Friday, November 03, 2006

We should hate the hypocrisy, love the hypocrite. 

In case you haven't heard about America's most influential Evangelical Christian Soldier: he's either into crystal meth or young gay whores (and I haven't ruled out both). Americablog has all kinds of coverage on the scandal. Here's a news roundup.

I thought these excerpts from this definitive profile of Pastor Ted Haggart might be illuminating:

Pastor Ted, who talks to President George W. Bush or his advisers every Monday, is a handsome forty-eight-year-old Indianan, most comfortable in denim. He likes to say that his only disagreement with the President is automotive; Bush drives a Ford pickup, whereas Pastor Ted loves his Chevy. In addition to New Life, Pastor Ted presides over the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), whose 45,000 churches and 30 million believers make up the nation's most powerful religious lobbying group...
No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted, and no church more than New Life.
In Pastor Ted's book Dog Training, Fly Fishing, & Sharing Christ in the 21st Century, he describes the church he thinks good Christians want. "I want my finances in order, my kids trained, and my wife to love life. I want good friends who are a delight and who provide protection for my family and me should life become difficult someday... I don't want surprises, scandals, or secrets... I want stability and, at the same time, steady, forward movement.

As a service to the gullible legions of willfully ignorant, gaydarless conservative Republicans who keep supporting these self-hating, blackmail-prone, gay "family values" closet-cases... here's an informative "how to tell if someone's gay" scene from the 40 year Old Virgin (explicit language; don't view if easily offended):

Many of these dumb gay haters and "defenders of marriage" keep getting their news from Jeff Gannon and Drudge, and keep getting their talking points from Ken Mehlman and keep re-electing the Foleys and the Dreiers and the Crists and the Craigs, and keep praying with the "Pastor Teds" and worry constantly about the insidious gay agenda in sexually liberal places like New Orleans.... They direct your tax dollars to foster and encourage more 30-year old virgins.

I think these nimrods are so worried about dongs penetrating asses that they put their heads up their own as a preventative measure.
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Here's a frame, tell me what ya think 

This political frame occurred to me this morning while I contemplated Bush's statement of full confidence in Red Rummy and Big Time (whom he believes are doing "fanastic jobs") as well as Bush's commitment to not withdraw from Iraq no matter what.

It's not startlingly original, but I think it could've been a valuable line in stump speeches and campaign commercials (especially for female candidates and suburban audiences). Tell me what you think:

Bush is the husband who won't ask for directions. He's knows where he's going, and he's sure Freedom and Democracy in Iraq are "just around the corner".

Ok, I think it's on the next street.

Or the next.

Here it is.... whoops.

Hmm, this looks familiar.

We're close, I can feel it.

No we're not going around in circles.

Do you think I don't know where I'm going?


Where's the street signs in this stupid town, anyway?

It must be around here somewhere.

Ok, I think it's up ahead.


Whaddya all think? Decent? Effective? Too late so what's the use?...

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Intrepid Iraq auditor let go 


Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen's supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

Unbelievable, and yet all too believable.

For background, check these YRHT posts on Bowen here and here. There have been precious few stand-up Republicans who decided loyalty to country was more important than loyalty to Bush. They include Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen, and Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey (who appointed Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the Plame case).

Prediction: Most conservatives who purport to care about frugal use of their tax dollars and governmental accountability won't hardly make a peep about this.
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Thursday, November 02, 2006

About those royalties we want to so badly to rebuild our coast... 

Much of the sturm und drang, and compromise, and legislative hoo-ha will be in vain if we are at the mercy of an administration that doesn't bother to force Big Oil companies to pay what they owe.


The Interior Department has dropped claims that the Chevron Corporation systematically underpaid the government for natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico, a decision that could allow energy companies to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.
Mr. [Spencer] Hosie, who represented Louisiana in a lawsuit that led to a $100 million verdict against Chevron over underpaid oil royalties, expressed surprise at the federal government's decision in the natural gas case.

"Is it even remotely likely that oil companies systematically underpay private royalty owners and state governments, but pay the federal government perfectly properly?" Mr. Hosie asked. "Isn't it more likely they are underpaying everybody?"

