Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tactical Woundedness

I was just mulling over the response of the White House and former associated figures over the past 24 hours, and realized that there is a phenomenon, used in the past by this and other Administrations, which can be culled out, newly defined, that I shall call "Tactical Woundedness":

Tactical Woundedness: The use of an apparent sense of betrayal, often portrayed through the use of euphemistic insinuation, such as the word "puzzled" and "this isn't the ----- we knew", that is meant to serve as a form of indirection--to draw viewers of an event away from a damaging factual disclosure and towards an implication of personal disloyalty. This relies on the known effect of people to be influenced in the direction of attending to interpersonal conflict over factual inaccuracy--even when the factual inaccuracy may have a considerable impact on their own lives.

See also: Mock outrage; Captain Renault in Casablanca: "shocked, shocked".

If these individuals are indeed wounded, it is more likely an understated wounded pride at their "misunderestimation"--that such a receptive servant of the message, no doubt hired for his unquestioning fealty, would now actually remove the curtain from the proceedings that they expected that he would obediently continue to conceal.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ah, Scotty...

From the Post:

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated "political propaganda campaign" led by President Bush and aimed at "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war."

McClellan includes the charges in a 341-page book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a "lack of inquisitiveness," says the White House operated in "permanent campaign" mode, and admits to having been deceived by some in the president's inner circle about the leak of a CIA operative's name.

It would be utterly inconsistent to praise McClellan for his revelations, now that he needed to find something sensational from his anxiously subservient, painful-to-watch tenure as Press Secretary, which at best could only evoke sympathy for his agonized predicament. It might have helped in eliciting such praise if these revelations had emerge at some point between the end of his tenure and the beginnings of promotion for the book.

Ironically, in now falling to the likely demands of his current masters for something to add spice and sales power to an otherwise agonizing episode, one might posit that he is repeating the same pattern that occurred during his work in the Administration. Nevertheless, this is a man who has demonstrated beyond doubt his characteristic fear of censure. That he comes forward with these accusations, despite putative motive, is of considerable note.

The claims that McClellan makes have the benefit of being supported by numerous contemporary and highly confirming reports (Woodward, Suskind et al). Now, the fact that even McClellan, the truest of camp followers, endorses them, gives them an additional bottom line power--the fearful, sweaty, anxious party line stalwart, who was also among those closest to the action, now confirms what all but the most deluded now must know.

McClellan, like other Press Secretaries before him, could have downplayed, soft pedaled, or diffused these critiques--as they did, in their books, which also had sales imperatives. He does not. Instead, he emphasizes and confirms the critical through-line narrative--a war, driven and unvetted by a lack of necessary curiosity regarding likely effects on our nation, our citizens and the world; a sales campaign yoked to this poorly vetted effort in the most cynical ("one doesn't unveil new products in August") fashion, and, overall, a brutal narrowness of vision, combined with the excitedly combative anti-intellectualism, masked by a shallow pose of ideological self-certainty (i.e. half-blindness) that characterized this administration.

Now, we are seeing the counterattack, the essential message being that they are "puzzled" that this does not "seem to be the Scott" they knew.

Presumably, this "Et tu, Scotty?" translates as an attack on his unwillingness to continue to faithfully toe the party line, in the face of significant evidence to the contrary--to maintain the fantasied walls of the court dominion--a change to be welcomed.

His willingness to express, in print, Bush's tendency to convince himself of what he wanted to believe, and this Administration's embrace of secrecy is a genuinely noble and a brave act.

But, ah, Scotty. The wreckage.

Spike in Rates of PTSD in 2007 Iraq Vets and Mental Health Parity

Very important article in today's Chicago Tribune reporting on the significant increase in reported cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Iraq vets, as reported by Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker yesterday:

Nearly 14,000 U.S. service members who had previously served in Iraq and Afghanistan were newly diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder last year, according to statistics released today by Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker.

The detailed figures for the four military services shows about a 46 percent increase in the number of troops diagnosed with PTSD in 2007--a spike that coincided with the most violent year of the Iraq war. Overall, nearly 40,000 have been diagnosed with the illness since 2003, though it is likely many more haven't sought help out of fear of being stigmatized.

Lt. Gen. Schoomaker, the Army's top medical officer, said that the Army needs to improve facilities and has too few mental health care providers.

"I think we can say as a nation that our mental health facilities and access to mental health providers is not adequate to the need right now," Schoomaker said. "So part of the problem that we as a military are suffering is a shared national problem."

This, combined with the recent RAND study indicating that PTSD and depression was being experienced by near 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, makes several points eminently clear:

1) PTSD and depression are serious disorders. For those who do not know, PTSD is a particularly intractable disorder which requires specialized and often long-term treatment. Depression, an often co-occurring illness, also, as is a clinical syndrome that is much more than simply "being sad", and that causes significant impairment in functioning, work, and relationships.

2) VA resources are not sufficient to meet the need of these significant disorders, in those who sacrifice so much for our country,

3) Therefore, for both the above reasons, these veterans are in great need and deserving of the specialized treatment that their sacrifice deserves, and that these disorders require.

4) Current, most health insurance plans do not cover such illnesses on a parity with so called "physical syndromes"--despite the artificial and archaic distinction here, as indicated by MRI and f-MRI scans of patients that indicate physical concomitants to these illnesses. The research is clear--these illnesses exist, have powerful effects on functioning--including the reduce ability to work, and with further consequent effects on national as well as individual wellbeing.

