February 2010


Text here. I’m glad he said he’s sorry – I figured everyone was sorry, maybe some people didn’t figure that but, having seen the apology, they now do. He even gestured in the direction of a reason for risking so many civilian lives: “protect the Afghan people [...] brighter future [...],” which is appreciated, though vague, and not his job. His job is to carry out policy, and, under his direction, a terrible operational mistake was made. We all make mistakes, rarely with missiles.

But while mistakes were obviously made in executing policy, policy is deliberate. The killing was accidental, risking the killings was a decision made towards a purpose, and I would like to hear someone who made this decision explain what, precisely, this purpose is. It needs to be more precise than promises of a “brighter future” or “gaining the momentum” or “defeating terror” or “fighting them over there so blah blah blah” or any of the other gauzy reasons which have been offered for bombing people over the last decade or so, because, if the people in charge of strategy actually believe any of that, we are so fucked. Again: what, precisely, are we hoping to accomplish?

Wolcott is funny:

Scott Brown is but the latest of the beauty-salon graduates driving conservatives to spazzy distraction. As NYCweboy argues, the Republican Party has become the fan club for attention-deficit teenage girls of all ages and sexes, unable to decide between Fabian and Frankie Avalon, infatuated with Zec Efron one month and all moony over Rob Pattison the next, smitten with Mitt Romney one campaign and pining over Marco Rubio the next. “[If] if Republicans have a crisis of leadership, it may be because conservatives have become some of the most fickle lovers of new faces: as fast as a new handsome dude (usually white, but occasionally tan) enters the room, their love of last year’s model goes out the window.”

Well, in the GOP’s defense (plus Chris Matthews, Serial Leg Humper), you really could land a 747 on Romney’s shoulders.  He’s positively dreamy.  And don’t even get me started on John Thuuu…ooohooohoooh…starbursts.  Happens every time.

(via)

Twice in one week, I am rendered speechless:

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

KABUL, Afghanistan – A NATO airstrike killed at least 27 civilians in central Afghanistan, the third time a mistaken coalition strike has killed noncombatants since the start of a major offensive aimed at winning over the population.

The top NATO commander, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, apologized to the Afghan president, NATO said.

The Afghanistan Council of Ministers strongly condemned the airstrike in Uruzgan province, calling it “unjustifiable.”

Touchy.

Will Bunch reminds us how far we have come:

Reagan would not have approved of drone-fired missile attacks aimed at killing terrorists; as president he several times rejected anti-terrorism operations for the sole reason that civilians would have been killed by collateral damage. In 1985, he surprised aides such as Pat Buchanan by ruling out a military response to a Beirut hijacking for fear of civilian casualties; Lou Cannon reported then in the Washington Post that Reagan said “retaliation in which innocent civilians are killed is ‘itself a terrorist act.'”

He got over it eventually, but nevermind.  Twenty-five years ago the right of the Republican party could consider this unthinkable; today, a liberal Democrat runs on a promise to bomb an ally and gets called a commie.  (He keeps his promises, too.)  There’s been a lot of bridge under the water since then, but still.

Objections tend to be consequentialist (if I am using that $5 word correctly) – killing civilians tends to make those civilians’ friends and relations not like us very much, impeding efforts which require their cooperation.  Or may even inspire failed attempts to terrorize someone.  Hence: bad.  All of which may be true, and understandable.  While I, in my telescopic benevolence, am a bit peeved when foreign civilians are blown up, my peevishness is tempered by the understanding that it’s all a big oopsie and everyone is certainly very sorry for any inconvenience; on the other hand, I can imagine that the people scraping the charred residue of their loved ones off the rocks might not take such a generous view.  It’s a bad way to make friends.  (The other half of this argument is that the goal is so worthwhile that all is forgiven, but that is usually taken as read.)

