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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Monday, 21 August 2006
The Hedgehog Is Back
Topic: Couldn't be so...
The Hedgehog Is Back
Note that Monday, August 21, brought us The Armor of God Pajama Set -
The Armor Of God PJ's were inspired by a mother reading Ephesians 6:10-18 every night to her daughter to give her a safe and secure feeling in the dark. As they read the scriptures, they put on each spiritual and powerful piece of the Armor of God to keep them safe and peaceful while they slept. At that moment, God gave me the idea how wonderful it would be if all children could have the opportunity to put on a pair of pajamas that symbolized the Armor of God for the same purpose… that with their belief in Jesus and His protection they will feel safe and secure during the night as they sleep. As they dress in the mornings, they should replace them with the spiritual Armor of God to protect them in their daily activities.
If you click on the link, you'll see two cute little blond kids looking like happy little Crusaders - with the Knight of the Cross thing mid-chest - and you seem to get a soft and cuddly shield with the set. Cool. The cloud effects at the top of the page are nice. Make of it what you will. We live in strange times.

As for the real crusader, Monday, August 21, brought the administration new poll numbers - "Just 35 percent of 1,033 adults polled say they favor the war in Iraq; 61 percent say they oppose it - the highest opposition noted in any CNN poll since the conflict began more than three years ago."

Send in the kids in their new pajamas? That may be all that's left to do. Sixty-one percent of us now have no idea what this war is about, although the president's approval rating rose to forty-two percent in this one. But it may be an outlier - an AP poll just had him at thirty-three percent (here) and all the others are in the mid-thirties, even Fox News.

But the forty-two percent approval here has some nasty detail for the White House. The president himself is in the doghouse -
Most Americans (54 percent) don't consider him honest, most (54 percent) don't think he shares their values and most (58 percent) say he does not inspire confidence.

Bush's stand on the issues is also problematic, with more than half (57 percent) of Americans saying they disagree with him on the issues they care about.
No one trusts him? That's what this seems to indicate - and in generic congressional polling, Democrats poll fifty-two to the Republicans' forty-three percent. Oh my, things may be shifting.

And he's not the only one is trouble. There's George Felix Allen. As discussed last week here, he made some unfortunate comments, and now the "macaca" has hit the fan as we see here -
In an election for the United States Senate in Virginia today, 8/21/06, incumbent Republican George Allen edges Democrat challenger James Webb 48% to 45%, according to an exclusive SurveyUSA poll conducted for WUSA-TV Washington DC.

Since an identical SurveyUSA poll released 6/28/06, Allen has lost 8 points and Webb has gained 8 points. Allen's lead has shrunk from 19 points to 3 points.
Drat, as they say. And as the voters of Virginia are beginning to wonder about the guy, lists like this must have them even more puzzled - bills he has introduced in the UN Senate for which he could find no co-sponsor -
41. S.3288 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on handheld electronic can openers. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

42. S.3289 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on electric knives. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

43. S.3290 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on toaster ovens with single-slot traditional toaster opening on top of oven. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

44. S.3291 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on ice shavers. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

45. S.3292 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on dual-press sandwich makers with floating upper lid and lock. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

46. S.3293 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on electric drink mixers with tilt mixing heads and two-speed motors. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

47. S.3294 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on electric juice extractors greater than 300 watts but less than 400 watts. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

48. S.3295 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on electric juice extractors not less than 800 watts. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

49. S.3296 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on open-top electric indoor grills. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

50. S.3297 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on electric coffee grinders. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

51. S.3298 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on electric percolators. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

52. S.3299 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on automatic drip coffeemakers other than those with clocks. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

53. S.3300 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on automatic drip coffeemakers with electronic clocks. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

54. S.3301 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on electronic under-the-cabinet mounting electric can openers. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)

55. S.3303 : A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on food slicers and shredders with top-mounted motors and replaceable mixing bowls. Sponsor: Sen Allen, George [VA] (introduced 5/26/2006) Cosponsors (None)
It may not be the racist stuff that sinks him - there are enough good ol' boys and he could squeak though - but he seems to have a thing with small household appliances. He's a strange man. Actually he appears to be in the pocket of some odd appliance manufacturers - Ronco and the like. You get you campaign money where you can get it.

Senator John Kerry laid into him about calling what he though was a young Indian immigrant a "macaca" - saying, in essence, welcome to America you dark-skinned loser - with this -
Welcome to our America, where immigration is a source of pride and not a punch line. Welcome to a politics where a young Indian American born in Fairfax Virginia can tell a US Senator: "I'm just as American as you are." And welcome to Virginia where it's clear some Republicans need reminding about the "truths" a real Virginian-Thomas Jefferson - wrote were "self evident" two hundred thirty years ago. And if you ever want a test of whether Republicans are ashamed of George Allen or just embarrassed by him, it comes on November 7th when we have a chance to say "welcome to the United States Senate - to his Democratic opponent, Jim Webb."
And Kerry didn't even mention the automatic drip coffeemakers, other than those with clocks.

