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March 22, 2006

Politics/Media: Sweet Comedy

Posted by Oliver

This is honestly, without a doubt, the funniest political column I've ever read. Unintended as such, of course, which of course makes it funnier. Maybe the Post should hire him.

If the mainstream media ran the country

By Ben Shapiro

Mar 22, 2006

March 21, 2006, WASHINGTON -- Today, after six years of unending attacks on the honor and credibility of his administration, President Bush called for a constitutional amendment to hand over the reins of American governance to members of the mainstream press. "It has been my privilege to work for the American people," Bush stated, "but I now realize that I can never satisfy the requirements of this office. In my opinion, only one person can meet the challenges we face today: respected journalist Helen Thomas. Furthermore, Congress cannot serve the American populace unless it is represented by opinion writers and reporters from the mainstream media." Congressional Republicans and Democrats stand poised to vote on President Bush's proposal; state legislatures stand at the ready to confirm such an amendment. If passed immediately, Ms. Thomas would take over the presidency on April 1, 2006.

*****
April 1, 2006, WASHINGTON -- Helen Thomas took her oath of office today, officially becoming the 44th president of the United States. In her inaugural address, President Thomas announced the guiding policy for her administration: "We will seek to ensure the security of our citizens without bloodshed and without compromising the values that make America great. We will pull our troops out of Iraq. We will pull our troops out of Afghanistan. We will immediately shut down Guantanamo Bay and release the prisoners of war being held without charge there; we will compensate them for their unjustified detention. We will end warrantless wiretapping, and we will end the torture of terrorists for information. We will shut down the racist vigilante group now patrolling our border with Mexico. I pledge not to threaten or cajole any country into adopting values in concert with those of the United States -- we must earn respect by deference to the values of others. Let us end the War on Terror; let us begin the War for Peace." Thomas' cabinet is an impressive slate of columnists and commentators: Vice President Ted Turner, Secretary of State Thomas Friedman, Secretary of Defense Michael Moore and National Security Advisor Maureen Dowd, among others. The new Senate leader is Arianna Huffington; the new House leader is Oscar-winner George Clooney.

*****
April 2, 2006, WASHINGTON -- Several members of President Thomas' cabinet released statements today thanking the American public for their support and pledging to uphold their oaths of office. "I hope to put a stop to all war. Forever. Yes, forever. I'm rich, so I can do that," read a statement released by VP Turner. Secretary of State Friedman said, "I look forward to traveling to different countries on the taxpayer dime. I can't wait to sip a Coke with President Ahmadinejad of Iran. After all, if we can all drink Coke together, can't we create world peace?" Secretary of Defense Moore was optimistic about the new administration: "We're going to let the freedom fighters have their freedom. We're going to bring the baby-killers home. We're going to force business owners to hire more workers at bayonet point. And we're going to put George W. Bush on trial for war crimes." NSA Maureen Dowd issued the following statement: "Bush and Rummy are gone; the big, burly rough-guys with their impetuously masculine attitude are outta here. Sex and the City party at the White House tonight!" Meanwhile, legislation nationalizing talk radio and diverting the War on Terror budget to NPR is making its way through Congress. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Clooney, who explained, "The War for Peace has casualties. I want to make sure Rush Limbaugh is the first to sacrifice for his country."

*****
May 1, 2006, the city formerly known as WASHINGTON -- Today, President Thomas completed the handover of the Great Satan to the United Nations. After the six nuclear attacks of last month, and with the country in total chaos, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan offered to broker a peace treaty between the Great Satan and the glorious servants of Mohammed, peace be upon him. The terms of the treaty dictated that the Great Satan rename Washington, D.C., utilize all of its taxpayer funding for purposes consistent with Islamic sharia law, and create a plan for the invasion of Britain, Australia and the Little Satan, Israel. President Thomas heralded the agreement as "a small step for The Nation subscribers, a giant leap for most Americans." Thomas responded to the protests of millions of Americans, stating, "Look, we never lied to you. We are the most honest administration in the history of the former United States." (This story edited for accuracy and blasphemy by the Islamic Press Association.)

01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 16, 2006

Politics: Why Violate the Clean Water Act Here When You Can Do So In Iraq?

Posted by Tarek

Halliburton's really keeping its eye on the ball. Turns out, they washed dishes and clothing of soldiers in unfiltered river water, like it's 1856. Halliburton's own internal audit "said the company failed to assemble and use its own water purification equipment, allowing contaminated water directly from the Euphrates River to be used for washing and laundry at Camp Ar Ramadi in Ramadi, Iraq." This from the Associated Press today.

