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Ramblings From the Ragged Crumbling Edge Of The Reality-Based Community

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Note In A Bottle Washing Up On Democratic Beaches 

...it is easy to be humbled by the skilled ability of a truly professional word-crafter to capture the essence of an issue the way that Erica Jong has with this particular Huffpost posting...

One can only hope that the intertube connections will function with sufficient speed and slick ease that the bigwigs lurking behind the wizard's curtain of the Democratic party will slap a bit of sense into their own foreheads and take the steps necessary to solve the disturbing issues currently afflicting the party's nominating process. One can only hope...

Lock 'Em In A Room 

...one of the last, least, most desperate strategies in a difficult negotiation is to lock the principles in a room without food, water, bathroom breaks, or weapons on the promise that they will be let out when they Honest-To-God pinky-oath swear that they have arrived at some sort of settlement. We're just about to that ugly point with the Democratic nominating process. At the very least we are to the point where surrogate chatterers need to be forced to only appear in public with the business end of a Hot Shot® cattle prod controlled by someone worried about the prospect of a McCain presidency duct taped to their buttocks and stern predictions about the outcome of unnecessarily divisive comments...

That may be the only strategy that will stem the sorry spectacle of second-stringers shooting off their mouths in ways that neither advance a candidate's arguments or edify the campaign as
most recently displayed today by an Obama supporter today in Medford, Oregon...

The only two bulldogs being fed by General McPeak's comments are the Repub's chances of keeping the White House in 2009 and the MSM's obsessive desire to see a protracted bloody cage match somewhere...anywhere...in this primary season. There are other far more plausible interpretations to Bill Clinton's promises to those who didn't somehow miss the 2000 and 2004 general election campaigns. For those who are capable of recalling the talk about Al Gore's strange inhuman cold stiffness and his 'earthtones' phase and the obsession with the fact that he wasn't a "real" Vietnam vet as he only spent 7 months in-country in some sort of REMF job (as opposed to his opponent, who bent every rule and twisted every reality to avoid service), Bill Clinton's comment is completely understandable. For those who recall the absurdist stylings of John Kerry's 'elitist' windsurfing activities (itself almost disablingly laughable to anyone who actually knows anything about the windsurfing subculture, although there don't appear to be that many of us) or the vicious and darkly disturbing 'swiftboating' that should have been a stark embarrassment to anyone who cared to recall the efforts of his opponent to bend every rule and twist every reality to avoid service or the obsession of Roman Catholic leaders that should have rightfully cost the Church it's tax-exempt status because of their injection of Church orthodoxy into the campaign, Bill Clinton's comment is the crying of a lonely voice in the wilderness begging for a campaign based on meaningful discussion of the issues rather than side issues having nothing whatsoever to do with the capability to lead a nation...

We are finally, gratefully, almost in painfully slow motion, nearing the end of the second term one of the least popular, most incompetent, and most dangerous presidents to ever darken the halls of the White House or any other domicile where the Nation's chief executive has ever resided. A person lacking the temperament, experience, intellectual heft, or integrity to be the President Of The United States managed to gain that position primarily because voters were twice distracted by notions that had nothing whatsoever to do with fitness to serve but a lot to do with who would be a better drinking buddy. The two Democrats left standing are allowing themselves to be dragged across the event horizon into the same crushing gravity of essentially meaningless side issues that only provide advantage to another Republican lacking any particular skills to be trusted with the keys to the Oval Office door. Unlike the good General, I suspect that may have something to do with what Bill Clinton was talking about in that clip about which General McPeak was howling...

The ditches along the sides of the road to the Democratic nomination are starting to become clogged with those who have been tossed off the campaign busses at highway speed for doing things that looked like 'talking stupid' and it's fair to speculate that this particular carnage hasn't ended. It's growing long past time for all of this nonsense to end, however; the Democratic party is starting to collect far too many negative chits to be able to look toward the results of the presidential election on the first Tuesday in November with anything but a sort of vague chilled foreboding. The staunchly anti-war portion of the constituency is - by its actions - threatening to perform a reprise of Chicago '68; partisans for Obama and Clinton are becoming hardened in their positions and threaten to stay home if their candidate isn't the eventual nominee; and all the rest of us are on or over the verge of saying "A pox on both of your campaign busses" and thinking about staying home ourselves - or, here in Oregon, just skipping over that part of the mail-in ballot. It's "lock 'em in a room" time for Obama and Clinton; neither will roll into Denver with the nomination locked up, and the actions of both camps are starting to make the grim, deadly likelihood of a 'President McCain' look like the better bet every day...