And there was a curious slap-down of another sort the same day, courtesy of The Observer (UK), reporting here that some British officials fear they were forced to act too hastily in the arrest of the guys who wanted to blow up all the airplanes bound for America - they and may not have enough evidence to properly charge all suspects. Two of the two dozen men arrested have already been released without being charged.

It's the Americans, who need to talk tough to prove to the voters that the administration really is keeping everyone safe -
The British security services, MI5 and MI6, are understood to be dismayed that a number of sensitive details surrounding the alleged plot - including an FBI estimate that as many as 50 people were involved - were leaked to the media.

FBI sources confirmed to The Observer that the bureau had been ordered to stop briefing at the request of the British authorities. "The shutters have come down," a bureau source said. "We have been told not to discuss the case any more."
So the Brits told the FBI to just shut up. "You blokes are just messing everything up" It seems they want to stop the bad guys lock them up for a long tim, convicting them on solid evidence, by the rules - while we want to make sure the November elections don't result in the wrong sort of Americans controlling congress. Of course this is all a matter of which you think is more important. Kudos to the FBI for defying the White House and, well, shutting up.

But wait! There's more. And it's also from the UK.

There's this -
The alliance between George Bush and Tony Blair is in danger after it was revealed that the Prime Minister believes the President has "let him down badly" over the Middle East crisis.

A senior Downing Street source said that, privately, Mr Blair broadly agrees with John Prescott, who said Mr Bush's record on the issue was "crap."

The source said: "We all feel badly let down by Bush. We thought we had persuaded him to take the Israel-Palestine situation seriously, but we were wrong. How can anyone have faith in a man of such low intellect?"

Blair had famously said, before the war, that a major reason he was on board with the thing was he had been assured by George Bush that the approach was not just "go get Saddam," but comprehensive and far-sighted, as the American government knew a core issue in the region was the Israel-Palestine issue and that would be addressed, and dealt with thoroughly.

It wasn't, and Tony and his boys seem to be miffed - and you get the added insult that they think our president was just too stupid to figure out the Israel-Palestine was more than a little important. It's not the he didn't keep his word. He was too dumb to understand the problem at all. And this is closest and pretty much only ally.

Given all this, while Laura was perhaps ordering her husband an Armor of God pajama set to make him feel safe and peaceful while he slept, the president went on the offensive against all the bad news and held a very rare press conference.

It was surprise - unscheduled and certainly unexpected.

The transcript is here, and the pretext of the event was to urge, publicly, that certain nations stop farting around and actually supply some of the fifteen thousand troops for the UN force that is supposed to flood southern Lebanon, with the Lebanese army, and keep the peace, after the thirty days of war that killed a lot of folks and proved a lot of nothing, and destroyed Lebanon's infrastructure and set their economy back thirty years. The European Union has just put off considering the matter - troubled that what the troops were supposed to do was never clearly defined in the UN resolution - and things were heating up again. It was a bit of scolding the wimps and cowards who wanted details and rules for what to do and what not to do. That's not how we operate. What's the problem? You just go in and do things. Like we did in Iraq.

Then it was question time and that led to Iraq. The government of Israel may fall as the Prime Minister, Olmert, is taking a lot of heat for a war that accomplished nothing, got a lot of people killed, and made Israel look, in the eyes of most of the world, like idiots for doing the "shock and awe" thing rather than the usual measured response, mixed with clever diplomacy. A massive war for no good purpose that didn't work is the issue.

Here it's not and you got thing like this -

The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve the objectives and dreams which is a democratic society. That's the strategy. The tactics - now - either you say yes it's important we stay there and get it done or we leave. We're not leaving so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake. It would send an unbelievably you know terrible signal to reformers across the region. It would say we've abandoned our desire to change the conditions that create terror.
That's it - at least 884 more days of more of the same. He knows the objectives and dreams of Iraqi people - and they are not the dreams of the Sunni and Shi'a factions, or the Kurds, who really don't want independence. He know what they really want. And we'll get "it" done - whatever it is. That's a bit unclear, as is how he really knows the underlying truth about who wants what. But the whole idea is that this war will change the conditions that create terror. Somehow.

And will not leave as long is he is president - this is not Israel where the people have a say. Screw the poll results.

Over at a UCLA Law Department faculty blog there was a lively discussion of what he really meant - some arguing that the president must have been saying, in effect, "we're not leaving prematurely, so long as I'm President" - rather than a flat statement that we're not leaving, period. See Orin Kerr here, after watching the tape of the thing over and over, saying it was pretty unambiguous. The president is the decider. The decision has been made. Deal with it. We're staying. There are certain signals you cannot send.

As for the whole idea is that this war will change the conditions that create terror, that may be debatable, given London, twice, Madrid, Bali and Casablanca. But the presidnet did add this warning, quoting General Abazaid - "If we leave [Iraq] before the mission is done the terrorists will follow us here."

They will? Well, they're already all over and Iraq doesn't seem to be an issue for them.

And Digby at Hullabaloo adds this -
I would normally say we should use logic and reason by pointing out that all the terrorists aren't in Iraq - as the foiled British plot recently showed - so being in Iraq can't prevent terrorists who are elsewhere from coming over here.

