Category Archives: Exploding Brains

The past is prologue, those who don’t learn are doomed, blah blah blah: but Ahmad Fucking Chalabi?

Updated 10:53 6.19.2014
Further updated 7:14 6.20.2014

Every now and then, WTF just doesn’t do it, and you have to holler out, WHAT THE FUCK??????

Over the past two days the American ambassador, Robert S. Beecroft, along with Brett McGurk, the senior State Department official on Iraq and Iran, have met with Usama Nujaifi, the leader of the largest Sunni contingent, United For Reform, and with Ahmad Chalabi, one of the several potential Shiite candidates for prime minister, according to people close to each of those factions, as well as other political figures.

That’s right: the Obama administration, according to the New York Times and other sources, are apparently considering a renewal of US support for Ahmad Chalabi, the prepackaged Bush administration choice to parachute in and make Iraq safe for looting by US oil and arms trade interests, who coincidentally provided much of the fabricated “evidence” used by the Bushies to justify the invasion.
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Damn you, Ralph Nader!

Yes, Ralph Nader is at it again. Almost 14 years after his run cost Al Gore a victory in Florida, hence nationally, the Lebanon Loon has cost Democrats another election in the Sunshine State. And it isn’t even November!

Oh wait, my bad: it’s the Democrats shooting themselves in the face again. Ed Jany, a Republican recently re-minted as a Democrat and the party’s handpicked candidate in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, has dropped out of the race and left the Republican incumbent unopposed. Jany, who has not been a registered Democrat long enough to run as a Democrat under Florida election law, had entered the race as an independent candidate backed by both the state and national Democratic parties. Barring death or a terminal scandal, David Jolly, the Republican victor in a special election to replace deceased Republican representative Bill Young a few months ago, now has an additional 30 months as a Congressman in which to consolidate his position in the district.
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Famous political scandals of the past as they might have been reported by ABC’s Intrepid Jonathan Karl

As everyone knows, Obama administration dirty tricks operative Ben Gazzy was caught slipping Muslim DNA into the refreshing chilled Thorazine-based breakfast shakes enjoyed by stalwart Congressional Republicans. The administration immediately disavowed any knowledge and responsibility for the affair but the remaining alert Republicans are having none of that.

The administration’s stonewall was holding firm until Intrepid Jonathan Karl, the stalwart political reporter at broadcast news leader ABC, obtained secret emails that had been shown to Congressional Republicans several months ago to no effect. Karl reported that the emails, when subjected to his special stalwart scrutiny, revealed that Obama administration officials not only knew about Ben Gazzy’s dirty tricks, but had supplied him with the Muslim DNA in question. (Reportedly perhaps Osama bin Laden’s! Prove it wasn’t!)

Later developments showed that Intrepid Jonathan Karl had not actually seen any emails and that the plot didn’t exist. Nevertheless, IJ Karl and broadcast news leader ABC stand by his reporting. Or if not by it, exactly, somewhere in the general vicinity of it although with enough distance between them that a cautious witness would hesitate to swear under oath that they were together.

This got us to thinking: what if Intrepid Jonathan Karl had been the reporter breaking other famous political scandals. What would that look like? Glad we asked!

Jonathan Karl interprets the Army-McCarthy hearings through the lens of a source in the McCarthy camp:
ABC news logo McCarthy Vindicated

Jonathan Karl interprets Watergate through the lens of an Oval Office source:
ABC news logo jon karl reports watergate

Jonathan Karl interprets the runup to the invasion of Iraq through the lens of a Bush Administration source:
ABC news logo jon karl reports iraq

Use the hashtag #jonkarlreports to add your own Jonathan Karl interpretations of past scandals to Twitter.

Rand Paul: Genius. Nitwit. Post-racial Statesman

The number of actual Libertarians in Congress is the same as the number of actual Arcturans in Congress, as far as we know; if there are any of either, they’re not open about it. Most congressional Libertarians espouse a philosophy of government under which everyone — corporations, powerful reactionary white guys, women, liberals, people of color, whoever — will be free to do whatever the corporations and powerful reactionary white guys want.

Rand Paul, a sometime Libertarian who is so blindingly white that he splits into a rainbow when you hold a prism up to him, decided to take the new Republican outreach plan seriously and hied himself off to Howard University to reach out to some tinted folk and suggest reasons why they might want to vote Republican in the future. Predictably, he pancaked the landing. Giving full rein to his inner nitwit, he wondered if his audience knew that Republicans were among the founders of the NAACP; or, to put it another way, he wondered aloud if the students populating an elite academic institution steeped in African-American history might not be some ignorants. (Probably through an oversight, he didn’t remark that W.E.B. DuBois, among the most prominent founders of the NAACP, was a Socialist, or suggest that this might be a reason for Howard students to consider voting Socialist in the future.) He couldn’t remember the name of the first popularly elected African-American senator. And he couldn’t remember that he opposed a seminal feature of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s safe to say that nobody who wasn’t already a Republican — a number probably including only Paul and his entourage — left the hall inclined to give the GOP a shot.

