Monday, August 27, 2007

Requiem for A Hapless Yes Man ~ Gonzales Resigns!


To accompany the news of 'Berto's resignation & the loss of yet another important loyal consigliere in the carefully constructed & now imploding edifice that is Bushco, Bush carps bitterly that his too-loyal friend is a victim of extreme partisan politix, a meme which instantly started bouncing off the walls in the GOP Congressional echo chamber in an initial CNN report today (later revised to leave out the echoes, but we already know that will be the disingenuous rallying cry from here).

~ Interesting, in't it, when the very people complaining of "extreme partisan politix" biting them in they asses & "wrecking the country" were the same ones who invented them? Watch out for that backlash stuff, guys, it IS nasty.


"WASHINGTON (CNN)-- President Bush on Monday said he reluctantly accepted the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose 'good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.'

"After months of standing by his top prosecutor and 'close friend,' Bush spoke briefly in Texas to praise Gonzales, saying the attorney general endured 'unfair treatment that has created harmful distraction at the Justice Department.'

"Bush said it's 'sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person' is impeded "from doing important work."

Following other DOJ appointees the infamous Bradley Shlozman & his successor at the Civil Rights Division Wan Kim out the door, your Demon wishes to reassure 'Berto that he has made an everlasting place for himself in history, & remind him not to forget to update his resume to include his contributions to the "torture is not torture until organ failure or death" memo; his brave display of loyalty for the good of the country by playing the ghoul & boogeyman at John Ashcroft's bedside in an attempt to get the then-AG's approval of a warrantless wiretapping program about which saner sticks-in-the-mud lawyers had doubts; and above all, for being willing to play the alternating roles of forgetful, stupid & foolish when called on the Congressional carpet to explain apparent purges of US Attorneys on partisan grounds, as well as other highly questionable partisan behavior.

All rather than expose the man who brought him along from Texas.

Relevant items from today's WaPo:

So, liberal bloggers like Demon realize they won't have Gonzo to kick around anymore, & wish to remind him to let the door hit you on the way out. She also presumes that the visits by the DOJ to her blog will stop. (And the mysterious dropping of root kits on her computer?)

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Selling America to Americans ~ ~ or How America Became Disney Land & Its Inhabitants Cartoon Characters, Even to Themselves

Betty & Don enjoy matrimonial bliss
Still from the AMC series Mad Men
“Where the truth lies” ~America’s Troubled Relationship with Advertising & Spin ~
(Can “Bread & Circus” Ever Be Good for You?)

In today's Demonic musings, from the Department of She Knows There are More Important Things to Talk About ~ or Maybe Not," your Demon wishes to visit upon you an entertaining (hopefully) tirade about & analysis of frivolous pop culture. Or maybe not. In any event, she's sure all the same ol' Bushco shenanigans will be there tomorrow, & maybe we'll get back to them, exhausting & draining as they are wont to be. "Consistency," after all, is the hobgoblin of little minds."
Your Demon has recently become captivated by the new AMC TV series Mad Men, & although I’ve only managed to catch two episodes, the most recent quite by accident (not being one to internalize TV schedules, since I rarely watch it), this series hooked me first with its period detail & keeps me coming back because it tantalizes me with the possibility that it could speak volumes about how we, as a country, ended up this way, & the fact that we rarely notice the culture that has so decidedly shaped us.

What we live everyday is often invisible to us.

A period piece which is more or less faithful to its time, Mad Men is set in the “golden age” of American advertising, & re-creates the world of high-flying advertising execs in a fictional Madison Avenue agency circa 1960 (&, incidentally, was written by the same guy who brought us Sopranos).

We know now that in the particulars of the details, the era was a time capsule, not destined to last, but that’s precisely what’s fascinating about it, & why the writer chose it.

Viewers’ reactions (judging by blogs devoted to it) range from love to hate ~ the latter, as far as I can tell, because there are no explosions, gunfire, or grisly murders. (“Nothing happens!”)

