Thursday, May 31, 2007


Bryant wants out of Lakers

Once upon a time, I was a Laker fan. The Showtime Lakes were a team for the ages -- Magic, Kareem, Big Game James, along with Pat Riley as coach -- four locks for the Hall of Fame. When that era passed, my interest flagged a bit. But then Jerry West pulled together an even more impressive roster -- Shaq, Kobe, Malone and Payton, with Phil Jackson running the show -- that's five guys headed to the Hall.

And then Kobe the young and talented became Kobe, the man-child for whom winning with one of the great teams of all times was not enough. Kobe had to be the star, not just a star. And so Malone and Kobe and Payton all left, as (briefly) did coach Phil. And so Kobe got his wish as the undisputed go-to guy for the Lakers.

And they sucked.

And continue to suck. They have not won a playoff series since Kobe drove away the other talent.

Old hat, of course. And my general lack of interest in the NBA has meant no Kobe rags from me in more than a year.

But now there's this:
Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who is increasingly upset over the direction the National Basketball Association team has taken, wants the club to trade him.

"I would like to be traded, yeah. Tough as it is to come to that conclusion there's no other alternative," the 28-year-old Bryant told ESPN radio.

Bryant said he is fed up with empty promises from Lakers' management and now it is time to move on.

"They want to move in a different direction and the team is rebuilding," Bryant said. "I wish they would have told me that before re-signing me."

One of the sad things about modern life is that the rich and famous seem, in general, to have Papal dispensations that suspend the law of Karma.

But not always.

Friday, May 25, 2007

We are all Cassandras now

From spokes-Cassandra Hunter @ dKos:
For the love of God, do not shovel publicity crap about how anything is going to be different in September. You know, I know, the mailman knows, and the wastepaper basket down the hall knows that come September, a half-Friedman Unit away, precisely nothing will have changed. The "surge" will still be "surging", the Republicans will still be blustering about how any minute now they're going to start getting serious about oversight, but not quite yet, the administration will still be saying that with just six more months, real progress will be at hand, and a great number of Democrats will be cowering in abject terror of taking any position more forceful than a stern talking-to.

And in the intervening three months between then and now, somewhere around 300 more Americans will have been killed. While Congress and the president yet again declare a mulligan on the entire issue and decide to wait a few months, that's how the time is being bought, and that's how it's going to be paid for.

That's not OK, and it's not going to be OK.

It's OK to make halting progress forward. It's even OK to try, and sometimes fail. But it's not OK to announce political success in the face of legislative acquiescence. That makes you look like charlatans -- it makes you (quite properly) look like people who think so little of Americans, of your own constituents, that you honest-to-God expect them to believe any scripted horsecrap you might dish up.

No. No dice. That may have worked in previous decades, for other issues, but it doesn't work today, not for one of the most singularly most important and most watched issues facing the nation. You don't get to present a tactical meltdown, an utter collapse of courage, as a hard-won victory.

I say yet again: it's not OK. It's OK to admit defeat, it's OK to try and fail, it's OK to make a little progress; it's not OK to make next-to-none, then bluster about it.

There are no more second chances, and there haven't been for months. What needs to be done has been clear for years: we need an exit strategy, that one small niggling detail of the Iraq War that all the President's horses and all the President's men could not manage to come up with, before or during, the one small detail that the Iraq Study Group tried to ever so politely suggest, only to be dismissed with a petulant, wilting smirk, the one thing that Bush himself, as Commander in Chief, has proven incompetent to even elucidate, much less work towards.

There isn't a mulligan on this one. There is no September calendar date before which the ongoing American deaths will be satisfactory, and after which they won't be anymore. There is no magical milestone before which a desert quagmire with no vision of an achievable end is an acceptable proposition, and after which it is not. There is no milestone precisely because George W. Bush insists that there will never be a milestone. Ever. Only a constant stream of do-overs with someone else's kids, in service to a premise that, on its face, was never true to begin with.

While Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy (she warned the Trojans about the Trojan Horse, the death of Agamemnon, and her own demise), she was unable to do anything to forestall these tragedies. Her family believed she was mad, and according to some versions, kept her locked up. In versions where she was incarcerated, this was typically portrayed as driving her truly insane, although in versions where she was not, she is usually viewed as remaining simply misunderstood.
In case you were wondering.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Typecasting failure

The Democratic capitulation on Iraq is of course an epic, devastating failure. It is a repudiation of principle, and of the will of the people. As The Editors points out,

... the bigger issue here is reasserting Congressional power. Congress has (rightly) picked a lot of fights with this President, on a number of issues, all unresolved, all important. Capitulating here just signals that, on all these issues, when push comes to shove, you will back down. We will be in Iraq indefinitely, because the Congress won’t push it. Alberto Gonzales doesn’t have to resign, because the Congress is afraid of a fight. They won’t make it tough on you. Just push them back, and they’ll give you whatever you want.

The other classic frame reinforced by this rout is, of course, that Democrats are weak. How can we deny it at this point? We can say that "no balls" is still better than "no brains," but Joe Sixpack will never agree with us on that score.

Dems can point to a number of horsetrading wins: an increase, finally, in the federal minimum wage. Veterans' health care. But no one will notice. These things are points on the wrong scoreboard. Hoi polloi don't learn the words to the music of politics. Most even have trouble humming the melody, and simply tap their feet to the beat. And the White House, despite all their incompetence and scandal and unpopularity, still calls the tune.

The difference between Bush and his opponents is striking. Bush is wrong, has lost everyhting in Iraq, yet refuses to acknowledge it. Congress was right, could have won (in the sense that it could deny funding), yet refuses to acknowledge it. It almost confirms the "we create our own reality" claims the Bushies made (as quoted in the famous Suskind article). When the reality-based community rushes to surrender, malignant fantasy ascends.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

News from a parallel universe

(AP) Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Liberty University's graduating class Saturday to honor the spirit of school founder Jerry Falwell by confronting "the growing culture of radical secularism" with Christian ideals.


"A growing culture of radical secularism declares that the nation cannot profess the truths on which it was founded," Gingrich said. "We are told that our public schools can no longer invoke the creator, nor proclaim the natural law nor profess the God-given quality of human rights.

"In hostility to American history, the radical secularists insist that religious belief is inherently divisive and that public debate can only proceed on secular terms," he said.

Number of people killed on 9/11: 2992

Number killed by religious fundamentalists: 2992

Number killed by radical secularists: 0

Number of people killed in Iraq since U.S. invasion: 70,000 - 700,000

Number killed by (directly or indirectly) by religious fundamentalists: 70,000-700,000

Number killed by radical secularists: probably zero

Oh, and apparently Thomas Jefferson is hostile to American history, too.

Attaboy, Newt.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Unexpected places

What American 'conservatism' has become fits closely within the definition of fascism: an intensely nationalist movement intent on defining membership in the 'nation' on linguistic, religious, and (increasingly) ethnic/racial criteria, accompanied by an unquestioning loyalty to (male) authority, enshrined in family leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, and especially, the leader of the nation, who is seen as embodying the Nation. Loyalty to the Party or Movement and its ideology is of great importance. Violence is the preferred means of accomplishing goals. Diplomacy, compromise, negotiation, are all identified with (feminine) weakness. The rule of law is also despised, because it lacks the immediacy of (violent) action, and its emphasis on balance and its concern with proper procedure is also seen as a sign of (feminine) weakness.

This is the outcome of the bargain the GOP made with the Devil back when it decided to go for the Wallace voters after the ’68 and ’72 elections. Kevin Phillips has repented a hundred times over for counseling the Southern Strategy, but too late. The GOP has discovered that when you sell your soul to the Devil, the only question is when does the Devil come to collect? Well, he's come.

The source? One of Sully's readers, quoted with apparent approval.

As the perpetually on-fire Greenwald points out, these strange times have made relative heroes out of less than heroic men. How warped our world has become when John Ashcroft and his loyal lieutenants look like the principled defenders of the Constitution and the rule of law.

Impeachable offenses now likely number in the hundreds, perhaps the thousands. Only Democratic cowardice stands between Bush, Cheney and Gonzales on the one hand and justice on the other.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hitting for average

Sometimes I get it right, in classic right-but-too-soon fashion.

