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.

"Deaths? What deaths?"

Great googly moogly! This is just ... well, "sick and wrong" is a beginning, but thoroughly inadequate as a description.

The interview reads like a cross between this and this. "What babies?"

October 05, 2004

It's Alive!

"Cheney a lightning rod" -- so that's how they keep his heart going!

The Confidence Man also reads in the same article that Cheney is a "dark architect." Hm. Perhaps that means that Cheney is the one responsible for the new Museum of the American Indian?

October 03, 2004

Deep What? No. 2

Alright, this is downright creepy.

There is definitely something very strange afoot with this "deep think" business.

The Confidence Man will be keeping his eye on this matter,

Deep What? No. 1

Hm. Is Jibbenainosay referring to this "Jon Ruybalid"?

Methinks there's something funny afoot with this-here expedition-reenactment.

Deep Thoughts

In response to one of Confidence Man's earlier posts, I want to follow up what appears to be a recent grammatical development. In the story on Kenneth Starr becoming a lawyer for the New York Times to defend them in a First Amendment case, one reads:

Mr. Starr makes an "interesting" but natural choice for the case, said Tom
Goldstein, a lawyer in Washington who specializes in litigating before the
Supreme Court. He called Mr. Starr "a deep think kind of guy...."
Now this phrase "deep think" I've heard in a slightly different form from my Vice-Provost of Interdisciplinary Studies. She gets groups of faculty together to put together what she terms "Big Think" projects.

There may be a common genealogy to this nouning of "think," but it has some disturbing implications. To say not that Starr is a deep thinker but that he is a deep think guy, and to say that we are not going to think big in our attempts to move the University into its next evolutionary stage but instead we are going to come up with (what everyone else will presumably recognize as) a big think seems to me to outsource thinking to somewhere. I'm not sure where.

Fire in the Sky


USGS: Mount St. Helens could erupt within 24 hours
Observatory 3 miles from volcano's base evacuated
Saturday, October 2, 2004 Posted: 8:14 PM EDT
(0014 GMT)

VANCOUVER, Washington (CNN) -- Scientists warn that Mount St. Helens could erupt within 24 hours, and with more force than previously expected.

I don't know what, exactly, Washington did to deserve the latest natural disaster intended by Divine Providence for the punishment of our electoral sins. Possibly the Almighty became confused about the whole Washington State/Washington D.C. thing.

October 01, 2004

Spin, Pre- and Post-Debate

In the lead-up to last night's initial 2004 Presidential Debate, the mainstream press and the bloggers (R and L) both focused on two, somewhat interrelated, structural elements:
  • Which side would succeed in "lowering expectations" for their own candidate (and, contrapositively, raising expectations for their opponent)
  • The arcane and Byzantine ground rules for the debate, which would in any instance supposedly render the debate a sort of twin-alternating-press-conferences
After watching the debate itself and watching and reading much of the post-debate coverage, the Confidence Man has come to two, somewhat interrelated, structural conclusions (beyond, of course, the transparent fact that Bush was clearly overmatched):
  • The Bush campaign team was actually at odds with itself in the lead-up to the debate: that is, the Bush team's raised-expectations/prosecuting-attorney/raised-his-whole-life-to-debate Kerry was conceptually incompatible with the Bush team's general-campaign-stump-speech/Flip-Flop Kerry. The Bush team, it seems, was gambling that the latter Kerry would show up. What they got was the former. Of course, they may not have even realized the incompatibility of these two conceptual Kerrys: witness Bush's stump speech remark this week that Master Debater Kerry "could probably spend 90 minutes debating himself." Basically, anyone who had only a glancing familiarity with the headlines, and/or who had been exposed to anti-Kerry attack ads and media coverage thereof, would not have recognized the "Debate Kerry" on stage last night.
  • The Bush team may have outsmarted itself with their focus on and "winning of" the debate groundrules: they actually believed that what would have transpired last night would actually have been twin alternating press conferences. In fact, as many media and political analysts have been pointing out this morning, what we got actually did resemble an honest-to-gosh "debate." And that is precisely why Bush was alternately lost/stumbling and fuming/persnickety last night. The issue of Bush having been "cocooned" has been discussed a lot in the left commentariat the last month or so. The loyalty oaths at his campaign stops, the lack of press conferences, the inability to confront the actual situation on the ground in Iraq, the insulation by staffers, etc. And that surely played into Bush's surprise and irksomeness last night at being questioned directly by Kerry on his veracity and leadership. But the Confidence Man suspects that Bush's anger was less at Kerry per se than at Rove and his staff. Bush was obviously un- and underprepared for the structure of last night's debate as it actually transpired. That is the fault of Rove and the campaign staff -- and they may well have un- and underprepared their boss because they mistakenly assumed that they had won the strategic structural battle over the debate format.
The common element in both of these shortcomings is a fatal discrepancy between facticity and factitiousness.

Much like the evident calamity that Operation Oedipus has engendered in Iraq.

Much like the Lysenko Administration's rejection of rational polity and the scientific method.

Might this be Rove's methodology finally catching up to him?