Thursday, September 30, 2004


Americans All

dancing about architecture
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Not much to say about the 'debate' tonight. Not that that will stop the 'nattering nabobs' of teevee land all day today. I can't bear to watch any of it; because of another comittment, I can't even watch the actual debate in real-time, which is unusual for me, but..actually, it's fine.

All I can say is that I hope Jim Leher takes good care to craft his questions, hone them down to essentials - doesn't 'wing it' like he does sometimes on his own show. I'm not holding my breath on that, but also don't expect total disaster. What IS the proper way to frame the question about Iraq? Loyal republican Diane Sawer put it to Kerry in the usual, less than meaningful way: 'Given the same situation, would you have gone into Iraq?'. She wants a 'yes or no' answer to a non-yes-or-no question. I would frame the whole issue differently.

I am as fervently anti-Bush as I can be. I've supported and volunteered for both Edwards and Kerry now. I think Mr Bush is easily the worst president of the 20th century. HOWEVER, if I had to choose between a.) the debacle of this president's foreign policy performance, especially in Iraq, and b.) a successful prosecution/administration of the Iraq war, leading to huge popularity and easy re-election for Bush, I would not hesitate to choose the latter. Much as I despise the ethos of Ashcroft, Cheney, Bush and the rest, I'd rather have them in for another term than have the disaster we have now in the Arab world. And I think a whole lot of Democratic voters would agree. I even think that, privately, quite a few Democratic officeholders would agree. Some of us see a limit to partisanship, or as McCain famously said: 'Not everything is politics, George'.

[Poor Hitchens. Frantic wishful thinking. 'Round the bend, I'm afraid.]

Let's hope Kerry gets it right.


Thursday, September 23, 2004


Duty, Honor, Loyalty,

some guy named Alex
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

In one of the new 'Swift Boat' ads, one of the guys says: 'He [Kerry] betrayed us then; how can I be loyal to him now?'. There are a few interesting things about that rhetorical question. One is the debatable idea that it's his choice whether or not to be generally loyal to whoever the president happens to be ( the treasonable idea which was very popular vis a vis Clinton). The other is the fact that this guy was - probably briefly - a temporary soldier, but is a permanent citizen: loyalty is due to the country, not to a particular president. Civics 101, dumb-ass.

There can be something tacitly gay about military life for some people. I don't mean sexually gay (necessarily), but it clearly fills an emotional need in some people, even after they 'get out': the total dominance, the total submission, the rigid hierarchy, the existential thrill and terror, the bonding. This need to offer total submission to personal loyalty runs very deep in some people. A guy like Mr Swift Boat wants to 'give his all' to a romantic figure - his man on horseback - but he must withhold his virtue, his heart, from the wrong guy (Kerry). It's not about the country, it's about the guy.

In one of his old essays, Gore Vidal (who was born at West Point) points out that the slogan 'Duty, Honor, Country' has the words in the wrong order. This is an essential schism in this election. The Swift Boat guys are not just yahoos; they really exemplify a fundamental point of view, which is also the essential Bush/Cheney '04 point of view. Are we a nation of Men or a nation of Laws? Are we free citizens or 'soldiers'?

[UPDATE: I realise I'm sailing a little close to the wind with this post, but there is a method to my madness, even if I'm not very good at implementing it. I'm trying to consistantly use the RNC campaign against itself. THEY brought up gay rights; THEY brought up 'girlymen'; THEY pimp foolish old veterans. The key to understanding them is to realize that everything they accuse their opponents of is precisely what THEY are guilty of: they're not just hypocrites, but perfect hypocrites.

I am absolutely NOT disrespecting anyone in the military in this post. But - although the track record doesn't look so good at the moment - it must be remembered that the military in this country is under civilian control. Mr Swiftie's attitude is like the sailors' who refused to salute Bill Clinton when he was president. They should've been put in the brig in nanoseconds. I am FED UP with fake patriots who don't understand their own form of government attacking others. People like these Swifties, people like Cheney and Ashcroft are the REAL sissies and 'weak reeds'. They don't have the guts to fight for truth, justice and the American Way (if I may be allowed to quote the legend of 'Superman').

And besides, why is it that the Spartans insisted on their soldiers being lovers with each other to foster unit cohesion, and the US military will discharge gay people, also for the sake of unit cohesion? I'm not gay nor do I have a particular ax to grind about this issue, but it and the aforementioned 'hot water' it got Clinton into are all of a piece: I am sick sick sick of the grotesque hypocrisy oozing out of every pore of the current Right wing, fouling everything up for everybody. They are wrecking the country - MY country - and also doing their best to mess up other parts of the world. Grrr. In fact, I could entitle every post I write about the RNC 'Grotesque Hypocricy'.....that would be boring, but accurate.

