State of the Union

The Call Is Answered

The eXile has escaped the executioner’s block. The War Nerd and friends are safe, at least for now.


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Propaganda of the deed

From Iraq, the Times reports “8 Civilians Killed in 2 Disputed Attacks”– one of the them being an American airstrike on a wife and three kids in Tikrit. Iraqi officials confirm the airstrike and the victims; the US military says it killed an “Al Qaeda terrorist” who fired on US troops, and claimed no others were killed in the bombing. The differing accounts aren’t going to be reconciled here. But it was noteworthy that the Gulf Daily News, linked from Juan Cole’s blog, puts the story on its front page, in tabloid headlines: “FAMILY IS WIPED OUT BY US.”

Whatever the truth, (and I’m not sure what motive Iraqi officials would have to misrepresent the facts) it seems clear that the Gulf Daily News editors are giving their readers what their readers expect, what they want to read: stories of American atrocities against innocent Arabs. Something to ponder next time you are told knowingly by some AEI TV talking head that the Arabs need and welcome our Iraqi presence, how they are really terrified of Iran, etc.

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Taking Care of Monkey Business

Good to see some real work getting done on the Hill:

By a vote of 302-96 last week, the House of Representatives passed the Captive Primate Safety Act, a bold step on the road to outlawing pet monkeys. The House bill boasts 26 co-sponsors, including three from Illinois, Republican Mark Kirk and Democrats Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez. The Senate is expected to take up the companion bill in the next few weeks.

Now, I would never buy a monkey as a pet. Maybe as a sidekick in my hilarious capers, but that’s not something I want in the house.

How could there only be 96 votes against this infringement of our liberties? Where are the Wall Street Journal editorials? Where are the ex-Senators who run flack shops for Big Monkey?

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Supreme Court Upholds Second Amendment

A pleasant surprise. Though as Butler Shaffer argues at, we shouldn’t take it for granted that the court won’t severely qualify the right to keep and bear arms in the future. Obama’s triangulating statement on the issue — he says he sort-of agrees with Heller, but still believes in restrictions — perhaps signals what lies ahead.

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Doesn’t Play Well With Others

It would be hard to find a more discredited fount of foreign-policy wisdom than the man who said, “If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now.” But Richard Perle is still in business. (For the record, construction has yet to begin on that “grand square in Baghdad named after President Bush” that he predicted would be built within a year—in 2003.)

Today Perle takes to the pages of the Washington Post to argue that a preoccupation with multilateralism is crippling our ability to confront Iran. Better to go it alone and ignite another unwinnable war?

That seems to be what he wants. Here’s a dirty little secret: for Perle, nukes are a useful selling point but scarcely the central concern—rather like the Iraqi WMD that weren’t. Perle has said previously, “the problem in Iran is much bigger than weapons. The problem is the terrorist regime that seeks the weapons. The regime must go.”

That other world powers have concerns beyond “total war” disqualifies them. “Germany, Russia and China,” Perle writes in the Post, “[are] maneuvering for self-serving advantage in their dealings with the mullahs in Iran.” Yes, that is what normal countries do. It’s called national interest.

Comes news this morning that North Korea, another charter member of the Axis of Evil, may be responding to “clever diplomacy.” But Perle doesn’t let facts interfere with his “vision of the world.” Asked about Libya, which also managed to avoid a liberating leveling, he replied, “it is a weird case.”

If the Iraq architect has his way, we’ll plunge headlong into another abyss, without allies or end. Coalitions are for cowards, negotiation is appeasement, and the logic of deterrence that has thus far kept the world from incinerating itself no longer applies.

If you listen closely you can almost hear the children tuning up…or were they crying?

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Powell and Hagel Join the Obamacons?

Robert Novak anticipates some additions to the ranks of conservatives for Obama — though he acknowledges that one problem with counting Colin Powell as a potential Obamacon is that the former secretary of state is not actually a conservative. Says Novak,

The prototypical Obamacon may be Larry Hunter, familiar inside the Washington Beltway as an ardent supply-sider. When it became known recently that Hunter supports Obama, fellow conservatives were stunned. Hunter was fired as U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief economist in 1993 when he would not swallow Clinton administration policy, and later joined Jack Kemp at Empower America (ghostwriting Kemp’s column). Explaining his support for the uncompromising liberal Obama, Hunter blogged on June 6: “The Republican Party is a dead rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of Weekend With Bernie, handcuffed to a corpse.”

While he never would use such language, Colin Powell is said by friends to share Hunter’s analysis of the GOP. His tenuous 13-year relationship with the Republican Party, following his retirement from the Army, has ended. The national security adviser for Ronald Reagan left the present administration bitter about being ushered out of the State Department a year earlier than he wanted. As an African-American, friends say, Powell is sensitive to racial attacks on Obama and especially on his wife Michelle. While McCain strategists shrug off defections from Bruce Bartlett and Larry Hunter, they wince in anticipating headlines generated by Powell’s expected endorsement of Obama.

Read on.

