Thursday, August 31, 2006

Power is tearing human minds apart and putting them back together in new shapes of your own choosing.

Andrew Sullivan's correct; "Islamofascism" is a stupid neologism and a waste of energy to discuss. But...

The Right's obsession with changing the language by creating words as short-hand for ideas so simple they require no condensing to begin with continues apace. It's been part and parcel of Republican strategy since Gingrich distributed his famous memo on acceptable words for their candidates to use ten years ago.

They've been fairly successful at it as well. Words and phrases like "homicide bomber," "anti-life" and "death tax" have been crow-barred into regular political discussion. My personal bugaboo is the use of "Democrat" in any form other than a noun. "Can you believe the latest Democrat proposal?" It's framing to the nth degree and it's just stupid.

We've seen all this before. A man named Orwell wrote a book that talked about the use of Newspeak in this fashion:

By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness. (via Wikipedia)

Earn this.

"We are not descended from fearful men."

I won't bother to link to Keith Olbermann's takedown of Rumsfeld and this administration from last night. It's all over the net and I'm sure you've seen it. (What the hell. It's here. ) I just had a couple of thoughts while watching this barnburner.

The first is that Olbermann read one of the best speeches I've ever seen on broadcast television. Ever. He deftly turned Rumsfeld's proposition that the critics of the war in Iraq are appeasers of fascism, on it's head and effortlessly dovetailed that into the threat of American fascism as it's manifested itself through our history in names like Nixon and Joe McCarthy.

But more importantly it struck me for the first time as I watched Olbermann's speech that I've finally found something to be thankful of with regards to the Bush presidency. It's put me back in touch on a visceral level with what it truly means to be an American.

Over the course of the last couple of years I've read and re-read the constitution probably a dozen times. I've read the federalist papers for the first time since college. I've read supreme court decisions such as United States v. Butler and Griswold vs. Connecticut, even though I'm no lawyer. I just wanted to know what the constitution meant by "promote the general welfare" and what the Supreme Court saw as the limitations to our privacy.

I've read again that wonderful document that started it all: the declaration of independence. The words of which have blown past me without reflection every 4th of July. This time I thought about the words, about the frame of mind of the men who wrote that document telling the most powerful man in the world to "shove it." I thought about their stunning courage in that act. How they risked everything for an idea.

I've dug out my old high school civics textbooks and contemplated the seperation of powers. I can think of no other invention of the framers written into the constitution that meets the importance of that doctrine. Everything we are as a nation stems from that initial recognition by the framers of the constitution that even the best of men could be corrupted by power.

History's come alive for me. Particularly the middle part of the twentieth century. I have wondered for some time what the average German went through as the Weimar republic collapsed to the Nazi putsch. Why did so many good people just go along for the ride? Why were heroes so few and far between? I'm starting to better understand the answers to those questions.

My kids have come out for the better as well. They've participated in a civics lesson far more important than anything they could've read in books. They've learned by watching this president that leaders aren't infallible and that, in a democracy, the people are the ultimate check on the abuse of governmental power. That's why bad governments try and keep us afraid. They're afraid of the people.

So thank you President Bush for making me a better American. It may not have been your intention but that's the ultimate result. Through your ineptitude and disdain for the country you've actually done us a great service in forcing us to stop taking things for granted. I salute you for that.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Karnack is attempting to divine an answer and you're sitting here, giggling. May I have silence, please?

Uh-oh. Karnack's in trouble.

Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes.

Big name Lefty bloggers such Atrios and Gilliard have shown surprising sympathy towards CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips who was caught in a "Naked Gun" moment babbling on her wireless mike in the bathroom and admitting to what sounded like a tryst with a married man.

Atrios writes "As many reasons as I've had to criticize Kyra Phillips over the years I actually imagine she's probably an ok person, so I do feel a bit bad that her family life has just gone from zero to nightmare in 30 seconds..."

I say: NUTS!

It almost exactly one year ago when Phillips was in full on apologist mode for the administration over Katrina. Recall the following exchange with Nanci Pelosi --

PHILLIPS: But if you, if we go back, I mean, we can go back year after year after year, and we can talk about FEMA and what went wrong within FEMA and should FEMA be under the Department of Homeland Security.

But if we want to be historical here, and we want to go back in time, I mean, we can go back to "The Times Picayune" and the investigation that it -- when it -- when reporters revealed that time after time, monies were asked for from all types of various politicians, of the politicians you worked side by side with, laws that you yourself vote on, and monies that should have gone to Louisiana to take care of the problems with regard to the flood control systems.

And I think it's unfair that FEMA is just singled out. There are so many people responsible for what has happened in the state of Louisiana.