You may recall this related story from last month:

Four government auditors who monitor leases for oil and gas on federal property say the Interior Department suppressed their efforts to recover millions of dollars from companies they said were cheating the government.

Remember, Bush and the GOP Congress say the federal budget is "too tight" for Cat 5 levees or coastal restoration. But during a period of windfall profits for oil and gas companies, the Bushies discourage corporate audits and collect only a fraction of what is owed.

Go here for previous YRHT commentary on this. And big, big thanks to Ashley "Iron Chef" Morris for finding the story. Check his site for additional graphics and rage, if you've not already done so.
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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Stay with him and you're gonna be pretty "Kookie" too 

Emily Metzgar believes the emerging online community in Louisiana can bring more accountability to the state's politics. And I agree; but, naturally, it's a two-way street. Bloggers must be held accountable, as well. For example, are any other bloggers auditing C.B. Forgotston's recent posts? Anyone? Is it just me?

For those who don't know, C.B. Forgotston is perhaps Louisiana's most highly regarded political blogger. However, some of his posts this year are simply... hacktacular when you compare them to his previous posts. He's sounding almost like a political hack, and he's writing inconsistent, contradictory posts of late.

Last week I criticized a post by Forgotston where he deceptively linked an auto part factory closure in Monroe to his (permanent) call for less state taxes and red tape. But when we actually read the article he linked to, we learned that the planned closure had nothing to do with state taxes or red tape. After that, Forgotston criticized Blanco for trying to lure out-of-state businesses into Louisiana, after he had praised her for doing just that last year.

Well, guess what? Forgotston's at it again this week. He approvingly links to an Alexandria paper's editorial (which questions Blanco's business travels) and then criticized Greater New Orleans Inc for advocating investments in infrastructure for new businesses instead of tax cuts for existing businesses.

Ok, let's just first note that a Towntalk article from 10/23/06 titled "Good Old Days are Here Now" proclaimed that "It's the best of times for Central Louisiana, with job growth and home construction at an all-time high". Let's also note that Blanco is almost totally responsible for getting Chicago's Union Tank Car Company to build a $100 million facility at the former England Air Force base in Alexandria. So, the economy is not exactly in the doldrums in Central Louisiana. But the editorial's basic point ("Don't forget the homefront while you're away") is fine. Small, but fine.

Forgotston, though, has more explaining to do. Remember, last week he criticized the governor for going out-of-state to drum up business. He said that Governor Blanco was looking for business "in all the wrong places". Presumably, she should stay in Louisiana and cut taxes and red tape (rather than, say, invest in infrastructure).

This week, Forgotston complains "The governor and her entourage are fishing for 'whales' in the Pacific Ocean with expensive bait while us mullets here in the LA waterways are not even thrown a piece of stale bread". Forgotston dislikes the governor's wrongheaded attempt to catch big whales in Asia, and feels that her efforts would be better spent giving tax rebates to small in-state businesses.

In my other post, I excerpted an archived Forgotston quote showing that he wasn't always so provincial when it came to attracting out of state businesses. Here's another charmer from C.B.'s "mullet archives" which I'll reprint in full:

Kudos to Governor Blanco!!! (Posted 01/27/05)

Shintech will build a BILLION DOLLAR manufacturing facility in LA that will create 150 permanent jobs earning an average of $55,000 per year each.

Blanco vs. Big Daddy

This latest economic development project is more proof that Governor Blanco has done more in one year than Big Daddy did in eight years. That is, more GOOD. Big Daddy did a great job (better than Blanco) of expanding the size of state government.

The Shintech Lesson

There's a lot to be learned from the Shintech and Union Tank Car projects about the age-old "chicken or egg" question when it comes to economic development.

LA still has a poor public school system, political corruption, coastal erosion, bad roads and bridges, an untrained workforce, etc. etc. However, the plants are going to be built in LA. Why?

The reason these plants are being built here is simple. They are being given tax breaks and regulatory red tape is being expedited.

Now, we need to extend this lesson to ALL businesses in LA: reduce business taxes and regulation. It is as simple as a rising tide raises all boats. As existing businesses grow and new businesses come into the state, additional revenues will be generated to address the educational and other problems.

