Wednesday, December 26, 2007

This Year's Legislative Lump of Coal

With the 9/11 attacks al Qaeda sought to draw the United States into the "slow bleeding" of wars in Muslim countries, sapping American will to remain in the Middle East while increasing Muslim resentment against the United States and support for the global jihad. With the invasion of Iraq, its disastrous progress, and the rapid unraveling of the Bush administration's fictive justification leading to a concomitant unraveling of American prestige and power, al Qaeda's once delusional analysts succeeded beyond their wildest fantasies. There could be no more effective articulation of their claims of US aggression against Muslims than the invasion of Iraq.

The terrorist attacks were a challenge to our military presence in the Middle East; the administration reacted by reasserting that presence dramatically. Success was to have broken finally resistance that didn't begin with 9/11. We all know the fanciful process by which this was supposed to happen. Things haven't gone as planned. But there's another constituency which now distrusts the US presence in the Middle East. Because of its humbling failure, the administration may have turned the American public against a military commitment that it previously took for granted, to the extent it considered it at all.

But even if America is run out of the region altogether, al Qaeda's ultimate goal of re-establishing the Caliphate remains as fantastical as it is unappealing to the vast majority of Muslims, no matter how much their resentment of the US leads them to identify with the global jihad and terrorism. There are only two factions who take this delirium seriously: fanatical jihadis and true-believing neocons (as opposed to neocon fellow travellers who simply cite it disingenuously).

Had the jihadis of al Qaeda a greater understanding of our society and its history, they might have recognized and deliberately sought the less dramatic, more insidious wound they nonetheless managed to inflict with the dramatic strike of 9/11. They may have inflicted a wound to liberal democracy itself that will take generations to heal.

The global jihad was influenced by the West's own Marxist rhetoric, with Muslim scholars adopting much of the language of the Left from the sixties and early seventies, so perhaps they adopted another strategy of the now defunct terrorist Left of that time period. A few diehard groups in Western Europe, dismayed by the success of center-left political coalitions, the collapse of authentic Communist parties in the wake of Soviet brutality toward the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian revolts, and the proletariat's improving material circumstances and lack of enthusiasm for class struggle, took the Marxist-Leninist analysis to its logical extremes. Acts of terrorist violence, they reasoned, would provoke repressive countermeasures from Western European democracies, exposing the "repressive tolerance" inherent in the system and causing the once deluded masses to rise up, finally, in revolt. The underlying theoretic rationale may be shaky, but as a strategy it would make far more sense than planning to revive the Ottoman Empire.

Germany's Baader Meinhof gang and Italy's Red Brigades ultimately got nowhere with their strategy of provocation (though traces of the far more effective Red Brigades remain, as well as sympathy for Brigate Rosse). They were isolated and targeted by governments that refused, or were unable, to play along. Perhaps all these revolutionaries lacked was their 9/11; a sudden, transcendental act of violence so extreme that it rendered their targets irrational. This may explain the openly admiring, reverential response of some aging leftist radicals to the towers' fall.
The jihadis, by virtue of the suddenness and drama of the Twin Towers' collapse, above all by virtue of those heart-rending pictures, have managed to provoke.

Only the masses, mostly shielded from and welcoming the degradation in civil liberties they see as directed outward, aren't rising up. The core reason for the terrorist left's failure remains; the people are inherently conservative and desire security and prosperity above all. Even now, six years on and with little evidence of a domestic terror threat, the public assents, to the extent it pays attention, to the dismantling of the Constitution. The absence of a terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11 and the dearth of "homegrown" terrorists hasn't cooled the ardor of most politicians for ever more restrictions on a public within an ever-widening surveillance state. Into the void of apathy, as always, strides political ambition.

Even without crisis, the need for politicians to look like they are necessary and vital, above all doing something, ensures the continual flow of unnecessary legislation and its attendant dispersal of public wealth from which private and public interests alike swill as if from a perpetually self-renewing spring. Problems, exaggerated or downright fraudulent, exacerbated or created by politicians themselves, are the raw material used in fabricating political careers. The passion, fear, greed and paranoia of the public, sometimes meticulously cultivated, not hard reality, determines the amount of attention political leaders conspicuously, if not necessarily effectively, pay to these troubles.

Thus we get the costly busy work that produces legislation with titles that none but the blackest heart, surely, would stand athwart; War Orphans Acts and Wet Nosed Puppies Resolutions. Normally waste and fraud are the severest damage coming from this defect of democracy. In the perverse and perilous atmosphere of our current moment, the costs to the Republic of personal ambition are considerably higher.

The latest piece of dubious legislation that we can only hope turns out to be no more than a pointless waste of tax dollars and time and not a vehicle for further degrading freedom of speech and association, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, has caused some commotion out here on the open range of the Internet, but most Americans remain unaware of its existence. The bill has was passed in the House with a level of bipartisanship (404 to 6), that suggests either its utter pointlessness or the kind of mass political cowardice and corruption that gave us the PATRIOT Act and, nearly, "comprehensive immigration reform", and is all but assured passage without significant alteration. The proposal comes from Jane Harman of California, who was missing in action as the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, offering no resistance to illegal wiretapping and little more to the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes.

The bill would create something called "the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism", to convene hearings on the potential for and identification of domestically originated terrorist associations and even, perhaps most ominously, individual radicalization, presumably through the Internet and other media, leading to "lone wolf" terrorism.
Of course the Internet figures prominently in the air of impending doom the act projects in its findings. What it does not account for is the remarkable dearth of domestically originated terrorism thus far. Why the sad sacks of the Sears Tower plot and the uncertain case of the Lackawanna Six would warrant the creation of yet another governmental entity within or without the multi-billion dollar homeland security complex created following 9/11 is not explained, and judging from the mass acquiescence of Congress, few are asking.
The commission's mandate is broad and flexible, empowering any sub-commitee or individual commitee member to call hearings:

The Commission or, on the authority of the Commission, any subcommittee or member thereof, may, for the purpose of carrying out this section, hold hearings and sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, receive such evidence, and administer such oaths as the Commission considers advisable to carry out its duties.
The commission is to terminate after 18 months, producing "a university-based Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism", which remains ill-defined.

As Philip Giralidi points out, empowering commission members individually, acting whenever and wherever they wish, could potentially turn it into something akin to the McCarthy hearings:
Like Joe McCarthy and HUAC in the past, the commission will travel around the United States and hold hearings to find the terrorists and root them out. Unlike inquiries in the past where the activity was carried out collectively, the act establishing the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Commission will empower all the members on the commission to arrange hearings, obtain testimony, and even to administer oaths to witnesses, meaning that multiple hearings could be running simultaneously in various parts of the country.
Any such legislation carries the potential for opportunistic spill-over; the same vague definitions and broad mandate this bill utilizes to reserve powers are the breaches through which the zealous of various ideological convictions will pour. To avoid the appearance of "racial profiling" and "Islamophobia" the bill states its purpose as identifying radicalization of any sort. The commission could become a vehicle for harassment of a wide range of activist organizations and websites; it's not hard to imagine the SPLC appearing before the commission with its list of "hate sites", David Horowitz using the venue to call out "anti-Semitic" university professors, or the ACLU dropping its opposition to the scheme to seek the designation of some anti-abortion groups as "terrorist." The targeting of individual radicalization, with its hints of thought-crime, must have Daniel Pipes fidgeting in anticipation of testifying about "sudden jihadi syndrome."

The most chilling aspect for freedom of speech and association may lie in the commission's high profile imprimatur to identify and publicly label groups and individuals "extremist." Merely being subpeonaed by the commission could prove to threaten livelihoods.
Imagine the commission, cobbled together by partisan horse trading between Republicans and Democrats and thus encompassing a wide array of opinion regarding what constitutes extremism, its members individually empowered to convene hearings and subpoena witnesses and trading one hearing or ruling for another among themselves.
They'll have the opportunity to bring forth allied "experts" using (and seeking) grants paid in tax dollars, pushing whole-cloth theories of how certain "extreme" views and statements, say regarding sex, race, immigration, abortion or religion, inevitably lead to and therefore constitute violent radicalization, prompting the commission or its "Center" (ironically, al Qaeda means "the center") to recommend that websites publishing these views be labelled, surveiled or otherwise harassed; perhaps even dragging individuals who write for them before their hearings to explain their heterodox views.
I repeat: we'll be lucky if it's merely a colossal waste of money and time.