PELOSI: Well, that's true. That is true. And I'm sorry that you think it's unfair. But I don't. I think it's unfair to the people who lost their family members, their lives, their livelihoods, their homes, their opportunity.

And FEMA has done a poor job. It had no chance. It was (INAUDIBLE)...

PHILLIPS: But what about all those warnings...

PELOSI: ... may I please respond?

PHILLIPS: What about all the warnings from the Army Corps of Engineers...

PELOSI: But the Army Corps of Engineers...

PHILLIPS: ... years ago, saying there's a problem with these levees, there's a problem with this city.

PELOSI: Kyra, Kyra, Kyra...

PHILLIPS: It's Kyra. It's Kyra.

PELOSI: ... if you want to make a case for the White House, you should go on their payroll. But the (INAUDIBLE)...

PHILLIPS: I'm not making a case for the White House, by all means, believe me.

PELOSI: ... that the White House has cut this year 72 percent of the request from Louisiana for flooding money. The White House has cut the Army Corps of Engineers by a large percentage in this last fiscal year.

But the point is not to argue about that. The point is, where do we go from here to help these people? The last thing the American people need is bickering right now over this, except to make their rescue safer, to a return to normalcy for them. And (INAUDIBLE)...

Many of the people of New Orleans saw their lives go from zero to nightmare in 30 seconds. Kyra couldn't see them. All she could see was a political liability for the Bush administration.

Karma's a bitch.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Via Duncan I came across Matt Yglesias' Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics. It's a pretty good analysis for anyone familar with comic books. It posits that the simple application of enough will and imagination is all it would take to change the world.

I'd personally prefer some other comic book conventions actually governed our foreign policy. The Spider Man Theory of Geopolitics, for example, operates on the proposition that "with great power comes great responsibility." As the pre-eminent world power (at least before Iraq) the United States must consider all military, economic and cultural actions in a deliberate and serious manner.

Then there's the Hulk Theory of Geopolitics that holds that the United States will act rationally until angered. It could best be summed up by Teddy Roosevelt's "speak softly but carry a big stick."

I would be remiss if I were to leave off the X-Men Theory of Geopolitics. This theory manifests as a sort of "turn the other cheek" proposition. It goes something like this: "sure you don't like us. You don't have to. We're going to help you anyway because it's the right thing to do." Currently the United States approach is exactly the opposite: "if you don't like us you can die in a fire."

Unfortunately none of these theories are in application at the moment and instead we have a foreign policy driven by guys who think they can change the world just by force of will just like Green Lantern. But instead of order they just bring chaos and instead of the heroic Green Lantern simply they wind-up Groo.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Well, isn't that a pretty picture, Santa rolling down the block in a PANZER!

Rumsfeld to GIs' families: I'd love to be Santa Claus, but I'm not.


The North Pole - atop a majestic mountain of snow sits Santa's Castle.

Inside Santa Rummy and Mrs. Claus sit at the kitchen table. She pushes a steaming plate of ham in front of him.

Mrs. Claus: Eat, Santa, eat. Nobody likes a skinny Santa.

Santa Rummy: Could I eat that ham? Probably. Would I eat it even though you made it and your cooking is atrocious? Goodness gracious no.

As she leaves the room crying the Elf Foreman slinks nervously up to the table.

Elf Foreman: Sir, could I have a moment?

Santa Rummy: Of course. But remember - a stitch in time, saves nine.

Elf Foreman: Er, thanks. Sir, the elves want me to ask you to reconsider your plan to cut back on the the elf workforce this Christmas. They don't think there'll be enough elves to finish all the toys in time.

Santa Rummy: Well, one celebrates Christmas with the toys he has rather than the toys he wishes he had.

Elf Foreman: Right. Along those lines it's kind of hard to know what toys we need to make if you don't take the time to read the letters from the children.

Santa Rummy: It's not really necessary to the broader strategic initiative.

Elf Foreman: But how will we know what to make?

Santa Rummy: That's unknowable. There are knowns and known unknowns. That's a known unknown.

Elf Foreman: Then how will you know where to deliver these toys?

Santa Rummy: That's easy. We know where the children are. They're in the area to the North, the South and the East around the North Pole.

Elf Foreman: But Sir...

Santa Rummy holds up his hand.

Santa Rummy: Enough! We aren't going to go off henny-penny planning when the children will greet us as liberators. Now get to work. Oh, one more thing.

Elf Foreman: Yes, Sir?

Santa Rummy: Herbie, that elf that keeps talking about wanting to be a dentist. I want you to review the "don't ask, don't tell policy."

Elf Foreman: I admit he's annoying but he just doesn't want to make toys. I don't think he goes in for candy canes or anything.

Santa Rummy: Sure he doesn't. Sure.