Also predictable, and representative of Rand Paul’s genius, was the enormous amount of publicity the speech garnered in the incestuous circles of the Washington press and the liberal press, which, no, are not the same although they attend many of the same parties. Some people, Paul among them, lauded the Senator for having the courage to go all the way to Washington, D.C. and expose himself as a white man to a large gathering of people of color. (Bill Clinton will be taking the same risk next month when he delivers a commencement speech there but so far he’s not getting the same credit for his courage.) Other people condemned the people who lauded Paul’s courage because the only reason Republicans talking to persons not of a blinding whiteness might require courage is that the Republican carry-on bag has 50 years of calculatedly malign attitudes toward people of color in it, which is a fair point.

(Andrew Sullivan is among the people crediting Paul and bemoaning the gracelessness of Paul’s liberal critics. I mention this only because if Justice were an actual thing, Andrew Sullivan would be condemned for his sins to life driving Tom Friedman around and around the world in a gypsy cab, forever receiving anecdotal advice in lieu of the tip, forbidden from picking up any passengers other than David Brooks and Joe Klein, who would themselves be forbidden from catching any other cab. This is not happening; ergo, Justice is not an actual thing.)

I should note that even though praising Rand Paul is kapu for liberals, whether for this escapade or the Brennan filibuster or any other — because unlike any Democrats he holds many reprehensible positions — he’s following the playbook of conservative apostate Bruce Bartlett, who does get love from liberals and has written a book detailing how Republicans can recapture the Negro vote by, among other things, explaining how once Republicans were the party of tolerance and Democrats were racists. I thought this was a joke when somebody mentioned it in passing, but it isn’t and Bartlett is proud of his work. (I once asked the usually communicative Bartlett if he had happened to run his thesis past any black folk when he was writing the book but he never answered me.)

Which is to say that when he went to Howard, Rand Paul was going by the book. Here’s my question, though: how many Democrats, when faced with the what-have-you-done-for-us-lately question that tripped up Rand Paul along with his assumption that black students at a historically black university would be ignorant of black history, would fare a lot better? What, for instance, would Steny Hoyer, the one-time Democratic majority leader in the House and a reliable corporate toady, say to lure black voters to the Democratic party if they had anywhere else to go?


Who’s afraid of Rand Paul?

Ralph Emerson said that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. He meant that it’s silly to stick to one’s guns in the face of overwhelming evidence that the guns are wrongly aimed. He said it over drinks in a tavern at a table full of the finest minds of his generation. The first question from among his companions was “Are you talking to me?” The second was, more or less, “Who says who’s a fool?” It was the beginning of deconstruction as a critical discipline.

rand paul mitch mcconnellRand Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky, the one of the two who doesn’t look like a turtle. He is the son of Ron Paul, retired Republican Representative from Texas and permanent candidate for president of the US. He is named after a South African gold coin*; when he was born, his father bit him and declared him genuine; he bears the scar proudly. Like his father, he sometimes flies the Libertarian flag. Like his father, it is a flag of convenience. Like his father, he will never be president of the US. He will one day become the senior Senatuh from Kentuckeh, wearing white suits and declaiming from a veranduh for fun when the Senate is out of session. When imagining him as a Marx brother, it is best to think of Harpo**.

Rand Paul and Harpo MarxAlso like his father, Rand Paul collects adherents from across the linear political spectrum. He won election by running to the right of his conventionally far-right Republican primary opponent, but his grammar school libertarian stances on some issues also attract people who think of themselves as liberals or leftists, or left-ish anyway.

This drives more traditional liberals crazy. We saw this recently when he filibustered Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan. If you wanted to invent a symbol for torture and kidnapping and drones and stuff, you could do worse than a photo of John Brennan, at least if anybody knew who he was. He is not a civil libertarian’s dream. Neither is Rand Paul, but he decided to filibuster Brennan because something about drones. Nobody else in the Senate has said or done anything splashy about drones, so people who are concerned about them — and let’s be clear, drones are really shorthand for the sense that the Obama administration have evidently decided they can kill anybody, anywhere, because whatever, whether or not drones are the instrument — got really excited and said kind things about Rand Paul, like “Hurray! Rand Paul is filibustering drones!”