As a novice clumsily researching these things, I find myself wondering if something that draws my attention is unremarkable. Nonetheless, I couldn't help noticing the commission is exempted from The Federal Advisory Committee Act, which seeks to limit the number, authority and activities of such:

(a) The Congress finds that there are numerous committees,
boards, commissions, councils, and similar groups which have been
established to advise officers and agencies in the executive branch
of the Federal Government and that they are frequently a useful and
beneficial means of furnishing expert advice, ideas, and diverse opinions to the Federal Government.
(b) The Congress further finds and declares that -
(1) the need for many existing advisory committees has not been adequately reviewed:
(2) new advisory committees should be established only when they are
determined to be essential and their number should be kept to the minimum necessary;
(3) advisory committees should be terminated when they are no longer carrying out the purposes for which they were established;
(4) standards and uniform procedures should govern the establishment, operation,
administration, and duration of advisory committees;
(5) the Congress and the public should be kept informed with respect to the number, purpose, membership, activities, and cost of advisory committees; and
(6) the function of advisory committees should be advisory only, and that all matters under their consideration should be determined, in accordance with law, by the official, agency, or officer involved.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Blogging!", Still

Not that anyone is out there to notice, much less care (I of course am not referring to you, Uncle Morty), but recently I "blogged" on the subject of the recent NIE and the apparent defections of two senior Iranian government officials [correction: the arrest of one for "spying", and the apparent defection of another, Ali Reza Azgari, who is the subject of today's post] wondering aloud (or rather, in print) if there was a connection. In today's Asia Times Gareth Porter reports that one of them may indeed be at the root of the remarkable reversal of intelligence community consensus:
The key development that altered the course of the NIE on Iran, according to intelligence sources, was the defection of a senior official of the Iranian Ministry of Defense, Ali Reza Asgari, on a visit to Turkey last February, as widely reported in international news media in subsequent weeks. The Washington Post's Dafna Linzer, citing a "senior US official", reported on March 8 that Asgari, who had been deputy minister of defense for eight years under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005, was already providing information to US intelligence.

The senior official told Linzer, however, that Asgari was not being questioned about Iran's nuclear program, despite the fact that Asgari certainly had significant knowledge of policy decisions, if not technical details, of the program. That incongruous denial that Asgari had anything to say about Iran's nuclear program suggested that the information being provided by Asgari on that subject was considered extraordinarily sensitive.

Intelligence officials have kept any reference to Asgari out of the discussion of the NIE. Former Central Intelligence Agency officer Philip Giraldi has told Inter Press Service (IPS), however, that, according to intelligence sources, information provided by Asgari was indeed a "key component" of the intelligence community's conclusion that Iran ended its nuclear weapons-related work in 2003, although it was corroborated by other sources.
Israel downplayed Asgari's importance regarding Iran's nuclear program; an official was quoted in the below linked Washington Post article:
"He lived in Lebanon and, in effect, was the man who built, promoted and founded Hezbollah in those years," [former Mossad officer Ram] Igra told Israeli state radio. "If he has something to give the West, it is in this context of terrorism and Hezbollah's network in Lebanon."
Either Mossad never got their hands on Asgari or they somehow got a little more than they bargained for, revealing a clumsiness that's almost charmingly American, assuming they are as disappointed in the NIE as they suggest. It will be interesting to see how the efforts of some within (and without) the Israeli government to counter-spin the NIE play out.

Porter joins the many who've pointed out President Bush's (apparently) feigned ignorance of these developments is highly unlikely, suggesting he knew as early as March of this year, when Asgari's cooperation was being reported in the Washington Post. As Porter notes, that cooperation, corroborated by Giraldi's (whose short dispatches on intelligence matters can be found in the American Conservative's regular feature,"Deep Background") reporting here, would have had to find its way into the President's Daily Briefing (PDB) about the same time.
Keep in mind, while the president was warning of "World War III" because of Iran's alleged position on the verge of nuclear power status, not only did he likely know of contradictory intelligence, he had to know how diligently Vice President Cheney's cabal was working to suppress that intelligence. Contemplating this government of ours kind of makes me all warm inside. Maybe that's just heartburn. Or do I mean heartache?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Sermonette

The Unanticipated Consequences of Unacknowledged Ambitions

Let's try to be precise then. The word "torture" does not appear in our orders... And those who explode bombs in public places, do they perhaps respect the law? ... No, gentlemen, believe me, it is a vicious circle. And we could discuss the problem for hours without reaching any conclusions. Because the problem does not lie here. The problem is: the NLF wants us to leave Algeria and we want to remain. Now, it seems to me that, despite varying shades of opinion, you all agree that we must remain... Therefore, to be precise, I would now like to ask you a question: Should France remain in Algeria? If you answer "yes," then you must accept all the necessary consequences.
—Col. Mathieu, The Battle of Algeirs

It is mad and preposterous to bring to the standard of justice and humanity the exercise of a dominion founded upon violence and terror.
Thomas Erskine, 1789

I fear that we would become a third-class nation after two or three years if we just sat tight.
—Hideki Tojo, Nov. 5, 1941

Any defense of torture must ultimately reduce down to two assertions that have always constituted the core defense of any such moral compromise in the enforcement of the law or the waging of war:
we can entrust our representatives with this awful device because our safety is in their hands--our motives vindicate our means; and, conversely, our enemies mean us harm and observe no comparable standard--their motives vindicate our means, negating whatever rights we would normally accord the accused before the law or prisoners of war.

However a standard made conditional and subjective is not a standard but a farce. It is nothing more than power's expedience on masquerade. Justice reserved for those presumed innocent or harmless is no justice at all, and inevitably produces an abomination: accusation equals guilt. And guilt demands punishment. We have ceded the determination of guilt, and thus punishment, to authorities acting in secret. While the Administration insists torture (while refusing even the responsibility to either acknowledge or deny its use) is keeping us safe, it has yet to produce a single instance of proof, citing a need for secrecy that is in large part a consequence of the use of this "enhanced interrogation". Fear, meticulously nurtured by a political faction, now determines our values. It is not merely rhetorical flourish to describe ours as a paranoid society.

A precious standard has been destroyed for expedience. But expedience has its price. Repercussions await; but for the moment, as we explicitly work to legitimize torture for ourselves by claiming extraordinary circumstances, we incidentally work to legitimize torture in and of itself, for us and for our enemies alike, following the presumption that our present might will hold us harmless in perpetuity.

What the argument for torture lacks in logical consistency and ethical rigor it more than makes up for in base appeal. The instinct to hate and fear our enemies is natural and necessary, but for liberty and order to coexist we are forced to adhere to a decidedly "unnatural" state, holding our impulse for self-preservation in abeyance before the sober consideration of fact, granting our enemies a measure of restraint we cannot expect in return.

Before 9/11 there was a clear demarcation between law enforcement and war. Taking advantage of the fear and confusion following 9/11, the Administration created a shadowy non-category, neither entirely criminal nor entirely combatant, for terrorist suspects, fuming at the proposition that we treat the threat as a "law enforcement issue" rather than warfare, and equally outraged at the prospect of waging this war within recognized convention. A "global war on terror" as its proponents so flexibly and vaguely define it, is war without limits or laws, everywhere without end, nominally waged against a method, but actually against the sentiment of anti-Americanism.

Even within this new definition, of "illegal enemy combatant," there is no consistency; a suspect is one moment a prisoner of war, the next a criminal suspect, depending on the need to suspend whatever rights he may claim under either category, and always outside of law or convention governing either circumstance; and all predicated on an assumption of guilt. Just as we shuttle them about the globe fleeing our own laws, as if geographic distance decreases moral responsibility, we shuttle them back and forth categorically, in a shell game to confound our own republican system of co-equal government and congressional oversight. In this purgatory our leaders have created there are no limits on the exercise of power. But now we must concede it is naive to think this hasn't been happening in secret and on a smaller scale for a long time now.

We have assented to this, taking for granted that this will all be contained somehow, evincing remarkable trust in a government that reserves unto itself the right to absolute secrecy even as it categorically rejects the right to privacy for any citizen or organization it deems.
Information, facts, events, reality, all disappear into the black hole of state power we have created, reappearing only in distorted fragments: edited, blacked out, redacted, euphemised.

And why do we consent? It is difficult to accept but impossible to deny that the 9/11 attacks were both a heinous crime against us and a consequence of our actions. These are not, contrary to popular sentiment, mutually exclusive. Just as the latter does not preclude our seeking retribution against the murderers of 9/11 and defending against their kind in the future, neither should the former preclude the frank and sober appraisal of our history and the necessary and long overdue debate attendant upon that. It awaits only the recognition of a resolute people looking beyond the hysteria created by a craven elite jealous of their power and disdainful of the truth.

But our leaders have done more than take advantage of 9/11 to draw new powers unto themselves; as well they've bound our security from terrorism to the very same military adventurism that produced it in the first place. The invasion of Iraq was not a misplaced response to 9/11, but a redoubling of the long project of which 9/11 was just the most dramatic and disastrous product. Now opposition to military adventurism, foreign entanglements and our newly acquired levels of state power is convincingly painted, by those keen to keep themselves in power and profiting from this monstrosity, as support for our enemies.
We remain unaware of how close a determined faction came to dealing the final death blow to a republican form of government they, and their predecessors, have been able to subdue but not quite kill for as long as we've had a political class. Success in Iraq as they envisioned it might have irrevocably bound up once and for all our security with our imperial ambitions. The unthinkable occurs: victory in Iraq may have been worse than the horror we are now witnessing. Even as the Iraq project foundered horribly, they still sought to advance us beyond the point of return, straining to create another fait accompli in Iran. Some work for this even now. They will not relent and they will always be with us. Some will retire, some will fall to scandal, a very few will falter in their commitment and repent, but their ranks will continually be replenished by the eager and ambitious, desperately clawing at one another even now as they mount the lower rungs of power, eyes focused upward hopefully. Republicanism is necessarily the enemy of ambition.

We have to continually remind ourselves: it is the failure of the Iraq war that has provoked widespread opposition, not the undeniable injustice of it. Even now, this opposition is thwarted, nearly irrelevant but for the advantage it grants one political party over another, nearly indistinguishable.