Kudos and thanks to Governor Kathleen Blanco. YOU DA MAN!!!!!


In that orgasmic post, C.B. didn't think it was "wrong" for Blanco to successfully court out-of- state businesses to expand into Louisiana. No, he rejoiced when she landed those "whales". In fact, Forgotston said Blanco's economic development projects were "good", and that we should all heed the "Shintech lesson": cutting taxes and red tape lures new business, grows the economy and lifts all boats. He didn't feel that the Governor's efforts to lure Tokyo-based Shintech or Chicago-based Union Tank Car were "wrong", or a waste of the state's time. He didn't view it as a zero sum game between out of state "whales" and in-state "mullets".

Regarding his claim that "the reason" Shintech came to LA was because of tax and red tape incentives, we must note these excerpts from an article on Shintech's site selection:

"In the end, the Iberville Parish site proved to be the best location for the type of facility that we want to construct, with adequate rail, highway and deepwater access," Shintech Vice President Ervin Schroeder explained at the project announcement...
Blanco vowed that the plant's permitting process would be "rigorous."
The [Shintech] project has a long regulatory road ahead before beginning operations. The plant must secure extensive state and federal air, ground and water permits, which will require a number of public hearings. Completing the permitting process may take as long as a year, state officials anticipated.

Hmm. Interesting how infrastructure is dismissed by Forgotston, yet that's what Shintech's VP specifically credited. Can't let that get in the way of the tax cut jihad, though. It didn't sound like all that much regulatory red tape was cut, either.

For the record here's what the Blanco administration is trying to do during these out-of-state economic development trips that Forgotston suddenly believes are so "wrong":

NYC: attract "investors" (I don't know exactly what that means either-- probably just pimping the Gulf Coast "GO Zone" federal incentives).

Germany: secure $3 billion steel mill for St. James parish (2 other states are also in the running)

Japan: Meet with the chairman of Toyota to get an automotive manufacturing plant for Richland Parish.

China/Taiwan: Trade mission, sight seeing, who knows?

Kuwait: Here's what a news article says: "The addition of the Kuwait visit [to Blanco's schedule] indicates an agreement may have been secured to build a new oil refinery, which would have an enormous economic impact on Louisiana.

Kuwait is interested in building a new U.S. refinery, which would cost about $4 billion. Louisiana is one of the sites under consideration for the refinery. The last refinery built in the U.S. was the Marathon Oil refinery in Garyville, just upriver from New Orleans."

That would be big.

So, Blanco is overseas trying to land a steel mill, an automotive plant, and an oil refinery... but Forgotston now suddenly thinks she's looking for business in the "wrong places" and should stay in Louisiana... sorta like Big Daddy used to do.

I don't think Forgotston is an "internet kook" anymore. No, he's not an internet kook, or an old poop, or a floating skooks, or any other palindrome. He's becoming a quasi-hack who enjoys hiding behind the "Don't shoot, I'm just a messenger" shtick.

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We must stay the course in this clustermuck 

Slowly read and internalize these words from a NYT story:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki demanded the removal of American checkpoints from the streets of Baghdad on Tuesday...
[By] nightfall, American troops had abandoned all the positions in eastern and central Baghdad that they had set up last week with Iraqi forces as part of a search for a missing American soldier.

Is further comment really necessary? No? Yes? Maybe? Ok, here's more if you can stomach it:

The withdrawal was greeted with jubilation in the streets of Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite enclave where the Americans have focused their manhunt and where anti-American sentiment runs high.
Tensions between Mr. Maliki and President Bush have been building for months. American officials have grown impatient with the Iraqi government's inability to curb Shiite militias accused of sectarian killings and to reduce the insurgent violence.
Mr. Maliki had been under pressure from his Shiite backers to push the Americans to lift an eight-day-old cordon around Sadr City, where American authorities believe the kidnapped American soldier is being held.

Andrew Sullivan says: "The U.S. military does not have a tradition of abandoning its own soldiers to foreign militias, or of taking orders from foreign governments. No commander-in-chief who actually walks the walk, rather than swaggering the swagger, would acquiesce to such a thing".

Election night will not be a happy time for the elephant for one central reason-- incompetence. The GOP has to be the first political party that has both "lost" a city and is losing a war.