But that's too complicated. When a Republican says "if we leave Iraq before the mission is done the terrorists will follow us here" the Democrat should reply, "Well, unlike the Republicans, I won't let 'em in."

Democrats get too fine with this stuff. Trash talk is trash talk and they should just throw it back in their faces.
It did seem to be trash talk. You're not supposed to think about it. You're supposed to cheer.

And he got serious - he said the United States would lose "our soul as a nation" if it gave up on the Iraq war now. You see, it would be a "disaster" if our troops left before the new Iraqi government can control the country. Most think they never will be able to control the country, at least not this crew. But our very souls depend on it. Those are high stakes. One wonders who believes such things. Do we lose our souls if we stay another decade trying to hold the place together?

And is this any way to talk about a cost-benefit thing? We stay, things get worse. We leave, things get worse. We've put ourselves in a lose-lose situation, by choice. What can we salvage?

But that's not how we think about such things any longer.

In these pages, see, from December 21, 2003 - Hedgehogs and Foxes - a discussion of Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953). That was a look at the conflicts at that time - on which way we proceed, and whether we reelect, or actually elect, our current leaders for another four years coming down to a vote between people who are stuck in brutal simplifications, and those who enjoy unsettling complexity. One side will say the other is making simple things needlessly complex. The other side will say their opponents are foolishly ignoring the real complexity of the world, of the economy, of the environment. The hedgehogs will face off against the foxes. As Berlin put it - "There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: 'The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.'"

Here we are again - "The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve the objectives and dreams which is a democratic society. … We're not leaving so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake."

Bill Montgomery - Monday, August 21, 2006 - with this -
When Berlin divided writers and thinkers (which leaves Shrub out) and human beings in general (I suppose we have to include him) into two categories - the hedgehogs and the foxes - he didn't mean for either label to be taken pejoratively. After all, his list of hedgehogs included Dante, Plato, Dostoevsky and Proust, while Shakespeare, Aristotle and Erasmus were among his foxes.

What Berlin meant, I think, is that hedgehogs try to integrate all of their experiences and thoughts into a single, overarching concept of life and their place in it, while foxes, as he put it, have ideas about the world "without… seeking to fit them into, or exclude them from, any one unchanging, all-embracing, sometimes self-contradictory and incomplete, at times fanatical, unitary inner vision."

At this point, I would say Shrub is acting like a hedgehog on hallucinogens. His one big integrative idea - exporting American-style "democracy" to Iraq at the point of a gun - has proven fatally, disastrously wrong, but he can't let go of it, because it's the only idea he's got. He's fully vested in it, like a '90s e-trader who decided to throw caution to the wind, empty his retirement account and bet it all on pets.com.

I think if Shrub were ever forced to let go of his vision, his one big idea, it would not only crush his fragile ego, it would leave him completely incapable of making any sense at all out of his presidency, out of America's role in the Middle East, out of the universe.

So now he's imitating the hedgehog as literally as any human being can - he's rolled himself up into a defensive ball, spines out. He has nothing useful to say and absolutely no strategy beyond hunkering down and passively defying reality. Which leaves the generals and the troops no choice but to hunker down with him.

The next two and a half years are going to be very long ones.
Well, we chose the guy, and now we have a hedgehog on hallucinogens. But he probably has his neat new Armor of God pajamas.

This is not looking good.

On the other hand there's this -
A Bipartisan commission quietly started work last spring with a mandate to help the Bush administration rethink its policy toward the war.

… [W]hat makes this particular commission hard to dismiss is that it is led by perhaps the one man who might be able to break through the tight phalanx of senior officials who advise the president and filter his information. That person is the former secretary of state, Republican insider, and consigliere of the Bush family, James A. Baker III.
Who knew? And the item ends with this -
"The object of our policy has to be to get our little white asses out of there as soon as possible," another working-group participant told me. To do that, he said, Baker must confront the president "like the way a family confronts an alcoholic. You bring everyone in, and you say, 'Look, my friend, it's time to change.'"
That's most curious. Everyone knows it's time to do something.

Running simple-minded, short-tempered, underachieving alcoholic seemed like a good idea at the time - he would be a useful front, and it was joke on the Democrats with their candidates who served with distinction in wars and wrote books and spoke different languages. It just didn't work out. And the real powers behind things - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and the rest, and their cheering pundits, Kristol and the rest - were themselves drunk on odd theories others had laughed at before, and they wanted their moment to shine. The experiment must be shut down.

And Baker's motivation, or mandate -
"… he wants a ceasefire in American politics," a member of one of the commission's working groups told me. Specifically, he said, if the Democrats win back one or both houses of Congress in November, they would unleash a series of investigative hearings on Iraq, the war on terrorism, and civil liberties that could fatally weaken the administration and remove the last props of political support for the war, setting the stage for a potential Republican electoral disaster in 2008.

… "I guess there are people in the [Republican] party, on the Hill and in the White House, who see a political train wreck coming, and they've called in Baker to try to reroute the train."
There's a more complete discuss of all this here - nasty and angry - but the commission is real. It just may be too late to reroute this particular train.

Buy maybe if Laura gives him the new PJ's he'll go quietly.

Posted by Alan at 22:36 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006 22:39 PDT home

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