But if we're to be honest and thorough we have to follow this thought to its disasteful conclusion: this necessity (as the Administration would have it) for conquest, spying and torture is not a consequence of 9/11, but like 9/11, is a consequence of history, long predetermined before the towers fell. Our leaders are disingenuous, but not entirely dishonest; they truly see the invasion of Iraq, the surveillance state and torture as necessities. It's merely that they do not trust us with the whole truth.
The true cost of empire, to liberty and the law, has long been deferred. Refusing to accept this cost, to honor this debt to our principles, will eventually bankrupt us. That is what is happening to us now.

Combining a newfound acceptance of torture with an aggressive campaign of nation-building means that we are in the business of arresting and torturing people who are not threats to the security of US citizens, but threats to our ambitions abroad; the greater these ambitions, the greater their numbers.
The most damaging and damning reality of the Abu Ghraib scandal was not that we were involved in the torture of "suspected terrorists" but of suspected insurgents--rebels against an occupation we still cannot justify. But it's worse than that; in the haste compelled by Donald Rumsfeld, a man with an incomparable combination of incompetence and arrogance, we soon found ourselves imprisoning and torturing innocents caught up in our desperation.
It's not merely that we swell the ranks of the Jihadis; we've acquired a whole new class of enemies with which we have to concern ourselves. We've undeniably acquired the burdens of empire, whatever we choose to call it.

The terrorists never held it in their power to change us, our way of life, our laws, or our values. They still don't. They are still ultimately powerless. Only we have that power.
We continue to lie to ourselves about the nature of these things. But the only way to be rid of the consequences of empire is to be rid of the empire. Neither then should we lie about the inestimable costs we will incur in abandoning it. For, having railed thusly against it, I now have to concede that I cannot tell you we haven't gone too far already. We may have. But this I know: we can no longer justify it, if ever we could, and we can no longer deny it. The nation cannot behave as a child attempting to will away reality.
For all the celebration of martial heroism, that even the critics of the war immerse themselves in as if to baptize away the sin of insufficient patriotism, in our hearts we know the greater courage lies in standing down. Sending the children of the working class off to subdue the restive corners of the empire while singing paens to them takes no courage at all. Accepting the limitations of decency and the awful uncertainty of restraint, however, does, and it's required of each one of us.
Warning: sanctimony, with a brogue, at 2:32;

Orbital, You Lot
Video by Sebastian Demuth using footage from the film Casshern. Voice sample from the British television program The Second Coming.

These are great days we're living, bros. We're jolly green giants, walking the earth. With guns!

--"Crazy Earl", Full Metal Jacket

Friday, December 07, 2007


Is there a connection between the arrest of former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hossein Moussavian last May for allegedly passing on information about Iran's nuclear program to the British, and the recent National Intelligence Estimate? The New York Times reported on Dec. 5:
American intelligence agencies reversed their view about the status of Iran's nuclear weapons program after they obtained notes last summer from the deliberations of Iranian military officials involved in the weapons development program, senior intelligence and government officials said on Wednesday.
On the same day the L.A. Times reported:
According to current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the matter, the information that surfaced this summer included intercepted conversations of Iranian officials discussing the country's nuclear weapons program, as well as a journal from an Iranian source that documented decisions to shut it down.
Another possible source is Ali Rez Asgari, former deputy defense minister under former Iranian President Khatami. Asgari, a rival of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, knew his days were numbered when Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005. Asgari disappeared in February while on a trip to Turkey. Whether he defected or was kidnapped by Western intelligence agents remains a mystery.

The Washington Post reported in March of this year that he was cooperating with Western intelligence. At the time U.S. and Iranian sources alike discounted Asgari's knowledge of Iran's nuclear program; Western sources highlighted his value as the senior Iranian overseeing support for Hezbollah. Iran, for its part, sought to downplay Asgari's importance. A Sunday Times article in March reported that he had been a mole for Western intelligence since 2003--about the same time that the intelligence community now asserts Iran suspended its weapons program. The sources for the article were Iranian, so this may have been simply an attempt to smear him, or an effort by Ahmadinejad's faction to reach back and undermine nuclear negotiations with Europe that effectively began, again, in '03, or to implicate his political associates still in Iran. About the same time Yedioth Aharonot reported that Mossad had orchestrated his defection. So it's just a bit easier to follow than a David Lynch film and chock full of le Carré-esque intrigue.

Moussavian was acquitted of the more serious charges brought against him, but convicted of something called "propagating against the system", for which he received a suspended sentence. Conviction for espionage could have brought a death sentence. Ahmadinejad hasn't relented, however, threatening to expose elements in the government whom he says pressured the presiding judge. Within hours of Moussavian's acquital, Ahmadinejad ally Sa’id Mortazavi, under his authority as Public Prosecutor for Tehran and something called the Islamic Revolution Tribunal (or Courts), announced that he would continue to press charges. This is all in keeping with Iran's convoluted constitution.

Moussavian is allied to yet another former Iranian president, Hafshemi Rafsanjani, the most powerful member of the conservative pragmatist faction vying for primacy with Ahmadinejad's Islamic revolutionary fundamentalists, who chairs both Iran's Expediency Council and its Assembly of Experts (responsible for electing and with the authority to replace the Supreme Leader, currently Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful person in the Iranian government with final say over foreign and domestic policy and control of the Revolutionary Guard Corps).

Iran's pragmatist element is opposed to Ahmadinejad's bombastic campaign of defiance regarding Iran's nuclear program, seeing it as needlessly provoking the United States and the international community and risking war. Thus, ironically, the confluence of interests places the neoconservatives and their fellow travellers in league with Ahmadinejad. For those who believe that the Iranian regime must be wiped off the map, their greatest fear at this stage is not its nuclear program but the prospect of rapprochement.

Ahmadinejad shares this fear. His overt hostility toward Israel and the United States is primarily for domestic consumption. In his struggle with Rafsanjani's conservative faction his rabble rousing is both offensive strategy and the source of his opposition's frustration. His glorying in the latest NIE may signal more his political instincts toward spinning any given outcome in his favor than any particular pleasure with its assertions; when speaking directly to his base of support at home he openly revels in the weapons potential of Iran's nuclear program and its right to it. For the purposes of drumming up nationalist support at home, the NIE is at best a distraction.

It's hard not to come to the conclusion that separate tracks of engagement are ongoing (or rather, a covert track of engagement lies beneath the campaigns of aggression, hell-bent on collision, between the neocons and Ahmadinejad's revolutionaries), with pragmatists on each side waging covert signalling operations attempting to shepherd both nations into the next U.S. administration.

Ahmadinejad's faction is in an effective alliance of sorts with the Cheney/neocon shadow government; both want the same confrontation they each envision playing out differently. Ahmadinejad is irrationally willing to risk a U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear installations, or worse, because it plays directly into his hands, driving popular sentiment into his camp and making it more difficult for his pragmatist opposition to marginalize and eventually be rid of him. Also, if he manages to make it appear that he has stared down the Great Satan, he could become the most powerful Iranian president yet. Our revolutionaries, going for broke, risk that disastrous outcome in their zeal to reach the conflict; indeed, they use this risk they've created to propel us toward war. By essentially fabricating the falsely exigent issue of Iranian nukes, they seek to give us no exit and our adversaries no face-saving way to accommodate us. And they dare speak of "conspiracies" hobbling the Administration.

What makes such madness possible? Two weak presidents on either side: Iran's, constitutionally hampered by the authority that resides in the Supreme Leader and the labyrinthine nature of Iran's government; here, a president who has ceded authority for foreign policy to the Vice President, whose grip on it is challenged by rival factions in the absence of any clear authority other than the President's acquiescence. A president who remains congenitally incapable of understanding the issues and complexities before him. Refusing to acknowledge his lack of authority and ability, he relies on stubbornness and faith, holding his line to the end, substituting fortitude for realism. Pride, thy name is still Bush.

We have our own radical faction, unfortunately identified as conservatives (oh for the day when the term can be rescued from those who inspire such righteous wrath), which seems determined to attack Iran. For all of their demonizing of Ahmadinejad, we forget how valuable he is to them. Remember their hostility toward Iran did not begin and will not end with Ahmadinejad's rule; the Israel lobby was more interested in seeing a U.S. assault on Iran than Iraq, recall, before Ahmadinejad came to power (to put it in its crudest form: Iraq was about oil; Iran is about Israel). The Cheney faction viewed the so-called "grand bargain" offered by Iran as more a threat than opportunity, regardless of whatever potential may have been there, again before Ahmadinejad came along to regularly and dutifully provide them with soundbites they would be hard-pressed to make up on their own. An ideal foil, as if sent from central casting.

Two nations with weak presidents, their words valueless, their motives hard to discern and each nation's progress the unpredictable, sideways motion resulting from a tug of war between opposing factions. For our side this is the result of our election to the presidency of a woefully unqualified man; indeed a callow, incurious neophyte regarding foreign policy, with a pathological pride blinding him to his inadequacy. Actions still have consequences even if we've managed to avoid looking at them full on, and the consequences of our contemptuous disregard for our own republic will be unfolding for a long time still.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Weapons Grade Nerve

That boom off in the distance was not the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities, but Norman Podhoretz's head exploding. Sadly, this hasn't set back his personal program of permanent global warfare, which is securely ensconced in the deep underground bunker of his psyche, reinforced with hardened layers of fervor so as to withstand even the most advanced assaults of common sense and morality:

It is worth remembering that in 2002, one of the conclusions offered by the NIE, also with “high confidence,” was that “Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.” And another conclusion, offered with high confidence too, was that “Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.”