Novak is right that “Published reports listing additional Obamacons do not add up to tides of conservative Republicans leaving their party.” Yet he’s also correct in his conclusion: “Obamacons — little and big — are reason for concern by McCain. It also should cause soul-searching at the Bush White House to ponder who made the Republican Party so difficult a place for Republicans to stay.” There have always been conservatives dissatisfied with the GOP who have been willing to vote third party. (Or who have dreamed of starting new third parties.) But the Bush era has greatly amplified the number of conservatives doing the unthinkable — voting for liberal Democrats because the illiberal Republicans have become even worse.

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Summer Conventions: Set Your Tasers On Party!

There’s nothing like a battalion of local police armed with high-powered pepper ball rifles to get those gears of democracy turning.

pepper ball

So, missing the good vibes of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions of four summers ago, we lurch into the second series of post-9/11 political confabs, where the full authority of the Washington law enforcement and homeland security establishment enjoins every available local cop and emergency responder to converge on two cities to protect the whole of the Washington political establishment brave terror threats and summer traffic to nominate two guys for president and to well, hold a big pep rally for themselves. Oh yeah, and to establish party platforms — that’s well worth the $200 million in security costs right there!

It’s good to know that the fuzz has armed up for the celebrations, though. Not to be outdone by pepper balls in Denver, the St. Paul police have purchased tasers in honor of the RNC event.

It all brings me back to those magical 2004 conventions in Boston and New York City. Basically, just when you thought the political caste system that had hardened like sedimentary rock around these pretentious party rituals every four years couldn’t get more stratified, 9/11 happened and then convention security became the new fetish, the new vanity – and the ultimate rubric for determining the importance and self-worth of every individual there. More doors to shut in the face of the hoi poloi, more bodyguards and handlers to rush the serious pol on endless hallway sprints to nowhere, an improved battery of multi-colored credentials to determine one’s security “clearance” into which reception, access to which hallway in the conference center.

In Boston and NYC, it was helicopters above, and cops in riot gear ahead, closing off yet another street 20 blocks away from the convention center – could there be a security breach, an actual terrorist? More likely it was the season’s more deadlier threat: a cheeky intern demanding your credentials, NYPD’s finest looking on to bounce your lame reporter’s butt from the premises – which happened to be a hotel conference room nowhere near the triumphal convention center — if necessary. Or maybe the temporary police barricade was thrown up to assist that Very Important Pol in his black mid-sized luxury car get to his Very Important Panel discussion on why Americans think congress is out of touch at some swanky midtown club.

Believe me, it happened. Like all the time.

Ah, the sweet smell of democracy. I’d listen to “conservative” Republicans mash all day about good Christian ideals and “fiscal responsibility” and the federal trough and all that, and then have to wring a story out of some “event” like “Meet the NASCAR Dads” which was really a greasy Potemkin village barely hiding the lobbyist trough laid out, all lobster tails and microbrews, for the swells with the right colored credentials.

Inside the convention halls, there were elaborate digs for “radio row” and “bloggers ally,” where pundits would preen and sycophants pant – all day – while suckers like me tried to find anything resembling a story with a shelf-life beyond a piece of haddock. There’s Newt Gingrich, happy to stop for a millisecond to bestow a vague, insipid quote before gliding off, handlers and college-age dreamers in tow. There’s Sean Hannity, holding forth at his radio kiosk, long-legged girls and proto-courtiers lined up four deep to giggle at his every syllable.

All this to eventually hear Rudy Giuliani say “Thank God that George Bush is our president, ” and watch Zell Miller do his best Lonesome Rhodes impersonation (later, a moon-faced Chris Matthews would replay his on-air scuffle with Miller 1,567 times, his proudest moment of any Republican confab ever).

If I sound bitter, it’s probably because my clearest memory of the RNC “event” was toiling away in an unfurnished trailer dumped in the middle of 100 creepier trailers in the middle of what can only be described as an armed camp. Cement barricades and floodlights everywhere, cops with automatic weapons lined up like it was Stalingrad – they were nice enough when you needed to get by, but come on. Once in the convention center, I had but 15 minutes at a clip to race down like ten staircases to the main floor to hook some poor delegate in a menacing hat for a quote, before I had to race back up the ten staircases, five floors to our press booth, past a series of manned checkpoints and sudden squalls that would gather around B-list celebrities, in time, so I didn’t have to forfeit my pass forever.

The Democratic Boston mess was no better. I remember standing in a line a million miles long outside the Fleet Center – another Orwellian nightmare, more invoking of Animal Farm – hoping to God I hadn’t anything in my bottomless workbag to set the armed guards at the metal detectors askew, a one way pass to an un-credentialed exile for the rest of the week. Once in, we started what would become the dance: march the gauntlet to the convention center, try to snag lawmakers and Very Important Pundits as they rushed by fiercely, with totem handlers, all on cell phones, to places unknown in a haste not understood because it was in fact, only 2 p.m. on the first day of the convention.

The fatuousness was enough to power, well, a missile of most destructive proportions. A country at war, every corner of the nation at risk from Islamofascist (was that term in vogue then?) bogeymen and sleeper cells of death, and the Washington establishment partying it up and enjoying the dearth wealth of every local, state and federal law enforcement resource at hand, on our dime.

