WE'VE MOVED! Click here: http://www.hartwilliams.com/blog/blogger.html
Thursday, November 10, 2005
STUCK IN THE SPIN CYCLE
or, NONE DARE CALL IT HYPOCRISY
It is a classical error of statecraft to never let your right hand know what your far right hand is doing. Case in point:
How detainees were 'disappeared' into...The reaction to these allegations has been crazed, bizarre, weird and seemingly deranged.
You see, it turns out that the entire Republican membership of the Senate was briefed by them by Dick "Undisclosed Location" Cheney last week.
But, weirdly, and at the same time, the bizarre admission of the presence of this "secret gulag" has retched forth in a rising tide of unintentional admissions.
First, the White House spokesperson stated
According to the Wodonga Daily Mail (Australia):
Without conceding the prisons exist, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, insisted the Government would do what was necessary to fight the war on terrorism.The White House obviously already knew that the jig was up by issuing the weird non-denial and repudiation of torture, as we've elaborated at tortuous length herein previously.
Then, while attempting to attack the Democrats on the Plame Leak case, the Speaker Dennis "Kung Pao" Hastert, and Senate Majority leader Bill "Terry Schiavo can SEE" Frist demanded an investigation into the leaking of the secret prisons, stating with great and clueless gravitas: "This could COMPROMISE national security."
Except, Roscoe keeps whispering to me: If they don't exist, then how could someone be in trouble for leaking the existence of something non-existent? No one has ever been indicted for endangering a non-existent thing.
It doesn't make sense to me, either, Roscoe.
I guess they are, in a bizarre, backhanded and brains akimbo manner ADMITTING and CONFIRMING the existence of the prisons.
Meanwhile, back on the Ranch, Incurious George found himself, whilst Reaganating in Panama, asked the embarrassing question about torture, and he gave a long, simulated high moral dudgeon about how we DON'T torture.
Which is, increasingly, seen as a confirmation that torture IS taking place, since, if there are no prisons, and there is no torture, then there is no problem, right?
You find the invisible man by seeing where he ISN'T. You find the 1000 pound gorilla in the room by noticing what isn't being talked about.
Which is: Excuse me, Mr. President, but when in the FUCK did I or any of my fellow citizens EVER authorize secret torture prisons? We don't do that, since the internment of ethnic Japanese-Americans during World War II. We don't DO that, right? Right, Mr. Macho? Right Mr. Cowboy? Right, pal?
Lemme get this straight: First, we get to throw the first punch. Then, we get to rig elections in foreign lands, as well our own. THEN we set up prison camps outside the US so that Federal judges wouldn't have jurisdiction.
This has just descended into an ever-deepening quagmire of corruption, deceit and, finally, unadulterated evil.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., to attempt to undermine a 90-9 vote in the Senate stating unequivocally that torture is never acceptable, Dick "Secret Squirrel" Cheney has been putting the strongarm on House Members not to put the same amendment in their version of the budget authorization. He wants an exception for the CIA. To torture, I mean.
Doesn't it strike one as astonishingly odd that a president finds it imperative to categorically deny all forms of torture, but, when the Senate adds statutory language to that precise effect, the vice president attempts to block that selfsame language, in part.
And doesn't one wonder whether he wouldn't be happy to block it in whole? (A 90-9 vote is rather authoritative, after all).
But we were talking about the invisible, secret prisons that no one agrees exists.
There is something in the proposition that every statement of affirmation also contains a denial. Like, "It is light outside" automatically affirms that there is a condition in which it is NOT light outside, e.g. darkness.
So, when former majority leader, the potentially still-fuming Trent Lott, the senator from Alabama spoke up as the current majority leader was working himself into a high dudgeon and vast hissiness (remember, he accused Harry Reid of a 'slap in the face' last week), Bill Frist was then undercut at the knees by Lott, who noted that everything in the Washington POST article had come almost word for word from a lunch that the Republican senators had with Dick "Who Was That Masked Man?" Cheney last week.
So, it might have been a Republican senator or staffer who had leaked the story to the POST.