Rather, it’s more of a character study, albeit confined as it is to a limited time slot, with the predictable result that many of the characters, & the series’ apparent dedication to treating them as fully-dimensional human beings, neither wholly bad nor wholly good, takes time to unfold (as in real life), but is occasionally rushed, with the result that when we first meet them, they seem to be predictable archetypes & not much more.

But they have their surprises built in, as do we all. We rapidly get glimmers that all is not as it appears on the surface.

The focal point of much of the action so far is the character of Don Draper, the creative head of the agency, & his beautiful young blonde wife Betty. They personify the ideal American couple for whom everything falls into place just so ~ big beautiful home, two children, the right (meaning white & middle class) background. Betty is one of those fortunate women of whom it was said contemporaneously that she got a college education ~ her M.R.S. degree ~ & has the luxury of being a full-time homemaker & mother.

So what’s not to love about being Betty? She feels superior to her divorced female neighbor, (divorce was still scandalous in her neighborhood ~ a divorced woman was a harpy & probably of questionable sexual morals out to steal other womens’ husbands, by definition) & seems predisposed to see other women’s reactions to her as nothing more than jealousy.

But she’s unhappy & having unexplained physical symptoms that are dismissed by her doctors. It must be all in her head. So she undertakes therapy.

Betty is extremely dependent emotionally on her husband, Don, but the more she expresses how much she needs him, the further he recedes into the distance. He won’t even share information about his childhood with her (hints that Don isn’t really who he represents himself to be, & that somewhere along the line he has reinvented himself), besides the fact that he’s having at least one affair on the side ~ one purely hormonal, with a “loose” bohemian artist/illustrator named Midge, & the other of the heart (we suspect), a Jewish female ad-agency client, Rachel, who inherited & now runs a very successful Fifth Avenue department store & who resists ad men’s suggestions that she settle for clipped coupons as a means to draw more customers. She’s going for upscale chic.

In sexual infidelity, Don is the rule rather than the exception ~ office affairs (& politics) abound ~ so there’s more than enough Peyton-place-style drama in the series so far, but it stops short of being a mindless daytime soap opera by inviting viewers as well as the characters themselves to think about it.

In all good dramas, as in life, the characters carry the seeds of their own undoing, & here it often appears in hints of the strengths in women that men of the time were all too willing to overlook & dismiss. Look closely, & all the women who are really, truly attractive are the “outside” strong ones.

Case in point, Joan, the office manager, a red-hot single woman who unabashedly wields her sexiness as a blunt weapon in a world filled with dogs & wolves. She advises neophyte office girl Peggy, on her first day, to conduct an honest assessment of herself in the world by cutting two eyeholes in a paper bag, putting the bag over her head, & reviewing what she has to offer.

While the uniformly white middle & above-class men are running things in the office & incidentally shaping the way Americans are enticed not only into buying discrete items, including cigarettes & alcohol, deodorant, nylons, lipstick & other crutches & artifices of the modern age, most of which involve creating markets by exploiting fears & social insecurities, but also, on the way, persuading Americans to define themselves in terms of what they can buy (you have a fear? we have a cure!), there are rumblings deep underground & to which they remain oblivious.

There is nothing inherently evil in capitalism. But capitalism is not merely consumerism. In Mad Men we see its genesis & its journey to becoming far more what it started as. In our day, it has become a world view, a definition of good government (democracy as condition precedent to capitalism,) & a secular religion of sorts. That it takes root in a particular slice of the world at a particular point in American post-war history within the bubbling parameters of a malign stew of sexism, more than occasional misogyny, homophobia, racism & an extreme bias toward all things white & middle class has never surprised anyone historically outside it. The aura & odor of it envelop & permeate the Mad Men, who do not themselves notice. And why should they? They’re at the pinnacle of the food chain.

