Monday, December 31, 2007

The long form

Whether Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Biden, Dodd or Richardson wins the Democratic nomination, one thing is certain: The candidate will not hire me to function as a campaign adviser or advertising director. True, I have worked in advertising for much of my life, but never on a political campaign. If the Democratic nominee did ask for my thoughts, however, I would offer one key piece of advice:

Go long.

For decades, the thirty-second television commercial has been the heartbeat of all major political campaigns. 'Twas not always always thus.

When George McGovern ran in 1972, he blew the ad budget on a series of 30-minute "fireside chats" with the nation, broadcast over one of the major networks -- ABC, I think -- in prime time. Visually, these lectures consisted of one long, dull close-up of the Giant Talking Head of McGovern. (If I recall correctly, the Head mentioned Watergate only in the last episode.) The Giant Talking Head of McGovern was the only thing standing between Dick Nixon and a second term, and we all know what happened. McGovern hoped to "turn on" the youth vote, but how many people under 40 were willing to sit still for a Giant Talking Head?

Well, yeah, me, but I was a hopeless nerdling.

Ever since the McGovern disaster, political consultants an candidates have viewed the long form as poisonous. With one exception: Ronald Reagan.

Reagan used the 30-minute format to address voters at the beginning of his 1976 run against Ford. He delivered a variant of The Speech (the one he'd been reciting for years) while ambling through his spacious living room. He did another, similar 30-minute speech just before the 1980 general election.

Although the long form worked pretty well for Reagan on those occasions, he did not resurrect that approach in 1984, and no other American candidate has given this format a try. Instead, political debate has become a battle of the soundbites. Even the formal debates have rarely allowed the candidates to develop a complex argument.

The time has come for a resurrection of the long form. A modified revival, in which the candidate is not a speechmaker, not a Giant Talking Head -- rather, he will be the host of a documentary. An informal lecture with interesting (but not overly jazzy) visuals. And humor.

Think An Inconvenient Truth. Think six or seven Inconvenient Truths throughout the course of a campaign.

Why bring back the long form?

First reason: This approach will now have the shock of the new. Most of today's voters have never seen a politician speak with the electorate on this level. The first candidate to try this approach will immediately be perceived as having more gravitas than does his opponent.

Second reason: The approach will put the emphasis on the issues. Not on the candidate's personality. Not on his (or her) family. Not on the political horserace. Not on style. Not on irrelevant or misleading wedge issues.

Third reason: People have learned to like documentaries.

Fourth reason: New methods of distribution have opened up. The morning after a candidate's lecture/film appears on television, it will also be available for download on the internet.

As I said, the revived long form should be modified. We can't have any more Giant Talking Heads. No more Reaganesque ambles through the living room. Here are some new rules:

Rule 1. Heavily advertise the premiere showing of the first film. Teaser ads. Banner ads on popular web sites such as Slate. The ads should not prominently feature the candidate -- instead, the emphasis should be on the controversial issue addressed by the candidate. And on humor. A dark and edgy Michael Moore-ish humor.

Rule 2. Don't pay any network a lot of money for that premier showing. It doesn't much matter where or when the piece has its initial broadcast. The History Channel, HBO, the Discovery Channel -- it's all good.

Rule 3. Place the film on YouTube and Google Video soon after the first broadcast.

Rule 4. Then put the film in heavy rotation in the late-night spots usually given over to infomercials. Capitalize on word of mouth. An average not-very-political Working Slob may have heard the film discussed around the office coffee-maker -- and suddenly there it is on channel 231 at 2:00 a.m. (presuming all that caffeine has prevented sleep).

Rule 5. Repeat the process with a new film.

Rule 6. Forget this nonsense about the need to establish the candidate as someone with whom voters would like to have a beer. The candidate should not use this film as an opportunity to talk about himself or his family or how much he likes to hunt and fish and go to church just like a Regular Joe. The candidate should concentrate on an issue, one issue per film.