And, yes, I cited the 'omni-sexual' Gore Vidal absolutely on-purpose.]

[UPDATE 2: Commenter TEd clairifies my point for me with this:

the link of D/s to the military is cute, and it's been done before, but the reasons for entering into the relationship are very, very different. In one, you submit to survive. In the other, you submit because you want to.

Exactly. Mr Swiftie and the millions of others of like mind are civilians; they are choosing the military mindset: the B/C '04 strategy in a nutshell. Thanks Ted.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Our Lee Greenwood is Better Than Theirs

ferret in pants
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Funny how the subconscious mind can have a perverse sense of humor. We often see it in our dreams - visual puns, word play. I am particularly subject to the intercranial playback - in ultra-Hi-Fi - of random songs which pun or leap from the stuff of the day. Somebody said the word 'Diamond' at some point, and then I went out on my porch to enjoy the beautiful....yes, 'September Morn'. Suddenly the rivers of unrendered schmaltz started to flow, and Neil Diamond's faux-rasp voice filled my head. Yes, two lovers playing scenes from......some romantic play. Ack, all the crap 'ballads' of the last 25 years: the disease which keeps on giving. Funny how that kind of obvious, humorless crap ('I'll be your knight in shining armor') really took off in the 80s. Hmmmm... 'It's Morning Again in America...we danced until the night became a brand new day.

And speaking of earnest humorlessness, there was the Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam thing today. Aside from the insulting idiocy of keeping this guy out of the country, it also prompted an involuntary review - in my head - of his greatest hits. Before the slick cynical goo of the 80s, was the 'sensitive' singer-songwriter tra-la-la thing of the late 60s and 70s (quick: what rhymes with 'legal tender'?......ICE CREAM VENDOR!). I wonder which I don't not dislike more?

And, BTW - as Jon Stewart just pointed out - what is the point of discovering someone on a 'watch-list' when they're already airborne? And furthermore, does Tom Ridge give one damn about Salman Rushdie and his fatwa? I doubt it. Cat Stevens is going to come to America (hey! 'He's comin' to America®') and coordinate terror. Riiight.

[UPDATE: As Eric points out in the comments, Diamond is a strong and substantial Kerry supporter. So, I like him now. It was completely artificial to compare the Cat Stevens' hits with Diamonds'. Unlike Georgiou/Stevens/Islam, Diamond is kind of an 'icon' - he decided sometime in the 70s-80s to go the 'Icon Route' (that's what it's called in showbiz) - the scarves, the sequins, the gigantic, 'Armageddon-Beat' ballads, etc. etc.. Eric also points out that Diamond is sometimes so bad he's good - the kitch factor. I guess so. ]

Monday, September 20, 2004


Finding Your Inner 12-Year-Old

kid colour
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

This election seems to hinge on what 'strength' means. Does it mean strong like an adult or strong in the conception of a 12 year old boy? The choice is yours America!

Josh Marshall sniffs the whiff of a trial balloon (filled with god knows what) laboriously hauled out and heaved into the sky by Robert Novak:

Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go.

[To get the full effect, you need to enter Novak's parallel universe and read the whole column]

This is kind of a big deal, actually. Quite the gamble for the Bushies, in a way. Josh mentions the two campaign messages, one for thoughtful conservatives and one for the 'hands over the eyes' supporters, but....the twain surely meet, don't they?

[Another interesting note is the idea that the Bush 'administration' sees an Iraq in civil war as preferable to one with Saddam in charge! (Really, go read the column). Now THAT is one for the record books! 'It's all part of the plan, grasshoppah'! That is beyond mere 'spin' - it's rhetorical vertigo!]

I guess the upshot is: if the second Bush administration pulls out of Iraq peremptorily, it'll be because they're strong and resolute; if the Kerry administration does it, it's because...well, frankly, they're "fags", 'girlymen'. Who do you want in the WH in this age of 'terra'? Girlymen or Machos?