Me, September 2005:

If one-shot learning is indeed taking place, Bush’s poll numbers are not coming back. Once reality blocks the efficacy of Karl Rove’s pixie dust, you can no longer not see what an empty suit Bush is. Indeed, once the spell is broken, the artifice used to maintain the illusion is likely to offend where once it enthralled. And perhaps, if we are really lucky, people will grow a little more resistant to the cynical legerdemain of an optical illusion masquerading as President.

The poll numbers keep slipping, and now, finally, Republicans are beginning to see that the collateral damage will extend far beyond the 2006 midterms.

May I present Ed Rollins, yesterday:

"The country doesn't believe George W. Bush, it doesn't trust him, and with 19 months to go it's only going to get worse,'' predicts Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist who ran Ronald Reagan's 1984 presidential campaign. "There is nothing the president can do to get his (poll) numbers back up."

On the other hand, my prediction that Fredo would be gone is one for the "Dewey beats Truman" pile.

The Gonzo show is stunning in its chutzpah, and its apparent effectiveness. In essence, the Administration "La la la la la I can't hear you" defense has largely flummoxed the Congress and most of the press has, predictably, gotten tired of the story. The tactic of letting Gonzo twist in the wind is an informal proof that Rove is in it deep. The White House will do whatever it take to protect Rove, and if the Attorney General has to be slowly dissolved like a human sacrificial anode, so be it. He may in fact never leave -- every time he testifies on The Hill, his statements become inoperative before he can get back to his office, yet back to his office he keeps going, and the world seems to have accepted the notion that this is an unavoidable outcome.

No more Gonzo soothsaying for me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Following us here

One of the more persistent justifications among the multitude of reasons we must stay 4 evah in Iraq is the ludicrous "flypaper theory," or some variant thereof: the idea that Iraq is now such an irresistible magnet for jihadists that fighting them there means we don't have to fight them here. This ridiculous claim offends for so many reasons: it treats Iraqis as subhuman props, it treats American troops as sacrificial lambs in an endless slaughter, and it is, if this matters, absurd on its face.

The reality, of course, is that our Iraq policy is a splendid tool for the purpose of creating and encouraging terrorists and terrorism in Iraq. The reality is that it would be difficult to conceive of a better method for fomenting terrorism, short of planning it ourselves.


He railed against the United States, helped scout out military installations for attack, offered to introduce his comrades to an arms dealer, and gave them a list of weapons he could procure, including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

These were not the actions of a terrorist, but of a paid FBI informant who helped bring down an alleged plot by six Muslim men to massacre U.S. soldiers at New Jersey's Fort Dix.

And those actions have raised questions of whether the government crossed the line and pushed the six down a path they would not have otherwise followed.

I don't know enough to say whether the guys charged were as evil (and stupid) as the charges suggest. I am not defending terrorists or terrorism. But I do wonder if our de facto national effort to create terrorists abroad is now being imported. Cui Que bono? Let's watch who milks this story.

Update: TA corrects my Latin.

Friday, May 04, 2007

And can I bring my gun to Gitmo?

The National Rifle Association is urging the Bush administration to withdraw its support of a bill that would prohibit suspected terrorists from buying firearms.

Backed by the Justice Department, the measure would give the attorney general the discretion to block gun sales, licenses or permits to terror suspects.

In a letter this week to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, NRA executive director Chris Cox said the bill, offered last week by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., "would allow arbitrary denial of Second Amendment rights based on mere 'suspicions' of a terrorist threat."

"As many of our friends in law enforcement have rightly pointed out, the word 'suspect' has no legal meaning, particularly when it comes to denying constitutional liberties," Cox wrote.

Actually, "suspect" has considerable meaning in this this man's Bush Administration. It means the government can keep you off airplanes, of course. It means they can listen in on all of your phone calls and look at your browsing habits, all without warrants. More significantly, it means they can lock you up beyond the reach of the courts, deny you the right to counsel or trial, waterboard you, and do any other damn thing they want.

But, says Chris Cox (who gave me the willies when I met him a long time ago), they can't take away your Uzi.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Guilty pleasure

I know it can be interpreted is a sign of immaturity. I know it offends some, fails to impress others, and bores many of the rest.

But when it is done right, as Matthew Yglesias does here, there is just nothing like a good slice of snark.

If you aren't in the mood for funny, Juan Cole nails it here.

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