The message of the teaser ads should not be: "Tune in tonight to hear Democratic candidate John Edwards sell himself." (Let us presume that Edwards is the nominee.) Only people who already like Edwards would watch such a broadcast. Rather, the message should be something along these lines: "Will alternative energy sources save you money? Save your job? Save the American economy? Here's a radical new approach." Folks won't know until they tune in that John Edwards will be your host for the evening.

Democrats can win if they frame the issues, if they can keep the national focus on substantial matters and not on piffle. The strategy I've suggested will accomplish that goal.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


If you want to understand why I prefer Edwards to Obama, you need to read what Corrente has to say about Paul Krugman.

The bulk of the afore-linked piece is a Shorter Krugman -- a summary of the argument you'll find in Conscience of a Liberal. Corrente hits all of the major points Krugman makes, except for his commentary on the role played by racism.

The bottom line: The billionaire owners of this country created the Conservative Movement as a means to siphon off all of the gains in productivity achieved by American workers over the last generation. Conservatism is a true movement -- a religious movement, a political St. Vitus dance -- in a way that Progressivism (a word so rarely used it still feels like a neologism) never was. Like any other successful religious movement, it had a priesthood:
And if you got hooked into that network, you got the cradle-to-grave protection typical of socialism: You always had a job, whether as a “fellow” or “scholar” at the AEI, a shouting head on Crossfire, as a columnist, as a contractor, as a political appointee or staffer, or as a lobbyist, and so on and on and on. You always got funding. You were made.
The result:
But now, with no checks, the winger billionaires have begun to roll us farther back to the Darwinian conditions of 1890s Gilded Age, and, with the destruction of habeas corpus, roll us all the way back to the time, before the Magna Carta, when the king’s word was law. Any limitation, any limitation at all, on the corporate powers that create the income streams from which the billionaires feed must be removed; hence the nonsensical idea that corporations, as fictive persons, have free speech; hence the aggrandizement of executive power, with huge and secret money flows to well-connected firms; hence the destruction of Constitutional government. (All this takes place against a background of looting and asset stripping on an imperial, Roman scale, of which the “subprime” “crisis” is but the latest of many examples.)
Have you ever read a better precis of What Went Wrong? I don't agree with everything Corrente has to say, but these two quotes make me want to give a blog a standing ovation.

The problem with Obama is his plea for non-partisanship. He keeps calling for "unity" with the Beast. Not possible. The Beast of laissez faire is red in tooth and claw and wants only to prey. Part of me hopes that Obama is playing it like Putney Swope, biding his time while waiting for the day of power -- and that, when power comes, he'll be a very different man: "Rockin' the boat's a drag. You gotta sink the boat!"

Maybe. But I doubt it.

Here's Krugman himself, writing in Slate not long ago:
But any attempt to change America's direction, to implement a real progressive agenda, will necessarily be highly polarizing. Proposals for universal health care, in particular, are sure to face a firestorm of partisan opposition. And fundamental change can't be accomplished by a politician who shuns partisanship.

I like to remind people who long for bipartisanship that FDR's drive to create Social Security was as divisive as Bush's attempt to dismantle it. And we got Social Security because FDR wasn't afraid of division.
Bipartisanship was more thinkable before the growth of movement conservatism, before Friedmanism replaced Keynesianism. By the standards of his day, Nixon was a partisan pit bull; by the standards of our day, he was a moderate.

Krugman reminds us that the current weakness of movement conservatism is temporary; we still live in a country in which self-proclaimed conservatives outnumber self-proclaimed liberals by a two-to-one factor. In many parts of this nation, the citizenry still gets much of its news from Rush, Fox and JesusMedia Inc.

Hence, the Ron Paul cult. Hence, the Bloomberg feelers. The Beast is looking for a way to jettison Bush while still keeping laissez faire as the state religion.

If a Democrat wins in 2008, the opportunity for true and lasting change will be measured in months, not years -- and perhaps weeks, not months. The billionaires own most of the media. They hire people who are so damned clever that they could sell horsecrap to horses.

Even after throwing Americans out of their homes and forcing them to live in cars, the billionaires control what people hear on the car radio.

Which means that even the homeless will continue to believe the Great Lie that laissez faire is the solution, not the problem: "Curl up in the back seat of your Honda, little plebe, and don't blame the rich for putting you there. If they wealthy pay no taxes, maybe they'll be so grateful they will let you share a one-bedroom apartment with five other people."