Sunday, September 19, 2004


Brang on de Denial, Part 1a

Following is an excerpt from a blog you should read called A Family in Baghdad

The context is provided by Helen Cobban in her post 'Life Under Occupation'

'Fools and Criminals'

The driver told me yesterday that before he came to take me to work, he took his sister to Al-Nu'mman Hospital in Adamiyah because she was ill. The Emergency ward was filled by Iraqi Police corpses, dead and wounded… some criminals drove to Antar Square in Adamiyah in the early morning, got out of their cars, and shot the Iraqi Police Patrol with automatic weapons, filling the street with bloody bodies, then ran away….
One day before that, there were attacks on police patrols in Baghdad and other cities, there was a large number of victims… and today, while we were at the shop, we heard the blow of a nearby explosion, which turned out later to be an attack against a police patrol by the Rowad Restaurant in Mansour… a crowded shopping area.
And then I read in the newspaper today that Bush promises to make Iraq an example in fighting terrorism, not an example to adopt terrorism in the Middle East.
I smile as I look upon this beautiful example, and how it is being created and formed, with plenty of wisdom, and the least possible minimum of damage to lives and property… GOD only knows when this example will be accomplished, and how many casualties will be paid for that.
I do not know.
The equation still goes between fools and criminals, who are disfiguring the world… and each thinks himself right. Each speaks sometimes in the name of GOD, rightness, and justice.
And there is a foolish American woman who writes to me from time to time, asking me: What have you done to help Iraqis? Why do you speak about the bad things, and not mention the good ones??
She is a supporter of Bush, and the Fox Channel…
I answer her quietly, and in contempt: Read my articles again, and you shall see that I talk about how much effort we spend to rebuild Iraq, and help the Iraqis. But I forgot to tell her that, as usual, if I have seen some good things, I would have told you, because I am more eager than you are for them.

Gosh, it sounds like them Iraqis are human beings or something. My, my.

Interesting to note the PR effort by the lady junior-wolverine FOX News wannabe. Funny that Faiza (the Iraqi blogstress) doesn't quite 'get it'; why don't these pesky Iraqis understand? As the great American philosopher Fernando said: 'it's better to look good than feel good'.

Friday, September 17, 2004


Let the Denial Begin

Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Aaron Brown and Sen. Evan Bayh last night on 'Newsnight':

BROWN: But I wonder why it is that Iraqis, who, after all, we did liberate from a truly reprehensible government, why Iraqis are not more supportive, are not more helpful, are not more willing to fight for their country. It doesn't seem to me they're doing a very good job of it.

BAYH: Well, this is an example of no good deed going unpunished, isn't it?

We were temporarily welcomed as liberators, but that seemed to last for the blink of an eye. And it's irrational to my way of thinking, Aaron, and I'm sure to the American people, here, where we're spilling our blood, we're spending our treasure on behalf of the people of Iraq, but there doesn't seem to be that much gratitude.

This is reprehensible, despicable crap. Let's review, shall we?

The United States Government has been cruelly diddling the people of Iraq for 30+ years - the way a cat 'plays with' its dead or dying prey. First, it cynically 'tilted' towards Saddam in the pointless blood-lust exercise known as the Iran/Iraq war, sending him weapons and support. Then, we invaded Iraq and Kuwait, killing tens of thousands of hapless conscripts along the 'train of death' or whatever it was called. Then, we left Saddam in power, allowing him to psyche 'Stormin' Norman' out with a bad truce, including, among other things, allowing Saddam to keep his helicopters. Then, after urging the Kurds and Shia to rise up against Saddam, we did nothing to help them when they did, and Saddam used those same helicopters to slaughter thousands more (some Kurds on the killing fields said they could see US jets high in the sky observing the carnage). Then, 12 years of crippling sanctions, which - although they were improved over time - still resulted in many thousands of deaths of ordinary Iraqis, and the hollowing out of the country's infrastructure - a formally advanced country reduced to a shell . THEN, we invaded the country again, removing the government, such as it was, but having nothing to put in its place. The Americans sat behind their lines and, again, watched while what was left of the country devolved into utter chaos and lawlessness (Rumsfeld had the gall to call it 'untidiness'), and it went on month after month after month. No security, no plan. America 'transitioned' Iraq from a Stalinist, authoritarian state to no-State-at-all.

'Gratitude'!? SHAME.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Dick Cheney - The Official Shit-heel of the United States Government

montage courtesy of atrios
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

It's hard to be surprised at anything Cheney says anymore. I thought his recent highly parse-worthy 'vote for us or else' statement was incredibly bad, but this one - utterly tasteless, callous, reptillian - takes the cake, so far; you can't parse it to mean anything other than what is apparent:

"I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Russia now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target. That Russia, of course, didn't support us in Iraq, they didn't get involved in sending troops there, they've gotten hit anyway."

It leads me to wonder what Bush would do, if elected, when Cheney blows an o-ring and finally buys the farm; who would replace Dick? Let's see...someone moderate, uncontroversial...someone both parties could agree on...hmmm...I know! If he loses his Senate race, Tom Coburn would be available!