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Dog Ate My Hard Drive 

...we already know that there are many things at which the Bush administration is not very good at. Actual prosecution of the war against the people who engineered Nine Eleven; maintaining security after the invasion of other nations; rebuilding of infrastructure; avoiding the useless wanton killing of innocent civilians....well, the list can go on and on. Now we find that this useless gang of hapless anti-geeks can't even manage a simple e-mail system...

I do not, nor have I ever claimed to be a full-blown all-out computer geek, but I get by. Greying curmudgeon that I am, I still have the need to be functional in the use of a dozen or more applications, from geographic information systems and the usual mundane suite of 'office' programs through computer-aided drawing programs and special work-related applications to the world of presentations (how, I ask myself, did people ever manage to communicate before Powerpoints?) Now, I don't know a lot of things about computer systems, but one of the things I think I know related to business or governmental computer systems is that stating that the only final resting place for emails is on a local 'workstation' rather than the server that actually first received the message seems rather curious, given the fact that movement of e-mails to my business laptop is referred to as "replication". Bushco's explanation of the inability to recover e-mails may be true or it may be not. Charitable man that I am, I would love to believe them (so, I'm kidding; get over it). Unfortunately, something smells fishy. No big deal though, I suppose. None of this will probably come up in the impeachment hearings anyway...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ENOUGH!! ALREADY!!! WITH THE SPITZER CRAP!!!! 

...it will clearly come as a suprise to the Nue Yawk-centric heart of MSM, but there is a vast, apparently uncultured wasteland out there beyond the legislative boundaries of the state of New York populated by humble struggling herdsmen, tillers of the soil, millers, village smithy's, and others engaged in all those mundane rudimentary tasks that occupy the simple quest for survival who long ago ceased caring about the circumstances of the newly former Governor Elliot Spitzer or his most famous paramour-for-hire. Nothing that Spitzer ever did mattered to large portions of the otherwise primative (i.e., non-metro New York) population of this country...

We don't live our lives at a pace dictated by the heartbeat of what we have been constantly told for decades was the center of American culture. We don't, in these recent days, give a simple damn where or for whom "Kristen" shed her clothes for fun or profit. We don't even really care - and, yes, I know that the people who are the guiding hands behind the MSM should probably sit down in order to handle this particular psychic body blow - with whom or how many times the new governor of New York and his wife engaged in The Big Nasty with persons to whom they were not linked in holy matrimony...

WE DON'T CARE. Get over yourselves; get beyond your own prurient fascinations, New York-based national media. We have for a long time been far more interested in the various plights of Erica on
All My Children any day of the week, because the same root story is told there with more verve and less simple sleaze than all your breathless real-time reporting can ever hope to duplicate. We 'get' the back-stories, we understand the concepts, but Spitzer isn't anything close to Gary Hart when it comes to national importance with regard to "Monkey Business" and this "Kristen" is no Donna Rice...

Since you refuse to engage honestly into such necessary discourse as 'why does John McCain insist on claiming that Sunni Muslim Al Qaeda operatives are being allowed into Shiite Iran', it's clearly time to move beyond this Spitzer episode and its lack of natural connection with the rest of the country and set off in search of another missing blonde woman, which seems to be your last remaining specialty. Get on with it, please...

The Realized Closeted Fears Of Wingers And Fundies 

...there are a number of prominent conservatives and fundamentalist religious zealots who have a great deal to fear today:
Controversial British author Sebastian Horsley was denied entrance into the United States as he arrived to promote his memoir of drug addiction, sex and his dysfunctional family, his publisher said on Wednesday.

Seale Ballenger, spokesman for HarperCollins Publishers, said Horsley was stopped by immigration officials at New York's Newark airport after flying in from London on Tuesday to promote his latest book "Dandy in the Underworld."

He said the flamboyant writer...was accused of "moral turpitude" in connection with his former drug use, pro-prostitution stance and controversial self-crucifixion in the Philippines in 2000
.

