Take Five (Really, Really, Really Fuzzy Math edition)

ONE: Misunderestimations

This week marked the tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, illegal as in fraudulently undertaken, thereby invalidating any supposed sanction previously conferred either by Congress or the United Nations, and also incomprehensibly immoral, like all crimes against humanity.

There should be no surcease, ever, of denunciation of the criminal horror unleashed on Iraq by the Bush administration and those who helped enable it, the latter largely for shamefully political reasons. In a nation with such a bounteous supply of prisons, there’s plenty of room to house the guilty for the rest of their lamentably natural lives, and their accomplices for some fraction thereof.

I have no hope that either will ever happen.

This week, fifteen months after the last combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the anniversary was marked in George Bush’s “beacon of democracy in the Middle East” with a wave of lethal violence, tersely quantified by the New York Times:

… 57 dead and nearly 190 wounded in separate attacks that included 17 car bombs, 2 adhesive bombs stuck to cars, and a killing with a silenced gun.

This week, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies released the results of a study conducted by its Cost of War Project. The study found:

The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest…

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number…

When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.

Yes, effecting mass death, destruction and chaos is more efficient than ever, yet it still doesn’t come cheap. Of course, that’s not how the Bush junta made its sales pitch. In the run-up to The Decider’s trigger finger getting intolerably itchy, Mitch Daniels, his OMB director, nudged up the saturation on the administration’s already over-saturated blue skies, to obscure what it would really cost in borrowed cash to dust off Saddam Hussein as one would a garden pest and install a compliant regime straight out of whatever remained of Dick Cheney’s wet dreams:

Mr. Daniels would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush’s former chief economic adviser, were too high.

And then he added a scabrous little grace note:

Mr. Daniels cautioned that his budget projections did not mean a war with Iraq was imminent, and that it was impossible to know what any military campaign against Iraq would ultimately cost.

The viciously, deliberately dishonest math behind all this has long been known, although it has constantly been revised upwards. Contrasts were drawn between prediction and reality almost from the outset, despite the best efforts of White House propagandists, supine but incessantly talkative members of Congress, and the jitterbugging marionettes of the mainstream media. The immense gap between the predicted and actual numbers probably still provokes gales of rheumy cackling whenever the old gang gathers around the fireplace for a snifter of brandy or human blood in whatever dank privy the original PNAC signatories still hold their unholy soirées.

TWO: With Fiends Like These…

Over and above the rancor they directed at Democrats, progressives and various other favorite scapegoats for the deleterious effects of their own wretched ideas, participants at CPAC ‘s 40th anniversary shindig last week were also remarkably splenetic toward each other.

Rick Perry brought a McCain/Romney dartboard:

“Now, the popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away from conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections… That is what they say. That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012…”

Rand Paul was even more bluntly insolent to his elders:

“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered… I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?”

Donald Trump’s post-speech press conference featured another of the oafish magnate’s swipes at Karl Rove:

“This is the same mind that spent $400 million and didn’t win a race. He’s the most overrated person in politics…”

Louie Gohmert discharged a lot of indiscriminate buckshot, some of which winged the Nixon administration:

“Vietnam was winnable, but people in Washington decided we should not win it.”

Sarah Palin continued her lupercalian vendetta against sort-of-Republican Mike Bloomberg:

“Bloomberg’s not around,” Palin joked as she slurped on a giant soda, “our Big Gulps are safe.”

Brent Bozell dragged in a whole sack of grudges. Against, for example, Paul Ryan:

“… your proposed budget that has the federal government spending $41 TRILLION over the next ten years, with more and more and more spending increases every single year, and assumes all the oppressive Obamacare taxes. Congressman, that’s what liberal Democrats do, not us.

“This is not conservatism. It is, literally, Democrat Lite…”

Against Haley Barbour:

“… my friend, when you call for unity and on conservatives to ‘sing from the same hymnal’ and then publicly trash good conservative groups like Club for Growth for supporting good conservatives, you’re out of tune, and you’re out of line…”

Against the House leadership:

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy… you, like virtually every single other Republican elected to Congress solemnly vowed to rid us of Obamacare, which you can do simply by refusing to fund it. Why haven’t you done so?