[UPDATE My conscience is telling me that this post is as lizardish as is Cheney himself. I wouldn't laugh, sneer or cheer if Mr Cheney had a fatal heart attack. I, frankly, have been kind of amazed at how routine and unremarkable late night-comedian 'heart attack' jokes about him have been. However, Cheney is not an ordinary person. He's a shockingly powerful one; he makes a decision and other people - often lots of other people - die. In the case of both Bush and Cheney, we're dealing with scary pathologies: lack of conscience, lack of empathy. As actors, I have nothing but contempt for them. As human beings, I don't presume to have them in my 'portfolio'.]

Friday, September 10, 2004


Draft the Bigmouths

I want YOU
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Iraq is a mess. The next president, whoever it is, will be looking for ways to get out. (Don't think so? I've got a plan for you below, then). Even if we collectively pretend that our slinking away is actually 'peace with honor' or something, we will have to get out sooner than we had planned, perhaps much sooner. If it's Bush, he will simply deny that it's happening, or blame democrats somehow, and (probably) avoid blame or responsibility - as always. The Bush MO: trash the place and walk (or strut) away; let someone else clean it up - and then blame them). On the other hand, the jackals of the seething right are already - via the blogosphere, pissed-off radio, etc. - predicting that a president Kerry will 'cut and run' in Iraq, and therefore in the war on terror (and we all know they are synonymous, don't we?). Kerry will get the blame for the catastrophe Bush has created. (Actually, democrats and any other antis will get the blame whoever wins the election, but that's another story).

So, in an attempt to avoid the United States' becoming a one-party state, I propose the following: reinstate the military draft - but make it a voluntary draft. Here's how it would work.

- Since young men still have to register for the draft, we already have a national registry of draft-age men. Women should have to register, too.

- Every draft-age person would have to report to their local draft board and sign one of two affidavits. If they think 'staying the course' in Iraq is essential to our liberty, they would sign one affidavit saying so, and they would be inducted for active duty in Iraq. If they don't think it's such a good idea, they sign the other affidavit saying so, and they wouldn't have to go. (If somebody who signed the first affidavit has a medical problem which disqualifies them from being a soldier, they could do something else, like be on kitchen duty outside Fallujah, or some other support task. Having more US military personnel perform support tasks would save money, due to the much lower salaries and benefits paid to them as compared to contractors.)

-The database with everybody's name and which affidavit they signed would be public and available on the internet.

- Since president Bush has such strong and vociferous support throughout the country, this voluntary draft should yield millions of young men and women eager to fight and die in the Persian Gulf for freedom. They would, further, be available for future wars in the Arab World and beyond.

That's it. There would be NO deferments of any kind, but at the same time nobody would be forced to go; everybody would be forced only to make a public statement.

Perhaps in this way we could alleviate the epidemic of 'Bush Doctrine' - or 'Bush Doctrinaires' - in this country (The Real Bush Doctrine: George W. led by example, unambiguously supported the war in Vietnam, but avoided serving in it himself; we don't know how Cheney felt - he had other priorities - but I rather doubt he was protesting in the streets). I imagine it would focus a lot of minds - as it did in the Vietnam era - to have the personal, physical asses associated with those minds on the line. I would expect everybody at NewsMax, the RNC, et. al. (or their sons and daughters or grandchildren) to sign up for service in a flash.


Thursday, September 09, 2004


Outsourced Nation, PT 2 - the Co-Dependent Variation

stern father
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Charles Pierce writes in the American Prospect:

[White House Chief of Staff Andy Card] attempted to explain how the president feels about the 200 million-odd souls who are, after all, his employers:

"It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child. I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children."

I wish it hadn't been Andy Card who gave us this peek behind the curtain, because I know him to be a sensible, decent person who wouldn't have mouthed this lunacy unless he really meant it. If it had come from one of the wolverines in Karl Rove's shop, it wouldn't have been half as frightening. Nevertheless, what Card said perfectly encapsulates this administration's approach to governance -- its fundamental contempt for democratic restraints and its hubristic insolence toward any limits on its political appetites. Our president is our Daddy. He will make his wars to keep us safe, and all we have to do is love him back, and do what he tells us to do. Go shopping. Go on happy vacations. Leave the decisions to Daddy and to Daddy's friends. They run things so we don't have to.

