I Have Come Here to Chew Bubblegum and Kick Ass, and I’m all out of Bubblegum!

No! No! No! No! No, Jeb!utante Bush! You don’t take on Mr. T by making a silly commercial about how he isn’t a Real Conservative.™ The “real” conservatives haven’t outlawed abortion or stopped Obamacare, or really done much of anything besides cutting taxes for the rich and losing Iraq War II. And y’all lost the culture war too!

This is how you take on Mr. T.

Pay attention to Roddy Piper. How he mocks Mr. T for putting his name on everything, for his hair style, for his ridiculous name dropping. Witness how Mr. T gets all belligerent in the face of the Hot Rod’s taunts, loses his cool, and attacks widly; unable to bear Piper’s ridicule.

And, yeah, well sure, you could argue that Mr. Piper’s political philosophy is staged. Right. ‘Cuz there’s nothing staged about politics, or a presidential campaign. And you aren’t getting your ass handed to you by a smarmy Reality TV blowhard, who isn’t an improbable manifestation of some third-tier dadaist’s ‘Tussin chuggin’ hallucination.

Sigh.

I pity the fool.

Advertisements

In Which Thomas Friedman Accidently Reveals the Lingering Angst of the Fear Years

Thomas Friedman is the direct middleman of the NY Times’ Axis-Of-Centrist-Pseuds. To his right is Affirmative Action poster boy David Brooks (would his skills really merit NY Times columnist-dom if he wasn’t a “conservative”) who tried to concisely argue right-wing boilerplate early in his career, only to get picked apart by the Times’ letter writers. Brooks has since enveloped himself in arm chair human interaction “science” and become the slow lovechild of William Safire and Malcolm Gladwell. To Freidman’s left is Maureen Dowd whose modus operandi is to parallel the popular movie or TV of the moment with the latest DC palace intrigue — the sort of PoMo jab that would have been clever in a Freshman composition class at one of those New England colleges that starts with a “B” if it were 1983.

But it is T-Fried himself that is the Centrist Pseuds Centrist Pseud. It is he that will  declare that, look guys, we would get real about global warming and globalization if only there was a “centrist” compromise on the debt and the next six months will be crucial to the outcome of the war in Iraq because I talked to this cab driver in India and the Internet! Not all of T-Fieds ideas are wrong, but he is a bloviator who likes to point out how serious and important big THINGS are without contributing new thoughts or having any actual responsibility for any outcomes. He likes to pretend he’s at the table when the crucial decisions are made. No wonder he wound up being amongst the most egregious and pathetic of the Iraq War II Bush Patsies.

So it was startling and frustrating to read his column shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings, but before the perpetrators and their motives were known. “Fortunately,” spake T-Fried, “we don’t frighten easily anymore. You could feel it in the country on Tuesday morning. We’ve been through 9/11. We probably overreacted then, but never again. We tracked down Osama bin Laden with police and intelligence work, and we’ll do the same in this case.”

To which I responded, “Wait a minute Home Slice. YOU may have ‘probably’ over-reacted to 9/11, but I sure as hell didn’t.” Moreover, T-Fried you sure weren’t part of any police work to track him down. Indeed, I believe your advice was “give war a chance.”

Now, obviously I am not part of the “we” that captured and killed bin Laden. But The Friedster is right about the other “we” that “probably” (meaning “actually”) over-reacted to 9/11. I was against Iraq War II and not a cheerleader like Friedman. But Iraq War II was still perpetrated in my name.

Being part of this “we” is likely harder for those that were for Iraq War II or generally pro-Bush, but then changed their minds later. Bush went from amongst the most popular to the least popular presidents in American history over his eight years. But Bush didn’t change. If you went from support to despise, as millions of Americans assuredly did, then you must admit that at best you were duped and at worst your passions were manipulated to overwhelm your reason. Blowhards like Friedman aided and abetted this by puffing up the irrationalization for the war and not pushing back against the dictate that being anti-war/Bush was being anti-American. But at the end of the day the bombs were dropped, the innocents were slaughtered, the WMDs were never found and Iraq War II searched for a meaning like a forlorn hermit crab stalking a shell-less beach, as the casualties mounted.

WE definitely did overreact to 9/11, even if Thomas Friedman is probably too much a douche to admit it, and we all have to own that no matter how much we regret it.

 

Of Course They Knew

Everyone knew. We just didn’t care. Also, not sure that this really is the kind of source where you go, “oh, really?! sry kthankbai” I knew there were no WMD and who was I?

Fresh evidence is revealed today about how MI6 and the CIA were told through secret channels by Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister and his head of intelligence that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction.

The Fear Years, Slowly….

The Fear Years: That miserable epoch from the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, about September 1, 2005. In those four years a not-really-elected President started a disastrous war of choice, enacted tax cuts and economic policy that would destroy the economy, and oversaw any number of medium bore policy scandals that fester on as flesh wounds to this day. To oppose any of these ideas, to oppose the Man himself, was said to oppose the Country itself, or to be “with the terrorists” as the “President” Himself put it.

