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August 2, 2008

gop: race war!

As nauseating (and par for the course) as the the McCain campaign's trip down the low road is, it can always get worse.  There's always the chance that some fella will goes a little too far off the reservation, and mistakenly say the intended inference of the mudslinging out loud, on national TV.  In this instance, the truth-speaker is GOP strategist Joe Watkins, who claims that the Obama campaign is trying to start a "race war".

TPM's Greg Sargent writes that the implication of this choice of words is the logical extension of the "race card" strategy:

As noted [there] yesterday, the point of accusing the Obama camp of playing the "race card" is to undercut his image as a racial uniter who's not interested in re-fighting past political battles, and instead to paint him as confrontational on race.

Here you have it laid bare.

Exactly.  So then the point of accusing the Obama camp of trying to start a race war is to paint Obama as, well, a Trojan Horse/sleeper agent of the Trotskyite Black Panthers who, not yet satisfied with losing us the Vietnam War, want to rape all your white women in the streets that run red with your blood.

Meanwhile, TPM's Josh Marshall reminds us that McCain may have inappropriately touched a lobbyist, and that, in the spirit of fair play, maybe someone should look into that further.

I have a feeling that there's going to be a lot to write about in this election.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:19 AM

what did ABC know and when did they know it?

My first thought when I saw news of the USAMRIID researcher committing suicide before he could be charged with the anthrax mailings of '01 was, "What the huh?" and was quickly followed by the thought, "Oof, prepare for the Storm of the Tinfoil Hats."  Not that I'm of the personal belief of anything hinky going on (other than my overriding belief that something hinky is always going on), but to have a mystery culprit pop up seven years later, and to have the mystery culprit die under mysterious circumstances prior to anything like a confession, well that pretty much invites speculation, doesn't it?  But to be honest, I'm just not up-to-speed on the intricacies of this years-old investigation -- I didn't even buy myself any cipro! -- so it was initially hard to take this seriously.

Fortunately for everyone, Salon's Glenn Greenwald is more than up to speed, and meticulously (and lengthily) explains the significance of these recent events:

If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab, sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick.  Without resort to any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the significance of that fact.

The speculation and inference then follows.  Basically, at the time, ABC News reported that, according to unnamed administration sources, the origin of the anthrax was from Saddam Hussein's Iraq.  Accordingly,

Seven years later, it's difficult for many people to recall, but, as I've amply documented, those ABC News reports linking Saddam and anthrax penetrated very deeply -- by design -- into our public discourse and into the public consciousness.  Those reports were absolutely vital in creating the impression during that very volatile time that Islamic terrorists generally, and Iraq and Saddam Hussein specifically, were grave, existential threats to this country...

And as it now appears (at least on the surface) that the source of the anthrax was Fort Detrick in Maryland, it follows that:

Surely the question of who generated those false Iraq-anthrax reports is one of the most significant and explosive stories of the last decade.  The motive to fabricate reports of bentonite and a link to Saddam is glaring.  Those fabrications played some significant role -- I'd argue a very major role -- in propagandizing the American public to perceive of Saddam as a threat, and further, propagandized the public to believe that our country was sufficiently threatened by foreign elements that a whole series of radical policies that the neoconservatives both within and outside of the Bush administration wanted to pursue -- including an attack an Iraq and a whole array of assaults on our basic constitutional framework -- were justified and even necessary in order to survive.

So it's a mystery wrapped in an enigma with an anonymous-sourced cherry on top.  Did the administration politicize the anthrax attacks to popularize a potentially unpopular war?  Or worse?

As hard as it is to stay interested in that whole Iraq War thing from a million years ago, Greenwald sifts through the information very rigorously and raises some valid new questions.  It is worth reading the entire thing slowly, so then you can start with the trusting of no one.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:11 AM

August 1, 2008

mccain, fortunately, is loved by fat people

Let's see if this one will have any legs today -- from the WSJ (via a DailyKos diarist), an article exploring Sen. Obama's failure to win the support of fat people:
But in a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama's skinniness be a liability?  Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.

Not a joke, apparently, but I could read that in The Onion and it wouldn't strike me as out of place.  Though it is a very useful example of how Electoral Anti-Exceptionalism (i.e., the American electorate's unwillingness to vote for any candidate that can't pass for as unexceptional -- stupid, smug, close-minded, vindictive, etc. -- as the electorate seems to be) has calcified from trend into fact.

Come to think of it, I can't believe I've ever voted for any candidate that was not exactly like me in every way.  (That candidate would be Robert F. Kennedy, duh.)