It is also worth remembering the circumstances by which the aberrational 2002 NIE was delivered, under intense pressure from the Vice President's office to produce, well, what it produced, and from Congress to produce anything that would provide them with a hedge for their craven political acquiescence to a clearly unnecessary war (and it has worked well in that regard; the much-used excuse about faulty intelligence is that hedge being cashed in). The intelligence community submitted peacefully to its violation and now, like some unfortunate Saudi Arabian rape victim, is being brought up on morals charges.

The point of Podhoretz's post is to question the sincerity of the latest NIE. Some disappointed hawks have described it as a "conspiracy." I suspect they're correct (if typically overblown in their language) in that the intelligence is being spun a bit (as if analysts' "spin" of their own analysis is equivalent to political leaders and their operatives stovepiping and spinning intelligence) but it would be more accurate to describe it as a counter-conspiracy.
The hawks are rather typically fabricating context here. The stubborn myth that the Iraq war was the result of "failed intelligence" persists because dishonest people in positions of influence manipulate a widespread fundamental misunderstanding of how the intelligence process works and a child-like belief that the intelligence community has the ability and should be expected to discern with absolute reliability the doings of closed, secretive states like Iraq and Iran. (For insight from someone with experience in these matters, see the invaluable Dr. Leo Strauss here.) The lesson of Iraq is not that "the intelligence failed" but that intelligence is manipulable by a determined administration in collusion with corrupt journalists and commentators.

But you have to admire the open dishonesty:

As the intelligence community must know, if [Bush] were to [bomb Iran], it would be as a last resort, only after it had become undeniable that neither negotiations nor sanctions could prevent Iran from getting the bomb, and only after being convinced that it was very close to succeeding.

Where on earth would they get the idea that Bush would act precipitously? When will people start giving this president a fair shake? This from the guy who has declared diplomacy and sanctions irrelevant and has done everything, as part of a concerted, orchestrated effort by a small, determined and influential faction (one might even call it a "conspiracy"), to ensure that they will not succeed.
Steve Sailer recently noted that Gregory Cochran, the physicist and anthropology professor who pointed out the glaring misrepresentations in the Administration's pre-war hysterics (all you need to know about "intelligence failures" right there) before the Iraq invasion, sees the NIE as an attempt by the Community to pre-empt a second pre-war agit-prop offensive and "run out the clock" on the remaining, nerve-wracking 13 months of Bush II. I tend to believe it, and God bless them for it.
Vice President Cheney's office has been pushing for an NIE with alarmist conclusions, just as in 2002, for the last two years. His apparent failure is cause for hope, but not celebration. These guys aren't done by a long shot. Someone once said, in trying to make sense of the Bush Presidency, that one simply has to wake up every morning and remind himself that a coup has occurred. Then it all makes sense. Think of this as a counter-coup. And be glad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the (redacted)

Those few who've been familiar with Untethered for a while (Hello, Uncle Morty!) know that I have long believed that the Iraq war is ultimately, simply, about oil, despite the WMD/terrorist hysteria, despite the Administration's sophomoric, Gersonian rhetoric asserting the goal of "ending tyranny in our world" by toppling nations that appeared to be arbitrarily assigned to a grand-sounding "axis of evil", despite the tendency of my intellectual betters to deride such dull, Occam-esque logic as unimaginatively provincial, despite even the perversely appealing (to my cynical nature at least) Seinfeldian "war about nothing." It's still a lot more fun to debate nuanced ideology than to recognize simple, coarse interest, especially when that interest traces back to each one of us. Mostly the war's true importance has so far resisted widespread acknowledgement because of its sheer, unremitting ugliness. As for me, I've always had sympathy for the homely, so if I'm wrong there's your culprit.

I had been bleating away at this until exhaustion set in a few months ago (forget about evil only requiring that "good men do nothing"; it also relies heavily on that far greater mass of which I am a part, lazy and indifferent men quickly fatigued or bored) and I lost interest (Sitemeter indicates sometime after you, dear reader). Fortunately, about this time the NAACP and assorted cohorts lobbed the dual absurdities of the heroic Jena Six and the Great Noose Scourge of 2007 over the net, providing welcome fodder to complement my meager output of reworked material and mostly unloved fictional, hallucinatory interludes. Public farces, God bless them, are like buses, if you miss one another will be along shortly.

Today's non-binding declaration of principles between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, should it manage to survive negotiations and debate in Iraqi Parliament (but, apparently, not in our own Congress; maybe I have been hasty in my ridicule of the Iraqi democratization project, which seems to have surpassed our own, perhaps as the two are heading in opposite directions) would establish Iraq as a client state of the United States, laying the legal foundation for a long term military presence in Iraq and favorable status for American investment.

When actors can't be trusted to tell the truth (which might be always regarding international affairs) we must give explanatory primacy to actions, not words. Thus we follow the course of interest that still, as always, drives national behavior, behind which ideology, rhetoric, and opportunistic political posturing trail like a disorganized, cacophonous brass band.

The occupation (anticipated to be much less costly in money, troops, and prestige; in fact envisioned as "paying for itself" financially and paying off handsomely geopolitically) itself and the favorable (to us) lifting of the interwar sanctions (the Iraq war will eventually be recognized as encompassing the first Persian Gulf war, the interwar years, and the present occupation) has always been the point of the invasion. This military presence is needed to maintain our hegemony in the region, a hegemony necessitated by oil (and complicated by Israel). Iraq was chosen to replace the presence in Saudi Arabia we forfeited after 9/11 (a concession to al Qaeda of which I'm sure Rudy Guiliani is blissfully unaware), a presence, again, necessitated by oil.

As the original lie, we had to invade Iraq to protect ourselves, morphs into the more plausible we must stay to head off the dire consequences of failure, the unspeakable truth becomes harder to conceal; total failure in Iraq is unthinkable because of all the oil in the ground, and the prospect that it will fall into the hands of a hostile government, or a collection of dueling warlords.

And still, the consequences that we have a duty to bring about, consequences visited upon those who actively sought to mislead the country into a disastrous war that has claimed countless thousands of innocent lives and may have precipitated irreversible decline in U.S. prestige aren't even hinted at in the mainstream media. Such talk is derided as the ravings of "kooks" such as your humble author.

If you consider my description of Iraq being groomed as a "client state" a bit much, consider that the first article of today's declaration commits us not only to defense of Iraq from outside threats, but also against "internal threats." Notable also is its provision establishing a favored status for American investment. We are further committed to upholding the Iraqi Constitution against, among other things, attempts to "impede" it. Oh the irony.

Conservatives used to be fond of saying that nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program. There is no better example of that old saw's validity than the fraud being perpetuated at this moment in Iraq, by a Republican administration. Recently I wrote that "what we have is less a failing war than a government program experiencing cost overruns"; the declaration of principles, the purpose of which is clearly to mandate an open-ended U.S. military presence regardless of conditions in Iraq, only solidifies this belief.

Nowhere have I yet heard the suggestion that improving conditions on the ground in Iraq should be treated as the opportunity to extricate ourselves; on the contrary, any parameter showing improvement is used to justify continuing an open-ended occupation.

The timing of the negotiations of the declaration of principles, coinciding with the presidential election, presages a more or less concerted effort not only by the Fox News/talk-radio complex, but also by establishment media, such as the Washington Post and New York Times, to pressure the presumptive Democratic nominee to sign on to a long term occupation, if not to simply present her with it as a fait accompli. It will be gruesome entertainment to watch.

Combine this with the newfound tendency of establishment "conservatives" to characterize Hillary Clinton as a "serious" and "responsible" foreign policy thinker because she shows no willingness to significantly question the foreign policy status quo and its attendant erosion of constitutional protections, and her gleeful bludgeoning of the freshman senator from Illinois for his enthusiasm for promiscuous diplomacy, and it's hard not to think that the fix, of a sort, is in, whether the fixers understand it or not.

Forgive the rambling post.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Strange Truth

New! Improved! @ 19:20, 11-19

A good principle, not rightly understood, may prove as hurtful as a bad.

Upon returning from an air break, Democracy Now was playing Billy Holiday's haunting dirge, Strange Fruit, about lynching in the South. This was about three months ago, before the Jena Six story broke nationally. After the Duke rape hoax and the embarrassing, if consequence-free, journalistic scandal following in its wake, the new controversy must have been welcome subliminal reassurance for the faithful adherents of the standard American race narrative. Their faith shows no sign of wavering even now as (it's hard to imagine to anyone's surprise) the Jena tale as initially reported has been revealed as inaccurate, in certain key details and in summary, largely through the omission and biased credulity borne of haste with which salacious tales of white bigotry are typically met in such quarters. You know the drill.

In a court of law such a direct appeal to emotion might be forbidden as an attempt to prejudice the jury. In the court of public opinion there is, thankfully, no similar limiting authority. But in light of the general bias already evidenced in its coverage, Pacifia Radio's dramatics seem no less an attempt to generate the heat of emotion rather than the light of understanding. The overzealous lawyer taking unwarranted license has not abandoned his proper role, even as he tests the institutional framework limiting it. He is advocate, not arbiter. The journalist is expected to be a bit of both, and for the honest journalist, rare is the unambiguous tale of good and evil. And our trouble begins.
The journalist who abandons the service of journalistic integrity for service to a "higher" cause ends up serving neither. As we've seen in many Jena-style hoaxes and manufactured controversies, he often ends up serving charlatans.

