Friday, October 3, 2008

The triumph of obnoxious, confident & dumb over timorous, insecure & dumb

I have no shame. Another Palin posting. This from the incomprable Digby:

Last night Palin appeared to have mastered the art of George W. Bush style gibberish --- obnoxious, confident and dumb. And the conservative elite are all relieved. They were afraid they had a real problem on their hands --- a candidate who was timorous, insecure and dumb and that is a sure loser.

I'm going to start referring to her as George W Palin. She has every one of the characteristics that people thought were so refreshingly "authentic" when he ran in 2000 and which led us to disaster. This arrogant, empty, anti-intellectual faux populism has just proved itself to be inadequate for the presidency and yet they've put up another one.

Over the past few weeks, I've had varying responses to this person. At first I thought she was a professional wingnut politician, well indoctrinated in conservative movement politics. It turns out she isn't that at all. She is exactly what she says she is, a socially conservative hockey mom, who fell into a job with a big title, but which is obviously done by her staff. She gets by on her folksy demeanor, her massive ego and her prodigious energy (the only thing she doesn't have in common with Bush.)

She isn't a politician at all. She's a caricature of a politician, as he is. They are both figureheads who represent something important to voters who believe that the biggest problem in the world is that pointy headed elites are incompetent because they lack comm on sense. And the funny thing is that it's the product of one of the harshest conservative criticisms of liberalism over the years ---- the self-esteem movement. Both George W. Bush and Sarah Palin are self-esteem symbols, put forth to prove to people who have been convinced that liberal elites are ruining everything, that the world would be better led by someone just like them. It's the ultimate social promotion. That people like David Brooks would celebrate Palin's mastery of its aggressive know nothingness, says that the conservative elites, even after Bush, are still committed to using this for their own cynical, Straussian ends.

The US has only one party, the party of property, of money, of big corporations

In the August 2006 edition of The Progressive, David Barsamian writes about his interview with Gore Vidal from April.

Distantly related to Jackie Kennedy, he does not romanticize JFK. “He was one of the most charming men I’ve ever known,” says Vidal. “He was also one of the very worst Presidents.”


He sees a certain continuity in U.S. foreign policy over the last fifty years. “The management, then and now, truly believes the United States is the master of the Earth and anyone who defies us will be napalmed or blockaded or covertly overthrown,” he says. “We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense.”

Vidal foresaw Bush's spiral descent from grace in 2002:

Q: In 2002, long before Bush’s current travails, you wrote, “Mark my words, he will leave office the most unpopular President in history.” How did you know that then?

Gore Vidal: I know these people. I don’t say that as though I know them personally. I know the types. I was brought up in Washington. When you are brought up in a zoo, you know what’s going on in the monkey house. You see a couple of monkeys loose and one is President and one is Vice President, you know it’s trouble. Monkeys make trouble.

Q: Bush’s ratings have been at personal lows. Cheney has had an 18 percent approval rating.

Vidal: Well, he deserves it.

Q: Yet the wars go on. It’s almost as if the people don’t matter.

Vidal: The people don’t matter to this gang. They pay no attention. They think in totalitarian terms. They’ve got the troops. They’ve got the army. They’ve got Congress. They’ve got the judiciary. Why should they worry? Let the chattering classes chatter. Bush is a thug. I think there is something really wrong with him.

He also predicted how the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq will end. This seems eerily prescient:

Q: Today the United States is fighting two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and is now threatening to launch a third one on Iran. What is it going to take to stop the Bush onslaught?

Vidal: Economic collapse. We are too deeply in debt. We can’t service the debt, or so my financial friends tell me, that’s paying the interest on the Treasury bonds, particularly to the foreign countries that have been financing us. I think the Chinese will say the hell with you and pull their money out of the United States. That’s the end of our wars.