This election is fundamentally about the Republican incompetence in the aftermath both of the hurricane in New Orleans and of the liberation of Baghdad. The GOP was supposed to be the party of corporate efficiency. Instead, they have proven to be the party of hapless incompetents.

The Republicans will at least lose the House because of their failures in New Orleans and Baghdad. Consequently, this election is a tale of two cities.

Let's be clear, if a Democratic Administration was currently in charge of this Iraq policy, there would be conservative rioting in the streets. Rather than being in a lather over a botched, lame comment from a failed Democratic candidate, the right would be in a fury over an Administration that appears weak, hapless and feckless.

Still in the mood for more? Alrighty then, but just remember you asked for it.

President Bush 10/30/06:

We face an enemy that is brutal. They kill innocent people to achieve ideological objectives. They're totalitarian in nature. They hate freedom. We love freedom, and that is why they view us as their enemy. You cannot negotiate with these people. You can't try to talk sense into these people. The best way to protect you is to bring them to justice before they hurt America again.
And now Iraq is the central front in this global war against these ideologues who murder innocent people to achieve their objectives. You know, I think it's very important for the Commander-in-Chief, as well as our citizens, to listen to the words of the enemy.

About that "listening" part, Robert Parry writes the following at Consortium News:

Last April, a National Intelligence Estimate, representing the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community, concluded that Bush's Iraq War had become the "cause celebre" that had helped spread Islamic extremism around the globe.

In June, U.S. intelligence also learned from an intercepted al-Qaeda communique that bin Laden's terrorist band wants to keep U.S. soldiers bogged down in Iraq as the best way to maintain and expand al-Qaeda's influence.

"Prolonging the war is in our interest," wrote "Atiyah," one of bin Laden's top lieutenants.

Atiyah's letter and other internal al-Qaeda communications reveal that one of the group's biggest worries has been that a prompt U.S. military withdrawal might expose how fragile al-Qaeda's position is in Iraq and cause many young jihadists to lay down their guns and go home.


Indeed, an intercepted letter, purportedly from bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and dated July 9, 2005, urged Zarqawi, then al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, to take steps to prevent mass desertions among young non-Iraqi jihadists, who had come to fight the Americans, if the Americans left.

"The mujahaddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal," wrote Zawahiri, according to a text released by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.

To avert mass desertions, Zawahiri suggested that Zarqawi talk up the "idea" of a "caliphate" along the eastern Mediterranean. In other words, al-Qaeda was looking for a hook to keep the jihadists around if the Americans split.

A more recent letter-- written on Dec. 11, 2005, by Atiyah-- elaborated on al-Qaeda's hopes for "prolonging" the Iraq War.

Atiyah lectured Zarqawi on the necessity of taking the long view and building ties with elements of the Sunni-led Iraqi insurgency that had little in common with al-Qaeda except hatred of the Americans.

"The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness and firm rooting, and that it grows in terms of supporters, strength, clarity of justification, and visible proof each day," Atiyah wrote. "Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest."

The "Atiyah letter," which was discovered by U.S. authorities at the time of Zarqawi's death on June 7, 2006, and was translated by the U.S. military's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, also stressed the vulnerability of al-Qaeda's position in Iraq.

"Know that we, like all mujahaddin, are still weak," Atiyah told Zarqawi. "We have not yet reached a level of stability. We have no alternative but to not squander any element of the foundations of strength or any helper or supporter."

What al-Qaeda leaders seemed to fear most was that a U.S. military withdrawal would contribute to a disintegration of their fragile position in Iraq, between the expected desertions of the foreign fighters and the targeting of al-Qaeda's remaining forces by Iraqis determined to rid their country of violent outsiders. [Read this article for more on al-Qaeda's fragility.]

In that sense, the longer the United States stays in Iraq, the deeper al-Qaeda can put down roots and the more it can harden its new recruits through indoctrination and training.

Just as U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the Bush administration's occupation of Iraq became a "cause celebre" that spread Islamic radicalism around the globe, so too does it appear that an extended U.S. occupation of Iraq would help al-Qaeda achieve its goals there-- and elsewhere.

