even more unintended consequences for fun and profit!

While we’re rushing to arm Syrian insurgents about whom we know next to nothing, it’s worth checking in on our would-be Arab clients in Iraq to see how they’re doing. Seeing as how America is clearly opposed to the Assad regime’s continued existence, not to mention our long-simmering hostilities with Assad’s ally, Iran, we can only assume that our Iraqi partners are working closely with us to, um…

Just days after the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confronted Baghdad for continuing to grant Iran access to its airspace and said Iraq’s behavior was raising questions about its reliability as a partner.

Speaking to reporters during a previously unannounced trip to Baghdad, Kerry said that he and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had engaged in “a very spirited discussion” on the Iranian flights, which U.S. officials believe are ferrying weapons and fighters intended for the embattled Syrian government.

Kerry said the plane shipments – along with material being trucked across Iraqi territory from Iran to Syria – were helping President Bashar Assad’s regime cling to power by increasing their ability to strike at Syrian rebels and opposition figures demanding Assad’s ouster.

But, uh, some nice Lama says that when we die, on our deathbeds, we will receive total consciousness. So we got that goin’ for us, which is nice.

Somehow it continues to surprise us that when we go around liberating oppressed peoples, they actually act all liberated and shit. Or when we insist that formerly repressive regimes hold elections, the damn people who were being repressed go out and vote for whomever the hell they like, if you can believe that. The thing is, the post-Saddam Iraq and Iran, as two of the largest Shi’ite countries in the world (Iraq has the third or fourth largest proportion of Shi’ites in the world at ~65%, behind Iran, Azerbaijan, and possibly Bahrain; Pakistan and maybe India have more Shi’ites in terms of raw numbers, but their Shi’ite populations are only very small percentages of their total populations), are natural allies. Moreover, the Syrian opposition is largely based in Syria’s Sunni majority, who have been ruled by the Assads, who belong to a minority Shi’ite sect called the Alawites, since 1970. These disaffected Syrian Sunni tribes are almost certainly on good terms with Iraq’s disaffected Sunni (Arab; leave the Kurds out of this) tribes, so the last thing the al-Maliki government wants is a successful Syrian rebellion giving Iraq’s own potential Sunni rebels any wild ideas. There is at least one faction among the Syrian rebels that Professor Juan Cole describes as an “offshoot” of an Iraqi Sunni terrorist group. In other words, there is no compelling reason for Iraq to toe the anti-Assad line for America on Syria and every reason for them to be at cross-purposes with us over this, but try telling that to Secretary Kerry:

Kerry said Iraq’s tacit approval of Iranian overflights left the American people wondering how an ally would undermine U.S. efforts, particularly after the enormous sacrifices made by the United States in liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule.

Hey, guess what? They didn’t ask for our “help,” did they? We offered it, anyway, with the idea that the downtrodden Iraqis would finally be able to chart their own course as a people, which sounds really noble until you realize that by “chart their own course,” American policymakers naturally meant “do whatever the hell we want.” But “self-government” doesn’t work that way! If letting the Iraqis be Free was really our goal, then we ought to damn well recognize that they’re FREE to tell America to go to hell when it suits their needs. As Professor Cole writes:

In 2002 when Dick Cheney was planning the Iraq War and talking about democratization, I pointed out that a democratized Afghanistan and Iraq would be unlikely to do America’s bidding. I.e., democratization (even if phony) as a policy has the stark internal contradiction that Cheney was doing it for the purposes of American dominance, and that is exactly what it could not hope to deliver.

tales from the “what could go wrong?” files, part ??? of infinity

There is a growing outcry from the National Security Professionals (no, really, they’re professionals!) for the United States to Do Something about Syria. Last month it was Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey, the outgoing (so, like, he doesn’t have to deal with this bullshit, you know?) Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs Chairman, respectively, agreeing with John McCain, who’s never met a foreigner he didn’t at least briefly consider bombing, that America should Do Something (in their case it was arming the rebels, although McCain and his fluffer Lindsey Graham want airstrikes or maybe even an American invasion). Yesterday, ThinkProgress reported that James Jones, the first National Security Advisor in the Obama Administration, is now also suggesting that America arm the rebels, which coincides with similar calls from Carl Levin, the highly influential Democratic Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. This is how these things go. Bad things happen in other parts of the world, and disingenuous people with agendas to push selectively decide that in Some Places it is Incumbent Upon America, As The World’s Only Remaining Superpower, to Do Something. They’re always sort of vague on What it is that America should Do (and I’ll explain why “arm the rebels” is still vague nonsense despite sounding like a specific thing), which is so that if and when something goes wrong they can evade actually having to answer for being wrong, or stupid, or stupidly wrong. McCain does this all the time. He’s never conceived of a war that didn’t make him salivate, but then when we actually make one of the wars he’s pushing and things go bad, somebody else is to blame.
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the best possible commemoration of the 10th anniversary of iraq