But you comedy writers out there can start thinking about the other ways that Sen. Obama is different from people so that people won't have to vote for him anymore.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:37 AM

July 31, 2008

playing the race card

At this point in history, can we all agree that accusing someone of playing the race card is close enough to actually playing the race card as to be nearly equivalent?  Can we pretend that we're a little more sophisticated than we appear to be?

I'm not trying to alter the playing field in the Obama campaign's favor on this one, honestly.  I just believe that claims of "playing the race card", and throw in also claims of reverse discrimination, are the finely honed tactics of actual racists, a wink/nudge to the true believers, who understand what they're talking about, if ya know what I mean, as far as "those people" are concerned.  It's falsely pious, and it's got a streak of "see-how-you-like-it" that's feckless.

Not that "feckless" is a quality I expect any modern political campaign to rise above, but then again "Idiocracy" is looking more prescient every day.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:47 PM

oil means profits

You'd think that the interesting thing about the latest "Oil Companies Show Record Profits" story would be the record profits, and the odd coincidence of record prices at the consumer level.  You know, the average motorist, suspicious at the inverse relationship between his fuel expenses, and the fuel companies take-home.

But no, that's not it, this time.  This time, the interesting thing is that the oil companies didn't profit enough:

But investors expected even bigger profits Thursday, especially after Europe's Royal Dutch Shell reported a 33 percent jump in second-quarter earnings of $11.6 billion, which fell just shy of Exxon's own record earnings from 2007.

Shares fell 2 percent, or $1.68, to $82.70 in premarket trading.

The record profits were short of expectations, so the stock prices fell.

There's gotta be some hidden beauty in the machinations of these financial markets and their apparent sentience, but I leave it for the economists.

Meanwhile, gasoline at the station on the corner fell to $4.21 a gallon, so we're gonna throw a big block party.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:00 AM

July 30, 2008

mccain: i'm unpopular!

So, Sen. McCain has been on a couple week-long tear of negative ridiculousness, trying to paint Sen. Obama as a photo-op obsessed phony who intends to charisma his way into the White House.  Not only aren't very many of the McCain claims very interesting (let alone valid), I have to question the logic of a campaign tactic the logical distillation of which is: "Vote for me -- I'm unlikable."  It may well be the case, but I'm not sure the voters who are looking for a shallow, whiny prick are the voters you should spend time and money trying to woo.

And this is not concern trolling -- my legitimate concern is that McCain might somehow win.  So I fully support the McCain campaign's recent efforts.

Today's effort (which I've only read about -- not gonna waste my precious thirty seconds on that crap) links Obama to celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, with the tagline, "Do the American people want to elect the biggest celebrity in the world, or do they want to elect an American hero?"  Which would be the funniest tagline in the world if I could just breathe through the stench of desperation.

But no worries -- this is the Obama campaign riposte (scroll):

On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another.  Or, as some might say, 'Oops! He did it again.'

It's one thing to reply to a dirty ad on the merits -- it's another to air-quote the dirty ad while jumping up and down on its neck.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:10 PM

montauk turtle?

Apparently, the Montauk monster (which is no creepy gnome, but still very popular) is (according to reports): (i) either part of or not part of some freakin' viral campaign; and (ii) maybe not so monstrous at all, unless you're particularly sensitive to dead dogs and/or turtles.

For my part, I apologize for taking any part in the sudden popularity of this monster -- I was much more fascinated by remembering the creepy reputation of Plum Island (below) than I was by the gruesome image.  But we will let Internet celebrity run its course, and you will have no memory of any of this by dinnertime.

(Plum Island is a government veterinary science research facility -- think Mad Cow and Avian Flu -- off the tip of the North Fork of Long Island.  It's a place like: "Oh yeah the guards are armed -- not just to keep you off the island, but to keep what's on the island in!!!"  Oh, I love that shit.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:22 AM

July 29, 2008

cryptozoology - nooooooo!

For those few of you out there that have spent some time in the general vicinity of the Peconic Bays, Plum Island says hello.

For the rest of you, I think the link explains itself, though I'm always happy to upon polite request.