Had any Democrat done something similar, and earlier, the liberals worried about drones would have reacted just the same or possibly with even more enthusiasm. But Democrats didn’t do anything. An appropriate response from liberals who don’t like Rand Paul and don’t like the administration’s killing practices, of which Brennan seems to have been an architect, would have been to say “Why do we have to wait for fucking Rand Paul to bring this up in the Senate?” And then maybe berate some Democratic Senators and urge them to filibuster Brennan as well, or at least vote against him.

Instead, they went berserk about people supporting Rand Paul who had no business supporting Rand Paul because he’s something of a nitwit and something of a reactionary. “Rand Paul is a reactionary,” they said. “He is a nitwit. He is inconsistent. Only imbeciles would support him.” And the supporters, many of whom probably didn’t know that Rand Paul is a nitwit or a reactionary, said “Well maybe, but drones, and John Brennan, and civil liberties!” And then Democrats voted en masse to confirm Brennan and the excitement over drones faded but for whatever reason, the excitement over Rand Paul has endured.

But why? As has been scientifically proved above, Rand Paul will never be president. So why must liberals who support him be excoriated and condescended to by people who routinely support Obama, he of John Brennan (using Brennan as a symbol there, see how that works?) and Social Security cuts and backdoor tax increases on the working poor? Obviously they — the excoriaters and condescenders — see Rand Paul, in the flesh or as a type, as a threat, but to what?

mccarthy cruzNo, really. I don’t know why Rand Paul threatens institutional liberals. Ted Cruz, that I could understand; Ted Cruz is a scary son of a mother. While liberals who support Obama are yelling at liberals who support Rand Paul, Ted Cruz (shown at left in his previous and current incarnations) will sneak up behind them all and slit their throats and collect their Social Security checks and cash them to fund his presidential campaigns. But Rand Paul? I don’t get it.

*Some people say he is named after an adulterous, pro-abortion atheist who wrote turgid political novels and loathed Ronald Reagan, but that’s an obvious attempt to smear either Ayn Rand or Rand Paul.

**All respect to Harpo, man, sorry I had to drag you into this.

In which America’s nuclear warriors bask in the radioactive glow of imagined admiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Many people are wont to wrap themselves in Martin Luther King’s mantle now that he’s safely dead these two score and five. Until yesterday, the most ludicrous example was the gun fetishist who argued that non-violence be damned, King would have agreed that slavery would have never been an issue had the prospective slaves been armed. That was in the days before the US became the greatest arms merchant of all time, so it’s unclear where the Africans would have got their weapons and the credit to buy them. Possibly they could have traded themselves.
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Bowles-Simpson or Simpson-Bowles? The choice is yours …

I didn’t watch the debate — allergies. I did read the transcript, God help me. This is how I know that former US Senator Alan Simpson was in the audience. Apparently he’s a member of the debate commission. That figures; he wants to do for the marketplace of political ideas what he wants to do for Social Security. He must have been extraordinarily gratified when the candidates and the moderator, Bert the Turtle of Duck and Cover fame, all endorsed the diseased plan produced by him and Erskine Bowles, his co-chair on the failed deficit-reduction commission created by the President because.

(Bowles, the one-time Jimmy Carter chief of staff who made his fortune with JP Morgan, and current White House chief of staff Jack Lew, who made his fortune with Citibank, are thought to be the leading candidates to replace Timothy Geithner, Wall Street’s current federal government branch manager, in a second Obama administration.)

If you’ve missed it, all but a few of the Important Serious People have endorsed Bowles-Simpson. Those Few who haven’t, have embraced Simpson-Bowles. Bowles-Simpson and Simpson-Bowles are schemes in which anyone who isn’t untouchably rich is made to suffer by giving up important bits of their retirements previously secured by social insurance programs, while the country at large is starved of the resources necessary to dig our way out of what is inescapably a largely unnecessary decline, while the resources are instead diverted into the pockets of the people who precipitated the decline, who may possibly have to return a few pennies in restored taxes or recovered loopholes but not if they can help it, which odds are they can.

This is called “shared sacrifice;” the election will determine whether the sacrifice will be extracted by the party of the center-right or by the party of the far right, and possibly also how strenuously, if at all, depredations beyond those currently agreed to by all parties will be resisted.

The plan concocted by Simpson and Bowles is austerity by another name. Romney brought up Spain in the context of situations into which we don’t want to get, but if there’s a way to get into that kind of trouble then Alan Fucking Simpson is a great place to start.

There are a host of other horseshit and worse issues and policies already decided upon or already in place that weren’t addressed because both parties, both candidates and Bert the Moderator are all fine with them. You won’t be voting to determine whether or not the US remains the world’s most enthusiastic jailer; whether or not the growth of the national security state accelerates; whether or not we continue to blow up increasing numbers of people and things in an ever expanding war zone; whether or not the pirate sector of our economy continues to operate with letters of marque; whether or not dispensaries catering to cancer-ridden pot smokers are a greater threat to the public order than, say, publicly confessed war criminals. Those trains have left the station and you’re voting on the conductor.

