Dumb quote of the day: so dumb it accidentally circled around and became smart (but probably not in the way the speaker intended) edition

>> Thursday, May 21, 2015

Everybody else wants to ask that question of, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq if you’d known what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him that would not even be able to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq and start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos, then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question
- Rep. Louie Gohmert, as quoted by Miranda Blue,
Right Wing Watch, May 20th, 2015.


Soooo... if I understand what Representative Gohmert is saying, he's saying that President Bush shouldn't have invaded Iraq?  Gee, who'd'a ever thunk I'd agree with Louie Gohmert on anything?

I mean, let's totally set aside the point that Rep. Gohmert is talking through both sides of his ass as far as President Obama's foreign policy is concerned.  Whether or not you like the President's efforts or the consequences, any problems aren't the product of the President not supporting "the right people" and not "helping our friends" and his "helping the enemies."  Rather, let's consider the actual proposition Gohmert is unwittingly making, which is that an American President doesn't control his succession (in a first term, he isn't even guaranteed he'll have a chance to succeed himself), and therefore probably ought to factor that into his policy making to whatever extent its practicable to do so.

Or, put another way: let's just assume for the nonce that Gohmert's premise that President George W. Bush was succeeded by an incompetent is correct; why, let's double-down on it, and propose that Bush was followed by a drooling idiot who can barely work the Velcro straps on his shoes and dresses himself backwards some mornings, who gets stuck pushing or pulling on doors with hinges that swing the other direction, that he once got lost for several hours because he turned out a bathroom light before exiting, that he is what that great American icon B. Bunny would have characterized as "a real maroon".

Well, then it seems Mr. Bush himself was a fool not to at least consider the possibility the reins of his little Middle Eastern adventure would be taken up by such a half-witted dunce, yes?

Indeed, let's walk things back a little and simply suppose that our imaginary President Obama is not a complete blockhead, but that he's some kind of blockhead savant, who is particularly good at some singular aspect of American foreign or domestic policy and merely Bad At War.  Surely Mr. Bush should have thought about that.

Why, come to think of it, he should have even considered the possibility he'd be succeeded by someone less capable from his own party, even!  Supposing we weren't talking about "President Obama" at all, but about "President McCain"!  I mean, Bush might suppose that Senator McCain would be a capable successor, notwithstanding the infamous 2000 South Carolina primary campaign during which "somebody" (surely not Lee Atwater, who'd never think of doing such a thing) supported Bush's first presidential bid by suggesting that McCain was at best mentally ill from his treatment as a POW in a North Vietnamese prison and at worst a brainwashed "Manchurian Candidate".  But maybe not.  Indeed, in the unlikely event Bush believed any of the garbage from the South Carolina whisper campaign, our scenario becomes one in which the sitting President starts a war with a strong possibility that it will be continued by a treasonous puppet controlled by Vietnamese Communists.

Besides, even if Bush (as is likely the case) didn't believe the slanders leveled at his former rival, who is his successor's running-mate?  William Henry Harrison kicked a bucket a month after his inauguration.  Sure, medicine's come a long way since the 19th Century, when the chief criterion for calling yourself a doctor was the ability to say "doctor," but (as Job so wisely teaches), shit happens.  (I mean, really, really fucked-up shit, too.  Just sayin'.)  As it happened, we certainly could have had "President Palin".  (She probably would have resigned three years into her term, but still.)

Now, there's an obvious hole in that, only that hole is actually the entire point of this.  To wit: that when George W. Bush launched the Iraq war, he of course had no idea Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama would eventually seek his office, or that McCain's running-mate would be Governor Sarah Palin, any more than he might have known that he himself would run against Senator John Kerry (instead of one of the other likely Democratic nominees) in 2004 or would be assured a win in that election; indeed, it's very likely Bush hoped his Iraq war would be over quickly and the capacity of his successor irrelevant in that regard, and had no idea the war would still be a thing in 2008.  But all of that's really the point, isn't it?  He didn't know.