That's why I prefer Edwards to Obama. Obama wants to reach out to the enemy. Edwards wants to reach out to the enemy's teeth with a hammer.

The homeless can't vote

If blogging stops or slows, presume that I've transfered lodgings to the new tent city in Ontario.
But it is not just homeowners who are hit by the foreclosure wave. People who rent now find themselves in a tighter, more expensive market as demand rises from families who lost homes, said Jean Beil, senior vice president for programs and services at Catholic Charities USA.

"Folks who would have been in a house before are now in an apartment and folks that would have been in an apartment, now can't afford it," said Beil. "It has a trickle-down effect."
Now you know why Rove and his buds went to such great lengths to prevent people without addresses or proper identification from voting. The legions of newly homeless are not going to be able to vote for a Democrat who might alleviate their suffering. The Bush/Rove plan was to rob 'em of a roof, then rob 'em of their voting rights.


John Edwards has moved into first place in Iowa!

All right, so he's ahead by a statistically insignificant single point -- 24%, compared to Clinton and Obama, who have 23% and 22% respectively.

And I must also confess that the McClatchy/MSNBC results are not matched by other surveys. The ARG poll puts Clinton ahead of Edwards, 31% to 24%.

I don't care. Look: These are not happy times for me, so I intend to take joy whenever the occasion for joy presents itself. Edwards is winning! That's my message and I will continue to shout it until the next poll comes along.

Iraq for sale

Robert Greenwald's Iraq For Sale, which documents the massive war profiteering arising from Bush's grand misadventure, can be downloaded -- legally -- for free. Here. But act fast, because the opportunity won't last forever.

I've seen this film. It's terrific.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

This week in drugs

Shame on me. I've not linked to Daniel Hopsicker's recent stories. His latest concerns the surprising number of drug seizures in recent weeks:
This has been a banner year for seizures. Four tons, six ton, even 23 tons of cocaine in one fell swoop. You even think: maybe the surge is working.

But weekly seizures of enough cocaine to fill a slow train don't even make a dent in the trade.

And then you realize there is nothing like a 1-to-1 correspondence between tons of cocaine seized and tons of cocaine going up American noses. There is no correlation.
These figures definitely set the mind a-reeling -- especially when we keep in mind that, according to the government's statistics, marijuana has become America's biggest crop, ahead of corn and wheat combined.

Just how much of our GDP is devoted to the illicit alteration of consciousness? Is life so really so miserable for us that we can't face it straight?

I probably should not tell the following story, which is a bit gross. But -- what the hell.

I once counted a pornographer as an acquaintance. One day, when he was polishing his cherry-red '69 Camaro with the 600 horsepower engine, I asked him if he ever contemplated how many ejaculations translate into the purchase price for such a vehicle.

In a similar frame of mind, let use contemplate how many lines of coke translate into a 23 ton seizure.

What the hell is wrong with this society?

Manner of death

We now have three "official" stories about the death of Benazir Bhutto: She died of a bullet wound. She died of bomb shrapnel. She died bumping her head while trying to duck out of harm's way.

I can easily imagine a situation in which all three wounds appear on her body. All three wounds would have been inflicted in very rapid order.

So how would a medical examiner determine which of the three wounds was fatal? Perhaps a reader with the proper training can enlighten us...

Larisa has some interesting commentary on the topic. She notes that the American right has begun a Bhutto-Hate campaign, which is an interesting development. From the New York Post:
In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani.
"The scion of a thieving political dynasty..." Oh, the irony!

Indian intelligence apparently believes that Al Qaeda is not responsible for the Bhutto hit...
“This is not the usual Al Qaeda modus operandi,” an analyst said. The Indian agencies believe the strike was rehearsed and involved several people. “It was a highly planned, highly motivated, highly integrated plan. Otherwise it wouldn’t have happened the way it did,” a senior intelligence operative told DNA.

“It was a meticulous insider job, probably. People would have been bought because massive support is needed do something like this.”