The selectively credulous reporting regarding Jena has relied on an implicit assertion: that the "nooses" which set in motion the chain of events (a chain with a few dubious links, it now turns out) leading to the racial assault of the Jena Six (against the lonely Jena One) carry an emotional offense the equivalent of violence. This is the purpose of the "historical perspective" hurried out by Pacifica Radio well before the achievement of an accurate current perspective. It's worth asking how we've arrived at this place.

As actual bigotry fades and the trope of "institutional racism" comes to rely on increasingly fanciful logic that fewer and fewer take seriously, earnest reporters are unmoved by the prospect of merely reporting the ambiguous, distasteful truth--truth that in some cases seems certain to bring the same charges of "racism" that they have been trafficking in so successfully for so long.

The media conflates racism, a broad, confused concept, with bigotry, hatred for a class, race, or creed, and, taking their cues from social theorists, accepts as an article of faith that racism can only originate within a majority community, leaving itself unable to recognize the high levels of bigotry in minority communities as anything other than a response to majority oppression.
Confronted with the casual, open bigotry of blacks for whites (and others, particularly homosexuals) that the media has spent the last generation sanctioning, coupled with violent crime statistics showing that the prospect of a white coming to harm at the hands of blacks is about ten times as likely as the reverse, and that a black person is far more likely to suffer violence at the hands of other blacks (blacks such as, of course, the Six, who will manage a bit more of it as a result of being relieved of the consequences of their most famous act of violence) than from whites, reporters can only refer back to the original article of faith, ascribing it all to white racism, aggravating black bigotry in an endless feedback loop.

Unmoored as all this is in the solid ground of reality, a superstition has been effectively created, ascribing a talismanic power to certain select images, equating this power with physical violence, and thus legitimizing, almost demanding, violent reaction to them. A young man beaten unconscious, and beaten further as he lay unconscious, is no more an offense against the peace or persons than a piece of rope--or, as we've seen, a sketch of one. Civil rights for some has become the establishment of a legal racial double standard regarding bigoted acts of violence.

The latest absurdity has played out like a slow-motion version of the War of the Worlds radio panic, and we've yet to determine its outermost limits, geographical as well as logical. Recently a storefront display in Britain came under fire for featuring headless, dark-colored mannequins suspended by chains. Here unanticipated free-riders showed up as well: relatives of persons who suffered decapitation in accidents took the opportunity to take offense at the headless dummies. The fires of self-indulgent outrage leap a break and the conflagration spreads. Like the Halloween displays that suddenly warranted national news coverage and NAACP hand-wringing, offenses are being created out of the mundane to slake our self-perpetuating thirst for outrage and recrimination.

Like the outer farcical limits that have yet to be determined, more substantive negative results are also still taking shape. When a sketch of a noose turned up on the door of a Columbia professor, the resulting student protests were prompt; an instant outpouring of conspicuous, earnest outrage.
But, seeing as the students and the school are in complete agreement, and there is presumably no pro-noose faction to counter, no racist authority to petition, to whom and for what do the students of Columbia protest? An answer might be found in a quote a student leader gave after yet another close-following copy-cat incident, involving a swastika and a Jewish professor, when he said, "we need to clean house."

Having defined the oppression as ingrained within even our most liberal institutions and seated deeply within every individual breast, today's students must march on "racist" society as a whole, effectively protesting against themselves, demanding diminished freedoms overseen by greater authority. Today's professors and administrators, the young protesters of the Sixties, march alongside, making no distinction between the protests of their youth and these of their maturity; they believe they are on the same long march they began those many years ago. Looking back, we see the line of progression from yesterday's youthful protests against authority to today's youthful protests against the lack of authority is a short, straight line on the political/time continuum.

The parallel to be drawn between this movement toward greater authority and zeal in rooting out impurity and another, falsely opposite, can be illuminating. Borrowing certain assumptions and a great many methods, today's anti-racist crusaders share a great deal with the right-nationalist movement exemplified by Fox News.

For each of these movements, it's enough to expose someone as a skeptic to silence him, hence the personality-driven methods. For both there is virtually no debate on a broad number of assumptions and it is usually enough to discredit an individual by creating a "gaffe", exposing (what are oftentimes private) demonstrations of impurity of thought. The point is not to ascertain the truth, much less test assumptions, but to continually broaden that part of the narrative that is sacrosanct, so that the narrative expands and crowds out its competition like an expanding ink-blot.
Both have been remarkably effective, and each has managed to discredit wide swaths of potential public speech. But reality and human nature remain, hence the mind-jarring divide between the way the American public views American foreign policy and the way the world does, for one instance, and the yawning gulf between acceptable public speech regarding race and widely held private opinion, for another.

For the rightists patriotism is the faith. The slightest skepticism toward American behavior is seen as heretical, mad, pathological. Just as it is that for our egalitarian crusaders any skepticism toward the standard race narrative or the principle of absolute biological racial equality is morally unacceptable, for the crusaders of American exceptionalism the very sentiment "anti-Americanism" is to be fought to the death, not only here at home with calumny and vitriol, but abroad, with bombs and guns. Hence terms like "global war on terror" and "the battle of ideas"; war to be waged not just with that small hard-core of jihadi terrorists, but with anti-American sentiment itself. Entire nations are deemed enemies because polls show widespread popular resentment of America. The remedies,--invasions, occupations, "regime change," proxy wars, propped-up dictators--ensure the disease will metastasize. The largely unexamined, mad notion behind the war on terror is that we must root out every terrorist and win over every heart and mind.

Thus the hyper-patriot movement cites the existence of anti-Americanism anywhere as equivalent to anti-Americanism everywhere, and proof of the necessity of redoubling our efforts. We are not safe until our enemies are none. It is of course a recipe for endless conflict.

Our hyper-eglaitarians are posessed of a similar fervor. Having decided that the presence of "racism" anywhere constitutes its presence everywhere, today's "civil rights" demonstrators have decided they too will attrit the enemy down to the last man, and, like their rightist brethren, their ideology and methods ensure they will never run out of enemies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Forget MLK; It's ODB Day

(I had resolved to post more regularly, and fell ill over the weekend, only coming around fully today with just some residual head-throbbing that only bothers me if I attempt to move, sneeze, cough, focus my eyes, or speak; therefore, in another cheesy move, and furthermore as I intended to recognize today's anniversary already, today's episode of Untethered is a re-run, with significant alterations)

Hip Hop's Marquis de Sade

My words can't be held against me
I'm not caught up in your law

--Ol' Dirty Bastard, Nigga Please

Today is the third anniversary of the death of Russell Tyrone Jones, more commonly known as Ol' Dirty Bastard. To some unfamiliar with his music or disinclined to appreciate rap, to the extent they know of him he is seen as just another eccentric produced by an art form that seems as much about creating odd characters as it is about making music. But to those who know, ODB, along with the mastermind producer behind the Wu Tang Clan, RZA, was responsible for two of the most idiosyncratic and brilliant (if raggedly uneven) hip hop records of all time. Return to the 36 Chambers, the Dirty Version and Nigga Please are racist, misogynistic, violently debauched (and debauchedly violent), confused and self contradictory collections of lunatic rants which achieve a mad, murderous brilliance.

ODB seemed to have more nicknames than songs: Dirt McGirt, A Son, Osirus, Big Baby Jesus to name a few, seeming to recognize the schizophrenic psychosis which both drove and bedeviled him. His lyrics were a farrago of black militant ideology, superstition, sexual voodoo, and unrepentant celebrations of drug use and violence; childlike, irrational, and stubbornly thick headed--and dangerous. A reading of his lyrics might suggest an intellect stunted by brain damage or excessive drug use, but in hip hop it’s all in the delivery, and when an unbridled, feral ODB gave vent to his madness within the funky but strangely refined musical context provided by the incomparable RZA, the listener was given a one of a kind, deadly honest glimpse into the dark violence of nature freed of the civilizing effects of socialization.

Nigga Please, his 1999 release which featured the hit, Got your Money (produced by the Neptunes), exhibits an obsession with voodoo-like superstition and sexual domination, seeking to mystify pimping as a triumph over female nature through mind control, will, and sexual prowess. Dirty was hip hop’s half-literate Marquis de Sade, appalling and immoral, treating the listener to vivid accounts of his escapades. The seductiveness of the beats drew you in and held you close while an urban Mad Hatter forced you to view the darkest and most secretive desires of human nature.

As any rap fan knows, yet not necessarily admits, nothing will draw favorable reviews or induce sleep quicker than a Roots record. Yet the myth of a unified, trans-global "socially conscious" political movement behind rap persists. In last month's Foreign Policy, the glossy USA Today of the globalist set, an article about this supposed movement appeared like an unintended eulogy for that dream (the author didn't get past paragraph one before using the phrase, "hot beats"). As if the persistent success of Fifty Cent and the playlist at BET isn't evidence enough of the form's lyrical decline from already modest heights. ODB hadn't the critical faculties to analyse, much less understand, the political questions of these more ambitious and critically recognized artists, even as he sometimes drew from the same well of militant reaction, and it served him well. He understood what the form was about: primitive narcissism. Needless to say, its status as a black art form limits the public respectability of such an opinion.