And of course you never do, never can, because the future is uncertain and comes with few guarantees beyond the fact the Earth will still be spinning around the Sun and the Sun spinning around the Milky Way and the Milky Way zipping whichever direction it's zipping in, whether or not you're here tomorrow morning or next month or next year or next decade to notice any particular step in our cosmic dancing.

But given that you do know that much--is this what the poet Rumsfeld meant by "known unknowns"?--isn't that something you should try to factor into your plans as best you can?  If you're baking up some kind of plan (whether for a fine little war somewhere or for something else), and your plan depends on This One Guy and you don't know if This One Guy is going to be in play one day or the next (because you can't), isn't that a flaw in your plan?  If your plan is completely contingent upon never being screwed up by idiots, isn't that a flaw?  Shouldn't you do your best to come up with contingencies and escape routes?  And if you can't, then isn't that a warning flag that maybe you should scrap the plan altogether, especially if the plan is for something that isn't entirely and absolutely necessary?  I mean, maybe things are so dire that a bad plan is better than doing nothing (that could easily be the case), but if it isn't that kind of crisis?

In other words, this is part of the problem with Bush's Iraq war.  It's not at all clear that anyone involved in the operation had a clear idea of what to do if the war turned into an occupation and the occupation turned into a grind.  It'd be one thing if it looked like they planned things out and the plan just didn't work, but I don't think they did that much.

There's a point here, by the way, that's better than Bush-bashing, which is probably what the people who gave up several paragraphs ago think this is.  Bashing Bush is kind of pointless at this stage, what's done is done and what is fucked is fucked.  But there is an object-lesson here, one which many leaders have neglected, sometimes even more catastrophically than the Bush Administration did.  (For all his greatness as a President, Abraham Lincoln's acceptance of Andrew Johnson's nomination as his running-mate in 1864 has to top our list of American presidential decisions made with stunningly poor foresight.)  The lesson, and point, is that any President ought to be thinking more than twice about the unknown future and (among other things) whether he might be succeeded by a mouth-breathing lummox or knuckle-dragging meathead.  Or even an ordinary scissorbilled clod, dunderheaded nitwit, cretinous dingbat, dumb-assed sap, foolish peabrain, or doltish boob.  (Let me just say that a thesaurus has been my best friend in drafting this post.)  If you're President, and you're contemplating a policy that could turn into a fiasco because of the unknown next administration's imbecility, maybe it's a bad play.  And even moreso when the plan (and its continuation) involves the spilling of American kids' blood.

Maybe you should think about that, yeah.




Everybody else wants to ask that question of, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq if you’d known what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him that would not even be able to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq and start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos, then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question. - See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/gohmert-bush-wouldnt-have-invaded-iraq-had-he-known-obama-would-succeed-him-and-fight-wrong-#sthash.OzfbP1mc.dpuf
Everybody else wants to ask that question of, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq if you’d known what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him that would not even be able to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq and start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos, then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question. - See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/gohmert-bush-wouldnt-have-invaded-iraq-had-he-known-obama-would-succeed-him-and-fight-wrong-#sthash.OzfbP1mc.dpuf
Everybody else wants to ask that question of, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq if you’d known what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him that would not even be able to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq and start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos, then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question. - See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/gohmert-bush-wouldnt-have-invaded-iraq-had-he-known-obama-would-succeed-him-and-fight-wrong-#sthash.OzfbP1mc.dpuf

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"But if you ask for a rise, it's no surprise...."

>> Monday, May 11, 2015


One's first thought, as ever, is to remember that old ditty about currency and the wry observation alluded to in the title to this post: "Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today; but if you ask for a rise it's no surprise they're giving none away."  Congressman Issa is evidently the humblest of men: he could, perhaps, give away all his Guilders  and Simoleons and walk the streets barefoot in sackcloth and ashes, living in a park and conversing with the squirrels and pigeons à la a latter day St. Francis of Assisi, but he wouldn't want to make us jealous.  Indeed, his martyrdom is the most noble and severe kind of martyrdom: the more evil Kronen he gathers to himself, the prouder the rest of us can be in comparison.  I'm not nearly as enviable as the guy who stands in the median on the W. Brookshire at the I85 interchange, but next to $448 million (sorry, $448 point four million, my bad), I'm the frickin' cock of the walk.