5) Mental Health Parity--meaning that insurance companies should cover such illnesses at the same rate and to the same degree as they cover so called "physical illnesses" is therefore a particularly important issue, as these returning vets face a need for care that is met by a shortage of resources, and an inability to cover the costs of necessary treatment for these serious disorders. Without such parity legislated by Congress, many of these deserving vets, as clearly indicated by Schoomaker's statement, will be unable to receive the treatment needed for the serious injuries that they received during service for our nation.

6) The candidates's positions on the issue of such Mental Health Parity for these injured, sacrificed men and women on behalf of our country are as follows:

Candidate Positions on Mental Health Parity:

McCain: Does not favor mental health parity (note that this is in spite of his generalized image of "supporting the troops")

: Favors mental health parity for specialists who understand how to treat these disorders

Clinton: Favors parity only for "at home services"

The issue of specialists is important here. Many "treatments" for PTSD have consisted only of generalized "talk groups" alone that have not been empirically validated as effective for treatment of the disorder.

There is little point in utilizing a treatment if it has not been demonstrated to be effective. The RAND study strongly emphasizes the use of empirically validated treatments for the disorder.

If we are going to devote our national resources to treating these deserving citizens, we should use the treatments that have been demonstrated to work for this disorder.

Currently, only Obama supports this mental health parity coverage for the necessary and demonstrably effective treatments for this serious disorder, now sharply increasing in our returning vets.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Liveblogging "Recount": Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Watching "Recount", as the faces of a thinner, younger Tim Russert, Brokaw, et al. cross the screens.

The clips from that evening. I remember them.

Good Bush lookalike. Terrible sound alike. Same for Gore.

This is quite beautifully done. Did Roach do this as a labor of love? This will define the event for many.

The first image of Katherine Harris, exiting the elevator, looking suitably insane. A gruesome makeup job on the lovely Laura Dern.

Most authentic thus far: Bill Daley. Least authentic thus far--Denis Leary.

John King looks *exactly* the same.

Great moment: Buchanan clip stating that even he believed the Palm Beach votes were miscast for him.

Spacey has a terrific ability to make you believe that he is the character, despite his powerful simultaneous presence as Kevin Spacey.

Tom Sizemore as James Baker--not a lookalike, but terrific acting--captures the character.

John Hurt seems more like a member of Her Majesty's Secret Service in a James Bond picture than he does Warren Christopher.

The first hardball vs. softball moment: Christopher: "No Lawsuits". Baker: "File...We can sit here drinking tea and talking Federalism or we can start throwing punches."

"The plural of chad is chad". They couldn't resist this.

Leary--great exposition of the process. It may be why he was cast--he has the ability to do the exposition in an entertaining way.

Meeting of Christopher and Baker across the table. Hurt plays Christopher as noble, slow, sacrificial. Clearly portrayed thus far as the chief mover in being willing to sacrifice the election.

Ed Rendell also looks exactly the same.

Katherine Harris makeup scene with aide talking through the door. Portrayed as histrionic, narcissistic, terrified, largely uninformed, unaware of the consequences of her actions. No comment.

Baker calls Mac the Knife. Minor key music.

Mac the Knife manipulating Harris. "A woman of action". Classic scene. "Bring it in for a landing with George W. Bush in the cockpit."

Amazing scene: "All you have to do is ask us for an advisory opinion." the battle of the advisory opinions.

Roach keeps this story shuttling along. Extremely well crafted.

The canvassing board scene. I remember this. I felt it was tragic at the time.

SNL clip.

War room scene. Hand recount and counting dimpled chads signed into law in Texas by Bush. Joining suit in Volusia County.

Call from Klain to Baker--great scene.

David Boies. Is that him? Looks just like him.

No--I think it's Ed Begley. Remarkable that Ed Begley could resemble Boies.

Baker smiling while watching Boies--enjoying the fight. A nice touch.

Dern just chews the carpet in this role. Laughing out loud. The flashing, doubting eyes. Worry, anxiety.

Florida Supreme Court grants a stay.

Boies arguing before the FSC.

Begley is terrific as Boies. Who knew he could pull that off?

Beautiful, cinema verite moment in front of the Florida Supreme Court announcing the ruling against Harris, allowing the recount to continue.

The stall--intentionally slowing down the recount.

Threats against Carol Roberts and Theresa LaPore

Bush team Supreme Court analysis on standing--"Maybe Scalia and Thomas will discover their inner liberal"--i.e., voting against state's rights.

Lieberman:--"take another look at the military ballots".

Voter purge list--the Secretary of State's office instructed a database technology firm to capture names other than those that should have been purged. 20,000 people were illegally excluded from voting; almost half were African-American.

Public relations firm ginning the Bush protesters--tossing T-shirts into the crowd.

Lobby protest. Incredible. Leading to the abandoning of the Miami-Dade recount.

"I'm in the middle of a recount where the votes aren't being recounted and nobody seems to care. What I'd like to know is who actually won."

"After counting over 460,000 ballots, with 1000 left to count, the Secretary of State has decided to shut us down with two hours to go. Apparently that is how she has decided to exercise her discretion."