...clearly, if we are getting to the point where "moral turpitude" as interpreted by a federal bureaucracy is the determining basis for being allowed into this country for reasons other than for purposes of immigration, there is a long and growing list of prominent Americans from the right side of the political/social fulcrum who have aspirations of foreign travel who might want to let those opportunities pass by. The "turpitude list is pretty impressive, involving a whole bunch of activities that have been linked to various right-wing names of greater or lesser prominence over the last few years. These are dangerous times in which we live and nobody can trust that the golden key of power and prestige that has opened every door during the heyday of "anything goes" rightwing political dominance will keep working. Those who don't relish the idea of spending the rest of their days on the secret Bush compound deep in the Parane├▒an hill country of Eastern Paraguay who should probably eschew foreign travel, given the risk they could face of not being allowed back in the country if their hegemony of the last fifteen years is finally busted for good...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Things That I Don't Understand 

...one of the things I don't understand is why some people think the things they think. I don't deny them the right to think those things - OK, so some of the time I do deny that right - but that doesn't keep me from scratching the remaining hair on my scalp in bemused wonderment. Another thing I don't understand is why some of these people are allowed to run loose on the landscape sharing their thoughts unencumbered by the sort of close parental supervision by organizations who have a lot to gain and way more to lose by the savaging comments of these people. That brings us to the strange reappearance of Lynndie England...

This young lady needs no introduction to anyone who has been paying attention over the last five years. Her promotion to the official image of the Torturers-Are-Us side of the "Be All That You Can Be" United States Army, Abu Ghraib Division, may well have send Pentagon recruiting specialists into a horrified swoon, but her recent turn in the public eye in the German weekly news mag
Stern should be enough to drive that whole contingent, as well as the entire Public Affairs section, to its collective knees. Ms. England shares with us her view that it was the actions of the media in leaking the pictures of illegal abuse of prisoners, rather than the abuse itself, that was the real crime:
I felt bad about it ... no, I felt pissed off. If the media hadn't exposed the pictures to that extent, then thousands of lives would have been saved," she was quoted as saying.

Better than that, she suggests that we haven't even had the chance to see the really good stuff:
"You see the dogs biting the prisoners. Or you see bite marks from the dogs. You can see MPs (military police) holding down a prisoner so a medic can give him a shot," she said. "If those had been made public at the time, then the whole world would have looked at those and not at mine."

Forget about the fact that senior officers have in all likelihood got off scot-free for having directed abusive and illegal treatment of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison. Forget, even, about the fact that Ms. England apparently believes that Iraqi citizens, unlike most people in the world, don't talk to each other about common interests and therefore somehow didn't know already about all the bad things happening to their friends and family in that prison. What the hell, even try if you can to forget that the explosion in the insurgency happened long after her starring role in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse came to light. After all, the president of roughly 30 percent of the United States claims that the fact that violence in Iraq has been reduced to the same level that it was in 2005 - the September of which was the month in which Ms. English was convicted for prisoner abuse - means that all the cards are turning up Spades and We Are Winning!!! And then there's this (and there's another one of those nasty leaked pictures of Lynndie)...

The disturbing underpinning to all of this is the suggestion of the sense that "shit happens" in war and the bigger issue is the leaking of photographic evidence of actions rather than the actions themselves. I understand that shit happens in war: my late father served in combat in World War II; Mrs. Jack K's uncle died on Iwo Jima; kids not much older than myself came home in coffins from Southeast Asia in the late '60's and early '70's; people I know lost a brother outside of Baghdad in 2003 and there have been a couple of high-profile memorial services in Central Oregon over the last couple of years for soldiers who have given that 'last full measure'. Lots of people have all the evidence they need to arrive at the conclusion that shit happens in war...

Physical abuse of prisoners isn't one of the things that we as Americans normally lump into that 'shit happens' category as a rule, however. We as a nation executed Japanese soldiers and German officials for that sort of behavior after WW II and would have happily offered the same service to North Korean and North Vietnamese soldiers and bureaucrats had we actually emerged as the unconditional victors in those conflicts. We didn't emerge thusly, though, and that may be the root of the grim murky sense of ethical calibration that led to a situation where it took outside forces employing jackhammers and prybars to finally fetch something that even looked vaguely like the truth out of the Abu Ghraib scandal. As far as systemic and systematic abuse of prisoners are concerned, one may have to go back as far as the
Civil War's Andersonville POW prison to even approach some sort of parallel. We would like to think that we don't do such things, and the failure to understand that the abuse (along with the conviction for having engaged in that abuse) and not the leaking of evidence of that abuse is the real problem is one of those things that I don't understand...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wherein We Learn One Of The Things McCain Won't Be Told In Baghdad 

...it would figure that John "Maverick" McCain, the first candidate for president in recent memory to engage in fund-raising activies in a foreign country, would become the first non-incumbent in recent memory to campaign for votes in a foreign country. Unfortunately for Maverick, Iraq may well have not been the best choice for the place to kick off his "Big John For Prez" world tour...

