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November 18, 2005

congress: back

Hey, here's a weird thing I've noticed. 

I was catching up on the news this morning, hitting stories like this one, and I realized:

Congress is relevant again.

This shouldn't come as any shock, since the mystic laws of checks and balances provide that the legislative branch of the federal government should be just as block-rocking as the executive and the judiciary.  But, if you think back, over the course of the past couple, both houses of Congress have been good pretty much only for graft and speechifying.  Policy was being dictated mostly by the GOP and its (then) unwavering party discipline, mouthpieced by the Administration and then rubber-stamped by Congress.

Finally, the outcome of floor votes is no longer as predetermined as the outcome of New York Jets games.  We get parliamentary whizbangery, and sometimes even small voting upsets.  It's true, it's fun to watch the Congress, for the first time in years.  It's almost like we suddenly have a vibrant body politic, which would make us some western European country.

Basically, this the best Congressional season ever, and I think we'll have a couple of pennant races on our hands as the season winds down.

And all the people say, "Victory!  Plus also novelty!"

Posted by mrbrent at 12:24 PM

November 16, 2005


I'm not usually one for the single-purpose link.  I always have that bitch-goddess Context looking over my shoulder.

But I stumbled across this footage from an MTV event in the UK, where the Gorillaz played live.  The Gorillaz, of course, is a band peopled by cartoon characters.  And I understand that this is live footage, and not all cgi'ed up after the fact.

Find it here.

It's definitely a watershed moment, but of what I'm not sure.

[Via Heidi McDonald's The Beat.]

Posted by mrbrent at 6:52 PM


It's astonishing.

I've discovered that I'm not the only one in New York with a neighbor problem.

Not that I'd ever admit to a neighbor problem in electronic print.

That would be gauche, or "left-handed", as they say instead in Quebec.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:43 PM

deep throat?

America was looking forward to a week without the CIA leak investigation.  Maybe a week of bird-watching instead, or a week of remembering Eddie Guerrero.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.

America, please give a big "Oh No You Dint!" welcome to Bob Woodward!  Isn't he great?

That whooshing sound you hear?  That's a collective sigh of relief from the New York Times, happy not to be the paper with the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist problem, for once.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:15 PM

pushing back the pushback

Last Friday, the President decided to celebrate Veteran's Day by making a speech attacking his critics of the Iraq War.  While generally filled with nonsense and outrage, the central tenet of the Bush push-back I'd like to address is, "Iraq is the central front on the war on terror."

Because the President says that, like, every time a bell rings.

It is a statement whose only hope of convincing anyone is that it contains a stupidity so blinding that the human mind is stunned into jumping in with both feet.  It is the ideological equivalent of, "You're getting sleepy, verrrry sleeeepy."  It's wrong in essence, it's wrong in fact and it contradicts itself, but it punches the "Stupid American" button, and then the flags get waived and treason accusations fly.  So lookit, Stupid Americans, for a brief moment.

First of all, to call anything the "Central Front" of the "War On Terror" is like stretching a metaphor between two buildings and then trying to walk on it.  There is no "War On Terror".  It does not exist.  You can't declare anything but a make-believe war on a thing that does not physically exist.  You could have a war on mosquitoes -- that could happen, because mosquitoes are more than an idea.  Iraq may well be the "imaginary Central Front" of the War on Terror, or the "pretend Central Front", but Iraq cannot be the Central Front of the War on Terror mostly because there is no Central Front, unless it's "bravery" or "resilience".  Obviously, this conceptual abuse is more of the pitch for Book One of the Encyclopedia of Bush Administration Failures than a succinct paragraph, but it's alarming how rare you see this sentiment expressed in the Great Unwashed Electorate.

But even if you make that leap of faith and you buy into the idea that war can be declared on a technique, then the idea that Iraq is central to this American War on Terror is insane.  I hate to sound like I'm on Air America, but they ain't really no single nation that launched the 9-11 attacks.  According to the best intel (and I haven't heard it whispered to be wrong yet), the attacks were independently financed and coordinated.  If you go by nation of origin, Saudi Arabia and Egypt seem pretty thigh-deep in the terrorist business, but to go by nationality is facile.  That would be like blaming West Virginia for me, and I haven't lived there for 25 years.  And of all of the nations that have aided, willingly or not, the "turrists", like Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sudan, Iraq is not one of them.  Pre-invasion, Baathist Iraq was a lot of nasty things, but one thing it wasn't was militant Islamist.  In fact, given Iraq's secular state and Al Qaida's avowed antipathy therefor, and the fact that the US has done plenty of business with Saddam in the past, Iraq might have been a most logical ally in this silly "War On Terror".  I know -- how unpatriotic!

In fact, the only way to fit Iraq into this little TerrorWar box is to acknowledge that, in the two years and change since the US/UK invaded, there have come to be many terrorists in Iraq -- some homegrown and some on vacation.  The most kind description of this event would be "unintended consequence", as the Administration has had its grubby little hands slapped the last time it tried to spin a destabilized, terrorist-training-ground Iraq into a "flypaper strategy".  No, given the current insistence that the rationale for the invasion was to find and secure WMDs, to tie, even notionally, Iraq to terror is admitting the utter failure of the primary rationalization.

At the heart of this meme (sorry, Monk) is the Saddam-equals-Osama sleight of hand that misled this country of well-intentioned rocket scientists into an illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign state and later tipped a close election.  The mere fact that the words "terror" and "Iraq" are in the same sentence is the magic bullet that is supposed to keep the monsters at bay and validate four plus years of foreign policy misadventure.  And the President's imprudent and continual use of these hints and allegations is the act of a coward who hasn't yet figured out that the defense has figured out the party-line Big Lie playbook that worked so well for the past few years.

In a way, the fact that Bush actually spoke the words, "Iraq is the central front in the war on terror," is heartening.  If the President wants to drag this little sentiment out into the light of day in toto and stop trying to communicate it through codewords and semaphore, I am first to bring over the Welcome Casserole.  It's a lie, and it's the lie that has been sub-rosa promulgated for the past four years.  Finally we can confirm the existence of this line of thinking, and we can put our feet on the back of its neck and kill it before it spawns.

[BTW -- the Irag/terror bit is actually the least nauseating of the bullshit tropes the President doused the vets at Tobyhanna with, and the absence of reference to the remaining bullshit is not intended to imply approval or ignorance thereof.]

Posted by mrbrent at 1:52 AM

November 15, 2005

ah tragedy

You've been in both pairs of shoes.  As a pedestrian, you have many stories of delivery trucks that nearly ran you down.  And as the licensed operator of a motor vehicle, you have just as many stories of crackhead sidewalkers who are trying to kill themselves by walking into traffic.

In both instances, there is indignation, maybe a small tantrum of temper.

I recommend, however, to keep in mind that in the eternal struggle between motorists and pedestrians, motorists always win.

"Look both ways," still governs, even if you're chatting on your Razr.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:09 AM