The slinky, "Streetcar Named Desire" Katherine Harris piano theme song is priceless.

Leon County. "They won we lost, we're going to appeal".

Gore sound alike better here, in the call with Klain.

Second announcement from FSC in Gore v. Harris: Court orders inclusion of Palm Beach and Miami Dade votes, and statewide recount.

Baker requests an immediate stay in the U.S. Supreme Court of the recount.

If the election is not resolve by the 12th, the Bush team asserts that the Florida Legislature can award the votes regardless of the result of the recount.

The U.S. Supreme Court issues the stay, and accepts the writ of cert.

Klain gets Blackberry from Gore: "Make sure no one trashes the Supreme Court."

The Scalia portrayer appears more stable than the actual.

Town car on Constitution Ave.

Supreme Court

Ted Olson good look alike.

Souter looking less Vermont than in reality, good Ginsberg look alike (although silent).

Outcome: Remember? It took time to even make sense of the decision. 7 to 2 equal protection violation, 5 to 4 remedy.

"The Supreme Court shuts down the recount. Then they say we can't resume the recount because there isn't time to resume the recount before the deadline."

"The Court rules that the decision is, quote 'limited to the present circumstances'".

Klain to Gore: "You cannot concede. Not yet, sir. I beg of you, just give me one more shot."

Next morning:

Gore: "A wise man once said to me "I have to end this war if I can't win." Ron, I can't win. Even if I win, I can't win."

Klain to group: "It's time for us to stop".

God, Sizemore was completely believeable as Baker. Not easy.

Baker: This was a testament to "our faith in the rule of law."

Lesson: As you run, so shall you govern.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Hypothetical Speech By Vice Presidential Candidate Clinton:

Thank you for welcoming me here tonight.

I know that we are all proud of Barack, who has risen from humble beginnings to such heights--great heights, perilous heights. As you may know, 30% of serious accidents occur from a height of 10 feet or above.

And so we now set out together on our journey--a journey of hope, a journey of change, and yes, a journey of great demands. For the Presidency places great demands on all of those who hold the office--we have seen how quickly it can age people, as in the poignant photographs of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was succeeded by Harry S. Truman while still in office.

In this journey, we will put forward our shared goals--of expanded health coverage, against the unexpected and often fatal illnesses that can rob even those citizens that seem the healthiest of their ability to work, even of their lives. Of protection against unexpected attack on our country, often aimed at those who are placed in the most critical positions to lead this nation. Of conservation of our precious energy resources, without which, even the most powerful of us can wind up stranded in a desert motorcade, without food, water, or wireless reception to contact others for help. Of greater support for culture and the arts--beginning with increased support for our very own Ford's Theatre here in Washington, DC.

Many of you will hear Barack speak later today, from a platform in Norman, Oklahoma--a humble platform, a rickety platform, a platform susceptible to Norman's notoriously strong and unexpected winds. There--god willing--he will tell you of what we hope to accomplish. He will speak of the unity that he and I wish to achieve for this nation, just as Andrew Johnson and Lincoln strove for such national unity. And he will tell you of our wish for change.

Change. An important word. None of us can know the changes that will occur in our lives. None of us can predict what momentous events, what disasters may befall us. A simple damaged left engine turbine stabilizer in a campaign plane. A frayed electrical line dangling, unseen, from a remote access satellite hookup van. A safe, falling, unexpectedly, to the sidewalk from the 8th floor of the Hotel Aldion in Norman, Oklahoma.

And so, we must dedicate ourselves, we must consecrate ourselves, to reach these most important national objectives today--while we still can. And like Kennedy, Garfield, McKinley, and other Presidents before him, we know that Barack will strive to achieve these goals--in the face of the awesome unknowns that lay before us all.

Thank you.

Head of State: The Reasons That Hillary Should Not Be Vice President

Regarding Hillary Clinton as Barack Obama's running mate:

Originally, this seemed to be a potentially plausible choice--and if presented in the following way, could turn her divisive campaign into a potential coup as a VP candidate. The thinking was the following:

Hillary has run a divisive campaign. Now, just as the nation should mend its divisions in favor a greater unity that would serve the greater needs of our country, so now they would explicitly put these divisions behind them, in the interests of the unity that this nation, after a bitter and divisive Administration, so requires. This would serve as a powerful and vibrant example of the very ability to unify that Obama both offers and represents.

However, this would require a candidate that was willing to take such a position of relative shared selflessness in the interests of a greater good. While the Vice Presidency certainly offers its honors (now far beyond the "warm pitcher" of John Vance Garner's famous phrase) and positioning for later Presidential aspirations, such a plan would require the ability to think in terms of a truly collaborative effort based on the betterment of the nation, rather than in more grasping, combative and singular terms.

The Clinton camp's behavior over this past week has made such a positive scenario clearly untenable, showcasing the same characteristics that have signified her campaign throughout its long, chaotic march--its contradictions of previously made statements when such changes have a slight possibility of adding a week or two of vitality, its sudden and implausible use of populist guises and specious historical parallels for transparently opportunistic purposes, its near-hallucinogenic transmogrifications of personality as well as fundamental approaches and themes, and the central campaign tendency to place personal attainment over virtually all values that lay in its path.