On paper, the debate doesn’t seem as unbalanced as apparently it did in real time. Romney went with the spread, in which the challenger throws out as much shit on as many points in as little time as possible, and Obama countered about as much of it as anyone could have, albeit in spectacularly lackluster prose. As for Bert, well, the first thing they teach you about high stakes debating is that you go to war with the moderator you have, not the one you want. It is unseemly for the Obama camp to complain about Bert — and wholly unrealistic to expect that he would be any better than the president at calling bullshit on Romney; the guy is a professional waffler, fer chrissake, a dispenser of conventionally judicious this’s and that’s, not a maverick educator with a baseball bat — and anyway he seems not to have done anything more offensive than to get run over and compulsively sputter “Simpson-Bowles.”

More reasonable is the campaign’s complaint that Romney won by lying about everything, but this is a guy whose campaign manager compared him to an Etch-A-Sketch. How could you fail to predict and prepare for a debate-related reset?

I don’t know how these moments played out on the teevee screens, but Romney’s use of “trickle-down” as a pejorative description of Obama’s conception of government, and his appropriation of Joe Biden’s characterization of the middle class as having been buried during the past four years, were comedy gold in print.

I’m not among those who have thought the election was already decided so I don’t think Romney’s win, if that’s what it was, changed much. The Republican vote-suppression effort still has legs, electronic voting is still spectacularly insecure, quite a few voters still don’t know who they’ll vote for and there’s a world of inimical shit stirring out there beyond our borders.

But of course we’re more concerned with the world of inimical shit right here at home. Take it away, Bert …

Democrats agree to push for single-payer health care system if mandate falls

BTC News has learned that senior Congressional Democrats are quietly directing staff members to organize an effort to pass Medicare-for-all legislation in the event the Supreme Courts strikes down the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act, also know as Obamacare.

The staff members are reaching out to leaders of key advocacy groups for support of the effort. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee official told BTC News that the fight for universal health care in America will play a critical role in the reelection campaign of President Obama, and in the efforts of Democrats to regain control of the House and solidify control of the Senate.

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“Take up the white man’s burden …” Plus, your world record moment of Zen

Writing at the widely-read liberal blog Hullabaloo, David Atkins says the most recent US atrocity in Afghanistan means it’s time to pull the plug on what should, and in his estimation could, have been The Good War. He weeps for the Buddhas of Bamiyam (destroyed by order of Taliban leaders in 2001); he accuses his fellow liberals of parochialism and closing their eyes to the plight of Afghan women; he quotes both the penultimate stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s iconic poem, The White Man’s Burden, and the exhortation scribbled on the final page of Kurz’s monograph in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Possibly I made that last bit up. But “Ye dare not stoop to less” and “Exterminate all the brutes!” are clearly visible just beneath the surface. He doesn’t despair that we invaded and occupied Afghanistan; he despairs that we didn’t do it better.

Oh, he cites the “enormous peril of foreign intervention in largely intractable situations,” and he says that “prolonged occupations anywhere are a terrible idea” because “[t]hese sorts of incidents are almost inevitable.” He says that “continuing this awful, endless occupation replete with civilian massacre after civilian massacre is no answer at all. It’s long past time to go.” But then he closes with this:

Still, weep for the people we will be leaving behind. Weep for the Shi’ite ethnic hazara who will likely be doomed upon our departure … And mourn the fate of a people who once had hope for a better future, and now have none because America ended up doing more harm than good when all was said and done. It didn’t have to be thus [emphasis mine].

Well, David: it did have to be thus. Because thus is what wars and invasions and occupations are.

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Giant Carnivorous Termite Caucus renege on “budget” “deal”: quelle suprise et horreur!

The Giant Carnivorous Termite Caucus (GCTC) within the Torquemada wing of the Congressional GOP have announced their intent to renege on the debt-limit budget deal in which they participated back in prehistory, before several thousand excruciating albeit occasionally hilarious Republican presidential primary debates and the ensuing elections served to wipe everyone’s minds clean.

Not to worry, though: this is good news. The original deal was horrible, and now they’ll just be kicking things down the road another year. (It’s also bad news: when Republicans shoot themselves in the foot, Democrats cry out in pain and limp to the right. More on that later.)

The only people who didn’t think this would happen were people who didn’t think about it at all. One guy I like to read is calling it “a towering act of bad faith.” Well, you know … these guys are basically ambulatory acts of bad faith. If you sucked all the bad faith from their bodies, the loss of internal pressure would make them implode into small mounds of human skin and you would be spitting out sawdust and foul vapors for weeks.

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