So, contrary to Bush's assertion that a Democratic congressional victory means "the terrorists win and America loses," the opposite might be much closer to the truth-- that a continuation of Bush's strategies, left unchecked by Congress, might be the answer to bin Laden's dreams.

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Stocks love Democrats 

Barry Ritholtz at the Big Picture prints a chart showing the Percentage Gains for Stocks by Party of the President and Majority Party in Congress. It confirms one of the most startling, long-lasting market trends I've ever seen. For the last century, stocks have enjoyed much better returns under Democratic Presidents and Democratic Congresses than under Republicans.

I've reprinted the numbers below. But it's your money, do what you want.

Political Variable Stocks (DJIA) 3/4/1901-10/23/2006

Democratic President 7.19%
Republican President 3.85%
Democratic Congress 6.46%
Republican Congress 3.51%
Dem Pres, Dem Cong 6.53%
Dem Pres, Rep Cong 9.60%
Rep Pres, Rep Cong 1.54%
Rep Pres, Dem Cong 6.37%

All Periods Buy & Hold 5.34%

Sources: Van Kampen, Ned Davis Research

Also, this Big Picture post on the latest GDP number is a must read.
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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hitchens celebrates the restoration of Iraq marshlands 

Chris Hitchens is happy:

I am glad that all previous demands for withdrawal or disengagement from Iraq were unheeded, because otherwise we would not be able to celebrate the arrest and trial of Saddam Hussein; the removal from the planet of his two sadistic kids and putative successors; the certified disarmament of a former WMD- and gangster-sponsoring rogue state; the recuperation of the marshes and their ecology and society...

The third thing he celebrates about the Iraq war is the "recuperation of the marshes and their ecology and society". Louisianans should join him.

See, just after the Iraq war started Bush requested $100 million for restoring Iraq's wetlands, while later actively opposing the restoration of Louisiana's coastal wetlands (until some recent lip service).

Now, war supporters like Hitchens are delighted by the "recuperation" of the Marsh Arab's "ecology and society". That's bloody wonderful. I'm glad South Louisianans could go to Iraq to protect the Marsh Arab culture while it "recuperated" from Saddam's oppression. Praise Allah!

Despite some American casualties, Iraq's wetlands were largely restored and the unique Marsh Arab culture was saved.

We should all be very proud.

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Your tax dollars at work 

Atrios alerted me to this USA TODAY report:

The federal government's "no sex without marriage" message isn't just for kids anymore.

Now the government is targeting unmarried adults up to age 29 as part of its abstinence-only programs, which include millions of dollars in federal money that will be available to the states under revised federal grant guidelines for 2007.
Abstinence education programs, which have focused on preteens and teens, teach that abstaining from sex is the only effective or acceptable method to prevent pregnancy or disease. They give no instruction on birth control or safe sex.

People who think this is a good idea probably also think the Iraq war is a good idea.

Imagine a 24 year old Iraq War veteran returning home to find some fresh-faced Conservative flunkie lecturing him (or her) on the benefits of abstinence. ("By the way, didja know that God disapproves of condoms and any sexual pleasure outside of married procreation? Ya didn't?)

Remember, we're fighting in Iraq because the Terrorists hate our freedom. The terrorists believe Americans are immoral and sex-obsessed.

This will show'em.
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When all else fails.... 

... go after anti-gay and anti-choice votes. The T-P reports:

On the campaign trail and in his commercials, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, has hammered away at the money that fellow Democrat Karen Carter is attracting from generous Republican donors such as real estate developer Joe Canizaro and shipbuilder Donald "Boysie" Bollinger....

Now, in a radio spot that began airing last week, Jefferson wants voters to know that he is the more conservative of the two on issues such as same-sex marriage and late-term abortion.

In the spot Jefferson says that "his values line up more with the people of Louisiana than Karen Carter's values." As evidence, he offers the House votes he cast -- in a break with the Democratic Party leadership -- against gay marriage and late-term abortions.

William Jefferson: Proud social conservative. He understands that gay marriage might corrupt our society, and only he can protect us from that corruption.

Dollar Bill, thanks for helping to make this Congress one of the worst in the history of the Republic.