Which is a stunning double-affirmation. First, it affirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that we DO have a secret prison system, and that Dick Cheney knows perfectly well about it.
The suggestion that torture goes on there, and that's why Cheney wants an exception is only an inference, a potential corollary. We don't have enough evidence to state that it is an undisputed fact.
No. The other affirmation is that the entire Republican senate delegation and their staffers are IN on the secret prisons, accomplices if you feel it is a crime. Enablers. What used to be called "aiding and abetting."
And so, we don't doubt that one Republican senator whose conscience had not lapsed entirely comatose from sheer disuse, realized that he or she could not and WOULD not be a party to such a crime, and called the Washington POST.
I sure as hell know that I would have.
I would like to think that a minority of the Republicans in Washington D.C. had not given themselves over entirely to the dark side. The way it's going, they might as well change "Republican" to "Id" -- to make it easier to spell and more elegantly precise.
Last night, I asked my 98-year-old father-in-law, I know that there are good times and bad times, and I know that you've been through the first Spanish Influenza epidemic, and both world wars, the depression, McCarthyism, and the rest ... has it EVER been this bad politically before?
He looked at me, clear-eyed, and, without hesitation or waver, without any hint of doubt said:
So, let's recap. We do have a secret gulag of CIA prisons. The Vice President told the entire Republican senatorial contingent about it last week. The president claims that we do not torture people, and the vice president wants to make sure that there is a waiver for the CIA in any statutory language that a shocked, embarrassed and properly morally outraged Senate might want to include in any legislation.
Does the right hand know what the far right hand is doing? You'd have to ask Bush and Cheney; have to ask Frist and Lott; have to ask someone sane, probably outside the Beltway, because if the past week has been any indication, it would be an insuperably difficult undertaking to locate such a quality in any person therein.
Meanwhile, the national media is grudgingly, sort of admitting that the Democrats won a signal victory on Tuesday, and that the white chick in Aruba continues to produce no news. No mention, seemingly is made of the fundamental affirmation of fact that has been made.
We've got secret prisons, and we're probably torturing people in there. (The part about arrests without trial, no access to lawyers or family, indefinite detention, deaths in secret custody, secret military tribunals and the rest of it we already know, though they seem to have lost their capacity to chill the blood to the marrow).
What should frighten you is that this no longer terrifies you. It has moved easily from the unthinkable to the commonplace.
All of which leads to the inexorable conclusion that Bush is quite possibly the first Divine Right ruler since the pharoahs to have not merely a far-right hand man (Rove), but an ultra-far-right hand man (Cheney). One assumes that Genghis Khan was unavailable.
Which is, when you think about it, an important redundancy if your chief employment is as a hand puppet.
Or, to quote the immortal Senor Wences:
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
ONE DAY, PLEASE
or, WHAT PART OF "WE WON" WERE YOU MISSING?
This is true: I was trying to find out the election results, but it was far from the top of the hour news on radio, and, for whatever reason, the cable news channels were showing their continuing soap opera stories, ALSO not mentioning the election.
The local progressive affiliate, KOPT, has time-shifted their entire day, it sometimes seems like, and the two night programs, Randi Rhodes and Stephanie Miller, had the bizarre effect of sucking backwards in time, with Rhodes talking about the election during midday, and Miller talking about getting up and going to the polls in the morning. Here, though, the polls had been closed even on the West Coast.
And I found Tucker Carlson on MSNBC, and his "on screen" guest was evil old Ben Stein (a Nixon speechwriter) and Tucker asked: "What do tonight's results mean?"
Old Stein screwed up his twisted visage, whipped up his best jaded political roue face and said, "Nothing." He launched into an analysis, but I muted him, to watch the look of extreme discomfort that belied his obvious spiel.
We won, I thought. Any positive results would have provoked a lupine reaction, a curled lip, a fang showing, an evil glint of forbidden lust in the eye.
And, while I still had an hour before I got the actual results, I already knew what had happened.
Today has only confirmed. The conservative talk show hosts were minimizing it, and the liberal talk show hosts were, as well.
Oh shut up.
