December 02, 2004

Lady Mondegreen of the Fens

Via TAPPED, the Confidence Man reads of yet another case of forged Iraqi documents. Somehow, we missed it last year when the CS Monitor retracted their story on the documents "proving" that Labor MP James Galloway had been receiving PR funds from Saddam Hussein.

Now, what catches our eye in this story is the fact that the editor of the CS Monitor is one Paul Van Slambrouck.

Recall our hypothesis earlier this year that the infamous George Tenet "slam dunk case" quote to Bush on the question of Iraq's WMDs. Our guess that "slam dunk case" was a mondegreen was on the wrong track: Tenet didn't actually say that the claims for Iraq's possession of WMDs was "Islam bunk, ace"; rather, he said, apropos of the CS Monitor's retracted story, that the Iraqi WMD story was "a Slambrouck case"!

November 22, 2004

Dept. of Poetic Justice, Revisited

The list keeps getting longer: McDonald's CEO steps down due to cancer.

Restoring Honor and Dignity to Professional Sports Attendance

Jibbenainosay, you may have a point regarding the umpirical umplications of the NBA fight-night film review.

However, the Confidence Man scries greater things in this aspect.

To wit, this presents a golden opportunity for the Dems.

As many have opined (among them Nick Confessore and Ezra Klein), the Democrats need to be exercising targeted, effective, and opportunistic message discipline as the Loyal Opposition.

Now, we all recall how, during Clinton's terms in office, the Gingrich machine was constantly a-roil over how Clinton's Bad '60s Juju (otherwise memorably named by Gen. J.C. Christian as the Clenis [tm]) was instilling a trickle-down economics of amorality and perversion across the land. And, of course, how Bush ran in 2000 on a promise to "restore honor and dignity to the White House."

(Tangentially, the Confidence Man has been thinking lately that Bush's phrasing there was indeed intended to evoke Clinton, but also served as Fundtalk to his base in the Federalist Society. More on that anon. Also, please note our portmanteau neologism "Fundtalk," or "Fundtalker," consisting of "Fundie" -- for fundamentalist -- plus "Windtalker" -- the WWII Navajo code-speakers.)

Well, what's good for the Gingrich is good for the gander.

The Confidence Man strongly believes that responsibility for the recent NBA fracas -- as well as the spectacular chair-tossing in Oakland during an Athletics game this summer -- should be plavced squarely on the shoulders of President Bush.

Bush has enshrined violence as a first resort to solving problems. Bush values gut reactions over contemplation. Bush prioritizes an insecure cowboy machismo over rational discourse. Bush embodies the principle that mnight makes right, and that no one should be accountable for his actions.

And that sort of example has real consequences in this world. People look up to the President -- no matter who holds the office -- as a moral exemplar.

And when the President does the things that this President has done, good people across the land lose their moral compass and start to do things like this.

(Of course, we've expounded on this before; but the Dems now have a clear opportunity to really exploit the situation.)

The Dems Get Serious

According to Ezra Klein at Pandagon, Tom Vilsack is out of contention to head the DNC -- but more importantly, "There's talk of splitting the post, with a chairman/spokesperson and an operational director sharing the helm."

We here at Croatan like to think we may have had somewhat of a hand in this development.

But then, we have Gone to Croatan, so we can't be trusted.

By way of chairman/spokesman candidates, the Confidence Man still likes John Edwards; Dean just might do, though. The DNC best have its shit together.


Fight fallout:
Players, fans, personnel face
charges after Pacers-Pistons fight
Posted: Monday November 22, 2004 1:06PM; Updated: Monday November 22, 2004 7:18PM

... Police were also reviewing videotapes and interviewing
witnesses from Friday night's melee, when Indiana forward Ron
charged into the stands after a fan threw a cup at him.

I can only suppose that this will be used to support the argument for instant replay umpiring in baseball.

November 15, 2004

The Baby and the Ba'athwater

Apropos of our previous post regarding Iraq as the model for Bush's domestic Antistate, we should add that the "de-Ba'athification" of Iraq was also a clear model for the current and anticipated purges.

The Baby and the Bathwater

Matt Yglesias updates everyone on some less-noticed shakeout details following Powell's resignation at State.

Rumor has it that Danielle Pletka, one of the prime mover gasbag/nutjobs in the foreign policy division at AEI, may soon be taking over the Bureau of Near East Affairs. And performing her own version of the Goss Putsch in the State Department.

This is all part and parcel of the Norquistian "drown it in the bathtub" school of government "reform." Purging the CIA, purging State -- and watch for coming purges of the domestic agencies in the next year -- the folks being lost are not Clinton-era deadwood. They're career civil servants, who vow allegiance to the Constitution, not a particular president or party.

The morons and ideologues and glad-handing scam artists who rush in to fill the vacuum will "run" their department operations the same way that the Heritage Foundation interns "ran" their desks in "post-war" Iraq.

Straight into the ground.

As we have pointed out before, Iraq was a test run for Bush's vision of the Antistate:
  • The beta version is being rolled out right now in the CIA and anon in the State Department.
  • Antistate 2.0 comes with the putsch of mid-level career staffers in the domestic policy agencies.
  • Antistate 3.0 arrives in 2007 or '08, when Bush has appointed Federalist Society brownshirts to over half of the positions in the federal judiciary, and the post-Teddy-Roosevelt regulatory regime is demolished.

Spooks Going to Croatan?

The Confidence Man has been avidly following this story about Porter Goss purging the CIA of all disloyal "liberal" anti-Bush elements.

As always on such matters, Josh Marshall has the best precis and facts-behind-the-spin take: essentially, Bush via Goss is purging the CIA of anyone who will stand in his way, including the analysts who correctly told Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice that they were full of shit when it came to anything having to do with the Middle East.

This is, of course, a genuine national tragedy, and is bound to cost us in the short and long runs.

But the Confidence Man, as always, has his eyes on the tangents.

First of all, if Goss is indeed purging the CIA -- where are all of these disaffected spooks going to go to work? This is a big and fascinating (albeit tangential) question. One would certainly hope that all of the centrist and left-leaning DC think tanks would provide soft, comforting shoulders for the victims of the Goss Putsch.

Second, all of the lefty commentators who scoff at Bush's perception of Langley as a "hotbed of liberals" are grossly mistaken. The CIA has always been a "hotbed of liberalism" -- of Classic Liberalism, that is. The OSS and CIA were "Eastern Establishment," Ivy League, tweed-and-pipesmoke institutions from their inception down to the present day. This is why Nixon hated 'em, and doubly so why Bush hates 'em. No, they're not Rove-Atwater-caricatured Nader-voting, tree-hugging, Walmart-disparaging small-l liberals.

My Big Fat Obnoxious Senate Majority Leader

With the ongoing public humiliation of Arlen Specter by Rove's Rangers (or, as Josh Marshall aptly put it, Specter's "long castration"), we are finally seeing the crossing of the two streams of FOX's programming: right-wing/neocon/fundie jihadism, plus sadistic "reality tv" orchestrated by a petty martinet under patently false premises.

Specter, although apparently an invertebrate, is by all accounts a fairly decent and honorable man, insofar as Senators are concerned. It would not surprise the Confidence Man to see Specter decide to straddle the aisle, along with a coalition of the New England Rockefeller Republicans (Chafee, Snowe, et al). The Dems should really be pushing Jim Jeffords to offer a soft, comforting shoulder to poor widdle Arlen.

Of course, everyone remembers the "unintended consequences" the last time a Northeastern Rockefeller Republican Senator bolted the party ... don't we?

November 09, 2004

The Anti-Business, as Usual, Party

The Confidence Man reads this Dem-strategists-howling-in-their-beers wrapup in the WaPo with some severe misgivings.

First of all, Bob Shrum should either be drummed out of the Democratic political machine -- or he himself should run for President. Shrum's electoral track record makes George W. Bush's private-sector c.v. look like Richard Branson's.

Second, why is James Carville mouthing off in public about what the Dems should or should not do? Jim, either shut your stinkin' trap, or get to work actually changing things. For someone as allegedly as die-hard capital-D as Carville, to have essentially sat out the last four years is unconscionable.