Sources said if the bomber was so close to Bhutto, the vehicle would not have survived the blast, as it did. The bomb was so powerful that the assassin’s head was found some 75 feet away from the site, according to Indian assessment.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bhutto addendum

First the Pakistani press said that Bhutto died of a gunshot wound. Then we heard that she died of bomb shrapnel. Now we are told that died from a head injury which occurred when she bumped against the van. Most reports say that the gunman and the suicide bomber were the same person, but a few reports speak of two separate attackers.

Perhaps she was zapped by space lasers? Calling Professor Fetzer...!

(This is an update to today's main story on the assassination; scroll down for the meaty stuff.)

The lesbian menace: "THIS IS JUST A FEW EXAMPLE..."

Covert History has made quite a find. As you know, the right-wing smear-n-fear merchants have fastened onto the belief that Hillary Clinton is sleeping with her pretty young aide Huma Abedin, who hails from Saudi Arabia. A "Dr." Michael Sunstar, D.D., has written a very long book on the subject, titled Hillary Clinton's Gay, Lesbian & Feminist Task Force. Sunstar's page is here; the free pdf version of this fine tome is here.

As Gary Buell notes:
Check out the hot lesbian porn on pages 397-406. I'm not kidding. I've always thought that rightwing Christian literature needed more hot girl-on-girl action. After the lesbian photo spread the author writes:

I have studied the pages in question; they are as Gary describes. For purposes both scientific and religious, I will take the liberty of reproducing here just a brief sampling of the terrifying imagery festooning this godly text.

We all owe a debt of thanks to Michael Sunstar, Doctor of Divinity, for printing these ghastly photographs, and many (many) more like them. ("This is just a few example.") God only knows how many web sites he had to visit in order to create this collection of iniquity. Alas, he had no choice but to perform this unhappy task, in order to warn us of the dire threat posed by Hillary Clinton.

Clearly, if Hillary is elected president, we can expect to see these ungodly images everywhere -- in magazines, on late-night television, even in our video stores. Nubile young women across America might even decide to participate in such indecencies.

Dr. Sunstar drives home his message with memorable eloquence:
It's not a question of whether a woman can be sexually attracted to another woman, because a woman can take her sexuality and use it for perversion, but it's a question of whether a woman should take her sexual arousals and ventilate them with another woman. The Bible says they should not ventilate their sexual desires, needs, and wants with the same sex. It is against God's Law. Therefore, as repentant men, who acknowledge that God's Law is Holy, Righteous, and Good, we can overcome being slaves to the condemnation of homosexual sex fantasies with other women, and purify ourselves by obeying the Truth with our reality.

This means turning off the computer screen and pulling out the plug; this means throwing out all dirty magazines that are stuffed in the dark corners of our physical and spiritual rooms; this means that we have to train our minds NEVER to think of a NAKED woman while we masturbate.
Perhaps the good Doctor can tell us what he thinks about?

I hope that in future publications, Dr. Michael Sunstar, D.D., will remind the nation of the equally tragic Monica Lewinski situation. He can best accomplish this goal by devoting forty or fifty pages of his next book to pictures of large-breasted, dark-haired young women performing enthusiastic acts of fellatio. God hates that form of sexual "ventilation" too.

Also, I'm sure God despises the very idea of exquisitely perverse sexual acts being performed by gothed-out chicks who enjoy displaying lots of cleavage and who look a lot like Helena Bonham Carter or Rose McGowan. That should be worth at least twenty pages.

More on the Bhutto assassination...

A bad conspiracy theory never dies. In the wake of the Benazir Bhutto assassination, blogworld is once again being inundated with the claim that she told David Frost that Osama Bin Laden was killed by Omar Sheikh. As I noted earlier, she obviously made a slip of the tongue, signaled as such by the small catch in her voice. If you look at her commentary in context, it is crystal clear she meant to refer to Omar Sheikh as the man who killed Daniel Pearl for Osama Bin Laden. (The video is here.) On a subsequent occasion, she referred to Bin Laden as alive.