He offers an extremely harsh (and fully deserved) evaluation of the Cheney administration:

...I would suggest Canada or New Zealand as a possible place to go until we are rid of our warmongers. We’ve never had a government like this. The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It’s as though we are evil. We strike first. We’ll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It’s like a war against dandruff. There’s no such thing as a war against terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.,

And Vidal lays much of the blame on "our media" and "the press."

But our media has collapsed. They’ve questioned no one. One of the reasons Bush and Cheney are so daring is that they know there’s nobody to stop them. Nobody is going to write a story that says this is not a war, only Congress can declare war. And you can only have a war with another country. You can’t have a war with bad temper or a war against paranoids. Nothing makes any sense, and the people are getting very confused. The people are not stupid, but they are totally misinformed.

Q: You’ve called the country “The United States of Amnesia.” Is this something in our genes?

Vidal: No, it’s something in our rulers. They don’t want us to know anything. When you’ve got a press like we have, you no longer have an informed citizenry.

Q: When were the media better?

Vidal: They’ve never been much good. They belong to the people who own them. But they were better, the level was higher. There used to be foreign correspondents in other countries. There’s nobody abroad now. The New York Times gave up being anything except a kind of shadow of The Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post is the court circular. What has the emperor done today? And who will be the under-assistant of the secretary of agriculture? As though these things mattered.

Vidal, like several other of the bloggers / writers I repeatedly quote here, does NOT believe this country has a two-party system but rather one party with two wings.

Q: Talk about the role of the opposition party, the Democrats.

Vidal: It isn’t an opposition party. I have been saying for the last thousand years that the United States has only one party—the property party. It’s the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican.

But he does NOT see the situation as hopeless, hapless, nor helpless, and offers as an antidote the same strategy developed by the "religious right" in its takeover of the republican party in Texas:

Q: What can people do to energize democracy?

Vidal: The tactic would be to go after smaller offices, state by state, school board, sheriff, state legislatures. You can turn them around and that doesn’t take much of anything. Take back everything at the grassroots, starting with state legislatures.

Falling into the trap set by the campaign spinmeisters and talking points pimps

Here are some Professor Juan Cole's scathing comments on this evening's vice presidential candidates "debate."

She mugged for the camera, winked like a bar fly, and just went on talking and talking and talking, oblivious to whatever anyone else said. Not only did she ignore most of Gwen Ifill's questions,she paid no attention to what Joe Biden said. When he choked up over the loss of his family, she did not have the decency to express any kind of condolences. It is almost as though she is autistic and unable to connect with human beings.

Not only was it not a debate and not only did Palin answer virtually none of the questions put to her, but the whole idea of such an event was ridiculous.

Joe Biden has been either the chairman or the ranking minority member on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years, and is one of our foremost foreign affairs experts and legislators. His acumen and expertise are wide-ranging.

Palin has revealed her real self in the Gibson and Couric interviews, and clearly knows nothing and offers only rubbery expressions and glib repetition, for all the world like a rasping myna bird, of a stream of memorized slogans that sound as though they were disinterred from a time capsule originally buried in William F. Buckley Jr.'s back yard several decades ago.

It was not a debate, and pretending that it was and judging "performance" is to fall into the trap set by the campaign spinmeisters and talking point pimps.

Without having to acknowledge their perversions of the institutions

Forty years or so ago I bought the LP The Begatting of the President by Orson Welles which chronicled the rise, demise and re-rise of Richard Nixon with JFK and LBJ in between. In a thundering baritone, Welles invoked old testament phraseology of then topical political issues. Wonderful, evocative stuff, the punch line to Nixon's 1968 election being, "And so I say unto you, my brethren, let us pray."

In the October 2, 2008 edition of The Black Commentator, guest commentator Wesley E. Profit writes along similar lines in criticizing the present plans to bail out Wall Street. Profit's prose cuts quickly to the hypocrisy of them that's got.