Fear was a condition, a means and an end. The condition of Fear — stoked by the immaculate timing of the the M&M-hued terror “alerts” — created a need to believe in and never critisize the Leader as he found a means to “fight” terror by invading Iraq, the result of which was a seemingly endless conflict that required countless treasure to assure success, or else the terrorists would win in the end.

While this mania waned it did not truly end until Katrina proved that the Bush Regime was too incompetent to even respond to a predicted natural disaster. An electorate that consisted of largely the same people that “elected” Bush twice installed a Democratic Congress in 2006 (over Bush’s declaration that to do so would mean that the terrorists would win) and elected Obama — who seemed, on the surface, to be the antithesis of Bush — in 2008.

It was as if the 2006 repudiation and the 2008 arrival of a “redeemer” would reverse the Fear Years. But that isn’t so. The disasters of the Fear Years still linger over the country. The recent Rachel Maddow documentary on the venal build up to the war in Iraq, and the sinister conflation of Saddam with al Qaeda, is jarring because in its simple factual way it forces the viewer to confront the the mendacity of the time.

Far more effective than the Maddow piece is the last two episodes of the Showtime series “Oliver Stone’s: Untold History of the United States.” “Untold” is the greatest voice-over history documentary ever made. That is not to say that I agree with all of its points. The hero of “Untold” is Henry Wallace, FDRs penultimate vice-president who was removed from the ticket in favor of Harry Truman by Democratic Party bosses at the 1944 Democratic Convention. Stone is convinced that Wallace’s humanism as President after FDR’s death would have crafted a different and better Post-WWII world than Truman’s militarism. Such “what if” speculation is fun, but meaningless. The same militant forces that prevailed upon Truman would have been there with Wallace too. Had he opposed them, perhaps they would have aligned themselves completely with the Republicans and we may have been treated to Reactionary Movement conservatives in power in the 50s and 60s instead of the 80s, 90s and 00s. Or maybe not, who knows and who can know? “Untold” also focuses most of its attention on Foreign Policy. It praises JFK for usurping his generals after the Cuban Missile Crisis and lambasts LBJ for escalating the Vietnam War, but doesn’t mention that it took LBJs legislative genius to pass JFKs program, and then some.

That said, what makes “Untold” so effective is Stone’s artistic genius for images. “Untold” consists of mostly 2 to 7 second visual clips, overspersed with Stone’s narration and emotive, cinematic music. Where there are not visuals, Stone isn’t afraid to offer representation in the form of movies, or even have actors mimic real figures while reading quotes that were unrecorded. The result is a psycahdelic stream-of-visual-consciousness that moves history out of the frontal cortex (where the Maddow documentary presided) into the older, visceral regions of the brain.

It is the willingness to mix emotions and argument that make “Untold” the most effective readily available analysis of Bush II and the Fear Years. In one brilliant sequence, “Untold” flashes through images of the great Coup D’etat of the 2000 election. The GOP putsch in Florida, Jeb Bush, Kathryn Harris, the Supreme Court, Bush’s rainy inaugural. The music is a stringy, blues version of the national anthem played at a pace so slow that it becomes an elegy. “It started with the 2000 election itself,” Stone intones. “The most scandalous in U.S. history. Wounding, perhaps fatally, the notion of democracy in this country…. Behooving the shenanigans of a banana republic the US Supreme Court intervened to stop a recount of the votes…”

It’s there, in all its stupidity and agony. Condoleeza Rice’s “nobody could’ve predicted…”. Bush’s “either you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists” (“Imagine any citizen in any country of the world being told by a man like this, ‘you’re either with us or against us.'”). The Patriot Act. Wire Tapping. Gitmo. Torture. “WMDs”. “The smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud”. Conflating Iraq with al qaeda. (“The descent into unreality was dizzying.”) The parade of ex-generals selling the war on TV while being employed by defense contractors.

“Untold” hits the mark, but it doesn’t linger quite long enough before moving on to harsh Obama for maintaining a similar military complex to Bush, even as he wound down the Bush Wars. Whether the recognition is intellectual or emotional, as an American you own the Fear Years. Even if you opposed the war. Unlike distant genocides like the settlement of the West or abstract ignoble actions abroad, Iraq War II was sanctioned by the populace. IT happened here. “Untold” and Maddow’s documentary make the case, but ten years on the ephemeral zietgiest of the polity is still largely in denial.

Pope Francis And The Need For American Truth & Reconciliation

The Joshua Tree ends with a song entitled “The Mothers of the Disappeared” named after the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of women whose children had been “disappeared” by the Argentinean and Chilean dictatorships. It is a haunting, soulful elegy to the “sons and daughters, cut down taken from us” and we are told to, “Hear their heartbeat.”

I wonder if the new Pope hears their heartbeat.

…the Argentine navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio [Pope Francis I], [then] the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship’s political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate.