Finally -- though we concede that Carville is on the right track when he insists that the Dems should re-brand as the opposition, anti-Washington, anti-bureaucracy, for-the-little-guy party -- this is an awfully telling and infelicitous bit of phrasing:

One possibility [for the Dems] would be to become ... "[the] anti-business-as-usual party."

Uh-huh. Or, as Karl Rove would instantly re-punctuate that phrase, "the anti-business, as usual, party."

The Confidence Man has some inchoate thoughts on what the Dems need to do in order to establish a private-sector support wing. Those shall come anon.

November 08, 2004

The Gulag Archipelago

The map at bottom left on this page makes the Confidence Man think of Solzhenytsin.

Or, um, Edward Tufte.

November 06, 2004

Oppo Leader -- The Short Version

Reading back over our strategic suggestion for the Dems to rapidly adopt a quasi-parliamentary opposition party stance, and to then rally behind a charismatic opposition leader, we realize that the damn thing is too long.

Here's the short version:

1. The Democratic Party embraces the role into which Karl Rove has maneuvered them: that of a quasi-parliamentary "opposition party" to the GOP.

2. The DNC splits its Chairpersonship into two component roles: a "COO" operations/fundraising manager, and a "CEO" charismatic spokesperson.

3. The DNC unites the Party behind the "CEO," who serves as the single face of the Dem Party and functions as a "shadow president." This shadow president then presents to the American people clear alternative policy proposals to the GOP agenda over the next four years. The Party should also presume that whomever fills this role will be the Dems' presidential nominee in '08. Party leadership needs to realize the urgency of immediately: rallying the Party, presenting a strong oppositional leadership voice, and clearing the decks of internecine squabble well in advance of '08.

4. We believe that John Edwards is the most appropriate person to serve as the DNC CEO/shadow president (this would give him the gravitas and c.v. boost of a leadership role for the next 4 years). However, we are open to other suggestions (Mark Warner?), as this structural strategy is the most important aspect of the plan. The choice of person to fill the CEO/shadow president role is not immaterial, nor is it trivial. But the plan must be enacted as soon as reasonably possible, in order to organize a unified leadership campaign for the '06 mid-term elections.

We are open to suggestions on how to propagate and/or refine this plan.

November 05, 2004

Opposition Leader

The latest interpretive buzz making the rounds of Left Blogwonkistan (a breakaway quasi-independent republic either bordering or surrounded by Left Blogistan proper) is that Karl Rove has maneuvered the Dems into the position of a quasi-parliamentary opposition party.

There is some merit to the argument, as well as to the complementary point that the Dems should embrace the position (it's not as if they can do much better right now) and truly oppose, rather than obstruct, the Bush-Rove-DeLay-Frist machine.

There's one key element missing, though: the opposition leader.

That's the diabolical genius of uniting all three branches under majoritarian single-party control: there is no institutional/Constitutional mechanism to provide for clear leadership of the party on the outs. And, of course, the Dems are so temporally demoralized and constitutionally disorganized that they're incapable of identifying, let alone rallying behind, a forceful and charismatic leader.

If, as the Confidence Man avers, 11/2 Changed Everything and we must now wage a Global War on Fundamentalism (which may also be characterized as a Global War on Errorism), the Dems require a strong, charismatic, and resolute leader. And need one as soon as possible. Our post paralleling 9/11 and 11/2 started out as a tongue-in-cheek idea, but the more we think about it, the more we recognize the necessity of the Democratic Party to fundamentally reckon with this week's election as a staggering blow, and to use the trauma to pull together in the way that the entire country did in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 -- and to then continue to build the unity and togetherness that most everyone wishes Bush had done in the months and years after 9/11.

The problem is, there's no clear single Dem figurehead to rally around.

And as we said above, there is no clear Constitutional or institutional solution to this leadership vacuum.

Senators, as John Kerry recently demonstrated, are institutionally and professionally unprepared for the role; and in any event, Harry Reid and Byron Dorgan won't cut it. (They're fine as Sen. Minority Leader and Whip, but not as national rallying figures.) Barack Obama certainly has the magnetism and gift of gab, but he's simply too inexperienced.

Congresspersons are temperamentally more suited to the demagoguery necessitated by such a role; but they are, unfortunately, accustomed to working at too small a scale. (As much as the Confidence Man himself would be willing to follow Nancy Pelosi into battle, she's not a national presence and does not quite have the national-unity message cred.)

Governors, as many a Presidential election has shown, do tend to have the "stuff," and Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular has run his campaign and governorship in a very imperial manner. What dynamic Dem governors have established their own voices or national presence or institutional Party constituency, though?

Essentially, the Democratic Party needs to rally around an unelected figurehead. It's not clear to the Confidence Man that the Chair of the DNC is necessarily the most appropriate position to fill this vacuum; however, in the absence of (a) attractive current elected officeholders, (b) any Constitutionally defined quasi-parliamentary "opposition party" leadership role, and (c) any significant other Dem organizational apparatus in place, the DNC Chair probably has to be the default opposition leader.

All of which leads the Confidence Man to rethink some aspects of his original suggestions regarding potential DNC leadership candidates.

Under this quasi-parliamentary opposition party role, the DNC Chair should, as we suggested, be split into complementary "CEO" and "COO" roles. The CEO would be the figurehead/spokesperson/"message disciplinarian," with the COO remaining behind the scenes and attending to operations and fundraising.

Our original suggestions for COO -- Bill Gates or Steve Jobs -- might still be adequate, but this parliamentary scheme might better require a veteran political operative. McAuliffe, in this delimited role, might actually suffice; though we'd still like to see someone with a better and more aggressive track record -- perhaps bring James Carville back into the fold? (In any event, the operational side of the Dem Party really needs to enter into partnership with the private sector. That will be the subject for more thoughts in the near future here at Croatan.)

Obviously, under this type of regime, our original suggestions for CEO -- Steven Spielberg or John Lasseter -- would most assuredly not work. (We do, however, insist that both of these men be brought into the Dems' message machine for consultancy.) No, in the system we're envisioning, the CEO role in the DNC must be filled by a genuine, legitimate politician -- and a politician with gusto, charisma, leadership, and a compelling message and mastery of pitching that message. He must also have demonstrated experience in rallying rank-and-file Dems to his cause -- and not currently be holding elective office.

That leaves four clear choices: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Howard Dean, or John Edwards.

Clinton, due to his residual impeachment baggage, the Hillary-in-'08 nonsense, his health issues, and his time out of the spotlight, is pretty much out.

Gore is unfortunately still unable to successfully define himself through the media.

Dean, as we've pointed out, has his own gig going -- and has some detriments as a national figurehead.

But John Edwards would be perfect for this role.

Now, here's one last factor that both simplifies and complicates the matter: this CEO-type person, under this quasi-parliamentary regime, must essentially be the singular voice of the Dem Party and be prepared to assume the role of (and have the Party be prepared to accept him as) the presumptive next Dem Presidential nominee. (That even more clearly rules out Clinton.)

As we have pointed out, the one immense barrier to Edwards' nomination in '08 is the absolute lack of any significant electoral role/experience for him to fulfill over the next four years. His electoral vitae was thin enough this year to cause some concern; with four years of indolency, he would be an extremely weak candidate, despite his rhetorical and charismatic gifts.

Under this scheme, however, if Edwards becomes the "CEO" of the DNC -- the face of the Party, the Opposition Leader -- then for the next four years, he will be in the living rooms of the American people nearly daily, acting as a "shadow President." It would be both a legitimizing dose of gravitas for Edwards, and a four-year jump-start on the '08 national campaign versus whichever Bush scion Rove designates.

Edwards in '08 would then be able to say to America, "Over the last four years, as the GOP has made disastrous mistake after disastrous mistake, I have presented to you clear and better alternatives. When the GOP has followed my Party's recommendations, things have gone better; when they have not, they have failed. I have been right for four years, and I have demonstrated my wisdom, resolution, and vision."

The complication of this is that it requires that all other contenders -- Hillary, Dean, Wes Clark, Jay Rockefeller, et al. -- relinquish their status as challengers. And relinquish immediately. And all agree to back Edwards. Immediately.

The GOP has figured out that this approach works. As Will Saletan points out in Slate, in 1998, George H.W. Bush made some phone calls, got some folks together, and cleared the decks for Lil' Georgie. (Saletan, incidentally, is also a strong Edwards booster, and advocates that the Dems rally behind him in advance of '08.)