Defined by the ostensibly squeaky-clean white middle class mores of the period (which included copious amounts of non-PC behavior such as smoking, drinking, smoking & drinking during pregnancy & not restraining children in seatbelts ~ how DID the human race survive, GenX &Y’ers wonder in amazement in the blogs, astonished to find that the marvelous world of the pampered & precious me’s around which all else revolves is just another aspect of consumer culture writ large in their own lives), those of us looking on from a further remove think the series is interesting on a somewhat different level & illuminated by the fact that that we already know what happens next.

The American middle class dream is about to rupture & be forced to reinvent itself, both as a result of pressures within (a fragile center that cannot hold, a dream within a dream that was never real except in American ad-land), as well as without ~ previously ignored & unseen racial strife, women’s lib, student unrest & the war in Vietnam. None of which was inevitable, as I once thought, given the hollowness of what we see here, & which preceded it.

It wasn’t inevitable nor fated to happen that way. It just (I think fortunately) did. It was a reprieve, a bubble in time, as we see from the perspective of the Bush years, looking backwards.
America is still struggling to find its soul beyond the blitz of glitz & the equally ferocious conservative backlash that tries to convince us we should go back there, to a happier, more stable, & by definition, more simplistic time. Problem is, that time exists only in our imaginations.

I’m intrigued by the idea that the view from a retrospect can matter & teach us something about how we came to be who & where we are. That so much in our lives may have been due to conscious manipulation of mass media with the initial aim of separating us from our money (fairly transparent & therefore easy to resist & ridicule) has since morphed into something beyond that is, to me, a hopefully productive & necessary conversation in an age where politix, especially, is dominated by misinformation (formerly trusted media sources who can’t even seem to get their facts straight about the simplest details, never mind conduct a thoughtful investigation, deliberate disinformation (the histrionics of conservative TV & talk radio), & public leadership that plainly believes that there is no problem that the right (manipulative) “spin” can’t cure.

Seems that a relatively unknown politician by the name of Nixon is going to be the Mad Men’s next client. A bizarre idea at the time. (And now very quaint.)

Introductory article from the LA Times Weekly:

If you haven’t been watching, check it out on the show’s website (view clips of previous episodes, review upcoming plots, & set the producers straight on the blog if you spy a detail that isn’t “period,” other than use of IBM Selectrics, non-period telephone dial tones, & references to books that weren’t published yet):

Fun blog where you can vote on what you think is going to happen to a character next. “Betty ends up in looney bin?” I voted “yes.”


Monday, August 20, 2007

Li'l Boy Lost

Ill: The Worried Shrimp

Here's a promising example of Bush operating freestyle, without a brain, in a recent foray into public speaking to other heads of state about democracy. We thrill to imagine how much worse things can get, with "Bush's brain" Karl Rove due to "leave." *heh heh*

Looks like Bush left the building some time ago, although, in theory, he still walks among us, & still, unfortunately, thinks he's capable of being President of the US of A.
"By the time he arrived in Prague in June for a democracy conference, President Bush was frustrated. He had committed his presidency to working toward the goal of 'ending tyranny in our world,' yet the march of freedom seemed stalled. Just as aggravating was the sense that his own government was not committed to his vision.

"As he sat down with opposition leaders from authoritarian societies around the world, he gave voice to his exasperation. 'You're not the only dissident,' Bush told Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a leader in the resistance to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "I too am a dissident in Washington."
Scorecard so far under Bushco: pretty unnerving from a man who has unilaterally suspended habeus corpus, a good deal of our civil liberties, declares war willy-nilly just because he can (but if you need some reasons, he'll be glad to invent some for you), approves torture here & abroad, has very probably succeeded in stealing elections, & reserves the right to suspend same in 2008 if he so declares. And spies on his own population. Not to mention the surprisingly successful attempts to subvert domestic justice & turn the federal government into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GOP.
Hell, at this point, even Dick Cheney couldn't do any worse.