...[C]onservatives, neo-conservatives, free-market capitalists, and their ilk toast the values of capitalism - no government interference with the market, let the market regulate itself, etc. - as long as it works for them. And when it doesn’t work for them, as is now the case, with a wink of their eyes, they become corporate communitarians marching under the banner “From the government according to its ability to us according to our failures.” Theirs is the logic of a modern Animal Farm: “Corporate capitalism profits good; failed corporate capitalism profits better.”

In truth, it is kind of a religion whose illogic must be taken as an article of faith. “And on the fifth day, Manna made the banks and the mortgage companies and all manner of financial instruments did it make and it told them to go forth and multiply so that your progeny may cover the earth and all the international markets as well. And on the sixth day, Manna made capitalism and it saw that capitalism was alone and from the rib of capitalism it made the government to be a helpmate of the capitalist. And on the seventh day, Manna bailed out.”

And from that day to this and ever since, capitalists have celebrated the “bailout.” In the “bailout”, capitalists give thanks to Manna without having to acknowledge that they have perverted the institutions that Manna created. The bailout is a ritual for anesthetizing failure without resort to blame. It is the golden bull of hypocrisy worshiped whenever capitalists fear that the gods of the true free market may abandon them.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

VP Debate

Sarah Palin didn't "say" anything. She recited talking points and apparently eruditely. She didn't stutter, didn't mumble. She talked at a brisk pace. Repeat: she didn't say a damn thing. "Is it okay to call you Joe?" "Yes." She never did. Call it "perky." Kind of like a cheer leader. We've already had one of those. One last time. She didn't say a thing - but she did it well. She faked it. Unless you tried to make sense out of her words, she sounded good and looked confident. So what. She didn't say a thing.

Joe Biden demonstrated more depth, more knowledge, more insight. Was better informed. More passionate.

This was no contest.

Biden is supremely more qualified for the office of President of the United States, and thus, far more qualified to be the Vice President.


After all, she's only a woman. What could she possibly know? From Spiegel Online:

During the G-8 economic summit in Heiligendamm more than a year ago, for example, Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to convince her state guests of the need for tighter controls on the financial markets. But President Bush and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave the chancellor the cold shoulder.

The long-humiliated have lost their fear

Spiegel Online offers a succinct eight paragraph historical overview of the Bush administration, the march of the neo-cons and the meteoric rise and perhaps stratospheric fall of the paper mache ponzi scam perpetrated by the "shadow banking system" upon itself and investors of the world.

The failed leadership of President Bush, whose departure most of his counterparts from other countries are now looking forward to more and more openly, is not solely to blame. Nor are his two risky wars: the one in Iraq, which he launched frivolously in the vain hope of converting the entire region to the American way of life, and the other in Afghanistan, in which Bush now risks the world's most powerful defense alliance, NATO, suffering its first defeat.

But it's hard to forget how this president's mentors celebrated the power to shape world affairs the United States acquired in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the East-West conflict. There was talk of a "unipolar moment," of "America's moment," even of an "end of history," now that all other countries apparently had no other choice but to become smaller versions of America: liberal, democratic and buoyed by an unshakeable confidence in the free market economy.

The Bush administration wanted to cement forever this unique moment in history, in which the United States was undoubtedly the strongest power on earth. It wanted to use it to clean house in chronic crisis zones around the world, especially the Middle East. Far from relying on the classic, cumbersome and often unsuccessful tools of multilateral diplomacy, the Bush warriors were always quick to threaten military intervention -- just as quick as they were to make good on this threat.

The strategists of this immoderately self-confident administration formulated these principles in the "Bush doctrine" and claimed, for themselves and their actions, the right to "preemptive" military intervention -- with little concern for the rules of alliances or international organizations.

The superpower even claimed privileges over its allies, even offending some of its best friends during Bush's first term. Bush withdrew the American signature from a treaty to establish the International Criminal Court, he refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to combat climate change and he withdrew from an agreement with the Russians to limit the number of missile defense systems.

Washington sought to divide the world into good and evil -- and did so as it saw fit.