These characteristics--personal outcomes over national ones, positioning over a consistent presentation of position, values and even self, the willingness to put campaign viability over the need to transcend and transform the vast wreckage of state and international relations that are the legacy of the previous Administration--are as present now, at a moment when wisdom rather than a remorseless, obdurate desperation could fill this gap, as they have been throughout much of the campaign. They would continue to make themselves present during a Clinton campaign for vice president--complicating, diminishing and often distracting, in trivial internecine battles, the message of unity and change.

Perhaps Clinton could adopt a more unifying, integrated and less grasping position on the VP subject. However, thus far, the actions of the Clinton camp have made it clear: It's time to clean the slate. Hillary Clinton should not be the Vice Presidential candidate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy is what I think of when I hear the phrase "liberal lion".

A fighter, with what is already a remarkable life journey. All the best to him, his wife and family.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hot Bush "Injection": A Brief History of Appeasement--What It Is, And What It Is Not

It was this morning, while on the elliptical machine, that I heard the 20th (when I began counting) reference to Bush having "injected" foreign policy, via his raising of "appeasement" before the Knesset, into the Democratic campaign debate.

Aside from the fact that a Bush injection would likely require more investigation from the FDA and CDC than vaccinations laced with 50% thimerosal, the discussion, which has shown surprising legs, has revealed a remarkable lack of basic knowledge about the distinctions between negotiation (e.g. Nixon's intervention with what was, at the time, a rogue Chinese state, which largely prevented conflict and helped to usher China into the family of nations) and appeasement--ranging from the Kevin James school of international policy negotiation based upon an utter lack of knowledge, to more informed but still significantly incomplete or incorrect understandings of appeasement as it has been used in this context.

Therefore, I provide you with a brief, fully accurate history of the "appeasement" that has been raised in these debates, so that those who wish to use actual fact in advancing their arguments can do so (For those who wish to continue to rely on insinuation, distortion, or the ritual, repetitive, seemingly talismanic use of the cry "He's an appeaser! You know! Like Munich! Like Chamberlain!" without knowing what this actually means, please proceed to Remedial History, room 101B. No gum).

The Munich Agreement:

The Brief Pre-History of Munich:

Hitler, levered into power in January of 1933 (ironically after the Nazi's first significant national election outcome decrease in 1932, after which they very well may have faded into their earlier insignificance) through the dramatic miscalculations of former Chancellor Von Papen (who, in his proposed role as Vice-Chancellor, hoped to be the "power behind the throne", and to return to the Chancellorship) and prominent Nationalist Alfred Hugenberg, among others to isolate and co-opt Hitler in a cabinet of Conservative Nationalists ("We've hired him"--Von Papen; "We've boxed him in"-Hugenberg), who persuaded the reluctant, aging President Hindenberg to accept this agreement, soon gained primacy and control over the cabinet, government, and increasingly the nation, through a series of questionable legislative (e.g. "The Enabling Act") and viciously revolutionary and counter-revolutionary (i.e., the elimination of other political parties, the Rohm Purge, brutal and cynical anti-Semitic actions by the SA, the Gleischaltung or "Coordination" of virtually all German organizations and press in 1934) actions.

After gaining such control, and with an autarkic economy that, from the start, invested huge sums in rearmament, Hitler brought the German military into coordination as well, under the aegis of the compliant General Blomberg, and with a shared mission of challenging the restraints placed upon German armament under the Versailles Treaty which followed World War I (Hitler's railing against this treaty had been a key element in the rise of the Nazis to power, particularly in the most dire economic phases of the Weimar Republic). In a series of shocking and escalating violations of this treaty, Germany announced the reestablishment of the German Air Force (1935), the reoccupation of the Rhineland (1936) and the Anschluss of Austria (1937); Hitler began an express drive for expansion conveyed as a correction of the Versailles Treaty, but in fact a clearly stated intent to increase the "living space" (Lebensraum) of Germany, and to attain hegemony in Europe (and, eventually, beyond).

In 1938, under the pretext of incorporating the Sudeten Germans who lived in Czechoslovakia (and utilizing Czech Nazi sympathizers to provoke manufactured "incidents" among this group), Hitler continued this expansionist drive by threatening, beginning in the famous "Weekend Crisis" of May 20-22, 1938, to attack Czechoslovakia on behalf of the Sudetens. Months of anti-Czech propaganda created by the Goebbels-controlled ministry continued through June, July and August. Following a vicious tirade at the conclusion of the Party Congress against the Czechs on Sept. 12, Hitler threatened action if the "issues" regarding the Sudetenland were not resolved. This provoked a wave of fear and disturbance across France and the Sudetenland.

As a result, on September 15, Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to meet with Hitler. Hitler, in this first meeting, presented Chamberlain with an apparent fait accompli, stating that he would settle the matter himself "one way or another", clearly implying force. Chamberlain met this with the remark that under such conditions, there was no further point in talking--after which, Hitler tactically receded and stated that if the question of incorporation of the Sudetenland was open, discussions should continue. Hitler's ultimate goal here was to use the tactic of Sudeten independence to force Czechoslovakia to cede the Sudeten potion of its nation to Germany, claiming that "we want no Czechs"--e.g., the remaining part of the country--and that without such an incorporation, he would attack--thus unleashing the protective guarantees of France to Czechoslovakia, and thereby, a second World War.