The worst of 'em all was Arnold Schwarzenegger, a jerk who got cleaned, big time.
And perhaps that was the moment that it turned.
You see, last week, I was talking about the initiative process on the radio. How it was founded one hundred and one years ago in Oregon (along with the Primary election) as a way of breaking the special interest logjam that frustrated the majority of Oregonians.
The primary was adopted so that the party leaders could no longer choose their candidates in smoke-filled back rooms. The initiative was created so that a few well-compensated legislators couldn't block legal reforms that the vast majority wanted, but that the robber baron class opposed.
Shortly thereafter, California adopted the Oregon model (as did states as far away as Maine and Ohio). And they were able to break the stranglehold of the old Robber Barons, the Stanfords, the Crockers, the Huntingtons, and the rest.
When I ran in last year's centennial primary, I learned that the system had been turned on its head, and that candidates are once again chosen by the back room boys and girls, and the powers-that-be. That's for another day.
But the result in California was not only the proof that the system had been turned on its head -- them representing the Robber Baron class (e.g. Ahhhhnold and his Pete Wilson advisors) were going to use the initiative process to end run the legislature, smash down the unions, like firefighters, nurses and teachers.
A Marie Antoinette attitude, with a Marie Antoinette outcome.
All four of the Bumblinator's initiatives went down to screaming defeat (60-40 or worse), as did the four other, unrelated initiatives. The high water mark of the initiative process as a way of stymieing and stultifying the ancient and venerable institution of the legislature --which goes back, you might recall, to the Magna Carta in our tradition.
The initiative process, which was meant as a way of providing a check on a corrupt legislature, had become a corrupt way of bypassing the legislature. And it got slammed down, not merely as a repudiation of the Coup d'Etat of Arnold (which still leaves a bitter rage in my mouth), but as a repudiation of the initiative process, per se.
There's been a lot of talk here in Oregon about "raising the bar" because it's so easy to amend the state constitution through the initiative process, and we've had so many almost fatal initiatives in past years. One, a few years ago, damn near set up a range war between back country Oregonians and urban Beaver state residents.
And, in the East, two governorships in two of the original thirteen colonies went decisively Democratic, when they were expected to be close. Worse, Bush showed up in Virginia with both Republican senators in one of those last day super-dooper photo-op pep rallies, and his boy promptly got trounced by ten points.
In a presidential election, ten points is a landslide. In 1980, Reagan got 50% of the vote, and Carter got 40% of the vote, and John Anderson got 10% of the vote. But that ten points translated into one massive sea of red states.
The best news, however, comes from Pennsylvania, where eight "anti-evolution" school board members were tossed out on their ear, replaced by eight "pro-evolution" candidates. Weirder, the eight tossees were all Republicans, and the eight tossers were all Democrats.
In a lot of ways, yesterday was the best day for the Democratic Party since the first Tuesday in November of 1992.
And I don't know about you, but I want ONE DAY to enjoy the moment. I don't need to hear the whiners, the spinners, the poltroons and the periphrastic ravings of the elephantine obfuscators. I just want this one day to kvell. I feel the warmth in my pupik, and I am just happy. Like winning a Super Bowl. Like the Sox winning the World Series.
So, eat, drink and be merry. Tomorrow we kvetch.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I'M AS MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE
or, HART UNLEASHED
That's it. I'm shutting down the blog. I'm packing it in, giving up the ghost, throwing in the towel, starting to sound like Jim Murray.
Because I've won the Australian lottery.
I really don't know how I won it, since I never even entered it, don't buy lottery tickets and generally despise gambling as the Stoopid Tax. Alas, I took math when I was a kid, and I know a little something about probabilities.
So, while it is utterly improbable that I've won the Australian lottery, it is not impossible, and, mirabile dictu, I am in that joyous state once described by our former County Commissioner, ex-hoedad Jerry Rust: "Inside of every Democrat is a Republican waiting to hit the lottery."
Well, kiddies, I hit it.
I opened my email this morning, and this is what I read:
WINNING NOTIFICATIONThe remainder must remain, for obvious reasons, confidential.