Are the Dems strong enough to sacrifice individual aspirations and constituent politics for the greater good? That's the fundamental question.

PowerPoint Presentations Falling From the Sky

The Confidence Man must give a belated thanks to the ever-witty Dan Radosh (master of all .ppt-related humor, among other things) for blogrolling Gone to Croatan. We have plans in the works for a comprehensive blogroll of our own (and perhaps a template change) in due time.

Speaking of Dan, the Confidence Man has some suspicions as to the nature of Dan's recent Going to Croatan. Pandagon's recent excerpt of Nik Lemann's Karl Rove profile includes the following:

Rove ... launched a project called the 72-Hour Task Force, which conducted scientific experiments in grassroots political organizing during the three days before Election Day in five geographically scattered races in 2001.... [A]n ... interesting PowerPoint presentation has fallen into Democratic hands, and from there into mine. This one outlines, in ninety slides, the work of the 72-Hour Task Force.

New Democratic Leadership Candidates

The Confidence Man has already added his voice to the chorus of catcalls demanding for the heads of Messrs. Shrum and McAuliffe on a pike.

Time to identify some likely candidates to replace McAuliffe as chair of the DNC.

The Confidence Man notes that many proles in Left Blogistan are advocating for Hoho Dean. Nice, entertaining, "revolutionary" idea, and the Confidence Man is a fan of Dean (well, of the "real" Howard Dean, not the mythologized figurehead of the Deaniacs) -- but this just won't work. Dean is indeed a leader, a builder of coalitions, a rainmaker, and an inspiration; what he is not, however, is a deal-maker. A schmoozer. A producer. Plus, Dean has his own bag of tricks to look after, and he's better suited working in common cause with the DNC in that role.

The LA Times this morning suggests Bill Clinton, at least as co-chair. Not a bad suggestion, especially in the figurehead CEO-type role that the LAT implies, with a mover-and-shaker nuts-and-bolts administrator as the COO-type. As others have pointed out, however, the "Hillary-in-'08" Safire-fuelled rumor makes this a bit ... problematic. Clinton also probably still has some legal bills he needs to be paying off and nest eggs to feather. He also might serve better as an independent elder statesman, trotting out occasionally to rally the troops. Quite frankly, Clinton's stage presence is probably his greatest value to the Dems right now -- and DNC Chair is not a front-of-the-stage, hogging-the-mic position.

The split-role CEO/COO leadership model does make a lot of sense, though. Basically, one guy to raise money and focus "message discipline," the other to run things and see that the money is allocated effectively and efficiently.

As "COO," this guy would probably do a great job, as would the first guy listed here. Both of these guys know how to invent, run, and reinvent organizations; how to identify and exploit oppositional weaknesses; how to innovate where and when necessary (and at no other time or place than where and when necessary); and how to marshal resources effectively (i.e., that don't-reinvent-the-wheel thing we just mentioned).

For "CEO," the Confidence Man nominates this fella; if he doesn't take it, the third guy on this list might. Both of these gentlemen know how to build consensus-based organizations, how to lead effectively, how to raise money, how to tell a compelling story -- and, most importantly, how to effectively pitch mainstream, family-friendly Classic Modern Liberal ideas to Red-State American Citizens.

Now, yes, there would be some significant risks involved with any of these candidates -- risks both to the DNC and to the individuals.

But at this point, what do the Dems have to lose?

And all four of these guys are pretty well set, so far as the whole money/power nexus is concerned. Even if they're exposed to some degree of risk in partisan association, the rewards are potentially huge.

11/2 Changed Everything, or The Global War on Fundamentalism

Classic Modern Liberalism has been subject to two disastrous attacks in the last three+ years: the first, on 9/11/01, and the second, on 11/02/04.

Both attacks involved the stealthy machinations of devoted teams of Machiavellian nihilists working in league with, and underwritten by, intolerant religious fundamentalists.

In both instances, the attacks and preparations for the attacks were preceded by numerous cultural, political, and fiscal signs. The plots behind both attacks were detected by insignificant and marginalized groups within the Classic Modern Liberal apparatus, but due to the small numbers and disempowered position of these "hair on fire" Cassandras, the apparatus did not mobilize itself successfully to prevent the attacks.

The Confidence Man herewith proposes a Global War on Fundamentalism. We cannot allow these nihilistic zealots to threaten our God-given freedom, our way of life. We will defeat them. We will defeat them by demonstrating the innate goodness of our vision, of our way of life. We will continue to build and nurture an open and democratic society, to serve as a beacon of hope for the world. We will unite the world behind us, and shame the forces of intolerance and ignorance and darkness into retreat. We will blaze the path of progress and freedom. We will work hard to free all people from the clammy grasp of fear and intolerance. We will provide every person on the planet with the opportunity to join us and be free. And the freedom-loving peoples across the globe will join together behind us and will reject the forces of ignorance, fear, intolerance, and slavery.

This Global War in Fundamentalism will not be easy. The enemy has many weapons at their disposal. The greatest weapon they have is fear. Fear is the weapon of mass destruction that we must seek out and destroy. We must not allow the enemy to deploy and spread their reign of fear and exclusion. We must assemble a grand coalition of the free and open societies of the world and deny the enemy their fear. And we must resist this fear ourselves. We must not allow the enemy's weapons to weaken or undermine our resolve. We must remain positive, steadfast, and strong, as we always have. This moment of crisis will test our resolve. But when we pull together and unite our forces behind our greatest strengths -- the strengths of openness, of opportunity, of growth, of innovation, of liberty, of freedom -- we will defeat the fear and terrorism practiced by our common enemy.

We must win the Global War on Fundamentalism. We will win the Global War on Fundamentalism.

God Bless Greil Marcus

The Confidence Man was going to prepare some proprioceptive scenarios for the Post-11/2 World, but the indispensable Greil Marcus has beaten us to it. Go read it, and have Confidence.

November 04, 2004

Dated Dean/Married Kerry/Fucked by Bush

Yes, that was the Confidence Man's bumpersticker in February.

The Confidence Man has been musing what the race would have been like if Dean somehow had managed to snare the nomination. To be sure, Dean had some signal weaknesses.

But what intrigues the Confidence Man in this imagined scenario (well, besides the delightful spectacle of Dean and Bush debating each other; they would have gotten in a fistfight!) is how Dean would have dealt with the gay marriage issue. In some respects, it could have scuttled the race by mid-summer.

But Dean being Dean, he would certainly not have muffed the issue like Kerry did. He would have attacked it head-on. And that approach might -- just might -- have actually defused the issue and not allowed Rove to mobilize his base on it.

Summing Up

Steve Clemons has the best comprehensive summing-up and looking-forward post-election essay the Confidence Man has seen.

His prescriptions for Dem Party reform and his descriptions of Kerry's solonic staff-management style both ring especially true.

The Confidence Man must quibble, however, with the brackets of Clemons' piece:
  • He opens with a precis of Team America that is notably tone-deaf, humorless, and out of touch; ironic, in the context of an essay that derides the Party and the Candidate for being all three.
  • He closes with a lament that the VP Candidate was not ... Dick Gephardt. Dick Gephardt? I'm not sure how much more "Brezhnevized" a candidate could be than Dick Gephardt. The sole arguments for Gephardt were that he might deliver Big Labor (which was going for Kerry anyway) and stood an outside chance of delivering Big MO (which, as it turns out, more ad and GOTV dollars directed at the black communities in Kansas City and St Louis probably would have done anyway). Yes, Edwards didn't actually deliver anything at all -- but primarily because he was criminally underused by the campaign. Kerry was never going to take North Carolina even if he had Jesse Helms as his no. 2.

Addition by Subtraction

OK, so this suggestion still skews negative and bitter, but it's still a positive step: Bob Shrum and Terry McAuliffe need to be fired. They need to be kept as far away from party/campaign control as possible. If it takes huge golden parachutes, so be it.

Strategic Suggestion No. 1

The Confidence Man, having picked his clinically-depressed carcass up off the floor, decides to make some positive suggestions.

The first:

Everyone and their mother has been looking at this map.

The Confidence Man suggests that Moderns living in the blue states relocate in large numbers to blue counties (i.e., urban locations) in red states. Jibbenainosay can attest to the "livability" of red-state urban enclaves.