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Random Notes ~ Idle Late-Nite Websurfing, Fun Toys

After attending a backyard barbeque in the rain ~ your Demon, unfortunately, seems to be stuck for now in a climate where the long winter drip & drizzle not only seeps right into the spring, but has now overtaken our brief summers, too ~ resulting in a grey weepy mono-climate practically year-round. We cope bravely by barbequeing anyway, despite the moss which by this time is growing on our backs.

Towelling off, Demon determines to cheer herself by eating a bowl of chocolate-chip cookie dough ice cream & surfing the web a bit before turning in, thereby coming across this interesting little site.

Some gadget-guru techno geeks came up with a handy little spy-v.-spy tool for determining when edits to a Wikipedia page are made by a commercial or other organizational concern (usually by an organization holding the opposite point of view, natch.)

A list compiled by Wired of the most interesting is featured below. High on the list of items "needing editing," apparently, according to the oppositionists who thought their identities were cloaked when the edits were made were: Darwinists (by creationists), religious figures' bios, Arabs being anti-semitic, Jews being anti-Arab, & of course the garden-variety commercial progaganda wars, whereby one company compares its product to the rival's, or companies editing their own Wikipedia entries to delete references to scandals & product malfunction.

With this link you can purportedly conduct such a search yourself, & find out who's making edits to Wikipedia entries.

So much for the ultimate experiment in a truly democratic user-edited encyclopedia when Babylon is burning. But props to the people who figured out one way to fight back.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Requiem For An Evil Genius

He's gone, he's gone!!

The evil boy genius, Bush's beloved Turdblossom, & "the Architect" of the country's dark descent into unwarranted militarism, accompanied by a calculated pull to the hard right in every facet of American life, manipulation, & flirtation with neo-con fascism, announced his resignation from public life today. Needs more time with the family.
(He has a family? News to this Demon. Doesn't that necessitate actual flesh, as opposed to spongy lifelike plastic, & with blood in the veins, as opposed to snake oil & antifreeze?)
News agencies around the globe report that it remains to be seen whether Bush can function without his brain.
Never fear, children ~ a few cells from Dick Cheney's particularly virulent & inflamed brain have been deflected from the task of planning war on Iran & are said to be held in a top-secret room of the White House, on ice, in case Bush needs an emergency injection.
Interesting article on Rove's dubious achievements from the UK:


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Making The World Safe For Billionaires

The U.S. market meltdown of the past few days has made other world economies nervous—nervous enough to dump a ton of cash into ours. The EU & Japan joined our own Federal Reserve in the injections, & in fact dwarfed ours.

The New York Times asked yesterday, “Should the Federal Reserve help bail out billionaire hedge fund managers and millionaire traders — the very people who bought the risky mortgages that led to the current market panic?”

“That, in essence, is the question swirling around Ben S. Bernanke as he confronts the first crisis of his 18 months as Fed chairman.

“There are no shortages of opinions, and some are being shouted. Jim Cramer, known for his histrionics on the CNBC financial news channel, angrily called for Mr. Bernanke to lower interest rates, something the Fed has resisted doing.

“A week ago, Mr. Cramer charged that the Fed was ‘asleep’ and that the chairman ‘has no idea how bad it is out there’ in the markets. A video clip of his remarks has been viewed more than one million times on YouTube.

“Lower interest rates would help operators of hedge funds and other money managers because the housing market presumably would strengthen as mortgage rates fell. A revived mortgage market would give the hedge fund operators and other holders of the risky securities a chance to sell them, which they are having trouble doing now in the current nervous market.”

One has to wonder if lower rates will trickle down to affect the people who really need the assistance—i.e., the homeowners whose homes are at risk. In the alternative, maybe regulation of the more heinous abuses of lenders getting “creative” would help. And while we’re at it, maybe we should think about reigning in the practices of credit-card issuers with regard to escalation of interest rates, double-billing cycles & holding payments just a few days so as to be able to fatten their profits with unearned & unwarranted late fees…

Oh goodness me, what was your Demon thinking? Such interference with the “natural market” processes is bad & evil & to be avoided at all costs.