A first thought implies a second, and there's certainly more.  For instance, one wonders why a certain segment of the population seems to think--and in the CNN clip, Issa explicitly states--that developing, Third World, post-colonial states should be where we set our bar.  Apparently, we're to take it as a given that it's better to have one's family starve in America than, say for instance, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the poorest state in the world, not one mentioned by Issa), a premise that manages to simultaneously be broadly true and yet bafflingly irrelevant.  We might grant that the United States is a better place to starve than some without agreeing that starvation is acceptable in the first place.  It also doesn't make the claim any more palatable when one considers the extent to which the miserably low bar set in some of these places was set by our own conduct as a colonial/demi-colonial power in the first half of the 20th Century and as a Cold War superpower in the second half.

E.g. doubtlessly one reason it's worse to be poor in the Congo than to be poor in Alabama is that in the 1960s the United States funded a right-wing anti-nationalist coup led by Joseph Mobutu, who proceeded to install himself as a corrupt, homicidal despot who spent thirty years watering his country's soil with the blood of dissidents and rivals while siphoning his country's wealth off to personal Swiss Bank accounts (in this, we yet again discern the humble man morally elevating his people by making them enviable); we did this, naturally, because a Congolese nationalist (Patrice Lumumba) was giving our friends the Belgians a hard time (first mistake) by saying maybe the Congo shouldn't be nearly so Belgian anymore (especially given what the Belgians had done with it) and went to the Soviets with hat in hand (second mistake) when the United Nations seemed, well, a bit Belgian about the whole affair.

Regrettably, this is a narrative that repeats (with variations) all over the place: "Well, if you think it's so bad here, what about life in this other place we raped, or helped rape, or helped the rapists of--count your lucky stars you aren't living there."  Following this line of thought all the way down the hole, one has to admit to wondering if one of the reasons some of these wealthy Republican types are so keen on keeping the proletarian classes so blessedly poor is that the West is running out of opportunities for rape and pillage abroad.  I mean, yes, our corporations pay people pennies to assemble shoes and computers and answer telephone complaints, but lately many of those people seem  keen on keeping their pennies over there where we're sending the pennies.

I dunno, maybe that's not a tenable hypothesis.  But the point perhaps remains the same, which is that one really wonders about an American Congressman not only suggesting that poor Americans ought to count their blessings they're merely desolate and not utterly devastated, but going on to suggest that if these Americans want to stay competitive in a global economy, they might consider emulating those terrible places they're lucky not to live.  (Does this sound anything like cognitive dissonance, by the by?)

And then there's one more thought, a sort of punch line to the whole thing that isn't quite relevant to Congressman Issa's comments and yet is somehow so apt one wonders if there is in fact a God and this Creature has a penchant for white suits and labored literary affectation.  I had to wonder, you see, where Mr. Issa's four-hundred (and almost a half!) million dollars came from, and to that end consulted with my era's version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, our great digital brain to which you pose any question and from which you receive any answer, and it turns out that Mr. Issa's burden was not inherited from some 19th Century robber baron, as so many American fortunes have been, but was, indeed, self-earned.

By selling car alarms.

Now, it is possible you don't see why this is so grimly funny.  Or maybe you do, and in that case I may not say anything worth reading (this assumes you're still here and have found this worth reading so far, natch).  In case you don't see why this is terribly ironic and so funny that one can't even laugh, but ends up grimacing with gritted teeth and shaking one's head like a dog trying to get out of a collar, please allow me to explain something you already know.