And suddenly I understand the mindset of a whole (upper) class of people that I'd never been able to figure anymore.
It's MY money! It's MINE! It's not the government's! I created it as an entrepreneur (although I don't recall when it was that I entered), and I don't want to pay ANY taxes.
Those poor people in New Orleans? Well, it's their problem that they didn't have jobs. Old people and people on fixed incomes who can't afford heating oil this winter? It's their problem for not having saved when they were young.
(I didn't save, either, but it doesn't matter. I hit the lottery. Wow. Can you believe it? I have no more money worries.)
I was going to comment on the Republican response to the CIA gulag story. I was going to explain that last week, it was reported in the WASHINGTON POST that we are operating ten or twelve secret prisons, many in former Eastern Bloc countries. I was going to remember that I'd pointed out a couple of days ago that the administration made this WEIRD response: we're not going to confirm of deny the reports but if such prisons existed -- and we're not saying that they do -- but, for argument's sake, if there were such places, prisoners held are being treated humanely.
If there were such places, we mean. Did we tell you about the latest on the bird flu?
Yesterday, if memory serves, Dubya spent a great deal of his rhetorical linguistifying energy in explaining that we do NOT torture prisoners, there is no torture, there are no prisoners, there are no prisoners which are tortured because torture does not exist or else prisoners do not exist, and even both may not exist, so, therefore there can't be any torture, since you would need a prisoner to torture in the first place.
Well, that was more Rumsfeldian, but you get the idea.
And I was going to tell you about this morning, when the GOP congressional leaders went after the leaker, loudly screaming that it was a matter of national security (I think they were talking about the fundamental secretness of the secret prisons that we aren't supposed to know about harms national security, but it was confusing to follow). But then Trent Lott said that it had come from a GOP senator and the snarling continued, albeit in a confused and merely reflexive manner.
I was going to tell you that these people are acting like rats trapped in a flooding compartment, but I won the lottery and have other concerns.
I was going to note that congressional democrats have sent a formal request to the White House asking Bush to PLEDGE not to pardon Scooter Libby. I was going to tell you that it made me happy, but my priorities have changed, now.
I was going to note how the collective rage of Americans was beginning to focus on this brain-dead administration, these crooked congressmen, cronies and would-be Croesuses.
But my social station has changed, and I'm up for a membership in the club.
I was going to note that our email was EXACTLY split between women's shaving habits, and the hatred of beets. All letters were passionate. All responses were deeply felt, and so I must have struck a nerve.
And I was going to tell you the little magic trick in the column last week about the Supreme Court nominee: in over four thousand words, I never mentioned his name, once. Nor did I need to.
I was going to do that, but I have to arrange to collect my winnings now. And that means shutting down, saying "sayonara," tripping the light periphrastic, and otherwise babbling like old Jim Murray used to do in his sports column in the LA TIMES. Time to hejira from the hacienda.
So, I'm shutting down the blog tonight. I've appreciated your support, and, to quote the late Douglas Adams (and echo, ironically, the death rattle of AVA OREGON! about a year ago), "So long and thanks for all the fish!"
Roscoe, my invisible Martian valet is nudging me in the ribs, and pointing to a URL. Hold on.
[Some time elapses]
Boy, is my face red. This is what Roscoe found:
Message-ID:I guess I've been scammed.
Sorry about the class-baiting stuff. I'm one of you again, grubby and unfed, cold and jobless, watching my nation collapse.
I sure as hell hope I hit the lottery.
But you know, this is only temporary. I have a business proposition that I've been toying with, and this disappointment has led me to a momentous conclusion. I will say "yes."
Sunday, November 06, 2005
INSTANT GRATIFICATION AIN'T ON THE MENUhart williams
or, FEELINGS, NOTHING MORE THAN FEELINGS
Something occurs to mind regarding change in politics; bear with me.
I was raised under a certain beauty paradigm. Later, that paradigm shifted. I understand that the whole idea of women constantly shaving legs and armpits is probably idiotic, and serves no real hygenic need (usually). It retains all the barbarism of high heels, which are but one step removed from Chinese foot-binding.