My pleasure
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Monday, October 30, 2006

Jindal flip flops; now supports timetable for withdrawal from Iraq 

WAFB news reports that (Update: story has since been pulled.):

Louisiana Congressman Bobby Jindal says he's in favor of a military-decided timetable for withdrawing most American troops from Iraq over the next 12 to 18 months.
Jindal said, "I think it's well past time to make the Iraqi people, don't leave them defenseless, but it's up to the people in Iraq to decide how they'll live together."

Congressman Jindal says he does not believe American troops should be involved in nation building.

Bobby, what is this new desire for troop withdrawals and "timetables"? Have you turned into a Defeatocrat? Wha' happened, Wiz Kid? And this 12-18 month window; where did that come from? Is this actually what you're hearing, or did it just sound like a good number to you? What do you care, anyway? You'll be governor by then, right?

Let's remind Louisianans of your vote in June that declared Iraq to be part of the War on Terror, with no exit date. Here are excerpts from House Resolution 861:

Whereas the United States and its allies are engaged in a Global War on Terror, a long and demanding struggle against an adversary that is driven by hatred of American values and that is committed to imposing, by the use of terror, its repressive ideology throughout the world;

Whereas the terrorists have declared Iraq to be the central front in their war against all who oppose their ideology;

Whereas the United States and its Coalition partners will continue to support Iraq as part of the Global War on Terror:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

Honors all those Americans who have taken an active part in the Global War on Terror;

Declares that it is not in the national security interest of the United States to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq;

Declares that the United States is committed to the completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure, and united Iraq;

Declares that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the noble struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.

So, after conflating the War on Terror with the War on Iraq for three and a half years, now the Republicans get to say "Sorry folks, it wasn't worth it. Let's get on a timetable and leave whether there is a stable democracy there or not. You know, truth be told, some of us were never for 'nation-building' anyway... "

These Republicans deserve all the contempt and badgering and fearmongering that they piled on Democrats who were calling for troop withdrawal at the earliest practicable opportunity years ago. Truly, though, this is the GOP's war. They supported Bush's neocon pipedream, and Iraq is their baby. We wouldn't be in Iraq if Gore was President. It was this Republican President and this Republican Congress who made the fallacious case that took us to war, and if they decide-- 3.5 years later-- to leave sans "victory", then they deserve to get clobbered with everything they dished out to Dems.

So NOW Rep. Bobby Jindal has decided that an orderly withdrawal over the next year or so is just peachy. Well, Bobby, how does that square with the resolution you supported in June? You resolved to not set a date for withdrawal, and now you're talking about a 12-18 month window? You resolved to complete the mission, Bobby, and now you're saying it's "past time" for the Iraqi people to make decisions. You committed to Iraq because it is a central front in the Global War on Terror, and now you're talking about bringing our forces home... I thought we had to fight the terrorists "over there" or else they'd fight us "over here". That's what y'all told us, right?

Remember your uber-symbolic purple finger campaign for the 2005 SOTU? Ah, good times. Back then, you said that this "gesture will tell Iraqis, and the world, that we believe in their cause and will stand beside them and all peoples who embrace freedom". I guess you stood with them and believed in their cause until.... until... until what? What decisive event or realization occurred in the past four months to weaken your resolve, Bobby? Now you don't seem to care about democracy or nation-building, or any of the key commitments that you endorsed in that House Resolution 861. Why is that, Bobby? I guess the purple ink has faded.

Bobby, why did you support a massively expensive "nation-building" project if you don't believe American troops should be doing that sort of thing? Don't you believe we have a moral obligation to rebuild countries we bomb and invade and liberate? When was the last time you made your concerns about "nation-building" known to your constituents?

Most importantly, Bobby, don't you owe those who've lost loved ones in Iraq over the past 4 months an explanation? Precisely when did you decide to not honor their sacrifice with steadfast resolve for their mission? Your party told military families that winning in Iraq was crucial to preserving our freedom, and that timetables were anathema to victory. These families trusted you. Now, apparently, as the campaigning winds down and elections approach, Reps. like Bobby Jindal are "adjusting" their position on Iraq, the most important issue to Americans. Now, "timetables" and "withdrawal" are suddenly on the table; democracy and victory seem to be off the table. Realism seems to have set in, belatedly. But the war sure was a great political weapon while it lasted, huh?

