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This week, fifteen months after the last combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the anniversary was marked in George Bush’s “beacon of democracy in the Middle East” with a wave of lethal violence, tersely quantified by the New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

ONE: Post-Apocalypse Study Group Rolled Out

Man of constant sorrow Reince Priebus recently announced that the Republican National Committee is launching what it calls the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” an exercise in institutional soul-searching designed to identify how the party got its collective butt whupped last November and to find ways to “ensure Republicans are victorious in 2013, 2014, 2016 and beyond.”

The RNC is so serious about this that they’ve already unveiled the names of the heavy hitters who will form the project’s steering committee. And what names they are! Henry Barbour, nephew of the legendarily execrable Haley, former Jeb Bush Chief of Staff Sally Bradshaw, former GW Bush propaganda catapult operator Ari Fleischer, plus Glenn McCall, a – gasp! – African American, and Zori Fonelledas, a – ZOMG! – Puerto Rican.

While I can’t help the RNC with future victories (and I’ll be horrified if they ever have any), in the spirit of good old-fashioned bipartisanship and this joyous holiday season, I’m quite happy to identify for them what went wrong in 2012. I can do it in six short words. Got a pen handy, Reince? You’ll want to jot this down.

Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan. Your policies.

You’re welcome!

TWO: Un-American Heritage

2012 still has a few minutes to go, but I have my nominee for the year’s most inadvertently funny quote, and I’m sticking with it. Asked to comment on Jim DeMint’s decision to resign his Senate seat to preside over that notorious America-hating “think” tank, the Heritage Foundation, conservative academic John J. Pitney claimed:

“What Heritage does is influence the intellectual debate.”

In a way, I suppose Pitney’s absolutely correct. Heritage (among other malevolent rightwing institutions) has influenced the intellectual debate, but only by removing intellect from it completely.

Which brings us to Jim DeMint, whose impressive track record of egregious tomfoolery, twaddle and Teabaggery is a perfect fit for the Heritage Foundation. “Greenville’s foulest” has insisted that gay people and women who have sex out of wedlock should be barred from teaching, averred that “the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets,” threatened to read the full text of 2010′s START treaty and omnibus spending bills on the Senate floor as a deliberate stalling tactic because the mid-December timing of the legislation was somehow “sacrilegious,” compared the United States to “Germany… before World War II where they became a social democracy,” cheered for the 2009 military coup in Honduras, and gushed about the idea of working with Glenn Beck.

So what does Senator Teabag envision for the Heritage Foundation? Not surprisingly, his end game is getting more ultraconservatives elected:

… DeMint said he is taking the Heritage job because he sees it as a vehicle to popularize conservative ideas in a way that connects with a broader public. “This is an urgent time,” the senator said, “because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections.” Mr. DeMint, who was a market researcher before he entered politics, said he plans to take the Heritage Foundation’s traditional research plus that of think tanks at the state level and “translate those policy papers into real-life demonstrations of things that work.” He said, “We want to figure out what works at the local and state level” and give those models national attention.

The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project, though, might just want to think twice about keeping DeMint on speed-dial:

Mr. DeMint’s leadership PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund, spent $5.48 million in the 2010 and 2012 elections, and out of 27 races that it stepped into, his preferred candidate won either the primary or general election 8 times.

Keep on keepin’ on, Jimbo.

THREE: First, Do Much Harm

Despite DeMint’s impending departure, the 113th Congress will not want for cretinous Republican senators. Exhibit A: Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn. The lurid war of disinformation and misinformation about the impending “Fiscal Cliff” has been heating up for weeks, but Coburn’s remarks to George Stephanopolous on December 9 remain a uniquely objectionable contribution to the discussion:

“It doesn’t really matter what happens at the end of this year because ultimately the numbers and the bond holders throughout the world will determine what we’ll spend and what we won’t. So, we can play the political game that is being played out in Washington right now or we can be absolutely honest with the American people and say, ‘Medicare is going bankrupt, Social Security disability will be bankrupt in two years, Social Security trust fund will be bankrupt in five years, Social Security total will be bankrupt in 16,17 years.’

“The fact is we are spending money we don’t have on things we don’t absolutely need…”

Coburn is a medical doctor who’s also terrified that Obamacare is a stealth method of eventually imposing – horrors! – a single-payer healthcare system on innocent freedom-worshipping Americans. He has also voted against a raft of measures that would increase revenue and voted against many others that would save billions without harming Social Security, SSDI and Medicare beneficiaries in the slightest.

While the rest of us realize that Coburn’s about as trustworthy on fiscal issues as Marie Antoinette or Bernard Madoff, this sort of blather about entitlements actually earns someone like him respect from fellow conservatives. If Oklahoma voters ever come to their senses and vote to send the miserable little pud packing, don’t be surprised if the Heritage Foundation has a position for him.

FOUR: “Barefoot paradise for a child…”

I still remember the day my classmates and I were brought into the auditorium of Jacob G. Smith Elementary School in Savannah and taught to sing a new Johnny Mercer song entitled “Georgia, Georgia.” Mercer had written it at the behest of the Georgia General Assembly, with the idea that it would become the new official state song. With all due props to the spectacularly gifted Mr. Mercer, “Georgia, Georgia” was essentially a monotonous paean to the supposedly transcendent joys of Georgia, a paean which left an uprooted young Floridian, me, rather unmoved. (State legislators apparently had misgivings of their own; the song was later rejected in favor of “Georgia On My Mind.”)

“Georgia, Georgia” has been going through my head, maddeningly, as I read the latest news from the Empire State of the South. Somewhere along the line, Mercer’s dreamy land of scuppernong and Spanish moss and honeysuckle became a land that progress and common sense forgot. If Sherman had known what damage conservatives would eventually do to Georgia, maybe he would have saved his matches.

Georgia Senate majority leader Chip Rogers hosted a training seminar at the state capitol for fellow Republicans back in October, to get them up to speed on the grave and gathering threat posed by the UN’s non-binding, largely forgotten, two-decade-old sustainability policy framework known as Agenda 21. Invitations to the event warned of:

“… a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to ‘save the earth.’”

The seminar included a video featuring a fellow named Field Searcy, who was actually kicked out of the Georgia Tea Party last spring for his noisy advocacy of birtherism and various Alex Jones conspiracy theories. Ever wanted to know what it’s like to leave Planet Earth for one minute and nine seconds? Just watch the video clip here. Searcy generously shared his special expertise with the Republican legislators:

So who is promoting this agenda…? Well, at the very top, the United Nations. A non-government organization called ICLEI, or Local Governments for Sustainability. Other NGOs are promoting this. Federal agencies.

They do that by a process known as the Delphi Technique. Now, the Delphi Technique was developed by the RAND Corporation during the Cold War as a mind-control technique.

Rogers has since resigned his seat to take a job with Georgia Public Broadcasting (!), while Searcy is still sending occasional transmissions from the alternate universe he inhabits. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that his understanding of what is correctly called the Delphi Method is laughably faulty. Continue reading Take Five (New Year’s Eve edition)