Under such pressure, France and Britain placed weight on Czechoslovakia to cede the Sudetenland. Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier (the French premier) provided the basis for the Munich Agreement--which indeed carved off the Sudetenland, leading to Chamberlain's notorious statement of "peace in our time"--set along side Goebbels statement that "We have achieved everything we wanted according to the small plan, while the big plan is...for the moment, not realizable".

Hitler, in fact, intended to incorporate the rest of Czechoslovakia--and was described as disappointed that the agreement had denied him the opportunity for a war against the Czechs that would allow him this full territorial conquest in a single step. In March of 1939, following a similar propaganda barrage regarding Slovakian nationalist independence, Hitler threatened the Czech President Benes with invasion should he not cede the rest of the nation. Under such threat, Benes collapsed, and the Germans seized the remaining portion of Czechoslovakia without resistance.

Ironically, these constant risk-all gambits led Hitler to his fatal mistake--the conquest of Poland, which, although "victorious", led Britain, France, and ultimately the USA to enter the fight against Germany, and Germany to seek to end the battle against these enemies by removing their most likely ally--the Soviet Union--a combined two front battle which led to the downfall of Nazi Germany.

Appeasement here was agreeing to give away Czechoslovakia. It was shameful--and wrong.

Negotiation: Talking To Leaders

Two examples:

Nixon's Rapprochement With China:

Despite the well-known failings of the Nixon Presidency, Nixon's engagement with China remains a signal achievement. Note that Nixon, throughout his career, was an ardent fighter of Communism. Thus, we might have fully expected him to take the "negotiation is weakness" position with a country that, at the time, was regarded as a rogue nation in the West.

Nevertheless, this fervent anti-Communist chose to negotiate--a marked change from previous U.S. policy--and continued to do so even as highly inflammatory border attacks occurred between China and the Soviet Union in 1969, stating that "We simply cannot afford to leave China outside the family of nations." (a statement that would likely draw the errant fire of commentators from the Right if it were uttered today). With a persistent diplomacy through 1969-1972, culminating in a meeting with Chou en Lai, these negotiations led to a dramatic thawing of relations with both China and the Soviet Union--where, in meetings with Leonid Brezhnev, an anti-ballistic missile treaty, a trade agreement worth a billion dollars, and a SALT treaty were signed.

Reagan and Gorbachev:

Reagan, of course, was noted for referring to the Soviet Union as the "Evil Empire." Despite this stance, he too was willing to negotiate with Gorbachev in the interests of nuclear disarmament --and despite the objections of many on the Right, whose statements at the time regarding the weakness of negotiation could be easily grafted onto the present debates.

As we know, Reagan's meetings, according to Alan Greenspan, "started the sequence of geopolitical initiatives that led Mr. Gorbachev to figuratively tear down the Berlin Wall", and contributed to the break up of the Soviet Union.

Many from the right called for aggressive military action--for missiles first, rather than negotiation. Reagan, in negotiating, was proved right.

Note that in each case, the President talked with a leader who they regarded as hostile--in the face of those who argued then, as they do now, that talking--negotiation--signifies weakness.

In each case, talking--strong, informed negotiation--did not result in appeasement of the aggressor, but instead resulted in the desired outcome--in one case, the component breakup of the aggressor nation--in another the end of a threat of nuclear conflict--without a single loss of life.

Negotiation is not appeasement.

When negotiation is chosen, however, it will be the case that those who simply wished for the visceral strike--the simplistic first solution of subduing an enemy through the use of might--will not find satisfaction. We have seen the results of this position, throughout the years--from the events recounted in the first section, to the present.

Perhaps, in negotiation, it is *they* who have been appeased.

If so, given history--this was a favorable outcome indeed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Creation of a New Word: Entsetztfreude--Literally: "Horrified Joy"

Apparently one need know nothing to assert anything. While not a new discovery, this example is nonetheless 5 minutes of pure delight.

On the basis of this, I am creating a new word: Entsetztfreude --literally meaning "Horrified joy"

Watch until the end. Via TPM:

Ensetztfreude. You're feeling it right now, aren't you?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Golf as Expiation

From: The Guardian

"U.S. President George W. Bush said on Tuesday he quit playing golf in 2003 out of respect for the families of Americans killed in the war in Iraq."

Golf As Expiation

By Guru Alano Jeffries Lipmiano, adviser to former heads of state Amin, Taylor, Nixon et al.

Many have criticized President Bush for his statement that he gave up golf as a way of making a personal sacrifice to show solidarity with those fighting and risking their lives in the war in Iraq, a war that he largely created.

However, I think that it is difficult to see the value and importance--the weight and value of such a personal sacrifice--until we examine it more closely.

I recall meeting with Mobutu Sese Seko, I believe it was in the late 1960s. He had just finished his plundering of the Zairian (now Congolese) economy after deposing Joseph Kasavubu in a bloody coup, raping the natural resources of the nation, and had lured the former Minister of Education back to the nation on the assumption that he would be amnestied, only to be tortured and then murdered by Mobutu's minions.

I recall the scene vividly. Seko sat atop an ornate Louis the XVII original, running his right hand through a bag of rubies, and said: "I am satisfied, Guru, but I cannot yet find full and complete satisfaction. There is a vague feeling of irritation, or disquiet. Perhaps I am taking my people in the wrong direction."