You see, in the United States of America (as in many places), an automobile is a thing of value in and of itself, and a status symbol as well.  It allows one to get from one place to another rapidly, it is made up of myriad components that have some inherent value as replacements and/or possibly upgrades, it possibly "looks cool", it makes a statement that one is independent and free as the wind, it may send (the possibly erroneous) message that one has mad cash that one can throw away on something luxurious and impractical (a self-effacing display, of course).  And it is inherently mobile, unless it's up on blocks or has a blown engine or something--forget the qualifier, and let's just agree for the point that the automobile as designed can be taken from one place to another some indefinite distance away.  And it's expensive, or expensive-ish, depending on the model and one's budget.  And it is large enough to function as a kind of container--one might keep many things in the compartment or the trunk, often things of value (even though this might be a bad idea).  And various improvements to the use and enjoyment, the radio for instance, also have some value.

All of which, point being, makes the vehicle a target for thieves.  Specifically and generally, for thieves for whom it is easier to steal a car than to buy one, or who find that taking a car and/or it's various components and selling them is a somewhat reliable and convenient way to acquire much-needed money.  (Sure, you could rob a bank instead, but if you try sitting on top of the pile of money in the vault and making vroom-vrrrrooom--scroooch-va-room noises, they will catch you.)

While some people will surely always be thieves, just as some people will always be serial killers and some people will always be saints, most people will be nothing much in particular unless forced by their circumstances to be better or worse than the human lot.  'Tis just the human condition.  Thus, if there is a rise in car thefts or breakings-and-enterings, one might conclude that more people are being forced by circumstances to steal, and that the most likely pressure is a lack of money, perhaps a lack of money brought on by lack of work or lack of opportunity.  That is, one might suggest that a rise in property crimes is a symptom of poverty.

Naturally, however, the people who have cars and things in their cars don't much want their cars broken into, their cars stolen, the items in their cars taken away, and--you see where this is going, yes?  Faced by an epidemic of automobile break-ins, car owners buy car alarms, and Darrell Issa gets rich... because poverty.

I don't intend to imply that Issa is a parasite, so instead I'll just say it outright: Darrell Issa is a parasite.  This is a harsh statement, I realize, and I should mitigate it by observing that while parasites are squicky and disgusting from a certain perspective, taken from another they're also wonderfully amazing and resourceful illustrations of the wondrous variation millions upon millions of years of evolution has produced on this planet, and are even admirable in the many ways they savvily occupy and exploit the openings (no pun intended) created by life's great flourishing.  Perhaps you think of your GI tract as, well, your GI tract, but from another perspective it's just a warm, wet place with lots of nutrients regularly flowing through it and wouldn't it be a nice place to live if clamping down in warm, wet places and passively absorbing nutrients was your thing; wouldn't it be downright clever if millions of years adapted your species into the form of the simplest, most efficiently-constructed entity that can anchor itself, soak up food, and periodically spawn?  No, you wouldn't want to have a tapeworm living inside you, but you can nevertheless grudgingly admire the tapeworm's lineage for thriving in thousands of generations of guts.

So when I say Issa is a parasite, I honestly don't mean that in the sense of a creature that embeds itself somewhere and takes and takes while giving nothing back to its host, and is therefore (from a certain POV) lazy.  (An accusation so often leveled at parasites that "lazy parasite" sometimes appears redundant.)  Starting an automobile security company with the sale of several used vehicles and a loan from family members  and nurturing it into an extremely successful four-hundred-million dollar venture clearly takes resourcefulness and effort (and we'll confine ourselves to only passing snark re: stealing cars is something Issa seems to know something about, and thus could be seen as an application of his skills and education).  Many parasites in nature also put hard work into finding a host--that is, into finding a place in their world--and latching on and never letting go and getting all they can from their situation.  Nothing to be ashamed of.  Sure, it's possible Mr. Issa could have embarked on the surely less-lucrative enterprise of figuring out ways to obviate anyone's need to break into cars, but let's not talk the crazy talk, you and I.  Realistically, it's a lot easier to treat a symptom of need than to cure the underlying cause, and Mr. Issa has done well by that, for sure.





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