In the past 4 months, while Bobby was changing his mind about his commitment to the Iraq war, this little girl's father was killed.

To what end, Bobby? To what end?

More on Iraq "timetables" here.
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Tomorrow I might dress as a stingray, or perhaps a stingraynagin.

Spouses, partners, SigOths... please remember: it's not small, it's "fun size"!

Dick Cheney celebrates Halloween.

The Bawlmore Ravens scared the Saints on Sunday. I say... nevermore. [Though, before the game at Fat Harry's I did enjoy bloody marys with Dilly, Berto and friends, before they biked to the dome. Like Matthew, I was excited to recognize local celebrity Harold Sylvester at the bar.]

Get shocked at the "most intense haunted attraction in the world". Thanks, Phil.
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On "To Hell and Back" 

I didn't like Chris Rose's column, "To Hell and Back", which everyone else seemed to admire. The first time I tried to read it, I couldn't even finish it because it annoyed me so much. I tossed it aside and read other articles and columns. But then I saw the positive response to Rose's piece on the internet, so I read it again, assuming I had missed something. My reaction was the same, though. I still didn't like it.

I got to hoping that a reliable malcontent like Jeffrey would criticize it and piss everyone off, and I could then simply agree with his post, and escape most of the heat... But, no dice.

So, how can I put this? "To Hell and Back" irritated the philosopher in me.

Anxiety, dread, suicide... staring into "the abyss", undergoing "midnights of the soul"... these are not only medical conditions, they are philosophical conditions. Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Nietzsche (among many others) had some thoughts on these disquieting states of mind, as well as the inherent dangers and opportunities lying therein. They had varying recommendations about how to handle "the abyss", but none of them were neuropharmacologic.

Oyster, you're sounding like a scientologist. Are you sure you're not a clam?

Well, no, that's not my intent. Though I'm NOT a fan of the Big Pharma cartel, I'm married to someone who has worked in a mental health hospital, so I do understand the need for meds. But Rose ultimately treated his personal hell simply as a medical problem, without even the slightest acknowledgement of an ontological component. And that's what got my goat (along with a couple other pretentious little things that I will also cite).

Here's a few selections from "To Hell and Back" that I'd like to excerpt and briefly discuss:

This is the story of one journey -- my journey -- to the edge of the post-Katrina abyss, and back again. It is a story with a happy ending -- at least so far.
My own darkness first became visible last fall.
I spent... several months driving endlessly through bombed-out neighborhoods. I met legions of people who appeared to be dying from sadness, and I wrote about them.

I was receiving thousands of e-mails in reaction to my stories in the paper, and most of them were more accounts of death, destruction and despondency by people from around south Louisiana. I am pretty sure I possess the largest archive of personal Katrina stories, little histories that would break your heart.

I guess they broke mine.

I am an audience for other people's pain. But I never considered seeking treatment. I was afraid that medication would alter my emotions to a point of insensitivity, lower my antenna to where I would no longer feel the acute grip that Katrina and the flood have on the city's psyche.

I thought, I must bleed into the pages for my art. Talk about "embedded" journalism; this was the real deal.

Worse than chronicling a region's lamentation....

Uggh. For me, the highlited phrases "err" on the side of self- importance. Rose appears to say that he felt forced to write about post-Katrina N.O., and he did it so effectively that thousands of people inundated him with their stories, and Rose nobly refused to seek treatment so that he could feel Katrina's "acute grip", and "bleed it into the pages" for his art. And his art is our art, the art we must respond to, but our response is so overwhelming and painful that we might kill the artist with our sadness... so Rose was almost the sacrificial lamb for the city's pain...etc.

Granted, this is not the most charitable interpretation of Rose's words, but that's how they struck me when I first read them.

My case might be more extreme than some because I immersed myself fully into the horror and became a full-time chronicler of sorrowful tales. I live it every day and there is no such thing as leaving it behind at the office when a whole city takes the dive.