Table tennis, I recommended. Give up table tennis, your favorite sport after your evening repasts. With this sacrifice, you will show that you too are willing to deny yourself what is important, that you too will bear the burdens of want, as does the nation. Seko smiled, as several rubies fell from the bag to the floor.

I, too, remember, as if it were yesterday, the events of 1973. Pinochet had just overthrown Allende in a bloody coup, and he had just then declared himself "Supreme Chief of the Nation". The General had begun his "disappearing" of political opponents, in which over 2000 were killed and about 30,000 tortured.

"Guru," he said one evening, as we sat in the Massage Room of the Presidential Palace, "There is a pain in my lower back that emerges whenever I hear the shouts of imprisoned former associates from the courtyard, a pain that no massage can remove. Please, tell me, how can I rid myself of this continuous suffering?"

I looked to the plate of Maté and Alfajores (fried Argentinian bread) that sat on a tray beside the massage table. "You must make a show of sacrifice to rid yourself of the tension of the difficult removal of your treasonous enemies, General." I pointed to the tray. "General", I said, "Mate' es fine. No mas."

He smiled, instructed a satrap to remove the tray. The following day, the vanishing of the Disappeared once again flowed without imposition or bar.

It was only months later that I sat together with Nixon and Kissinger. It was late at night, the three of us seated in the Oval Office, tumblers of scotch before us--all but Nixon's untouched--and Nixon's shoulders hunched low over his desk, the desk lamp against the night sky framed in the window behind him casting his face in an eerie glow.

"It's the goddamn press, Henry. They want to hang us. Why don't they realize what I am trying to do for them, Henry? Peaceniks, Hippies, Yippies, and the damn New York Times. One day, when this has all passed, passed us on, then they'll realize, then they'll understand how hard I worked, how hard I tried..." The tumbler shook in his hand, and all that could be heard was the ice lightly clinking against the heavy glass. "What can I do, Guru? What can I do?"

I looked to the gilt framed picture on his desk, of Nixon playing the piano, Pat beside him. "You must sacrifice. You must abstain. The piano is your sacrifice to the lives so bravely being lost in Vietnam. Just as they have given up their freedom to play stringed ebony instruments in the Southeast Asian jungles, so you too shall put aside this desire. For them. "

He looked at me with a silent, poignant smile, as a tear slowly ran down his cheek. "Henry", he said, waving his hand "Tell Ramon to remove the piano from the East Room and put it in the basement. And have him bring another bottle of Scotch."

There are many such tales of deep sacrifice for the good of one's nation, taken with a full and insightful vision of what the nation has suffered, and with a full understanding of what that suffering entails.

The sacrifice of golf is no mere folly, no trivial shift, by a man so out of touch throughout his entire life with the meaning of actual suffering, by a man whose lifelong values have been so skewed by the cosseting of pain, infliction of deprivation, error, and the human consequence of his actions by an ever-present familial safety net that he cannot even conceive of the notion of risk inherent in actual sacrifice, by a man so in thrall to his own limitations and such fears of those limitations that he has walled himself in from all that might possibility contradict it.


Golf is a sacrifice, a man giving up the very peace and solace, the removal from daily life, that his war has removed from those that his actions have sent into sands of Iraq.

And so I say, Mr. President, put your putter aside with honor, with pride. And do so with the knowledge that you too have made a great sacrifice, fully in keeping with the actions and goals that you have cast upon this nation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Change That You Deserve

From the Chicago Tribune:

The slogan unveiled this week by House Republicans - "Change you deserve" - is already a trademark used by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals to market its antidepressant Effexor XR.

Black Screen.

Fade into:

Scene of a thin grey haired man standing in a green field. Behind him we can see the sun is rising.

"I got the change I deserved with GOP"

Cut to a small child, in a sun dress, who looks up at him and smiles.

"I was tired, listless. I had lost interest in my usual activities--creating false attacks, acting as if I had been unfairly attacked about issues created out of whole cloth, drawing specious historical parallels, fawning over ideologically bankrupt manufactured father figures. Sure, I sent emails claiming that Obama was a Muslim, but had lost the spark, the enjoyment of everyday life."

Cut to a child who rides by on a bicycle, and throws a newspaper on the front porch.

"That's when I found GOP."

Cut to man rowing in a scull across a still river. He turns to the camera, smiles.

"In clinical studies, GOP has been found to increase aggressiveness in the absence of actual provocation in 8 out of 10 users. In most users, the desire to gleefully attack returns in 1 week. Full enthusiasm for invented ideas in two. "

Cut to image of porch swing.

"With GOP, my attention to minor distractions fully returned, until I was again building them into major accusations of flawed character. Once again, my intense focus on pins, buttons, sentences fragments and remote relationships as absolute indications of personal virtue and ability was at its peak. For an entire weekend, I could once again choose the right moment to accuse a candidate of treason without cause--when I was ready, when the time felt right".

Cut to a series of blurred images: long, stringy haired teens in torn jeans and ironic 80's t-shirts lounging by the Washington Monument; picture of John Kerry in a Swift Boat during Vietnam;
Eiffel Tower; Plate of arugula. During these images, rapid voiceover in female voice:

"GOP may cause monosyllabism, inability to consider two differing concepts at the same time, memory loss or inaccurate recall of recently and repeatedly presented intelligence information, focus on size of automobiles or koro, sequential nicknaming, hooting. If you have a desire to read Ann Coulter's collected works that lasts longer than four hours, this may be a sign of a dangerous condition and you should contact your physician immediately."