…belongs to a paralyzed, dying vet named Thomas Young:

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Read the whole thing: “Dying vet’s ‘fuck you’ letter to George Bush & Dick Cheney needs to be read by every American” at dangerousminds.net.

really, the obama-satan thing is the least of the problems with this crap

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“zOMG OBAMA IS SATIN!” — half of Twitter (the dumb…er half)

So The History Channel, or History, or whatever wholly non-descriptive and completely ironic name they want to be called now, is running a mini-series by reality TV sleazoid Mark Burnett about the Bible, cleverly called “The Bible.” Last night they got to Jesus, which means they’ve chosen to spend almost half the series on the last quarter of the Bible, but I digress. Satan made his appearance during the Temptation of Christ in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11 or Luke 4:1-13, pick your poison), and some people have decided that the actor playing Satan looks a lot like President Obama. Everyone denies any intentional resemblance, and there’s reason to question whether there’s that much resemblance at all beyond “neither of them is white.” What’s really at issue as far as I’m concerned is that we’re casting swarthy Arab-types as Satan and white Europeans as Jesus in our little show, but I’m no reality TV kingpin so what do I know? Well, this is also an issue:

@hemlockmartinis Buried lede: Satan is a character on a TV show on *the history channel*

— James Hare (@harej) March 18, 2013

What bugs me about this whole “The Bible” series is that it bills itself as some massive undertaking to tell the whole Bible narrative in mini-series form, but in order to spend ~half the series on Jesus they had to cram the entire Old Testament into about 5 hours, and so huge pieces of the Old Testament are just discarded. Gone is the Joseph story, which is not only one of the better tales of the Old Testament from a narrative perspective (read the Quranic version sometime, it’s also good and adds a lot of extra bits to the story), but is also pretty important to the later Exodus story in that it explains how the Israelites got from Canaan into Egypt in the first place. Many other bits are missing as well, and I thought I’d list some of them to see if there’s a pattern that emerges in terms of what didn’t make the cut. Full disclosure: I could only get through the first episode before the hackneyed dialogue and wretched acting drove me away.

  • We start with a brief look at Noah and skip quickly to Abraham, so any questions as to how Adam and Eve’s kids could have populated the planet without committing incest are glossed over
  • Also ignored is the episode in which Noah’s son Ham “uncovers” his father’s “nakedness,” variously interpreted to mean that he raped Noah or slept with one of Noah’s wives (Genesis 9:20-27)
  • Abraham, in his travels, twice identifies his wife Sarah as his sister and she winds up nearly marrying two different kings; God punishes the kings for their adultery, not Abraham or Sarah for their lies and general creepiness (Genesis 12:10-20 and 20:1-16, 21:22-34)
  • Isaac does the same thing with his wife, Rebekah (Genesis 26:1-33)
  • In Sodom, when the angels come to stay with Lot and are pursued by the crowd who demand to “know” them, Lot offers his virgin daughters to the crowd instead but is refused (Genesis 19:8)
  • After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, thinking they were the only people left alive on the planet, those same daughters get Lot drunk and have sex with him (Genesis 19:30-38)
  • Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel, and his mother, Rebekah, conspire to cheat Jacob’s elder brother Esau out of his rightful inheritance (Genesis 27:1–40)
  • Moses apparently dies right after coming down off of Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments; this allows us to skip over the Israelites worshiping the golden calf and Moses ordering the Levites to slaughter them for it, not to mention the bloody slaughters Moses orders of the tribes around Canaan or God’s decision to kill Moses before the Israelites entered Canaan over the seemingly trivial offense that Moses drew water from a rock by hitting it rather than by speaking to it