Unless, of course, you’re a billionaire.
If you doubt the terrible impact this state of affairs is having on the New Captains of Money-as-Industry who have done everything right & still suffer through no fault of their own, read this & weep. Pass the collection hat. It's a good cause, & surely worth a few measly bucks of the taxpayers' money.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Saturday's Random Funny ~ The Trouble With Dictatorships

Chinese Officials Order Living Buddhas to Get Permission Before Reincarnating

Funny, that is, if not for the fact that it's so wrong on so many levels.

Actually, the point seems to be to prevent Tibetans from identifying their future spiritual leaders. Apparently that means making a great show of "legalistic" enactments which the dictator righteously follows through with. Even if the idea of legislating the behavior of pre-carnate souls is absolutely preposterous. Can't the all-powerful Chinese government forbid them not to die in the 1st place?

Your Demon, BTW, is not particularly religious, like all liberal elites, but if she were, she'd be Buddhist.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Boy Cries Wolf & Other Neocon Fairy Tales

Update: Bush rammed it through by threatening veto of the Democrats' compromise bill. Moral of the story, we guess: nasty little GOP fellows such as themselves get their way. For now.
Bumpersticker Wisdom of the Day: I love my country. It's my government I fear.
* * *
The boy-cries-wolf meme should have reached terminal exhaustion & death where Bushco is concerned, & especially regarding justification for secret spying programs, but we see in the news today where Democrats are still terrifed of being tarred & feathered with the “soft on terrorism” brush ~ so much so that the very Democratic Congresspeople who a few days ago, openly derided Bush’s play for more secret spying powers, are now working feverishly with him on a plan that would permit him greater latitude, albeit a supposedly “temporary” one.

Bush wailed & moaned that they had to do something before they recessed for the summer, & they’re obliging him.
It’s been difficult to piece the entire story together, because, as usual, Bush & his allies bleat, gripe & blow hot air, pursuing their familiar old disinformation campaigns with great vigor, while simultaneously hiding the ball where real facts of the situation are concerned (“state secrets,” doncha know).

So it’s taken some time from Bush’s radio address last Saturday wherein he first publically pushed for an “updated” Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is administered by a secret FISA court whose rulings are also secret ~ the same court he scorned on completely bogus arguments for at least 4 & perhaps 6 long years, & still, mind you, reserves the “right” to ignore anytime he so chooses & so revert to completely unauthorized spying with no oversight whatsoever ~
~ for the press to unearth something like a coherent story. Why all the fuss now?

Turns out that the LA Times first learned that the super-secret FISA court issued a ruling that something Bushco was doing wasn’t legal. We aren’t permitted to know what, exactly, but the papers and the ACLU seem to think it has something to do with “spying on terrorists” somehow involving spying on Americans (which is not supposed to happen absent probable cause & a warrant). One has to wonder whether the controversial data-mining program that ‘Berto didn’t want to reveal back in the day & over which he nearly got hoisted on his own sneaky-slimy petard the other day before Congress has something to do with it.