Now, in the wake of the crash on Wall Street, the debate in the UN reveals that the long-humiliated have lost their fear of the giant in world politics. Even a political dwarf like Bolivian President Evo Morales is now talking big. "There is an uprising against an economic model, a capitalistic system that is the worst enemy of humanity," Morales told the UN General Assembly.

The financial crisis has uncovered the world power's true weakness. The more the highly indebted United States has to spend to stabilize its own economic system, the more trouble it has performing its self-imposed duties as the world's policeman.

Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end

Speigle on line reports on George Bush's recent appearance before the United Nations, noting:

The US president gave a speech similar to the ones he gave in 2004 and 2007, mentioning the word "terror" 32 times in 22 minutes. At the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations, George W. Bush was the only one still talking about terror and not about the topic that currently has the rest of the world's attention.

In the same article, Speigel editorializes:

Gone are the days when the US could go into debt with abandon, without considering who would end up footing the bill. And gone are the days when it could impose its economic rules of engagement on the rest of the world, rules that emphasized profit above all else -- without ever considering that such returns cannot be achieved by doing business in a respectable way.

With its rule of three of cheap money, free markets and double-digit profit margins, American turbo-capitalism has set economic standards worldwide for the past quarter century. Now it is proving to be nothing but a giant snowball system, upsetting the US's global political status as it comes crashing down. Every bank that US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is currently forced to bail out with American government funds damages America's reputation around the world.

Vying only to determine which can drink more from the poisoned well of hurbris

William S. Lind's On War Column #274: Why Obama is Wrong discusses that presidential candidate's states positions on "the wars" in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. His stunning conclusion (with which I agree) is this:

Here we see the central reality of American politics shining through the smoke and mirrors. America has a one-party system. That party is the Establishment Party, and its internal disagreements are minor. Both McCain and Obama are Establishment Party candidates. They agree America must be a world-controlling empire. Both men are Wilsonians, believing we must re-make other countries and cultures in our own image. Neither man conceives any real limits, political, financial, military or moral, on American power. McCain and Obama vie only in determining which can drink more deeply from the poisoned well of hubris, around which, unremarked, lie the bones of every previous world power.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Terrorists use chemical weapons in attack on religious service on US soil

In a cowardly, venal attack, terrorists sprayed a chemical irritant into the eyes of a 10-year old girl watching over younger children at an evening worship service gathering in Dayton Ohio.

Police, firefighters and hazardous material personnel arrived on the scene at 9:48 p.m., Friday, September 26, 2008.

The terrorist attack occurred during a prayer service attended by about 300 people.

In a proclamation defying all logic, Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl proclaimed that "There was nothing left at the scene or anything that makes us believe this is a biased crime."

The police Chief asks us to believe that this terrorist attack made upon Muslims on the holiest day of the Islamic week, during Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic year, in an Islamic mosque did not occur because of the Islamic faith of the Muslims gathered therein has no credibility.

The Dayton Daily News reports further that a police detective would be assigned to the case on Tuesday, September 30, since the crime occurred over the weekend and that the detective is to determine if a crime was committed.

Determine if a crime was committed? Spraying a chemical into through an open window into the eyes of a 10-year old girl? A chemical whose after affects included an irritated throat ten or more hours after it was originally sprayed? An act that inflicted tearing, coughing and shortness of breath upon people inside the building?

Determine if a crime was committed?

Is it because the Hazmat team was unable to identify the chemical?

"Whatever chemical was released it dissipated too quickly for us to determine what it was," [Hazmat team coordinator Denny] Bristow said. "We can test for about 130 to 140 chemicals, including pepper spray, and all our tests came back negative."

A review of crime statistics for Dayton shows an overall crime index about twice the national average, a violent crime index about twice the national average, and a property crime index slightly less than twice the national average. Perhaps the Dayton police are busy, too busy to handle this situation?

It most certainly looks like a hate crime to me. The mosque was targeted because of the religious faith of the Muslims. That is the simplest explanation. This terrorist attack was a hate crime, and should be treated as such.