“You’ve done nothing for over two years but give us excuses and more commitments that tomorrow, yes tomorrow, you’ll honor your promises. Gentlemen, where promises are concerned, you are not what you promised to be.”

With all the heated infighting, it’s a good thing attendees could buy a Marco Rubio water bottle in the exhibit hall.

THREE: Minority Report I

Desperate to garner votes from minority groups they mostly would prefer not to have anything to do with, Republicans still don’t seem to understand the difference between genuine outreach and simple smash-and-grab.

Take the CPAC breakout session called “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” chaired by K. Carl Smith, an African-American conservative. What could go wrong? Lots: Continue reading Take Five (Really, Really, Really Fuzzy Math edition)

Take Five (CPAC Up Your Troubles edition)

ONE: Middle Age Queasy

The Conservative Political Action Conference turns 40 this year, but don’t expect maturity from a gathering where the speakers include Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Artur Davis, Dick Morris, Wayne LaPierre, Rick Perry, Allen West and Donald Trump.

The coveted keynote slot will provide a generous 33 minutes for Cruz to prevaricate, obfuscate, fabricate, fulminate and regurgitate. Organizers have allotted the second and third longest slots to Palin and Trump, respectively, though why Palin needs 16 minutes and Trump 14 to recite “me, me, glorious me” is a mystery only slightly less mysterious than either of them being invited to begin with. I suppose The Donald and The Sarah deserve grudging credit for realizing that Fitzgerald’s dictum about American lives having no second acts is irrelevant now that first acts can simply be prolonged indefinitely.

Over and above her CPAC gig, Palin manages to keep busy just being Palin. She devoted at least part of Monday to crafting a tweet celebrating the overturning of New York City’s ban on sodas larger than 16 ounces:

Victory in NYC for liberty-loving soda drinkers. To politicians with too much time on their hands we say: Govt, stay out of my refrigerator!

Yes, because nothing says “liberty” like 17 ounces of carbonated water, HFCS, artificial color, artificial flavors and caffeine. But it’s not all freewheeling Twittery for Palin; her latest higher calling is nothing less than saving Christmas:

The former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor has a deal with HarperCollins for “A Happy Holiday IS a Merry Christmas,” scheduled for November.

HarperCollins announced Monday that the book will criticize the “over-commercialism” and “homogenization” of Christmas and call for a renewed emphasis on the religious importance.

Wow! Only 48 years after A Charlie Brown Christmas definitively addressed the very same issues. And Palin’s so versatile that she even wrote the first review of the not-yet-written book:

“This will be a fun, festive, thought provoking book, which will encourage all to see what is possible when we unite in defense of our faith and ignore the politically correct Scrooges who would rather take Christ out of Christmas.”

That’s what cutting edge is all about, Charlie Brown. You betcha. As for Trump, he’s taking his cues from none other than Charlie Brown doppelganger Newt Gingrich, who last Friday tweeted his brainstorm to save White House tours recently suspended under sequestration:

Donald trump should offer to pay for the white house tours. He can afford it and it would show who cares more for American students

This was followed two minutes later by:

Trump and president obsma both golf but trump doesn’t charge the taxpayers $920,000 for a golf weekend in florida.

Yeah, damn that obsma anyway! Two minutes later, Gingrich found some more meat on that bone:

If trump offers to pay for the White House tours what will President Obama’s excuse for punishing visiting school children be?

Trump was nonplussed about all this until he joined Fox and Friends by phone on Monday:

“I think it’s so nice of Newt to suggest that,” the media mogul said, adding that Gingrich and his wife are members of his club in Washington. “But it sounds reasonable to me. Why not?”

Gingrich is also speaking at CPAC, so he and Trump have a readymade opportunity to discuss the idea in detail, assuming the Gaylord National Hotel has a room large enough to accommodate both their egos simultaneously.