ODB has spawned multitudes who seek to adopt his defiantly feral stance, what Malcom X called the “wild nigger” who both appalls and fascinates the more effectively socialized white masses. They are embarrassing caricatures, minstrels pandering to the naive white suburbanites who seek to hitch a ride on the exhilarating savagery of urban black America. ODB was oddly appealing because he seemed to lack the sophistication to affect the phony stance of a lesser artist. He was sadly unsuited to live in civil society and absolutely committed to a fusion of his art with a subculture of drug use, casual sex, crime and violence that he viewed as his birthright in defiance of the strictures of the greater culture. He was rebelling alright, but unlike most of his peers, he made no pretense of the nature of his rebellion. His motto was summed up decades ago, by Marlon Brando, another mere pretender, in The Wild One, when in reply to the question as to what he was rebelling against, he replied, "whad'ya got?"

Hip hop’s champions will forever be overestimating the importance of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur out of a perverse need to frame idiotic street violence as political struggle (they each died at the hands of assassins believed to be acting on behalf of the other, just months apart), when in fact what defined them was the true most likely nature of their deaths--an ego-intensive power struggle within the community of America's own Little Big Men, minor potentates battling for control and status.

But for me it is this less regarded but more authentic artist who never tried to dress his narcissism up as rebellion who stands out, and the loss of whom I mourn. ODB was unapologetic about his immorality, but neither did he seek to justify it. It simply was; and he, in his half-aware way, sought to plumb the dark depths of human nature, and after one venture too many that’s where he will forever remain.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Bland Inquisitor


An anonymous PRISONER is seated on a plain wooden chair facing the VP's desk. He is haggard, gaunt, filthy. A dark puddle of something is at his feet. His wrists are chained to his ankles with unnecessarily heavy chains. He is leaning forward, listing to the side, as if he will fall forward any moment, looking at the VP from under a drooping brow. The VP is speaking.

...loyalty. Principle. Fortitude. I'm talking about ethics. These are the things with which you should have concerned yourself. This business about deferring to the Constitution, the law...

he pauses to check his disgust

...the will of the people. This is not integrity; this is cowardice. It's a dodge. The conceit of the rule of law is a luxury for the effete. For those who couldn't protect an anthill from a kid with a magnifying glass. That is, those among them who actually believe their nonsense. As for the rest, you just watch what becomes of their Constitution once they get a hold of it. No, you've thrown your lot in with cowards and traitors.

You say you've lost your stomach for it; now you want to obey the law. The law is for traffic cops. When you get to this level, no one charged with defending the nation, no one standing on that wall, gets to play the virgin.
The law is a beautiful, comforting--and above all useful--illusion. Always has been. That's not the same as saying it's meaningless. On the contrary. It's precisely because I want to preserve it that I do what I do. I break it where it needs it, to preserve it where I can. I do what I have to do. The people have no idea.
You want out? I thought you knew. No one gets out.

His hoarse voice is barely more than a whisper, his words lisped through swollen lips
I can keef my mouf shut.

the VP silences him with a raised hand

Even if you were telling the truth, I don't care. You're of no use to me. Except as an example. Letting you go now is out of the question, as you know. But your example will help greatly. You can rest knowing that you gave one last invaluable service to your Vice--to your country. But let's have no more talk about the law, about the Constitution.

But if that's what the people want...

Do they? You disappoint me. I thought you understood human nature. The common man? The citizen? The common man is a cowering, superstitious, gluttonous fool who gladly chooses to live in a fantasy world. You think he wants liberty? Freedom? If he ever came upon true freedom and got a look at what it requires of him he would--he does--run to cower in the shelter of power's embrace.

What he really wants is power; knowing he can't wield it, he settles for power working on his behalf, always; always out there crushing someone else, somewhere unseen, some other insignificant fool to whom he has no relation, for whom he has no care; power grinding away out of sight like a factory that continually produces safety and plenty--free of charge. And that's what we do. It's a beautiful thing. It's a tremendous act of kindness.

The common man just wants to be left alone. That's the full extent of his understanding of freedom. We have a deal, an arrangement, the common man and I, and he knows it. He doesn't want to see the tremendous effort and sacrifice I make on his behalf; he doesn't want to know. I--we are like God. We create the world as it exists in the collective mind. It is the most sacred trust there is. You think we could do this constrained by the law?

You see, we haven't any choice in the matter. The law, the Constitution, morality itself; all of this is an illusion. A fantasy. Now you, and your newfound friends, want us to give the illusion a try--because you have fooled yourself into believing it. This is madness. And you wonder at my contempt.

The people want to be left alone to fuck and eat themselves into a stupor. For the love of God man look around you. And I'm here to oblige them. It's only when the common man starts to fear; it's only when he thinks that power will fail that he starts to pay attention, that he starts to bleat away about rights and the law. And, contrary to the fantasy world you have thrown your lot in with, that's when what peace and liberty we have managed are threatened.
Believe me, the last thing any of us want is for the "people" to act. For us to give the Law an honest try. God help us then. This will all look like a paintball game if it comes to that. But it isn't going to come to that.

We dirty our hands on the common man's behalf. We take up the burden he gets to pretend isn't there. We toil in the dark, doing his dirty work. And this is the thanks we get. Don't fucking talk to me about the law. I'll have your ass sent to--well, never mind where. Trust me, you haven't seen anything. Count yourself lucky you haven't any remaining useful information. But the betrayal.

Why not give it a try you say. You forget that as long as there exist out there those who will sacrifice the law for power, and they will always be there because they are every one of us, that subjugating yourself to the law means subjugating yourself to them. People don't know how lucky they are that it's us at the lever; we who are willing to allow them their measure of freedom and the plausible fiction of the "law."

I took an oaf--oath--to defth, to defend--

If you want to keep what's left of your tongue you'll stop moving it. Constitution? Let me tell you about the Constitution. The dirty little secret of the Constitution is that it cannot survive without someone like me contravening it. You want a constitution? Well, you can have part of one, but you can't have all of one. Listen to me. It isn't possible. A complete constitution will not last five minutes in the real world. We won't last five minutes adhering to some bullshit constitution. Fuck the Constitution.

The Constitution is powerless to protect the nation. Hell, the Constitution can't even defend itself. The Constitution is a conceit. You fell for that bullshit. Unfortunate. But if you think I'm going to leave the nation defenseless so that I can preen before it as a defender of the Constitution. I defend lives, not paper. Jesus.

Your time is up. All of this will be rolled back. The next administration...

the VP interrupts him with laughter, a low, thumping caw in the chest, steadily rising in volume

...they'll turn it all back, you'll see; we can't go on like this, we have to try and make it all work like it's supposed to...

the VP, still laughing, reaches inside his collar, grabbing hold of something; as he pulls his hand back out his face contorts, going lifeless. His laugh is muffled as he pulls away a rubbery mask, revealing the face beneath. It is a woman's face; we know it; it is the FRONTRUNNER. The laugh is now her familiar cackle; she stands, pulling away the remnants of the mask, her laughter growing louder.

He is horrified, trying to speak.

It is grimacing up at us from the ground through black, hollow eyes.

She is towering over our view, shadows cast on her face from low angle light intensifying her sinister expression, laughing away like a madwoman.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hollywood Acts

November 4, 2007

Hollywood CA (UNS) -- At a news conference today a group of activist filmmakers unveiled a plan to use cutting-edge technology to eventually rid all Hollywood films of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South.

"The campaign of intimidation sweeping the nation involving the use of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South, means denial of the racism inherent in our society is no longer an option. We believe Hollywood needs to be in the forefront on this issue. Doing nothing constitutes the violation of the civil rights of each and every African American, as well as other traditional targets of terror and oppression. It is time for the battle against racism, homophobia and sexism to join technology in the Twenty-First Century." Saveermis Andrist, president of the organization behind the effort, Filmmakers Against Racism and Sexism in Entertainment (FARSE), said in a prepared statement. Ms. Andrist is a screenwriter/director/novelist/performance and recording artist.

A video presentation demonstrating some of the possibilities included scenes featuring nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South, alternately transformed into a wreath of lillies, a thick gold chain, and a Hawaiian lei. The presentation had to be cut short due to technical difficulties.

"Film is all about the suspension of disbelief." Ms. Andrist said in reply to observations that some of the effects were incongruous or unrealistic. "We're merely asking people to suspend their disbelief a little further, for a good cause. In fact audiences will be able to rediscover these films all over again, as striking examples of a potential future, free of hate and intolerance. But more importantly, future generations will not be exposed at all to them."

Ms. Andrist rejected that the project would constitute a violation of freedom of artistic expression.

"We cannot sacrifice tolerance to the myth of artistic freedom. Freedom of artistic expression does not mean freedom of artistic repression. Artists are no more free than common people to terrorize people of color and other oppressed groups. Freedom of speech does not include the right to shout fire in a crowded theatre, and these images constitute shouting fire in our homes, in our places of work, in hand-held devices, wherever they might appear. They continually shout hatred at people of color. They shout fire in our conscience."