Tip the balance somewhat in the states with thin margins and already-sizable urban communities: Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Missouri, Georgia. The idea is to "Pennsylvania-ize" those states.

The Bush Political Economy

Bush at his first post-election presser:

I earned capital in the campaign -- political capital -- and now I intend to spend it.

Uh-huh. "Spend," not "invest." Moron.

And, of course, political capital, like any other kind of capital gain, should not be taxed ...

Materiel Evidence

The Confidence Man is pleased to read that our soldiers in the field are as resourcesful and smart as ever:

One soldier said U.S. forces watched the looters' trucks [at al QaQaaa] loaded with
bags marked "hexamine" -- a key ingredient for HMX -- being driven away
from the facility. Unsure what hexamine was, the troops later did an
Internet search and learned of its explosive power.

Like the Iraqi insurgents, our soldiers are good Moderns.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the officer class:

Troops of the two units went to Al Qaqaa over a week in late April but
received no orders to maintain a presence at the facility, the soldiers
said. They also said they received no response to a request for help in
guarding the facility.

How difficult would it be for the armed forces to have spyware that would be looking out for Google searches on high explosives known to be held by Iraq?

November 03, 2004

Our Antimodern Electorate

Best commentary on network tv last night: Fareed Zakaria on ABC, opining that the "values voters" in the red states were what separated us from "modern, industrialized nations": "we're closer to the Sudan or Saudi Arabia than we are to Western Europe."

His Willieness

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was, the Confidence Man believes, the first to call the election for Bush last night. At about 8:05 p.m. PT last night, Brown, interviewed on SF's KRON (ch 4), opined that with early counts from urban precincts in FL and OH not trending heavily enough for Kerry, that election was over. He was unequivocal.

Willie seemed oddly agitated during his sporadic appearances throughout the night. We couldn't tell whether he was really angry, or really something else.

Bush's Man-on-Mandate

If Bush Triumphant can be said to have any kind of "broad support," it's on the issue that "fags are bad." Let's not kid ourselves; that was what turned the election. Voters in the red states were more frightened of Elton John than Osama bin Laden.

Hey, Kids!

To all you under-30s out there who voted for Bush: enjoy your fucking draft!

What kind of blithering idiot thinks that with 90% of our armed forces tied down in Iraq we're somehow "safer"?

If the Confidence Man was China, synecdochally speaking, he would go right ahead and invade Taiwan, both Koreas, and maybe Japan and Alaska for the hell of it. I mean, really, what's stopping them?

Marketing vs Salesmanship

Here's the problem with the Democrats: they don't think like marketers, they think like salesmen -- salesmen with a dingy warehouse full of outmoded merchandise.

The post-Gingrich GOP genuinely does think like an organization devoted to marketing principles: they don't think, as the Dems do, "How can I pawn off this shoddy old merchandise on my unsuspecting customers?"

Rather, the GOP thinks, "How can I build a product that satisfies the demonstrable desires of the marketplace?"

The marketplace demands a candidate who is resolute, principled, and unwavering.

So the GOP builds a candidate to those specs. By being, in their devotion to the demands of the marketplace, irresolute, unprincipled, and wavering.

And, yes, the Confidence Man sees the irony therein -- but do not mistake that irony for anything less than a signal aspect of the Irony of the Modern.

That is, do not mistake this for a cheap and lesser irony, the irony of hypocrisy. The salesman is the hypocritical antimodern; the marketer is the ironic modern.

Who's The Man?

Whence the Next Great Charismatic Democratic Leader?

Edwards has the Mondalean Taint to him now. And there's little, if anything, he can do in the next four years to pump up his vitae. Unless he, say, sues bin Laden and/or the Saudis.

As much as we like Barack Obama, he's (a) too young, (b) too inexperienced, and (c) too black (sorry, but it has to be said; the mouth-breathing, queer-bashing red-staters who voted Bush in won't go for it) to contend any earlier than, say, 2020. He'll also have to get in a term or two as IL governor.

Gavin Newsom is Obama redux, but too gay (by association) instead of black. Again, a solid candidate in 2020, but not until then. And he, too, needs a couple terms as CA governor.

As for Hillary Clinton ... well, the Confidence Man has to confess to having had a serious crush on Hillary for over 15 years. Really. No, really. She's hot, she's smart, she's serious but with a goofy streak (remember "okey-dokey, artichokey"?) ... ok, anyway ... Hillary unfortunately is the Newt Gingrich of the Democratic Party. She simply has no national electoral future.

There is talk around the despondent left blogosphere that the Dems need to cultivate some more smooth-talkin', flouncy-haired Southern charlatans to paw at the electorate. This, in the abstract, is not a bad idea; but whence y'all gonna find 'em? The Dems are going to struggle to elect anyone to gubernatorial or Senatorial office in the South for a while; their farm system looks like the Yankees' right now, bereft of real prospects and in need of propitious draft picks. Which means that the Dems won't have any decent national candidates from the South for, say, at least 12 years.

The pro-Southerner argument is predicated on a negative proposition that is certainly true enough: that the Dems can not put forward a Northeastern candidate for the foreseeable future. If for no other reason than the constituency politics of a Northeastern state (excepting, perhaps, Pennsylvania) would necessitate too onerous a track record.

The Midwest and Southwest are much more fertile breeding grounds. If Obama can develop an effective Midwest machine, he could likely prove to be a real power broker in the immediate future. Bill Richardson's moment is probably over, gone with Kerry's rejection of him as a VP candidate. The new senator from Colorado, Salazar, shows some promise, but it's early yet.

Which brings us to ... California. Now, as moribund as the CA GOP is (Schwarzenegger is not even a figurehead for the CA GOP; he is a distraction from a state party that has zero support or power, and Arnold isn't interested in machine-building, he's interested in Arnold-boosting), the CA Demo party is itself in trouble. The CA Dems are in the same position the national party was in Congress back in the '70s: solidly in power, but out of touch and unable to develop charismatic leadership. Newsom is the only "name" Dem in the state right now: the rest are either Gray Davis/Al Gore-style technocrats or Willie Brown-style porcinoma barkers.

The wild card, of course, when one considers California is Hollywood. Now, the obvious activist types (Alec Baldwin, Rob Reiner, Sarandon & Robbins) are all obvious electoral losers; not so much because they're liberals per se (although that -- and their collective sanctimony -- doesn't help) but because none of them are superstars. When discussing actors-turned-politicians, most folks tend to draw the wrong lessons from Reagan. Yes, Reagan was a minor B-actor in his Hollywood days, but he really did make himself into a superstar, starting with the hard slog through the promotional appearances for GE in the late '50s. What Reagan did was to invent, inhabit, and sell a loveable persona. Which is precisely what Schwarzenegger did.

So, if one is to look to Hollywood for potential candidates, that is the sort of character one wants. Someone with either an established loveable persona, or someone with the capacity to develop one with the single-minded rapacity superstardom demands. In other words, someone who can "open a film."

The Confidence Man hereby nominates ... Jim Carrey. Really. No, really. Think about that one.

(And, yes, we know Carrey's Canadian; but we have Confidence that the Schwarzenegger Amendment will be ratified by 2012.)

Where Did All the Nader Votes Go?

The Confidence Man is conflicted on whether to give any credence to the Diebold-machine-ate-my-Kerry-vote rumors. The diktat seems to have gone out to the major lefty bloggers to leave the issue alone, although commenters are popping up here and there to speculate.

But here's a thought: what if the Diebold touch-screen machines had been configured to change most/all Nader votes to Bush votes?

Who would notice? Nader was polling really low (although not as low as his final numbers, which is what spurred us to think of this possibility) and there's not really any organized constituency to complain. But that extra jot of votes would have provided the boost Bush needed.

(And, yes, we are aware that Nader was not on many state ballots -- including Ohio's.)

Anyway, just idle speculation ...

Assassination Watch

[Let me preface this by saying that I do not condone any of the awful scenarios I outline below, and I hope against hope that they do not come to pass. But the election of Bush on the coattails of the 11 gay-bashing ballot initiatives across the country makes for a grim outlook.]

Well, the one silver lining for Senator Kerry this morning is that his electoral loss probably saved his life.

The Confidence Man is certain that had Kerry won, there would have been multiple attempts on his life.

As for other prominent targets, Hillary Clinton and Michael Moore are probably likewise spared.