You know, for a series on The Bible, it sure does seem to just ignore a lot of Bible stories that might make modern TV audiences uncomfortable. I wonder why that is?

tell my friends that i don’t care, i shrug my shoulders at the whole affair

or, “Why Paul Ryan Should Appear on Kitchen Nightmares”

I have a weakness for cooking shows, and I especially like Kitchen Nightmares (the BBC version much more than the over-dramatized, too soapy Fox version). What I like about Kitchen Nightmares is that, each episode, Gordon Ramsay is confronted with the owner and chef (maybe the same person, maybe two different people) of a failing restaurant. Each episode, he tries the food of that restaurant. And almost each episode, he (rudely, which is his well-known style) explains to the owner and chef that their food blows, and that’s why nobody wants to eat there. Shocker, right? Well, and obviously these shows are heavily edited to maximize the drama and tension, it almost always seems to come as a huge shock to the owner/chef that their food is bad, despite the obvious clue that nobody is eating there and the situation is so grave that you’ve applied to go on a reality TV show and be humiliated for the chance to turn things around (and the show has a pretty dismal success rate, so it’s a slim chance at that). Even when they can acknowledge that their food is bad, there’s usually some hurt feelings because Gordon Ramsay (who, as anybody who’s ever seen one of his TV shows ought to know, either is or enjoys acting like a total asshole) was mean to them when he said the food stinks.

The people who run these restaurants, and again it’s television so I can only comment on them in terms of how they come off on the show, are deluding themselves. They are living in a world in which their restaurant is perfect, the food is fantastic, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what they’re doing. The chronically empty restaurant that’s bankrupting them is empty because of some other reason, having nothing to do with them, that they can’t figure out, so they need Gordon Ramsay to help them. The fact that Gordon Ramsay ALWAYS finds a reason why the restaurant’s struggles are caused by internal failures is, I guess, irrelevant. They must each be convinced that THIS is the one restaurant that Chef Ramsay is going to walk into and say, “My God, I can’t believe you’re not packed to the gills every night! For the life of me, I just can’t find a single thing wrong with what you’re doing!” But this NEVER HAPPENS. To get upset when a man who’s known for being an asshole criticizes you for your restaurant’s failure in an assholish way is ludicrous. YOU know your restaurant is in desperate straits and YOU agreed to go on Gordon Ramsay’s show to try to fix it. You MUST realize that he’s going to find flaws with your restaurant and that he’s going to berate you for them in his well-known style. How can you be surprised when events unfold exactly as anybody could have predicted?

I feel the same way, by the way, about contestants on Ramsay’s other show, Hell’s Kitchen, who go on the show without knowing how to make risotto, despite the fact that he has every single one of his contestants, every season, make risotto. It’s one of his test dishes; how can you go on the show unprepared to make it and then get pissed off when he yells at you for it? BECAUSE YOU’RE DELUDING YOURSELF. You think you’ll be the one person to win Hell’s Kitchen without having to make a decent risotto.

I’m now convinced that you could swap the Kitchen Nightmares saps with the House Republican caucus and never notice the difference.

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Peggy Noonan tries to exercise at the YMCA: another in a series of tales from Barack Obama’s degraded Amercia

I want to thank author and commentator Peggy Noonan for choosing to follow up her fantastic Wall Street Journal column with this second part, here at and that’s the way it was. I’m a little concerned that it kind of falls apart at the end, but Ms. Noonan was unreachable after she submitted the piece and so I’ve chosen to run it as is. –DWD

by Peggy Noonan, special to and that’s the way it was

There comes a time when one must recognize the defeat at the core of the meadow that is our daily lives. Shiftless barges, floating by on the rivers of bleak and senseless misery, blaze a path through the undergrowth of contempt and the burning magma of crushed dreams, the dreams that used to fuel the spirit of American guts and gall bladders but that now lie empty, fallow, like so many strangled thoroughbreds before winter’s cold embrace. Who strangled those thoroughbreds? Who set the barges aflame in the dreams of forgotten gall bladders? This president, our too flawed and too human president, so unable to stand before the blistering winds of our despair, he has barged through the magma to core the horses.