But it is a funny thing to me that my gut reaction to women's hairy legs and underarms is unpleasant. I cannot see it as attractive, only as repulsive.
And, even though I know better, I like what high heels do to a shapely leg.
Now I know better than that intellectually, but I don't FEEL different than that. It is a feeling that I have no control over, and one which my children and their children will find primitive and even dumb.
But those emotional reactions were conditioned during a certain epoch, and, seemingly, can't be changed. Generally, you can't convert a broccoli-hater or a beets-hater.
I was raised to eat every type and style of food (culinary tolerance, you might say), but for the life of me, I hate beets. I know their nutritive and fiber value, and all the rest, but even in a great borscht, I hate beets. I can't change my feelings -- if we could, the world would get a lot better a lot quicker.
Once those circuits of like/dislike, attraction/repulsion, pleasure/unpleasure are formed, there is nothing that you can do. You can rationally understand that they are irrational, or even wrong (it rather frightens me, in fact, that women topiary their pubic hair, nowadays. Progressive as I am, that's just like too bizarre for my tastes: the irrationality of feelings seen in the fact that the opposite aesthetic operates between legs and pubes, over what is, in essence, a triviality), but the circuitry has formed, laced in nets of neurons, interconnected intimately with the endocrine system, functioning automatically -- feelings that influence thought, but that thinking can't influence.
The same is true of politics.
The last of the hard-core Southern bigots are dying off, now. But it was only within the lifetime of Rosa Parks that their intense feelings were considered perfectly correct and normal. The majority of whites in so many southern states FELT that blacks were inferior, and, without federal intervention, none of them would have voted to rescind "Jim Crow" laws.
But, as we all know, the FEELINGS remained. And, as they have died out, so has the racial tension released, like a weather balloon, slowly emptying through a gash in the side. We could change the thinking. We could alter the laws. But we never could do anything about the feelings.
And, in a strange way, that's what happened in the aftermath of the Cold War. Generations grew up learning to FEEL hatred towards Communists (and, by extension, Socialists). It wasn't a question of differing philosophies, it was sheerest, unreasoning hatred.
During the Vietnam war, it was regularly and blithely reported that "14 Communists were killed," which, as we now know, was not, strictly speaking, true. They were Vietnamese, fighting an occupying United States army.
(Sort of like how "insurgents" killed in Iraq are often reported as "terrorists" killed.)
And then the Communists went away -- but the feelings didn't.
And those feelings looked around desperately for a place to lodge. You probably notice how, even today, someone will irrationally be accused of being a "Communist." Usually the accuser is expressing anger with one of the old anger words (like school kids when I was a school kid called each other "homos" without the slightest idea of what it actually meant). Invariably, the occasion and the accused are about as far from "communism" as Tom DeLay is from Mother Theresa.
They're still there, left over from those happy McCarthy days in Ike's "pleasant" fifties.
I think a good case could be made that those feelings were retasked from "Communists" to "liberals," but I won't make it here. Certainly it seems apparent that a lot of those feelings have easily been re-channeled into hating "terrorists." Our big problem has been to keep them from oozing to Muslims in general, and all Arabs in particular.
Feelings are difficult things. They can't be convinced by reason. But you can convince the person who feels.
That's why I think it's a great thing that women DON'T need to shave their underarms and legs. There is no longer a social prohibition against it. But I don't like it.
Which is where we've come to with gay rights: a lot of people have feelings of dislike, without any rational basis or knowledge, but they still feel intensely the way that they do.
We're dealing with several generations whose feelings about gays (I'm not going to acronymize to conform to PeeCee. When elegant vocabulary trumps clunky ideology, I go with vocabulary, and 'gay rights' is unambiguous.) Karl Rove and his deep understanding of the reptile brain (which is, in essence, the purely "feeling" portion of the mind), surely understood that there was a lot of irrational anti-gay hatred out there, even if he didn't understand the mechanism.
The feelings were formed in a lot of Americans at a time when they were learning to dislike beets or broccoli; and generally, they had no information or experience in any wise as to what "gay rights" might entail, or who gays were.