I know people who work in large government contracting firms. It turns out that most of them would justifiably be concerned about losing money or even losing the contract for the kinds of errors made by Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellog Brown and Root. Not these guys.

04:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Politics: David Brooks Sees Reality

Posted by Tarek

Instinctively, I think David Brooks' columns about domestic issues are the ones most mockable. He writes lyrically and with a wish-fulfillment bent that borders on the fantastical. The perfect Americans in Brooks' telling are the ones living happily in purple exurbs or red states, while the people in the urban wastelands are morally bankrupt and unsustainably corrupt. This is amusingly sent up by Atrios and other bloggers with appropriately damning notes that the morally-superior subjects of Brooks' perfect world columns are just as often sick family-murderers, incest-perpetrators, meth-peddlers, and worse.

It is a corrolary of this contrast between perfect Americans and morally-bankrupt coastal elites that today's rare David Brooks-penned foreign policy column alights on a bit of reality. Brooks notes that fairly early-on in the now-widely-acknowledged disastrous war in Iraq, the White House and the Pentagon had an opportunity to reverse course, and prosecute the war like the guerrilla war it had become and not like the conventional war it barely was. The front-line fighters, the commanders and supply-line troops all knew that was happening, but their uniformed and civilian leadership did nothing about it. In this version of Bobo's story, the suburban perfect-people are the grunts and the evil coastal elites are Rummy and co.

Nonetheless, Brooks notes that the week of 3/24/2003 was a turning point, when the now-departed Michael Kelly pointed out that the insurgency was far more threatening than the conventional forces could ever have been, and countless others chimed in. International voices also pointed out that the odds of Iraq merely rolling over and presenting its cuddly underbelly for a good rubdown by non-Arabic-speaking U.S. troops were slim to none.

Most interesting about Brooks' rundown is that none of it is news, and much of it wasn't even news in the third week of March, 2003. Discussing the politics feels like re-folding dirty laundry, but there was a large and vocal group of people inside the United States who pointed out that we would find ourselves in a bloody door to door and village-to-village insurgency for no discernible reason. The failure wasn't of imagination, it was of will, by the leaders who could have found the voice to connect with this simple truth: War is never easy, and shouldn't be undertaken lightly, and can end in a million different ways.

Remember Eric Shinseki testifying before Congress that we would need a quarter million more troops than we planned on using -- than we did use -- and otherwise we would be in dire straits? 3/24 may have been a turning point for Brooks' sheltered little cadre of Bush-apologists (is says a lot that I have a macro for the words 'Bush-apologists') but the rest of us were way ahead of this gang. Coverage of the buildup to the war by George Packer (even though he was hawkish on the invasion) and Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker and a cover story by Jim Fallows in the Atlantic all noted the strong possibility of a guerrilla war in an over-confident, short-sighted, politically motivated invasion like the one we were planning. We're supposed to see Brooks as a moderate, so he can once in a blue moon criticize conservatives. To burnish his moderate credentials, he's redefining history: March 24th, when it was too late to not invade, he can pinpoint the moment the administration made the mistake that sent this war off the rails. That means that the only conflict he's permitting to pollute his mind is 'fight a conventional war vs. fight a guerrilla insurgency' and Rummy chose poorly. 'Invade Iraq vs. obey international law and protect the actual interests of the American public' apparently didn't enter his thinking.

Welcome to reality, Brooks. I'm guessing you'll probably return to your pleasing little bubble, where white families careen down wide suburban boulevards in Yukon XL's listening to Christian Pop on the radio and ignoring the death of manufacturing, the pedophile priests, the end of diversity in their towns due to a cripplingingly high entry-cost for housing and all the other problems you will into oblivion. It's safer here, Bobo, without all that icky truth.

UPDATE: Greg Mitchell at E and P takes the same line, and has access to the Weekly Standard Columns Brooks was writing at the time helpfully goading us into the war. Link via Atrios.

08:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 14, 2006

Politics: Horrific Run-Down

Posted by Tarek

I've got a couple of mal-formed ideas that I'm putting out here for public consumption:

  • First, if you didn't think there were more than one evil downside to the paranoid conservative X-Files-like conspiracy theory plan for a 20,000-strong horde of illegal immigrants swarming across our southern border, I have four words for you: Kellog, Brown and Root.
  • Forced feeding is torture, plain and simple, and that's just something we're going to need to own up to. It's documented torture and it kills people. Hunger strikes are the final option for people who have no voice just or otherwise. Know who else likes ending hunger strikes with forced feedings? Human Rights Superstar China!
  • How's that First Amendment doing? Not so good.
  • Look, the people of California understand immigration, even if some of their leaders don't.