Barney Frank and Gavin Newsom, on the other hand, ought to beef up their security. And that "random attack" on David Souter may get less "random."

And Americans had best prepare themselves for several Matthew Shephards over the next couple of years. As well as a Krystallnacht next year in the Castro and the East Village. Bigotry has been given free rein. There will be an aggressive terror campaign against the LGBT community -- and Bush's DoJ, under Ashcroft or a successor, will do absolutely nothing about it.

Update: Our colleague Astronaut Body thinks that the more likely targets for group attacks would be gay enclaves in the Midwest or South (e.g., Boys Town in Chicago). He may be right.

Going to Croatan

I'm Going to Croatan. Leaving my scrawl in the dust. Burying my hatchet in a stump. Burning my clothes in a heap.

OK, maybe not.

As ignoble as the sentiment is, it had to be vented.

And, of course, a lot of folks are going to be feeling similarly this morning.

And will be for some time.

The Confidence Man does in fact foresee several exodi from the Democratic Party over this result:
  • African Americans will accelerate their departure from the party; this departure will be fractured, however. The wealthy and the assimilated will continue to trend Republican. The Northeastern and Upper Midwestern will start to seriously question just what, exactly, the Democrats are accomplishing for them; the question in those locations is whether they push aggressively to take over urban Dem chapters, go Republican, go to some inchoate third party, or Go to Croatan. African Americans in the South will most likely stick with the Dems, as the alternatives there either don't exist or are unacceptable.
  • "Progressives" will split violently. One-third (the careerists who make a living blogging or working for Lib Establishment organizations such as the Sierra Club) will stick with the Dems. One third will definitively abandon the Dems for the Greens. And one third will Go to Croatan.
  • Labor will also split in thirds: the larger and more conservative brotherhoods (e.g., the Teamsters, various construction and building-trades organizations) will aggressively flirt with the GOP; the unions that went for Dean in the primaries will see a membership revolt and will snuggle back up to the establishment Dems; and a small coterie of various service organizations will try to make allegiance with the Progressives and go Green or other third party.
  • The LGBT community will overall trend leftward: Republicans will move to the Dems, Dems will move to the Greens, Greens will Go to Croatan. And across the spectrum, gays will flee to urban areas and blue states, reversing any exurbanization trends among the demographic.
  • "Centrist" DLC types will rive in twain, both trending away from the Democratic Party: half (mostly in the South and in foreign relations) will eventually defect to the GOP and half will attempt to start a centrist coalition with the disaffected moderate Republicans.
  • Hollywood, for the most part, will remain solidly in the Dems' camp. The usual opportunists at the very top of the Hollywood food chain, following the Lew Wasserman model, will finally ingratiate themselves with the Bush-Rove-Cheney GOP. (Part of that movement will also entail unceremoniously dumping Billy Tauzin from his new position as head of the MPAA in favor of a Repub.) Some of the more activist types will probably go Green.
  • Hispanics will rapidly accelerate their trend toward the GOP.
Did I miss anyone?


Well, that certainly sucked.

The best metaphor the Confidence Man can dredge up this morning is an early scene from A Fish Called Wanda, wherein Kevin Kline's dimwit-who-thinks-himself-a-Nietzschean-genius discovers that he's been double-crossed by his criminal partner/rival. Kline stares at the open, empty safe where he'd hidden his loot, then starts furiously firing his gun at the yawning maw, howling "DISAPPOINTED!"

More disjointed, unorganized thoughts to follow throughout the day.

By the way, Mr. Jibbenainosay, we're still waiting for your reading of the whole Jim Bunning scenario.

November 02, 2004

Tilting to Bush, or the 'Murcan Projection

The Confidence Man dressed up for Halloween in an Edward Tufte costume.

There's been some carryover from the costume, as the Confidence Man notes the intriguing vertical-axis tilt of this electoral map. The top of the map appears to be tilted back at about a 10 degree angle from the Mason-Dixon line.

Many of the electoral maps the Confidence Man is seeing on network coverage this evening show an even more pronounced graphical tilt, with a 3D effect that enhances the land-mass distortion of the southern states.

The Confidence Man doubts that this is intentional, but visually, these tilted maps do seem to emphasize the geographic dominance of the red-colored southern states.

Mmmmm, crow!

In the Confidence Man's first-ever post at Croatan, he expressed grave reservations about Candidate Kerry and projected some dire results.

Obviously, I was wrong. Kerry has turned out to indeed be an excellent "closer," and the DLC-centric team he has assembled has proved to be more assertive and shrewd than anticipated.

(Though I still insist that without Dean's aggressive attacks on Bush and his Fiasqo, Kerry wouldn't be in the position to win.)

Early exit polls look good. The Confidence Man is keeping his fingers crossed.

If Kerry loses, Mrs. Confidence Man has designs on Going to Croatan. Can't say I blame her.

October 29, 2004

That Explains a Lot

Via an intriguing precis by NewDonkey, the Confidence Man reads Andrei Cherny's TNR article on how Dems can potentially coopt Bush's "Ownership Society" shell game.

Now, there is an interesting and potentially fruitful conceit there (one that our good friend Aloysius Huntsley would praise for its fecundity). A conceit that NewDonkey's precis actually sums up better than the article itself.

However, this article is absolutely worthless. It's clumsy, awkward, tone-deaf, riddled with cliches and boilerplate wonk-pitchery. It's unfocused. It's unstructured. It's a terrible piece of writing.

So, the Confidence Man gets to the end of this excruciating piece of verbiage -- and finds out that the author Cherny "between February 2003 and April 2004 [...] was the director of speechwriting and a special advisor on policy for the Kerry for President campaign."




Brazilian lawmakers want ban on human names for pets
Friday, October 29, 2004 Posted: 8:30 AM EDT (1230 GMT)

Federal congressman Reinaldo Santos e Silva proposed the law after
psychologists suggested that some children may get depressed when they learn
they share their first name with someone's pet, said Damarias Alves, a
spokeswoman for Silva.

My god! Suddenly, I wonder what has been going through the minds of my poor little boy and girl, Halliburton and Fox, all this time?

October 28, 2004

Retard Turnout

That phrase (used by Eric Alterman stand-in Siva Vaidhyanathan to describe a Salon item on black voter-suppression by the GOP) pretty much sums up the GOP electoral strategy for Tuesday, doesn't it?

Equally apropos whether the first word is the verb (in the case of Dem voters) or the subject (GOP voters) ...

That Sounds Dirty


And, of course, the context is appropriate.

Jibbenainosay, we await your input on this matter.

More Professional Myopia

Richard Posner has an essay in Legal Affairs bemoaning the pitiful quality of academic legal journals.

Funny thing is, Posner postulates a decline in academic legal publishing standards and practices in comparison to other professional academic disciplines.

After l'Affaire Sokal several years ago, no one can say that humanities journals are genuinely refereed.

And the Confidence Man himself has some insight into the shady theatrics of medical and scientific journals.

The point is, every profession has its cads and bounders, its shady operators and Confidence Men. And professional house organs will always be institutional shills; and, being of necessity shills, their hegemonic imperative will outweigh their capitalistic imperative. That is, academic journals -- especially the house journals of professional organizations -- are loss-leaders. And the business units tasked with producing loss-leaders are institutionally incapable of driving organizational change -- and are generally under-budgeted.

All of which means that the editors of academic journals are underpaid and have very little power.

Which, in turn, means that criticizing academic journals for the shortcomings of a profession is like blaming enlisted men and NCOs for the failings of the chain of command.

Plus, All Those Trial-Lawyer-Induced Jury Awards Make It Hard to Get Historiographic-Malpractice Insurance

The Confidence Man reads with bemusement the latest quinquennial irruption of the "Historiography in Crisis!" swarm.

(Another neologism opportunity: "buzzing" cultural forms that run in unremarked cycles, and are dependent upon the unremarkedness to maintain their cyclicity and currency, should be said to operate on cicadian rhythms.)