I don't know whether Osama Bin Laden is alive or dead. I speak of him in the present tense because most other people do, and because that seems the way to bet. That said, I would not be terribly surprised to learn that he has been gone for some time. That said, I feel certain that if Bhutto decided to make such a bombshell revelation, she would not have done so en passant. Moreover, I think she would have mentioned the matter on other occasions, to her confidants and to her American spokesperson. Omar Sheikh, a.k.a. Saaed Sheikh, is, in my opinion, the last person who would have performed such a task.

Of course, people will always believe whatever they wish to believe.

Whodunnit? Larisa Alexandrovna suspects that the Al Qaeda-style suicide bombing was merely a cover:
She died from gun shot wounds, not the explosion it seems. Al Qaeda does not do the basic military type assassination. Al Qaeda does the maximum collateral damage hit. I am starting to wonder if the actual bombing was not a distraction from the assassination via gun-shot. So, as I have already said over and over, this is an ISI hit that may or may not have been directly ordered by Musharraf (I think it may have been... but I am speculating).
Since the time Larisa wrote these words, various media outlets have reported that bomb shrapnel, not a gunshot wound, killed Benazir Bhutto.

Spencer Ackerman has spoken to a intelligence source who argues that the likeliest suspects are neither Musharraf nor Al Qaeda but other jihadist groups in Pakistan, of which there are many, including groups "like Lashkar e-Toiba, or the Jaish e-Mohammed."

Nevertheless, the mourners at her funeral blame Musharraf and the United States:
"Shame on the killer Musharraf, shame on the killer U.S." mourners cried, as her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, accompanied the closed coffin draped with the green, red and black tricolor of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party on the funeral procession to the mausoleum in the village of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh.
Oddly, the Washington Post has published a piece today claiming that the United States -- specifically, Condi Rice -- engineered Bhutto's return to Pakistan.
"The U.S. came to understand that Bhutto was not a threat to stability, but was instead the only possible way that we could guarantee stability and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact," said Mark Siegel, who lobbied for Bhutto in Washington and witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy.
The angry people in Pakistan who refer to Musharraf as "Bush-arraf" probably won't believe reports that Washington had come to favor a Bhutto-Musharraf power-sharing arrangement.

I still think Mehmood Ahmed -- former ISI chief and (it is said) current drug czar -- is the likeliest suspect. When in doubt, look toward the drug trade.

Bhutto herself had said that if anything happened to her, blame should go to Pervez Musharraf. (For more on this, see Joy Tomme's excellent piece here.)

Any theory of the crime must take into consideration the odd behavior of the police:
Police officers had frisked the 3,000 to 4,000 people attending Thursday's rally when they entered the park, but as the speakers from Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party droned on, the police abandoned many of their posts. As she drove out through the gate, her main protection appeared to be her own bodyguards, who wore their usual white T-shirts inscribed: "Willing to die for Benazir."
(Emphasis added.)

The precedent: Benazir Bhutto died not far from the park in Rawalpindi where the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in 1951. On that occasion, gunman Saad Akbar was immediately killed by a police officer who -- many have alleged -- was in on the plot. Akbar thus never lived to describe his motives.

One doesn't have to squint too hard to see a parallel between this situation and the speculative scenario offered by Larisa Alexandrovna.

Politics: How should the Dems react? From a tactical standpoint, I would advise the candidates to accept, at least provisionally, the conventional wisdom that Al Qaeda engineered the assassination. Then the candidates should remind the public -- again and again -- that Bush allowed Osama Bin Laden to get away to Pakistan. They should also remind the public that W once said that he doesn't spend much time thinking about Osama.

That response should suffice to take the sting out of any Republican propaganda efforts.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bush and the torture tapes

For a while, I thought that this humble blog was the only venue paying attention to Larry Johnson's assertion that George W. Bush personally viewed the CIA torture tapes. Now Scott Horton of Harpers gives the claim an airing.
In this regards, the sequence of statements out of the White House is extremely revealing. It started with firm denials, then went silent and then pulled back rather sharply to a “President Bush has no present recollection of having seen the tapes.” This is a formulation frequently used to avoid perjury charges, a sort of way of saying “no” without really saying “no.”