It was bigotry expressed in its purest form: intense hatred of someone you've never met and don't know a thing about, except that you hate them.
No one can discount the effect on the presidential election of having so many anti-gay initiatives on so many state ballots. There's a lot of irrational hatred out there.
But the circuitry has formed in younger generations who don't know what their parents' problem is, and who have gay friends.
Which suggests that the gay-bashing Klan mentality is simply going to die off. The feelings will remain until they do, but we can convince those WITH the feelings to control them, which is what's happened in the New South.
In both cases, we may not see the end in our lifetimes.
The problem is that while we have our personal lives, we have a sort of "historical" life, too. One generation knows where they were when they heard about Pearl Harbor. Another generation knows where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Yet another generation knows where they were when Challenger exploded. And a new generation knows where they were when the Trade Towers were attacked on 9-11.
But most of that 9-11 generation has no feeling knowledge of Pearl Harbor. It's just some story from grandma.
In the 1960s, the "Boomers" were represented by Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney. By the 1990s, the same generation was represented by Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert. We've been over this before, but looking again is instructive. This is the era of the reactive Baby Boomers, the Dark Side of the Summer of Love:
Trent Lott -- Date of Birth: 9 October 1941
John Lennon -- Date of Birth: 9 October 1940
Newt Gingrich -- Date of Birth: 17 June 1943
Mick Jagger -- Date of Birth: 26 July 1943
Paul McCartney -- Date of Birth: 18 June 1942
Dennis Hastert -- Date of Birth: 2 January 1942
We cannot imagine them contemporarily. One set is eternally young and optimistic; the other is eternally old and crochety.
And their feelings are, equally, sealed. Until that generation passes away, what arouses their pleasure, disgust, or both, will remain at the top of the agenda, even though more and more Americans don't know a thing about Vietnam, about "The Movement," Women's rights, minority rights, reproductive rights, the Cold War, the Bomb (which literally sat over the heads of that generation and mine, the Sword of Damocles, suspended by a single hair -- one that almost snapped during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis).
Which is why, although we can already see the traceries of what will come, perhaps, change happens so slowly, and although I know that Gay Rights will be unquestioned in, say, fifty years, I also know that the Boomer attraction/repulsion feelings, formed in the uptight fifties will continue to be felt in the political arena.
Time moves on, and feelings that we once had become inappropriate and irrational, but the feelings remain while their causes vanish into the kaleidoscope of history.
In many ways, the generational dialectic hopscotches between alternating generations, the Long Hairs and the Short Hairs, and, if you'll look closely, American political sentiment switches polarity every decade or so, the alternating current of our national electricity:
In 1994, the Republican congress ran on, among other things, a balanced budget amendment, a keystone of their argument to kick out the generationally turgid Democratic House of Representatives, and to install a Republican one. They succeeded in a watershed election.
And, in a decade, the political polarity went from Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House to Republicans in control. And, now, we are racking up the largest deficits in American history, whether in "adjusted" dollars or sheer numbers.
The "balanced budget" argument is being made by those that opposed it a decade ago, and the "spend like there's no tomorrow" argument is defended by its former attackers with a sheepish zeal.
Now, the point could be argued that this is a 180-degree turnaround on the feelings about balanced budgets. And that would seem to contradict the thesis here.
But then again, perhaps the "feeling" involved was the need to be in control, and have one's own way, not matter what steps it took. And that feeling trumps the dry figures of a budget any day. As a wise man used to tell me regularly: This too shall pass.
As will norms for women's depilatory predilection.
NOTE: ALL correspondence relating to the blog will be considered as a submission for possible posting. Submissions may be posted and subsequently published without compensation. Identities of posters will be suppressed to protect their privacy. The rabid snarling of the barking moonbats requires that comments be moderated. We certainly and respectfully ask your indulgence in this matter. Thank you.
WE'VE MOVED! Click here: http://www.hartwilliams.com/blog/blogger.html
* O T H E R S T U F Fo There is no other stuff at this time. There might be someday, though. One can always hope.