Then again, my case is less extreme than the first responders, the doctors and nurses and EMTs, and certainly anyone who got trapped in the Dome or the Convention Center or worse -- in the water, in their attics and on their rooftops. In some cases, stuck in trees.

I've got nothing on them. How the hell do they sleep at night?

Rose immersed himself "fully into the horror", yet doesn't understand how first responders or flood victims can cope. That query about how they sleep at night is an important one, and is worthy of more speculation and meditation than Rose allows. For example, has Rose asked any of the victims or responders how they get to "sleep at night"? Or does he merely write them off as less "sensitive" or "immersed" than he is-- the city's heroic artist, its chronicler of sorrow?

My personality has always been marked by insouciance and laughter, the seeking of adventure and new experiences. I am the class clown, the life of the party, the bon vivant.

I have always felt like I was more alert and alive than anyone in the room.

Oh, jeez. We've heard this before. In his prime, Rose truly "tripped the light fantastic" like few others.

In his book "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness" -- the best literary guide to the disease that I have found -- the writer William Styron recounted his own descent into and recovery from depression...
Styron is a helluva writer. His words were my life.

Rose tells us that "the writer William Styron" (oh, that one!) is... "a helluva writer". Well no shite, Chris. I'm glad one of the great writers of the 20th century gets your enthusiastic thumbs up.

My psychiatrist asked me not to identify him in this story and I am abiding by that request.

What is the purpose of that sentence? Or this one:

The warning labels on anti-depressants are loaded with ominous portent, everything from nausea to sexual dysfunction and, without going into more detail than I have already poured out here, let's just say that I'm doing quite well, thank you.

Anyway, Chris Rose then discusses how he was skeptical of psychiatry, and how he (and his wife) were able to convince the shrink to give him pills in 1.5 sessions instead of four, and how the pills effected him "immediately", and how the "dark curtain lifted almost entirely" by day 4 when the drug wasn't supposed to have even started working that soon. Chris names the anti-depressant and says within 4 days he felt like his old self and it was like a "miracle". Except for a relapse which scared Chris and prompted the shrink to increase his dosage, the medicine "worked".

Hopefully many people will be inspired to find help like Chris did, and get the "medicine" they need. But after only two months on the meds, Rose paints a very optimistic picture about what antidepressants can do for people. Despite a couple qualifying statements, the overall impression one gets from the column is that psychiatrists can be pressured into prescribing drugs that work quickly and successfully. And that annoyed me-- Rose made the ascent from hell to normalcy seem too quick and easy.

I'm happy for Chris. His "darkness has lifted" and he doesn't cry anymore (though he says he already cried enough for "two lifetimes" in the past year). It sounds like he did the right thing and is happy with the results. Medicine "saved him". He writes:

I hate being dependent on a drug. Hate it more than I can say. But if the alternative is a proud stoicism in the face of sorrow accompanied by prolonged and unspeakable despair -- well, I'll take dependency.

Is Rose's "proud stoicism" the only alternative, though? Or is this something of a straw man? That's worth mulling over.

I would just submit that confronting "dark abysses" can be an ontological challenge rather than simply a neurological one.

Last week, I got more out of this post by Ray, and the last paragraph of this post by Trina than I did from the entire Rose essay. I also watched a documentary about Pol Pot's reign of terror in Cambodia, which really puts life into perspective.

But what prompted me to write this post was Andrei Codrescu's column in this week's Gambit Weekly (not online yet). It's the only piece I've seen that has been (obliquely) critical of Rose's "To Hell and Back". Codrescu writes:

I'd just heard from a friend that he was depressed until he met the right drug.
If you really think about it, everybody is depressed, and you can't blame that on catastrophe and history... I was born with a rather dark view of the progress of human life because we were horribly poor in a small town at the edge of nowhere... The truth is pretty subjective. Only depression is real. There was an old slogan in the 70's: "Reality is for people who can't face drugs." Looks like now it's back to the other way around.

I don't totally subscribe to Andrei's view, but I will remind readers of Nietzsche's query which I included in my very first post:

To what extent can truth endure incorporation? That is the question, that is the experiment.

And by "truth" Nietzsche might mean something like "the truth of untruth".... More at GS 110.

Judy has a link to Michael Tisserand's article on Chris Rose.
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