  • 11:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    March 10, 2006

    Politics: Best. Political. Ad. Ever.

    Posted by Oliver

    The funniest moments in politics come when a person hurtles past extremism and becomes a parody of his or her own ideology. This is one of those moments. Laugh till you cry.

    01:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Politics: Electability = Unelectability

    Posted by Oliver

    MyDD has shaped up to be the best blog about Democratic electoral strategy that I've seen, and I don't say that lightly (I think there are a lot of smart people discussing smart strategies in the blogosphere...many more than on Capitol Hill, obviously). They continue to rise above the crowd with posts like this one. An excerpt:

    The first answer is that for any Democrat to even engage with this question is extremely dangerous. To combat the electability question with an argument as to why your candidate is electable keeps the media focused on process stories about Democrats that tend to reinforce Republican narratives about Democrats. Specifically, it reinforces the notion that we are a natural minority party that needs gimmicks (such as a line on a resume or a candidate form a specific state) in order to win, and it reinforces the notion that Democrats have no ideas / non-mainstream ideas. Consider all of the following:

    * The notion that a progressive can't win, which is a main component of most electability arguments targeted at Democrats, reinforces the narrative that progressive ideas are wrong. This is perhaps the most damaging of all electability narratives.

    * The notion that a Democrat has to be from a specific region (which always means the south) reinforces the narrative that Democrats are not a national party.

    * The notion that a Democrat needs real leadership in order to win reinforces the narrative that Democrats are wishy-washy and sand for nothing.

    * The notion that a Democrat needs a national security resume in order to win reinforces the narrative that Democrats are weak on defense.

    * The notion that you can't be divorced and / or Jewish in order to win reinforces the false narrative that "values voters" are the path to victory, and that progressives are weak on values. And what people really mean by "values voters" are white, conservative Christians who go to church regularly. The entire "values voters" narrative is designed to complete destroy anyone who ever attempts to run a progressive campaign via electability process story death.

    * Most important, the notion that Democrats need to always be focused on electability crushes the notion that Democrats stand for anything, have any strength at all, and have any ideas at all. If we are all about process, then we have no ideas, no strength, no nothing. The focus on electability is deadly to the national image of the Democratic Party and reinforces basically every narrative about Democrats that Republicans have been trying to spin for decades now..

    Given all of this, I think the only real option for any campaign faced with the electability narrative is to simply cut the story off before it starts, and not give it any room to grow by trying to construct an argument to combat it. The way it seemed to me, the more the Dean campaign tried to argue against the notion that Dean wasn't electable, the more electability became an issue surrounding his campaign. The best strategy, I think, not only for Feingold but for any potential Democratic insurgent faced witht eh electability narrative, would be to simply say something like this:

    "I know that in some ways I do not fit the definition of the sort of candidate that the established news media is used to and that Washington is used to. I also know that as a person I have flaws. However, I am not going to hide my past or these flaws, because I am not ashamed of my personal life, and because I never believe it is a good idea to change who you are for other people. I am also not going to argue over whether or not standing up for what you believe in will hurt you at the ballot box. In the end, the only thing that makes a candidate electable or not is if people vote for that candidate. If you want to focus on process, that is your prerogative. I believe the American people would rather hear about ways to make government work for all of us."

    01:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    March 09, 2006

    Admin: Trabajo

    Posted by Tarek

    Hey everybody. We're working on re-designing Liquid List so Oliver and I can recruit some new folks to write for it in addition to our busy selves. OG is planning for one life-changing event, and I'm planning for another, not to mention going to work, getting more college degrees, et cetera. I just wanted to ping out that things are going to be pretty nice if I can get all the design stuff done before the next crazy thing drops into my lap.

    This amusing photo comes from a story from the Philadelphia Inquirer about special Spanish classes offered to managers and owners of landscaping firms so they can converse with their Latino employees.

    02:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    March 02, 2006

    Politics: Smile

    Posted by Oliver

    President Bush is on candid camera this morning, and he looks TERRIBLE.

    09:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Politics: Not Blurrier, Scarier

    Posted by Tarek

    Via Chris Sullentrop's somewhat-useful Opinionator not-really-a-blog, I read about Max Boot's column about how up close, judging success in Iraq gets fuzzy. In it he says it's hard to tell if things are getting better, but then he puts his thumb on the scale:

    A few days later, while visiting the Green Zone in Baghdad, I was briefed on the progress being made in standing up Iraqi forces. A year ago, only three Iraqi battalions controlled their own "battle- space." Today, the total is up to 40 battalions and counting. Those units have achieved impressive results in some rough neighborhoods. As I discovered firsthand, it is now safe to travel down Route Irish between the Green Zone and Baghdad airport — once the most dangerous road in the world.