October 27, 2004

Fetching Naivete

Laura Rosen, who is usually a little more hardheaded about these things, waxes naive in her concern for the ability of the Bush White House lawyers to find gainful employ after their boss goes down in flames next Tuesday [emphasis added]:

Can the White House and Justice Department lawyers be prosecuted for war crimes? They are responsible for writing secret memos authorizing the CIA's disappearing of prisoners. Even after the Abu Ghraib revelations. Appalling. And are their tactics proving effective -- at all -- in Iraq? You judge. US and Iraqi death rates are only rising in Iraq by the month. After they inevitably leave government at some point, some will try to return to university law schools to teach. What students would possibly want them at their law school? These people should be treated like the international pariahs they are.

Laura, Laura, Laura.

Ken Starr found a job. (OK, it was at the Fundamentalist Surf Madrassah of the Far West, but it's still a job.)

Even John Yoo found a job -- at fuckin' Berkeley!

Yes, these people should be pariahs -- but they won't be. Neither will Cheney. Neither will Rumsfeld. Hell, Bush is going to be the next Commissioner of Baseball -- and what do you want to bet that Bush issues pardons to all those involved on his way out of the Oval Office (after stopping to pull off all the "J," "F," and "K" keys from the White House computers).

Venn Diagram? Vhat Diagram?

The Confidence Man peruses his local job listings, and comes across the following in a posting for a marketing position:

Key requirements:
  • Excellent academic performance with degree from a highest tier university or liberal arts institution such as Harvard, MIT, Stamford [sic], Cal Berkeley, UCLA, Pepperdine, Amhurst [sic], Williams, Middlebury etc.
Now, ok, yes, the [sic]s are a cheap shot. Anyone can make a spelling mistake or a typo. Or two. (Although such errors in a posting looking for high academic achievers are ... telling.)

But -- Pepperdine?!? The Fundamentalist Surf Madrassa of the Far West? The place that hired this dickweed?

October 26, 2004

Red October Surprise?

Um. The Confidence Man can't think of any good reasons -- none at all -- why Colin Powell would go shooting his mouth off pro or con regarding Taiwanese independence a week before the US election.

Jesus. Is a shooting war between China and Taiwan the Bushies' October Surprise? The Confidence Man has to admit he didn't see that one coming.

I guess Colin figures that if Bush loses, there really will be war crimes tribunals ...

Live From Forked Tongue, Wisconsin

... or, uh, no, fuck you, George.

The NYT is reporting that Bush now thinks that the GOP plank banning civil unions as well as gay marriage is wrong.

As Andrew Sullivan so rightly says, "President speak in forked tongue."

(The Confidence Man must suppress his initial instinct to respond to Andy, "What do you mean we, Paleface?" We think that supporters of the Bush pResidency should be subject to a domestic corollary to Colin Powell's Iraq "Pottery Barn Rule": you bought it, you own it.)

Sullivan also (wilfully?) misreads the pResident's statement as opposing individual state laws currently banning civil unions. Bush states quite clearly that he's in favor of letting states make the decision to ban civil unions on their own.

All that aside, this is quite a clumsy move by Bush. The Confidence Man doesn't see how this can't hurt him grievously among the Fundies and their fellow travelers, in numbers far outweighing any Log Lean-To and/or swing voters.

It's also, of course, grossly hypocritical and insulting for Bush to claim that he doesn't support a plank in his own god-damn party platform as well as a Constitutional Amendment for which he has been campaigning. Asshole.


The Confidence Man reads Andrew Sullivan's surprising-only-to-himself-and-not-quite-so-much-to-Chris-Hitchens Kerry endorsement in TNR, and comes across an entertaining opportunity for a neologism.

In discussing the domestic aspects of Bush's atrocious record, Sullivan writes [emphasis added]:

Domestically, the record is horrifying for a fiscal conservative. Ronald
Reagan raised taxes in his first term when he had to; and he didn't have
September 11 to contend with. Ronald Reagan also cut domestic spending.
Bush has been unable to muster the conservative courage to do either. He
has spent like a drunken liberal Democrat. He has failed to grapple with
entitlement reform, as he once promised. He has larded up the tax code
with endless breaks for corporate special interests; pork has
metastasized; and he has tainted the cause of tax relief by
concentrating too much of it on the wealthy. He has made the future
boomer fiscal crunch far more acute by adding a hugely expensive new
Medicare prescription drug entitlement.

"Pork has metastasized": the Confidence Man herewith proposes porcinoma as the appropropriate term for out-of-control corporate welfare in government spending.

L'Age d'Oh!

The Confidence Man reads Jibbenainosay's entreaty with a jaundiced eye.

We suspect that the link simply wasn't coded. A "human" error.

But, who knows? It certainly could be CNN policy -- which would not be surprising. The mass media is certainly a-roil with consternation over the threat to its information oligopoly.

Which America Was Attacked on 9/11?

Via Matt Yglesias, the Confidence Man reads Paul Waldman's Gadflyer article on Bush's mobilization of the "real America" meme to denigrate Kerry -- and the strctural impossibility of Kerry being able to counterpunch. It's a nice piece of analysis, especially the focus on the demographic trends that are dooming the GOP to premodern irrelevancy.

But there is a key question that needs to be brought to the table here: namely, which of these two Americas, the "real" or the Real, was actually attacked on 9/11?

The Confidence Man has spoken before about the fact that the America that was attacked on 9/11 was in fact the Modernist Real America, the land of economic progress, globalizing transnational corporations, secularism, hedonism, and pluralism. Look at any Fundie Islamist screed to see what the WTC actually represented to them.

The "real" America -- the red-state America of Fundie Christianity, small-town mores, economic protectionism, social conservatism, etc etc -- was most definitely not attacked on 9/11. Al Qaida couldn't care less about the backwards anti-Modernist red-state rubes. Al Qaida wants to kill the Liberals.

You Mean, That Movie Where Bing Crosby Sodomized Bob Hope With a Glowstick?

Phil Carter of the invaluable Intel Dump has an excellent Washington Monthly article, "The Road to Abu Ghraib," on the chain-of-command decisions that resulted in the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (and, as Carter does not point out, god knows where else).

Carter has been hounding this story from its inception, and does a great job of filling in between the lines.

What he does not do, unfortunately (to distend the diagrammatic metaphor), is connect the dots.

Beyond written and verbal orders, beyond rules of engagement and legal opinions, what personally drove many (dare we say, most; virtually all?) soldiers on the ground in Iraq was the belief that Saddam Hussein was somehow "behind" or connected with the attacks of 9/11, and that Hussein harbored vaguely-defined "terrorists" who sought to further attack America. This entirely erroneous belief -- shared by an unconscionable number of Americans and a simply unconscious number of FOX News viewers -- surely worked in conjunction with the nominal and sub rosa orders in the field.

Which is to say, the chain of command -- from Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld on down -- knew that not only would a loosing of the Geneva Conventions result in lack of oversight and escalation of abuses, but that the soldiers' personal and patriotic emotions would be highly engaged in the matter as well.

And, of course, who is responsible for the erroneous belief that would drive the soldiers to seek personal and patriotic revanchism on Iraqis? Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

This interconnection of motivation and context is necessary for a complete understanding of the situation.

(The Confidence Man might also note that Carter does not address the fact that neither Bush nor Cheney nor Rumsfeld ever actually served in the military, which would certainly explain their inability to foresee the consequences of their actions.)

What About Anthropologists of Management?

... or, for that matter, Anthropology Department Heads, or Anthropologists elevated to the status of Dean?

The Confidence Man reads yet another admirable example of Our Gumptious Mayor standing up for what he believes in. To wit, in this instance, threatening to walk the picket lines alongside locked-out hotel staffers in an attempt to bring the hotel cabal to a resolution of the labor dispute.

But what really grabs the Confidence Man's attention is the gratuitous and irrational lefty bombast by the American Anthropological Association President Elizabeth Brumfiel: "anthropologists cannot, in all good conscience, meet in facilities whose owners are using the lockout of low-wage workers as a bargaining tactic."

If Prof. Blumfiel was truly on the side of the workers, she would best be advised to come up with something a little more snappy by way of a rallying cry: the Confidence Man suggests "Anthropologists cannot be Apologists!"

Dept. of Irony, Blatant Visual Representations Division

Via Daily Kos, the Confidence Man gets a hearty chuckle out of this picture of Addled Cane-Break Solonic Candidate Jim Bunning, campaigning from his disadvantaged position.

Jibbenainosay, you have yet to weigh in on the Bunning "situation." What say ye?