She brushed aside skepticism about the legal barriers to altering what is still an untold number of films.
"Intellectual property rights can't be allowed to trump civil rights. The safety and well-being of the oppressed is nobody's property. We feel that existing civil rights and hate crimes laws already constitute a broad mandate to act. All that remains is to consolidate them through either court order or legislation specifically empowering us to use the process wherever these heinous images are found. This is no time for quibbling over legality. If we wait for the current wave of hate to pass, we will have missed a golden opportunity to end it once and for all. This is bigger than individual filmmakers or entities, and we shouldn't allow a right to terrorize and oppress masquerading as freedom of expression to curtail the true right of millions to live without fear."

When asked if this meant the banning or confiscation of original, unedited copies of films in various formats, she said she didn't anticipate it would come to that. "We feel that through entirely voluntary measures attrition will eventually eliminate the majority of these instruments of hate, requiring a minimum of legal enforcement."

She also said she anticipated this project would be the first phase in a broader effort, with the working title Hollywood United for Humanity's Advancement (HUHA), that would eventually rid cinema, television and video games of all symbols of racism, sexism and homophobia.

Asked if any of her own work might eventually be affected, Ms. Andrist explained that she hasn't yet produced any.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Farce Imitates Life, Life Returns Favor

Why bother with satire?
CNN's Rick Sanchez, whose Hispanic surname seems to have made him the network's go-to guy on racial issues despite the fact that he is nearly as WASP-like in appearance and manner as Ted Knight's Judge Smails in Caddyshack (or, for that matter, Knight's affable and clueless anchorman Ted Baxter of The Mary Tyler Moore Show), is valiantly traipsing into the dark heart of America, with his expedition of camera and make-up crew in tow, hunting the now legendary Great Noose Scourge of 2007.

My point here is not to pick on Rick, who evinces the same bemusing persona that Fred Willard periodically reprises in Christopher Guest's faux-documentaries: confident, cocksure and half-cocked--as enthusiastic as he is oblivious. He sees opportunity; he seizes it; he is no exception. But under his guidance the absurdity has moved beyond comic into surreal, and there will be no competing with real life now, my fellow amateur satirists. Soon we may find it difficult to delineate the boundaries between. Game over. It's time to simply shut-up and marvel.

Last night, on Halloween, Sanchez utilized a split-screen format to simultaneously deliver two reports, one from a private residence and one from a bar, each the subject of controversy because their elaborate Halloween displays featured corpses hanging from nooses. As the cameras tightened in on the offending figures to reassure us they weren't black (the report wasn't quite so thorough as to call in forensics to analyze one body, just bare decomposing flesh over a skeleton, which the homeowner assured Sanchez was "Caucasian"), also revealed was a fairly realistic upper torso (safely, reassuringly white), severed at the waist and hanging upside down from a meat-hook, unremarked upon.

I guess you had to be there, but the absurdity of it was riveting, delicious irony: this ghoulish, fetishistic fascination with gore, once a ritualistic, occasional transgression for days such as these, now as widespread and mundane as the dull safety of daily life it mocks, juxtaposed with the bizarre conceit of the segment and its cravenness (acting as a tie-in for CNN's upcoming, opportunistic report, "The Noose, An American Nightmare"), the real-life horrors of the war out of sight and mind; well, all I can say is genius. Pure, unadulterated, unintentional genius.
Bravo, Mr. Sanchez. Bravo, CNN.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


October 31, 2007

New York, NY (UNS) -- The Congressional Black Caucus introduced a non-binding resolution today to censure the government of Iraq for its use of a noose, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South, to execute Saddam Hussein.

"Regardless of the fact that this unfortunate act passed into history months ago, it continues to harm African Americans." Rep. Hastee Scatflinger (D-MN) said at a news conference this morning. Congressman Scatflinger explained that he decided to sponsor the bill after his own son had seen the widely circulated video of the noose, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South, on the Internet. While the resolution is non-binding, the Congressman hopes to use it to pressure the government of Iraq to end the practice of execution by hanging.

"I mean, what's wrong with a firing squad? There sure seems to be no shortage of bullets over there. What sort of message is the young democracy of Iraq sending with this cavalier attitude toward the suffering of African Americans?"

"We will look into convening a delegation to go to Iraq with the intention of opening a dialogue and raising awareness." The Congressman said when asked if there were any plans to petition the government of Iraq directly. Despite the offensive nature of their government's actions, he insists he holds no ill will for the people of Iraq. "Foreigners can't be expected to have the appreciation of racial and sectarian intolerance that African Americans do."
The Congressman added that he would be unable to make the trip due to previous obligations in his district.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Racial Incident in Seattle

OCT 27, 2007
POINT DEFERENCE, WA (UNS*) -- Civil rights leaders in this Seattle suburb are up in arms over what they say is the latest incident in a nation-wide trend of hate crimes involving the public display of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow south.

A noose was discovered hanging from a tree in a remote corner of a wooded park early Friday morning by two children, ages twelve and fourteen. Doug Beedle, head of Seattle's NAACP chapter, said he is considering seeking damages against the city for not moving more quickly to deal with the apparent hate-crime.

"The city is engaged in a white-wash, treating this as a minor incident. If we hadn't been notified by an alert citizen, the whole thing would've been swept under the rug and treated as something other than what it was." Mr. Beedle did not rule out filing a complaint with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. "We're opening a dialogue with the city, but if they refuse to come around to our way of thinking, we're prepared to take it to the next level. No justice, no peace."

The childrens' mother, Misty Handringer, who is white, tearfully related that she initially didn't realize the significance of the noose. "At first all I could think about was the other aspect of it. I'm not proud of this, but I was more concerned about the fact that the kids had found a dead body. I was mortified when what was gong on was explained to me. I really thought we were above that sort of thing here. I'm not very proud of my community right now. I guess nowhere is safe."

Police say it appears the man, who is white, acted alone in stringing up the noose before using it to hang himself. Officials haven't ruled out bringing posthumous charges.

"Allowing this to simply die with the perpetrator would be wrong. Suicide is just the sort of transgressive act that brings out the underlying racism inherent in our society." Tanyika Balder-Dash, professor of Afro-American studies at Northwest College and author of The Myth of Merit, said, explaining why the man chose the inflammatory racial symbol for his apparent suicide. "People feel liberated to express their darkest impulses."

The children who discovered the noose are receiving counseling. "First we have to make them aware of the trauma they've suffered, then we can begin to deal with it." Professor Balder-Dash said. "Most distressing of all is that these kids have no idea about the profound image of hatred and oppression they encountered. People don't realize that racism is in fact far worse now than it ever was, due to faltering awareness. I fear we are allowing this image of America's racist past to slip into the past."
A march is planned for this Monday. The man remains unidentified.

(*Untethered News Services; Additional reporting for this story was provided by Dennis Dale, who is white.)

In related news, the U.S. Army has retroactively legalized lynching.

Friday, October 26, 2007

"What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?"
"The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a thousand tenants."
"I like thy wit well, in good faith: the gallows does well; but how does it well? It does well to those that do ill: now, thou dost ill to say the gallows is built stronger than the church; argal, the gallows may do well to thee."

Ladies and gentlemen. This is Gus Johnson, who you have heard of as a bad man. Some think I am a monster. My father was a colonel in the rebel army and bore a good name. I am to die for killing a negro fourteen miles down the Coosa River. I am sorry I killed him. Deputy Sheriff Sharp has been with me a good deal. I think a heap of him. He has a duty to perform, and I do not think less of him for it. His wife is a good woman, and has been a friend of mine. I have always been a bad boy. I have killed four men in my life. I can swear to two. I have friends in the crowd who would rescue me, but I want them to let me hang.
Augustus J. Johnson, from the gallows; 1878

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

West Coast Toast*

Well the universe is shaped exactly like the earth
if you go straight long enough you end up where you were
and that's how the world began
and that's how the world will end
--Modest Mouse, Third Planet

Drove home, doused everything in
the house, torched it.
Parked across the street laughing,
watching it burn, all Halloween
orange and chimney red.
Frank put on a top forty station,
got on the Hollywood Freeway headed North.
Never could stand that dog.
--Tom Waits, Frank's Wild Years

Should we talk about the weather?
--REM, Pop Song 89

As Southern California endures its regular bi-decadal holocaust, the Pacific Northwest lolls beneath a blue sky as glorious as it is placid. An unseen airplane overhead slices this frail sea; the sky bleeds water in a contrail, a fine point trailing a widening breach, as if a giant knife tip is cutting open the sky from the other side, revealing it to be stuffed with cotton. From here I can see the jumbled saw teeth of the Cascades on one side and the more remote, aesthetically as well as geographically, Olympics across the Puget Sound on the other. To the south Mt. Rainer looms out of the residual haze, a fifteen-thousand foot volcano (one of the more likely to erupt in our lifetimes) rising from the flats, in majestic isolation from the Cascades that crowd one another to form the state's broad, spiny back. Rainer looms over her surroundings like a vain, hooded god refusing to reveal just when she will reclaim the land. The city and its women are flaunting their charms brazenly in the sunshine. Work is all but impossible under these conditions.

The high pressure zone that normally resides a thousand miles down the coast occasionally slides up along the edge of the continent and settles in here. This fixture, when in its normal position, is the reason Southern California is so sunny; it boxes out the moisture coming out of the warm waters of the South Pacific, routing it north, where it cools and comes apart, spending itself in rain and some of the deepest mountain snow levels in the world. The periodic uncharacteristically wet winters Southern California experiences every seven years or so are a result of this reversal. The Santa Ana winds are caused by a similar inversion, of high pressure air between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada. The air is forced down the mountain slopes into the L.A. basin, heated by pressure and speed as it races for the cool Pacific.