It's too bad that the X-Files movie did not do so good, because I'm Fox-Muldering up my Tuesday over here.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:29 PM

jon voight for mccain

Well now, I was already under the impression that actor Jon Voight was a touch on the touched side (which may happen to anyone whose daughter grows up to be Angelina Jolie), but come to find out that he's also legitimately batshit crazy, as he writes an Op-Ed for the Washington Times which reads like a note left behind by an insane dude as he goes out to bag hisself a couple liberals:
The Democrats have targeted young people, knowing how easy it is to bring forth whatever is needed to program their minds.  I know this process well.  I was caught up in the hysteria during the Vietnam era, which was brought about through Marxist propaganda underlying the so-called peace movement.  The radicals of that era were successful in giving the communists power to bring forth the killing fields and slaughter 2.5 million people in Cambodia and South Vietnam. Did they stop the war, or did they bring the war to those innocent people?  In the end, they turned their backs on all the horror and suffering they helped create and walked away.

Dude, that may be my favorite revisionist lunacy ever (or at least of the week) -- I'd totally forgot that the Marxists lost the Vietnam War by brainwashing the youth of America into... urm, joining the NVA?  Whatever, I was only alive for half of that war, so maybe Jon Voight is right -- which one of us has an Oscar, after all?

The thrust of his lunacy is that something terrible will befall us if Sen. Obama is elected.  But that is not what is important.  What is imortant is that Jon Voigt is an insane person whose prose has a halting quality that resembles schizophrenia, or advanced dementia.

Voigt joins other celebrity endorsers of McCain, Wilford Brimley and Stephen Baldwin -- truly, a murderer's row of cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

[Via Balk.]

[Further:]  Edited to correct dumbass spelling error.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:25 AM

ufos are the new julia allison

There is a nice little surprise on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, in the slot usually reserved for "We Must Pursue Trade Negotiations With Peru" or "Healthy Credit Markets Will Light Our Way", we have "Watch The Skies/The Truth Is Out There":
The United States Air Force or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should reopen investigations of U.F.O. phenomena.  It would not imply that the country has suddenly started believing in little green men.  It would simply recognize the possibility that radar alone cannot always tell us what’s out there.

I know what you're thinking -- you're thinking, "Why is Titivil acting like this is the first time he's seen an essay on UFOs in the New York Times' op-ed page?"  Well, the answer is, "I'm not acting -- fooled ya!"  Based on the past few days of current events (I guess we could just call them 'events'), I can think of a few topics -- wars, even -- that merit an informed comment or tow, and none of those topics -- or wars -- have anything to do with UFOs.

So, to see a call to arms on IDing UFOs on the second-to-last page of the NYT's A section, well, I guess this might be a novel day after all.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:18 AM

July 28, 2008

you are used to these inclinations of mine, i hope

At the risk of the deepest cynicism, I'm wondering this -- with regard to (Yahoo!) headlines as such:
• Al-Qaida poison, explosives expert said killed in missile strike

So, this shadowy organization of criminals terrorists, which we have not been able to penetrate and/or bust into a thousand pieces coming up on seven years after a couple of airplanes were flown into a couple of skyscrapers on our soil, somehow has an org chart that is available to the copy editors of Yahoo! (or the A.P. writer that filed the story)?  None of the bad guys have yet been brought to trial, but we somehow know who of the bad guys is responsible for what?

The only more apt way it could have been phrased is to say that the "under-chief of freedom-hating" is reported to have been killed (amongst whoever else was there when the missile hit) in our glorious efforts.

I'm not taking my tinfoil hat out of the closet just yet, but how can I not call bullshit?  One of the few authors I read whose message I took to heart was Orwell, and is there any other way to construe news stories like the above other than, "Progress is being made in our war against Eurasia/Eastasia?"

Um, also Amy Winehouse something something.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:40 PM

monday bill kristol tee-ball practice

So, in reading Bill Kristol's column in today's New York Times, only two glaringly bad passages.  The first:
“Nicht so schnell, Herr Spörl,” I thought, drawing on what Obama would consider my embarrassingly limited German.

While it's always effective to caricature one's opponent as somehow disagreeable, nothing in what I've read describes Sen. Obama as someone who looks down on those who don't speak German well.  Maybe the idea of a presidential candidate that demands perfect Hoch Deutsch from his followers will dissuade some voters; maybe it will make people laugh at Bill Kristol.

The second (also), the last:

Life may be full of disappointments.  But it’s also full of surprises.

That small paragraph is the op-ed equivalent of, "And then I woke up, and realized it was all a dream."  Which probably would have been an apter way to end his piece, as it was concerned with Kristol getting down in the dumps over Obama's chances, and then imagining scenarios in which McCain will win.

It is as usual excruciatingly bad, but to end with life being full of disappointments/surprises is to admit to the world that yes, the author is aware that the essay you are reading is steaming crap.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:59 AM