Un CNN Andalus

Bush cousins launch pro-Kerry Web site
Monday, October 25, 2004 Posted:
9:42 PM EDT (0142 GMT)
BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- There goes the invitation to the Texas

Seven distant relatives of President Bush have created a Web site
urging visitors: "Please, don't vote for our cousin."

Oddly, or perhaps now characteristically, this story does not contain a link to the site that is its object. I'm not sure what this means--is it policy? Perhaps the Confidence Man can find out. But it's bizarre to see, probably under the banner of "impartiality," a journalistic venue shut itself off as an access point to news itself.

October 25, 2004

Dept. of Irony, Blatant and Unnecessary Division

Uh. "Someone had blundered," indeed.

On the same day this is announced? Priceless.

October 22, 2004

Wolves, Lower

The Confidence Man has seen the Bush-Cheney campaign's latest ad, "Wolves."

The Confidence Man has also read most of the prominent lefty blogs' dismissive takes on the ad (Atrios, TPM, Pandagon, et alia), as well as steady Fred Kaplan's no-nonsense fact-check of the ad at Slate.

And while those opinions are not exactly wrong, they entirely miss the point of the ad.

(They also miss the fact that this ad is designed specifically to counter Bush's "tax gap" blunder from the second debate, wherein Bush clumsily allowed Kerry to score points on Bush's underfunding of common-sense "boots-on-the-ground" Heimatsicherheit.)

This ad is, yes, explicitly about terrorism.

But the implicit content is about "environmentalism" -- which is also to say, "Liberalism."

Note the Confidence Man's use of scare quotes: neither concept is attacked in the sense of its reality-based essence, but in the sense of its rhetorical status among Bush's electoral base.

Here's the question no one is asking: Why wolves?

The conventional-wisdom assumption is that this ad is in the tradition of Reagan's "Bear in the Woods" ad from 1984. And, again, superficially, this fits.

But why wolves, specifically?

"Wolves" are nearly as inflammatory a political rhetorical trope as "abortion" or "gay marriage" -- with similar Red Stae/Blue State divergence of opinion, but without the "polarizing national debate" denotations in the mass media.

To wax Brooksian:

"Wolves" to a stereotypical Blue Stater are a symbol of a vanishing and threatened Wilderness, a Wilderness that can, through scientific study, government funding, and conservation efforts, be nursed back to health and protected.

"Wolves" to a stereotypical Red Stater are symbolic Predators and Scavengers, a metaphor for government hostility to small business and property rights, Socialist Levelling through attacks on property rights, and eggheaded chilly secularism outweighing practical human concerns.

So, what we have here is an ad that is designed more to mobilize and enrage the conservative base, especially in the Southwest and Upper Midwest, than it is to appeal to swing voters.

Bush and Rove aren't trying, per se, to scare voters here, whether those voters are already scared, merely nervous, or inured to the Ridge-Ashcroft-Cheney Terra! Terra! Terra! attack. Rather, they're trying to solidify support of voters already leaning toward Bush on defense/terror issues by engaging their anger on a seemingly unrelated issue entirely.

And on that count, we have Confidence that the ad will do its job.


Speaking of "environmentalism," no one seems to be taking the bait on the Confidence Man's thesis that Bush's use of the term "steward of the environment" is Top Sekrit Fundie Windtalker-Speak for "property rights uber alles." It seems patently obvious to us; then again, we have Confidence.


Also speaking of "environmentalism," the Confidence Man is stumped as to why Kerry is not making that more of a campaign issue. Yes, Bush's biggest obvious blunder is Iraq and his failure to successfully prosecute the WoT; and yes, "it's the economy, stupid." Bush's environmental record, though, is horrifying. It's a huge weakness for Bush -- even among "sportsmen's associations," who recognize that they don't want to be standing in hip waders in a duck blind in a marsh that's teeming with arsenic.


And finally, a bright shiny penny to anyone who gets the title reference.

October 20, 2004

The Far-Flung and Burgeoning Reality-Based Community

... or, should we say, "The Coalition of the Reality-Based"?

The Confidence Man, agape, reads this story this morning:

Iraqi militants who kidnapped and threatened to kill an Australian journalist "Googled" his name on the internet to check his work before releasing him unharmed.

Aside from the sheer delightfulness of the reporter being released unharmed, and the "news of the weird" factor, this story is significant on two levels:
  • It demonstrates the positive forward march of Modernism, even in Iraq, and despite the best efforts of both the Islamic and Christian Fundamentalists who would oppose such forward progress.
  • It also demonstrates that the Iraqi insurgents are indeed members of the Reality-Based Community (membership in which, of course, is predicated upon the embrace of Modenrism) and therefore enjoy a distinct tactical advantage over the Bush administration.

October 18, 2004

The O'Reilly-Based Community

The Confidence Man is, like so many other right-minded individuals, tickled pink by the sexual harassment lawsuit against professional schizophrenic hobo Bill O'Reilly.

And, as usual, James Wolcott is right on the squirrel with his commentary on the tawdry affair.

However, the Confidence Man must object to Wolcott's closing imagery: we don't even want to think about the possibility of O'Reilly "emerg[ing] bigger than ever."

Mutiny on the Tigris

The Confidence Man has been peripherally following the story of the 17 U.S. soldiers in Iraq who refused an order to go on a virtual suicide mission delivering tainted gasoline through a combat zone in unarmored trucks.

Now, the AP is reporting that the U.S. military is denying that the gas was contaminated with diesel fuel; however, many of the stateside relatives of the 17 soldiers independently reported that the soldiers, in calls home after/during the incident, made the tainted-gas claim.

Leaving aside the questions being raised regarding adequate armor, vehicle maintenance, and troop support, the Confidence Man wants to know answers to the following obvious questions:
  • How did the gasoline get contaminated, if it in fact was? Did the contamination happen when being handled by the transport soldiers, other logistical troops, or by petrochem-services NGO contractors? If it was contaminated inadvertently by the troops, had they been properlytrained?
  • Why were the soldiers being asked to deliver fuel that was (a) contaminated and (b) had already been rejected by another unit as unusable?
  • And, most importantly, Iraq is lousy with NGO contractors -- the petrochem sector and the U.S. military's logistics and supply chains in particular; why, then, are troops being used to deliver oil? Isn't this precisely the sort of task that Rumsfeld has been so eager to "privatize"?
This whole situation has the stench of corruption to it. The Confidence Man strongly suspects that a close and honest inspection would reveal the handiwork of the Milo Minderbinders of the 21st Century.

Call It a Kerfuffle

Of all the potential phrases that one might use to describe "the Republican furor in response to John Kerry's invocation of the Vice President's daughter's sexuality," this is perhaps the most inadvertently ugly and misogynist.

October 17, 2004

The Reality-Based Community

Ron Suskind has a profile of George W. Bush in today's NYT Magazine.

This profile, focusing on the decision-making style that originates in Bush's "faith" and "instincts," would be alarming and astonishing -- if it weren't so entirely unsurprising.

(It would also qualify as brave and iconoclastic journalism -- if it had been published in, say, 2001 or 2002. Or, hell, for that matter, anytime this year prior to the GOP Convention. This is in no way intended to smear Suskind, who is an outstanding journalist. No, the smear is of the NYT and the entire fucking mass media, who willingly went along with the Bush Character Crusade.)

In this profile, an anonymous White House aide (the Confidence Man's money is on Scooter Libby as the unnamed source) tells Suskind that:

... guys like [Suskind] were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''



The Errorism.

The Antistate.


(And, for this to be published within a week of Jacques Derrida's death? Priceless.)

Anyway, there's far too much juicy detail in the article to digest at once, and the Confidence Man feels a fit of high dudgeon coming on (yes, the profane spluttering above is merely the Confidence Man on medium dudgeon), so we will leave you with this inexplicable bit:

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few
ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and
Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United
States-sponsored ''road map'' for the Israelis and Palestinians would be
a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part,
about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The
problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like
France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the
Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom
Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in
Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more
positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish
Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of
about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people
in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're
the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr.
President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the
ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos
mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national
guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with
administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House
Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the
shoulder. ''You were right,'' he said, with bonhomie. ''Sweden does have
an army.''

Silly George! Didn't Karl teach you about the historical duplicity of the Swedes?