[UPDATE: This allegation has been retracted by The Guardian. So, I’m taking the Pope out of this mix, but my point remains: America needs hearings on the Fear & Fraud Decade]

Among the disappeared was a French nun. Less than 10 years ago, Argentina finally passed a law allowing for all of those responsible for crimes against humanity to be tried. Chile, too, has had a long but slow path towards reconciliation and has recently allowed a trial for the murder of singer Victor Jara to proceed, almost 30 years after the fact.

Will we have to wait that long? Maybe. Maybe we will never grapple with the last decade directly, but if we don’t it will continue to poison our souls, just as this will further poison the soul of the Catholic Church.

The Fear Years — One Last Time

Would the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden shortly after 9/11 have made it impossible for the Bush administration to concoct a rationale for invading Iraq?

All answers to “what if” history questions are speculative nonsense; however, it is clear  even ten years later that bin Laden’s death has created a catharsis. It was evident in the impromptu celebrations in New York and DC, in the random dude waving an American flag on a bridge spanning the freeway in my current city, and, as a resident of New Jersey who was down wind from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and can still recall the faint rotten milk stench of the plume as the jet stream carried it over my home, in my own guts, heart and sinew.

I once strongly suspected that the Bush administration aggressively-passively allowed bin Laden to escape in Tora Bora because his capture would have ended 9/11; the open wound would be bandaged and there would be no more fear and angst to misdirect to Iraq. Now, I think it’s more likely that they did want to capture bin Laden, but they outsourced the job to flimsy tribal allies in a typical bout of near-hilarious incompetence.

As bad as the Bush Administration was at actually doing things, they were great at selling them. That day in August in which a Bush lackey explained that the Administration was ginning up a war with Iraq in September of 2002 because “you don’t market a new product in August” was the day that any worthy unity from 9/11 died and instead it became proof that IT can happen here. Your kind neighbors can have their fear and anger stoked, forged and fluxed into incoherent hateful nonsense. Today, more than ever, just what the hell was Iraq War II for? Bin Laden is dead in Pakistan, organic revolutions are lurching at least parts of the Muslim world towards more democratic governance, gas is $4 a gallon. Why Iraq in 2002? It makes no sense.

Who knows, maybe the triumphalism of killing bin Laden would have allowed the Bushites to roll into Iraq and into Syria or some other disaster at the same time. Maybe the disaster of the Bush Years was always fated somehow, like a Greek Tragedy. For the only time in my life, I am glad that someone is dead, but I’m dumbfounded and aghast at what bin Laden gave the opening for Bush to exploit all over again. Yes bin Laden’s dead and something great will be built at the World Trade Center site one day. But the wreckage of the Bush administration is all around us.

India: Good morning, America.

Nightline says that this attack caught Indian services “off guard.” It appears to have caught America off guard as well, because it’s all over. But the thing is, India has been heating up for a while, as Juan Cole explains.

The Subcontinent has been a hobby of mine for over 10 years. I have dozens of pages of a draft of a novel whose primary historical background is a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. I will update this, but last I checked, India and Pakistan lack second-strike capability and other early warning systems that created the deterrence in the US-USSR cold war. In other words, (I have no idea for sure, of course) it is possible that when these countries reach a certain level of alert, strike authority descends to field commanders, because the central command would not survive a first strike. If that’s the case, the risk of mistakes is huge.

To say this is fnord al Qaeda fnord is accurate but imprecise. It may be connected to the larger Qaeda movement, but the point of destablizing India is a different, though related, front in their jihad. Pakistan is now on the verge of becoming a failed state, much like Afghanistan, and they are working hard on pushing India into a corner where they might have to militarize their border, or make limited incursions.

Now, at 11:49 pst, another explosion.

Let’s nor forget that this comes right after Obama’s election, who promised to escalate in Afghanistan to go after bin Laden, who is most likely in Waziristan, Pakistan. While I agree with that policy, I also believe that Obama’s policy, his election, and this attack are NOT a coincidence. 

Deepak Chopra just demanded that India “quit blaming” Pakistan on CNN. Maybe the Pakistani government–the recognized one–isn’t behind this, but Pakistanis are, and Pakistan has no effective government to blame. Their Taliban-linked Intelligence Service *is* to blame in part, almost for sure for this, and for 9/11.

Bush’s deal with the devil Musharraf was the second worst blunder in the “war on terror,” and I can only say that now because Iraq is a bigger one. Ultimately, not taking the bull by the horns (and following the non-neo-con approach of addressing failed states) may grow into a situation that dwarfs Iraq, including, as previously mentioned, the world’s first nuclear exchange. (Which cannot but escalate with Chinese, Russian, American, and Iranian intervention.)

The Chabad center in Mumbai was attacked, and Israeli citizens, as well as American and UK citizens, were taken hostage, I’m reading. Jews are being targeted–but Hindus have been targeting Muslims and Christians elsewhere in India (see the Juan Cole link above).

In 2002, I worried attacking Iraq would take the eye of the ball that I thought might be Iran. Well, that may prove true. But, it may make us unable to deal with the nascent conflict that could be WW3 two countries over.

Fucking Bush. His lame duck session is doubling down on worst president ever: play chicken with Great Depression II and leave us vulnerable to World War III.