During the convention, I know some people were scratching their heads about ol' Zell bringing up Wendell Wilkie v FDR in his speech, but I think it's all part of the uber-script. Not only does the GOP want to undo FDR, but they simultaniously want us to emotionally, substitute Bush for FDR! Cop that 'paternal feeling'. Of course, FDR actually did calm and reassure people as time went on - but the Bushies approach their job not as a matter of actual governance or leadership, but rather as one of pitching a 'high-concept' idea for a prime-time Television Event. If you think of it that way, it makes a very cheesy, Hollywood kind of sense. Their idea of leadership is to encourage people to blend TV/movie fantasy with reality. And why not? This sort of thing has been 'green-lighted' before.

Did I mention I despise these people?


Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Out of the Mouths of 'Babes'

A treasured memory from my days working in the radio business involved the owner of a mini-golf complex insisting on - as did many clients - writing his own advertising copy. Pacing around my studio like a, he fretted that the copy we'd written - while good - just didn't have the oomph, the sizzle, the jazz, the pizzaz, the etc. As he left, he promised to think about it and let me know what he came up with. About two hours later, he called: 'I've got it! It's great-great-great! You're gonna love it! Here it is, and drumroll please: "Bud's Mini Golf: An Alternative to Something to Do"

I tried not to sound underwhelmed, and said something like 'Um, but - heh - er, don't you mean to say...?' But he wasn't having any of it. It was pure tag-line genius. Cut and Print! And it went right into the spot. And I preceded to laugh about it for the next few days. The guy had unwittingly summed up the true nature of mini golf in an epigram! It really is an alternative to something to do! Not that that description is limited to mini-golf, but still, it does catch the essence.

Reading Eric's - over at Total Information Awareness - understandable-but-hopeless attempt today to ascribe rationality to the Bush Administration's seeming disinterest in fighting al-Qaeda here in the US, brought to mind these words of wisdom from Britney Spears:

"I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens."

Cheap shot quoting Britney from 2002? Not really. This is the essence of B/C '04's message. Cheney, with his 'vote for us or else' statement in Des Moines, and 'ol Zell, with his 'it's unpatriotic to run against Bush' assertion at the RNC convention are saying the same thing, basically. Did Britney actually mean to say 'Be faithful that everything will turn out alright'? Probably. But what she actually said is perfectly descriptive of the message from the president's re-elect campaign: be faithful in what happens.

Too Bad

"Douglas Feith...didn't want competence; he wanted fervor. Col. Pat Lang, a Middle East expert who served under five presidents, Republican and Democratic, in key posts in military intelligence, recalls being considered for a job at the Pentagon. During the job interview, Feith scanned Lang's impressive resume. "I see you speak Arabic," Feith said. When Lang nodded, Feith said, "Too bad," and dismissed him."

(Whole article in Rolling Stone)

I don't have any comment on this (is any really necessary?). Just a good excuse to remind or exhort anyone coming across this blog to keep up with Laura Rozen's excellent coverage of our fabulous Pentagon over at War and Piece.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


Outsourced Nation

Watching our fraud of a president make his speech tonight, one of those things which is so obvious you don't see it, finally dawned on me. I've been wracking my brain, trying to understand how an appreciable number of American voters could support someone for re-election who has never - either in life or his presidency - taken responsibility for anything he's ever said or done, from his youthful shirking, to his political shamelessness, to his utter incompetence as an administrator. Elsewhere, I've referred to his bulwark of support as a 'nation of enablers', who reflexively dream up excuses for his each and every error and failure, no matter how bad. Because there are so many of those, the question keeps coming back and back. Tonight, it finally struck me.

These people don't themselves want to be responsible for their own government, their own democracy. To them, politics and public policy are either for specialists or are simply teevee entertainment. Civic virtue is a quaint and outmoded concept. The distinction between 'citizen' and 'consumer' is pretty much gone. Government is now, as it were, outsourced: "don't bother me with the details; I don't want to know and shouldn't have to know. Hire some guys to take care of it all and just leave me alone while I work on my 'lifestyle'".

So perhaps Bush is not a total fraud. Obviously, the GOP knows exactly what it's doing. But don't call them 'smart'. They may be clever, but any fool can be clever. They 'cleverly' manage to embody the worst of oligarchy wrapped in the worst of democracy. They dare to piss away a fragile and precious anomaly - an enlightened, rationalist approach to government.

It's said that America gets the government it deserves. That's not precisely true, due to some barnacles clinging to our constitution, e.g. the way the Senate represents, the Electoral 'College'.... But broadly speaking, it IS true. We may get a new president in November. But if we actually choose Bush, there won't be any blaming the SCOTUS or anybody else this time; and, although I hate to say it, we will be diminished in the eyes of the world for a long time.

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