The Bhutto assassination: The links to 9/11 and the drug trade

Everyone I know -- even non-political folk -- viewed the holiday season as a brief respite. They seemed to sense that various forms of hell -- personal hell, economic hell, political hell -- would break loose after Christmas. Now, as if to confirm those fears, we have the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the rightful leader of Pakistan. This attack followed hard upon the attempted assassination of her rival, former Pakistani Prime MinisterNawaz Sharif.

Bhutto was hardly a saint. She and her husband stood accused of corruption. Her husband did eight years in prison on charges of money laundering, during which time he was apparently tortured. (It seems that when Bhutto was Prime Minister in the 1990s, her husband took bribes from a French aircraft manufacturer who supplied new fighter jets to Pakistan. ) More important, as far as Americans are concerned, is the fact that she initially saw the Taliban as a force for stability in Afghanistan.

But she turned against the Taliban, against Al Qaeda (which has made Pakistan its headquarters) and against the dictatorial Pervez Musharraf, who maintains the firm backing of the United States government. Tainted as she was, Benazir Bhutto remained her country's best hope for democracy.

Any democratically-elected leader of that country would, of necessity, adopt an anti-U.S. tone, since Bush has rendered our nation so thoroughly unloved. Nevertheless, the majority of Pakistanis dislike the jihadist movement, and would have supported any Bhutto campaign against Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda always loathed her, just as they loathe the very concept of democracy.

W has danced an unfathomably strange dance with Pervez Musharraf. The administration views him as a necessary figure and a close ally, even as he plays host to Osama Bin Laden. Many rank-and-file jihadis in Pakistan hold Musharraf in genuine disdain. Yet the Pakistani military -- Musharraf's base of power -- maintains uncomfortably close ties to Al Qaeda, ties which few Americans choose to notice.

Most Americans will accept Bush's assertions that we must continue to support the current Pakistani regime. But I can't see how a truly democratic government could possibly have done worse than Musharraf has done on the question of terror.

So who killed Bhutto?

Obviously, Musharraf has the most to gain. He knows that, even if he chooses to postpone elections, he can count on Bush's support. In fact, the murder may help the Republican party as much as it will help Musharraf. (Many are now talking about Rudy benefiting from this tragedy. The Bush administration, which did everything it could to prevent Bhutto from regaining power, will now claim her as a martyr to the cause of freedom!)

A key fact: The assassination took place in Rawalpindi, which is carefully controlled by the military. Bhutto was shot -- either entering her car, or while speaking to a crowd from a van (reports differ) -- just before a suicide bomber blew himself up. The bomber effectively provided cover for the shooter, presuming that they were two separate individuals.

An early report holds that Al Qaeda claims responsibility.
An obscure Italian Web site said Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, told its reporter in a phone call, "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahedeen."
Although that report may prove dubious, no-one can deny that the jihadis have always despised Benazir Bhutto. Thus, our best (albeit tentative) first theory would have to be one in which elements of the Pakistani military/intelligence apparat conspired with the jihadis to murder Bhutto.

Readers may want to consult an earlier Cannonfire piece on the previous attack on Bhutto. Unfortunately, the video interview which gave rise to that post is no longer available. In that interview, Bhutto did not offer a simplistic "blame the terrorists" scenario:
After talking about the horrific violence that greeted her return to Pakistan, she accuses three men of planning the attacks. Then she narrows her focus on one particular suspect. Although she never names him, her obvious target is Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, the former head of the ISI, Pakistan's version of the CIA. Mahmood (sometimes spelled Mehmood) has correctly been called "the most taboo suspect of all 9/11 suspects."
That "most taboo suspect" must now be considered the chief suspect in the killing of Benazir Bhutto.

Ahmed is a more ominous figure than most Americans realize. He has been credibly linked with the funding of Mohammed Atta, the chief 9/11 terrorist.

But even that is not the worst of it. If I may be forgiven further self-quotation:
Why has the administration (and, to a large extent, the media) refused to go after General Mahmood? Good question.