Cut back to man standing in field. American flag waving in the distance behind him, below a risen sun. A woman walks up beside him, puts her arm around him, and smiles.


"So get the change that you deserve. Talk to your doctor about GOP. Soon, you'll be walking by the homeless on the street again and saying "Let them get a job!"

Or better yet--let them get GOP."

Woman smiles.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Look at this image. What do you see?

Bill looking on with concern--and evaluation. And in Hillary: Relief.

If you heard her speech last night--before the final Gary, IN results were in and it looked like a loss--you saw a woman freed. Freed of pretense. Freed of pressure and demand. Open and engaged in the idea of helping the nation.

You've seen me write before about a woman who was suffering and striving to prove under her father's evaluation and demand. You've seen this in other seminal works--how Hillary can seem freed when not under the pressure of proving, performing.

I believe we saw this last night. I'd vote for that woman. However, not, paradoxically, for the woman who would win--who would then feel forced into the persona that she lives in when she feels that she must prove and perform--the one separated from the relieved and undiminished self.

Indiana turned, and now her valedictory moment has, for the moment, passed, leading to a quasi-reversion to campaign mode.

However, without doubt: A remarkable photograph.

h/t: L.A. Times "Top of the Ticket"
Photo Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Gas Tax Holiday: Multiple Choice

Hillary Clinton's claim that a Gas Tax Holiday will help middle class Americans, at the same time that her advisers have privately stated the opposite to the Washington Post, namely that they are aware that this will result in an increase in gas prices, and that it is "just politics", is most similar in political mindset and ideology to:

a) Former Bush Administration Chief of Staff Andy Card stating that the Administration waited until September to make its case for Iraq because `From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August';

b) Paul Wolfowitz predicting that the costs of reconstruction in Iraq would be paid for by oil profits from that nation, when contemporaneous predictions of the costs of the war and a subsequent insurgency would be, and have been, far greater;

c) Dick Cheney's prediction we would be greeted in Iraq as "liberators, despite numerous pre-war intelligence analyses which warned “that the U.S. would face armed resistance from Iraqis following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.”

d) All of the above

Monday, May 05, 2008

I'd Like to Thank the Academy: "Head of State" Wins Prestigious "Swampy" from the Chicago Tribune

"Head of State" has been named the winner of the intangibly shiny "Swampy", awarded by the readers and editors of the Chicago Tribune's "The Swamp", for the post "Top Ten Inducements By The Clinton Camp To Vote For Hillary Clinton", which can be found here

The announcement of this award, which I would wear with deep humility if it were wearable, can be found at the Trib's "The Swamp" here.

Next stop: Stockholm.

Clinton Calls for "Bad Weather Holiday"

"When asked this morning by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos if she could name a single economist who backs her call for a gas tax holiday this summer, HRC said "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists.”

The gas tax holiday economically stupid (it would increase demand for gas and cause prices to rise, eliminating any benefit to consumers while costing the Treasury more than $9 billion, and generate more pollution) and silly (even if she won, HRC won’t be president this summer) as to be worrisome. That HRC now says she doesn’t care that what economists think is even more troubling."
-Robert Reich, May 4, 2008

I know we've got those "intellectual", high-falutin', elitist meteorologists, those "forecasters" with their complicated charts and their mumbo-jumbo, their high fronts and their low fronts, their arrows and their Doppler radars. But I've come to say that we're going to put an end to all of that.

When my daddy and I went out in the morning in (Scranton, Indianapolis, Durham, Hagåtña, Charlotte Amalie, San Juan), and he said "It's going to be a sunny day today", well, that was good enough for me.

And that's why, if you vote for me on (May 6, May 13, June 3), I will put into effect a "Bad Weather Holiday" running from the years 2009-2012--and potentially extendable.

That's right. We shouldn't have to eat our (hot dogs, barbecue, tamales, Chicken Estufao, Stewed Oxtail) under rainy skies. We've had enough of going off to work in the (streets, sands, seas) of this most beautiful (state, territory) only to face a cold, cloudy day. We know what it's like to rest our weary bones after a hard day of labor in the nearest (local watering hole, locale taberna, berlina) only to step out into a stiff, tiring wind.

The Weather issue is very real to me, as I've been meeting people across this nation who (walk, drive, sail, ride ox before stewing tail) to work, and would save precious sums if they did not have to spend their hard earned money on "umbrellas" and "rain coats" and other high priced, high class items of the upper crust. In my daddy's day, a newspaper held over the head by a worn, calloused hand was just fine.

So I say: Let the 'Umbrella Lobby' take the brunt--not our hard working citizens. Oh, sure. I know elite opinion and so called "academic experts" say that my plan would cause 12 straight years of hail, swarms of ravenous locusts, and a vortex of hurricanes ranging from the Mideast to the West Coast.

But I don't put stock in experts. And neither should you. And that's why you should vote for me on (May 6, May 13, June 3).