It is Wednesday morning, 8:30 AM, and I find myself carrying a faded pink duffel bag across the beaten and worn floors of my neighborhood YMCA as I search in vain for the duffel bag porter to relieve me of this burden and take it to my locker. A fire, perhaps the same fire that is smothering the very richness of American ingenuity under this blinkered administration, has rendered my usual workout facilities unusable, and I am left without recourse on this bitter morning, as bitter as the shapes of discarded American lives I see strewn all around me as I furtively look for someone, anyone, to assist me. There’s no one to call to, no one who can answer my plaintive cry for help, just as the White House is empty of anyone who can respond in kind to the plaintive cry of America herself in this dark time. There is no information desk, no concierge, no sports drink sommelier at this facility. These are good jobs that are going unfilled because of President Obama’s inability to fill them.

I go to the information desk and ask why there are no valets to take my duffel bag, but I am brusquely told to produce an “identification card” by which I may obtain entry into the facility. Yes, in Obama’s America, we are denied access to that which would nourish the steel and brawn of this nation, unless one can provide the documentation that determines if one is “qualified” to partake of the bounty of freedom that this country has always offered. I produce a card and am “buzzed” into a locker facility by the attendant. I explain that I am uncomfortable operating the mechanism of a locker device in a publicly accessible locker room, and the desk attendant mutters something indecipherable before summoning a second attendant to accompany me into the locker room. It seems that America herself, under this president, is muttering something indecipherable at each of us. The second attendant takes me into the locker room, and I ask her how I can be sure that no one will take my things while I am exercising. “It’s called a locker?” she says, “Because you put a lock on it so nobody else can get in?” I explain that I am used to my regular facility, where patrons are provided with locking suites and keys. “Jesus Christ,” she says, and then walks away shaking her head. I am afraid that even He can no longer help us.

I note, wryly, that the YMCA’s people mover is as broken as this nation, or that it would be if there were such a thing, which there is not, no doubt because of Obamacare.

When I enter the gym I am again confronted with the reality of Obama’s America. Where is the large man upon whose back I can climb while he runs on the treadmill? You know, “exercise”? Sadly, in this crippled economy this is another job that must go unfilled. Reluctantly, I approach a machine that is intended to simulate the climbing of stairs, because apparently we are also unable to hire men to form large human pyramids to simulate stair climbing, as the great Ronald Reagan intended. The crippling weight of privation leaves me unable to do more than seven of these simulated steps before I am spent.

***

As my men carry my litter the 20 blocks back to my flat, I read the lyrics to the song “Yank Me, Crank Me,” by Ted Nugent, who’s emerged as one of the most persuasive and eloquent critics of the president. He needs the woman he’s singing about, he explained in the song. Her legs, apparently one of her best features, feel pleasing to him. “Well, you can yank me, and you can crank me, ” Mr. Nugent noted. “But don’t you wake up, and don’t you try to thank me.”

Meanwhile the president seems to be willing neither to yank, nor crank, America in her hour of need. If only he were willing to do something to stimulate this economy, to build something, to put our fellow citizens back to work, then we might have a chance to escape this dark netherworld of hopelessness. Instead he spends all his time trying to get Congressional Republicans to allow him to do something to stimulate this economy.

What a mess.

I assume now that the sequester has begun, the president will tear what remains of us apart, stone by stone. Mandatory workouts on the 15th to keep us strong for the manual labor brigades that will be formed on the 20th, building the interstellar battle cruisers that will be launched on the 25th, only to be turned around to strike our nation’s homeschoolers on the 30th, then to mop up the last band of refugees from Io on the 35th.

You have to assume that’s the plan, because it doesn’t make any sense, and that’s why it’s so sensible.

America is hurting. We are struggling to climb the simulated stairs of economic recovery, and Dr. Fancypants is wrestling in the mud with sprockets and jingle-makers. It’s frozen, stuck, like a popsicle in brandy. Smooth, sweet brandy, the immortal nectar of liquors. But are we allowed to have it? This president thinks he’s in a game, the kind of game to which one might bring a pale ale or a maibock, but crisp, cold gin is all that will rum us now. Red wines, white wines, it matters not what kind of single malt solution we find to the bourboning problems facing us as a nation. But he’s lost his mind!

Vodka. Or Thunderbird. Either way you’re in a better place.