TWO: In Through the Out Door

CPAC drew criticism recently for barring GOProud, an action that prompted the Log Cabin Republicans to withdraw from the event in solidarity. The groups have now gained some exceptionally unsavory company: notorious Islamophobe Pamela Geller.

Geller devoted a recent appearance with Christian radio host Janet Mefferd to throwing a tantrum about the CPAC snub:

… I’ve always held events there even though I wasn’t warmly welcomed because of the influence of what can only be described as Muslim Brotherhood facilitators or operatives like Suhail Khan and Grover Norquist… This year I could not get an event, I was banned…

What are they doing at CPAC? Essentially they are enforcing the Sharia. Under the Sharia, the blasphemy laws, you cannot say, you cannot offend, you cannot criticize and you cannot insult Islam. That is effectively what they’re doing, they are enforcing the Sharia.

Also joining GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans, albeit voluntarily, is MSNBC’s resident purveyor of flapdoodle, SE Cupp. She recently tendered her regrets, publicly:

“… as a proponent of gay rights, CPAC’s decision to sideline GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans makes me increasingly uncomfortable… It seems like we’re hardly in a position to be marginalizing any kinds of conservatives, let alone ones who have been so courageous in the face of adversity… until the conference stops shaming some of its most valuable advocates, it’s unfortunately not an event I can take part in.​”

Cupp’s calmly reasoned position prompted a fretful rant from Mr. Unreason himself, Joseph Farah. Sensing the black helicopters of tolerance hovering over his pinched and pusillanimous reality, WND’s founding father lamented:

This little brouhaha with Cupp comes at the same time dozens of Republicans – including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress – have signed a legal brief arguing in favor of same-sex marriage…

Farah went on to shake a querulous finger at Meg Whitman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Richard Hanna, Stephen Hadley, Carlos Gutierrez, James Comey, David Stockman and Deborah Pryce, noted conservatives all. Or not:

What do all these people have in common?

They are not conservatives.

Ah. Good to know, I guess. Farah finished with a flourish of hyperbole worthy of a pilled-up teenager posting on a message board at 4:00 AM:

The Conservative Political Action Conference is for conservatives – not for people who seek to undermine the Judeo-Christian basis of Western civilization with one of the most radical ideas considered since child sacrifice.

Keep it unreal, Joe.

THREE: Hot Air Apparent

CPAC 2013 will also feature John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, who recently stuck his head up out of the ground to find out whether he would see Mitt Romney’s shadow. Bush is ostensibly in the public eye these days because he’s hawking a new book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, but of course what he’s really hawking is the idea that the GOP will be desperate enough to nominate him in 2016. To that end, Bush has been appearing on various talk shows, casually trying to convince conservatives of his viability with a string of inane observations. Continue reading Take Five (CPAC Up Your Troubles edition)

Take Five (Busyness as Usual edition)

ONE: Brainy Nights in Georgia

In the wake of the Newtown massacre and other recent mass gun murders, the NRA helpfully busied itself with supporting secession for Wisconsin, decrying the “vicious, violent videogames” that they insist provoke (conveniently well-armed) people to indulge in vicious violence, and, um, rolling out their new videogame.

In vivid contrast, Georgia legislator Paul Battles, being a pragmatic guy, thought and thought and thought about how best to protect children, and after all that thinking came up with House Bill 35:

The Georgia House of Representatives Rules Committee will consider a bill this week that would let school systems arm their staff members. House Bill 35 allows school systems to designate administrators, teachers, or other staff members to carry concealed weapons.

Now, before you go making any mistaken assumptions about Battles, a – surprise! – Republican, he emphatically rejects the suggestion that he’s, you know, a gun nut or something:

“From the very beginning, I’ve said this is a school security piece of legislation,” said Battles. “It’s not about guns. It’s about securing our schools.”

House Bill 35 immediately made me think of Mrs. Hale, my 6th grade teacher, who had a pronounced esotropic strabismus. Forgive me, Mrs. Hale, but I’m very glad you were never packing in our placid Savannah classroom. That I know of, anyway.