“[Republican] Boehner's remarks suggest that the [FISA court’s] ruling imposed new restrictions on the National Security Agency's ability to intercept communications that are between people overseas but that ‘transit’ U.S. data networks operated by Internet service providers and telecommunications companies.
“But other officials said the ruling's reach was broader, affecting cases ‘where one end is foreign and you don't know where the other is’ — meaning warrants would be required even when it was unclear whether communications were crossing the United States or involved a person in the United States.
“One official said the issue centered on a ruling in which a FISA court judge rejected a government application for a ‘basket warrant’ — a term that refers to court approval for surveillance activity encompassing multiple targets, rather than warrants issued on a case-by-case basis for surveillance of specific terrorism suspects.
"’One FISA judge approved this, and then a second FISA judge didn't,’ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the activities of the FISA court are classified.
“The precise effect of the ruling is unclear, but a second official said that it ‘reduced the amount of intelligence we were collecting’ on overseas terrorism suspects.
“National Intelligence Director J. Michael McConnell has called attention to the issue in public testimony, telling a Senate committee May 1 that U.S. spy agencies are ‘actually missing a significant portion of what we should be getting’ because of legal obstacles. But he has refused to identify the cause or nature of that intelligence gap.
“The recent FISA court ruling was a blow to the Bush administration, which had bypassed the court when it launched the NSA program in 2001. The White House moved it back under the FISA court's supervision last year after Democrats won control of Congress and appeared poised to challenge the constitutionality of a program that monitored U.S. residents' communications without warrants.
“Democrats have proposed a temporary fix that would give the FISA court new authority to grant court orders covering ‘certain aggregated foreign collection while protecting rights and privacy of U.S. persons.’
“But the Bush administration has pushed for broader language eliminating any requirement for a court order in cases where the target is ‘reasonably believed to be outside of the United States.’ Instead, the attorney general would have power to authorize NSA surveillance of foreign targets and to compel Internet and telecommunications companies in the United States to comply with requests for data or access to the communications flowing through their networks.
“That provision has prompted significant resistance from Democrats, many of whom have been calling for the resignation of Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales over allegations that he misled Congress or lied to lawmakers in testimony about NSA surveillance activities.
“In an apparent concession to those concerns, the White House modified its proposal late Wednesday to include the national intelligence director in the approval process and to allow the FISA court to review certain activities.”,1,1851437.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&track=crosspromo

A lot of things in this Bush-cries-wolf (*again*) tale just don’t add up:

1. Bush seems to be a pathological liar (WMD’s, al-Queda in Iraq, biological warfare mobile labs, the Administration’s ferocious treatment of anyone who dared call them on the overhyped “danger” Iraq really posed & other miscellanous nefarious deeds). Has Congress forgotten that?

2. We’ve seen several renewed efforts to “rehabilitate” the war & revive fear of terrorists on several fronts ~ Michael Chertoff’s “gut feeling” that the evil demon terrorists are planning another attack on U.S. soil, a happy-news editorial in the New York Times from two long-time hawks who journeyed to Iraq & pretended to have become recently convinced that the surge is working.

3. The FISA court purportedly made the ruling Bushco says it can’t live with 3-4 months ago. What accounts for the delay in bringing the matter to Congress’ attention if it was so terribly urgent? Is this another “Patriot Act” maneuver whereby Congress is forced to deal with the issues in such a short period time they don’t even have time to review the proposed law?

4. Historically, the FISA court has really never significantly disagreed with anything Bushco wanted to do. The same LA Times article reported:

“Public records show that the court rejects few of the government's requests: In 2005, for example, it approved 2,072 applications and denied none; in 2006 it approved 2,176 and denied, in part, one.”

Your Demon’s guess is that the data-mining programs have heretofore been treated (as ‘Berto’s fine distinction the other day would have it) a program not under the purview of FISA, for the very reason that FISA, which hardly ever disapproves anything Bush does, actually did disapprove in a “test run” of the program past them. To me, that says it has to be something highly, overtly legally dubious.

Shame on the Democrats who let Bush get away with this bullshit (*once again*!) Aren’t they supposed to be shutting down the manipulative faux-terror machine that is Bushco crying wolf, & incidentally successfully driving the Democrats’ behavior on insufficient information for fear of being called “soft on terror?”

Bushco successfully reframes the debate again. Worse, it’s a painfully, transparently obvious ploy. Just as Democrats were beginning to fruitfully address some domestic issues, they let themselves be derailed by a manufactured crisis & find themselves jumping through Bushco hoops.

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