There’s another objection, more fundamental, and it goes like this: you shouldn’t kill people who haven’t done anything to you, because it isn’t nice.  It’s considered bad manners, under most circumstances, which is why, in our day-to-day lives, most of us go out of our way to avoid “collaterally damaging” those around us, to the point of almost never firing Hellfire missiles anywhere there is even a remote chance of incinerating a baby.  If one does happen to kill, say, 27 people one Sunday evening, one can expect to have to answer some fairly pointed questions, at least.  Now, we are at war, and the longer it lasts the more it consumes us, but perhaps we could at least retain some small connection to our fellow humans and acknowledge that this was a mistake made by someone in uniform, but this mistake was made possible by deliberate policy.  It doesn’t have to be a big song and dance, just something like “today we killed so-and-so, which we didn’t mean to do, but we did risk killing innocent civilians with our actions, which we feel is justified because so-and-so.  We think it is worth killing civilians for this reason.”  Acknowledgement, owning responsibility, that’s all.  And it doesn’t even have to be Obama or anyone important – even Joe Biden would probably be adequate.  He’s not doing anything.

Damn, first Captain Phil, now Daddy.  Next thing you’re gonna tell me The Situation has cancer or some shit.  Which of course could never happen seein as he’s got super powers.

Bonus Fact: “Daddy was originally owned by rapper Redman, who lived in New Jersey but his travel schedule made it hard for him to care for daddy, so Millan adopted him and they’ve been best friends ever since.”

Big Blue:

The thing about the whole OBAMA TELEPROMPTER MUAAHAHAAHAHA thing is that it became a joke among reporters, not just conservatives, who apparently never noticed that presidents regularly used teleprompters until Obama took office.

The fake teleprompter bit is rooted in racial insecurities/straight up racism.  As in: “How can we explain away the fact that a black man has ascended to the office of President when we all know black men are inferior (especially intellectually)?”  Or at least, “How can we soothe our stung white man’s pride at the fact?”

One way is to knock the uppity negro down a peg and/or to point out that he really isn’t all that smart after all – that he only sounds articulate because he’s reading off a teleprompter (unlike all those white presidentz). 

That explains it! 

It’s the same rationale behind Limbaugh’s claims that Obama only got into Harvard Law, and a spot as Editor of Law Review, because his professors and students either changed his grades (out of white guilt) or did his work for him (same).  Because no black man could do something like that on his own, what with being innately stupid compared to white folks like Sarah Palin.

Which is remarkably similar to some of the sleazier, yet ubiquitous, smears hurled at Sonia Sotomayor during the confirmation process: she got into Princeton (and got outstanding grades while there!) because of affirmative action. 

She was, after all, Puerto Rican. Which, and I’ll have to check my Bell Curve on this, places her somewhere above the negroes, but nowhere near Joe the Plumber.

The fact that reporters are running with these jokes is no shocker.  See, ie, Richard Cohen, who is by all of his accounts, very, very funny.  Just as Al Gore is fat.

Maybe if I live to eleventy billion years old I can approach Roy’s ascerbic wit.  On the state of the media puke funnel:

This would have piqued my interest even if David Broder hadn’t gone on about what a great populist Sarah Palin is at precisely the moment when a new WashPo-ABC poll showed that Palin has never been less popular

It’s an unavoidable problem, I fear, of democracy in an age of mass communications and dwindling dollars. To the honorable old question, why oh why can’t we have a better press corps? I can only answer: No money in it. The Kremlinology of the press, citizen and otherwise, can be extremely subtle, but the basic state of play is that those with little power are desperate and those with much power are scared.

In the positivist view, this constant tension is supposed to create a better state of affairs, with the bustling marketplace of ideas yielding a better product. Maybe the positive thinkers think that better product is a higher degree of truth. But from what I’ve seen, it’s more like the progress of junk food: from an agreeable, consistent, and convenient substitute for the real thing, to something everyone eats and nobody remembers is junk.

The almighty dollar.

I am actually shocked:

It’s amazing how, no matter how I lower my standards, Republicans find a way to limbo under them. Well played, then, I suppose.

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