Fast forward to 2008 – the year of change – we’re still at war and our soldiers are still bleeding on foreign soil. No mind, the corporate booty will arrive on time in Denver and St. Paul for the ultimate high school reunion, law enforcement at all levels will demand tens of millions of dollars in public funding as overtime to secure the cities from threats of all types – including scummy protesters and un-credentialed reporters. Federal agents will spy, and the Department of Homeland Security will cordon off massive perimeters as National Security Events, unleashing more resources and untold surveillance practices. Word is, homeland security maneuvers have already begun in Denver, in helicopters, buzzing low, dark dragonflies among the tall buildings.

The one possibility for authenticity within this mélange of plastic perversity is the Ron Paul rally planned for St. Paul, and accompanying movement to nail down enough Paul delegates to secure him a speaking role at the convention, as well as force a vote for vice president, in hopes of getting Paul on McCain’s ticket. The latter’s a veritable dream sequence, but the prospect of a real moment, forced by outsiders with all the desire to beat not join this carnival of hypocrisies, may be the only reason to attend the Republican National Convention in 2008. I leave it up to someone keener than myself to think of a good reason for covering the Democratic one.

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Boston Twinkie Party

Caleb Stegall offers his view on two recent books by Michael Pollan and reports on a secession movement among some Kansas farmers:

A few weeks ago I attended a meeting of Kansas secessionists. The participants were rowdy, complaining of economic gigantism squashing them flat and bureaucratic thugs hounding their every move. They were all sick and tired of worker-ant existence in the hive-mind of American groupthink and they wanted out. Despite the quintessentially political nature of the gathering, politics proper never came up. Conservative and liberal meant nothing in that room, and party affiliation even less.

Kansas patriots fomenting disunion? No, though there are a few of those kicking around these parts. These were local farmers organizing a farmer’s market. I had offered the parking lot of my law firm for their use, and was mostly just an observer of the scene. The locals probably couldn’t tell you the first thing about the politics of secession, but the Spirit of ’76 showed up in force. Damned were the federal busy-bodies who tell local farmers what they can and can’t sell; condemned were the centralized agents of agri-business who want ID chips implanted in livestock; mocked were the credentialed witch-doctors from the department of agriculture who own the brand “organic.”

Well worth reading.

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Save the War Nerd

The eXile, the Moscow-based alternative paper founded by Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi — and which has been home these past few years to occasional TAC contributor Gary Brecher, the War Nerd — has been shut down by Russian authorities. The website is still up (note: some racy content, which goes for most of the links that follow, too), though, and is fighting to survive. Ames has been blogging the story of the crackdown for Radar. (More here.) And here’s the War Nerd’s plea for help.

As I said on my own blog, the eXile is as much samizdat for the West as it is for Russia. And funnily enough, a Kremlin lickspittle who recently debated Ames on air had nothing but good things to say about the Iraq War and the Western media’s failure to raise serious questions about the adventure before it began. As Ames blogs for Radar,

When I started to talk about the shameful self-censorship that went on in the American media in the lead-up to the Iraq war, and the disastrous consequences that followed, Schlegel loudly cut me off: “The American media was right to support the invasion of Iraq, because the American people supported that war. Of course the American media should back the president!”

“But the only reason that the American people supported the war was because the media duped them! They didn’t do what they were supposed to do!” I stammered.

“No, Bush was right to invade Iraq!” Schlegel yelled. “I absolutely support his reasons for invading, and I believe the American media did the right thing in supporting the war, because the American people supported this war.”

When I explained to him that such government audits [as shut down the eXile] only take place in Third World dictatorships and not in serious countries, his tone changed. “The Russian media is completely free,” he claimed. “Our television stations express all the opinions of the people”And that’s when the young Russian Duma deputy turned his fangs on me: “I understand what type of person you are now, Mark, after listening to you and hearing about your newspaper, the Exile, on this radio program. It’s very clear to me now that you are an extremist, and your newspaper is extremist. I have never read your newspaper, but I don’t need to now because I already have you figured out. You’re an extremist. It’s all completely clear to me now.”

Ames has published some terrific pieces in the alternative media here in the U.S. — including the classic “Black Metal Nation: What Do Norwegian Dirtheads and Richard Perle Have in Common?” — but the eXile can’t be replaced. No one else could have brought us the War Nerd, for one thing.

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Cannon Shot Out

Immigration restrictionists scored a big win yesterday, with the primary defeat of six-term Utah Republican Chris Cannon. His opponent, Jason Chaffetz, campaigned against birthright citizenship and amnesty, in contrast to Cannon, who long ago earned the ire of Republicans concerned about the border security and immigration. As the Politico notes:

Immigration was the driving factor behind Cannon’s unpopularity with the district’s Republican base. Despite sporting a near-perfect score from the American Conservative Union, Cannon alienated border security hawks over the past several years with his belief that illegal immigrants should be eligible for certain government benefits.

In 2003, Cannon sponsored a bill that would give children of illegal immigrants in-state college tuition. And he has also supported legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to receive guest worker status.

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