The ISI Director worked closely with the CIA for many years, and it is known that he met with Richard Armitage, a key player in the Reagan, Bush I and Bush II administrations. (Armitage helped stop Valerie Plame's efforts against nuke proliferation, and signed the infamous PNAC letter which laid the groundwork for the Iraq debacle.) Various conflicting news stories (see here) picture Mahmood as helping both the Taliban and the White House in the days before and after 9/11.

As you have probably already guessed, the drug trade appears to be the major factor linking Mahmood, the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, and American covert forces. Pakistan was and is at the heart of a massive drug network. In March of 2002, Vanity Fair reported that the ISI controlled this underground economy.
The following words now carry the chill of dark prophecy:
Mahmood has highly-placed American allies. And that is why I doubt that Bhutto -- who obviously wants to bring Mahmood to justice -- will be allowed to prevail in Pakistan's turmoil.
I wrote that passage on November 3. Before the year ended, Bhutto was prevented from ever again playing a role in Pakistan's future.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Why are Ron Paul supporters so weird?

The Ron Paul phenomenon is bizarre. A student friend of mine has become genuinely creeped out by the Paulie presence on campus. "They've turned into the new LaRouchies," she told me. So enmeshed are they in their own private Pauliverse, they cannot notice the aroma of psychosis perfuming their interactions with the public, and they refuse to see that evangelical zeal can repulse as well as convert.

Because Paul embraces conspiracy theories -- and let's have no argument: He does -- his supporters now feel free to view all opposition as evidence of The Grand Plot Against Paul, who would surely top all polls if not for said Plot. A presidential campaign has become a paranoia engine.
If the Israel first 'American' media made the following 'Neo-CONNED' speech known to a majority of Americans, Ron Paul would be the leader of the pack..
Then there's the always-lovable Alan Stang, who thinks that the Soviet Union never fell:
Will the conspiracy for world government assassinate Dr. Paul? That is the stark question now before us.
The answer, you will not be surprised to learn, is yes. To prove the point, Stang quotes the author of what appears to be a crankish book about the Bilderbergers.
He says that sources in a think tank in U.S. intelligence tell him that people at the top of the U.S. government are considering the execution of Dr. Ron Paul, whose exploding popularity is causing them to fear they could lose control.
Sources. In a think tank. In U.S. intelligence. Who won't talk to normal reporters. But they will talk to the writers of wacky books about the Bilderbergers -- about the mortal threat posed by a candidate with single-digit poll numbers.

Today, Josh Marshall walks into the paranoia-cloud swirling around the Paulies. They have accused him of being part of the dreaded MSM. The anti-Paulies have proven just as wacky: They have pleaded with Marshall to "disavow" Paul, even though Marshall has never avowed the man.

The reason for this madness is not, I think, Paul's stance on the war, but his refusal to go along with the national consensus that Israel deserves unending support. I don't go along with that consensus myself, yet I recognize that merely bringing up the subject suffices to create outbreaks of mass hysteria.

As you know, my problem with Paul lies not with his stances on foreign policy, but with his Libertarianism. To a great degree, Libertarianism cannot be distinguished from Milton Friedmanism -- and as Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine proves beyond all rational argument, Friedmanism is the problem, not the solution.

Yet the zombie adherents of laissez faire (like the zombie adherents of Leninism) keep insisting that their Grand Theory has never received a proper trial. In their view, the one thing we must never, ever contemplate is the European mixed economy model, because that approach always leads to ruination and mass misery. Don't you know that they're stacking up the corpses of the homeless like cordwood on the streets of Oslo? Don't you know that that the French and German economies are doomed to fail completely within the next few months? True, the Libertarians have made that prediction for thirty years or more -- but this time for sure. (In the real world, the main economic problems facing Europe were created by George W. Bush's favoritism to his rich cronies.)

When I contemplate Friedmanism/Libertarianism, my mind keeps returning to the fascist connection. No, I'm not going to argue that Ron Paul is a secret Nazi. I don't think that Uncle Miltie was a Nazi, either. And yet no-one can deny that post-war fascism has allied itself with the Friedmanite death march throughout the third world. To prove the point, one need only point to Pinochet's use of Colonia Dignidad.