The bill passed out of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee last week. And Rep. Battles says that was the biggest hurdle, adding, “I’m sure we’ll have a lively debate on the floor, but I feel like it has great momentum.”

Oh. Great, then.

But inane legislation in Georgia is often a bipartisan thing. State Rep. Earnest Smith, a – crap! – Democrat, is all riled up about Photoshop, especially when it’s used to make fun of Earnest Smith:

… Smith pointed, as proof of the problem, to a picture of his head that was recently edited onto a porn star’s body. That image was created by a blogger who used the image to mock Smith.

Last word to Andre Walker of Georgia Politics Unfiltered, the pixel surgeon responsible for the digital transplant:

“I cannot believe Rep. Earnest Smith thinks I’m insulting him by putting his head on the body of a well-built porn star.”

TWO: “Nothing has changed.”

Attendees at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference can expect to see the likes of Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Allen West and Marco Rubio whip up the sort of rank gumbo of exaggerations, distortions, outright falsehoods and nutrition-free bromides that has kept previous CPAC crowds in drooling thrall.

But wait, there’s more!

Someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently once ran for President, will speak, as will someone named Sarah Palin, who apparently once ran for Vice President.

Of course, I’m being facetious. While I really have no idea who Mitt Romney is, I do remember Sarah Palin. She’s the former mayor of Wasilla who burdened the town with astonishing municipal debt, before going on to become the former Alaska governor who resigned halfway through her term, after burning through many thousands of dollars of public money for no good reason. She did leave her successor a tanning bed, though.

Indications are that Alaska voters have put down their bongs and would now prefer Hillary Clinton over Palin by a 16-point margin in a hypothetical presidential election cage match. Even better, Public Policy Polling also asked respondents to choose their preference of Congress or Palin, and Congress, for all its legendary disapproval ratings, beat Palin 50% to 35%.

And wait, there’s less!

AMERICABlog pointedly notes that CPAC 2013 will again feature the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, a man determined to live the rest of his wretched life being less popular than gonorrhea, but the conclave has once again barred GOProud, a high-profile gay conservative organization.

“We got kicked out last year because we are gay,” tweeted GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia. “Nothing has changed. We won’t be at CPAC.”

However unintentionally, Mr. LaSalvia has just given CPAC a perfect new slogan. “Nothing has changed,” indeed.

THREE: Squawking Heads Redux

In light of recent news that Palin and Fox News have parted company, followed shortly after by the network axing Dick Morris (the World’s Wrongest ManTM), you might be concerned that Fox is going to suffer an acute stupidity deficit. Fear not. They’ve announced with great fanfare that both Herman Cain and Scott Brown have joined the Fox conservative commentator crew.

Proving that he has never actually watched the network, Cain enthused:

“I’m excited about joining the FOX family as a contributor because it is an opportunity to be one more voice for intelligent thinking in America.”

Cain hit the ground running, which is to say he ran aground, in his first appearance with Bill O’Reilly. When the discussion turned to President Obama’s popularity, Cain gave viewers this taste of his intelligent thinking:

“We have a severe ignorance problem with the people who are so mesmerized by his popularity that they are not looking at the facts…

“Martin Luther King Jr. said 50 years ago in 1963 something that is so appropriate to today… There is nothing more dangerous than serious ignorance, and that’s what we have and he gets away with it with the help of establishment media.”

Really? Cain’s new employer has spent more than a decade atop the cable news network heap, which strikes me as pretty much about as establishment as you can get, but maybe I just have a severe ignorance problem.

As to Brown, his first appearance was with Sean Hannity, who asked him why he didn’t want to run for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat:

Brown… told Hannity that the pace of special elections would have put him in five campaigns in six years and that he might have had to raise another $30 to $50 million, only to “participate in a Congress that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan.” Instead, he said, “I felt I could make a difference being on this show…”

Mm-hmm. Far better to participate in a “news” network that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan than a Congress that is. Presumably, the Fox gig pays better. Continue reading Take Five (Busyness as Usual edition)