Why does the Right win? Looking at it with a year's distance, it may provide some clues as to why Obama appears to be turning it around.

Is it possible that America is actually a nation of frustrated altruists? Certainly this is not the way that we normally think about ourselves. Our normal habits of thought, actually, tend toward a rough and ready cynicism. The world is a giant marketplace; everyone is in it for a buck; if you want to understand why something happened, first ask who stands to gain by it. The same attitudes expressed in the back rooms of bars are echoed in the highest reaches of social science. America’s great contribution to the world in the latter respect hasbeen the development of “rational choice” theories, which proceed from the assumption that all human behavior can be understood as a matter of economic calculation, of rational actors trying to get as much as possible out of any given situation with the least cost to themselves. As a result, in most fields, the very existence of altruistic behavior is considered a kind of puzzle, and everyone from economists to evolutionary biologists has become famous through attempts to “solve” it–that is, to explain the mystery of why bees sacrifice themselves for hives or human beings hold open doors and give correct street directions to total strangers. At the same time, the case of the military bases suggests the possibility that in fact Americans, particularly the less affluent ones, are haunted by frustrated desires to do good in the world.

It would not be difficult to assemble evidence that this is the case. Studies of charitable giving, for example, have shown the poor tobe the most generous: the lower one’s income, the higher the proportion of it that one is likely to give away to strangers. The same pattern holds true, incidentally, when comparing the middle classes and the rich: one study of tax returns in 2003 concluded that if the most affluent families had given away as much of their assets as even the average middle-class family, overall charitable donations that year would have increased by $25 billion. (All this despite the fact that the wealthy have far more time and opportunity.) Moreover, charity represents only a tiny part of the picture. If one were to break down what typical American wage earners do with their disposable income, onewould find that they give much of it away, either through spending in one way or another on their children or through sharing with others: presents, trips, parties, the six-pack of beer for the local softball game. One might object that such sharing is more a reflection of the real nature of pleasure than anything else (who would want to eat a delicious meal at an expensive restaurant all by himself?), but this is actually half the point. Even our self-indulgences tend to be dominated by the logic of the gift. Similarly, some might object that shelling out a small fortune to send one’s children to an exclusive kindergarten is more about status than altruism. Perhaps: but if you look at what happens over the course of people’s actual lives, it soon becomes apparent that this kind of behavior fulfills an identical psychological need. How many youthful idealists throughout history have managed to finally come to terms with a world based on selfishness and greed the moment they start a family? If one were to assume altruism were the primary human motivation, this would make perfect sense: The only way they can convince themselves to abandon their desire to do right by the world as a whole is to substitute an even more powerful desire to do right by their children.

What all this suggests to me is that American society might well work completely differently than we tend to assume. Imagine, for a moment, that the United States as it exists today were the creation of some ingenious social engineer. What assumptions about human nature could we say this engineer must have been working with? Certainly nothing like rational choice theory. For clearly our social engineer understands that the only way to convince human beings to enter into the world of work and the marketplace (that is, of mind-numbing labor and cutthroat competition) is to dangle the prospect of thereby being able to lavish money on one’s children, buy drinks for one’s friends, and, if one hits the jackpot, spend the rest of one’s life endowing museums and providing AIDS medications to impoverished countries in Africa. Our theorists are constantly trying to strip away the veil of appearances and show how all such apparently selfless gestures really mask some kind of self-interested strategy, but in reality American society is better conceived as a battle over access to the right to behave altruistically. Selflessness–or, at least, the right to engage in high-minded activity–is not the strategy. It is the prize.

If nothing else, I think this helps us understand why the right has been so much better, in recent years, at playing to populist sentiments than the left. Essentially, they do it by accusing liberals of cutting ordinary Americans off from the right to do good in the world. Let me explain what I mean here by throwing out a series of propositions....

the rest

for our own enjoyment 

I like these folks. It's a pity they aim their sights so low.


Gawker has a roundup of Scientology parody videos. Mirman and O'Connell are standouts.

Monday, January 28, 2008

at least he's got taste 


The top law enforcement official said on Friday he keeps in his office a portrait of George Orwell, whose book "1984" envisioned a futuristic technology security state overseen by a prying "Big Brother."

But the inspiration comes from Orwell's writing style, not the dystopian world the English writer depicted, an aide said.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in his first extensive meeting with reporters since taking office in November, said he selected two portraits for his office, the first being Robert Jackson, a former Supreme Court Justice, U.S. attorney general and Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor.

Mukasey, a former federal judge, said he admired Jackson for his clarity of expression and thought.

"I said I had his picture hanging. His was one of two. The other was George Orwell, so put 'em together " Mukasey said without elaborating.

Asked what Mukasey saw in Orwell, Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said it was his clarity. "When he was a judge, he assigned new law clerks George Orwell's 1946 essay 'Politics and the English Language.' It's one of the first things our speechwriter received as well," Carr said.