Oddly, the Nazis did not espouse laissez faire in the 1920s. Their chief economic theoretician in that period was a strange man named Gottfried Feder, who drew a distinction between industrial capitalists (the guys who make shoes) and finance capitalists (the bankers who loan money to the shoemakers). The former were the good guys, said Feder, while the latter were very bad guys indeed.

When the Nazis attained power, they never applied strict Federism. In the post-war era, those attracted to fascist thought seemed to gravitate toward Randroid economic views. Even so, a scan of the crank-right literature reveals that paranoia about finance capitalism remains strong. Of course, the term "finance capitalism" is no longer used; post-war fascists prefer to talk about the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, the international bankers and so forth. During the cold war, there was even a strain of Nazism that favored the USSR over the United States. Francis Parker Yockey exemplified that stance; I suspect that he was impressed by Stalin's late segue into anti-Semitism.

So please do not classify me among those who simplistically conflate the Paulies with fascists. Fascism itself is such a complex phenomenon that, even after decades of study, I'm still not sure how to define the term.

But I do think that the Paulies are weird.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Hi. This is Wallace, guest-blogging again for the holidays. I thought I would share with you some more little-known American Christmas traditions...

First, let us recall the reason for the season...

This is the Jesus that our beloved Vice President keeps atop his tree.

Jesus comforts JFK.

The life of Christ in Christmas lights, as seen annually in the town of Blue Springs, Missouri.

The grand finale. And that's why we call Missouri the "Show Me" state.

I think they look like GI Joe dolls.

"Help! I'm drowning!"
Mary Magdalene is so popular these days, she had to get into the Christmas ornament biz. This example is a little too tasteful...
That's more like it!

A great stocking stuffer.
To keep the spirit of Christmas all year round, try this Nativity scene kitchen timer.

Surprisingly, I have yet to see an inflatable nativity scene on anyone's lawn. Joseph kind of looks like Paul Bunyan, doesn't he?

Their heads bobble. Spiffy!

The "Santa manger" scene continues to be extremely popular. I'm not sure I like the look on this Santa's face, though.

I have many Santa/manger scenes in my collection. This one seems particularly surreal. I think it's the eyeglasses.

Mom and Dad are gone. They left the kid with a babysitter.

It wouldn't be Christmas without the troll nativity.

Santa and baby Jesus. It's an American obsession, I tell ya...

But what do we really know about Santa?

"Hi, little girl. What are you wearing?"

Just in time for the new Indiana Jones flick...

Under the new FISA legislation, no warrant is needed.

And now let's look at some notable Christmas trees...

From the Thomas Kinkaide collection. He's a great artist. He could draw people really well if he wanted to. He just doesn't want to.

The White House Christmas tree.

Beer cans!
Let's combine Christmas and Easter into one big holiday called Creester.

What's this...?
Oh no!


Well, that's my collection for this year. I'd wish you "Happy Holidays," but Bill O'Reilly might beat me up.

Monday, December 24, 2007

War on Christmas? Not here!

Hi! I'm Wallace and I will be your guide to Christmas this season.

Let's start with my favorite new ornament, one which is sure to put you in the holiday mood -- the FETUS WITH A GUN! If there's a war on Christmas, this little feller is armed for the counter-attack...

But your foot soldier for Christ will need his holy hand grenade ornament to lob at America's enemies -- who, not being in His sight, shall snuff it.

Here are a few of my favorite ornaments...

Between the Elvis ornament, the Star Trek ornament, and the gun-totin' fetus, we have pretty much defined America.

"You want to brush my peepee? By all means!"

The fairy Jesus tree ornament. Popular in West Hollywood.

For the geek on your list.

I wonder if they still make these? Maybe they no longer have the balls...

More patriotic spirit...

Score for Jesus. "Tackle me not, for I am not yet ascended unto the Father..."

Let us never forget when Santa crossed the Delaware.

In the spirit of the season.

I've always liked this guy.

Christmas at Miskatonic...
I always like it when the Jesus imagery and the Santa imagery become "as one." This conflation is more common than you might realize...

A close study of America's Christmas ornamentation can teach you things about the national psyche that you'll never learn in years of college...

I'll be back with another spurt in a short while. Merry Christmas!