The Antistate

Via Atrios, the Confidence Man reads Naomi Klein's excellent expose in Harper's of the foetid "free-market" gnosticism at the heart of the Iraq Debaqle.

Of course, the Confidence Man himself way back in April exposed this very theory of the establishment of Iraq as a "pure" free-market antistate.

For Want of a Powerpoint Slide ...

... or, "This Would Explain the Looting of the Iraqi Humour Ministry" ...

Apparently, in March of last year, Dan Radosh, having only recently been freed from Dick Cheney's Secure, Undisclosed Location, was facing simultaneous deadlines on assignment from Playboy, the New Yorker, Slate, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Guess which assignment Dan decided to let slide?

In March 2003, days before the start of the U.S.-led
invasion of Iraq, American war planners and intelligence officials met
at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to review the Bush
administration's plans to oust Saddam Hussein and implant democracy in Iraq.

Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was
giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon's plans for
rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners' parlance as Phase
4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material - and for good reason.

The slide said: "To Be Provided."

Damn freelancers! We should have known Rumsfeld's new, outsourced military would have consequences!


In all seriousness, that Knight-Ridder article is a must-read, especially for folks with extremely low blood pressure. The Confidence Man will have a more somber post up shortly regarding that whole debaqle.

October 16, 2004

God Bless Jon Stewart

This transcript of Jon Stewart on Crossfire is truly priceless. You can almost smell Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala sweating.

It really is a shameful situation when a self-professed "fake newsman" has to lecture "real" newsmen on journalistic principles.

(Of course, the Confidence Man realizes the subtlety of Stewart's more trenchant point: that Carlson and Begala are entertainers no less than Stewart himself is. And that's what really upset them.)

October 14, 2004

A noiseless, patient terrorist

Poll: Britons fear spiders more than terrorism
Wednesday, October 13, 2004 Posted: 2:20 PM EDT (1820 GMT)
LONDON (AP) -- Spiders are more scary than terrorists -- at least
according to a survey of a thousand Britons.
Household creepy crawlies frighten Britons more than terrorist attacks, or even death, the survey released Monday found. [...]
"It's not surprising that terrorist attacks came only second to creepy crawlies," said psychologist Donna Dawson. "This is because fear of small creatures that scuttle about on four or more legs is a much more ancient, primordial fear, going straight back to caveman days."
For Britons, a visit to the dentist came in sixth place....

Ducking the hackneyed shot (that the Brits are lying about their fear of dentistry, which is obviously much higher), Jibbenainosay can only say about this that the enemies of Britain (and U.S. filmmakers) have just been handed an inexpensive strategy on a silver platter.

October 13, 2004

President Kai-Tangata!

The Confidence Man sees that the Internets are rife with speculation about the mental state of pResident Smirky McCrankypants, due to:
  • his performance at the two debates thus far
  • the rumored earpiece-and-wire
  • Juan Cole also reminds us, regarding the "Bush-can't-speak-on-his-own-and-needs-a-wire" meme, of Bush's refusal to appear solo before the 9/11 Commission
  • circulating videos comparing Bush's verbal performance during the Texas Gubernatorial race in '94 with his recent "statements"
  • Bush's history of alcohol and cocaine abuse
  • his deferral of taking his annual physical (usually around his birthday in August) until after the election
  • the "diagnosis" offered by a doctor in a letter to a magazine that Bush is suffering from presenile dementia
The Confidence Man is satisfied that there is indeed something organically wrong with Bush's Brain. We are not, however, convinced that any of the hypotheses proferred thus far are the cause.

We do have our own pet theory.

  • all of the above incidents and allegations regarding Bush
  • the recent demented demeanor of Jibbenainosay's cane-break cousin, solon Jim Bunning
  • the general loopiness, inconsistency, and madness of the GOP
  • the astonishing rise to absolute and partisan power by the GOP
  • the long senescent mental twilight of Ronald Reagan
  • the recent passing of Reagan, and his beatification by the GOP
The Confidence Man believes that Bush is suffering from Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease.

Yes, Bush has been eating prion-infested brains.

The GOP has undertaken an extensive campaign of human sacrifice and ancestor-engorgement in order to solidify its hold on power. Reagan was ritually murdered, and then his brains and entrails devoured by the faithful.

October 10, 2004

The Dubya Code

... or, "Steward's Folly" ...

Oh, we should have know better.

But no, the Confidence Man, smug in his cosmopolitan, secular-humanist aspect, misread the situation entirely.

We said, once upon a time, that Bush's use of the term "steward" in regard to his role in despoiling the environment was merely silly and aggravating.

But when Bush conspicuously used the term again in the same context in the second debate, we realized that perhaps there was something more to it.

As with Bush's deployment of "Dred Scott" as a placeholder for "Roe v. Wade," his use of "steward" in relation to "the environment" is as a precise code word to his base of fundamentalist free-market zealots.

In this context, "steward" means specifically that Bush will allow property rights in all instances to trump environmental concerns.

Check out a representative explication of Biblical "stewardship" of the environment:

Man's relationship to the world is that of a steward, not that of an owner. ... This basic perspective - that the creation serves man, but that man is bound to use the creation as a steward - is filled out in detail throughout Scripture. ... private property is basic to a Biblical view of economics ... Private property rights set up boundaries that stewards have an interest in guarding. Without property rights, there are no boundaries to guard, and environmental catastrophes are more likely.

Presidential Debate Wrapup, or Outdoor Wildlife Column?

"A mysterious, angry snarl startles the night."

Where Were You in '63?

Alright, this is really delving into minutiae here, but it's an irresistible confluence of effluvia.

The Confidence Man reads in this morning's SF Chron a couple of articles upon the 40th anniversary of Mario Savio's speech which ignited the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley.

One of the articles is a fairly comprehensive bio of Savio.

This biosketch points to Savio's support of the Civil Right Movement, which was supported and replicated in San Francisco in 1963:

Some students joined pickets of Bay Area businesses that refused to hire blacks, including Mel's Drive-Ins ...

Yes, that Mel's Drive-In.


Mike Kinsley (former editor of Slate) has an excellent op-ed in the LAT (of which he is now op-ed page editor) that essentially boils down to: "No, fuck you, Shafer."

Lebanese and Snowmobile Riders

This article is chock full of "Price, you're priceless" moments.

What strikes the Confidence Man, however, is the obvious conclusion that this group was perhaps initially placated most by the fact that many of its members received government appointments.

October 09, 2004

Dr. Eggstone, I Presume?

This is simply hilarious.

The Confidence Man's suggestion is that the town of Livermore should have "artistically" misspelled Ms. Alquilar's name on the check.

Derrida Est Mort! Vive Derrida!

The Confidence Man observes a moment of silence in respect to the passing of Jacques Derrida.

October 07, 2004

He Really Is Heartless, Isn't He?

The Confidence Man generally tries to keep Mushy Humanist Sentiment off of Croatan, but this one was too much to resist.

The Confidence Man was struck by one moment in particular during the Vice Presidential Debate the other night.

When Gwen Ifill stunned both candidates with her AIDS-among-African-American-women question, Dick Cheney's framing of his response was especially galling.

Shifting his response to the international realm, Cheney said that "In some parts of the world, we've got the entire, sort of, productive generation has been eliminated as a result of AIDS, all except for old folks and kids -- nobody to do the basic work that runs an economy."

Nobody to do the basic work that runs an economy?

Jesus. Cheney really just isn't human, is he?

And, of course, what a perfectly awful response from a campaigner's perspective.

"There Are a Hell of a Lot More Cons Than There Are Pros"


That's an alleged quote from Paul "Jerry" Bremer's predecessor Jay Garner, from May '03, on the question of whether to disband the Ba'athist Iraqi army. Bremer was under pressure from the White House to disband the army, pressure to which he eventually acceded.

The Confidence Man thinks that the Garner quote is also an extremely apt description of the Bush Administration: a hell of a lot more con(servative)s than there are pro(fessional)s.

October 06, 2004

Former Illusionists

Hah! You thought that title was going to be about this, didn't you?

Instead, it's about this.

And what a doozy it is. The alleged "hate crime" and subsequent retraction beg further inquiry.

The Galvanic Energy-Source of Puritan Tradition

Um. Yes, that's a direct quotation.

Nice idea, but ineptly executed.

Jibbenainosay, I'm certain you could do better than that poltroon.