    The underpinning for his column is that Boot went to Iraq (for what sounded like a day or so) and visited with folks before and after the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

    Perhaps he should talk with Farnaz Fassihi of the Wall Street Journal. As this astounding account demonstrates, there is very little question about whether things are getting better or worse in Iraq.

    And Fassihi has some thoughtful but emotional -- for her -- things to say to people who criticize coverage of the war as failing to tell the good news:

    I can just say that if there were five car bombs going off in New York and 50 people kidnapped a day, I'm sure that metro reporters would be writing those stories and not talking about the school that was painted. When you're sitting in Iraq and putting your neck on the line to try to bring as balanced a story as possible, it's very frustrating to hear criticism like that, because you know, as a professional reporter, that the only reason you're there is because you want to convey the truth. And I can say that everyone is trying to go out their extra mile to find out exactly what's happening there, good or bad, to try to find progress, obstacles, frustration. And I think, considering, we've done a pretty good job. I'm proud of what my colleagues have achieved.

    Take that, Rummy.

    09:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    February 28, 2006

    Politics: Mixed Messages

    Posted by Oliver

    Fred Barnes writes an article critical of Bush. Hell is freezing over as we speak. But he can't resist a potshot at the people, just to show us what conservatives actually think about the citizenry (emphasis mine):

    Like few presidents before him, President Bush was poised for a consequential and potentially quite successful second term. It hasn't worked out that way (so far). Bush made one strategic error in 2005, guessing wrongly that the country was adult and serious enough to reform Social Security. Now he faces at least two immediate challenges: immigration and the Dubai ports flap.

    What an ass.

    12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    February 27, 2006

    Politics: Dana Milbank, Hands in the Cookie Jar

    Posted by Tarek

    I don't dislike Dana Milbank. When I was working press on national issues for some organization or another, I think he got a pretty good reputation with me, probably by picking up a quote I wrote for someone. Anyhow, I think he has an intentionally tone-deaf attitude toward a lot of the partisanship in Washington, which got him in trouble with the ombudsman last week. I also think he kind of believes that everything is one big joke, which annoys the hell out of me.

    Unless I find it funny. Part of the new Post-owns-Slate.com thing is that folks cross over from one site to the other. Dahlia Lithwick wrote a legal column today. And Milbank posted a week in Washington piece in Slate.com today. I mention it because of this wonderful paragraph:

    Cheney in our sights: The secretive vice president will be in Norfolk, Va., to lend firepower to GOP Rep. Thelma Drake, who is facing a serious challenge from Democrat Phil Kellam. If you miss Cheney in Norfolk, you'll have another shot at him Tuesday, at the 46th annual American Legion conference in Washington.

    04:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Politics: A Big But on UN Human Rights

    Posted by Tarek

    This editorial in the New York Times is right.

    But it glides over the main item that I would raise in this discussion: Through our actions in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and in our network of secret prisons and through our extraordinary renditions to countries that employ torture, we've given up the high ground on human rights. And skeptics like me who believe that Bolton's primary interest is in making the UN look as bad as possible can't help but notice that he's got nothing but winning moves ahead. He can cite the bad outcome as an example of how the UN is broken. He can abide by this outcome and then recycle all his old speeches about how the UN human rights process is deeply flawed and demonstrates how the UN is broken. The one option he won't be bothering with (in my view) is actually helping to fix the UN. For Bolton and this administration, the chockablock, trip-and-stumble UN, with all its foibles and idiosyncrasies, is the perfect whipping boy.

    UPDATE: Boltonwatch at TPM Cafe has the goods. The US decided to vote against the changes to the Human Rights process at the UN. And if you don't believe that Bolton is more interested in dismantling the UN than seeing it restored and actively serving the world, check this out.

    01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    February 24, 2006

    Politics: Live By the Fear-Mongering...

    Posted by Tarek

    I grew up reading Bill Greider's political pieces in Rolling Stone magazine. (The other day, a former magazine editor who now runs a think tank asked a colleague if they still print Rolling Stone.) Greider, writing in the Nation fun-lovingly embraces the controversy over the Dubai Ports World deal and notes that the best part is how the White House has spent five years stabbing their enemies with the rather sharp sword of "9/11-9/11-9/11" which often took the form of "If you don't like ______ (dumping civil liberties, invading Iraq, torturing Arabs, etc), then you're a traitor." But they're on the wrong side of that fateful equation on this one. It's a brief piece, and worth a read.

    01:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)