Orwell wrote in his essay, "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

Jackson also had memorable sayings. "The price of freedom of religion, or of speech, or of the press, is that we must put up with a good deal of rubbish," he once wrote.

We all know about Orwell and his superior grave-spinning skills. Some fun quotes from Justice Jackson:

On Nazis -

We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.

We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.

That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.

... to initiate a war of aggression... is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime. [statement of the Nuremburg Tribunal]

On other things -

Nothing in our Constitution is plainer than that declaration of a war is entrusted only to Congress. Of course, a state of war may in fact exist without a formal declaration. But no doctrine that the Court could promulgate would seem to me more sinister and alarming than that a President whose conduct of foreign affairs is so largely uncontrolled, and often even is unknown, can vastly enlarge his mastery over the internal affairs of the country by his own commitment of the Nation's armed forces to some foreign venture.

No penance would ever expiate the sin against free government of holding that a President can escape control of executive powers by law through assuming his military role.

If we can cultivate in the world the idea that aggressive war-making is the way to the prisoner's dock rather than the way to honors, we will have accomplished something toward making the peace more secure.

It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.

Keith Olbermann over at Kos found Mukasey's decorating proclivities worrisome because it might indicate an admiration for Ingsoc. As though out of a desire to emulate Oceania, Mukasey was valorizing its creator. This is a bit far-fetched. In this case it is fair to take the man at his word. The words of the men on his wall are arranged prettily, what they mean is irrelevant. Of course this habit has its own sinister implications.

I think I'll throw up a photo of Leni Riefenstahl next to my desk. Her films had such style, such clarity of thought and expression.


First, a note of guarded optimism from Barry Crimmins:

So now the Clinton's will complete the retreat from the cocoon of gender to the fortress of machine politics. The problem is the machine is operated by rats and rats' first and only concern is self-preservation. Last week's stern private admonitions of the Clintons by high-ranking Democrats to express concern over the tenor of their campaign rhetoric look like they will become next week's steady stream of endorsements of an opponent who is a vetted and safe political ballplayer. Unless Bill Clinton learns to shut up and bail, this thing will be over very soon.

And while careful examination of Barack Obama turns up a rather ambitious man who is single-minded in his pursuit of power, the rhetoric he has used to fire up the people may have created something a bit loftier than what he has in mind. He is telling a nation full of disenfranchised citizens that their voices do matter, that they have a right and a duty to demand change. And so they are taking him at his word and standing with him. If Obama realizes that it's more important to answer the demands of that mob than to keep his political 'accounts payable' file up to date, something good will result from this. For decades, diversity training has been a meaningless corporate exercise designed to duck accountability and keep up phony appearances. In the Obama campaign, actual diversity may have found a rightful home. That home is occupied by a wide cross-section of people who have begun to realize that getting fucked over is the tie that binds us. It's been several decades since anyone has successfully organized the people to believe they can actually speak, think and demand for themselves. When this happens the result is a principled mob that can, if you'll forgive the term, change the world. Perhaps this one will breathe life into a renewed deal in the USA.

It's not a matter of abandoning your principles to join this mob. Hold fast to your principles and light a torch. Believe in your ideals and grab some pots and pans and clank up a clamor. Remember what you're pissed about as you hoist that pitchfork. If the senator from Illinois is as smart as he appears to be, he'll understand that the mob can continue its forward march with or without him. Don't worry, he'll do what he needs to do to remain at the front of the throng.

I'll pass on the Obama Kool-Aid but I'll have a few belts of whatever the mob is drinking. And it sure is something to watch the Clintons choke on their own hubris.

But then the WSJ pees in his face:

Mr. Obama heads into the 22-state showdown as the underdog. The Illinois senator trails Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York by large margins in polls in most of the big states voting Feb. 5. And he lacks the time or resources to campaign intensively in many of those far-flung races to close the gaps.....for all of the attention Mr. Obama has garnered since his Iowa caucus victory at the beginning of the month, Mrs. Clinton has maintained her big lead in national polls -- and in polls in the big states with delegate prizes far greater than any state that has voted so far.


Mrs. Clinton appears to have the edge going into the coming week. Polling conducted since the middle of January -- after her thin-but-surprising victory in the New Hampshire primary -- shows that she holds a decisive and often double-digit edge over Mr. Obama in eight of the 10 most important Super Tuesday states. These states collectively will deliver more than 1,500 delegates; 2,025 are needed to lock up a nomination.

But they kind of make up for it with a snazzy graphic:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

picture thinking 

I can't tell if my worldview has gotten grossly simplistic, or this cartoon just elegantly sums things up:

Or maybe things look more like this:

Sadly, or infuriatingly, they definitely look like this:

(click to enlarge)
courtesy: The Guys from Area 51 and Arvin Hill


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