It's unlikely that the irony of the infamous
"Ben Tre Logic" ("it became necessary to destroy the town to save it") would be lost on the residents of Baghdad forty years later. Current conditions throughout Iraq demonstrate all one needs to know about the total, abject, humiliating failure that has been the outcome of Bushco's strange bloodlust toward Iraq. This is John McCain's war of personal redemption just as much as it is Gee Dub's war of....well, who knows what his motivations actually were? The bottom line that needs to be a feature of the fall campaign, regardless of the Democratic nominee, is that Maverick really wanted this war and occupation for reasons that clearly have nothing whatsoever to do with the welfare of real live human beings who have been so poorly served by their supposed "liberators". We are long since past any sort of "The Allies Liberate Paris" moment, but John McCain won't ever figure that out, no matter how many times he engages in some politically-motivated "tour" enveloped in a comforting cocoon of rifle companies and air cover...

In advance to any Republican primaries in Iraq, the
numbers aren't looking very good for the Straight Talk Express. Given all the "Good News" in Iraq these days, McCain might best serve his own electoral interests by quietly sneaking out of town on the first available Air Force transport...

Republican Wars In The Land Of The Midnight Sun 

...while its location doesn't lend itself to the phrase "one need look no further", since you can't look much further than Alaska for just about anything, it is certainly the case that you need only to look at the inner works of Alaskan Republican politics to get a sense of how things are going for the Grifters Only Party these days. On Friday, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell livened up the state party convention by announcing that he was launching a stunning primary challenge against 18-term incumbent U.S. Representative Don Young...

As the link shows, these are tough times for Alaska Repubs. You couldn't swing a dead beaver at the convention without hitting someone who is personally in some sort of legal hot water or knows someone who is. Federal investigators are forking through the dirty laundry of both
Young and Senator Ted Stevens, and the other leg of the Alaskan tripod, Senator Lisa Murkowski, is in the crosshairs of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). It's probably no wonder that Governor Sarah Palin decided that this would be a good time to give a speech suggesting that Alaskan Republicans ought to clean up their collective act...

Neither Young or Stevens have
the sort of approval ratings with their constituents that would comfort the frantic mind of an incumbent facing reelection this fall in a political environment where the only news about Republicans in general is being delivered by reporters doing the legal/criminal beat. At the statewide level, Alaska is pretty much a Red State; not a single sled dog and at least one musher competing in this year's Iditarod had been born when either of these two were first sent to Washington. Yet, for all those years of faithfully delivering the bacon to Alaska, they are both facing the likelihood of difficult Democratic challenges, and the visual of the immensely popular Governor Palin standing beside her Lieutenant Governor as he signed on the dotted line to run against Young isn't going to help the Honorable Gentleman from Alaska even if he does pull off a win...

Add to all of this
the simmering blood feud between the Governor and Repub party chairman Randy Ruedrich and you have a new example for language experts to draw from when trying to come up with connotations for the word 'dysfunctional'. It's all probably not the best example of conflicts that are going on all over the map in the Repub party, but - if one can shovel enough of the corruption swill out of the way to obtain a clearer view - it exemplifies down at the roots the internecene battles that should provide openings for Democrats in all sorts of places that traditionally have looked hopeless when election time rolls around. All across the board, from the top of the ticket down to state and local levels, there are battles between reformers and sullied old-timers, between 'realists' and neocons, between the fundie core that has been a Repub touchstone for over a decade and a building insurgency of "traditional" Repubs who are seeing a different sort of handwriting on their walls. Layered over the top of all this is the simple fact of the numbers - a display of a kind of math that Karl Rove never had or understood - that keep telling the story of people swarming to Democratic primaries at seven or eight or ten times the turnout rate for Repub events...

The state of the Alaska Republican party isn't perfectly iconic of the party's problems as a whole, but it's another example - sitting with a strange sort of comfort right beside financial problems for the national and various state party organizations and the inability to even root out a sacrificial lamb to run in some statewide elections in states like Oregon - of the loosening grip that the once seemingly invincible 'wise men' like Grover Norquist and his gang are going to be struggling to maintain on the levers of power. The Republican war in Alaska is an instructive glimpse through a slit in their rapidly shrinking tent...

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