Almost exactly fourteen years ago, in October 1993, these same Santa Ana winds fanned fires all about sleepy San Juan Capistrano. From near our house we could spy two of them, a distant one that looked as if it was coming down Ortega Highway from somewhere near Lake Elsinore. The faintest snowfall of ash preceded it. A nearer one was at the moment an ominous glow on the horizon; it would soon sweep through nearby Laguna Beach like an invading army trying to drive the city into the sea.
Days before the desert's bellows had kicked in; uncompromising Santa Anas had been blowing hard across the brown hills like a blast from a great oven out there somewhere, evaporating what little moisture was left in the ground after a long hot summer.
We headed north on Interstate 5 counting the fires, all safely distant but some so large they appeared to be but a few miles up the road; looking north the freeway seemed to end in one of these. Another appeared like a hellish borealis on the other side of the hills.

Little more than a year before I had taken a similar drive, skirting Los Angeles coming south on the 405, counting the lines of smoke here and there along the way, as South Central's blacks rebelled against white law and order by sacking Korean groceries, chasing down Mexican immigrants,** and beating trapped white motorists and delivery drivers, gleefully assaulting, sometimes killing, young, old and frail alike. Columns of National Guard trucks passed in the other direction. I felt like a refugee fleeing a war zone. I was working an assignment in El Segundo, just south of LAX, just safely outside the rioter's playground. By that point it had progressed from isolated racial assaults to a festival of widespread looting.
That day too there was a dry wind blowing the lung irritating residue of the fires out to sea; the landscape was tethered to the sky by scattered chords of smoke. Strangers went about the mundane with a tender, dazed deference for one another, as the catastrophe played itself out as a farcical romantic pairing of resentment and condescension in the media.


The year of the Laguna fire had been the most trying I'd ever known, and the fires came as its crescendo; if something wouldn't give within the world would give without. I confess to a grim moment's welcoming thought for the cruel beauty of it: go ahead and burn. I've spent most of my life out here the West's far edge; nearly every breath I've taken has been drawn from its dry, empty air. So intimate am I with it that I've come to confuse the tumult in the atmosphere outside my body with that within. I think I understand now why people go home to die. Somehow this makes it all the more cruel that this indifferent land will take no notice of my passing, its subterranean conveyor separating out the paltry base parts of my frail body, reduced until indistinguishable from the mass. All this history and pain, strife and love, this life, vapor.

*As in to honor, not as in burnt; warning: any of you red state resentmentarians out there bearing that moldy Christmas fruitcake of an observation about immoral California burning like Sodom will be immediately banished. Toast, in other words. And count yourself lucky you didn't catch one in the eye. Aye.

**Now that former minority/current majority in many of the same neighborhoods that were flash-points of the "rebellion" are returning the favor, ethnically cleansing their streets of the despised "mayates", whom they consider a congenitally lazy and criminal class. Of course the vitriolic, paranoid bigotry that still infuses the culture of black Los Angeles has long been intensified by the very real economic displacement of native-born blacks by Asians and Hispanics.
I myself have heard some amusing conspiracy theory explanations explaining Asian success in the years before the riots--from co-workers in an industry that used to provide thousands of quality blue-collar jobs for Southern Californian blacks and has now all but abandoned the region, aerospace manufacturing.
I can't imagine it's gotten any better--unless the process of displacement has proceeded to the point that the streets have solidified into separate racial cantons, a la Baghdad. Kumbaya.

***This view of the '93 fire is from Newport's Balboa Pier, looking east as the fire approached. Photo lifted from here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"Why are you destroying everything?"
"What this? A little creative destruction, that's all. It's not really destruction, but creation. Destructive creation, if you will"
"Oh. Has all the appearance of a man burning a whole lot of work. The warmth from the fire seems a paltry pay-out."
"Work? Work produces something; work has an effect. Energetic vanity does not count."
"Must count as something. Seems you'd want to treat the blog better than that, at least. It's given you something, surely?"
Dennis stops what he's doing, smiles.
"You want to know about blogs? Let me tell you something about blogs. You've got to mistreat them. You have to be the worst sort of husband to your blog: selfish, cruel, violent, and perverted. You gotta force your blog to 'try new things', just to amuse you, no matter how degrading. You gotta come home and take out your frustrations on your blog. Submit it to your every dark mood. Throw a tantrum for no reason at all every once in a while. And yes, every now and then you have to give it good cuffing, or the damn thing will take over. Keep your foot on it or it will keep its foot on you. Because make no mistake, loving or loveless, every relationship is a struggle for primacy."
"Imagine you being single."
"Now: get the hell out of here, these links are pretty dry tinder, some of them go up in a flash..."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weapons of Crass Distraction

Lesser among the unfortunate results of the rise of the Fox News/talk-radio complex of Republican media emplacements (as I write Fox succeeds at terrifying me with its weekend war propaganda, Iran, The Ticking Bomb, though it's the spectacle of power's hand so carelessly, almost contemptuously, disguised, and not wily Persians, alarming me), is that it necessitates its corrective counter-spawn, Keith Olbermann. And make no mistake. We need Keith Olbermann. It is as dire as that.

Last Friday Olbermann's Countdown newscast led with a report on a fine essay by Andrew Bacevich in the upcoming American Conservative, and an accompanying provocative cover, critical of General Petraus. The contents of Bacevich's article, the facts of General Petraus' alliance with the Administration, and the diversionary purpose behind the phony outrage over criticism of Petraus (this canard would be denounced, and perpetuated) went unmentioned.

The news item, such as it was, took the form of Olbermann challenging the Republican Party to repudiate the American Conservative for this supposed offense to Petraus, consistent with criticism of MoveOn's "Betray-us" ad. Olbermann condemned Republican hypocrisy, presumably because the magazine is one of their own. Olbermann evinced (or affected) an unlikely ignorance of the vast gulf between current Republican Party leadership and the American Conservatives' valiant insurgency, deliberately encouraging the misunderstanding that the magazine and such Republican boosters as Rush Limbaugh are intellectual and political kin. Similar to the neocon's creative categorization of Shi'ite Hezbollah along with Sunni Al Qaeda.

What Olbermann, in his haste to engage his adversaries on their terms (terms, as far as I can tell, delineating a contest of public professions of sentiment and gaffe-exploitation/evasion), did not take the time to mention (or worse, to learn) was that the small but excellent magazine was launched in 2002 in opposition to the war, when Olbermann's own inspired (and invaluable) anti-Bush campaign had yet to launch in response to his being singled out by the Administration for criticism (nothing like a personal insult and professional threat to provoke outrage at a disastrous and criminal war).

The magazine has been attacked by the Republican establishment, long before Olbermann's self-serving sideshow set up camp, and when that establishment was riding high on poll figures, intoxicated on its first taste of blood, and swinging the axe of pre-war hysterics at any who dared raise their voice in dissent, most infamously and embarrassingly in David Frum's "unpatriotic conservatives" record of public dementia preserved in National Review.

Olbermann is either so ill-informed and professionally derelict that the mere presence of the word "Conservative" in the magazine's name leads him to assume it is a Republican Party organ with not so much as a look at the masthead, or he is so corrupted by his zeal to engage in the repulsive vanity warfare that is cable news (sadly, far more likely), that he chose a minor misrepresentation of omission (minor, that is, to the advancement of Keith Olbermann and his pleasure at hearing the lamentations of his enemies' women and children) of the proud publishing record of the American Conservative.
A name made estimable by the heroic and principled stand of the last five years (and individual professional sacrifices by people enduring everything from outright slander to Olbermann's callow, lazy disregard) becomes fodder in an ego-battle between Olbermann and O'Reilly, men wearing pancake make-up and powder. Something is wrong in our time.

But there is a point to the ongoing skirmish between Olbermann and his enemies. The nation is distracted by the battle of personalities (and what sad excuses for personalities are our would-be Olympians), a proxy war sideshow to prevent the emergence of a frank debate about the coming assault on Iran. We're brawling in the stands as the war faction just keeps moving the ball, even with a little help from Hillary (imagine if she was willing to risk the White House using her stature to question the hostilities with Iran--too much to expect in America at the moment, decency will have to wait), tossing her lot in with the Iran-must-be-stopped panic (meanwhile, Olbermann and--perfect! pretend not to notice).

Olbermann would spend much of the rest of the broadcast reporting of "racist" remarks made by Bill O'Reilly (Olbermann is keen on uncovering evidence of racism in public speech, and no doubt looks forward to concentrating more on this sort of thing after the war becomes a Democratic property).
Promising more damning and relevant evidence of O'Reilly's racism, he played clips of O'Reilly in an interview making the now familiar verbal contortions of a public figure trying to free himself of the implications of an original impropriety (and even here O'Reilly manages to be thoroughly unsympathetic, and actually entirely in his element, brandishing the greatness of Bill, superior tolerance mode); and my own dull redneck racism renders me embarrassingly incapable of discerning the appalling bigotry that I'm assured is there. The ultimate importance of Bill O'Reilly's private opinion of blacks is likewise lost on me. But it must be, if the nicely dressed people on the television are so concerned.

I flipped next door to find O'Reilly making the case for his purity and persecution, in PowerPoint. The accompaniment. Oh for a net of sufficient size to cull the lot of them.


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