NOTE: North Carolina version: Drop final "'g"s.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Clinton Says That Regarding Rev. Wright, "We Should Move On"

Today, during a Town Hall meeting presented by "This Week with George Stephanopoulos", an extremely poised and articulate Indianapolis voter, Michelle Skinner, a Republican, posed a beautifully targeted question to Clinton:

"Sen. Clinton, my question is: Do you think the discourse, the controversy going on with Rev. Wright, do you think this is relevant to Obama and his policy? Do you think this has accomplished anything or should we drop it, should we move on?"

Clinton: (trapped): "Well, we should definitely move on."

In this case--let's take her at her word.

Nota Bene

From today's Telegraph:

Michelle Obama: Barack has hit boiling point

Barack Obama is struggling to contain his anger and frustration over the constant barrage of questions about his character and judgment, his wife has revealed.

Michelle Obama told her audience that her husband was 'sick of the battle against Clinton'

Michelle Obama lifted the lid on the irritation felt by the leading Democrat candidate for the White House at the way anti-American outbursts by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, have dogged his campaign.

He is said to be itching to turn all his fire on John McCain, the Republican candidate, who is benefiting most from Mr Obama's protracted tussle with Hillary Clinton.

Mrs Obama told a rally in Durham, North Carolina, on Friday that only her husband's desire to change US politics had helped him to control his feelings: "Barack is always thinking three steps ahead – what do we need to do to make change."

Her husband was thinking "I can't let my ego, my anger, my frustration get in the way of the ultimate goal," she said.

As noted, see Saturday's HoS post, "Strength", which predicted this, as well as today's comments by Carville here.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Top 10 Clinton Camp Inducements to Vote For Hillary (For Letterman)

The Chicago Tribune's "The Swamp" has called for suggestions for the "Top 10"list for Hillary Clinton's upcoming Letterman appearance.

Happy to oblige, consistent with her "Gas Tax Holiday" proposal:

Top 10 Inducements From the Clinton Camp To Vote for Hillary

10. All future Hoosiers teams can draft players from the NBA

9. Superdelegates will get actual Spandex costumes along with Super Power of choice

8. Permanent liquor tax holiday

7. Will limit husband to "low traffic" zones of White House

6. Promises to use only one personality throughout first 100 days of Presidency

5. Will hold Inaugural Ball in Smiley's Pub, Allentown, PA.

4. Free rides on Mark Penn

3. Will provide personal armed one-woman security detail through any combat zone

2. New shampoo: No More Tears

And the number 1 inducement to vote for Hillary Clinton:

1: New National Bird: Barbeque.

...And The Hoosiers Can Draft Players From The NBA

From Political Punch:

Guam's four Democratic delegates (not to mention its five superdelegates) are up for grabs in Saturday's primary, and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has told residents of that Pacific territory that as president she will work to give them the right to vote for president...

Would that mean making Guam a state? Bestowing citizenship upon these US nationals? Same with Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa? Would they get Senators and full voting members of Congress? How about DC? Wouldn't this require major constitutional changes?"

Perhaps she can sell Guam to fund the Gas Tax Holiday.


I have been watching Sen. Obama during his weeks of adversity.

He has what we need--a transformative national vision, a commitment to a new and unifying politics, and to a long-needed truth in governance and international relations.

He needs to transcend other characteristics.

There is a prickliness--a sense of insult or of hurt that, having given an honest message, the message has been distorted--a certain wounded defeatism.

He must rise above this and be strong.

This is the vulnerability of a man long without a father.

When a man is raised under such circumstances, they sometimes become their own father-- accompanied by the grandiosity, limitlessness, precociousness, and willingness to quickly fill in gaps with apparent consistencies that is characteristic of a persona adopted in childhood, too large and too soon--i.e., Bill Clinton.

They too can become the agent of the genuine, intelligent, and heartfelt ideals of their mother, passed on, rightly, as the intelligent and humane truth of the world, but not buttressed by the daily measuring and inevitable confrontation of those ideals that can come from the presence of a father; the tensile strength and resilience that causes those ideals to energetically endure in the face of challenge.

Obama has recently shown an underlying hurt and lethargy in reaction to the politics of fear and attack--what has been reported by some as "boredom."

To win--and more important, to reach the goals that he has set out for himself--he must turn away from such disappointed reactions.

He must put forward his energy and strength in the face of distortion to bring the nation to a realization of what matters most at this time.

When he shows such disappointment in reaction to such events, he shows that he cannot stand up to the distortion that will inevitably come, and that he must overcome to reach the point of national transformation.

Barack: There is no place in this campaign for disappointment, wounded defense and hurt. You are taking on the gigantic task of changing the minds of the American people, including those diverted, suspicious thoughts that will inevitably rise from the restraining bonds of our collective past--and, as you know, will be encouraged to do so.

Now is the time for strength--strength of purpose and strength of commitment. Bring people to an image of what can be established and created beyond the trivial, momentary excitement of attack politics. Do not be drawn into the minutiae of a ground war, or into a position of withdrawn and injured hopelessness. A hint of this creates the image of someone who is playing the old game, by the old rules.

You've made this clear in your stump speech: This is your moment. Now--Fully step into it. Bring people to fully realize what they can have, with full energy, commitment, strength and belief: A nation committed to truth in its relation to the people of this and other nations, to the unity of this country rather than to tactical and self-serving division, and to the interests of the many, rather than the few.